First Look Winter 2014

Year of the Arts

Year of the Arts

To celebrate the rich history of the arts at Mount Union and the opening of the University’s brand new Richard F. and Sandra L. Giese Center for the Performing Arts, the 2015 calendar year has been deemed the “Year of the Arts.”

The Year of the Arts will come in the form of a yearlong celebration beginning in January. A number of special performances, including nationally known groups, will take place in the state-of-the-art Center. The event lineup for the year is being planned by the University’s Year of the Arts committee, which includes representatives of the departments of Art, Music and Theatre, along with several others on campus.

“Our vision is to try to diversify the arts offerings for the University and the community as a whole,” said Rudy Roggenkamp, professor of theatre and chair of the Year of the Arts committee. “We’re planning to bring in a variety of performers who you normally wouldn’t see on a college campus.”

A gala opening for the Giese Center for the Performing Arts will take place February 19-21, with a variety of performances offered for students, the community and special guests.

“The University has a history of strong visual and performing arts programs, and the Year of the Arts is a great way to celebrate that history with a number of special events and performances,” said Dr. Richard F. Giese, president of Mount Union. “We look forward to seeing the visual and performing arts programs continue to flourish and our students and alumni continue to thrive thanks to their involvement with the fine arts on campus.”

In addition to special guest performances, the Year of the Arts will feature a full repertoire of music and theatre student performances in the new facility, as well as gallery shows by student and professional artists. In addition, a number of the 2015 lectures will be dedicated to the arts. On April 1, the John and Eleanor Mincks Wolf Lecture in Music Education and English will be presented by Jazz Trombonist Bob Ferrel and Vocalist Helen Welch. The Myrtie Allen Kershaw Lectureship on Poetry and the Fine Arts, slated for April 7, will feature Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, composers of “A Christmas Story, the Musical on Broadway” and the musical “Edges,” which was previously presented by Mount Union students.

The Department of Theatre will christen the stage this spring as it presents the musical production “Hot ‘n’ Cole” March 19-22. Another highlight during the spring will take place as Dr. Maira Liliestedt, associate professor of music, presents a series of three sabbatical performances on piano, “Con passion.”

“We’re hoping that through the Year of the Arts, we can attract the community – Alliance and beyond – to the facility, and make the community more aware of the offerings the University has for them,” Roggenkamp said.

Visit throughout 2015 to view updated information on the Year of the Arts.

Mount Union’s Performing Arts Center Named in Honor of Gieses

The University of Mount Union Board of Trustees voted unanimously in October to name the institution’s new performing arts center in honor of Dr. Richard and Mrs. Sandra Giese. Richard has served as president of the institution since 2005, when he and Sandra returned to Mount Union and the Alliance community they had called home for 19 years. The facility, the Richard F. and Sandra L. Giese Center for the Performing Arts, is slated to open in January.

Since returning to the University, the Gieses have worked collectively with members of the Mount Union community to accomplish a number of goals under six strategic initiatives of Advancing Excellence – A Strategic Plan for the University of Mount Union that include developing a curriculum for the future, fostering an engaging campus community, managing strategic enrollment growth, ensuring the sustainable management of resources, enhancing the diversity of the campus community and broadening the visibility and reputation of the institution.

In January, Richard announced that he would step down as president of the University at the close of his current contract on June 30, 2015.

“As the Gieses enjoy their final year at Mount Union, it is only fitting that we think of a way to recognize and honor them for their exceptional service to the University,” said Randy Hunt ’75, chair of the Board of Trustees. “Their passion for this new facility has been evident from the beginning, and they were instrumental in pushing us to move forward with the challenge of making it a reality. It is only appropriate that it be their names etched in stone on its facade, that their legacy be honored by all those who enter its doors.”

New Performing Arts Center to Broaden Fine Arts Offerings

The Richard F. and Sandra L. Giese Center for the Performing Arts, slated to open in January, will provide enhanced performance space for each of the fine arts areas.

Named in honor of President Richard F. and Sandra L. Giese, the facility comes in the form of a significant renovation and addition to the west end of the existing arts facility. The project emerged as a priority during the University’s campus master planning process carried out in partnership with Cleveland-based architectural and engineering firm, Westlake Reed Leskosky. The facility will include a new lobby with windows overlooking the Campus Lakes, proscenium theatre, black box theatre, green room, scene shop, costume shop, dressing area, art gallery and choral rehearsal hall. Other new features include a coat check room, concession stand and box office.

The total cost for the project is estimated at $13 million, but the benefits to students will far exceed the price. According to Dr. Patricia Boehm, professor of music and chair of the departments of Music and Theatre, both choral and instrumental ensembles and theatre productions will benefit from the facility’s offerings.

