Doty Society Student Stories 2012-2013

Johnny Chatman II

Freshman dance major Johnny Chatman, II’s dance instructor mother tells him he’s been dancing since the day he was born, and he doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.

“For me, if I wasn’t involved in the arts, I don’t know who I’d be,” Johnny said. “I’m really excited to be dancing every day.”

Johnny Chatman IIJohnny Chatman II

Johnny danced his way through childhood and high school, touring Houston with a small dance troupe, being cast in the school musical his freshman year, and becoming the first male in 76 years to make the drill team, but up until his first day at UT, he had never taken a classical ballet class.

“I was nervous about maybe not knowing what’s going on, but the professors are working with me,” Johnny said. “I think I’m the newest person to ballet.”

In addition to a degree in dance, Johnny hopes to add a degree in kinesiology in the hopes of one day, after spending some time dancing on Broadway, opening a physical therapy practice that incorporates dance into the recovery of patients. For now, aside from maintaining excellent grades and making the Dean’s List each semester, Johnny has big plans for his years at UT.

“I want to gain new experiences and new outlooks on how to learn,” he said. “Knowledge is a true gift, and I cherish learning. I’m so grateful to the Doty Society. It really means a lot that there are people willing to invest in the arts and believe that their money is going to a good cause.”
 

Catherine Cordeiro

Graduate art history student Catherine Cordeiro says her life changed completely when she received The Doty Society scholarship this year.

“I cannot effectively put into words how much it means to me to be able to focus solely on my studies and not constantly worry about paying bills,” she said.

This year, on top of taking Dutch and German, Catherine is starting her thesis on early sixteenth century Flemish tapestries and how payment was distributed between the designer and to the workshop that produced it.

“I will investigate a specific tapestry cycle of the Ages of Man designed by the court painter of Margaret of Austria, Bernaert Van Orley,” she said. “There hasn’t been a lot written about it in English, so I’m excited.”

Catherine says that UT was the best university for her mostly because of her professors. For her, their deep care and investment in the students is invaluable. While working with Dr. Jeffrey Chipps Smith as a research assistant, Catherine had the opportunity to help him organize the Fruhe Neuzeit Interdisziplinar in Durham, NC last March.

“While I was there I was able to attend any lecture I wanted,” she said. “Jeff was great about introducing me to people, so I made a lot of really great connections there.”

After graduating, Catherine intends to further her studies at a museum or in a teaching environment.

“The arts are very near and dear to my heart. It’s really sad how public schools are dropping arts programs,” Catherine said. “In my public high school in New Jersey, we were painting on cardboard… I really do hope to pay this [scholarship] forward by encouraging young kids, especially minorities, to gain interest in art history.”
 

Chin-Hua Yeh

For Taiwanese graduate costume design student Chin-Hua Yeh, the greatest challenge to studying at UT is understanding scripts as they were meant to be read.

“I have to not only be capable of good oral language skills, but also better know the local culture and folk customs,” he said. “It should take a long time to get, but is also the most important part of my learning.”

Chin-Hua says he became a Longhorn for several reasons: he knew UT was one of the most outstanding universities in the world; the MFA program would provide many opportunities for a student to gain real world experience; and one of Chin-Hua’s former professors had participated in academic exchanges with UT, and her recommendations influenced the move to Austin.

Chin-Hua YehChin-Hua Yeh

“This semester, I’m going to work with a choreographer for a piece of dance. This will be a very good experience, and I’m also excited about that,” Chin-Hua said. “I’ve been looking forward to making costume design for any kind of performing arts and working with other kind of American artists. I hope this year I have more opportunities like this.”

The attraction to costume design for Chin-Hua lies in the “conversation” characters have with him. He says that once he understands the personality, faith and life of the character, it helps influence that character’s costume.

After graduation, Chin-Hua plans to return to Taiwan, and he hopes to share some aspects of American theatre there.

“The [American] system of theatre is very competed and effective,” he said. “For example, there is always a good schedule and enough time and space to talk about the story and ideas.”

Additionally, Chin-Hua observes that American theatre has strong technology to support the design, and both technology and design teams work together to create the entire world of the production.

With financial support from the Doty Society, Chin-Hua is well on his way to achieving his dream of becoming a professional costume designer, and he knows that at UT he is gaining more than a degree.

“We should contribute what we have learned to society,” he said. “And create new knowledge for humans and change the world.”

Dylan Gonzales

After meeting several people from UT, freshman music major Dylan Gonzales was ready to pack his bags and leave Amarillo, TX for the hustle and bustle of Austin.

“There is great music happening here, and I’m looking forward to being involved with the Butler School of Music and meeting new people.”

Dylan GonzalesDylan Gonzales

Dylan’s love of music began at age 8 when he auditioned and was cast in the Texas Outdoor Musical Drama in the Palo Duro Canyon. From there he quickly became involved with Amarillo Youth Choirs, and by 13 he was taking violin, piano and voice lessons.

