Remembering Alan Kosher

Alan Ross Kosher

Alan Ross Kosher

The Temple Theaters community is mourning the loss of Alan Ross Kosher, BA ’69, who passed away on September 27, 2014, in Philadelphia, PA, at the age of 68 of colon cancer. Kosher was a respected theater professional and supportive Temple Theaters alumnus; a friend and mentor to many.

Kosher had an extensive and successful forty-five year career in theater, primarily as the company manager of the touring production of The Lion King. He began his career working box office at Philadelphia theaters and by 1980 became the company manager for major touring stage productions. He was employed by Disney Theatrical Productions from 1999 until his retirement in 2012. He toured with Beauty and the Beast as well as with The Lion King and retired when The Lion King production closed at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.

In May 2005, The League of American Theater and Producers awarded him its Career Achievement Award for Touring Broadway Theater to honor his twenty-five years as a company manager. In October 2010, he received the Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Award from Temple University in recognition of his work. He frequently returned to speak to theater classes at Temple about theater administration and stage management. He was a well-respected member of the Temple Theaters community.

Alan Kosher with Clifford Schwartz

Alan Kosher (right)  with Clifford Schwartz

An advocate of mentorship, Kosher endowed the Alan Kosher Fund in 2007. The fund provides financial support, including, but not limited to, travel, food and lodging expenses, to an undergraduate Theater major for one week internship or job-shadowing with a union manager of a first-class theatrical touring production. Past recipients worked along side Kosher in Las Vegas with The Lion King.

J.T. Murtagh, BA ’14, was the 2012 recipient of the award and used it to travel to Houston to work on Disney’s production of the The Lion King. “I am so thankful for the opportunity that was given to me by Alan. It really did cement into place what I was meant to do in theater,” say Murtagh. “I know his loss is one that struck the worldwide theatre community. My heart and prayers go out to his family and loved ones.” Murtagh staged managed several production as student, and since graduation, has worked steadily at area theaters.

R.J. Magee, BA ’12, the 2010 recipient, shared his thoughts about his time working with The Lion King and what the opportunity meant to him. “The week that I spent shadowing the company managers of The Lion King in Costa Mesa, CA is one that I will never forget. Mr. Kosher provided me with an opportunity that went far beyond anything that I could learn in the classroom. I made invaluable industry contacts and got to witness the true inner workings of such a first class production. Mr. Kosher’s passion for his work, along with his desire to educate/mentor the future artists of American theatre, is something that will forever inspire me.”

The funeral will take place on Tuesday, September 30, 12:00 Noon, at the graveside, Montefiore Cemetery, 600 Church Road, Jenkintown, PA, 19046.

Gifts to the Alan Kosher Fund can be made online, at giving.temple.edu/givetotheater (type in “Alan Kosher Fund” in “Other”) or mail a check, payable to “Temple University – Alan Kosher Fund” to Temple University, P.O.Box 827651, Philadelphia, PA   19182-7651.

Remembrances can by emailed to theater@temple.edu. We will update this post regularly.

Projection Mapping: Expanding Visual Storytelling

Designer Michael Long enhances the world of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo with video

by Deneia Washington

If you’ve already made your way to Temple Theaters season opener of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, you’ve probably seen video projections all around the set. Wondering who’s behind this design of visual language? Look no further than Michael Long.

Since 2009, Long has immersed himself in the Philadelphia theater scene as a freelance cinematographer, director, and production designer. He has designing projections for 1812 Productions, Delaware Theater Company, and Luna Theater Company.

In his latest project, Long has utilized projection mapping in the Temple Theaters’ Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo to make the department’s production even more vivid and daring. But what exactly is “projection mapping”? Projection mapping, says Long, “is the use of sophisticated video software to morph a video to match the shape of what it’s being projected onto.” An example of this technology is used in the video below.

 

Upon introduction, through David Girard, to an artistic phenomenon called Hypercubism, which deals with the manipulation of changing technologies and how they affect our interactions with objects, people, and time, both Girard and Long felt that projection mapping as a form of hypercubism fit within the magical realism of Bengal Tiger.

