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2016 SCMS Undergraduate Conference

The January 29th deadline is fast approaching for submissions to the 2016 SCMS Undergraduate Conference, to be held April 14-17 on the University of Colorado Boulder campus.

This is a wonderful opportunity for students to experience the intellectual and social exchange that professionals enjoy at conferences. Please email your submission to Tiel Lundy.

Find the proposal form and more information on the SCMS Undergraduate Hub

Bolstering the Arts

Chris Bulbulia ’10 came to Grinnell College as a Posse Foundation scholar interested in theatre. He wanted to become a professional actor, but a wealth of support and experience combined with intellectual flexibility honed at Grinnell opened up an even richer path of discovery.

Two short years after leaving Grinnell, Bulbulia had already climbed from post-graduate intern to a full-time development assistant at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. One night at the urging of a friend he journeyed across town to see Congressional Chorus perform its annual cabaret at the historic Atlas Performing Arts Center. It changed everything.

“I’d seen ballet and opera. I’d seen lots of shows at the Kennedy Center,” Bulbulia says. “But I saw this show and my jaw fell to the floor. I was like, whoa, what is this? There was such a range of genres — a cappella singing, bands and dancing, soloists and ensembles. It was a wonderful production.

“I fell in love with Congressional Chorus the first time I saw the cabaret,” Bulbulia says. “I feel very proud to be part of the organization today.”

Congressional Chorus and American Youth Chorus — its full name — is a family of five choruses devoted to American choral music. It performs a full slate of concerts and special appearances each year in Washington, D.C., including The White House and Capitol Hill occasions.

Bulbulia became a Congressional Chorus singer in 2013. He quickly transitioned to become the organization’s director of marketing, production, and development.

“We have a performance style for everyone,” Bulbulia says. “You’re not going to get the same thing every time you come to a show, which really lends to a dynamic season that people enjoy.”

Building relationships

Far from being overwhelmed by his multi-faceted job, Bulbulia is energized by the integration of functions he came to appreciate as a theatre major at Grinnell, as a freelance fundraiser for non-profit groups, and as an intern and employee at the Kennedy Center.

“There is a whole other side to the arts besides being a performer,” Bulbulia says. “I’ve come to understand that relationships need to be built in order to sustain organizations. This job incorporates all of the elements that allow Congressional Chorus to be healthy.”

Posse support

Bulbulia grew up in Maryland and Washington, D.C. He arrived at Grinnell as a Posse scholar through the College’s partnership with the Posse Foundation in his hometown. The Posse Foundation’s model is based on the idea that a small, diverse group of talented and carefully selected students can serve as a catalyst for individual and community development. It worked especially well for Bulbulia. 

“I had a great experience at Grinnell because of my Posse’s support system, and also because the Posse Foundation correctly decided that I would be a great fit for Grinnell,” he says.

Bulbulia’s activities at Grinnell included two years with the Grinnell Singers. His participation with the Student Publications and Radio Committee (SPARC) gave him insights into fundraising, allocations, and non-profit relationships.

Shortly after graduation, Bulbulia worked as an overhire stagehand in and around D.C. while “doing the struggling actor thing.” He even went to bartending school. The plan shifted, he says, when opportunities at the Kennedy Center refocused his attention on arts management.

“The arts are in need of people who can bolster the craft and provide good representation for artists themselves,” Bulbulia said. That includes helping artists make sound financial decisions and building their marketing and technical skills to assist in the creation of their best productions and performances.

Bringing people together

Bulbulia continues to work in support of community organizations such as Afromoda Dance Theater, City at Peace, D.C. Public Library’s Punk Archive, and Funk Parade. He is a member and officer in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which is dedicated to the principles of friendship, love, and charity.

He also manages events and partnerships for the city’s largest online music magazine, DCMusicDownload.com, which provides in-depth coverage of the local music scene and hosts major music events at prestigious venues like 9:30 Club, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Howard Theatre.

“I have strong commitment to community and to bringing people together through fellowship,” Bulbulia says. “That is why I’ve been a part of all these organizations — to help communities grow and enjoy life together.”

