Megan Cannon's Santaland Diaries by fjhuangjun

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									                          S TA G E S
The University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Theater Alumni Newsletter                                                                     Spring 2009


             After 25 years, Julian Olf takes his leave
    by GIL MCCAULEY

         It can be difficult to say goodbye to
    a colleague who has selflessly given an
    amazing amount of his time, expertise
    and resources to the place and people
    around him. It is even more difficult
    when that colleague has also been a
    mentor and a friend. Such is the case
    for me in bidding farewell to Julian
    Olf.
         Julian has been a caretaker,
    orchestrator and motivator in the
    Department since coming to it in
    1983. The students, the faculty and
     Gil's piece continues on page 6. You will
     find more about Julian and his time in the
                                                  Katie Lynch and Evan Fuller in The Chairs, the last piece Julian directed here. (photo by Jon Crispin)
     department on pages 6-8 of this issue.


                   Megan Cannon's Santaland Diaries
   by MEGAN CANNON                                for FoodPlay, a national touring theater                dunnnn….
                                                  company that teaches kids about healthy                      So I did what all people do when
       I’ve had a lot of interesting jobs         living through theater and juggling. So                 looking for digs. Or anything really. I
   in the last few years. I got to drive the      when I saw an ad for Santaland Manager                  went on Craigslist. Several trips to the
   Batmobile and blow things up, make             at Macy’s on Backstagejobs.com, who                     city and lots of scary shared apartment
   monsters, dance back-up for a well-            was I to say no?                                        situations later and I had secured a
   known rock band (ok, ok, it was Dorothy             What qualifies a person to be                      beautiful room in large apartment on
   the Dinosaur for the Wiggles, but to the       Santa’s boss? Apparently everything on                  a charming street in Harlem! With a
   5-year-olds, they are like Metallica!) and     my resume. I was called in for an                       two month partial leave of absence
   generally make a fool of myself at Six         interview almost immediately, and it                    from FoodPlay, the help of my excellent
   Flags New England. Currently I work            didn’t seem to take a lot of convincing                 Assistant Production Manager, and my
                                                  to get a job offer. In fact, my assortment              suitcases packed, I was ready to go.
    This spring, we were saddened to              of strange jobs convinced them that I                        My first impression of Santaland
    learn of the passing of Van Farrier, a        could manage Santa during the week                      was, "This place is going to burn
    beloved member of the local theater           and then manage the puppet theatre on                   down!" I’ll explain: The singing tree was
    community who often graced our                the weekends. (Did I mention that I also                creepy, and the snowglobe looked like
    stages. We were devastated anew               puppeteered and helped to direct and                    something out of a Harry Potter movie.
    several weeks later to learn that one         manage the puppet theater at Six Flags?)                I was disappointed that there was no big
    of our talented alumni, Greg Egan,
                                                  It seemed an ideal match. Now came the                  staircase and slide to kick the kids down,
    had also passed. Tributes to both
    men begin on page 4.                          tough part – to pick myself up and find                 but the mice running around were rather
                                                  a place to live in … The City… duh duh                                                        continued on page 5


