An Interview with Hope Theatre Major Jose Angulo

All theatre majors at Hope College must hold an internship, fulfill a major design or stage management role in a faculty-directed production, or complete an independent project.   For his final capstone experience, senior Jose Angulo is writing a play titled “Bleach.” It is based on Jose’s own experience as well as the experience of other Latino students navigating the opportunities and challenges as minority students at Hope College. Jose will direct a reading of “Bleach” in the Studio Theatre of the DeWitt Center on Tuesday-Wednesday, April 16-17. The readings will start at 7:30 pm and are free.

Jose and I spoke about the impetus of his project and his goals for the performance.  Here are excerpts from that conversation.

Jose Angulo, right, in The Christians

How did you decide to write this play?

Last summer I had the pleasure of attending the Latinx Theatre Commons, which took place in Chicago.  It was there where I got my inspiration to tell stories of people who are like me. I did not realize how under-represented we are until it was right in front of my face.  The Latinx theatre artists presented their work with such passion and finesse at this festival, and I was in awe. For my final independent project as a senior theatre major, I knew I wanted to do something personal that would represent my college journey.  Through my experience in Chicago, I realized that focusing on the Latino culture here at Hope was a perfect point of departure for me.

What story do you hope to tell?

I began writing a play that would tell the story of struggling Latino students – and ultimately, about one in particular, whose attendance is threatened by the reallocation of financial aid funds.  The story is based on my own experience along with that of my friends and highlights some of the issues we have dealt with while trying to graduate.

Whom do you want to reach with this play?

I would like the story to speak to the Latino audiences in the area.  I know many minority students have had similar experiences, and their voices deserve to be heard.

Jose, left, in Love and Information

How did you approach the writing process?

Initially, it was difficult to figure out the path I wanted to take. I was not sure if I wanted the story to be hopeful or if it should serve more critically as a ‘reality check.’ I wanted to portray my generation accurately and appropriately as well. Frankly, I often feel that we are not portrayed with the intelligence we really have or with the responsibilities and pressures that we bear.  For minority students, there are additional concerns rushing through our heads as we live and study in an environment that is quite dissimilar from our own cultures and homes. We recognize a college education as a necessary and valuable step in survival but the obstacles towards graduation can be formidable.

What are your hopes for the artistic future?

I want my piece to be a step in changing what we are so used to seeing in entertainment.  Minorities make up such a huge portion of the United States, and it is only fair that we see people like us up there. We have so much talent that is yet to be seen and appreciated. My piece is truly for the culture and for the opportunity of other Latinos.

Jose as The Miser


Jose has acted in numerous productions for the college’s Theatre Department.  Already as a freshman, he played two major roles: Associate Pastor Joshua in The Christians and Jean in Miss Julie.  He has also performed in Jane Eyre: The Musical, Love and Information, and Shiloh and played the title role in The Miser.  This past fall, he appeared as The Narrator in Into The Woods and will finish his acting training at Hope by portraying Trigorin in the department’s upcoming production of Anton Chekhov’s Seagull.

May I Have This Dance?

“Then I offer my waiting self to the One who’s never stopped believing in me, and the dance begins.” – Joyce Rupp

When most people think of “dance,” they usually think of A) people (typically young women) presenting athletic, skilled awesomeness to music on a stage, or B) raucous parties packed with bodies jumping joyfully to a DJ driven beat so loud it is felt.

But there’s another option out there, one with its foundation in the mists of time and refined in the ballrooms of the 19th century: English Country Dances and Contra dancing. Picture a dance scene from Jane Austen, or the Fezziwig dance in “A Christmas Carol” – that’s what I’m talking about. Believe it or not, these dances still happen in quiet communities across the United States.

Many years ago, jaded by the inflated, insecure egos of concert dance (see “A” above) and too weary for “B,” I’d essentially given up on dance, until I experienced “Contra dancing.” It was an unexpected evening of joy, invigorated by a sense of community. For a few hours, I danced without fear of judgement or expectation. I went home with a face weary from smiling and feet weary from moving, having re-discovered why I loved to dance. Friends, music, rhythm and pattern – the dances may feel weirdly “old-timey,” but that truth lends to them a nostalgic calm and ease that is surprisingly charming and fun.

