University of the Ozarks has cancelled all public, student and academic events on campus for the remainder of the Spring 2020 Semester and is limiting off-campus visitors in an attempt to control the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
There are currently no reported or suspected cases of COVID-19 on the U of O campus or in Johnson County.
On Friday, University officials announced that in-person classes were suspended for the next two weeks and that the University would transition to an all-online method of course delivery starting March 30 and lasting through the remainder of the semester. The University will continue most normal operations, but is asking departments to utilize remote work and "social distancing" whenever possible.
All University-sponsored events have been cancelled for the remainder of the semester, including the Walton Arts & Ideas Series, Ozarks Fest, intercollegiate athletic competitions, alumni events, University Theatre productions, art exhibits and music department concerts and recitals. The University has also suspended all other public workshops, meetings and conferences that were to be hosted on campus this semester.
In addition, the University is restricting off-campus guests from visiting campus. Campus Perks, the Rawhouser Fitness Center, Robson Library and the residence halls are among the facilities that are closed to off-campus visitors until further notice.
University officials said no decision has been made on the status of the 2020 Spring Commencement ceremony, scheduled for May 16.
University of the Ozarks Theatre will present three showings of William Mastrosimone’s dark and gripping drama, “Extremities,” on March 6, 7 and 8.
The play, which is recommended for mature audiences because of its adult theme, will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 6, and Saturday, March 7, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 8, in the Walton Fine Arts Center’s Black Box Theatre. Tickets are $8 for the general public and can be purchased at the box office prior to the show.
First performed at the Westside Theatre in New York in 1982, “Extremities” is an intense play about an attempted rape, power and gender in society.
Marjorie is the young woman who is attacked in her home by a stalker and would-be rapist, Raul. She fights back and manages to tie him up and lock him in the fireplace. Her two roommates come home to the grim scene and offer different points of view about rape and justice. The three women turn on the attacker and each other at various points in the rest of the play. There is violence and profane language throughout.
Dr. Rebecca Bailey, assistant professor of theatre, is the director of the play and Lucas Hoiland, theatre technical director, is the set designer and technical director.
The student cast includes, Kimberly Lacye Day as Marjorie, Kevin Nawa as Raul, Nichole Finch as Terry and Tiffany Quinton as Patricia.
Crew members include, Jimmy Reinier as stage manager, Jonathan Adderley as assistant stage manager, Jonathan Becker as guest artist and fight choreographer, Petron Brown as fight captain, Day as dramaturg, Mason Clough as lighting designer, Haley Wheeler as sound designer and Ben Howard as costume designer.
Other crew members include, Sydney Ward as props designer, Fion Chen as graphic designer, Nawa as assistant technical director, Ethan Lubera as scenic charge artist, Klara McElory and Kenzie Lewis as assistant scenic charge artists, Karie Miller as sound board operator, Gracie Bormann as light board operator, Lilly Olmsted in wardrobe and Quinton in costume technology. The back stage crew includes Ward, Adderley and McElory and the technicians include Bormann, Finch and Reinier.
Also working as crew members are Paula Jurado Gurdian, Geoshan Lee, Jake Holland and Amy Alderson.
Jonathan Kipp Becker, a master mask maker, teaching artist and performer, will visit University of the Ozarks as an artist in residency in the theatre program from Feb. 9-15.
As part of his visit, Becker will present a production titled, “Facing Humanity: Masks of History and Culture, a Performance Demonstration,” at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday Feb. 11, in the Seay Theatre. The performance is free and open to the public and there will be a reception following the event.
Becker, who is currently an adjunct professor at Ball State University, will also be leading a mask workshop for Ozarks students and serving as fight choreographer for the University Theatre’s spring production of “Extremities.”
Becker has created hundreds of masks for theatre companies, producing organizations, individual artists and training programs in over 50 countries. His clients include Disney Theatrical in association with The Lion King, Focus Films, NBC, The Bravo Cable Network and Theater of Enchantment in Philadelphia.