“This play, and magical realism in general, blurs the lines between the real and the fantastic, and the past and the present — and video is a medium that is great for both of those,” Long explains.

Long had to be practical in his approach for the projections with the small space of The Adrienne Theater and large topiary animals. Thus, the topiary animals would be projected onto large, strategically placed, set pieces that resemble cement blocks. These blocks constituted “remnants of the Jersey Wall that were used in Baghdad during the war.”

Alice Gatling (Tiger) in front of the projected topiaries

Alice Gatling (Tiger) in front of the projected topiaries

The integration of the projections within certain design elements enabled the set to depict other parts of the story, enhancing the storytelling narrative of this production. “We see the entire narrative of the beginning of the Iraq War condensed into 30 seconds through various news clips and TV footage which has now become part of the United States’ collective conscious,” says Long.

“We use videos to help set the scene at the beginning of the play, and to set the tone between scenes as the play unfolds,” he adds. The ability to map videos into pieces of the set, instead of one large projection on stage, ensures that the audience isn’t separated from the setting of the play, it integrates them into it.

With any new technology come new, unforeseen obstacles. Along with technical problems of inability to pick up video signals and unresponsive computers, Long also had to tackle some design complications.

“When we finally got our first look at the videos in the theatre, some of them didn’t look the way we anticipated. The topiary animals I had created didn’t look anything like topiary animals when they were projected onto the set, so I had to change the lighting and the textures of the images to something that would be more recognizable for the audience,” he explains.

As society is inundated with new technologies, Long sees it as essential for theater to expand with evolving times. “The way we interact with one another has drastically changed, and so we need new technologies like projection mapping in theatre to tell today’s stories, as well as explore yesterday’s stories in new ways,” says Long.

Long believes that with the knowledge gained by directors about it and the ability for designers to create it, projection mapping will become increasingly more common on theater sets. “As the technology becomes cheaper and the visual language becomes more common on stage, I think we’ll start to see more productions that use projections.”

For more about the Bengal Tiger design process: MEET THE DESIGNERS: JOHN EDDY & LIZ PHILLIPS.

Inside Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

A guest series by Bonnie Baldini, Production Dramaturg

This Week: A discussion with David Girard

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo opens tonight! Among the excitement, it is only fitting to receive the insight of director David Girard. The insight into the production process he shared with me did not come from one sit down meeting. Rather, it is an accumulation of discoveries through conversations we have had since the beginning of the process to create such a rewarding piece.

David spoke with me about his issue with the term director, asserting it is not an active enough term to describe the necessary mindset he feels is essential in the creation of a successful piece. He discovered a better term for what he does, half as a joke with a friend, remarking that he was a “facilitator of drama.” But upon further contemplation, he found it to be true. The term director often evokes an image of a stern face and a pointed finger, telling this actor to stand there. It lacks imagination.

Once you let go of that term, you realize that you are not the most important person on the room, and you are able to understand that, as David put it, “theatre is about creating an ensemble with all members.” It is about coming together and solidifying a vision. This process does not only include the director and the actor for David, but extends to all of those involved in the production, including designers and other staff and crew members.

David attempted to ensure that “everyone has a voice in the room.” This is what is most important.  He shared that this collaborative style can make it difficult for a director to “call the shots and get everyone on same page with your vision.” Collaboration is enforced by choosing artists who could lend themselves to it and according to David, it is “easier when actors have been educators.” He cited Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which has an ensemble with a blend of experiences. Actors in the piece are professors, graduate students, and undergraduate students.

David offered that the need for diverse experience within a cast in crucial, particularly in an academic setting, because the actors are always learning from each other, and thus collectively raising the level of professionalism and investment. Having professional actors in a cast with younger actors guides everyone to rise to the level of their peers daily. According to David, simple things like actor Charlie DelMarcelle’s arriving early to the Adrienne Theater to warm-up shows the actors that it is okay to get comfortable on the stage before pre-show calls. Such a simple act unlocks a boundary younger actors may not notice by themselves. In the long run, an actor’s basic stretching onstage fostered cast unity and overall comfort in the space.