Because of their historical significance, and for the last 34 years, English Country Dance/ Contra dance “Balles” have been incorporated in the Historical Social Dance class. This year, with my retirement, the last Balle offered under my purview happens this week.

THIS FRIDAY, YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO TRY THESE DANCES AT 

THE SPRING BALLE

Friday March 29, 2019, Maas Auditorium, 7-10pm

OPEN TO THE HOPE COMMUNITY

FREE

Refreshments provided.

Glen Morningstar calling, Mark Schrock and friends providing live music

NO EXPERIENCE IS NECESSARY: All you need to bring is a willing heart and an open mind

DANCES ARE TAUGHT: Experienced dancers will help you, if you wish.

Costumes encouraged, but not required

For more information call: 616-395-7700

Charles Aschbrenner’s Gift of Music Forever

The late Dr. Charles Aschbrenner, long-time professor of music at Hope, has left a lasting impression upon the college beyond his 53 years of teaching piano. Aschbrenner’s personal grand piano — a Steinway over 100 years old — now resides in the college’s presidential home, a gift given to Hope by his spouse Chris Spencer recently. Aschbrenner passed away in in September, 2016.To celebrate its arrival to its new and permanent location, members of the Hope music department performed a dedication concert in the President House in Aschbrenner’s honor last week. The piano, both figuratively and literally, was the centerpiece of the event in the formal living room of the house. At 6-foot-11-inches, it is the second largest piano Steinway builds. Made of tiger, or flame, mahogany, the instrument took a year to construct and was completed in 1914. It first belonged to Aschbrenner’s mother from whom he received his first piano lessons.

Violinist Craioveanu with Pianist Le. Photo by Greg Olgers

Pianist Dr. Andrew Le accompanied both violinist Mihai Craioveanu and flutist Dr. Gabe Southard at the installation concert. Le also performed two solo works written by Claude DeBussy, an Aschbrenner favorite. “Charles loved DeBussy, and anything French actually,” Le said before he performed. “This is for Charles.”

Flutist Southard with Pianist Le. Photo by Greg Olgers.

Aschbrenner joined the Hope faculty in 1963 after receiving his master of music degree from Yale University. He further studied with renowned teachers Nadia Boulanger in France and Adele Marcus in New York City. But piano was not his only instrument. Aschbrenner also studied oboe with Ray Stills of the Chicago Symphony.

“An instrument is an extension of the musician. Sometimes we choose them and sometimes they cross our paths. This piano is very much an extension of Charles,” said Le. “It’s very generous. It’s warm and it’s delightful.”

“An instrument is an extension of the musician….This piano is very much an extension of Charles. It’s very generous. It’s warm and it’s delightful.”

While the warm and delightful Aschbrenner piano had a meaningful introduction to the president’s home — President Dennis Voskuil called the event one of the highlights of his time at Hope — it also has special significance for the new presidential residents moving in this summer. Sarah Dieter ’02 Scogin, wife of Hope’s next president Matthew A Scogin ’02, was a music performance major at Hope (as well as a computer science major).

Charles Aschbrenner was her mentor.

Listen to the Aschbrenner piano played by Dr. Andrew Le!

Elemental Dance 45

Wind. Water. Fire. Earth. Dance!

The elements get physical this March in Dance 45, the annual presentation of dance works choreographed and designed by Hope dance faculty and guest artists. This concert is always a highlight for the department as it culminates an intense rehearsal process for more than 50 student performers that participate each year. An additional 20 students make up the backstage crews, assisting with lighting, sound, costuming and stage management.

In the dance department, the concert itself, when speaking generally, is affectionately called Dance X, but the actual number is significant. This year it represents 45 years of the dance department going strong, educating, training and cultivating the creativity of young artists, all while maintaining the highest level of artistry for the stage.

Choreography is the dance department’s primary means of scholarship, so the works produced are the artistic equivalence of scholarly publication. Whether producing locally, nationally or internationally, each choreographer spends countless hours in research and rehearsal.

