SOU Theatre presents:

What Happened While Hero Was Dead: a recent hit at Ashland New Plays Festival, Meghan Brown’s surprising play is a funny and thoughtful feminist riposte to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, imagining the much mistreated Hero making better use of her off-stage time–afforded by the ruse of her death–than the original character managed. This time around, dutiful compliance is not on the cards. Directed by Holly L. Derr.*

Performance Dates are: February 16-18 at 8:00PM, February 23-25 at 8PM, Matinees February 25 & 26 at 2:00PM. SOU Black Box Theatre.

*This production is rated “R” and is for mature audiences only (age 17+); contains explicit sexual content and adult themes.

EMDA has been part of the Oregon Center of the Arts now for 10 years! This Blog is part 1 of a two-part series, along with posts giving Alumni a chance to give some feedback on their experience getting their degrees in EMDA as well as where they are now and how this amazing program got them there. Part 1 focuses on the history of EMDA, how it started and where it is going. Stay tuned for part 2!

After moving back-and-forth – between the East and West coasts, and between theater stage design and historic preservation – Sean O’Skea has settled into his role at SOU as a professor of scenic design, which he’s held for the past 13 years.

Oregon Center for the Arts Marketing Manager recently interviewed SOU Theatre major Alex Szabo, class of 2020 regarding their reorganization of the annual SOU OSPIRG fundraiser. OSPIRG is a campus political action group that enables students to lobby local, regional, and global political issues at the state level.

The SOU Percussion ensemble had a busy spring term planned with a trip to New York and much more. However, the travel plans had to be adjusted in accordance with the changes with SOU’s guidelines during COVID-19.
Taran McGuire, a senior this year, sees the new situation in a positive light. He states that SOU’s distance learning model is allowing for new creative solutions where all new ideas are welcome.

Oregon Center for the Arts students are finding new innovative ways to interact with their professors, fellow students, and community. OCA Music student Tatjana Luce recently completed 30 days of 30 seconds of music. When it came time to post the video Tatjana was innovative in editing the pieces together on her phone, adapting to utilize the technology she had on hand.

Associate Professor and Music Department Chair, Dr. Cynthia Hutton will retire this Spring 2020 after 26 years of teaching at SOU. Dr. Hutton’s teaching contributions to the Music program at SOU included teaching courses in music education, music theory, aural skills, conducting, and for 24 years she was the Director of Bands at SOU.

Dance Courses By Zoom? Theater, Arts Students At SOU Transition To Remote Learning

This article was originally published to Jefferson Public Radio

How can you teach someone the intricacies of a dance remotely? Or see the details of a sculpture through cell phone photos?

Many university professors had to ask themselves these questions after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced that schools would have to completely transition to remote learning to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

That hasn’t stopped some theater and arts courses from moving forward, mostly by using the popular video-conferencing software, Zoom.

“This would not be the premier way of teaching dance,” says Southern Oregon University musical theater dance instructor Suzanne Seiber. “But you get that sense of community that you get in dance. It’s a substitute, but it’s working.”

Still, there have been challenges. It takes a little more time to plan out courses and view students’ works. Seiber says she learns something new every time she teaches the course and encounters a glitch either on her computer or a student’s computer. She has also had to become accustomed to an internet delay — since everyone has a different internet connection with different speeds, they all hear the music at different times, so Seiber sees each student performing the dance at different times.

“The very first class I taught, I felt like a beginning teacher,” Seiber says. “After you’ve done this for 20-some years, you feel like, ‘How can I feel like a beginning teacher?'”

When Seiber logs into her course through Zoom, she sees 17 little boxes on her computer screen, each showing a student ready to practice dancing wherever they are. Some are in their bedrooms, their living rooms, their kitchens — any room that has a smooth-surfaced floor that’s similar to a dance floor.

One of Seiber’s students, Ryan Zamudio, had to practice dancing in his dorm room bathroom.

