Tag Archives: Performing Arts

Double feature showcases theatre students’ summer trip to Ireland

By Nathan Cobb

Staff Writer

Each year UWF theatre professor Scott Hudson leads a group of students overseas for an “Ireland Experience.” It immerses them in a different way of life and helps theirs subsequent performances project Irish culture.

“You’re only as good as what resides in you,” Hudson said about his students’ talent. He said that while he could teach students ways to develop their acting, true talent could not be taught.

With the help of actor and director Paddy Behan, former head of the Carlow Theatre in Ireland, Hudson directed the double feature of “Riders to the Sea” and “A Pound on Demand” The switch from tragedy to comedy was impressive and demonstrated the students’ passion for acting.

“Riders to the Sea” illustrated lives in rocky, ocean-sided Ireland.

The story opens in a cottage scene of a family who recently lost two sons. The aged mother, Maurya, still grieving the loss. With the opportunity of the sea still calling, another son dies. The death of Bartley is first realized by his sisters Cathleen, and Nora, who are sent a package with a curious shirt inside. The scene ends dramatically as Maurya learns the horrible news.

“A Pound on Demand” however, had a far lighter subject.

The first scene opens on the opposite side of the island, in a post office that has a lively receptionist. Two men who have apparently spent some time at a pub enter seeking a form to claim “A Pound on Demand.” After stumbling through the office, Jerry and Sam finally get the form, but are too impaired to fill it out correctly. Inevitably, the police are called and the two men leave. The scene closes as Jerry and Sam hilariously come back to the office and find a policeman flirting with the receptionist.

The Theatre Department chose the two different pieces to show the rich variety of Ireland. “The thing I took most from the experience was the vast terrain,” said stage manager Eleanor Sweeney. The opportunity to visit the living situations similar to those of the play’s characters helped the actors get deeper into character and noticeably brought Irish culture into their performance.


UWF Singers to perform songs of hope and rejoicing for final concert of semester

By Sydney O’Gwynn
Staff Writer

 Many guest artists will join The UWF Singers in the spring concert on April 18. Photo courtesy of uwfsingers.com

Many guest artists will join The UWF Singers in the spring concert on April 18.
Photo courtesy of uwfsingers.com

Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” will be the focal point of The University of West Florida Singers and Chamber Choir’s spring concert “A Prayer for Peace” at 7:30 p.m. on April 18 at the First Baptist Church of Pensacola.

“The program features a number of songs written in circumstances of oppression or circumstances where there is no hope,” said Peter Steenblik, conductor for the UWF Singers and Chamber Choir. “But they are songs of hope and rejoicing.”

The concert will also include African-American spirituals; John Lennon’s “Imagine”; “Hope for Resolutions” about the South African movement with Nelson Mandela; and an Academy Award winning piece from the 1980s film about feminism, “Working Girl.”

Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” was written about the Holocaust and are all in Hebrew. Senior UWF Singers President Rebekah Pyle said learning how to sing Hebrew wasn’t as difficult as one might think. “Dr. Steenblik made it really easy,” she said. “We learned it very specifically in a way that would make it successful when we put it back to the music.”

The movements in the piece are dancelike, but also hold raw emotion.

“The concert carries a powerful message,” Steenblik said. “I am so excited about the concert.”

The Pensacola Children’s Chorus also will join The UWF Singers and Chamber Choir. UWF faculty members also will be involved, including the chair of the Department of Music, soprano Sheila Dunn; voice instructor Hanan Tarabay, mezzo-soprano; and visiting artist Corey McKern, baritone. Other featured musicians are Nicholas DeMeo, tenor; the Pensacola West Percussion Ensemble; Christopher Powell, organ; and Bolton Ellenberg, piano.

“This is a huge collaboration effort,” Pyle said.

Pyle said that, while the “Chichester Psalms” was written as a commentary on war, she said she believes the piece could also be a commentary on humankind’s struggle against evil. She also said that without the percussion, the piece would not be as successful. “The percussion adds such a huge element to the piece,” she said.

