*originally posted here 2.19.2010*
University of Maryland “Between the Columns”
Whether professional or amateur, or of the stage, canvas or concert hall, artists seek ways to communicate their thoughts, feelings and interpretations of the world. That creative imperative unfolds behind the scenes and onstage in the Department of Theatre’s latest productions.
“Hotel Cassiopeia,” at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center through Feb. 20, illuminates the life of artist Joseph Cornell, who used assorted junk to construct striking collages portraying the inner world he inhabited while living in his mother’s basement in Queens, N.Y. and caring for his invalid brother. The production, a collaborative project with Round House Theatre in Bethesda, is directed by Blake Robison, Round House producing artistic director.
“You don’t get to see plays like this very often,” Robison says. “The student actors, designers and technicians working on this production are some of the most adventurous and committed I’ve encountered, and [they] are making it happen with their talent, skill and passion for the material.”
Daniel Wagner, department chair, says there is nothing more gratifying than watching students establish relationships with professional artists like Robison.
“This fits into our philosophy of why we bring in professionals to work with our students, both as full-time faculty and as guests. It allows the students to have a deeper experience while they’re at UM as artists in training,” says Wagner.
Students will perform in Lydia Diamond’s adaptation of novelist Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” March 5-12 at the center under the direction of Walter Dallas, senior artist in residence and faculty member. Dallas is a National Endowment for the Arts fellow and has been a major figure in African American theater for several decades. The emotionally charged novel explores issues of self-acceptance and beauty through the stories of two young girls and their families.
Wagner notes that in an industry where professionals sometimes treat working with students “like a gig,” Dallas has been committed to working with the young actors and building relationships since he first came to Maryland in 2006 to direct “The Amen Corner.” He joined the faculty in Fall 2008.
“Walter was such as tremendous asset to the program in terms of professionalism and his style of working with students. He established contacts with the students and they continue to say in touch,” says Wagner. “He knows our students and brings an even deeper connection into the rehearsal hall while working with them, one that is reinforced in the classroom.”
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*image by Joseph Cornell | Object (Roses des Vents), 1942-53*