College of Visual and Performing Arts

Theatre Department Stories


Several professors affiliated with the College of Visual and Performing Arts will retire on Dec. 31, 2014.  Their service to VPA has been invaluable over the years and they have made a lasting impression on students, faculty and staff.  We wish them great success in their future endeavors and if you would like to congratulate them before the end of the semester, here is an opportunity to do so. Click the professor’s name and you will go directly to their faculty page for contact information.

Robert D. Bean, professor of music
Barbara Resch, professor of music and chair of the Department of Music
Steven T. Sarratore, professor of theatre and associate vice chancellor of academic programs

The Department of Theatre was notified by the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST) Commission on Accreditation at the end of April that it has been approved for continuing accreditation following its most recent evaluation. The Commission on Accreditation and the Association noted that it “appreciated the institution’s efforts with regard to its application, and its careful consideration of and attention to NAST accreditation standards and guidelines.” IPFW is now one of approximately 175 accredited institutional members across the country.

New Company-in-Residence

Mikautadze Dance Theatre (MTD) The IPFW College of Visual and Performing Arts is pleased to announce that the Mikautadze Dance Theatre (MDT) is the newest company-in-residence on the IPFW campus. MDT strives to bring the art of professional modern and contemporary dance to Fort Wayne and surrounding communities through dance performance and the advancement of creative movement and dance education.

MDT works to create a  unique theatrical experience by producing work that is a synthesis of many art forms. “We strive to reach this goal through collaborative efforts both within the company and with other artists,” said Elizabeth Mikautadze, MTD’s artistic director.

A unique aspect of the group is the husband and wife team who take the lead. David Mikautadze, Elizabeth’s husband, serves as the musical director for MTD and composes much of the music they use in their choreography. “It has been our dream since we met to one day have this company!” explains Elizabeth.

For more information about their company, visit them at

Zischke Featured at St. Louis Rep

Assistant Professor Victoria Adams-Zischke currently is featured in the role of Belinda Blair in Noises Off! on stage at the St. Louis Repertory Theatre through April 13, 2014. 

“Everybody contributes a bright character and goofy physical comedy to this group effort…. Singly, each one is a treat; together, they’re a comedic juggernaut.” Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Noises Off! is the story of a traveling actors’ troupe putting on a prop-heavy sex-farce (Nothing On), with seven doors slamming left and right, and little or no time to get it right. And then, of course, all the usual things that typically would go wrong in the privacy of a normal rehearsal schedule must transpire on the road, during the tour, and in the midst of various performances. Reviews for the comedy that concludes the season for the St. Louis Rep have been superb.

Noises Off! returns to the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis after the initial production 25 years ago and this time it’s just as hilarious and just as finely tuned.” Stage Door St. Louis

“It’s a remarkable, breathless, end-of-the-world experience, in the best possible way. It’s like electro-shock therapy, I imagine: everything else just sizzles into non-existence, in the face of sheer comic terror and abandon. Miraculous.” Richard Green, Talking Broadway

Jeff Casazza – Featured Faculty

Jeff Casazza, associate professor of acting, movement, and voice, is one of four IPFW Featured Faculty for 2014. Each year, several IPFW faculty members are honored for their outstanding performance in their area of research, scholarly activity, or creative endeavor. As a quality measure that distinguishes IPFW from other institutions of higher education, the accomplishments of the Featured Faculty illustrate the comprehensive and significant contributions of IPFW faculty to the sciences, arts, humanities, and society.
Each of the IPFW Featured Faculty honorees will present a lecture about their research. Casazza will present a lecture on Wednesday, March 5, at the Helmke Library Learning Commons from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. “My presentation for the Featured Faculty Award is called A Return to Childhood: How We Speak and Why We Lose Our Voices,” said Casazza. “While the focus of my lecture is not specifically on Linklater Voice—a vocal technique created by Kristin Linklater and used throughout the world—it serves as the backdrop for how anyone would benefit from using this method whether performer or not.”

Casazza went on to say, “I have explored this extensively and recently have been accepted into the multi-year designation process. My lecture will discuss how the voice works and how each step along that process can create challenges for the speaker. It is suitable for anyone who wants to strengthen or enhance his or her voice and become a more connected and effective speaker in any circumstance.”