Becker has performed throughout Europe, Asia and the United States and has worked as a member of the SunDance Institutes Playwrighter’s Lab, a laboratory founded by Robert Redford for the development of new works for theatre and film. He has appeared as an actor in programs with most of the major symphony orchestras in the U.S. and Canada. Since 1988, Jonathan has helped in the development of 16 original works for theater. He co-founded and was Co-Artistic Director of two theatre companies: Les Senokrates in Luzern, Switzerland and The Brodeur Brothers in Paris, France.
In addition to performing and teaching, he is the owner/operator and master mask maker at Theater-Masks.com, a full service production shop creating masks for the international theatre community. Educational institutions, professional theatres and individual artists in 50 countries are currently using Becker’s masks. You can visit the studio on line at www.theater-masks.com.
Becker recently founded The North American Laboratory for the Performing Arts (NALPA). The intention is to create an incubator space in which artists can develop new work and learn from each other. In the first four years, NALPA has assisted artists developing dozens of new musicals and new plays and more than 3,000 people from the local community and the nation have visited NALPA’s spaces supporting the effort to build a community of change.
In his current hometown, Becker was the recipient of the first annual mayors’ arts award in Muncie, Indiana, where he lives as a Muncie Maker. His masks have been featured in gallery shows throughout the United States. Becker is a graduate of The International School of Theatre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, France. He has a BA in Theatre from The College of Wooster, an MA in Acting and Directing from The University of Akron where and an MFA in Theatre Pedagogy from Virginia Commonwealth University. He is also a recognized advanced actor combatant with The Society of American Fight Directors and has completed the level one professor training in the Margolis Method. His teaching is inspired by the principles of Lecoq, Grotowski, Roy Hart, Rodenburg and Alexander.
The University of the Ozarks Theatre will host the Arkansas Festival of the 2019 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region 6 on Nov. 14-16.
University Theatre will present its production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14, in the Walton Fine Arts Center’s Seay Theatre.
In addition, the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith (UAFS) theatre program will present “Ghost Sonata” at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15, and “Side Man” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, in the Seay Theatre.
The Arkansas Festival will also include forums, workshops and an awards ceremony on Saturday.
The University of the Ozarks Theatre is vying to get its production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” selected for the Region 6 2020 Regional Festival, scheduled for Abilene, Texas, in February. A total of five productions will be selected for the regionals from the five-state region, which includes collegiate programs in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) is a national organization that exists to celebrate the educational and creative process of university and college theatre. KCACTF promotes professional standards and provides students and faculty with opportunities to bridge the academic and professional worlds.
University of the Ozarks senior Ethan Lubera has been accepted into a prestigious graduate degree program in theatre design, continuing a love of the performance arts that first began a decade ago as a sixth-grader when he was cast in a community theatre production of “Cheaper by the Dozen.”
The theatre and music major from Siloam Springs, Ark., learned earlier this month that he had secured a spot in the University of Arkansas’ MFA theatre program with a concentration in scenic design. The U of A program accepts just nine graduate students in design every three years — three in each concentration of scenic, costumes and lightning.
The acceptance into graduate school is the latest step in a continuing journey in theatre for Lubera, who is scheduled to graduate in May 2020.
“Ever since I started theatre in the sixth grade, my love for the arts has only grown,” Lubera said. “Since I’ve been at Ozarks, I have had opportunities to enhance that passion in many different roles within technical theatre, including costume designer, scenic designer, stage manager, props master and scenic artist.”
Lubera found out that he had been accepted in the MFA program on Oct. 8, less than a week after he toured the program and had interviews with officials from the school. He received the good news via email, learning that he had secured a full tuition waiver, a graduate assistantship and a living stipend of more than $16,000 per academic year.
“I was full of joy when I read the email; it was hard to remain focused during class because it was a surreal experience,” Lubera said. “Being a first-generation college student, I never thought that my undergraduate career would be as fulfilling as it has been. I am excited to not only be the first in my family to obtain a four-year undergraduate degree, but to also have this incredible opportunity to pursue a master’s degree.”
