January 23, 2012

UnCovering Katie Cheely

Katie Cheely, MFA '10
(from the Regent Alumni Newsletter)

A native of Chicago, Katherine Cheely was thankful to be back in her hometown for the holidays, where she and her family usually enjoy some of their annual holiday traditions: an old-fashioned caroling party with friends and family who go around the neighborhood ringing doorbells and singing Christmas favorites on doorsteps. They also usually collaborate on an annual Christmas Day dinner adventure inspired by a different country for its theme. This year, however, was dramatically different.

Two weeks before Christmas, the family suffered the excruciating heartbreak of the sudden and unexpected death of Katie's two-year-old nephew. Living and suffering through this mystery brought new dimensions to the existential questions of the human condition—which have always been important to theater—and how the Christian message is really the only answer to the most profound needs of mankind. Although Katie and her family had to spend a lot of time with God contemplating these questions over the holidays, Katie’s schedule remains very full. As an actor, singer, teacher and playwright, she's a busy woman forging a future in an industry not often open to Christian values. Despite having a lot on her plate, Katie seeks to handle just one thing at a time. “If I think of too much at once, I get overwhelmed, and feel like staying in bed!”

While at Regent, where she graduated in 2010 with an MFA in Acting, Katie and some fellow graduate students started the UnCovered Theatre Company, a collaborative team of artists (actors, directors, playwrights, and teachers) who have produced works across the United States. The company's founders have come together with a common desire: create thought-provoking and artful theatre that challenges, enlightens and entertains. Uncovered’s mission is “To offer hope, shed light on the human condition, and uncover goodness, truth and beauty.” In uncovering truth, UnCovered Theatre reveals life for what it is. “We never deny the pain and suffering in life," Katie says. "But we show that hope and redemption can always be found in the midst of it.”

Since she was an undergrad, Katie wanted to start a theatre company. But she never found the right people to share her vision. Because of their dynamic work environment and how they all met, Katie considers it a blessing to be where she is, doing what she is doing with the people she now considers family. When asked what is most rewarding about her job, Katie replies, “Hearing how our work is resonating with audience members, how they value and appreciate our work and are inspired by it in different ways, how it prompts them to think about life, people, situations [and] their faith in new and deeper ways. Also, I love working together with people, all of us using our unique gifts to create something beautiful for God, that we hope will touch others subtly with His Spirit.”

Not only did Regent provide lifelong friends for Katie, but it was also a place where she found support to dream big and grow in her confidence and faith, knowing that she could indeed reach those dreams. One specific dream of hers is to “have a theatre company focused on producing artistically excellent productions that offer hope.” For Katie, the fact that her colleagues are excellent artists with a deep love for God, committed to developing their talents and to following His will is priceless.

Advice comes in many forms, but for Katie, one key piece of advice she would like to pass along is: “Do what you can, and give it to God. Trust that He will take care of the rest and will take care of you in the way that is best. Also, love and help those around you.” Despite facing hardships and rejection within the industry, Katie trusts in the fact that God can do anything. As unique as each School of Communications & the Arts alumnus is, all are a part of a brotherhood from which they can draw a little encouragement to continue to strive in the race. Despite struggles, they can find joy, humor, hope, and love in them. “If we focus on trying to follow His will, and try to love Him and our peers each day, He will fill in the rest." Katie adds, "He can make anything happen. Pray for increased faith, hope, and trust. and don’t get discouraged. God knows how small and humble we are.”

In ten years, Katie “hopes for her company to be more established—producing work that encourages, provokes deeper thought and discussion, entertains and inspires, plants seeds of hope in audiences that there really is a wonderful meaning, purpose and joy in life, [which is] available to everyone.” Regent is extremely excited about Katie’s future and that of the UnCovered Theatre Company. We wish them all continued good health and success in their endeavors. If you want to learn more about UnCovered, please visit their website.
Catch an UnCovered Production...