“I had to jump between two or three different locations — of putting my laptop on the bathtub, putting it on the sink, putting it on the end of the bathroom,” Zamudio recalls. “It was not a fun experience, not gonna lie.”

His roommate moved out of the dorms a few days into the spring term, so Zamudio now has an extra room with a smooth floor that he can use for dancing. He says a lot of students have decided to leave the dorms because of the coronavirus pandemic. He chose to stay at the dorms to prevent inadvertently spreading the disease to his parents back home in Portland.

“All of my friends left,” Zamudio says. “It has forced me out of my comfort zone and to reach out to anyone who is still on campus. So, it has brought people together, the few people who have stayed.”

Many students dropped the musical theater dance class once they heard that it would be taught online. But Zamudio stuck with it.

“I’m not going to let this stop me from doing what I’m passionate about,” he says. “I’m not going to let this situation completely change what I’m doing with my life.”

Zamudio is also taking art classes, where he says students have had to make do with what they have on hand for their assignments, like tearing up paper bags and using them as canvas. But sometimes that need to be resourceful is a valuable lesson in itself, says assistant professor Michael Parker, who teaches sculpture at SOU.

“You have to have creative solutions to this,” Parker says. “I think it’s also helping students learn about flexibility. There’s an opportunity to have critical thinking be front and center.”

For instance, he gave his students a two-day assignment that asked them to gather all of the available toilet paper rolls within their homes — without destroying the toilet paper and with permission from everyone they live with. Then, using only the toilet paper rolls and found household objects like curtain rods, they were to assemble a sculpture.

One student, Elise Mitchell, took him to task and gathered a couple of dozen rolls and piled them so that they resemble Auguste Rodin’s “thinking man” sculpture sitting on a toilet.

Parker says projects like this can be helpful for students who might feel isolated or stressed out during the pandemic, and attending a regular class, even remotely, could give them a sense of structure. In fact, one of the unexpected side-effects of remote learning is that most classes have had near-perfect attendance.

“It’s a place to go,” Parker says. “It’s not just binge-watching Netflix. In some ways, it’s kind of the best thing to be is in college discussion-based courses right now.”

Parker uses his classes as an opportunity to ensure students are doing OK. He says some of them are essential workers, so they’re risking their health while engaging with the public. A few have even lost family members to the coronavirus.

“There’s always a check-in at the beginning of class, to make sure everybody’s personally safe, family members are safe, and just really being human,” he says.

That can be important for students right now — most of whom are determined to continue their education and their life goals, even if they don’t really know what life will look like after graduation.

By April Ehrlich | JPR News

SOU Music Ensembles get Creative in their New, Virtual Reality

This article was originally published on

With some schools canceling ensembles altogether, Paul T. French – Southern Oregon University’s Director of Choral Studies and Vocal Studies – had doubts about the spring ahead for his corner of the Music Program in the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU. The idea of taking the choir virtual was especially daunting, with the experience rooted in collaborative rehearsals and harmonious performance.

“I didn’t even have a Google calendar,” French joked, “so we’re all kind of crawling forward and learning this together.”

SOU’s Chamber and Concert Choirs are joined for now and still rehearse twice weekly online. With upwards of 50 people on the screen, French and concert choir director Kendra Taylor watch as the singers mute themselves in their homes and perform individual parts to a piano accompaniment written by French’s wife, SOU instructor, and staff pianist Jodi French.

Once they’ve learned and perfected the parts, they’ll record and send them to Taylor, who will plug them into and arrange them on an online music platform called Soundtrap.

“It calls for a lot of accountability from individual students because they can’t lean on other people, so the bar is higher and their own contributions are that much more meaningful,” Paul French said. “I’m proud of the students because they’re compassionate when we screw up and want to do whatever it takes to move forward, and after our second rehearsal the chat bar was full of all these tremendously positive and excited comments.”

The recording will be released later this spring. They hope to add a video component and perform the piece live in the fall if all goes well.