Lubera credited his Ozarks professors, particularly Associate Professor of History Dr. Karen Frank and Assistant Professor of Theatre Rebecca Bailey, for helping him navigate the graduate school application process.
“In prepping for my interview, I met with Professor Bailey at least twice a week this semester,” Lubera said. “I was looking into two other programs and Dr. Frank was a wonderful reference when I was writing my letters of purpose and intent. She helped me craft and appropriately articulate my thoughts and present myself and the best of my work. While writing this personal narrative and working towards presenting who I am as an artist as well as a person, I was able to figure out what sets me apart from other graduate applicants: the dedication to my craft that Ozarks taught me, as well as my inherent desire to push boundaries and try new things.”
Lubera said his experiences in Ozarks Theatre as well as a pair of summer internships helped prepare him for graduate school.
“I believe the experiences I gained working on the productions here at the university along with my internships pushed me and challenged me as an artist and a training professional,” he said. “Every experience, both the good and bad, helped me prepare for graduate school. The late nights working on projects and the tears that were shed when things appeared to be piling up, the moments when something that hadn’t been working and we have a break-through figuring out a creative solution, or the times that we just simply broke out into laughter because of the close bond, all that has shaped the professional that I am becoming. I believe Ozarks allowed me the safe space to make choices and decisions without fear that something might turn out wrong. I have learned that theatre is about growth, and true growth comes from when you are able to try new things and explore the possibilities. I do not think that I would be where I am without the love and support from my entire Ozarks family.”
This past summer, Lubera interned at the French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts in New York, where he served as a stagecraft counselor and designed the scenery for four productions.
“During this 12-week internship, I utilized the skills that I developed at Ozarks to produce over 30 full-length productions,” he said. “This experience gave me wonderful opportunities in repertory style theatre, working on at least eight different productions at one time for five different venues. My summer experience allowed me to explore new techniques and learn from other young professionals to bring new ideas to Ozarks Theatre.”
Lubera said some of the highlights of his time with Ozarks Theatre includes serving as stage manager, properties master and doing the musical arrangements for “The Diary of Anne Frank,” and handling the scenic design for “Barefoot in the Park.” He was recognized with awards by the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival for his work on both productions.
“Working on ‘The Diary of Anne Frank,’ allowed me the first experience where I was able to connect both of my majors in one of the most beautiful moments of my college career,” Lubera said. “After the show, speaking about the prayer, Sim Shalom, that I arranged with the help of Dr. [Jonathan] Ledger, a student’s grandfather said, ‘I felt the presence of God in that moment.’ The music beautifully swelled as we saw a fragmented moment that was a reality for many Jews during World War II. In ‘Barefoot in the Park,’ I was given the first opportunity that would set me up for what I would want to do for the rest of my life. Here I got the chance to apply the knowledge that I had gained in taking the scenic design and technology class. Through this practical application of my craft, I was able to figure out the beginnings of my design process and this got me ready for my summer job, working as a scenic designer and painter in New York.”
Lubera said that as he looks back at his time at Ozarks, he’s amazed about how much he has grown since he was a freshman.
“I see the growth that I have made as a professional, but mostly as a person,” he said. “I am continuously thankful for my Ozarks experience that has made me the person I am today. I believe that Ozarks has allowed me to fully look at things with an open eye and never take things at face value. As a student, I have grown as an articulate and open-minded individual who has been given opportunities to question how things are and to find solutions on how we can make them better.”
Lubera, who will present a production design in scenic, costumes and lighting in December as his senior thesis, hopes to pursue a career as a theatre educator.
“After grad school I would love to work at a university, serving as a theatre professor teaching design and technology courses and shaping the creative minds of the next generation of artists,” Lubera said. “I have always been drawn to the classroom and, through looking at the mentors that I have had over these past four years, I realize that I would love to have the patience and loving nature of Dr. Frank, the openness and compassion of Professor Bailey, and the unending will to make things better like our provost, Dr. [Alyson] Gill. My dream job would be to work somewhere where I can grow as an artist and also push my students to grow and develop who they are and what they do.”