                                                                          1
            Alumni, students, faculty, and staff updates
     Do you know what never gets old?      is living in the Providence, RI area and     to-Male Transgender Conference in
Receiving updates from alumni and          working as a puppeteer and storyteller,      1997. She ran the costume department
friends, that's what. Send us your news    performing for day care centers, schools     for Boston Lyric Opera, then ran the
(at umasstheater@theater.umass.edu).       and festivals. He is getting back into       costume shop and taught costume at
                                           acting and recently took an acting class     Emerson College before moving to her
Alumni                                     at Trinity Repertory. He's taken some        current position.
                                           voice-over classes and is pursuing that as   n Ari Jacobsen came to campus in the
n Naomi Bennett '01 attended the           well. "I have great memories of UMass        fall as part of the American Shakespeare
Professional Track Circus program at       having done Playboy of the Western World     Center's production of Rosencrantz and
the New England Center for Circus Arts     with Ed Golden and Jeffrey Donovan           Guildenstern Are Dead. He continues
in Brattleboro, VT. This past December,    (among many talented others). I also         to tour with the group, then will be in
she left her job at the Performance        lost several roles to Rob Corddry. (Not      residence at the Blackfriars Playhouse in
Project to become the Theater and          to drop names, but whatever!)" he            Staunton VA until June 14. He invites
Movement Specialist at the Community       writes.                                      everyone to check out his Facebook
Art Center, an arts-based after school     n Sharon Hart is currently performing        page, where he has posted his music.
program that serves high risk youth in     with the Gold Dust Orphans in Boston.        n Rafael Jordan received a positive
Cambridge. "I love it!" she writes.        The group's newest show of Mice and          mention in a New York Times review of
n A Rob Corddry '93 update for those       Mink, ran in February and March. This        the Resonance Ensemble production of
who like their hospital drama with a       was her 7th show with this theatrical        Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra.
healthy dose of satire: check out the      troupe and very often she is the only        n Lucas Maloney ’04 has kept busy in
WB's web series Children's Hospital,       (actual) female in the cast! The group's     Washington, DC since the fall edition
written, directed, starring         AND    website is www.golddustorphans.com           of Stages. In November, he directed
executive produced by Rob.                 n Jeannette Esther (Trombley) Hawley         the psychological thriller Closet Land
n Jane Cox is among those featured         '81 filled us in on what she's been doing    with his company Molotov Theatre
in an extensive article on the John        for the past 28 years — welcome back!        Group (www.molotovtheatre.org). The
Weidman-Stephen Sondheim musical,          Jeannette is currently costume shop          company hopes to take the show to
Road Show, in Lighting & Sound             manager at American Repertory Theatre        Brazil in 2010 as a featured performance
America's January issue.                   and is married, no kids, with "one           in an international Grand Guignol
n Alumnus Roy Drew, who attended           lovely doggie named Willie." Before          festival. Lucas directed a new musical
UMass Amherst as a theater major from      that, from 1983- 1990, she ran her           called Dream Date for the Madcap
88-91, wrote in to let us know that he     own business doing custom clothing           Winter Carnival of New Works and
                                           design in a studio in Northampton, and       assistant directed The Cherry Orchard
If you have an update for us, please       from 1985-1990, she was a member of          with Washington Shakespeare Company.
e-mail us at umasstheater@theater.         Syllepsis Performance Ensemble with          Lucas and the other co-founders of
umass.edu or amgoossens@verizon.net.       director Katherine Sanderson. After a        Molotov are looking forward to teaching
You can also call 413.545.3490 or          brief stint running the shop at Stagewest    their first Grand Guignol workshop
413.545.6808.                              in Springfield, from 1991-1996, she          for actors in March and will attempt
                                           lived in Spokane, WA where she worked        to defend their 2008 Best Overall
If that doesn’t work for you, send your    at Spokane Civic Theater. Jeannette          Production award in the 2009 Capital
carrier pigeon to:                         was politically active during her time in    Fringe Festival this summer.
Stages                                     Spokane, becoming involved in starting       n Toks Olagundoye had a small role
Fine Arts Center 112                       and/or running: Pride March, Papillon        on Ugly Betty during the fall.
151 Presidents Drive                       Transgender Support Group, Rainbow           n Gary Trahan '82 has co-written two
UMass Amherst                              Alano Club, Hands Off Washington,            screenplays since he was last in touch.
Amherst, MA 01003                          2BWUTUR GLBT conference and                  One of these, Divine Intervention, was
                                           retreat, Dyke-O-Rama, Women's                filmed in Ware Massachusetts and
Please include contact information and     Words, Women's Cultural Exchange,            the surrounding areas. For the past
the year you graduated.                    Spokane Gay and Lesbian Community            two years, "Gare" has been working at
                                           For Dignity and Human Rights, and            Thirteen/WNET (Public Television) in
We'll post your news online at www.        Lavender Rag newspaper, to name a few.       New York City.
umass.edu/theater/ or run it in the next   Moving to Boston, she chaired the family     n Michael Walker's new play,
issue of Stages.                           and friends section of the first Female-
                                                                                                                 continued on page 3