Although Dylan is taking a full course load, rushing Lambda Chi Alpha and has joined the Fine Arts Student Council, he’s hoping to not miss any Longhorn football home games and maintain excellent grades. Because Dylan is unable to receive any financial support from his family, he must take on the full debt of attending the university.

“This scholarship is seriously lightening my financial burden and allowing me to further my passion,” he said.

After earning “several degrees” from UT, Dylan plans to pursue a career in music in New York City.

“I really like musical theater. When I graduate, I’ll either do Broadway or teach at a university level,” he said. “My dream job is to be the conductor for the New York Philharmonic.”
 

Rachel Gilbert

Graduate Performance as Public Practice student Rachel Gilbert vividly remembers her first professional theatre experience. Her grandmother had taken her to a production of The Mousetrap at the Alley Theatre in Houston.

“I remember wanting to jump up on the stage and do it for myself,” she said.

While at UT, Rachel has worked on several Department of Theatre and Dance productions, but her favorite has been her work as a dramaturg on The Cataract by UT alumnus Lisa De’Amour.

Rachel GilbertRachel Gilbert

In addition to productions, last May, Rachel was able to present a portion of her research on the original children’s theatre of the Federal Theatre Project during the 1930s at the Fourth International Conference on American Theatre and Drama in Seville, Spain, thus making her debut as an international scholar.

“Being able to attend the Fourth International Conference on American Theater and Drama was an amazing experience, not only due to it's incredible location,” she said. “During the conference I wasn't just an MA student but a colleague to all of the scholars in attendance.”

Rachel hopes to use her knowledge of theatre to inform her practice as a dramaturg to make “brave and risky theatre for the Austin community.”

“I think the arts are important because they truly reflect the communities that create them,” she said. “Art is accessible and immediate for it's audiences, both in the pieces themselves and the dialogue created around them.”
 

Letitia Jap

Fifteen years ago, Letitia Jap, now a senior music performance major, watched her cousin play the violin during a performance. That night at dinner, Letitia tried to imitate him by using a pair of chopsticks, and shortly after, she began private violin lessons.

Letitia JapLetitia Jap

Now on the cusp of graduation, miles away from her hometown of Seattle, Letitia hopes to work toward a doctorate, become a violin professor, and inspire her students in the same way she has been inspired.

“Because I have been so blessed with a talent for violin, I have made it my dream to teach orphans and children living in poverty,” she said.

Letitia’s passion for music and her philanthropic heart make it easy for her to see the benefit of the arts in society.

“I believe the arts are important for the receivers and the givers of it. It is important for the receivers because music, for example, can touch people’s hearts in ways words are not able to,” Letitia said. “It is satisfying to know that one can use their artful talent to touch people, whether it be drawing a beautiful painting that can put people at ease by just looking at it, or by playing an instrument to them so they can just bask in the sound of music.”

She also knows that support from the Doty Society, allows her to be a proud, determined Longhorn.

“I feel so incredibly blessed to attend UT,” Letitia said. “I am so happy here and am very proud to be a Longhorn. I promise to keep working hard, so I can make a difference in others lives as well!”

Brianna Figueroa

The Department of Theatre and Dance’s supportive artistic and scholarly environment are what first attracted graduate student Brianna Figueroa to UT, but she was also drawn by something else.

Brianna FigueroaBrianna Figueroa

“The Performance as Public Practice Program in the theatre and dance department provides a deeply critical, interdisciplinary perspective on the arts that is not available elsewhere,” she said.

Brianna has been dancing since she was a young girl, and she says her relationship to dance has evolved as much as she has over the years. As a child, Brianna felt disconnected with much of the work she was performing, which led to her thesis topic on what it means to be a Chicana working in the western genre of contemporary concert dance, a topic she says is nearly untouched in the academic sphere.

“Without a Latina/Chicana role model in my view, there wasn't an example for me to utilize or someone to mentor me in that aspect of my artistry,” she said. “This is certainly not to say that Chicana/o or Latina/o dance artists do not exist, but rather that when they are rendered invisible they thusly become inaccessible.”

In addition to her thesis, Brianna is presenting an original choreographed piece in the Cohen New Works Festival this spring. After graduation, Brianna hopes to continue studying and earn her Ph.D. from UT as well.

“I am so appreciative of the many individuals who recognize the need to support artists and I am even more grateful to be one of those artist thanks to the efforts of the Doty Society,” Brianna said. “I believe deeply that my research is addressing a gap in the dialog that surrounds Latina participation in the arts and your support says much of your own willingness to participate in that conversation.”
 

Mandy Foster

As a young girl undergraduate acting major Mandy Foster loved watching her older sister perform. Mandy soon realized that sitting in the audience was not enough. She needed to be on stage acting, too.

