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From Shrek To Amadeus, Here's What's Coming Up At UK's College Of Fine Arts

Tom Godell

Mark Shanda, dean of UK’s College of Fine Arts stopped by our studios recently. He brought us up to date on several upcoming events at the college including the record-breaking Ralph Steadman exhibit at the UK Art Museum, the UK Symphony’s unusual presentation of the film Amadeus, Opera Theater’s Grand Night for Singing, and UK Theater’s Shrek.

This conversation was recorded for broadcast on April 12, 2019. The production of Shrek mentioned in the interview opens on Thursday April 11 at 7:30 pm, and continues with performances Friday April 12 through Sunday April 14.


GODELL: Fine Arts for everyone, today on UK Perspectives. UK's College of Fine Arts believes that the arts are essential to the life of the individual and the community. From family-friendly musicals to the rock star life of Mozart to the cartoon as art, they've got you covered. Leading the charge at the college since 2017 has been Dean Mark Shanda, who joins us for this edition of UK Perspectives. I'm Tom Godell. Welcome, Mark.

SHANDA: Thanks, Tom. Happy to be here.

GODELL: Before coming to UK, you taught theater. You've written books and magazine articles on the subject. And you've been honored by the Kennedy Center for your work. So I wonder, in this age of streaming video and cell phones that are absolutely everywhere, why do we need live theater?

SHANDA: There's no substitute for the live interaction between an audience and a performer. The energy that comes across the footlights or across the stage is something that can't be captured on any digital screen. If you look at the difference between going to one of the digital recordings of the Metropolitan Opera versus being in the Metropolitan Opera House, they're just apples and oranges. We have to just continue to get more and more people to understand that difference and engage in live performance.

GODELL: We'll come back to the subject of theater in a moment, but first UK's School of Music is celebrating its hundredth anniversary this year. Coming up on April 26th and 27th at the Singletary Center, the UK Symphony will celebrate with the iconic film Amadeus. How's that performance shaping up?

SHANDA: They're heavy into rehearsals right now. It's a fascinating project where the film is screened on a large screen behind the orchestra. And the orchestra is actually playing the live score. It's pretty dynamic and our students are being challenged by that Mozart music, but they're rising to the occasion.

GODELL: Once those performances are done, the symphony season isn't over yet. There's a little concert coming up in May.

SHANDA: Yeah, we're pretty happy that the exclamation point on our hundredth anniversary season is the opportunity for our symphony orchestra and our wind symphony to perform in Stern Auditorium, on the Perlman Stage, at the famous Carnegie Hall. That performance is scheduled for May 29th and tickets are on sale right now.

GODELL: You know what they say. To get to Carnegie Hall, practice, practice. practice!

SHANDA: Indeed, and they are. Our students are doing that. It's going to be a great trip for all of those students because they're not only spending time in rehearsal at Carnegie Hall, they're doing some clinics in New York City and also taking in some of the sites, as well as maybe a Broadway play or two.

GODELL: This year UK's Opera Theatre has continued its tradition of excellence both visually and vocally with a stunning production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. What's next for them?

SHANDA: It's a Lexington tradition: it's the annual Grand Night For Singing that's coming up on June 7th through the 16th, with both evening and afternoon performances. Grand Night is an amazing tradition. And, in fact, my first year as Dean, I hadn't seen it when I arrived, and everybody had been talking about it. So last year was my first time. This will be my second, and I'm really looking forward to it.

GODELL: Speaking of music and musicals, UK Theater is right in the middle of a production of Shrek this weekend. What should we look for in that production?

SHANDA: If you enjoyed any of the DreamWorks productions of the cartoons of Shrek 1, 2 or 3, you'll enjoy Shrek the Musical. This was an adaptation that was on Broadway about five years ago. And it has an amazing opportunity for our students to try new dimensions of makeup and presentation. And there's a lot of digital media behind the scenes that are supporting the scenery elements. They'll have a great production, and it’s got performances at two in the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday. And at 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday, as well as tonight (Friday April 12).

