Friday, April 19, 2013

Student Profile: Campus Movie Fest

Three short films involving UCF Theatre students were recognized by the 2013 Campus Movie Fest this spring. Purple Hearts, Broken, and Ryder's Block all won awards. Campus Movie Fest is an international event that comes to UCF every year, open to all aspiring student filmmakers on campus. Participants are given all the equipment needed, one week to complete an entire film, and a five minute time limit for the final product. The films are then judged, the top 16 are shown at an award ceremony, and the winners are invited to Hollywood to compete against the winners from other campuses. Three films that were made by Theatre UCF students were in the top 16.

Luis Traps, a transfer student in the BFA Acting program, made a film called Purple Hearts inspired by those he knew who were affected by Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. "A story that stuck out was one acquaintance that I knew of that would come home at night and he would dig a hole in his backyard to sleep in. He was in the Iraq war. It affected him tremendously." This moving piece featured Christopher Niess, Theatre Department Chair. Luis had been involved in making films before, but this was his first time doing one of his own. His film was included in the Top 16 and his film was shown at the award ceremony.

Taylor Frost directed a film titled Broken. Taylor, a BFA Acting senior, has been in multiple short films but this is his first directing project. He was really interested in how things look in slow motion and wanted to tell this story using that effect. "Who hasn't ever wanted to just break plates and dishes just for fun? It was a blast. Sure, there was a huge mess. Worth it." The mess paid off. Broken won the award for Best Drama.

Danielle Engelman and Lucas Perez, a junior in the BFA Acting program, starred in Ryder's Block. Shooting this film was difficult because the director wanted to take advantage of "the golden hour," the warm and diffused light that occurs one hour before sunset. "We were literally racing for sunlight," Danielle, a first year transfer in the BFA Musical Theatre program, says. With only one week to make the film, they really only had one chance to get each shot. It turned out beautifully however. Danielle won Best Actress and Ryder's Block won Best Picture.

They are three very different films but all were honored by Campus Movie Fest. Having three made by Theatre UCF students in the top sixteen is a great example of their diverse talent. Luis says "It's a wonderful experience."  They all faced challenges but in the end it was well worth it.

To watch Purple Hearts go to
To watch Broken go to
To watch Ryder's Block go to

By: Elle Sullivan

Student Profile: Melissa Palomino

Theatre student Melissa Palomino has been awarded first place in the Undergraduate Research and Mentoring Program showcase for her research project on the history of Cuban Ballet. She has been working on this project for two years and now she, and theatre patrons, will get to see the culmination of her labor on stage in the 2013 annual Dance Concert, With a Twist.

When she completed the research portion of her project, Melissa was not ready for the project to end. She approached Dance Concert Director Earl Weaver and discussed the possibilities of a dance piece centered on Cuban Ballet.

Now Melissa, a senior BFA Design/Technology major, is directing a dance piece. She has enjoyed being able to take her own vision and put it on stage rather than following someone else's vision. Both her choreographer, Nicole Gonzalez, and the dancer, Ramsey Grace, are of Cuban ancestry.

Melissa has created an elaborate costume for the dance. The skirt of the dress will transform throughout the piece. Its design has been the biggest challenge throughout the process. She listened to the song for hours trying to come up with the concept. After creating two prototypes, she found a way to bring her idea to reality while allowing the dancer to still have her full range of movement. She is designing costumes for a second dance, as well, but this is by far her favorite. "You have more affection for something that you have been pouring a lot of your time and effort into."

By: Elle Sullivan

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Student Profile: Roger Thacher

Roger Thacher is the president of Project Spotlight, a student organization that gives students the opportunity to produce, direct, design, manage, and act in their own shows. It is also responsible for the semiannual One Act Festival (OAF). This event happens each semester and features a variety of short plays. Among the plays performed in the spring of 2012 was Brutal Imagination, which was written by Cornelius Eady. Roger was moved by the production, which was directed by Austen Edwards.

"It gripped me in such a way that I had not experienced before" Roger says. He was so impressed that he asked if Austen would be interested in entering it into the lottery for the 2013 Orlando Fringe Festival an annual event in Downtown Orlando that showcases theatrical artists from around the world. Austen agreed and the piece was entered.

The group did not win a spot, but was put on the waiting list.  After a long wait, Project Spotlight’s number came up and Brutal Imagination was given a venue. The long wait means that Project Spotlight has just three months to prepare before the Festival begins.  Roger says he was a little intimidated at first but his fears have been relieved by an amazing support system. "I have a fantastic and incredibly dedicated production team with me and a very talented cast and director."

Roger plans to move to California after graduation and pursue his voice acting career. What gives Roger real joy and what he wants to spend his life doing is cultivating the artistic talent that he sees in others, much like what he is doing through Project Spotlight.

By: Elle Sullivan

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Student Profile: Jesse Hinton

Although Spring Awakening is sophomore Jesse Hinton's fifth production at Theatre UCF, it is his first musical. Though a gifted singer, the BFA Acting major has not had any official music training, so his first musical—a production in which he has a leading role—has been eye-opening for him.