Terry Longshore, SOU’s director of percussion studies, is taking a similar, virtual tack. Originally, he and SOU Raider Band director Bryan Jeffs had been invited to take 17 students to New York City in May for the inaugural “Long Play” music festival by the renowned contemporary music organization Bang on a Can.

In lieu of that trip, and considering the limitations some students have without access to their instruments, they’re working on an 18-minute piece in which 16 performers will pour dry rice over various materials – metal, wood, and leaves, to name a few. It will explore textural changes created by the rate at which the rice is falling. They will eventually turn their individual recordings into a video collage, and will later have the chance to interview the piece’s composer, Michael Pisaro of the CalArts School of Music.

Their other ideas include breaking into small groups that will create original soundtracks to short, silent films.

“They’re excited about the projects because they get to take advantage of what we have and try to make lemonade out of it while still learning something, having a unique creative experience, and putting something out in the world that we’re proud of,” Longshore said.

French concurred with the sentiment.

“Given how isolated we feel, we’re not together, but we can see each other and create something together,” he said. “We still need art and this is what we can do.”

Story by Josh McDermott, SOU staff writer

This article was originally published by the Ashland Tidings

Deborah Rosenberg, professor in costume design at Southern Oregon University, is enjoying her 20th year as a faculty member of the SOU Theatre Program. Rosenberg acted in college and found herself in costume design when she admitted to a director that she knew how to sew. I visited with Rosenberg in her office in the university’s newly expanded Theatre Building.

D.R.: I discovered that costume design gave me some distance from the stage pictures, whereas, with acting, you’re in the middle of it. I found that my temperament was better served by being able to see the whole picture rather than the immersion experience from within. I could easily see that costume is too light, and that costume’s too dark, and I need more red on the rest of the stage.

We often get students who are interested in performance and discover lighting design for the very first time. It’s a glorious thing to watch a young person say, “I didn’t even know about this. And now I must know everything.” Or we have someone who comes in as a quiet, very shy person, and we watch them just grow in confidence, strength, skill, and interest, and they’re standing center stage. It’s fun to watch the transformation of young people, of where they come from, mentally, emotionally, physically, to where they get to in just a few short years.

E.H.: What draws students to your program?

D.R.: I think the initial thing is our proximity to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. To be down the street from a world-class theater is pretty significant. Students come because of the proximity and then discover that we’re quite good at this. We’re large enough to give many options to many people. We’re small enough to know them by name and understand their personal strengths and challenges.

We train people well so that they are ready when they graduate to work almost anywhere in the country, particularly in design and tech. If they are performance majors, they have the skills to audition anywhere in the country. Our students who choose grad school often get scholarships. Our students who choose to work in the field get work in the field. We’ve had some wildly successful graduates. Students come here knowing that they’re not wasting their time and money. They’ll be fully educated, confident, and experienced enough to take the next step. We are confident that they have the skills to have the lives they want in almost any part of this country that they choose to live.

E.H.: What sets theater apart from other arts?

D.R.: The fact that it’s such a collaborative art form. I bring my part, costume design. My colleague Sean O’Skea brings scenic design. The lighting designer and the sound designer bring their pieces. We don’t work individually for very long. I might design the costumes in solitude, but as soon as those sketches exist, the work is shared by many, many, many people.

We’ve all been listening to the director, who has a vision. We are then filling the room with additional voices and more sets of hands so that we make something together that is more powerful than any one of us.

We’re learning from each other, we’re sharing with each other. We are sparking ideas. An idea leads to an idea, which leads to another idea. It’s partly the alchemy of everybody thinking about the same challenge. Theater makes us more than ourselves, makes us bigger than ourselves. The experience is richer than one would have individually. We’re each bringing our best selves. And in a complex world, that’s a gift, and a treat, and a refuge.

To learn more about SOU Theatre Academic Programs, see Or call 541-552-6346