UnCovered's next production will be the Chicago premiere of The Disorientation of Butterflies, by Regent's own artists, Christy Vance (MFA, 2010) and Nathan Schmidt (MFA, 2011). The Disorientation of Butterflies, an original six-person musical drama, was produced at Regent's own lab space in 2010 AND at the 2011 NYC International Fringe Festival, a production of The Present Company.

Disorientation's main character struggles with a powerful obsession: death. No one understands why; including her math teacher-husband, her loving mother, her type-A twin and even herself. The musical boldly lifts the veil on depression and probes the mystery of death.

The Disorientation of Butterflies will be performed at Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago from Jan. 24 - Feb. 19, 2012. The cast includes three Regent alumni: Adam Hurst (MFA, 2007), Kelly Helgeson (MFA, 2008) and Katie Cheely (MFA, 2010). It's directed by Kelly Levander (MFA, 2009).

January 19, 2012

Jennifer Martin accepts new job at Studio Center

Jennifer Martin (MFA ’08) has recently accepted a position at Studio Center as the On-Camera Talent Director. Since graduating from Regent with an MFA in Acting, Jennifer has worked in professional theatre in California, Indiana, Massachusetts and Virginia. She and her husband Derek Martin (Head of Regent’s Undergraduate Theatre program) recently established Americana Theatre Company, a professional summer theatre in Plymouth, Mass.

Studio Center, which is just a few miles from Regent’s campus in Virginia Beach, is the largest, fastest growing production company of its kind in the area, and one of the first production studios to specialize in broadcast advertising. A number of Regent students have had opportunities to audition for and work with Studio Center over the last several years. Chad Rasor (MFA ’10) has done voiceover work in markets like Jacksonville, Fla., where he is the primary voice for the Jacksonville Zoo. He has also provided voice for several other commercial spots. Other students and alumni have booked on-camera commercials with Studio Center. Ryan Clemens (MFA ’10) has filmed ads for auto sales, bath fixtures, and a Virginia Lottery commercial that ran statewide. Jeff Fazakerley (’12) has filmed two commercials and also booked a live appearance at a local event. Other Regent students and alums who have booked work through Studio Center are Kaja Dunn (MFA ’10), Brittany Baird, Ashley Dakin, Mike Salsbury and Andrew Wilson.

As the new On-Camera Talent Director, Jennifer’s responsibilities include recruiting new talent, submitting actors for projects, negotiating wages, taping and coaching auditions, and booking new projects. She acts as a talent agent, casting director and salesperson, which may sound daunting, but Jennifer says, “…as Studio Center is highly professional and very organized, this is easy to do. The reasons why people should use Studio Center are apparent…from our super talented actors (including Regent students) to our hassle-free service.”

Jennifer’s advice for current students is to keep your eye on the future, even while you are still in school. She states, “Actors are fabulous at being in the moment…this is a blessing and a curse. The MFA program is so wonderfully demanding that it is very easy to make it your whole world for three years. But how will they open up employment in the future if they are only focused on the present? Students must discipline themselves to be future-minded. A gainfully employed actor will possess the skill to balance being in the moment and chasing opportunities for the future…Audition everywhere and look for the open door. Every Regent MFA student should step foot on campus thinking ‘what’s next?’ Dream big and do the work.”

There are many Regent students who have auditioned for Studio Center multiple times but have never booked a job. It can be easy to grow discouraged when this happens. MFA Jeff Fazakerley suggests viewing each audition as an opportunity to practice your audition skill-set, and that if a booking happens to view it as a lovely surprise.

Jennifer adds, “The people that book are SUPER prepared. They have rehearsed over and over…I would say prepare like you are performing, not auditioning…Your agent will learn to trust you and when they can cast projects themselves, they will remember you and book you.”

