Check out what's happening at TDPS and find out what our alumni have been up to!
Monday, October 28, 2019
Dear Fabulous Alumni,

Happy Fall! We're halfway through the semester and still have two Main Season productions before winter break: Flyin' West (November 1-9) and the Madden Dance Project (November 15-17). Please let me know if you can make it!

This year, our Main Season features works that demonstrate our school’s mission to advance research, practice, and education in theatre and dance. We celebrate the power of women today and throughout history, as we continue to highlight resonant social themes through the performing arts. You can see the full schedule of Main Season and Second Season events below.

This spring, we will host two regional events for two national performing arts organizations: the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) and the annual Mid-Atlantic North conference of the American College Dance Association (ACDA). The school will be a destination for hundreds of students and faculty for performances, master classes, scholarly dialogue, and creative collaboration with leading artists, educators, and practitioners.

Here at TDPS, faculty, staff, and students are engaged in deep discussions, deeper learning about the issues of the times, caring about our community, and creating art and research that responds to the challenges of these times.

We value the time that we and our students spend with alumni. Your support completes the circle of the education provided by the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies.

On behalf of the members of TDPS,
Leigh Wilson Smiley, Director
University of Maryland School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies
Photos from our first two
19-20 Main Season productions
The Visit by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Brian MacDevitt, director / Leigh Wilson Smiley, acting coach / Kendra Portier, choreographer
The Visit
The Visit
The Visit
The Visit
Fall MFA Dance Thesis Concert
Black Madonna and Miss America
Choreography by Ronya-Lee Anderson
Corpora Caelestia
Choreography by Heidi McFall
Black Madonna and Miss America
Choreography by Ronya-Lee Anderson
Corpora Caelestia
Choreography by Heidi McFall
All photos by David Andrews.
In this newsletter:

  • TDPS 2019-2020 Season
  • Alumni spotlights
  • Alumni production notes
  • Alumni placements, publications, and awards

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TDPS 2019-2020 Main & Second Season
Flyin' West
November 1-9
Written by Pearl Cleage
Scot Reese, director
Alvin Mayes, director

Madden Dance Project
November 15-17

untitled sad piece by elephant JANE dance
Heidi Henderson, choreographer

Burnish (Magenta #08) by BANDportier
Kendra Portier, choreographer

A Doll House
February 7-15

Written by Henrik Ibsen
Kathryn Chase Bryer, director

Noises Off
February 21-29

Written by Michael Frayn
Lisa Nathans, director

She Kills Monsters
May 2-9

Written by Qui Nguyen
Rachel Grossman, director

UMoves: Undergraduate Dance Concert
May 8-10

Kendra Portier, director

Second Season
November 22-24

Breath, Boom
Written by Kia Corthron
Directed by Jasmine Mitchell

Written & Directed by Walker Green
Music Direction by Liezel Werner

December 6-7

Written by Diallo Adams

The Triumph of Horus: An Ancient Egyptian Sacred Drama
Translated by H. W. Fairman
Adapted and directed by Allison Hedges

January 31 - February 1

Choreographed by Gabriela Grant

Champagne Party for Time Travelers
Written and Choreographed by Sydney Lemelin and Hana Huie

April 3-4

Shared Graduate Dance Concert

A collection of eclectic new works by our MFA Dance students.

Alumni spotlights
Nathaniel P. Claridad (BA Theatre '04)

Nathaniel P. Claridad recently made his regional theatre directing debut at Southern Rep in New Orleans for a one woman show called, "Til Sunday," written and performed by Nairoby Otero. He is also developing a piece about what it means to be Filipino-American. The work is being supported by the Drama League and will be presented on July 30. After that, he will head to Australia for a tour with Dead Puppet Society and their show "Laser Beak Man." Finally, he will work on "Leaving Eden" at Jeremy Skidmore's new theatre Rhinoleap in North Carolina.
Alycia Cooper (BA Radio/TV/Film '93)

Alycia Cooper wrote and directed a new short film, a psychological thriller called Trade. She also plays the role of Michelle in the digital series, Poz Roz, about a young, heterosexual African American woman named Rozlyn Mayweather who is HIV+. Find out more about her work on her website
Yuval David (BA Theatre '01)

Yuval David recently joined the cast of a new HBO miniseries coming out next year. He is currently doing voice-overs for Disney Animation and narrating documentary series. As an award winning filmmaker, Yuval is the director-producer behind acclaimed and award-winning web-series, short films, and documentaries, including “One Actor Short,” “Better World,” and “The BetaLoop (see his YouTube). Alongside his work as an actor, host, and filmmaker, Yuval is a keynote speaker and uses his filmmaking as tool for advocacy and social change.