                                                               2
                                                  More theater updates
continued from page 2                              as actors and backstage, including           September. His seminar topic will be
Aftershock, had a staged reading at                Adrienne Paquin, Dan McNamara,               “Surviving Trauma, Becoming Human:
Boston Playwrights' Theatre. The cast              Anna Dynarski and Eric Rehm. The             Hero and Victim Roles in Libation
included Peter Haydu, Dee Nelson,                  group has been invited to restage the        Bearers of Aeschylus.”
Frank Aronson and Elise Manning.                   production at an international arts
                                                   festival in Serbia in the fall.              Students
Faculty                                            n Rob Kaplowitz designed Fela! for
                                                   Bill T. Jones at 37 Arts (Off B'way)         n Dora Arreola, directing MFA
n Technical director Michael Cottom                to wide-spread acclaim. Student Jack         candidate, will travel to Poland this
was the Technical Director for                     O'Brien was an intern on the show.           summer to teach a Practical seminar,
NYC's Classical Theater of Harlem's                Rob designed Tarrel Alvin McCraney's         "Meetings with Remarkable Women,"
production of Three Sisters this winter            Wig Out for director Tina Landau at          for The Grotowski Institute in Wroclaw.
(UMass Amherst alumnus Troy                        the Vineyard (off B'way), Time Flies         The seminar is part of a laboratory
Hourie '97G designed the scenery).                 for director Roger Danforth at Mt.           of creative research and explores the
He involved several theater students               Holyoke with student co-designer             artistic journeys of women who share
in this professional production. He is             Alyse Knox, and designed and wrote           a connection to Grotowski’s legacy
scheduled to perform the same role in the          music for Lemon Anderson's County            through their participation in the various
next CTH production this spring with               Of Kings for director Elise Theron in        periods of his life-long practical research.
plans of offering another professional             the Under the Radar Festival at the          In New York, she is directing the play
opportunity to more students. His work             Public (off-Broadway). Currently, he         UFUF-91/9, written & performed by
in the shop and with CTH was the                   is co-designing Cuentos De Eva Luna          Zoe Mavroudi (from Greek), at the
subject of a cover story in the Daily              at Smith with student designer Amber         Under St. Marks Theater.
Hampshire Gazette's weekend magazine,              Tanudjaja for director/adaptor Ellen         n Heather Crocker designed costumes
Hampshire Life, this past March. Michael           Kaplan, Charles Fuller's Zooman and the      for New Century Theatre's Well last
is also working on a year-long CAD                 Sign for director Stephen Henderson at       summer, as well as Chester Theatre's
(computer-aided drawing) project with              the Signature Theater (Off-Broadway),        Almost, Maine. She was make-up artist
the Mullins Center.                                and David Adjmi's Stunning for director      on a domestic violence training video
n Milan Dragicevich enjoyed a sold-                Anne Kauffman at Lincoln Center (Off-        for the Massachusetts Police academy.
out run of Milosevic at the Hague, a               Broadway).                                   n Last summer, MFA dramaturgy
production he wrote and co-directed                n Julie Nelson was cast as Lady              candidate Emily Denison was a Literary
with Sheryl Stoodley at Northampton's              Catherine de Bourgh and Mrs. Gardiner        Intern at Actors Theatre of Louisville
Serious Play. A number of department               in Pride and Prejudice at Playmakers         where she wrote for the Pride and
students were involved in the production           Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill,            Prejudice and 43 Plays for 43 Presidents
                                                   North Carolina this spring.                  study guides, and the newsletters for
                   STAGES
    The University of Massachusetts Amherst
                                                   n Professor Emeritus Dick Trousdell          Pride and Prejudice and 43 Plays for 43
           Department of Theater                   emailed to tell us that a piece he wrote     Presidents.
             Alumni Newsletter                     on Aeschylus’ Oresteia, “Tragedy and         n Thad Kramer will be Master
              Spring 2009 Issue                    Transformation,” was the lead article        Electrician at the Utah Shakespearean
                                                   in the Jung Journal: Culture and             Festival's Adams Shakespeare Theater in
               Stages Editor                       Psyche, vol. 2, no. 3 (Summer, 2008),        the summer.
            Anna-Maria Goossens
                                                   5-38, published by the University of         n Directing MFA candidare Shawn
                 Copy Editor                       California Press. He gave another paper      LaCount was just nominated for a
               Liana Thompson                      on the Oresteia, “The Wisdom of the          couple of Boston Theatre Awards. The
                                                   Furies,” first to the National Conference    Independent Reviewers of New England
              Contributors
  Megan Cannon, Anna-Maria Goossens,
                                                   of Jungian Analysts and Trainees at the      (IRNE's) nominated his production of
 Tanya Kane-Parry, Gilbert McCauley, Bryn          Sebago Harbor Resort in Maine, and           Assassins (last summer at the BCA) for
    Manion, Kate Nugent, James Vesce,              again for the Connecticut Association        the year's "best musical" and Shawn
             Denise Wagner                         for Jungian Psychology in Hartford.          for "best director." "It is kind of funny
                                                   Finally, he has been invited by the Petros   because I had never directed a musical
 Stages welcomes articles from students,
                                                   M. Nomikos Foundation to be one of           before and my time at UMass gave me
 alumni, faculty and staff. If you have a story
 you’d like to suggest, call (413) 545-6808 or
                                                   eight seminar presenters at the “Ancient     the courage to tackle it," Shawn writes.
 e-mail <amgoossens@verizon.net>.                  Greece/Modern Psyche Conference”                             — compiled and edited by
                                                   to be held on Santorini in Greece in                               Anna-Maria Goossens