The University of the Ozarks Theatre will open the 2019-20 season with three performances of William Shakespeare’s early comedy, Love’s Labour’s Lost, on Oct. 18-20.
The performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, and Saturday, Oct. 19, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 20 in the Seay Theatre. Tickets are $8 each and can be purchased at the box office prior to the performance.
Believed to have been written in the mid-1590s for a performance at the Inns of Court before Queen Elizabeth I, Love’s Labour’s Lost follows the King of Navarre and his three companions, Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine, as they attempt to swear off the company of women for three years in order to focus on study and fasting. They are confounded, on signing the vow, when Berowne remembers that the Princess of France and her three ladies, Rosaline, Maria, and Katharine, attended by Boyet, are on an embassy to Navarre’s court. Fun and hilarity ensue.
The cast includes, Petron Brown as King of Navarre, Mason Clough as Berowne, Gracie Bormann as Dumaine, Jimmy Reinier as Longaville, Tiffany Quinton as Princess, Sydney Ward as Rosaline, Jesse Cave as Maria, Nichole Finch as Katherine/Jacquetta, Klara McElroy as Boyet, Haley Wheeler as Holfernes, Lacye Day as Don Armado, Ethan Lubera as Mote, McKenzie Lewis as Costard, Ben Howard as Nathaniel and Ariel McKinney as Forester/Monsieur/Dull.
Rebecca Bailey, assistant professor of theatre, is the director and Lucas Hoiland, theatre technical director and media production assistant, will serve as the play’s technical director, lightning designer and scenic designer.
The student crew includes, Geoshan Lee as sound designer, sound board operator and set carpenter; Fion Chen as graphic designer, props designer and set carpenter; Melissa Rooney as costume designer; Kevin Nawa as light board operator, electrician and set carpenter; Haley Grace Clark as stage manager, set carpenter and scenic artist; Mason Clough as master electrician; Nichole Finch as electrician and set carpenter; Ben Howard as electrician and set carpenter; Paula Jurado Gurdian as follow spot operator; Jake Holland as fly crew; Lacye Day as scenic charge artist and set carpenter; Lillian Olmstead as follow spot operator and set carpenter; Tiffany Quinton as costume crew, set carpenter and scenic artist; Klara McElroy as costume crew and set carpenter; Kenzie Lewis as scenic artist and set carpenter; Jimmy Reinier as set carpenter; Haley Wheeler as set carpenter; Gracie Bormann as set carpenter; Petron Brown as set carpenter; Karie Miller as set carpenter; Ethan Lubera as set carpenter and Sydney Ward as scenic artist and set carpenter.University of the Ozarks Theatre will wrap up its 2018-19 season with a three-show performance of A.R. Gurney’s modern comedy Sylvia on April 26, 27 and 28. The production, which contains mature language and content, will begin at 7:30 p.m. on April 26 and 27 and at 2 p.m. on April 28 and will be held in the Seay Theatre in the University’s Walton Fine Arts Center. The public is invited to attend and tickets are $8 each. Sylvia revolves around Greg and Kate, who have moved to Manhattan after 22 years of child-raising in the suburbs. Greg’s career as a financial trader is winding down, while Kate’s career, as a public-school English teacher, is beginning to offer her more opportunities. Greg brings home a dog he found in the park—or that has found him—bearing only the name “Sylvia” on her name tag. A street-smart mixture of Lab and Poodle, Sylvia becomes a major bone of contention between husband and wife. She offers Greg an escape from the frustrations of his job and the unknowns of middle age. To Kate, Sylvia becomes a rival for affection. And Sylvia thinks Kate just doesn’t understand the relationship between man and dog. The marriage is put in serious jeopardy until, after a series of hilarious and touching complications, Greg and Kate learn to compromise, and Sylvia becomes a valued part of their lives Rebecca Bailey, assistant professor of theatre, is the director of the play. The cast includes, Tiffany Quinton as Sylvia, Rhett Sells as Greg, Haley Hanks as Kate and Haley Wheeler as Tom, Phyllis and Leslie. The crew includes, Lucas Hoiland as lighting designer, Jimmy Reiner as stage manager, Petron Brown as assistant stage manager, Billy Wilburn as costume designer, Quinton as assistant costume designer, Mason Clough as set designer, Hannah Bradow as sound designer, Wheeler as graphic designer, Nichole Finch as props master, Daniel Hall as technical director, Sydney Ward as light board operator and Kenzie Lewis as sound board operator. Other crew members are, Fion Chen, Taylor McFarland, Kevin Nawa, Lacye Day, Ethan Lubera, Haley Grace Clark and the stage craft class. The New York Times said, “Dramatic literature is stuffed with memorable love scenes, but none is