He was recently featured in articles on Thrive Global, Actor CEO, Get Out Mag, and Broadway World.
Kristina Friedgen (BA Theatre '12)

Kristina Friedgen recently relocated to Arizona after directing The Producers at The Little Theater of Alexandria, which garnered excellent reviews. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Theatre for Youth at Arizona State University.
Gwen Grastorf (BA Theatre '04)

Gwen Grastorf was featured in a "Take Ten" article on theatreWashington to talk about her work with theatre companies throughout the DC area, including Happenstance Theater, Taffety Punk, Constellation Theatre Company, and Faction of Fools. She is a two-time Helen Hayes Award nominee.
JD Madsen (MFA Design '12)

JD Madsen works across the country as a scenic designer. Recently, he helped design a production of Monte Verdi’s Ulysses Returns Home for Opera Lousiane, a multimedia vocal concert experience with the Washington Choral Arts Society, and dozens of other theatrical productions, including Assassins, Beauty and the Beast, and Legally Blonde. He has had the opportunity to study with Punch Drunk Theatre Company, the creators of the worldwide success Sleep No More, and is a sitting member of the Immersive Design community who helped consult on 13EXP. He is currently in his 6th year heading the scenic design program at the University of Nebraska and has helped place students in working positions in Hollywood, New York, and London. He served as a founding faculty member for the curriculum development and establishment of the new Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts and the relaunch of the new Nebraska Repertory Theatre.
Ariel Myren (BA Theatre '14)

Ariel Myren is working as an actor/host on a new TV show called " The Fixers," which premiered on BYUtv in September. The show is about a team that travels all over the world constructing and fixing buildings for charity, thus giving a boost to communities in need.

Ariel says, "Doing all that set building for my CAPA [Creative and Performing Arts scholarship requirements] at UMD really paid off!" 

Ariel is an actor, acting teacher, writer, comedian, and singer based in Los Angeles.
Amanda Ogorzalek (BA Theatre '13) and Michelle Heller (BA Theatre '12)

Amanda Ogorzalek and Michelle Heller worked together on the National High School Musical Theatre Awards® (also known as the Jimmy Awards®) on the programming and general management teams, respectively. The Jimmy Awards® are a national celebration of outstanding student achievement, recognizing individual artistry in vocal, dance, and acting performance and elevating the importance of theatre arts education in schools. The Jimmy Awards are presented by The Broadway League Foundation in New York City.
Sisi Reid (BA Theatre '15)

Sisi Reid is among the third generation of The Welders, a DC-based playwrights' collective. She is joined by fellow UMD TDPS alumni, Farah Lawal Harris (BA Theatre '08) and JR Russ (BA Dance '06).

Sisi was also a director for 
FRESHH Theatre Company’s 2nd Annual Next to Kin: One Act Play Festival in Washington, DC last March. The festival aimed to pay homage to Octavia Butler's "Kindred" by examining the lives and stories of Black women in the future. She is currently appearing in Theater Alliance's production of Day of Absence, which runs until November 3.
Rae Toledo (Latsch) (BA Theatre '97)

Rae Toledo Latsch is the creator of the award-winning Movement and Dance curriculum at Carpenter Community Charter Elementary School in Studio City, CA. Because of this curriculum's contributions to the school (along with its music and art curriculums), Carpenter was recently named a California Distinguished School.

Rae is also a proud mother of Harper (10) and Haven, who just after her fourth birthday, joined the cast of the National Equity tour of Miss Saigon, the same show that Rae appeared in (almost) 20 years ago.
Want to put your story in the spotlight? Please email .
Alumni production notes
Vaughn Ryan Midder (BA Theatre '14; far left) and Tendo Nsubuga (BA Theatre '15; far right) in Mosaic Theater Company's production of Native Son last spring. Photo by Stan Barouh.

  • Risa Binder (BA Theatre '99) performed in concert with Justin Trawick at the Soundry in Columbia, MD. Risa is an Emmy nominated country music artist and a number of her songs have reached the Top 40 Country list. She lives and works in Nashville, TN. Find out more on her website.

  • Stacey Carlson (MFA Dance '19) presented a final showing of her work homeostasis at the Streb GO! Emerging Artists Commissioning Project in New York City this past June. She was joined by UMD TDPS accompanist Bob Novak, who created an original track for this new work. In September, she performed her puppetry piece, "My Shadow" (created with support from the TDPS Henson Puppetry Award), for a gala event celebrating the new Jim Henson exhibit on display at the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library at The Clarice.

  • Shana Ferguson (BA Theatre '11) is currently a stage manager on the West Coast production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, opening in San Francisco December 2019.

  • Heather Gibson (BA Theatre '16) was in the cast of HERstory: Love Forever, Hip Hop at the Kennedy Center this past summer. The all-woman ensemble explored ideas and theories of sexual objectification, misrepresentation, and misogyny in hip hop through real-life stories describing their pain and power.