GODELL: Stuart Horodner came to the UK Art Museum and has really brought renewed energy and exciting, challenging new exhibits -- from the photos of Eugene Meatyard to the Gonzo graphics of Ralph Steadman. What's your vision for the future of the UK Art Museum?

SHANDA: One of the things that Stewart and I talk about frequently is the fact that since it's an art museum on a university campus, it has to integrate into the fabric of the university. So for the Meatyard exhibit, for example, we not only had the Midwest Photography Exhibition that attracted educators from all over the Midwest to come to UK to talk about how photography is taught in this day and age with the change from darkrooms to digital. But we also integrated with various academic programs across the campus, including the Department of English that did creative writing in there. We had historians come look at the time period. Over the course of the Meatyard exhibit, we had over a hundred different groups tour through and take advantage of the work. Right now is the Ralph Steadman exhibit, and we're breaking records in terms of how many people are coming to that. People may not know the name of Ralph Steadman, but as soon as you walk in and see some of his work, it will become familiar to you. I almost guarantee you've seen it before.

GODELL: Approximately how many students are there in the College of Fine Arts?

SHANDA: We have about a thousand students over the four units that are in the College of Fine Arts. About 850 to 900 are in the undergraduate programs and about 100 to 150 are in the graduate program.

GODELL: One of the programs in the college that we don't hear much about is Arts Administration, and I'd like to learn a little bit more about that.

SHANDA: Sure. Actually, one of the reasons I came to UK to become Dean was the reputation of the Arts Administration program. It's one of the oldest in the country at the undergraduate level. And it's one of the pioneers of online education and distance learning, with one of the premier master’s programs for arts administrators. Arts administration looks at things like budgeting and audience engagement and cultural impact. And our students become, really, the leaders of the next art forms. And those that are at the graduate level are typically working professionals that are out there that are expanding their career and expanding their credentials by participating in our online master's program.

GODELL: And with the Art Museum, the Symphony, and the Singletary Center they have quite a few real-life examples to work with right here on campus.

SHANDA: They do. They have some real-life examples. And the undergraduate curriculum requires two different internships: one local -- which again you've said that there's quite a menu here -- and then one national or international. So we have students that frequently go to Washington, DC as well as overseas to places like London and Paris.

GODELL: What other aspects of the college, particularly on the academic side, have we left out? What haven't we talked about that you'd like to mention today?

SHANDA: I think the College of Fine Arts has a deep connection to the UK core and exposing students all over campus to the arts and thinking about quality of life. You read from our mission statement at the beginning, about how we believe the arts are essential both to the individual and the community. And so we instill that in nearly every student that's on campus.

I also would be remiss if I didn't talk about the connection of the Fine Arts and the athletic program. If you've been to any of our athletic events -- and we've had some pretty good success this year both with basketball and football -- the National Anthem, the Pep Bands, and the Marching Band, all of those are housed in the College of Fine Arts. And the majority of those students are non-music majors. They're from all over campus. In fact, our highest number of musicians in the marching band come from the engineering school.

GODELL: That's amazing. I would not have expected that.

SHANDA: Yeah. Most people are surprised to discover it. But it is a lifelong love. We have a lot of engineers who still like to play trumpet or trombone and celebrate the Wildcat's victories.

GODELL: Hopefully there will be many more to celebrate during your tenure here.

SHANDA: I am confident.

GODELL: Our guest has been Mark Shanda, Dean of the UK College of Fine Arts. You can hear more of our conversation at WUKY.org. For 91.3 WUKY, I'm Tom Godell.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Tom Godell has been the General Manager of WUKY since April 2004. Earlier in his career he served as Senior Producer with WBHM in Birmingham AL, Program Director of WLRH in Huntsville AL, and Associate Director of Broadcasting for Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He is a dog lover, cycling enthusiast, second baseman (willing to play anytime, anywhere), and music fanatic. His writings on music have appeared in the American Record Guide, Fanfare magazine, the All Music Guide, and RCA Records.