Other honorees include Professor of Biology George Mourad, Associate Professor of Biology Ahmed Mustafa, and Associate Professor of Religious Studies Erik Ohlander.

For more information on this lecture series and the awardees, visit:

AVON Foundation Supports New Video Production

Filming is complete and editing continues at IPFW on the new Sexual Assault Prevention Awareness video that is being sponsored by a $5,000 grant from the AVON Foundation.  Julie Creek, coordinator for the Center for Women and Returning Adults, submitted the grant application to fund this project that will help educate students during IPFW’s sexual assault awareness sessions on campus. 

The script, written by Assistant Professor of Theatre Victoria Zischke and senior theatre major Carly Thompson, was approved by the Fort Wayne Women’s Bureau and the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center. Zischke also is directing the video while Thompson wrote the sections of the script on consent and positive by-standers. Scott Magers, a production supervisor for CollegeTV (CTV) is in charge of filming.  The video also involves other theatre majors as actors and CTV work study students as production assistants. The video is scheduled to be completed after the first of the year.

Meet Dan Butler, Cast and Crew

Theatre patrons are invited to meet Dan Butler, Richard Waterhouse and the entire cast and crew of Our Town for a special opening night reception immediately following the Friday, Dec. 6, performance at the IPFW Alumni Center.  Our Town tickets for the reception are $15 and include a selection of hors d’oeuvres, a complimentary drink and a wine and beer cash bar, as well as the opportunity to meet one of our most ardent supporters of the Department of Theatre.  Not only has Butler created an endowed scholarship for the department, but he returns on a regular basis to conduct a workshop with the students on acting for the camera. 

“Yes, opening night is sold out,” explained Craig Humphrey, interim chair of the Department of Theatre. “However, we are still inviting friends of the department to join us for this exciting reception, even if their tickets for the show are for subsequent nights.” 

Performances for Our Town will run from Dec. 6 through Dec. 15. Tickets for the reception and performances are available at the IPFW Box Office at 260-481-6555 or

Arts Weekly Welcomes New Host

John O’Connell, the new dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts is excited to be showcasing artists and performers from around the region as the new regular host of Arts Weekly every Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. on WFW39.  The program, now in its fifth year, has featured other talented hosts and he is ready to take his place among them. 

“Former VPA Dean Chuck O’Connor started the program,” explained O’Connell, “And Melinda Haines, assistant to the dean for community outreach, has done a great job maintaining the quality of this cultural icon that now has become a part of people’s regular television line-up.”

The weekly half hour program features regional artists, musicians, dancers, directors and actors discussing their work and how people in the community can enjoy it, making the arts part of their lives.  Repeat performances of the broadcasts are listed on the Arts Weekly website along with links to previous interviews on their YouTube channel.

Jeff Casazza Wins Leepoxy Plastics Teaching Award Jeff Casazza – Leepoxy Plastics Teaching Award Winner

Jeff Casazza, associate professor of theatre, won the Leepoxy Plastics, Inc. Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for his innovative approach to teaching Theatrical Composition. The award was established in 2003 by area businessman Lawrence Lee to recognize and encourage innovative undergraduate teaching that enhances student learning.

The selection committee, comprised of two faculty members, two students and a staff member designated by the vice chancellor of academic affairs, chose Casazza from among five nominees from three colleges. In coming to a consensus on the winner, the insights and perspectives of the student members of the committee were particularly persuasive. Further, Casazza provided ample convincing evidence showing that his innovation enhanced learning outcomes. The chancellor will present Jeff with the award and $1,000 in professional development funds at the annual convocation ceremony in August 2013.


Moser as Orlando and Orlando
Heather Moser plays the role of Orlando as both a Victorian woman (left) and as an Edwardian man.

Moser as Orlando and Orlando

Senior theatre major Heather Moser will wrap up her education at IPFW in the title role of Orlando, written by Virginia Woolf and adapted for the stage by Sarah Ruhl. Orlando will open at Williams Theatre Friday, April 12, and run through April 19. Orlando will take audiences on a journey through the centuries, bending their understanding of gender as Orlando, who begins as an Elizabethan nobleman, becomes a 19th-century woman. Moser will have plenty of room to stretch her skills as an actor in this contemporary adaptation directed by Jeff Casazza, IPFW assistant professor of acting, movement and voice.