as immediately delicious and dizzy as the one that begins the redeeming affair in A.R. Gurney's new comedy, Sylvia…” The New York Daily News said, “I can only call it one of the most involving, beautiful, funny, touching and profound plays I have ever seen…” Backstage said, “Gurney's mad comedy is the most endearing good time to trot down the pike in many a moon. Howlingly funny…” University of the Ozarks Theatre will present three showings of Neil Simon’s iconic play, “Barefoot in the Park,” on March 8, 9 and 10. The romantic comedy will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on March 8 and 9 and at 2 p.m. on March 10, in the Black Box Theatre in the Walton Fine Arts Center. Tickets are $8 each and can be purchased online at Ozarks.edu/theatre or at the box office one hour prior to the showtime. Premiering in 1963 on Broadway, “Barefoot in the Park” tells the story of a newlywed couple, Corie and Paul Bratter. For their first home, they live in an apartment on the top floor of a brownstone in New York City. Corie is optimistic about their future together, while Paul, the more anxious and grounded half of the couple, worries about the various flaws in the apartment, such as a hole in the skylight, their leaky closet, and the lack of a bathtub. Shortly after moving in, Corrie attempts to set her mother up with their eccentric neighbor Mr. Velasco. During the course of four days, the couple learns to live together while facing the usual daily ups-and-downs. Corrie wants Paul to become more easy-going: for example, to run "barefoot in the park.” The play was nominated for three 1964 Tony Awards and was turned into a film in 1967 starring Robert Redford and jane Fonda. In the U of O production, Rebecca Bailey, assistant professor of theatre, will direct the play and Lucas Hoiland, assistant professor of practice of theatre, will serve as the technical director. The all-student cast includes, Haley Grace Clark as Corie, Petron Brown as Paul, Haley Hanks as the mother, Mason Clough as Victor Velasco, Rhett Sells as the telephone repair man, McKenzie Lewis as delivery woman number one, Haley Wheeler as delivery woman number two, Jimmy Reinier as delivery man number one and Kevin Nawa as delivery man number two. The crew includes, Ben Howard as stage manager, Sydney Ward as assistant stage manager and props master, Ethan Lubera as scenic designer, Eleazar Coronado as lighting designer, Lacye Day as costume designer, Sells as sound designer, Masey Wilson as graphic designer and Daniel Hall as window wizard. The sound board operator is Nichole Finch and the light board operator is Geoshan Lee. Other crew members include, Tiffany Quinton, Toria Matthews, Fion Chen, Poly Ojeda and Lily Olmsted. The first time Lacye Day performed on the theatrical stage was during a high school production of “Hamlet.” When the opening curtain went up she began to doubt her decision to be in the play. “When I first saw the audience on opening night, I remember having this strong feeling of regret,” she said. “I was terrified that I would accidentally drop a line or forget the blocking.” All that quickly changed. “Once I stepped on the stage and let go, I realized how much I loved it and how comfortable it felt. Since then, theatre has been my passion.” Day is a University of the Ozarks junior theatre and psychology major from Oologah, Okla. In November she was awarded a prestigious Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship nomination for her powerful portrayal of Anne Frank in the University Theatre’s fall production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Day first learned that incoming Theatre Professor Rebecca Bailey was planning a production of the Anne Frank play while Day was working a summer internship as a paints apprentice for the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, N.Y. “I had little knowledge of the original play and the revisions, so when I returned home I found ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ online and began reading a few passages from Anne’s diary,” Day said. “At this point I didn’t have a strong connection to the show or story, but I was definitely excited to delve into such a powerful show.” It was during the auditions for the role that Day first began to understand the main character’s spirituous persona. “I was reading one of Anne’s many uplifting monologues and after working through it a few times with the director I began to feel the spirit and light that Anne is so well known for,” Day said. “Professor Bailey gave me a note at the end of the audition that still sits with me: ‘Never lose the smile. Anne has an everlasting smile.’” Day said playing the role of Frank was far and away the most challenging of her young career. “Anne is known for her spirit and endurance in the face of darkness, but it baffled me why or how she could possibly feel such joy in a miserable