This will be the final concert for the seniors in the choirs, including Pyle.

“I’m really glad that this is the stuff we’re singing for my last concert as a UWF student,” she said. “The last three years have flown by, and we’ve gotten to sing some incredible music, but I think that this concert — the entirety of it — is my favorite.”

“I hope it’s a concert they can be proud of,” Steenblik said. “Things we learned in August are being displayed next week. I hope it’s one that will display the best of what we all can do.”

Pyle said she is excited not only to perform the concert, but for the concert to be heard.

“People are going to come and they are not going to walk away unmoved by the performance,” she said. “It’s impossible; even if you come in with your mind and heart completely closed, it will be opened and you will be moved by what you hear.”

The concert is free and open to the public. For more information about the concert or the Department of Music, visit the website.

‘Oklahoma!’ comes sweeping into UWF theater


 Oklahoma! will be the first production the Department of Theater will put on this semester. The second, “On the Verge” will open in April. Photo courtesy of UWF.edu/music

Oklahoma! will be the first production the Department of Theater will put on this semester. The second, “On the Verge” will open in April. Photo courtesy of UWF.edu/music

By Sydney O’Gwynn
Staff Writer

The University of West Florida’s Department of Theater is kicking off its 2016 season with “Oklahoma!” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb 19, at the Mainstage Theater in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts.

The show features an all-student cast and is directed by Sara Schoch, assistant professor of Musical Theater. Schoch performed in regional theaters across the nation before joining the department in the fall of 2015.

“Here at UWF we have some of the nicest, kindest, most hardworking young people in the industry,” Schoch said. “They are very open to the creative process, they are kind, they are generous in their performing, and they like to have a lot of fun, and it makes the production all the better because of it. We have an enormous amount of talent here at UWF.”

“Oklahoma!” follows cowboy Curly McClain and his love interest, Laurey Williams. It is set in Oklahoma territory in the year 1906.

Schoch, who has bachelor’s degree of fine arts in theater from the State University of New York at Fredonia and a master’s degree of fine arts in acting from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass, said she loved this musical in particular and believes it is one of the best love stories ever created.

“This show is so unbelievably American,” she said. “It is the story of us. A lot of people consider this musical to be old; I consider it to be timeless.”

Jerre Brisky, director of the CFPA, said this production is important because the release of “Oklahoma!” was a milestone in the world of musical theater.

“‘Oklahoma!’ was really the first show within musical theater where the songs helped advance the plot and helped advance the story,” Brisky said. “It’s not often that you get to see what was probably one of the greatest influences on the history of musical theater.”

Schoch said she thinks there are a lot of challenges performers face because the production is a musical.

“I think the challenges in musicals are to create real characters – real characters who happen to be larger than life,” she said. “I think that is a challenge for any young actor, how we make these people believable and relatable at the same time.”

Schoch also said that the actors in the production range from freshman to senior students.

“We have people who have had many years of experience on the stage, and we have people who have not much experience on the stage,” she said. “So we have all levels, and they are all so enthusiastic and the show, in my opinion, is really beautiful.”

She said the people working behind the scenes- controlling the lighting, changing wardrobes and setting props –are just as vital to the production as the actors, and that the whole department works together in preparation for the production.

“We have all kinds of people,” Schoch said. “It’s not just the 22 actors on stage, it’s a hundred people that touch this production.”

Charles Houghton, chair of the Department of Theater, is in charge of lighting and scenic design for the production. He said he feels optimistic about the production from what he has seen in rehearsals.

“The show is going really well,” Houghton said. “It’s a very great energy with the cast. It’s going to be a fantastic production.”

He also said that Schoch is doing well with the actors and said he sees this production as the “complete package.”

“It’s one of those shows that, if you like musical theater, you are going to love this show,” he said. “If you haven’t been to see a show at UWF, I think it would be a great one for you to come and see what amazing talent we have here with our students.”