With a throughline response to the elements of wind, water, fire and earth, the subject matter of individual works ranges from lighthearted to contemplative, from carefree communal celebration to mourning, oppression and suffering.

In 2013, the dance department began the practice of hiring an esteemed, professional artist-educator to offer peer review for Dance X. Reviewing this year’s concert will be Paul Abrahamson, director of the Chicago Ballet Center. Abrahamson will evaluate choreography based not only on its compositional design and overall statement (use of space, dynamic range, creativity and integrity of the movement), but also on how the work itself compares to other works presented inside and outside of academia.

Right up until opening night of Dance 45 on Friday, March 1, choreographers and performers continue working. With a throughline response to the elements of wind, water, fire and earth, the subject matter of individual works ranges from lighthearted to contemplative, from carefree communal celebration to mourning, oppression and suffering. Each work falls within the styles of ballet, hip hop, jazz and contemporary, and each is as different as the choreographers creating them. This year’s choreographers include faculty members Nicole Flinn, Crystal Frazier, Linda Graham, Julie Powell and Angela Yetzke, along with guest artists Richard Rivera (NY) and Sharon Wong (FL).

And as always, Dance X (45) attenders should expect exciting surprises from concert designers Erik Alberg and Darlene Veenstra. (Hint: Better bring your umbrella if you sit in the front row!)

Finally, this year’s concert will be a special one, the last hurrah of beloved faculty member and former department chair Linda Graham who heads into retirement in May. Graham will present Chair Study, a crowd favorite first seen in 1989. Dancers will contemplate the element of wood through crazy stunts and thought-provoking humanity in signature Linda Graham style.

So, come celebrate with us. Let’s dance.

Tickets to Dance 45 can be purchased online, in person at the Hope College Ticket Office, or at the door on the evening of the performances. Adult tickets are $10, seniors $7, and children $5.

A Paul Galbraith Performance: It’s Personal

Paul Galbraith
Paul Galbraith

When the Grammy-nominated classical guitarist Paul Galbraith performs at Hope College on March 1, it will be his fourth appearance on our campus. While I’ve presented many artists to Hope over the years, no one has made four visits. Until now.

Galbraith is unique, not only in his skill on guitar, but also because he has been instrumental in moving the classical guitar world through the sometimes hard wall of what constitutes classical music. . . and that does not usually include a guitar. He surprises people with his playing ability, his interpretations of classical standards, and even his one-of-a-kind playing style.

Presenting the performing arts is part of my work at Hope. For 20 years, I have listened to countless recordings, attended performances, watched videos, and read scripts in the search for the right performers to bring to the Hope and Holland communities. So, when the performers finally reach our stage, I’m already very familiar with their work. I have an idea what to expect.

But once and awhile, someone surprises me.

I was not raised on classical music and have little formal training. Fortunately, you do not need that to enjoy and indeed be moved by a performance. I remember one of the first performers I booked here was the pianist Sergio Tiempo who performed Maurice Ravel’s  Gaspard de la nuit.” I was caught off guard by the power of each single note creating a haunting scene. One note, played quietly, sounding like a distant bell tolling to announce a death.

More recently, Trio Con Brio Copenhagen performed Bedrich Smetana’s “Trio in G minor” and it pulled hard at me. Instinctively I recognized it as a piece on grief. It was only later, when I read the trio’s program notes, did I realize that Smetana wrote the piece in response to the death of his five-year-old daughter. As a parent of a child who died far too young, Smetana’s piece reached across 200 years to grieve with me. This is what art can do.

Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach

My response has also been strong to anything written by Bach. The clean, structured pieces can be playful or thoughtful, but they are always stunningly beautiful. This “beautiful” probably resonates more strongly with me because for Bach, who has been called “The Fifth Evangelist,” that beauty comes from God. While the pieces by Ravel and Smetana address our sorrows, Bach addresses our hope. Perhaps that is why whenever I see that Bach is on the program, I know I’m going to leave the concert with a renewed faith.