                                                                        3
        Greg Egan (1976-2009)                                                           Van Farrier and
      Don’t you love sitting in a crowded a proud brother, a true friend. To add
theatre as the lights dim and audience courageous seaman and world traveler to
                                                                                        Verbal Décor
chatter subsides knowing we’re all going that list is hardly a stretch. Had he been          I met Van Farrier in the early 1990’s
to witness something magnificent? That any one of these things we’d be grief-           through my colleagues in Sleeveless
time is going to slow when the actor stricken. But to have lost a man who               Theatre, Lisa Channer '89 and Maureen
we all came to see makes his entrance? lived each of these lives so completely          Futtner '89. In 1997, after a bad breakup
We’ll fall into his hands, and allow as to become a master of them all is an            that left me homeless, Van and his
him to work his alchemy, to alter our incomprehensible tragedy. Our world               husband, David, took me in. I lived in
perspective, reignite our humanity, heaves and sobs, and we will forever                the mother-in-law apartment over the
and enliven our sense of purpose and ache for the kindness and passion and              garage; every night at dinner time my
wonder. We won’t want it to ever end, excellence he displayed and inspired.             phone would ring with Van on the other
but plays inevitably must. Slowly, we’ll         Of course, the irony is that Greg      end exclaiming, “Mama Rose is cooking –
put on our coats, dreamily walk to our was never terribly interested in himself,        we’re gonna eat!”
cars, and go home inspired, a little or aware of how special he was. He                      Van had just come off the road from a
awestruck, maybe a bit smitten, certain was so conscientiously observant and            nine-month tour of Joseph and the Amazing
we’ll never forget how alive we felt this intrigued by other people, he barely          Technicolor Dreamcoat as the dresser for
one special night.                           noticed what we were most interested       the star, Sam Harris. Van wanted a life at
      Greg Egan made me feel that way in was him. He’d simply give us his               home, so he enrolled in nursing school
every time I saw him perform. He attention, and we’d let him because the                and took a job at the Department of
was a sight to behold, devastatingly fondness and fascination that washed               Theater costume shop. But all the while
handsome and fiercely talented. But he over his beautiful face when he listened         his first love in the theater, acting, was
inspired me more in daily life than he to the people he loved felt like a miracle       crying, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art
ever did on stage. Be it drinking a cup to be savored once in a lifetime. That so       thou, Romeo?”
of tea or poring over poetry, browsing many of us were able to have his eyes                 Van’s comeback occurred at Hallie
a wine aisle at the market or bragging emphatically trained on us, and watch            Flanagan Theater at Smith College in
about his little sister, clambering up an his perpetual half smile explode into         the spring of 1998, at a reading of Joe
impossibly high tree or listening to his the full, radiant, real thing on a daily       Salvatore 97G’s play, full of grace… Van
friends tell jokes and stories, Greg’s love basis ... now that just feels like pure     went on to play the Friar in a department
and meditative study of daily life made indulgence on God’s part.                       production of Romeo and Juliet in 1999;
life itself so much more the wonder.                           — Bryn Manion '97        he directed my play The Mad Dad Show at
      After     college,    Greg                                                        Hamden Theater that same year; and he
moved to New York, turned                                                               acted in the first ever Play in a Day Festival
his attention to writing, and                                                           in 2004.
fell in love with his gorgeous                                                               Romeo and Juliet, directed by James
and vivacious wife, Rachel.                                                             Vesce '99G, was an extravaganza of stage
They moved to California                                                                combat, Pat Metheny music and hip-hop
where he joined the Navy                                                                dance. We were teaching the play in Theater
and sailed the seas. Is that an                                                         100 (I was T.A.ing under Joe Salvatore,
incongruous trajectory for us                                                           who had taken over for Professor Harley
anti-establishment liberal artsy                                                        Erdman that semester), and I remember
types to get our minds around?                                                          struggling with the concept of “verbal
I hope not. Greg lived many                                                             décor”, a technique that Shakespeare used
full lives in his too short time                                                        to have the characters describe the scene,
with us. He was a champion                                                              as sets were minimal in those days. When
gymnast,        an     occasional                                                       Van entered as the Friar and began his first
ascetic, a focused scholar, a                                                           speech, I suddenly understood what we
brave actor, a charismatic                                                              had been teaching:
entertainer, a skilled writer,
an impulsive risk taker, a                                                              The grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning
                                     Greg Egan, at top, in a publicity photo from the
wine aficionado, a devoted Department's 1999 production of The Mandrake.                night,
husband, an honorable son, (UMass Photo Services)                                       Chequering the eastern clouds with streaks
                                                                                                                     continued on page 5