Voice director Tara Snyder and the rest of the cast have been extremely supportive through this process. Jesse says that "trying to find your inner rockstar is kind of different" compared to his other roles. Since the play is set in the 19th century, but also has contemporary rock music, Jesse is seeking ways to balance the two aspects, and is really enjoying it. Jesse has participated in one show per semester—Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music; Bury the Dead; No Sex Please, We’re British; Good Boys and True; and now Spring Awakening—that he's been at UCF, and has had lead roles in all of those productions.

He was nominated for the Irene Ryan Award for Acting for his performance as Brandon in Good Boys and True, which earned him a spot to participate in the the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. At the competition Jesse was bestowed the award for Best Comedic Actor. Jesse says that while he had a great time, the Festival was a lot of work. In between performances, he was preparing for the next round and making cuts to his pieces to stay within the time restrictions. There was always something to do.

Once he graduates, Jesse is thinking about moving to either Chicago or New York. In the meantime, Jesse reports he loves the commitment of the Theatre UCF faculty and he’s having a great time…but it's a lot of work. Just like the Festival.

By: Elle Sullivan

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Student Profile: Tara Kromer

Tara Kromer is pursuing her MFA in Theatre for Young Audience with a concentration in Directing. She recently attended the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, which was her first theatrical competition. "At first this prospect was very intimidating, but because the respondents at the festival were so helpful and constructive with their critiques of my work, I found it to be very rewarding and quite the learning experience!"

Tara directed Christopher Durang’s For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls in the Fall One Act Festival. Faculty member Be Boyd was her advisor on the project and told her about the KCACTF Director’s Fellowship Program. For this competition Tara chose a scene from Lee Blessings’ Independence to cast, conceptualize, and direct.

Tara was also the Assistant Director for last semester’s production of Sideshow and part of her job was to do the dramaturgical work. Earl Weaver, faculty member and Sideshow director, nominated her for the dramaturgy competition at KCACTF. For this part of the festival, Tara was assigned two new ten minute plays to do all of the required dramaturgical research to help the director and actors do a staged reading.

The festival was exhausting and Tara stayed very busy but her hard work paid off in the end. She was awarded runner up in both directing and dramaturgy. She is excited to compete in not only KCACTF again. “I feel that in the coming years I will be even better prepared and really hope to make it to the National Festival in Washington!

By: Elle Sullivan

Monday, February 18, 2013

Student Profile: John DeLisa

When John DeLisa was a kid he was cast in a local production of Annie as Star to Be. "That's what hooked me. I sang about NYC and making it big and I thought to myself, among all the pretty grown up theatre girls, 'this is where I want to be.'"

Now John is playing Moritz in Theatre UCF's Spring Awakening. His busy schedule has been the biggest challenge for this production. John is not only in classes and rehearsals every day but he is also a beginning piano and voice instructor. Spring Awakening director Joshua Chase Gold asks the actors to leave their outside life out of the rehearsal space and John has been striving to do that with great success.

Working with Gold, who is an alumnus of the UCF Theatre Department, has been a treat for John. He has come to admire his director a great deal. Gold asks the actors to pay very close attention to the details in the script. This has led to John digging deeper into the text and analyzing the music more than he ever has before.

John is the oldest of eight children from Palm Harbor, FL and is a senior in the BFA Musical Theatre program. John has been seen on the UCF stage as Younger Brother in Ragtime and Buddy in Sideshow. He has also performed in three productions at Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay. John's favorite part about Theatre UCF is how much the faculty pushes students to be better in a supportive and encouraging way.

By: Elle Sullivan

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Student Profile: Ryan Riegner

Ryan Riegner had spent three years studying to be an engineer when one day at work his task was to assist unloading the Broadway tour of Cats as it came through his town. That day he decided to change his major and he received his AA in Theatre from Santa Fe College in Gainesville. He is now a senior in the BFA Design and Technology program with a focus on lighting and sound design. Ryan is currently working as the sound designer on the upcoming production of Spring Awakening.

 Ryan says the biggest challenge of this production has been that the director, Joshua Chase Gold, has been working out of the state for the last few months. Gold is a Theatre UCF alumnus who lives in New York City. It is difficult to communicate everything online or over video but the team has done a great job at making it work.

This process has been the most rigorous but will result in the most advance sound system Ryan has ever worked on. “The digital sound console itself is capable of reproducing equipment that would take up an entire room of analog equivalents…and I will need to plan it out very carefully so I don’t get overwhelmed.”

Ryan was the lighting designer for Theatre UCF’s production of Stop Kiss last semester. He was also the lighting designer at the Orlando Repertory Theatre for The Little Mermaid, Jr. After graduation Ryan intends to work locally for a couple years and eventually move out west to pursue his dream of being a moving light programmer for concerts, events, or films.

By: Elle Sullivan