To contact Studio Center, call (757) 286-3080 or email Jennifer at Jennifer@studiocenter.com

January 17, 2012

Derek Leonidoff's Super Bowl Hopes

Regent Adjunct Professor Derek Leonidoff not only demonstrates a great rapport with students in his Improvisation classes, and with audiences as leader of the V.I.P.s (Varsity Improv Players) but also with an imposing Great Dane in his new commercial “Man’s Best Friend.” Derek’s commercial can be seen here, but he hopes you’ll do more than just watch it! “Man’s Best Friend” is a finalist in the Doritos sponsored “Crash the Super Bowl” contest, and he needs your votes to help him win.

When asked about the process of shooting the commercial, Derek said, “The commercial was shot over the course of just three hours. Jon Friedman, the creator of this spot, is a director I've worked with before on a couple of independent films. Having worked with me before, he thought of me to play the role in this spot, and gave me a call. The most difficult part of shooting was working with "Huff" the Great Dane. He's a good dog, but not "Hollywood" trained or anything. The few seconds he's sat still in the commercial are literally the only few seconds he was still during the shoot. The Doritos contest is in its fifth year, and we were up against over 6,000 other commercials submitted from around the country. We figured that if it didn't make it – ‘Hey, it's no big deal. We had some fun working together, and it'll look good on our reel.’ Then, right before Christmas, we got a call that we’d been chosen as a finalist. It was killing me because we signed a non-disclosure agreement, and I wasn't allowed to tell anyone!”

Here’s how the contest works: From the fan votes, two out of the five commercials will be chosen to air during Super Bowl XLVI. The one with the most votes will be deemed the grand prize winner and go on to create another Doritos commercial with guys from "The Lonely Island" (From Saturday Night Live.) In addition, if Derek’s ad is chosen to air, AND it makes it into the top five of the USA Today ad-meter after the Super Bowl, there’s a chance they could win up to one million dollars. Yes, that's competing against all the other great commercials during the Super Bowl, but last year, "Pug Attack," another Doritos fan submitted spot, was the Grand Prize winner, and came in first on the ad-meter, so they won the million. It can be done.

Derek adds, “If you go to our website, there are links to where you can vote, a blooper reel, a ‘Huff pick of the day,’ and you can even sign up for daily reminders.

It's exciting. You know - I went to college with Jon, I've known him for a long time, and here we are, years later on the verge of a big break with a national commercial spot. You never know who you might be working with right now that could prove to be an advocate of your work later. Even the smallest opportunity today, could prove to be your big break later on.”

You can vote for "Man's Best Friend" here.  Come back every day and cast a vote for Derek!

January 11, 2012

"If I Were You" premieres at Palm Springs Film Festival

Mark Paladini
Regent Theater Professor Mark Paladini is in Palm Springs, CA this week, attending the world premiere of If I Were You, of which he is the co-executive producer. Mark teaches in both the Department of Theatre Arts and Department of Cinema-Television, specializing in screen acting, auditioning, actor coaching and the Uta Hagen approach to acting. A renowned film and television casting director, he is currently the co-executive producer of several internationally produced independent feature films.

Mark began his professional training as an actor in New York, studying with the highly influential acting teacher Uta Hagen and appearing in the world premiere of Ain Gordon's End Over End. His entry into the casting world involved directing hundreds of commercial auditions for a group of innovative New York commercial casting directors in the 1980s. His casting credits include major motion pictures such as The Mask, Spy Hard and Mortal Kombat. Television credits include Babylon 5 and Beverly Hills, 90210.

If I Were You is getting lots of buzz at the 23rd annual Palm Springs International Film Festival which, according to Richard Chang of the Orange County Register, signals the start of the yearlong film festival circuit and – as a precursor to the Golden Globes and Academy Awards – the unofficial beginning of movie awards season. Chang also writes, “Because of its proximity to Hollywood, Palm Springs attracts celebrities of all stripes, as well as a bevy of film industry insiders. This year's guest list includes Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Gary Oldman, Charlize Theron, Glenn Close, Michelle Williams, James Franco, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Marcia Gay Harden, Aidan Quinn and Octavia Spencer. About 187 films from 73 countries are scheduled, including two world premieres, 22 North American premieres and 36 U.S. premieres.”

