Congratulations to the class of 2020!
Monday, May 18, 2020

Congratulations to everyone on making it to the end of an extremely challenging semester! We especially want to celebrate our graduates with as much fanfare as we can muster in this virtual environment. Please join us for our TDPS commencement reception on Thursday, May 21 at 10AM and the campus-wide UMD commencement ceremony on Friday, May 22 at 1PM, which will include a special tribute to students in the College of Arts & Humanities. Details for tuning in are below.

This time also marks the end of an era: after seven years as our fearless leader, associate professor Leigh Wilson Smiley will be stepping down from her position as TDPS director. We want to thank her for her leadership, her dedication to the school, and her efforts to foster collaboration within the school and to increase alumni engagement with our students. We welcome associate professor Maura Keefe as our new director. Having served as our associate director for the past four years, Professor Keefe brings a dynamic vision for excellence, creativity, and engagement to the school.

We also celebrate the life of Walter Dallas, who passed away on May 3. He was our senior artist-in-residence from 2008-2013 and inspired our students with his expertise and vision. See the link below to read a beautiful tribute to Dr. Dallas that was put together by professor Scot Reese and some of our alumni who worked with him.

We celebrated three momentous occasions in the past couple of weeks, including our hugely successful online production of Qui Nguyen's She Kills Monsters (directed by assistant professors Jared Mezzocchi and Lisa Nathans), our stunning MFA Design Portfolio Review (organized by visiting assistant professor Andrew Cissna), and the retirement of dance faculty Paul Jackson. Check out the photos and stories below to revisit these virtual events.

Finally, a big round of applause for MFA dance candidate Becky Hill for helping with the TDPS newsletter and social media this semester. We could not have gotten all our amazing news out there to the world without her!
Last week, students in Scot Reese's musical theatre class wrapped up the spring 2020 semester on Zoom.
On Friday, first year MFA dance candidates Becky Hill, Amber Daniels, Christina Robson, and Tristan Koepke
shared their dance films online to showcase some of their choreographic work from the year.
  In this newsletter:

  • Recent events
  • Upcoming events
  • In memoriam: Walter Dallas
  • Feature stories
  • News
  • Summer course opportunities
  • Opportunities
Recent events
She Kills Monsters
Congratulations to everyone involved in TDPS' online production of She Kills Monsters! The one-time performance on May 7 was a great success and we have received nothing but glowing reviews and expressions of awe at the hard work that our students, faculty, and staff put into this production. We had over 3800 views on the livestream and the production was featured in the Washington Post, American Theatre Magazine, Maryland Today, and The Diamondback.

Screenshots by David Andrews.
MFA Design Portfolio Review
Congratulations to all of our MFA Design candidates on a successful virtual portfolio review last week! They put in so much work to create these stunning scenic, costume, lighting, and projection designs this year, and it was wonderful to see their full body of work all in one place. Check out their online portfolios to relive some of the most memorable moments from this year's productions, as well as some incredible studio assignments that showcase specific design techniques.

Big shout out to visiting assistant professor Andrew Cissna for organizing a smooth portfolio review on Zoom that allowed visitors to navigate into breakout rooms to have conversations with each designer. It felt like being in a museum!
Paul Jackson's Retirement Celebration
Thanks to everyone who joined us for a celebration of Paul Jackson, who is retiring from the University of Maryland after forty years of teaching and service to our dance programs. Paul has worked behind the scenes to support our students' education in the technical production of dance.

TDPS students, faculty, staff, alumni, and some of Paul's family joined us for a Zoom party on Saturday to celebrate Paul's contributions to the school. They shared memories of Paul's technical support, his sense of humor, and his moral support to make the impossible possible in dance production. MFA dance candidates Krissy Harris and Heidi McFall organized "Hey Paul," a video of folks singing a new version of the Beatles' "Hey Jude" in honor of Paul (check out the lyrics here). You can also see TDPS dance faculty of past and present dancing for Paul in and out of their Zoom windows.

Thank you for everything, Paul. Enjoy your retirement! You are always welcome to come back to TDPS and set up your tripod anytime.
Upcoming events
UMD Virtual Commencement and TDPS Reception

Thursday, May 21, 10AM

Friday, May 22, 1PM

While we can’t celebrate in person this spring, the University of Maryland is committed to honoring the accomplishments of our resilient graduates.

Please join us for a virtual commencement reception for TDPS grads and their families on Thursday, May 21 at 10AM, in anticipation of the campus-wide UMD virtual commencement on Friday, May 22 at 1PM. The UMD commencement will be followed by a video celebration honoring all the graduates of the College of Arts & Humanities (ARHU).

Click the links above for details about how to join the online celebrations.
Have an event you want to share? Please email
In memoriam: Walter Dallas
Walter Dallas, internationally recognized director, playwright and educator, dies at 73

Walter Dallas, TDPS senior artist-in-residence and co-director of the MFA in Performance program from 2008-2013, passed away on Sunday, May 3. He was recognized internationally for his works as director, playwright, musician, photographer and educator.