                                                             4
                           Megan Cannon's Santaland Diaries
continued from page 1                                                  minute visits with Santa and 30-minute puppet shows. We
festive. Santaland is in a corner of Macy’s on the eighth              saw a thousand “audience” members an hour, and dealt with
floor that is only occupied for two months out of the year.            costumes, lighting, and unruly cast members.
Therefore, the upkeep and maintenance is sparse. It’s heated                The season ended with Christmas carols and poor mice
to stifling and cooled by opening vents to the outside. My first       who didn’t survive the many layers of snow they tried to
tasks at my new job were to light the trees and make it snow.          burrow in. We cleaned up in a few short days, and it was back
Though Buddy the Elf managed to do this in an evening, it              to reality. I confess that as I left I felt a good deal of nostalgia
took us a bit longer.                                                  for this amazing and enduring icon. My holiday seasons in the
     First, lighting the trees. There didn’t seem to be a lot of       future will have more dimension as I remember my funny and
outlets, so like Ralphie’s dad, we just plugged them all in on         bickering elves, the army of Santas (including Santa Santa a
top of each other. Sure there were some sparks, but they didn’t        la David Sedaris of course), and my fellow managers trying to
last long. That left us with large piles of green cord and long        hold together this unusual show.
rods of connected plugs. We did what comes naturally to those
trying to bring Christmas cheer to the world and covered them
all up with layers of synthetic snow. On top of the blankets of
snow we piled different kinds of glittery confetti. It was quite
pretty, and not at all flammable (ahem).
     With Santaland sparkly (and sparking) and ready to go,
we invited the elves in for their training. I figured the training
would include making etch-a-sketches, eating from the major
food groups (candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup) and
discouraging tiny people from becoming dentists. Imagine my
surprise when the elves were full size people made up of out-of-
work actors and actors who don’t have jobs. It made for quite
a bit of drama.
     Training finished, we were ready to open. The day after
Thanksgiving came and went in a flurry of children big and
small waiting in lines to see the one and only Santa. It was
then that the potential fires and difficult elves and loose mice
all faded into the background, outshined by smiling faces and
the hopes of people believing in the magic of the season.
     Running between Santaland and the Puppet Theatre, the
month of December flew by. I was charged with troubleshooting
electrical problems, front of house issues and cast conflicts. I
dealt with biological hazards (it’s difficult for Santa to tell kids
they’ll shoot their eyes out when he is being distracted by the
fact that his lap is wet…) We created a festive illusion for           Megan Cannon and one of her Santaland compatriots pose for a snapshot
the public and kept it going all season. My shows were five            behind the scenes at Macy's. (photo courtesy Megan Cannon)




continued from page 4
                                Van Farrier remembered
                                               Hamlet (and through him, Shakespeare)           makeup, at home between matinee and
of light…                                      ordered his players to do: Suit the action      evening shows, sweeping the dining
Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye,      to the word, the word to the action. And        room floor and readying the house for
The day to cheer and night's dank dew to       it felt generous, like he really wanted         out-of-town guests. He is vamping for
dry,                                           us to see what he saw, the way he saw           the camera, with his sprayed-on gray hair
I must up-fill this osier cage of ours         it. I’ll never forget it. I’ve been in Van’s    and darkened cheekbones, hanging over
With baleful weeds and precious-juiced         audiences many times since then, and I’ve       his broom like a harangued housewife. I
flowers.                                       always felt the audience sit up straighter      love this picture because it is Van as actor,
                                               when he enters, the better to receive that      comedian, host and always, always, full
   Against the backdrop of a
                                               energy and generosity.                          of life.
complex, modern set, Van was painting
                                                     I have a photo of Van in his Friar                                  — Kate Nugent
Shakespeare’s words. He was doing what