“We will definitely enjoy the new stage and the possibilities it brings both for music and theatre events, special guest ensembles and large ensembles such as the Alliance Symphony Orchestra, the Repertory Strings, Wind Ensemble and Concert Band,” Boehm said. “They will all be able to comfortably fit each of their performers on that stage for their individual concerts.”

A new sound shell will also be part of the construction, a brand new feature for Mount Union performers. A larger orchestra pit will allow for enhanced theatre productions and a specialized sound system in both theatres will assist the hearing impaired.

According to building steward Rudy Roggenkamp, professor of theatre, better technology and microphones will allow all performances to be recorded, and improved lighting will provide additional training opportunities for students.

“Both the blackbox theatre and the main performance hall will have lighting systems made by two different manufacturers,” Roggenkamp said. “Students will have the opportunity to be trained on both the Philips Strand equipment and Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC) lighting and will gain knowledge of how to program both boards.”

The blackbox theatre will expand staging possibilities for both the music and theatre departments.

“This will be very helpful because we won’t always have to structure a performance for the big stage or Presser Hall,” Boehm said. “There will be a third venue where we can try something experimental and change the seating around to make it a traditional or non-traditional set up.”

The new space will also include a choral rehearsal hall, which will include choral faculty offices and a new, state-of-the-art rehearsal hall with the capability of recording. This space will be dedicated to choir rehearsals and other special events. In addition, compact shelving will be installed in the space so the choral library can be housed there.

In addition to enhancing musical and theatrical opportunities for students, the new art gallery space in the building will provide greater visibility for both student and professional visual artists’ work. The gallery space will feature focusable LED lighting, which will use less electricity and allow for lighting to be adjusted based on the specific work on display.

“This will give artists an improved exhibition space with a very professional backdrop to showcase work,” said Margo Miller, associate professor of art and chair of the Department of Art.

“Much of what is being done is not just a renovation – it’s a considerable expansion of the performance and technical facilities,” Roggenkamp said. “Our new facilities will be state of the art and will provide more performance possibilities for students and enhanced capabilities for displaying artistic works.”


Second Season of Shakespeare at the Castle Planned for July

Kevin P. Kern, assistant professor of theatre at Mount Union, will bring Shakespeare at the Castle to the Carnation City’s Glamorgan Castle for a second season in summer 2015.

This year’s performance, “The Taming of the Shrew,” will be presented July 23-26 at Glamorgan Castle.

“Shakespeare at the Castle allows people to come to our town for a cultural event as opposed to making residents go elsewhere for such an experience,” Kern said.

During the inaugural event held in July, more than 750 people watched “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which featured performances by students from Alliance High School and the University of Mount Union, members of the Alliance community and professional actors from the greater Cleveland area and beyond. Music was provided by a 10-piece orchestral consort directed by Eric Benjamin.

“That partnership made the event a very unique experience,” Kern said. “Not only did we see live theatre, but we heard a lush orchestra as well.”

Kern said Shakespeare at the Castle is an opportunity for collaboration amongst many community entities.

“The Alliance City School District, Rodman Public Library, the mayor’s office and Mount Union all came together to create this event – what great synergy that is,” he said.

The event also serves as a way for Mount Union students to get professional theatre experience during the summer months as they work with professional actors brought in from all over the country.

“This allows students to benefit from a small school atmosphere while receiving large school opportunities,” Kern said.

In addition to presenting “The Taming of the Shrew” this summer, the artists will provide workshops free of charge to the young people in the Alliance community. These unique educational experiences will use the words, history and music of William Shakespeare to develop an appreciation for live theatre.

Grant funds for the event have been secured from the Stark Community Foundation, the Greater Alliance Foundation and Mount Union. Also supporting the production are the City of Alliance, Alliance City Schools and Carnation City Players.

In addition, the following donors have “adopted’ a character for the upcoming summer performance: Alliance Ventures (Gerard and Laura Mastroianni), Ross and Harriet Clem, Donna (Elliot ’51) Ermlich, Sandra Giese ’81, Peter Gligor ’62 and Patti Schaefer, Bradley and Suzan Goris, Lee and Beth (Freshley ’77) Gray, Greater Alliance Foundation, Carnation City Center, Inc. (David and Beth Mitchell), Carol Grove, Robert Hankins, Fred ’63 and Victoria Haupt, Pat ’86 and Lori Heddleston, Jeffrey ’74 and Jane Jakmides, Gregory King ’89, Leigh Mainwaring ’70 and Herb Spear, John and Madge Peters, Rodman Capital Management (David ’78 and Sandra ’85 Rodman) and Russell and Anne Taub.

For more information on Shakespeare at the Castle, visit

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