Please visit our website for a tribute to Dr. Dallas, written by Scot Reese and some of our alumni who worked with him when he was at TDPS. If you have any words you’d like to add to this tribute, please email Kate Spanos at .
"We come from a legacy of theater makers. We come from giants, emotional athletes, everyday people and visionaries. People who have disrupted, challenged, re-imagined, cleared pathways, shaken up the earth and dared to breath and feel. Dr. Walter Dallas is one of those giants." — Sisi Reid, BA Theatre '15
Feature stories
Alex & Olmsted distill the emotions and anxieties of our global pandemic into a seven-minute puppet film.

Each year, the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies hosts an annual Henson Awards Showcase, featuring the original puppetry work of award recipients. This year's showcase was canceled due to the COVID-19 lockdown, but that didn't stop our student and visiting artists from creating and showing their work from home.

 One of these artists is Alex Vernon, who is TDPS' artist-in-residence in puppetry this semester, who worked with his partner Sarah Olmsted (together they are Alex & Olmsted) on a new piece, "A Cough Next Door." Watch the puppet film here .

Alex also organized the first University of Maryland Virtual Puppet Slam, which premiered on YouTube last week. The video featured eleven works by our students, who created their final projects from home. The pieces are creative, funny, and moving. Check it out here .
  • Dance faculty Alvin Mayes was featured on WUSA9’s segment on #WolfTrapVirtualStage for his work with Northwestern High School dance students. View the segment here.

  • MFA Performance alum and TDPS instructor Rob Jansen '13 was awarded a Fulbright to travel to Argentina to work with documentary theatre practitioner Vivi Tellas. His project “Memory Narratives: Researching Biodrama and Documentary Theater in Buenos Aires” will start in March 2021. Congratulations, Rob!

  • MFA Design alum Kristen P Ahern ’19 has co-founded Artists Resource Mobilization (ARM) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to provide high quality face masks and other supplemental personal protective equipment made by members of the theater arts community in Chicago. To help them jump-start their donation-based organization, contribute to their GoFundMe. Check them out on social media, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Great work, Kristen!

  • Congratulations to all the TDPS folks who are recipients of the Maryland State Arts Council 2020 Individual Artist Awards! They include:
  • Allen Chunhui Xing, MFA Dance '18
  • Alex Vernon of Alex and Olmsted, puppetry artist-in-residence in spring 2020
  • Colette Krogol and Matt Reeves of Orange Grove Dance, MFA Dance '17
  • Baakari Wilder, BA Theatre alum
  • Harold F. Burgess II, MFA Design alum
  • Sara Pearson, dance faculty, with David Schulman
  • Sisi Reid, BA Theatre '15
TDPS Summer Courses
New Vital Theatre Summer Course (online) 
Session dates: Online (3 week course) - 1B (June 22 - July 10)
Instructor: Jennifer Barclay
Register now for New Vital Theatre, an online 3-week, 3-credit analytical and creative course with assistant professor Jennifer Barclay.
Course description: New Vital Theatre is for aspiring theatre makers who want to be on the vanguard of explosive, fresh, ground-breaking and inclusive theatre. The class will read brand new plays from the U.S., England, Ireland and Canada; plays which challenge assumptions about storytelling, bring under-represented voices to the forefront, and reimagine how to interact with our audience in the ritual of live performance. In the class, you will analyze these plays as practitioners (playwrights, directors, actors, designers, dramaturgs), and will be challenged to create your own ideas for dreaming forward the art of theatre. Course work will include discussion boards, creative writing exercises and analytical essays, and you can do the work on your own schedule. Our class vocabulary will be centered around the ideas laid forward by the new, industry-shaking book Theatre of the Unimpressed by Jordan Tannahil.

Questions? Email Jennifer Barclay at
THET328R: Voice for Voice-Overs (online)
Session dates: Online (3 week course) - IA (June 1-19) and IIC (July 13-31)
Instructor: Lisa Nathans
Course Description: Learn how to use your voice to make money at home and on the road! This course introduces you to various genres of voice-over acting, including radio/television commercials, audio-book narration, and animation for video games/film/TV. Curriculum focuses on voice-over technique, but touches on the business of the voice-over business, specifically helping you set up your own 'at-home' voice-over recording studio on a budget. Access to a computer and smartphone (or other basic audio recording device) needed.
Credits: Course fulfills supporting credit requirements for theater. 3 credits.
THET328C: Foundations of Screen Acting (online)
Session dates: Online (3 week course) - IB (June 22-July 10) and IID (August 3-21)
Instructor: Lisa Nathans
Course Description: This introductory course offers a step by step process for the performer to dive into the basics of screen acting. Adjusting the actors work from stage to film is emphasized. Technique also includes awareness of eye-line, pacing, and camera angle. Through self-taped/filmed monologue and scene work, students will learn critical tools for performance success in this new virtual medium. Access to a computer and smartphone (or other basic video recording device) needed.
Credits: Course fulfills supporting credit requirements for theater. 3 credits.
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The School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies
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Kate Spanos, Coordinator of Marketing & Communications
Becky Hill, Graduate Assistant