Professor's Fellowships Lead to Taiwan

Craig Quintero, associate professor of theatre and dance, has been named the Frank and Roberta Furbush Faculty Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year. Quintero has also received a Fulbright Scholar Award and an Academic Enterprise Leave grant, funded by a grant made to the College by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to support his research and creative work in Taiwan during his sabbatical year.

As a Frank and Roberta Furbush Faculty Scholar, Quintero will direct his new production Rice Dreams at the Avignon Off Festival in France this summer as well as his multi-media performance Dreaming David Lynch at Taiwan’s National Experimental Theatre in November. During the fall he will also teach a class on site-specific art at Taipei’s National University of the Arts as a Fulbright Scholar. In the spring, Quintero will study filmmaking with Taiwanese director Hung Ya-yen and produce his first short film.

Quintero has spent more than ten years in Asia and has worked to forge cultural exchanges between Grinnell College and Taiwan.

As the artistic director of Riverbed Theatre, he has staged his image-based productions in Germany, Taiwan, France, Macau, Singapore, and Japan. Last year, Quintero collaborated with Professor John Rommereim, music, and six Grinnell students in staging an adaptation of Richard Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold in Taipei. The production was nominated for Taiwan’s prestigious Taishin Arts Award.

The Frank and Roberta Furbush Faculty Scholarship was established in 2000 by the late Roberta Stanbery Furbush in appreciation for the influence of Grinnell College upon the lives of her and her husband, Frank. Both Frank and Roberta were highly active in the Des Moines community, and both enjoyed theatre, art, and music.

Michael Frayn's Copenhagen

Grinnell College presents Michael Frayn's 1998 play Copenhagen, a drama that weaves together physics, friendship, and the atomic bomb; it won the Olivier and Tony Awards for best play.

About the Play

An emotionally explosive play of ideas, Copenhagen draws on history, science, moral philosophy, and metaphysics to explore the mysteries of human behavior, “the final core of uncertainty at the heart of things.” Directed by Ellen Mease, associate professor of theatre and dance, the play dramatizes what could or should have happened in the mysterious 1941 wartime meeting between the German physicist Werner Heisenberg and his former mentor, the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, in Nazi-occupied Denmark.

Hitler’s rapid conquest of Europe put Heisenberg and Bohr on opposite sides. At the time of their meeting, Heisenberg was in charge of theoretical work on the feasibility of atomic bombs. Why had Heisenberg come to Copenhagen? What did he want from Bohr?

The two men enjoyed perhaps the greatest friendship in the history of science. In close collaboration during the 1920s, they’d developed quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle, and complementarity — the Copenhagen interpretation . With the discovery of nuclear fission in the 1930s, talk of nuclear power and atomic weapons was already in the air as the world headed into war.

Tickets and Times

Tickets are required for this free public event, and will be available beginning Monday, Nov. 17, through the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts box office.

Performances are:

  • 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 20-22
  • 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23

All performances are in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Flanagan Studio Theatre,

About Grinnell’s Production

This production features

  • Ian Saderholm ’15 as Niels Bohr
  • Scott Slava-Ross ’17 as Margretha Bohr
  • Matt Steege ’17 as Werner Heisenberg
  • Scenic and light design by Justin Thomas
  • Costume design by Erin Howell-Gritsch
  • Technical direction by Erik Sanning ’89
  • Stage management by Emily Griffith ’17
  • Assistant directing by Mary Adams ’15
  • Directing and stage management assistance by Keith Hoagland ’18 and Michelle Risacher ’17.



In honor of the upcoming 450th celebration of Shakespeare’s birth in 1564, Grinnell’s Theatre and Dance Department presents Hamlet. In its time, the play was the most popular of the revenge tragedies or “tragedies of blood,” in vogue from the 1590s through 1620.

Evening: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, Bucksbaum Center Roberts Theatre
Evening: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, Bucksbaum Center Roberts Theatre
Matinee: 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, Bucksbaum Center Roberts Theatre

This production is based on the 1623 Folio edition of Hamlet, newly co-edited by Eric Rasmussen ’82 and Jonathan Bate as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Complete Works of Shakespeare series, with some elements from the Second Quarto version.