“I’m in the process of completing the Honors Certificate along with my B.A. in Theatre,” said Moser. “When Jeff put Orlando on the calendar I was really excited that we would be doing the play, and when he asked if I would like to do this as my honors project,” said Moser, “my response was an enthusiastic yes.”

The IPFW Honors Program is open to all students with a 3.3 cumulative grade point average (GPA) or better. IPFW has created the Honors Program capstone course, in which participating students are asked to undertake an independent research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Each project encourages intellectual independence and introduces students to proper research methods in preparing for graduate work. In preparing for the role of Orlando, Moser thoroughly researched the life and writings of Virginia Woolf. “I was astounded at how much this project has changed my perceptions on research,” explained Moser. “My (artistic) choices have been greatly influenced and are much more informed.”

This will be Moser’s 14th play at IPFW. Her roles have included ensemble work in The Yellow Boat, Servant 3 in King Lear, Third God in The Good Person of Szechuan, and Old Sally in Oliver! In preparing for these roles Moser has trained in hand-to-hand combat, learned a British accent and taken movement and dance. But this kind of in-depth research as part of the honors project is new for Moser, who plans to do more research of her roles in the future. “Hopefully it all results in a more fully fleshed individual,” said Moser. “I think it really adds to the dimension of the character.”

In addition to her studies at IPFW Moser is also a horseback riding instructor for the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) After 16 years as a competitive Jumper/Hunter, Moser decided to put her passion and skills to work teaching autistic children and disabled children to ride.

“Five years ago I was enrolled at a different school and on my way to becoming a physical therapist,” Moser continued. “Not only has the theatre department become family, it’s helped me to open my imagination, form my own opinions and learn to express myself. It was one of the best decisions of my life.” For more information on the IPFW Honors Program visit:

Pressler ImpressesIPFW alumna Blane Pressler

IPFW alumnus Blane Pressler ('09) recently was cast in the role of Jesus in Passion an adaptation of the Biblical story of the last days of Christ, written by Pam Reckamp. The play was presented by the Spotlight Theatre at the Skip Virah Center for the Arts, in St Louis, Missouri, on March 22, 2013.

In April, Pressler will take part in the 2013 St. Louis Shake38, a 38-play Shakespeare marathon that takes place throughout St. Louis and in surrounding communities, in advance of the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival. This year, Shake38 will celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, running April 19, 2013, through the Bard’s birthday on April 23. Pressler will take part in an updated version of Romeo and Juliet at Nevous International in St Charles, Missouri, on April 23. The cast of six each will take on multiple roles. Pressler’s roles will include the Friar, the Nurse and Gregory.

Pressler will continue to stay busy throughout the summer season at the Ozark Actors Theatre, in Rolla, Missouri. He has been cast as Captain Hook in Peter Pan, Leon in Fools and the Baker in Into the Woods.

For more information visit:

Oliver!, the beloved musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist

It’s a Fine Life

Oliver!, the beloved musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist runs from Feb. 8–17, 2013, at the Arts United Center and audiences are in for a delightful new “twist” when Julie Jahn uses some exciting sign-language techniques to interpret the final performance on Sunday, February 17.

Jahn, who is the sign language interpreter for the Department of Theatre, received specialized training over the summer specifically geared toward delivering more exciting and complete musical interpretation during a weeklong workshop in August, 2012, at Bringing the Stage to Life (BSL) in Nashville, Tenn.

During the BSL workshop, 23 sign-language interpreters from around the country learned enhanced techniques to more effectively interpret Broadway musicals and music concerts like those performed at the Grand Ol’ Opry. Jahn is excited to try some of these new techniques with the musical Oliver!

The concept behind the BSL training is that you become the character you are signing.  That means changing your facial expressions and physical movement for each character as the story moves forward. It also can mean donning country western attire if you are interpreting singers on the Opry stage, for example. Properly interpreted, the deaf should be able know who you are and not just what you are saying with your hands.