Brisky said he believes it is important for fellow students to come show their support for the student performers because of all the hard work they do.

“Seeing live shows is a completely different experience than going to a movie,” he said. “Students may or may not have ever seen a show before, this is a great introduction.”

Schoch echoes Brisky’s thinking about theater performances, calling what is done in the theater “magical.”

“Live theater is incredible. It’s an experience that hundreds of people share at one time, and I think that’s really rare,” she said. “It will never happen that way again, those people will never be in that room at that moment ever again.”

Tickets for current UWF students are free when they present their Nautilus card either at the Service Desk and Ticketing Center in the University Commons, or at the CFPA box office between the hours of 1 and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tickets for the general public can be purchased at both locations for $16 for adults, $12 for senior citizens/active military, $10 for faculty/staff and non-UWF students, and $5 for youth. The production will run Feb. 19-21 and Feb. 26-28.

For more information, or to see the department’s full spring schedule, visit the website.



UWF Chamber Music choir performs first of three concerts at Old Christ Ch

By Sydney O’Gwynn

Staff Writer


Old Christ Church, located in downtown Pensacola in historic Seville Square, hosts the Chamber music concerts.
Photo courtesy of UWF.edu.


You could still hear the ring of the final note as it hung in the air, but the crowd was already on its feet. The performers wore proud smiles as they gazed into the crowd. But no smile was wider than the one on the face of their instructor, Hedi Salanki-Rubardt.

“I am so proud of the kids,” said Salanki-Rubardt, director of the University of West Florida’s Chamber Music Series at Old Christ Church in Pensacola. “I cannot tell you how happy they make me every time I see them blossoming and performing so beautifully.”

The chamber music class performed its first concert of the year on Wednesday, Feb. 3, which consisted of eight pieces. The song selection was mostly fun, love-based songs, but there were some serious pieces. One was the concert’s opening piece, Bach’s “Sonata in E minor” performed by Ramel Price on the violin, Marcus Baker on the double bass and Nyasha Brice on the harpsichord.

Salanki-Rubardt created the class 13 seasons ago and said that even she can’t believe how much the class has grown. She said she sees students develop into professional musicians throughout the course of the semester.

“It’s a unique class,” she said. “I don’t think anywhere else you can find chamber music in a class setting.”

The class offers a wide variety of musical genres, including Baroque, contemporary and jazz. The class meets once a week, Wednesdays from 11 a.m. until 12:50 p.m., in the Music Hall in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts.

“It’s a beautiful performing facility, and it’s nice for the students to listen to each other,” Salanki-Rubardt said.

The class is designed for students to have experience performing outside of their school as well as turn them into what Salanki-Rubardt calls “all-around” musicians.

She also said those class periods are dedicated mostly to students performing their pieces and fellow students giving critiques.

“They learn how to coach, they learn how to be kind when they are coaching and critiquing each other, because that is so important,” Salanki-Rubardt said. “I think we learn the most by listening to each other and critiquing each other in class. If you are a performer, you are a teacher.”

Students put on three concerts every semester at Old Christ Church downtown in Seville Square. They only have three or four class periods per concert to practice their music.

“It is absolutely amazing how quickly they learn the pieces,” Salanki-Rubardt said. “This is fast, fast training.”

Salanki-Rubardt said the level at which the students are performing is very high, to prepare them for life after they graduate.

“In professional life, you don’t always have the luxury of preparing for weeks or a month,” she said.

Piano performance major Nyasha Brice is a seasoned veteran of the chamber music class. Despite the class only being required for two semesters, Brice has been enrolled in the class for her entire UWF tenure, minus one semester.

“Being in chamber not only forces you to prepare, but it forces you to constantly be in performance mode,” Brice said. “I don’t think I would have been able to do stuff like the Steinway showcase or my recital had I not had the experience of being on stage so often.”

Brice also said the class helps combat a performer’s nerves and that the students in the class work together to put on the concerts.

“It’s our group collaboration,” she said. “It’s our work.”