place,” Day said. “Preparing for Anne was a challenge all its own. Our dramaturg did extensive research in the historical aspects of the play as well as the Jewish traditions and early lives of each member of the annex. We each did individual research and presentations over our characters. We were also required to learn four songs — one in German and three in Hebrew — which involved a great amount of practice and collaboration. Though these preparations were extensive, they were essential to the accurate portrayal of the families.” In order to better understand the Jewish faith, the theatre company also attended a Shabbat service at Temple B’Nai Israel in Little Rock. “We toured the temple and were taught the various holidays, traditions and beliefs involved in Judaism,” she said. “This experience was helpful in understanding Anne’s unrelenting faith and desire to make others happy.” With special performances for area schools, the cast and crew performed a total of five shows of the two-hour production over consecutive days, which left Day and her colleagues physically and mentally exhausted. “The end scene was especially difficult to perform each night and involved a lot of hugging and crying backstage,” Day said. “On days when I felt drained, I reminded myself of the importance of Anne’s story and let her spirit motivate me to show the audience the incredible life she had.” Day was particularly touched by the feedback she received from classmates and other audience members. “We received many positive reviews from classmates and faculty members who were moved by the story and the effort involved,” she said. “Performing for the two schools was a growing experience for me as an actress. Both schools reacted differently when compared to the previous audiences and were more reactive to the events of the play. Many of the students who attended the play were the same age as Anne when she went into hiding, a factor that allowed me to focus on telling her story to the students. It is my hope that these students remember Anne’s story when faced with adversity or inequality and let that motivate them to act against it.” Day said the role of Anne “has only intensified my desire to act and inspire others through theatre.” “Though the performances are over, the meaning of the story and the experiences remains with me. The role gave me a different outlook when coping with adversity. Anne’s story has impacted my life by giving me a different outlook on adversity and by making me more grateful for my life and loved ones.” The play received accolades from a respondent with the American College Theatre Festival, who presented the company awards in scene design, sound design, dramaturgy, ensemble acting and two Irene Ryan nominations. “It is wonderful to be rewarded for our efforts in this show,” she said. “However, it is even more wonderful to know that Anne’s memory, and the memories of the six million, have not been forgotten.” One of the production highlights for Day was an opportunity for the current company to meet several of the cast and crew from the 1988 U of O production of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” who had come back to campus for a mini-reunion and to watch the current version of the play. “It was exciting to meet the alumni of the original Anne Frank cast and crew,” she said. “Our theatre department continues to put on excellent productions, but we know that we wouldn’t have the work space or tools without the previous members of the theatre department. We listened to alumni reminisce about how bare and empty the work shop used to be compared to now. Seeing so many theatre lovers of different ages appreciating the art of theatre together was delightful.” Day, who wants to pursue a career in either theatre or art therapy, said the University Theatre program has helped her grow her skills and talents in ways she never would have imagined. “Prior to U of O, I attended a small high school with a limited theatre department,” Day said. “We were unable to build sets or design certain elements of a performance, so I didn’t have a lot of experience coming in. Since then I have gained both performance and technical skills that were essential to gaining an internship. I also gained experience working with various people from different backgrounds and learning how to communicate effectively with department heads. The most rewarding part of being a theatre major is acquiring an essential set of skills such as time management, stress management, and developing a work ethic.” Though it has been nearly three decades since Anthony L. Mariani stood on the stage of the University of the Ozarks’ Seay Theatre, he felt right at home. Mariani, a 1990 Ozarks theatre graduate who has gone on to an accomplished career as a playwright, screenwriter and film and stage director, returned to campus on Feb. 7 to put on a workshop for