Letter from the Chair

Thursday, June 25, 2015
Letter from the Chair

Dear Friends,
2014-15 has been an exciting year for the Department of Theater Studies.  The Orientation Show started off the year with a bang: Demon Baby directed by Thomas Kavanagh. With a cast that included three terrifically talented freshmen, I directed the fall mainstage, The Perfect Detonator, my adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent told from the point of view of Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber.

It is always a special pleasure to have alumnae return to campus: Guest Artist and alumna Talya Klein directed the spring mainstage, a fantastic production of Enron.  Alumnus Jim Findlay returned to campus with The Whisper Opera, a uniquely beautiful and mysterious experience. This year there were five seniors graduating with distinction who created exciting productions or produced written research: Kelly McCrum, biology and theater studies major, adapted and directed a young adult novel about cancer; Jamie Bell created a piece about her home country of Zimbabwe and Austin Powers, videographer and lighting designer, collaborated.  Michael Myers, philosophy and theater studies major, combined the biography and work of Ludwig Wittgenstein with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with provocative results.  Yara Alemi explored adapting The Odyssey to new media. The department continues to distinguish itself with exceptional work in undergraduate research.

Our faculty shepherded wonderful work in cabaret, new works development, directing, writing, acting, design, devised work and sound design (with guest faculty Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa D’Amour and Brendan Connelly), arts management, musical theater (more on that in a moment); race, gender and performance with guest professor Nicole Martin; love in Shakespeare with guest actress from Great Britain, Jo Howarth; telling stories for social change with guest alumna Madeleine Lambert and Lynden Harris (Hidden Voices).  Madeleine and Lynden will be back in the fall: their work with students and the community on Confronting Sexual and Domestic Violence at Duke and in Durham has been important and powerful. 

Breaking news: we expect that a new minor in musical theater will come on line in the fall, along with some changes in the major requiring courses in dramatic literature and performance studies.  This year Brad Rogers brought Karen Morrow, an American singer and actress best known for her work in musical theater (Emmy Award and a Theatre World Award, an Ovation Award and five Drama-Logue Award nomination) to campus. In concert with Duke Performances, we brought Rude Mechanicals to campus in the fall.  Students were thrilled with and inspired by their visit and the work.  Sibyl Kempson’s Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag, developed at Duke as part of Theater Previews New Works Lab, opened at Abrons Art Center in New York this spring.    

Neal Bell takes over for Ellen Hemphill, after many years of service, as Director of Undergraduate Studies.  Jeff Storer takes over for me as chair.  We have a search for a new tenure track line in the fall.  I’m off to Chicago for the 2nd year of Duke in Chicago.  Onward and upward!

All the best!  Jody McAuliffe