The concept of the director as a facilitator revolutionizes the rehearsal process. It does not take away power from the director, but rather shares the responsibility with the rest of the cast, and thus raises the integrity of the ensemble.

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo opens this evening at the MainStage @ the Adrienne Theater and runs through September 27th.

At a Glance: Costume Designs for BENGAL TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO

Marie Anne Chiment’s beautiful renderings for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

This “At a Glance” Gallery features the stunning rendering by costume designer Professor Marie Anne Chiment for our production of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. Described by the Los Angeles Times as “the most original play about the Iraq war,” Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo is an imaginative exploration of the power and perils of human nature. The lives of two American soldiers, Tom (Tim Dugan) and Kev (Darryl Gene Daughtry) and an Iraqi translator (Ibrahim Miari) are forever changed by an encounter with a clever, sardonic tiger (Alice Gatling) haunting the streets of war-torn Baghdad. Tragic and disturbing, darkly comic and highly theatrical, the play is a meditation on life, death, and the afterlife. The cast is completed with Charlie DelMarcelle (Uday/Iraqi Man), Kayla Tarpley (Iraqi Teenager/Hadia), and Stephanie Iozzia (Iraqi Woman/Leper).  The production is directed by David Girard with scenic design by John Michael Eddy, lighting design by Liz Phillips, sound design by Mark Valenzela, and projection design by Michael Long.

 

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Performances run Wednesday, September 17 through Saturday, September 27 at the MainStage @ the Adrienne. For more information and tickets visit our ticketing site.

Inside Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

A guest series by Bonnie Baldini, Production Dramaturg

This Week: Tim Dugan’s Military Mindset

As fall begins, the folks involved with Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo are gearing up for tech rehearsals! The process is moving quickly, and the ensemble is working to develop their characters efficiently and accurately. Last week I spoke to actress Stephanie Iozzia about her work with the Arabic language and culture in the piece. This week, actor Timothy Dugan shared his insight into the training he went through to learn about the life and habits of a Marine.

Tim explained that he plays “Tom, a Marine, who starts the play standing lookout at the Baghdad Zoo.” Tim admitted an expected unfamiliarity with the experience of a soldier, but shared that “working with David Glover, our assistant director who has first-hand military training and experience, has been enormously helpful.” David’s guidance is present at every moment of rehearsal. In the beginning of the process when Tim and Darryl Daughtry, who plays Tom’s fellow marine Kev, were not rehearsing a scene with director David Girard, they were in another room with Glover going through their own version of boot camp.

Dugan shared that this training has changed the way he viewed his character Tom. It helped him “gather and ingest as many specifics about the world of the play: honing in on what is it like to go through Marine training and then to see active duty.” Not only does this training affect his perspective, but it also it specifies his physical choices as an actor, as he worked out “the logistics of hand signals with my fellow soldier, how to hold the gun, and the physicality needed to move with the weight of the gear.” Overall, this process has given him a glimpse of a life he does not know.  Tim shared, “This work is inspiring, and I truly appreciate the specificity and rigor of the training that a Marine goes through.”

The atmosphere of the rehearsals lends itself to discovery; the actors are able to explore and examine a way of life quite different from their own. David Glover, as well as the cast and production staff, are constantly observing in the audience, and are encouraged to “call bull” when combat does not look realistic. The ensemble is used as a combined facilitator to ensure that the actors onstage are delving into their characters honestly, both physically and mentally.

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo premieres at the MainStage @ the Adrienne Theater with a preview on September 17th, and runs through September 27th.

Next week: A discussion with director David Girard!

Inside Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

A guest series by Bonnie Baldini, Production Dramaturg

This Week: The Importance of Translation

Classes are now in full swing, but Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo has been in rehearsals since August 18, and the actors have been preparing all summer. The cast is working exceptionally quickly, immersing themselves into the world of the play. Bengal Tiger captures post-invasion Baghdad, the piece features Iraqi citizens, American soldiers, and a dead tiger, and so each actor has been practicing different exercises to fully become characters with lifestyles they are unfamiliar with. Every character has something extra to consider, and director David Girard’s collaborative environment creates a constant flow of specified exercises and scene work that allows the actors to fully delve into the lives of their characters.