communication and theatre students on the Seay stage. It was Mariani’s first time on that stage since he served as the student director of the University Theatre’s production of “The Adding Machine” during his senior year in 1990. “It was a little surreal to come back here. It brought back some great memories,” Mariani said. “Dr. Pat Farmer let me direct that play and that was the main reason I got into graduate school and it kind of propelled my career, so this place is special to me. Everything looks just as I remembered it. It feels like home.” Mariani, who lives in Little Rock, was invited back to Ozarks by Susan Edens, associate professor of practice of communication and a former classmate of his at U of O. Mariani spent nearly two hours working with approximately 25 students from the media II and theatre production classes providing technical tips on everything from camera angles to set props. He also shared anecdotes of working on film sets as well as advice on how to break into the industry. “I think it’s very important for alumni to come back and help out current students any way we can,” Mariani said. “If you get a chance to help someone else move forward, you should do it. When I left here I was the first one to go out to Hollywood, so I think it’s important for students to see that you can make it from anywhere. I was fortunate enough to make some connections and networks that have helped other Ozarks students. I also enjoy the teaching aspect. I used to teach high school and I really enjoy sharing knowledge.” After earning an MFA in directing from the California Institute of the Arts, Mariani spent the 1990s working in Hollywood, first as a production assistant on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and then as an assistant director on numerous independent films, commercials and television shows. He returned to Little Rock in the 2000s, where he has found success as a playwright and screenwriter. One of his most recent plays, “I Got You, Babe,” was published in Lawrence Harbison's anthology, “The Best Ten-Minute Plays of 2018,” and was the 2018 10x10 Infinity Best Short Play winner. He has also won numerous awards and recognition for many of his other recent works, including the play, “The Rooster Rebellion,” and the short film, “Don’t You Forget About Me.” “As a playwright, I have tried to tackle social and political topics that face society today,” Mariani said. “I try to tell meaningful stories that an audience can reflect on long after they leave the theatre. I strive to write for change, to affect my audience and to inspire us all to be better humans on this earth.” The Ozarks students enjoyed hearing from an alumnus who could share stories about working with and meeting some of Hollywood’s top names, including director Steven Spielberg and actor Robert De Niro. “To be able to hear from someone who has that type of experience and history in the industry is very inspiring,” said communication student Ariel McKinney. “Knowing that he came from a small school like Ozarks and had success shows us that we can do the same thing and that we should follow our career dreams.” The timing was especially good for Mariani’s visit since many of the students are beginning to work on a multi-class film project. The students are turning a play called “Somoas,” written by U of O Associate Professor of Communication Dr. Rhonda Shook, into a screenplay. “He gave some great tips and advice that will definitely help us in making the film,” said sophomore communication major Bradley Thompson. “To be able to get that kind of information from someone with his experience is a wonderful thing.” Mariani hopes he can also be an inspiration for students in the Jones Learning Center. Mariani said he was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia after high school and that led to him transferring to Ozarks for the learning center. “Think about how it’s like to have dyslexia and dysgraphia and have a play published,” he said. “That to me is pretty amazing and I think it can inspire and motivate learning center students that they can do anything they set their minds to.” Mariani said he has found that his dyslexia actually helps him be a better director. “I had to be such a good listener in class to pick up as much as I could and that has helped me,” he said. “As a director you’ve got to listen to your actors and your performers, pick up on little cues and always be open to advice and input from others. You can’t be rigid in this industry and the training and experience I received in listening has helped tremendously.” Mariani said he has numerous projects in the works, including a play called, “The Morning Chair,” which is having a reading in Austin, Texas, this spring. He is also writing a comedy play called “Annie Luna,” and working on a project that deals with the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.