The film was written by Joan Carr-Wiggin and stars Marcia Gay Harden, Aidan Quinn and Spanish actress Leonor Watling. In an interview with Bruce Fessier of The Desert Sun, Harden commented, “The theme of the movie is that people switch places…Do we always do what's best for us when we're only looking from our own perspective? She's looking for something different but she's not seeing the reality of what's in front of her. Through this young girl, beautifully played by Leonor, she's able to break out of this betrayal that's there in the marriage and find something in herself.”

Leonor Watling (left) and Marcia Gay Harden in “If I Were You.” Courtesy Photo
If I Were You is about a woman who sees her husband having a romantic dinner with a pretty young actress, Lucy. Harden, as Madelyn, follows Lucy out of the restaurant to a liquor store, where she watches her order a rope. She follows Lucy to her apartment and then prevents her from hanging herself, which prompts Madelyn to befriend her husband's lover without revealing her true identity.

The film takes its name from a deal Lucy and Madelyn make in which each woman must follow the other's advice. That allows Madelyn to surreptitiously advise her rival on how not to pursue a relationship with her husband.

Congratulations, Mark!

January 9, 2012

Tartuffe coming to Studio Theater

Tartuffe, a religious imposter, has set his sights on the wealthy Orgon in a scheme to steal all of his worldly possessions. This fast-paced comedy is a race to the finish as the family attempts to unmask the con artist before it's too late.

January 27 - 29, February 2 - 5

Communication Building - Studio Theatre

Adult - $16.00 Regent Student - $8.00 Senior - $13.25
For tickets call the Box Office at 757.352.4245

Want to know more about Moliere's comedy? Here are some notes from Tartuffe Director, Scott Hayes.
Tartuffe premiered for King Louis XIV in 1664. Although favorably received by the King, the play was banned from public performance after influential church leaders considered the play an attack on the very foundations of religion. After many revisions, the ban was lifted in 1669 and Molière enjoyed the most successful public run of any of his plays. Tartuffe is considered to be Molière’s masterwork and one of the great dramas of western literature.

We are presenting the play with period costumes, properties, hairstyles, etc., yet we do not posit the play is merely an object lesson from an important event in history with no contemporary relevance. Cleante, the “voice of reason,” encourages Orgon (and us) to cultivate true devotion, sincere commitment and humble faith. According to the following snippet by George A. Scranton, Moliere’s personal theology is revealed in his works:
“Molière’s comedy reveals us in our distorted incompleteness, our ‘brokenness,’ our sinful and limited finiteness. Laughter is often the mirror, whip and gift that reveals, castigates and allows for transformation of the characters, and us as we see ourselves revealed in the characters of his dramatic comedy. Molière is always jarring us with the evidence that we are no better than other people, and always comforting us with the knowledge that most other people are no better than we are. It makes us more critical but it leaves us more tolerant.
Molière’s version of dramatic comedy is not just a light humorous play that happens to have a happy ending. It is ‘a way of surveying life so that happy endings must prevail.’ This fortunate happy ending, most often brought about by plot twists ‘beyond human knowledge and control’ may be understood theologically as the miraculous intervention of God on humanity's behalf. The spirit and structure of Molière’s dramatic comedy seem to demand a hope-filled inclusive eschatology in which everyone is invited to the final happy ending. Only those who actively refuse that rebalanced or resurrected community are not present, and hope is often held out for even them.

This final community is seen as a rebalanced society, and for a moment frozen in time we can experience community in microcosm as it ought to be, based on love and mutuality of persons. In that respect such a community may represent (and in any given production even may be) an adumbration of that community of God that is among us, and not yet among us in its fullness. - Love and Lovers: Mutuality, Sin, Grace and The Future In Molière’s Vision Of Comedy

January 4, 2012

Theatre student reminder!

Reminder to all theatre students - grad and undergrad: There is a mandatory Town Hall meeting tomorrow (January 5th)  at noon in Screening Room A! See you there!