                                                                5
                 An advisor who listens and observes
 by JAMES VESCE                                                      fledgling career.
                                                                          Three years later, while applying for a university teaching
      I first met Julian as a graduate directing student in 1996.    position, I asked for his recommendation. In another
 His reputation preceded him — mainly those legendary                understated moment of advice, he suggested I consider my
 stories about his mythical and bizarre taste for really weird       own potential for academic administration. Now, ten years
 theater — perhaps the result of his work at LaMama as a             later, I serve as a departmental chair in an undergraduate
 young theater artist in New York in the 1960's. But if you          theater program of 80 students and 20 full and part-time
 chose to negotiate your way through his oft-worn Western            faculty.
 attire or impressive mane of carefully-coiffed hair, you found           I have a great deal of appreciation for his knowledge
 a master teacher, a dedicated artist, and a lifelong mentor.        and expertise, and value greatly the intensity of learning in
      As a first-year director the path was lonely and uncertain.    his classroom. But I most remember his ability to listen to
 Frequently I considered moving on to a more comfortable             his students, his compassion, and his example as an artist as
 profession and way of life. It was Julian's steady observation      I constantly seek to emulate that commitment to my own
 that I was "probably in the right place" which validated my         students.



                        Farewell to a valued colleague
continued from page 1
the campus community have benefited
immeasurably from his keen and
adventurous theatrical mind. The former
students who write in these pages speak
to some of Julian's strengths as a mentor
— he listens attentively, and just as
importantly, he follows that with the
right questions, questions that nudge,
prod, push toward revelations and better
work.
     As an artist, too, Julian pushed
students to do their best when they
worked with him. Actors, dramaturgs,
designers and technical personnel
all recalled their time working on
productions he helmed as particularly
exciting and challenging, bringing them
to a new understanding of theater.
     In recent years, he has pushed beyond
his long-time roles in the department.       Julian's support for the department extends beyond his presence at all department mainstage
To a resume that already included            productions — he is always on hand for special events and fundraisers, including a celebration
teaching, mentoring, administrating,         of honorary degree recipients Bill Pullman, Michael Haley and Peter Tolan after last year's
directing, and of course dramaturgy, he      commencement ceremony. (photo by Jon Crispin)
added screen- and playwriting and even,
last year, acting, in the self-penned (...   productions based on those works. One           made Julian a constant presence when
people almost always smell good in the art   of the department's early fundraising           the department needed to put its best
museum), a benefit performance. His          activities was a benefit reading of his         foot forward.
writings have received awards, and our       award-winning screenplay Anthony, a                 We will miss his reserved but
students have received, once again, the      mobster re-imagining of Hamlet (a piece         indomitable spirit, his sharp and
benefit of his generosity as an artist,      that eventually received a reading in Los       encouraging wit, and his brilliant
taking courses in screenwriting and          Angeles, too). Donating his skills and          blending of his roles as thinker, teacher
playwriting with him and being cast in       resources to various special events has         and artist.
                                                              6
             An alumna says thank you to Julian Olf
continued from page 8                          first big undertaking – a production of           contemporary classical music. When it
human interaction, Julian only nods and        Heiner Mueller’s Hamletmachine. I had             was all over, Julian, who was seated high
smiles when the student finally says “A-       really wanted to direct MacBeth, so I             up on a chair that was on top of the
ha!” Yes, he’s done his job – helped the       picked Hamletmachine as a back-up,                center table pronounced, “Yes, now we
student find his/her own way into the          thinking that the play was so far out, the        understand” and continued to talk about
play, into the magical place of incredible     Committee would have to let me direct             performance art, experimental theatre,
possibility.                                   MacBeth. My plan back-fired, and I was            etc. Meeting adjourned, back to work!
     He challenged us to think by              suddenly stuck with the daunting task                  When, a year later, I had completed
posing questions, never suggesting             of taking on a text I had always admired          my thesis project, and mangled my
he had “the” answer. He asked us to            and been drawn to, but felt completely            project report, I got a job offer for a full-
consider unthinkable questions from            inadequate as an artist to take on. The           time faculty position in the Department
our own subconscious – smells, sounds,         play is incomprehensible, and any                 of Theatre Arts and Dance at California
sensations, imagery – to illuminate a          attempts to make it “comprehensible”              State University, Los Angeles. Julian
