USF School of Theatre and Dance

TheatreUSF

What is beauty? Is it more than skin deep?

And what about courage? And love?

Those are the questions TheatreUSF is taking on with their spring production – an adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical “Violet.”

The musical opens on the University of South Florida Tampa campus tonight and runs through April 24th.

Tom Kramer

Breakdancing - or any kind of dancing for that matter - is a challenge for most of us.

But "b-boy" Luca "Lazylegz" Patuelli makes spinning his entire body on one hand look easy, despite the fact that the 31-year-old has lived his entire life with arthrogryposis.

"Basically it’s a neuromuscular disorder. It affects the bones and the joints in your body," he said, baseball cap turned to one side. "For me, it primarily affects me in my legs, so I have very little muscles in my legs, but it also affects me in my shoulders, so I’m limited in the level of how I can raise my hands."

But that hasn’t slowed him down. Patuelli incorporates his crutches into his breakdancing, using them as equal parts propulsion and prop.

USF Theatre and Dance

It will be the best of times, it will be the worst of times as University of South Florida Theatre and Dance presents an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

The play is adapted by Mike Poulton and directed by Eduard Lewis. Lewis is visiting USF as part of the school's British International Theatre program, which for almost 25 years, has brought leading theater figures from across the pond to Tampa.

"When I heard what it was all about and all the people who’ve been involved with it in the past as well and the reputation it has, and the fact I got to spend January and February in Tampa, when in London it’s absolutely freezing at the moment, was a huge pull," Lewis said.

Quincy Walters / WUSF News

A woman walks into the spotlight of the theater, looking down. A voice offstage, in Spanish, sings: "She's looking at her shadow". 

The woman is Miroslava Wilson, a dancer from Mexico. She's the co-director of Péndulo Cero, a contemporary dance company in Tijuana. Last week she was an artist-in-residence at USF's School of Theatre and Dance

Wilson says the dance, which is still a work-in-progress, is a reflection of her past and her future. 

Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

The story that the road weeps, the well runs dry is based on - the migration of “Black Seminoles” from Florida to Oklahoma in the mid 19th century - isn't exactly well-known.

Even members of the cast and crew of the play opening at USF tonight for a two-week run admit they didn’t have too much of an idea what it was about at first.

"I feel like I didn’t learn this in history class at all," actress Tiffany Schultz says, while student assistant director Carlos Garcia adds, "I think it’s very interesting how it touches upon a part of history that is so seldom spoken about."

And while director/USF Assistant Professor Fanni Green admits she wasn't familiar with the history, "It’s a story that would be great to have in an educational institution."

But the setting of the play – the small city of Wewoka, Oklahoma – inspired playwright Marcus Gardley, whose grandmother was born there.

"This is what was the spark for me to write this play in the beginning and I was really interested in my own history, my own familial history," Gardley says, "and so I feel like in a lot of ways this play is coming full circle."

USF Contemporary Art Museum

In 2008, Mexican artist Pedro Reyes took the concept of turning swords into plowshares literally and created an art campaign called Palas por Pistolas. People voluntarily gave up more than 1500 weapons, which he first melted down to turn into the same number of shovels, then used them to plant a corresponding number of trees.

Shortly after that, government officials pointed out there was a similar gun return policy in the city of Juarez and asked Reyes if he wanted to use those weapons in his art. He said yes, and in return, received more than 6700 firearms.

But instead of shovels, this time Reyes broke them down and turned their components into musical instruments.

“Same as a shovel plants a tree, a musical instrument is also something that is alive," Reyes says. "Every time you use it, you generate a new sound, a new event and people can gather around the music and I believe that just instruments are kind of the diametrically opposite to what a gun is - like, the guns are the rule of fear and music is the rule of trust.”

Some of those musical instruments are currently on display at the USF Contemporary Art Museum as part of the celebration of its 25 anniversary, CAM@25: Social Engagement.

USF School of Theatre & Dance (left) / WUSF Public Meida (right)

The third time will hopefully be the charm for a pair of University of South Florida inventors who are scheduled to speak in Washington, DC, this weekend.

USF graduate Alexei Novitzky and School of Theatre and Dance academic advisor Merry Lynn Morris had their appearances at two previously scheduled Smithsonian Institution conferences on innovation canceled -  the first due to the federal government sequestration, the second because of the government shutdown.

Now, barring bad weather, the pair will be among the speakers at “Innovation: Brainstorms, Big Ideas and the Creative Future,” a day-long program Sunday in the Smithsonian’s Ripley Center.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

The ongoing inertia in Washington, D.C., is keeping a pair of University of South Florida inventors from appearing at a Smithsonian Institution event--and it isn't the first time it's happened to them.

SheetalGandhi.com

For the fourth year in a row, the Florida Dance Festival has returned to the University of South Florida, bringing a wide variety of live performances and classes with it.

The Festival kicks off Wednesday, June 19th, with "Bahu-Beti-Biwi," or "Daughter-In-Law, Daughter, Wife." It’s a solo performance piece featuring choreographer and performer Sheetal Gandhi.

USF College of the Arts

It's a concert where smartphones and tablets aren't frowned upon--they're actually a part of the show!

This week's University Beat has a preview of Louder Than Ever Before, a multimedia, interactive concert performed by the band "Touch," which plays all of its music on iPads.

The concert is Friday, February 1st at 7:30 p.m. in USF's School of Music Concert Hall.

Candace Kaw / USF College of the Arts

The curtain goes up tonight on the University of South Florida School of Theatre and Dance's production of the musical Hairspray. Here are five things to know about the show.

1. While the show from both John Waters' original 1988 film and the 2003 Tony Award-winning musical (along with the 2007 Hollywood adaptation), director/choreographer Andy Frye (who previously directed USF's productions of Rocky Horror Show and Hair) says USF's version is something all its own.

“We’re trying to use the original John Waters movie as inspiration. It’s a little darker and quirkier, which this new version is as well, but it’s a little ‘bubble gum’ and ‘cotton candy,’ and everything just like fun, fun, fun, and we just wanted to bring a darker side so we have somewhere to grow.”