Thursday, February 6, 2014

Behind the Scenes - What does it take to create a new collaborative project?

What inspires you?  That’s the question Sangamon Auditorium and Fifth House Ensemble posed to six faculty members at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS).  Their stories and observations are being integrated with multimedia elements and modern chamber music provided by Fifth House Ensemble to create a new performance event, which will premier in Sangamon Auditorium’s Studio Theatre on Saturday, February 15, at 8 PM.

The concept for this project arose out of the mythological stories of the ancient Greek muses, a group of goddesses who presided over the arts and sciences and were called upon when people needed inspiration.  Sangamon Auditorium staff identified six UIS faculty members whose fields of study or research were connected to the areas traditionally associated with the ancient muses.  The participants include Michael Burlingame (history), Ethan Lewis (English), John Martin (astronomy), Tiffani Saunders (sociology), Yona Stamatis (music), and Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson (theatre).

The faculty participants were each asked to consider what personally inspired them to pursue their fields of study and to think more generally about what inspiration means in their fields. Reflecting on this process, Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson said, “When I first heard about this project with the 5th House, I was intrigued and somewhat frightened, to be honest. As an actor and director, I'm fine working with words and characters provided by a playwright, but to create something on my own was daunting. Which, I suppose, is one reason why I decided to do it. I'm always telling my students to ‘climb the tree, go out on a limb, and start sawing...’ so I figured I'd better take my own advice! If we don't do things that scare us just a little bit, then we'll never really grow and learn.”

After collecting information from all the faculty participants, Fifth House Ensemble brought graphic designer and storyteller Sarah Becan into the project to write a narrative and create images that connect the individual stories together.  Anna Cooksey from Fifth House Ensemble stated, “The scale of this collaboration - pulling in ideas and materials to guide the show from so many different sources - has been one of the many exciting things about the upcoming concert at Sangamon Auditorium. The ability to connect with experts from such varied disciplines has brought great energy and diversity of thought to the planning process.”

For this performance, Fifth House Ensemble will be utilizing an ensemble comprised of piano, flute, oboe, violin, viola, cello, and bass.  The musicians will perform pieces from composers including Philip Glass and Astor Piazzolla, as well as the Midwest premier of a new work by Charles Zoll that was the Rapido! Take Three!! National First Prize Winning Composition.

This project was built on the success of a previous collaboration between Sangamon Auditorium and Fifth House Ensemble.  In 2012, the two entities worked together to develop a project titled “Listen to the River.”  The performance integrated live music with stories, photographic images, and commentary about the Illinois River. The woodwind quintet from Fifth House Ensemble performed water-themed selections interwoven with presentations from noted regional professionals , faculty and students from the UIS Biology and Environmental Studies Departments.

One of the presenters, UIS emeritus faculty member Keith Miller, said, “It was inspiring working with the Fifth House Ensemble for the ‘Listen to the River’ project. The players are professional musicians with immense talent, but they also were skilled collaborators, and graciously brought us into their artistic process. All in all, it was delightful to be involved with this event.”

Tickets for the performance start at $39 and are available by calling the Sangamon Auditorium Ticket Office at 217.206.6160 or 800.207.6069, or by visiting the Sangamon Auditorium website at

No comments:

Post a Comment