Students stage dance, drama and comedy at the Schwartz Center

Following last year’s successful 150 Events series, the Department of Performing and Media Arts (PMA) will continue its new tradition of student-led theater, film and dance performances in its 2015-16 season.

The season begins with the traditional Festival24, Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts' Flexible Theatre. Students will spend 24 hours (starting Aug. 28) writing and rehearsing a film, a dance and three plays, presenting them all the next night.

A highlight of the fall season will be “The Counter Factual: A Dance Concert,” choreographed by Zoë Jackson ’16 and performed Oct. 22-24. The concert is a culmination of Jackson’s coursework in choreography design.

Zoë Jackson ’16 is choreographing “The Counter Factual: A Dance Concert,” to be performed in October at the Schwartz Center.

“I’ve never directed a dance concert before, presented so much of my own work in one sitting or worked with another choreographer, so this project will bring a lot of new experiences for me,” Jackson said.

Students serve as directors, writers and choreographers as well as artists in PMA productions, such as the Ten-Minute Playfest, Oct. 1-3 at the Schwartz Center; and “Twentyhood,” written by Anna Brenner ’16, directed by Andrea Fiorentini ’16 and staged Nov. 5-7.

In partnership with Cornell Cinema, PMA is presenting “Voices and Visions in Black Cinema,” a series organized by Samantha Sheppard, assistant professor of cinema and media studies, who is teaching an African-American cinema course this fall.

The series surveys black media practices and scholarship, with speakers in the Schwartz Center Film Forum and screenings introduced by Sheppard in Willard Straight Theatre. Films include “Within Our Gates” (1920) on Sept. 2, released after deadly 1919 race riots in Chicago; “Killer of Sheep” (1978) on Sept. 23 and “Just Another Girl on the IRT” (1992) on Oct. 28.

“I look forward to exposing Cornell students, faculty, staff and the larger community to important and groundbreaking films by black filmmakers [and] to the speakers providing rich, invigorating and new scholarship on black cinema studies,” Sheppard said.

During the spring semester, Jeffrey Guyton, visiting lecturer of theater, will direct “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” a comedy for those who love and hate the Bard, Feb. 25-March 5.

“I love the idea of a small group of friends with limited experience in acting, Shakespeare or theater, telling the story of every Shakespeare play in a rough-and-tumble, improvisational way in less than two hours,” Guyton said. “It is a brilliant excuse to play, to be outrageous, inventive and bawdy.”

The spring season also features a theatrical collaboration with Ithaca’s Civic Ensemble, April 29-May 7, when visiting artist and Civic Ensemble director Godfrey L. Simmons Jr. directs Eugene O’Neill’s “All God’s Chillun Got Wings.”

“This production puts at the center of this year’s programming our commitments to community engagement and to dialogue about challenging issues, including the North American history of racism and violence and the ongoing importance of that history to our understanding of the present,” said Nick Salvato, associate professor and PMA department chair.

2015-16 Season:

  • Caochangdi Work Station, in residence Sept. 14-26, with a performance in Kiplinger Theatre and workshop presentation Sept. 26
  • "The Counter-Factual: A Dance Concert," Oct. 22-24, Black Box Theatre
  • "On the Verge," by Eric Overmyer, directed by David Feldshuh, Nov.12-14, 20-21, Flexible Theatre
  • Mini Locally Grown Dance Festival, Dec. 3-5, Class of ’56 Dance Studio Theatre
  • "Secret in the Wings," by Mary Zimmerman (directed by Brian Murphy ’16), March 10-12, Black Box Theatre
  • Locally Grown Dance Festival, March 17-20, Kiplinger Theatre
  • Heermans-McCalmon Competition Staged Reading, March 18, Class of ’56 Dance Studio Theatre
  • Centrally Isolated Film Festival, April 8-9, Film Forum
  • Association of Graduates in Theatre Lab Performances, April 14-16
  • Sub-Basement Cinema: Student film screenings, December and May

Some events require tickets, available at

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

Photos by Andy Gillis.

More News from A&S