An actor’s immersion into their character’s lifestyle and culture is particularly imperative in Bengal Tiger, as a few of the characters are speaking another language. Stephanie Iozzia plays an Iraqi woman, and has been working all summer with the Arabic text in the show. Luna Alghamdi, the Arabic dialect coach has joined the show to work with the translation and pronunciation of the Arabic lines. Steph, with Luna’s help, has been creating literal translations of her Arabic lines.

“There’s an English translation printed in the script that I had been using,” said Steph, “but through Luna, I learned that there were subtle but significant alterations made in the printed translation that put those translated phrases into more colloquially-understandable American phrasing.” Steph, Luna, and other cast members have been collaborating throughout the process not only to find the literal translation but also to identify the cultural significance of each phrase used. This is crucial, as language shapes how we see and conceptualize the world around us.

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo premieres at the MainStage @ the Adrienne Theater with a preview on September 17th, and runs through September 27th.

Next week: An inside look into the military training done for Bengal Tiger, with insight from actor Tim Dugan.

Mauckingbird Mix: Staged Readings of Queer Classics

 Mauckingbird Theatre Company in residence at Temple Theaters

By Deneia Washington

As an avid fan of new gay plays and classic dramas, Professor Peter Reynolds, head of the Musical Theater program at Temple University, feels that there can and should be a way to merge these two traditionally separate worlds. “My partner and I read all the new gay plays, see all the new gay plays, see gay films, and we really had a desire to look at classic stories that have survived for generations. And we want to look at those stories through a queer or gay lens.”

Peter Reynolds Headshot

Peter Reynolds

From this, Mauckingbird Theatre Company emerged. Founded in 2008, Mauckingbird serves to produce theater through a queer lens with classic texts, while also telling new queer stories.

The company, which presented a gender-bending A Midsummer’s Night Dream on campus in 2010, returns with Mauckingbird Mix August 29 through September 7 in the Randall Theater.

“It was a chance to come back to Temple and do some exciting things with young people again,” Reynolds says.

Mauckingbird Mix kicks off on Friday, August 29 with Miss Cast 5: College Edition, hosted by Barrymore Award-winner Jennie Eisenhower. This fun-filled cabaret features a talented group of Temple alums, Temple students, and local talent singing gender-flipped songs.

Events continue on over the weekend with a reading of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour; the classic drama celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. The staged readings on August 30 & 31 feature Philadelphia actresses Jessica Bedford and Kim Carson, with readings directed by Temple MFA graduate student Liz Carlson.

The residency concludes on September 6-7 with Mart Crowley’s 1968 gay classic The Boys in the Band. The reading stars Barrymore Award-winner Jeff Coon and Tony Award-nominee & Barrymore Award-winner Forrest McClendon; it is directed by alumnus and adjunct professor Brandon McShaffrey.

“These are two classic plays and they are very significant in queer theater history,” says Reynolds. “They’re large and [have] large casts, which is very hard to produce. But these readings are a wonderful way to hear these plays with terrific actors. We get to share these highly important works with young people and with our Mauckingbird audience.”

Although rehearsals are limited due to union restrictions, Reynolds doesn’t see this as a limitation, but a testament to how actors with great storytelling abilities can thrive and excel regardless of restrictions. “With great actors, it’s a joy and it can be even more exciting,” says Reynolds. “You’re really living in that moment, because you haven’t had all that time to rehearse.”

A Midsummer Night's Dream by Mauckingbird Theatre Company

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Reynolds receives great joy when audience members tell him that while watching the plays they forget about who would conventionally be cast for particular roles. “When an audience member says to me, ‘a couple minutes in and I forgot that that’s usually played by a woman,’ or ‘I forgot that’s usually a heterosexual couple,’ that’s success to me,” says Reynolds.

“There’s room for you tell your story,” says Reynolds and that’s what he and Mauckingbird Theatre Company are doing.

For more information about the Mauckingbird Theatre Company residency, including how to purchase tickets, visit www.mauckingbird.org. Peter Reynolds directs the upcoming production of Brigadoon, running October 15 -26.