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Performance Studies program brings diverse performances to Swain hall

Looking beyond theater traditions

With a diverse array of performances lined up this year, the Department of Communications Studies’ performance studies program tries to push the boundaries of traditional theater — even if audiences don’t always understand the differences.

“Performance studies and communications studies is sometimes a misunderstood department because it’s not theater,” program coordinator and professor Joseph Megel explained.

“It’s always gonna be innovative, it’s always gonna be non-traditional, and it’s always gonna be stretching limits.”

Although the productions may be performed on a stage like a traditional dramatic arts production, the performance studies program is dedicated to constantly questioning and exploring how performers view every aspect of their performance, Megel said.

Last year, the performance studies program received a Triangle Arts Award for their series from the Independent Weekly.

“The combination of professors and performances has created its own identity on campus,” Megel said.

“Nothing Pink,” the first performance of the series, premiered in early September. The one-act play, written and directed by communication studies professor Paul Ferguson, addressed the sometimes-tense relationship between the Christian Church and homosexuality.

The next performance of the series will be a stage adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “Vertigo,” written and directed by communications student Lucius Robinson with assistance from Megel.

Premiering Nov. 12, the cinematically-inspired production promises to be an eccentric performance, Megel said.
“It’s a real challenge to take something as classic as ‘Vertigo’ and find out what it means to do it live and how that changes the story,” he said.

Sean McKeithan, an alumnus of the communications department and staff member in the Office of the Executive Director for the Arts, will star in “On Breathing In The Barrel.”

The January premiere is a one-person show developed from a thesis he wrote while at UNC, he said.

McKeithan expanded the thesis to a short monologue performance piece under the guidance of Megel and communications professor Renee Alexander Craft.

By January, it will have evolved into a full one-person show, which will be roughly an hour in length.
“It’s a really wonderful series,” McKeithan said. “It allows emerging voices and developing artists to be heard. It’s an amazing resource for both the artists and the community.”

Gretchen Fox, a PhD student in the communications department, is the star of a second one-person show premiering in January.

Fox’s play, entitled “G’rape,” takes a unique twist on Aesop’s fable, “The Fox and the Grape.”

Nominal coincidences aside, Fox’s play will explore the quandary of “the grape that’s just out of reach” and the psychological and societal repercussions that are a result of it, she said.

“It’s still in the developmental process,” Fox said.

The program is aware of its unusual status in the campus arts scene — but it embraces this peculiarity even as it deals with production difficulties.

“It’s not perfect,” Megel said. “Swain Hall has its limitations and we don’t have a lot of staff.
“But I think it’s another way for students to engage in thinking about what performance is, it’s actively accessible, and I think that’s a great thing.”

Contact the Arts Editor at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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