Many in the ensemble of sixteen are doubling roles as Shakespeare’s troupe would have done at the Globe Theatre in London.

The production features Matt Steege ’17 as Hamlet.  Steege, a first-year from Racine, Wis., has performed Hal in Henry IV Part I and Posthumus Leonatus in Cymbeline and has trained at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

Other players include students in Renaissance Hamlet, a dramaturgy seminar with Ellen Mease, the director. Economics professor Mark Montgomery plays the Ghost, Hamlet’s father.

Professional guest artists include scenic designer Erica Zaffarano and composer/sound designer Michael Croswell from the Twin Cities, fight director Casey Kaleba from Washington D.C., and Chicago-based lighting designer Carolyn Voss ’07. Erin Howell-Gritsch designed the costumes. 

Tickets are required for this free public performance. You can pick up tickets at the Bucksbaum Center box office beginning Monday, Nov. 18, noon to 5 p.m., or call the box office (641-269-4444) during business hours. Tickets will also be available at the door. A limited number of tickets are also available at the Pioneer Bookshop in downtown Grinnell.

No tickets are required for open dress rehearsal at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21.

A Secret for a Secret

Theatre professor Craig Quintero directed four Grinnell students in Taiwan this summer. For this Mentored Advanced Project (MAP), Teddy Hoffman ’14, Alex Hsieh ’14, Quinnita Bellows ’15, and Emma Sinai-Yunker ’15 helped develop “A Secret for a Secret: Performing the Poetry of Hsia Yu” and performed it at Taiwan’s National Experimental Theatre.

The four Grinnellians and several professional Taiwanese actors came to the first rehearsal at Quintero’s Riverbed Theatre Company with no script and not much of a set. This devised performance grew out of an interaction between the performers and the poetry of Hsia Yu, one of Taiwan’s most renowned contemporary poets. Initially, the Grinnell students constructed their own performances in response to the poems, and the Taiwanese performers discussed their first exposure to Yu’s poems and set some of them to music.

Over the next five weeks, the students contributed to every part of the production, from set construction to performance. They were encouraged to collaborate and offer suggestions on how to improve the production. Having prominent roles in constructing the set and creating the performances allowed the students a sense of ownership and authorship. Although Quintero was the director, the show belonged to all of them.

Hsia Yu attended two of the performances and praised both the overall production and the student actors. The performance was also favorably reviewed in the Taipei Times.

The four Grinnellians took much more away from the experience than a good review, though. “One of the most significant things I walked away with was experiencing the universality of theatrical expression,” said Hoffman. Though most of the Taiwanese cast members could speak English, at times language seemed superfluous. Said Hoffman: “The idea that we could connect, create, and communicate together despite any language barrier was remarkable and moving.”

Based on feedback from the students, the Taiwanese actors, and the community, Quintero said he would like to offer this opportunity to other students. “It was great to see them grow up as artists,” he said. Quintero also stressed the importance of taking performance out of an academic setting and providing the students with an international experience. In addition to introducing these four students to Taiwan, this experience showed them the universality of performance that can transcend language and culture.


Wit Comes to Flanagan Theatre

Performances: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10–12 &  2 p.m. Oct. 13, Flanagan Theatre

Wit, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Margaret Edson, explores the manner in which a professor of English, Vivian Bearing, faces her losing battle with ovarian cancer.

“In the play,” says director Craig Quintero, assistant professor of theatre, “we witness Vivian as she battles to retain her intellectual rigor, grace, humor, and humanity, while painfully shifting roles from scholar to the subject of study in an experimental chemotherapy program. This is a play about the poetic beauty of life and the manner in which we face death.”

We invite audience members to participate in a short post-performance discussion with the cast and medical professionals.

Performances are open to the public, and free tickets are available from the box office.

Renaissance Hamlet

The most popular dramatic form of the periods of Elizabeth and James I, revenge tragedy reflects an age of skepticism and lost direction.

It was expressive of the intellectual ferment and spiritual upheaval brought on by:

  • The dissolution of the medieval belief in an ordered cosmos,
  • the rise of urban economies,
  • the articulation of pragmatic approaches to the problems of political rule,
  • religious and political conflict in the English Renaissance, and
  • the emergence of competing ideas on the nature of the cosmos, the natural world and especially the character of humanity, its potential and its limitations.