  • Alicia Grace (BA Theatre ‘18) stepped into the role of Joetta "Joey" Watson in the Kennedy Center production of The Watsons go to Birmingham - 1963, replacing Hailey Kilgore. The set designer for this production was TDPS faculty Daniel Conway and the music director was Victor Simonson, TDPS' new musical director and accompanist for musical theatre. TDPS alumna Erika Rose also replaced Tichina Arnold as Wilona Watson for some performances.

  • Noah Israel (BA Theatre '17) was in the cast of The 39 Steps at Rep Stage in Columbia, MD last spring.

  • Peter Leibold (MFA Design '19) worked as a lighting and video designer on two shows at Andy's Summer Playhouse in New Hampshire this past summer with various UMD TDPS folks: IRL/URL wth projections designer Paul Deziel (MFA Design '19) and Ripe Frenzy by TDPS professor Jennifer Barclay, with TDPS professor Jared Mezzocchi as director and artistic director of Andy's. He also worked on Ripcord at Sierra Repertory Theatre with costume designer Benjamin Weigel (MFA Design '19).

  • Chris Miller (BA Theatre '86) played Antonio in Shakespeare on the Green’s production of Much Ado About Nothing this past summer. This production played on the lawn in Stamford, Connecticut.

  • Light Switch Dance Theatre presented A Light Mix series last spring at DC's Capitol Hill Arts Workshop studio, featuring new works by two UMD TDPS alumni: Malcolm Shute (MFA Dance '06) of Human Landscape Dance and Kelly King (BA Dance '00) of Contradiction Dance.
Images of lighting design work by Peter Leibold (MFA Design '19) at Andy's Summer Playhouse this past summer. Left: IRL/URL with projections by Paul Deziel (MFA Design '19) / Right: Ripe Frenzy by TDPS professor Jennifer Barclay and directed by TDPS professor Jared Mezzocchi.
Photography credit: Katarina Klavon (BA Theatre '16).
A UMD TDPS alumni reunion at the Soundry's concert featuring Risa Binder (BA Theatre '99) and Justin Trawick: Christian Zonts, Jeremy Goldman, Karen Bradley, Risa Binder, Professor Scot Reese, Licia Spinelli, and Cary Gillett. Photo courtesy of Scot Reese.
Do you want us to share your recent and upcoming work?
Please email .
Alumni placements, publications, and awards
  • Nora Ambrosio (BA Dance '84) published two new editions of her books with Kendall Hunt Publishing Company: Learning about Dance: Dance as an Art Form and Entertainment (8th edition, 2018) and The Excellent Instructor and the Teaching of Dance Technique (3rd edition, 2018). She continues to be on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Schools of Dance and was recently elected to the position of President of the Board of Directors at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Midland, PA. She is now in her 32nd year as Professor of Dance at Slippery Rock University.

  • Mustapha Braimah (MFA Dance ‘18) was hired to teach dance as a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

  • Joe Graf (BA Theatre '15) was appointed the General Manager of Studio Acting Conservatory, the newly independent acting school in Washington, DC (formerly the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory).

  • Michelle Granshaw (MA '07) was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure at the University of Pittsburgh. Her book Irish on the Move: Performing Mobility in American Variety Theatre will be published in December.

  • Bayardo Martinez (BA Dance '19) was hired as a dance educator for Prince George’s County Public Schools.

  • Sinclair Ogaga Emoghene (MFA Dance ‘16) was hired as assistant professor of contemporary dance at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, VA. He also received a residency from NextLOOK (a partnership between The Clarice and Joe’s Movement Emporium) with Kate Spanos (PhD ‘16) and Pablo Regis de Oliveira to create a new work about Nigerian and Brazilian connections in music, dance, and carnival.

  • David Lloyd Olson (BA Theatre '11) was appointed Managing Director at Quintessence Theatre Group in Northwest Philadelphia. Read more about his work in Washington, DC and his transition to Quintessence here.

  • Megan Thompson (MFA Dance '06) received tenure and was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor at Old Dominion University.

  • Adena Varner (BA Theatre '08) has been appointed the Director of Learning and Social Accountability at Baltimore's Center Stage, after serving as the Director of Education for the 2018/19 season.

  • Ruth Anne Watkins (BA Theatre '13) returns to the DC area after four years working for the Shanghai Disneyland Resort as a Production Stage Manager. She has just started a new role as the Associate Production Manager at Baltimore Center Stage, where she works as associate production manager under Cary Gillett (BA Theatre '98). After many years as TDPS' production manager, Gillett took on the role of director of production at Baltimore's Center Stage last year.
Do you want us to share your recent publications, awards, and job placements?
Please email .

  • mainstages, an educational theatre company for children, is seeking teaching artists to work throughout the school year in the Washington, DC area. For more information, see their job call and visit their website.
Thank you to for sharing your alumni stories, keeping in touch and continuing to be TDPS representatives that model innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship in the performing arts.

Please email .
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Kate Spanos, Coordinator of Marketing & Communications