My experience of this has been most strong when hearing Paul Galbraith perform Bach. He clearly loves that 17th century composer as his work appears on five of Galbraith’s eight recordings. Two of his recordings focus on Bach alone and his 1998 recording of Bach’s complete Sonatas and Partitas received a Grammy nomination, ended up in Billboard’s Top Ten classical chart, and was called a “landmark in the history of guitar recordings” by Gramophone Magazine.

While his Grammy nomination got him some attention, his development of  the 8-string guitar that he plays like a cello makes him instantly recognizable.

Better than any award, the legend of classical guitar, Andreas Segovia, heard the then 17-year-old Galbraith play and declared, “Paul is magnificent. He will be a great artist.”  Not surprising, Segovia was right. Galbraith enjoys a great solo career but was also a founding member of the highly regard Brazilian Guitar Quartet (even though he is from Scotland!). He is in demand to perform with chamber groups and orchestras and is now working with the great Brazilian cellist Antonio Meneses.

Galbraith’s program at Hope is more varied this time and I have no doubt all of it will be excellent. Plus, the chance to hear him perform in the acoustically superior concert hall at the Jack H. Miller Center is too good to miss. If you have never heard a classical guitar concert, there will be no better first experience than this concert.

By the way, he opens the performance with Bach.

And, I’ll be happy.

Tickets to the Paul Galbraith concert can be purchased online, in person at the Hope College Ticket Office, or at the door on the evening of the performance. Adult tickets are $10, seniors $7, and children $5.

Recognition Galore for Hope Theatre at the KCACT Regional Festival

At the festival, Hope College students wait for the curtain to rise on the University of Wisconsin La-Crosse’s production of “The Laramie Project.”

In January, a large group of Hope College theatre students embarked on a memorable and enlightening trip to Madison, Wisconsin, to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region III Festival. KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide, a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents. KCACTF hosts festivals in eight regions across the nation. Hope College participated in the Region III festival with other colleges from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin. At the festival, students have the opportunity to showcase their skills in dramaturgy, acting, stage management, musical theatre, playwriting and design.

This year, KCACTF  recognized Shiloh, a recent Hope production written by the cast and faculty director Richard Perez. The ensemble of Shiloh was awarded a certificate of Merit for Excellence in Collaborative Performance. Theatre faculty lighting and sound designer Perry Landes was awarded a Certificate of Merit for Excellence in Projections Design. Senior Katrina Dykstra designed costumes for this production and received a Theatrical Design Excellence award for her work. As a result of the award,  Dykstra has garnered a coveted, fully-funded opportunity to attend the national festival in Washington D.C. this May.

Senior Katrina Dykstra presenting her winning costume designs from Hope College devised-piece, “Shiloh.”

“I had such a great time at ACTF this year presenting my costume design for Shiloh!,” said Dykstra. “I always love getting criticism from other professors and theatre professionals, so getting to present for so many interesting judges was great. I was so surprised to be selected to be in finals, and even more surprised to receive an award. I’m looking forward to going to Washington D.C. with the national festival. I’m going to learn so much from the seminars and workshops, and meet so many people in the theatre world!”

Hope College theatre also received praise for their work on this year’s production of Into The Woods by receiving a remarkable number of Certificate of Merit Awards:

KCACTF also hosts competitions for students to showcase their work, and several Hope College students received awards for their artistry.

Junior Gracen Barth was the recipient of the Don Childs Award for Excellence in Stagecraft, providing her a fully-funded opportunity to further develop her skills by attending the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas, Nevada, in July of 2020. Barth was also awarded a production manager’s toolkit.

Senior Megan Clark presenting her costume designs for “Arcadia.”

“With production management being a relatively new field, especially on a collegiate level, it was truly an honor to be recognized for my work on this level,” said Barth. “I’m looking forward to being able to further my skills at the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas.”

Senior Megan Clark was recognized for her Into The Woods design presentation for properties, as well as her Arcadia costume design presentation.

As an active member of KCACTF, Hope College receives responses from faculty of  partner schools who attend a performance of each production. The respondent often takes notes during the show and provides valuable feedback to the acting, design, stage management and directing. The respondent then can provide special recognition by nominating production participants for regional awards like those previously mentioned. They also select one or two cast members that they felt had a superb performance. These students each receive an invitation to participate in the annual Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition, which occurs at the festival. Each participant works on a monologue and two scenes with a selected partner.