In Hamlet Shakespeare takes up again his great theme, the killing of a king, deliberated as the duty, the burden, and the temptation of a prince bound to avenge.

Students in Ellen Mease’s advanced seminar, Renaissance Hamlet, will study Hamlet and its historical, social, and cultural contexts

Students will explore selections from Renaissance ethical and political philosophy, including Castiglione's Book of the Courtier, Machiavelli's Prince, and Montaigne, and sources such as Thomas Kyd's Spanish Tragedy and the Frenchman Belleforest's retelling of the old tale (Hystorie of Hamblet). 

The close reading of Hamlet will complement the Theatre Department's November production of the play. Seminar members are invited but not required to participate in the production as actors, dramaturgs, rehearsal assistants, , management, or crew. 

Rocky’s Light(en)ing


Benjamin Doehr ’15 spent his summer lighting up Frank N. Furter, Magenta, Brad, and Janet.

Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance Justin Thomas is a professional lighting and scenic designer. This summer, he was contracted by the Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. to design the lighting for their production of The Rocky Horror Show, and invited Doehr to participate through a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP).

An economics and chemistry double major with a concentration in policy studies, Doehr may seem an odd choice for a theatre design project.  He’s not.  Doehr has been working in technical theatre since he was in the ninth grade.

Thomas says, “Ben came to Grinnell with a lot of lighting experience, and this project gave Ben the opportunity to experience the production process at one of the country’s strongest regional theatres. Ben has been involved in every bit of the process from script analysis, visual and contextual research, conceptual framework, turning the conceptual ideas into architectural implementation drawings, hanging and focusing the lighting instruments, and programming the light board. He also wrote about 20% of the light looks.”

Doehr says, “There’s that classic trope, ‘An actor without tech is naked in the dark and no one can hear him on stage.’ Part of our job is to help make their world.”

“My favorite part is the 110 hours plus we worked during tech week,” says Doehr. “It’s when we put the actors together with all the design elements to see what works and what doesn’t. It gives you the chance to say, ‘how do we make this look good? How do we sculpt it? How do we shape it? How do we make this more evocative — or more provocative, as the show is Rocky Horror.”

The Rocky Horror Show had some interesting challenges, says Doehr. The minimal set, inspired by works by Christo, relied heavily on lighting for mood.  It was two stories high, wrapped in white plastic, and contained a large second story platform.   Doehr and Thomas spent a great deal of time planning and then reinventing how to get light underneath the platform while also toning the walls so they could reflect the world of Dr. Frank N. Furter’s laboratory without pulling focus away from the action on stage.

Doehr plans to present to the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) at their conference in March.

"The Contingency Plan" premieres Oct. 7-10

Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 11:30 am

GRINNELL, IA—The Grinnell College Department of Theatre and Dance will premiere the U.S. production of “The Contingency Plan” by British playwright Steve Waters, Oct. 7-10, in Flanagan Arena Theatre in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts on the Grinnell campus.

The play, which debuted in London and was hailed by critics as a “massive achievement,” focuses on current debates about responses to environmental disasters caused by climate change. The production combines elements of family drama, farce and thriller, with a conservative British government in power and a young, maverick glaciologist predicting catastrophe.

The Grinnell premiere is an adaptation of Waters’ BBC radio play, redesigned for the stage by director Lesley Delmenico, associate professor of theatre and dance. Waters, a lecturer at the University of Birmingham (England), collaborated with the Grinnell student cast during a two-week campus residency which was sponsored by the college’s Center for International Studies and included a playwrighting short course.

Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. for the Oct. 7, 8 and 9 performances and 2 p.m. for the Sun., Oct. 10 performance. Tickets are required for this free event and may be obtained at the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts ticket office beginning Oct. 4 from 12-5 p.m. daily. The Bucksbaum Center for the Arts is located at 1108 Park St. on the Grinnell College campus. Box office and ticket information is available at http://web.grinnell.edu/theatre/facilities/box_office.html or by calling 641-269-4444.