three-dimensional world of dramaturgy          diminish the intent of the play.                  generously advised me on each step of
and text analysis.                                  I remember the first production              the negotiation. I was under strict orders
     My journey through grad school was        meeting, down in the basement, with the           to not “accept” any part of the proposed
at times arduous and frustrating, and          student designers and mentoring faculty           offer without first running it past Julian,
I often sought refuge and guidance in          sitting around, waiting to hear about             who then gave me the exact language
Julian’s office. He calmly listened to my      our collective intent for this production.        for my counter-offer. It was a terrifying
rants, and when I was done, he would           Professor Penny Remsen was to be the              experience. I had no background in any
point out a simple, yet not so simple          lighting designer. She turned to me and           of this. I truly could not have done it
obstacle that I had to face and resolve.       said, “So, tell us about the character of         without him holding my hand through
Inevitably, I left feeling less overwhelmed    Hamlet – who is he?” Like a deer in the           every step of that process.
or enraged, and I could gather myself          headlights, I gasped, “I have no idea                  And though I moved across the
together to do my work. That was what          who Hamlet is, I have no idea if there            country, far from the lushness and
I had come here for, and Julian patiently      are 20 Hamlets or none at all. How I              beauty of the Happy Valley, Julian and I
kept reminding me of that.                     am supposed to answer a question like             have not only stayed in touch, but have
     I seemed to always “be in trouble.”       that?” My answer didn't satisfy her, and          become friends. He has continued to
Julian never chastised me for this. He         the meeting dissolved into chaos and              advise me and console me through the
stood by me, watched, listened, and, I         conflict. No, this was not one of my              politics of Tenure (finally achieved), and
think, chuckled inside. At times, Julian       best moments (though, certainly not my            has trusted me to read his new works.
would accidentally reveal himself – a          worst either). We had to try again.               We have visited each other on both
snicker or passing remark that let me               A week later, the student designers          coasts, sharing a deep commitment to
glimpse within, where Julian enjoyed           and I re-arranged the basement meeting            our students, and laughing at life's trials.
the ruckus I caused. He often defended         room into a type of living-sculpture              I feel so incredibly lucky to have had the
me, too, understanding my intentions           gallery space. We placed the faculty              opportunity to find a mentor like Julian
of experimentation, deconstruction and         purposely throughout the space, and               — and to become his friend.
interdisciplinary work.                        then we began a performance art piece                  With immense gratitude: Thank
     Julian mentored me through my             that included snippets from the text and          You, Julian!
        My first memories of meeting Julian Olf are not from the          Julian Olf called me at home to offer me the position of
   UMass Department of Theater, but at the Office of University           Secretary for the Department of Theater. I answered “yes”
   Relations and Development (now the Office of University                without hesitation.
   Advancement) in the Whitmore Administration Building,                      Now, almost 18 years later, I’m still here in 112 FAC. Julian
   where I worked from 1986-1991 in the Vice Chancellor’s                 is a friend, not an acquaintance, and the fact that he is tall and
   office as Secretary and Receptionist. I recall a tall, regal and       I’m not makes no difference at all—as a matter of fact, when he
   distinguished gentleman who occasionally stopped by and                is sitting down, I am exactly the same height. What I treasure
   always greeted me kindly.                                              the most is the mutual respect and friendship that evolved from
        Little did I know back then that in May of 1991 I’d be            that first hello until now (he always let me make suggestions
   sitting in the Conference Room within the Main Office of the           and “heard me out”). Thanks for the phone call, Julian, and all
   Theater Department, being interviewed by this tall, regal and          best wishes and congratulations on your retirement!
   distinguished looking Department Chair. Shortly thereafter,                                                           — Denise Wagner

                                                                      7
                                                    To “Papa Julian”
        by Tanya Kane-Parry '01G

             Julian played a huge role in
        my studies, artistic development,
        and personal growth while I was
        a directing grad student in the
        Theatre Department (1999-2001).
        Since then, he has continued to be
        my mentor and become my dear
        friend.
             On first impression, his tall
        stature and refined demeanor
        belies the cynical, wry wit that
        fuels Julian’s creativity and his
        passion for teaching. Meticulous
        in the classroom, gently urging the
        students to delve deeper into the
        text, into the language, beyond the
        language, into the darker realms of
        continued on page 7                      Julian Olf (photo by Ben Barnhart)


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