There is something so electric about spending a few days where hundreds of  like-minded passionate artists are gathered to share and celebrate theatre.

Freshmen Emi Herman was nominated for her portrayal of Laney in Crooked. Madison Meeron was her scene partner. Senior Olivia Lehnertz was nominated for her interpretation of Cinderella in Into The Woods. Gracen Barth was her scene partner. Junior Katie Joachim was nominated for her performance as The Baker’s Wife in Into The Woods. Maxwell Lam was her partner.

Joachim and Lam made it to the semifinals of the Irene Ryan auditions. Joachim also auditioned alongside 100 other students to participate in a Musical Theatre Showcase. She was then selected to join 14 others from around the region to perform in a cabaret-style performance where she delivered a heartfelt performance of  “Mr. Snow.”

Students and faculty had an enriching and fulfilling time at the festival this year. There is something so electric about spending a few days where hundreds of  like-minded passionate artists are gathered to share and celebrate theatre. We are grateful to have had this experience and look forward to attending The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival again in the future.

Perform, Teach, and Treat: The Different Careers of Hope Dancers

The Hope College dance department has long prided itself on the versatility of both its curricular programming as well as the careers of its alumni. Founded on the principle, “if you have a love of dance, we have a place for you,” dance  professor-emeritus Maxine DeBruyn founded and established a program that has — for the last 45 years — produced alumni who are changing the idea of what it means to make dance a part of one’s lifelong career.

Jennifer Muisenga ’12 Florey

Jennifer Muisenga ’12 Florey was a dance education major at Hope. During her senior year, she completed her student teaching in Chicago and went on to become the assistant director of Auroris Dance Company in the Chicago suburbs. During the summer of 2013, she accepted a teaching position at Kofa High School in Yuma, Arizona, directing the dance program. She is currently in her last semester at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro completing her thesis to receive her master of arts in dance education.

Asked about her time in the Hope College dance department Flory stated, “the Hope dance program provided me with a well-rounded education in order to provide my students with the best education. The professors pushed me outside my comfort zone and always saw the potential in me. I always felt supported in everything I did, and I continue to feel supported by them to this day.”

Tim Heck ’04

After graduating in 2004 from Hope College as a theater and dance major, Tim Heck continued his training with regional dance companies such as Eisenhower Dance Ensemble, Thodos Dance Chicago and Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. From 2006-2013, Tim originated work and performed with Lucky Plush Productions, Blue Man Group, the circus punk marching band Mucca Pazza, Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, 500 Clown, Redmoon Theater, and the small-top circus tent Le Tigre Tent.  He taught modern dance technique at Lou Conte Dance Studios and was a teaching artist with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.  In 2013, Tim was hired by Sleep No More in New York City – a groundbreaking, immersive, dance, theater event created by the British-based company Punchdrunk. As of 2018, Tim is performing in Sleep No More in Shanghai, China, where he lives with his wife, Hope, who serves as the production’s resident director.

“In my experience at the Hope College dance department, I was able to learn by doing,” Heck says.  “While I was regularly getting demanding technical instruction that I needed as a fresh dancer, I was also able to practice the art regularly.  It very directly laid the groundwork for what I have continued doing since.”

Dr. Kathleen Davenport ’03

Kathleen L. Davenport ’03 majored in both dance and French at Hope on a pre-medicine track for medical school. Today, she is a fellowship-trained sports, performing arts and dance medicine physician. Following her medical school graduation and residency, Davenport then completed a spine and sports fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, NY, where she worked with physician leaders in dance medicine and published peer-reviewed articles on hip pain, and platelet rich plasma injections. Dr. Davenport currently works in South Florida and serves the local dance community as the Company Physician for Miami City Ballet, Board of Directors for Boca Ballet Theatre, and as affiliate professor at Florida Atlantic University Department of Theatre. She serves on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) and serves on multiple committees for the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA).