“I cannot think of anything else I would rather be doing for the rest of my life,” Mandy said.

Mandy FosterMandy Foster

Mandy earned several awards and honors for her acting in high school and community theatre, but she hopes to perfect her abilities at UT that will help her land her dream musical role as Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family.

“I hope that I’ll be a better performer and have a wider understanding of all kinds of work,” she said. “I want to have knowledge and abilities to go out in the real world and be prepared for it.”

Because she loves working with children and teaching, later on in life Mandy hopes to open a children’s theatre or a performing arts school to share her love of theatre with others.

“The arts are really important to me,” Mandy said. “You develop skills like time management, teamwork and meeting deadlines. It’s so applicable to the real world, and there are some great shows that can teach us so much.”

One lesson Mandy says she’s learned from the fine arts is flexibility and that nothing is ever set in stone. Unfortunately, Mandy’s family copes with significant health issues, so when it came time to prepare for college, her family’s resources were tight.

“Because of this generous scholarship, I will be able to attend a university that will stretch and challenge me every day and make me a better person,” she said. “It’s a huge blessing to receive this scholarship. It helps with every little thing. It’s giving me the ability to reach my dreams and get me one step closer to them.”
 

William Anderson

Theatrical design graduate student William Anderson was drawn to UT because he says the department values and supports non-traditional theatre.

“Here they look at theatre as an expression of art to a means. It’s about the narrative,” he said. “They focus on telling stories and not focusing on stories that are not relevant to this time.”

William says that nearly his entire class worked professionally before returning to school.

“All of us wanted to be able to push things in an environment with little risk,” he said. “You can do things here without being worried you won’t be able to eat. I hope I can push boundaries and find new ways to tell narratives and do this art form.”

This year, William and his classmates have pushed the boundaries over and over again, including the production of The Cataract in October.

“We ended up with a psychological environment. It became more of a sculpture that makes you feel more than anything. It’s very dreamlike,” he said. “The audience isn’t necessarily in a world. It’s more of a feeling. It’s not going to be quite real.”

In the spring, William is working on two pieces for the Cohen New Works Festival: for one piece, he and two other graduate students will be guiding 17 undergraduates in creating their own work, and the second piece, based around football, was workshopped at the Kennedy Center.

After spending the last five years in Chicago working in professional theatre, William understands the importance of arts patrons.

“It is because of people who donate to the arts that theatre exists,” he said. “Coming from places like Chicago where there are 200 plus theater companies, they don’t pay their bottom line with ticket sales. It’s donors who make it possible. Without donors, theatre will still happen, but it won’t reach as many people as it could and should.”
 

Patrick Lord

Theatre was not Patrick Lord’s original career path. He was set to study psychology and law at Elon University in North Carolina before entering the criminal justice field. But during his freshman year at Elon, he had a realization.

“After some soul searching, I realized that I could make a different but equally powerful impact to help people working in theatre, designing and helping create inspirational work,” he said. “After that, I transferred to Emerson College, and got my BFA in Set Design.”

Patrick LordPatrick Lord

From a very early age, Patrick, now a graduate theatrical design and technology student, has been driven by the idea that he will make the world a better place. For that reason, UT’s motto, “What starts here changes the world,” resonated with him, and he was also very impressed with the atmosphere of the Department of Theatre and Dance.

“It's an amazing and nurturing environment with professors and staff who genuinely are invested in your success, and are as excited as the students to see where the art world is heading,” he said.

Patrick grew up internationally, spending most of his childhood in Japan, and his parents now live in London. Because of this unique perspective, Patrick says his art does not have a limited foundation of cultural or aesthetic preference.

“The world is an inspiringly large place, and every country is like a new world,” he said. “With new experiences being part of my childhood, it has ingrained in me a desire to search for something new, and a new way of seeing, with every project I do.”

With this enthusiasm, Patrick hopes to eventually return to education and help shape the next generation of artists.

“Ultimately, I believe in the power of the arts to change the world,” he said. “The fact that my education is the result of a society of caring and passionate people only helps to instill in me a sense of drive and purpose.”
 

Saki Rizwana

For Art and Art History graduate student, Saki Rizwana, graphic design was a nearly missed passion.

Although she started the program to appease her parents, after her first design class, she knew it was a perfect fit for her “OCD nit-picky tendencies.”

Saki RizwanaSaki Rizwana

Saki was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and at age 9 she and her family moved to New York. Because of the duality of two conflicting cultures, Saki brings a unique viewpoint to her work in exploring the intersection of education and design for her master’s thesis.

“I think because of how I struggle sometimes to fit into one or both of these groups, I tend to look at things differently as a rule. This certainly comes out in my interest in education,” she said. “The push to be culturally sensitive in teaching, whether you're looking at students from different cultures, classes, generations, genders, etc., is something that comes directly from my experiences in dealing with these different cultures.”

