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July7, 2010

Vol. 110, No. 16

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An opera, staging Beckett, ‘Pieta’ with pine cones

Posted on July 7, 2010


(Note: The July 7, 2010, issue of PAW profiles three students who completed creative thesis projects. Here are four more.)

Alexis Rodda ’10 and Max Mamon ’10, theater and music

Last summer, in a digital-age collaboration, Rodda and Mamon started writing and composing their new opera, Rosaleen. Rodda, in New Jersey, would write a section of lyrics and e-mail them to Mamon, who spent the summer in Chicago. Mamon then composed music and sent digital audio files back to Rodda.

The process continued in closer proximity last fall, and by late December, the two were ready to begin casting the production – a bit of a challenge on a campus where few have performed in operatic roles. After selecting the cast and rehearsing for two months, Rodda and Mamon staged Rosaleen in early April. “I was incredibly nervous because I had such a stake in it,” says Rodda, who played the title role. But the nerves eased, she says, when the opening-night performance drew an appreciative reception from its audience.

Rebecca Foresman ’10, theater and creative writing

Foresman’s theater thesis was an October production of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, a play in which the female lead spends the first half of the play buried from the waist down and the second half buried up to her chin. The inherent limitations forced her to concentrate on each minute detail of Beckett’s stage directions. When you can’t move your feet or hips, she says, “every single movement of your finger becomes a dance.” In the second act, expression is limited to subtle head turns and eye movements.

Foresman prepared for the role by taking classes at Ecole Philippe Gaulier, a clowning school in Paris, and spent the first six weeks of the school year in rehearsals – up to six hours a day as the staging approached. But the exhausting production was just the beginning of her senior independent work. Foresman, a French major, also wrote a traditional thesis about Beckett’s work, and in the spring, she finished her third thesis, a short-story collection for the creative writing program.

Kaitlyn Hay ’10, visual arts

For her thesis project, Hay explored the textures of natural objects and other re-appropriated materials while creating new works rooted in Renaissance imagery. Her fresh take on Michaelangelo’s Pieta, for instance, featured pine cones affixed to a wire frame.

One of Hay’s aims was to develop new textures, coating paper and burlap with different paints – a process of trial-and-error that was at times frustrating but ultimately rewarding. “You had to have done that failed experiment to do the successful piece that makes it into the show,” she says. “In the studio, I very much thought of myself as being in a lab.” By B.T.


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CURRENT ISSUE: July7, 2010