“Hope College helped prepare me for this dance medicine journey. I was introduced to IADMS and joined the organization while at Hope and now sit on the Board of Directors. I have spoken to dance medicine and science professionals around the world, and Hope remains the only institution to my knowledge to offer a unique degree in dance and pre-med. Thanks to Hope, I have been set up for success in all aspects of life, personally and professionally.”

Object Lessons: Mexican People Portfolio

In 1946, the Taller de Grafica Popular (People’s Graphic Workshop) in Mexico City published a portfolio titled Mexican People that consisted of twelve lithographic prints by ten different artists depicting scenes of Mexican working life. The purpose of the portfolio was to help Americans better understand the peoples and cultures of Mexico as both countries struggled to readjust to new global economic conditions after World War II.

Silver Mine Worker. Francisco Mora (Mexican, 1922-2002), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection

The Kruizenga Art Museum purchased an intact copy of the Mexican People portfolio in January, 2016. It has since become one of the most heavily used artworks in the museum’s teaching program as every year it is shown to multiple Spanish language, history, and interdisciplinary studies classes.

The Taller de Grafica Popular, or TGP, was a printmaking collective that was founded in 1937 to promote the goals of the Mexican Revolution and other left-wing causes. During its heyday from the late 1930s to the late 1950s, the TGP produced thousands of low-cost prints and posters aimed at supporting workers’ rights, combatting corruption and violence, and promoting national and international unity.

Lime Kilns. Raul Anguiano (Mexican, 1915-2006), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection

Publication of the Mexican People portfolio coincided with the 100th anniversary of the start of the Mexican-American War, which lasted from 1846 to 1848 and resulted in the United States claiming a large portion of Mexico’s northern territory. It also coincided with a renewed conversation about immigration that occurred as American politicians debated what to do about the Bracero program, which brought hundreds of thousands of Mexican workers to the United States to fill vital farm and factory jobs during World War II. Although Bracero workers were supposed to come into the US on fixed-term labor contracts, some wanted the ability to extend their contracts while others wanted to stay in the US permanently. Many American farmers supported extending the Bracero program as they had become highly reliant on Mexican labor to maintain their agricultural output. In the end, the Bracero program was extended until 1964 and provided a legal channel for more than five million Mexicans to work in the US on a seasonal or full-time basis during those years.

Lumber Workers. Alfredo Zalce (Mexican, 1908-2003), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection

The Mexican People portfolio presents a positive image of Mexicans as being hardworking and industrious. It includes captions in both Spanish and English that explain the subjects of each print and shows on a map of Mexico where the different scenes are located. The portfolio was distributed in the United States through Associated American Artists, a New York-based gallery that was dedicated to providing original works of art at affordable prices to middle-class consumers. Approximately 250 copies of the portfolio were issued in the United States. Some of the portfolios were broken up and the prints were sold off individually; other copies of the portfolio were kept intact.

The complete portfolio is on view in the Kruizenga Museum through January 26. Admission is always free and everyone is welcome. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm.

Silver Mine Worker

Francisco Mora (Mexican, 1922-2002), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection, 2016.1.1.2

Mexico is home to some of the richest silver deposits in the world.  After the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 16th century, huge quantities of Mexican silver were shipped overseas to fuel the economies of Europe and Asia. Historically most Mexican silver was mined by hand. Miners often worked in low tunnels with poor ventilation and drainage and accidental deaths were common. The exploitation of Mexican mines and miners continued well into the 20th century, as we see in this Francisco Mora print depicting a miner working in the state of Hidalgo north of Mexico City.

Lime Kilns

Raul Anguiano (Mexican, 1915-2006), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection, 2016.1.1.4

Lime is a calcium-rich mineral that was traditionally produced by burning limestone or chalk in large kilns. It is a vital ingredient in cement and concrete around the world. In Mexico it is also often used to whitewash adobe houses and to prepare maize for cooking. Making lime can be dangerous. The smoke from the kilns contains particles that can damage the lungs, while the intense light of the kiln fire can damage the eyes. Raul Anguiano captures the hot, back-breaking nature of lime production in this image of a lime factory near the town of Tula de Allende in central Mexico.