Keeping in line with her thesis topic, Saki designed and created a children’s book that contained stories of Akan peoples from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire and provided a new perspective on African-based philosophy for both children and adults. This year, she hopes to be able to create more handmade books while finishing her research on education and classroom dynamics.

With the help of the Doty Society Scholarship, Saki was able to move closer to campus, which helps her spend more time in the studio working.

“It's so important that, even in this economy, we continue to encourage people to pursue higher education and scholarship programs are at the heart of what makes it possible for someone with a ton of debt from undergrad to even dream that she can take two more years to study and perfect her thought process and her craft,” she said. “You really don't know how wonderful a gift it is that you give to students.”
 

Rachel Atkinson

While working on her high school’s talent show, Rachel Atkinson, now a third year lighting design graduate student, realized how simply changing the color of the lights could entirely transform the stage.Rachel AtkinsonRachel Atkinson

This year, Rachel designed the lighting for the new play by Suzan Zeder, The Edge of Peace.

“This is a great opportunity for me to make contacts with theatre professionals who will push me to develop new levels of craft,” she said. “Additionally I hope that this production will help me launch my career as a freelance lighting designer.”

Rachel says that she knows she has grown as a person, thinker and artist during her time at UT, and she hopes that she’ll continue to have new opportunities and experiences.

“Last spring I was able to design the projections for a dance piece, something that previously I had never done before,” she said. “Lighting design and media design are wonderfully complimentary fields, and I expect that my art and my work will be stronger and more interesting as a consequence of deepening my study.”

The cross between performance, storytelling and technology is heavily influencing Rachel’s thesis project, an interactive performance game that will invite the audience to experience the story by participating actively in the scenes using smart phones among other things. This communal, interactive experience mirrors Rachel’s feelings on the significance of art.

“I think the arts are important because they can both challenge us individually and as a society to be stronger and better,” she said.

Patrick Stauffer

This is a big year all around for graduate trombone student Patrick Stauffer, but he’s most excited about teaching and working with Austin Soundwaves.

Patrick StaufferPatrick Stauffer

“I heard about Austin Soundwaves last semester, and when I was perusing the Internet, they had a trombone position available,” he said. “I really just enjoy being able to work with such a diverse group of students and finding ways to help not just with trombone but with life as a mentor.”

Additionally, Patrick is a member of the world-renowned UT Trombone Choir. Recently, the group completed a European tour, which took them to Zurich and Paris among other cities.

“A former [music school] student plays with the Zurich Opera, and he was able to meet up with us and show us around,” Patrick said. “We performed a few times there, and I was able to practice my French.”

The pinnacle of the trip was playing at the International Trombone Festival at the Paris Conservatory, Patrick said.

Patrick is also a member of the UT Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and New Music Ensemble.

“These groups have allowed me to enhance my skills as a performer and all help me realize what is truly needed in the professional music world once I arrive there,” he said.

The opportunities Patrick has had at the Butler School of Music thanks to The Doty Society are overwhelming, he said, and Patrick realizes that he wants to pursue teaching.

““My life experiences influence my idea of the importance of the arts,” he said. “Working with these kids through Austin Soundwaves has given me a unique perspective on how important music is.”
 

Alexis Scott

Alexis Scott is not your average Theatre and Dance graduate student. At 31, and with an infectious smile and an elementary school theatre job already under her belt, Alexis says she’s looking at this year differently than her younger classmates.

Alexis ScottAlexis Scott

“This is a really big year for me as far as things starting for real,” she said. “I did some things after undergrad that I don’t necessarily want to go back to doing. I had office jobs. I want to do theatre professionally, and put down those roots in a theatre community.”

In addition to teaching and taking classes this year, Alexis is also acting as a female bomber pilot in the world premier of Theatre and Dance faculty member Suzan Zeder’s play The Edge of Peace.

“[The Edge of Peace is] the stories of the characters and their families through time,” Alexis said. “It’s really cool for me because I know my character’s backstory. I didn’t have to make one up.”

For this role, Alexis is learning American Sign Language and, depending on funding, will be parachuting onto the stage. However, for Alexis one of the biggest honors the role has brought is that she is the only student traveling for the second time with Suzan Zeder to Seattle to present a work for the Seattle Children’s Theatre, she said.

Without a doubt, Alexis is happy she made the decision to move her life from the northeast to Austin.

“When I came to Austin, it was like this little angel came to me and said you are going to have this amazing experience in everything you do,” she said. “I keep being amazed by what’s landing on my plate!”

And her Doty Society Scholarship was just one of the amazing things to land on her plate this year.

“Being able to invest fully in what I’m doing is the best gift,” she said. “Because of this scholarship, I can be a better teacher and student. It’s the luxury to actually focus. It’s such a gift! It’s so rare and so beautiful to have a space where art is funded and supported.”