Sheila Dunn, chair of the Department of Music at UWF, said that Salanki-Rubardt holds her students at a high level and is also dedicated to them.

“She is, without question, one of the most passionate teachers of music I’ve ever known,” Dunn said. “She does it all with joy.”

Dunn also said she sees the class as an engagement opportunity for the university and the community.

“We have regulars that always attend and then we have new people,” she said. “Then they’re hooked.”

The community support is evident as the concert saw a full house, despite the rainy weather.

“There is something very special about giving this to the community, and we have wonderful followers who are there every concert,” Salanki-Rubardt said.

The Chamber Music Series has a profound effect on anyone who attends the concerts, as well as on the students performing in them.

“We get to find our own voice on our instruments through this class in different ways that we don’t get to do in our lessons,” Brice said.

For a list of future performances by the chamber music class, visit the Department of Music website.


Visiting lecturer Chris Schweizer tells art students to do what they love

Sydney O’Gwynn

Staff Writer


Chris Schweizer, signing autographs at UWF. Photo by Sydney O’Gwynn.


Chris Schweizer, a graphic artist and cartoonist, discussed his journey into the world of graphic design in his lecture Thursday in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts at the University of West Florida.

Schweizer said he found it difficult deciding exactly what he wanted to do in the art field. When he was in his twenties, comic books became all the rage.

“That got me really excited,” Schweizer said, addressing the audience. “So I started to do comics.”

He said his dad had a huge impact on his decision to become a graphic novelist. He said he remembers when he was 24 and he drew some comics. After showing them to his dad, his dad said he should draw comics for a living.

“For him to, sort of, propose that was the first time that I actually thought of it as being a job,” Schweizer said.

“The Crogan Adventures” is Schweizer’s historical fiction graphic novel series. There are currently three published: “Catfoot’s Vengeance,” “Last of the Legion” and “Where Loyalties Lie.” He also has a children’s series called “The Creeps.”

In his lecture, Schweizer talked about his process when writing his novels and coming up with ideas for their stories.

“I give my characters an impossible problem and force myself to solve it,” Schweizer said addressing the audience. “It’s fun trying to figure this stuff out.”

He said he tries to engross himself in whatever genre he is working in so he can understand what he is drawing. He said doing this helps with the accuracy of the artwork.

Senior digital art major Lyani La Santa said it was a nice lecture for art majors to find some validity in their field. Being a digital art major, she said she also enjoyed his outlook on digital media.

“It’s nice to know that even though he is an accomplished artist, he sees online media as an actual tool to get art out there,” La Santa said.

She said she liked his approach of doing whatever makes you happy and said she learned to, “be as animated as your art.”

Schweizer is the first lecturer to visit the department of art this semester. Nick Croghan, director of The Art Gallery, said he tries to bring in several lecturers throughout the course of a semester.

“What I’m looking to do is provide the best experience for students, the university community and the general northwest Florida community,” Croghan said.

He said he tries to find lecturers whose experiences will cater to students in different fields of art.

“One of the things I really try to do is find a balance between traditional mediums and more contemporary mediums,” Croghan said.

To close the lecture, Schweizer gave some advice to up and coming art majors. He said exposure is key for an artist.

“Showcase what you do and how you to do it as much as you can,” he said.

He also said to stay true to what you do, because you never know what impact you are having on your fans.

“I love for work to be fun,” Schweizer said. “I really enjoy my work and I want to continue to enjoy my work.”

Before the lecture, Schweizer gave everyone in the audience a copy of one of his sketchbooks released in 2011. After the lecture, he autographed the books, making sure to give each one a personalized sketch. He gave the remaining listeners his philosophy on being successful in their careers.

“You’ve got to be two of three things,” he said. “Really good, really fast or really easy to work with.”

For more information about Chris Schweizer and his work, visit his website at croganadventures.blogspot.com.

For more information about the Art Gallery and its upcoming events, visit its website at tag82uwf.wordpress.com.