Lumber Workers

Alfredo Zalce (Mexican, 1908-2003), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection, 2016.1.1.11

The Lacandon Jungle in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico is a lush tropical rainforest filled with a bountiful variety of trees, plants and animals. Because it was remote and difficult to access, the Lacandon Jungle remained relatively intact until the late 19th century. Since then, however, large sections of the rainforest have been cut down to make way for mining operations, coffee and rubber plantations as well as agricultural farms and ranches. Today only ten percent of the original forest remains untouched. This print depicts sawyers in the Gulf Coast port of Ciudad del Carmen cutting tropical hardwood logs from Chiapas into standard lengths so that they can be shipped off to market in the United States and Europe.

Student Profile: Theatre Major Katrina Dykstra Thrives in NYC

Katrina Dykstra, left, performs in The Christmas Carol with Titan Theatre. Photo by Michael Pauley

I had the privilege of spending four months in New York City last fall, working with the Titan Theatre Company, a classical theatre company based in Queens. In my time with Titan, I helped set up a fundraising gala, understudied roles and worked on the set and costume designs for their production of The Tempest, and worked on the costumes and performed in their production of A Christmas Carol.

I met Lenny Banovez, the artistic director of Titan, through Hope Summer Repertory Theatre (HSRT) in the spring of 2018. (Lenny is also the artistic director for HSRT so he was on our campus  last spring to get ready for summer shows.) I knew I would be spending a semester in New York with the GLCA New York Arts Semester, a program Hope has had a long association with, so I got up the courage to asked Lenny if I could work for Titan. I am so happy that I took that small risk.  Working for a smaller company like Titan gave me opportunity to use all of my theatre skills, from costumes to performing, and allowed me to work closely with their entire team, from the artistic director to the general manager to the artistic associate. My experience ended up being so personalized to me, and I gained so many friends and professional connections through the process.

I quickly fell in love with New York bagels and the busy sidewalks, and found my routine of daily errands, internship tasks and night-time rehearsals.

Moving to New York from West Michigan was definitely a big transition. I was definitely a little scared when I showed up at LaGuardia Airport in Queens with two bags, my backpack, and myself. From grocery shopping to getting a cup of coffee, life just looks different in New York.  I had to learn how to navigate subways and buses, and I walked more than I ever have in my life! I quickly fell in love with New York bagels and the busy sidewalks, and found my routine of daily errands, internship tasks and night-time rehearsals. Having the opportunity to go to New York for four months and only focus on theatre was such a gift, and I’m so grateful to Hope College and the New York Arts Program for enabling me to do this.

A Christmas Carol scene with Katrina Dykstra, seated back right. Photo by Michael Pauley

My NYC internship was perfect to round out my college career as I was able to put to work all the skills I have learned with my Hope theatre education. Being in NYC also allowed me to bring back some knowledge and experience about the “real world” and share it with my friends and classmates, such as what going to Broadway chorus auditions looks like, or the best place to get soup dumplings.

A highlight of my time in New York was working on A Christmas Carol. A guest director, Tony Clements, came in to work on the production. Getting to work with a director and actors who have Broadway credits was such an incredible experience for me as a student, and as an actor looking to work in the field. I learned so much just by watching them work in rehearsal, whether I was onstage with them in a scene or not. We were lucky enough to sell out most of the shows for A Christmas Carol, and it was an experience I will never forget.

From hemming tablecloths to sewing rope onto sails to performing, I got to experience every part of what it takes to put up a theatre production in a small New York theatre. I am so grateful for what the New York Arts Program and Titan Theatre Company helped me do this past semester, and I’m hoping to go back to New York soon!

Editor’s note: At the regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival held in Madison, Wisconsin earlier this month, Katrina won a regional Theatrical Design Excellence award for her costume design for Hope’s production of Shiloh last April.  As a part of this honor, she is invited to attend the national KCACT Festival in Washington, D.C. in April.  She has also been cast as Nina in Hope’s April production of The Seagull so it will be a busy semester for her!

Student Profile: Studio Art Major Brianna Derfiny

Now that the fall semester has ended, senior art studio majors have some time to reflect on what they learned in ART 365, the independent studio projects course. They will also look forward to ART 350, the art studio seminar, this spring. The goal of these two seminars is to create a body of work for the senior show, which will open on April 5, 2019.