Classes were offered in acting, costuming, character make-up and understanding the complexities of different performance stages and major concert venues. “The interpreter needs to interpret ‘who’ is on stage and not ‘what’ is on stage,” explained Jahn. “Simply by costuming the interpreter for example, you create a more seamless presentation between the song and what you are doing in the eyes of the deaf.  They want to see the music.”

It will be Jahn’s task to give voice to a cast of characters that ranges from the innocent Oliver to the villainous Bill Sykes to the scheming Fagin. It also will be her task to bring Lionel Bart’s beloved melodies into sight. So how does one prepare to interpret for such a big production? “I read the play three to five times, I listen to the music dozens of times and then I go see a rehearsal so that I know how the show is blocked. I have to learn the lyrics completely and I need to be prepared for those times when a characters' back might be turned to me,” explained Jahn. “I also reflect the characters personalities as I deliver their lines. It can be very challenging.”

In the fall, Jahn interpreted The Women of Lockerbie for the IPFW Department of Theatre. “When the characters were yelling or crying it was my job to bring those inflections into my work,” said Jahn. “It can be exhausting, but it’s always really satisfying to me. I try my best to melt in with the cast and become part of what they are doing. Interpreting needs to be a parallel thing, not a tennis match.”

Jahn began interpreting 33 years ago and started interpreting theatrical productions for IPFW 12 years ago. Her work with IPFW has grown over the years and she has served as a personal interpreter for numerous deaf students at IPFW.  In addition to her work as an interpreter, Jahn teaches workshops and helps others to learn sign language. 

Performances for Oliver! are at the Arts United Center from Feb. 8–17, 2013.  For more information on tickets call the ArtsTix Community Box Office at 260-42-24226 or visit

Brushing Up Brush Up

Brushing Up Brush Up

The Brush Up Your Shakespeare tour is absolutely free to area high schools and this year offers an exciting workshop option that teachers can take advantage of when they book the performance at their school.

Northeast Indiana Diversity Library’s Archive Receives ’s Papers
Larry Life (foreground) conducts a symposium during Edith Stein (2000) with playwright Arthur Giron.

Northeast Indiana Diversity Library’s Archive Receives Larry Life’s Papers 

The Northeast Indiana Diversity Library (NIDL), is pleased to announce that they have been selected as the repository for a collection of Larry L. Life’s papers focusing on some of the most diverse and controversial productions of the late director’s career.  Life served as the professor of theatre and chair and artistic director of the Department of Theatre, a position he held until his death in February 2007.

NIDL, currently housed on the lower level of IPFW’s Helmke Library, was formed in 1978 and started with two shelves of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) information in the social room of the Open Door Chapel on Leith Street in downtown Fort Wayne.

Created to serve the GLBT community, the goal of NIDL is to preserve and protect materials that embody the history of the GLBT culture, with a focus on regional history.  The papers of Larry Life represent a significant chapter in the regional history of the GLBT community and the NIDL. 

Life directed more than 150 productions at IPFW and acted in over 50, two of which were highly controversial: Bent, a play about the fate of homosexuals in Nazi Germany, and Corpus Christi, a play that featured a Christ-like character who was gay. These two plays garnered national attention and created controversial community reactions and discussions.

Born in Muncie, Ind., on August 26, 1943, Life earned a B.S. and M.A. in Theatre from Ball State University in 1967 and 1969, respectively.  In the late 1960s he moved to New York City where he worked as an actor and choreographer at a variety of theatres, including the National Theatre and the Round-A-Bout.  He appeared in two feature films; Me Natalie, with Patty Duke, and The Detective, with Frank Sinatra.

Larry began his teaching career at Texas A&I University in Kingsville, Texas, and then moved to IPFW in the fall of 1971.  Throughout his tenure at IPFW Life maintained a national profile in the arts and was listed in the Who’s Who in Entertainment in 1991. He was the recipient of numerous professional entertainment and academic awards. 

The first shipment of Life’s papers has arrived and the NIDL is expecting a second shipment soon. The NIDL can be found on the lower level of Helmke Library along with resources supporting gender studies and women’s studies at IPFW.