Brianna Derfiny with her completed work in the Student Juried Art Show

Brianna “Bri” Derfiny of Southgate, Michigan will be spending her inter-semester break contemplating how her practice in ART 365 will transfer to her project for ART 350. Like her classmates in the class of 2019, Bri is at the cusp of transforming from a student into a practicing artist. With that comes the essential question: how to I develop habits of artistic practice that will keep me making art after Hope College?

The studio program at Hope is designed to address this question. The curriculum is set up as a pyramid and is a hybrid of art school and liberal arts curricula. Whereas at an art school, students would immediately focus on one medium, students at Hope develop skills in a wide range of media. At the pyramid’s base, every studio major must take foundational courses in the each of the media offered: painting, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, photography and design. In these courses, students (both majors and students in the general education curriculum) spend the class time practice skills under the close supervision of a professor. Bri explains, “Throughout college, I have always had to stick to the boundaries of an assignment.  It’s like living in an imaginary box.”

The middle of the pyramid, students choose advanced studio courses from blocks, where students can track themselves into 2D or 3D practices. At this level, students work with more freedom with assignments that have broader perimeters. Bri explains that the advanced course are still assignment-based, but in addition to skill, students must now bring content to the work.  Bri says, “Technique is still important, but much of the assignment is about thinking more broadly and working on a topic you want to go with. In figure drawing class, Professor Sullivan always wanted a concept while you are focusing on technical skills. An idea always needed to be there.”

Bri with senior Art History major Nina Kay discussing work from ART 365

At the top of the pyramid is the ART 365/350 sequence, which models the design of art school. These courses function as capstones to the art studio major. In the fall, Art 365 is a seminar that is not skills based, but completely focused on teaching students how to work without the perimeters of an assignment. Class time is dedicated to discussion and critique, and all studio work must be done outside of class.  A challenge for students is to develop consistent habits and a work schedule that will keep them in the studio working on their art practice in the midst of all of the other things going on in their lives. In reflecting on her experience, Bri says, “I really like making art in general. In ART 365, coming up with ideas is the easy part. Having to work through the idea and actually create the work is challenging.”

One of the benefits of being in the studio seminar is having a space to work.  In the fall, seniors share a studio space in the DePree Art center, but in the spring they will have their own studios. “Over the summer, finding the time and the space to make work was challenging. I had a job, but I tried to draw in my sketchbook every day. Having a space to work is essential,” says Bri. “I feel I have always had a good work ethic. It makes it much easier when you are passionate about it. So, I feel like it is really easy to spend a ton of time in the studio. And even if I am not working on art, I can be taking notes on what I potentially do the following week.”

Last semester, Bri branched out from her comfort zone and combined her work in drawing and rendering with more conceptual work such as performance and process-based work. “I think my rendering skill and my shading are what I am best at. My work has a strong realism attribute to it.  I tried to escape it this semester and experimented with abstract and geometric shapes. I also tied different forms of art. I have done spoken words before, but never performed them in an artistic setting. Having done that and being able to render the way that I do leads me in the direction to including more poetry in my rendered work.”

Bri in the senior studio of DePree holding a drawing from ART 365

Next semester in ART 350, Bri and her classmates will take the habits they have been developing and the experiments that seemed the most successful and move towards creating a body of work for the senior show. While some students will produce mixed-media and installation-based works that are very reflective of Hope’s hybrid curriculum, others will hone a particular medium in which they excel.

As Bri thinks about her part, she feels both the excitement of having freedom to create her own body of work, as well as the intimidation that comes with such freedom. “It is all the things. It’s exciting and somewhat intimidating to have to create a body of work that is good and that shows off your skills and concepts.

“Moving forward I am gong to do more rendered work, because that is what I like and what I think I am best at. But it was really helpful to see that I can conceptualize an idea without rendering it completely. I want to incorporate some performance in some way, so I would render works that have performative elements with them.  I have an idea for one, but I am not necessarily sure how I would implement that same idea throughout different works. That is what I will have to figure out next semester.”