CSUF Dance: In Memory fo Brian Sepel


A statement from our Dance Program on the life of a wonderful colleague and friend:

“Our dear Brian Sepel lost his battle with cancer on November 24, 2016.

For over a decade, Brian Sepel brought music, humor, and his generosity in helping us discover more of the dancing within each of us. As our fulltime professional musician here at the Theatre and Dance Department at Cal State University Fullerton, he was a unique force of support and collaboration and music. He fed all of us with his contagious pleasure of making rhythm, melody and atmosphere, and helped us all find inspiration and meet the challenges of our days. Although it always seemed to simply pour out of him, Brian worked tirelessly to keep his music rich and meaningful whether drumming for a modern class or on the piano for a ballet class. I know that we have all greatly missed him this last year and will always cherish having had him as a colleague and as a friend.

In Brian’s memory, we plan on creating the Brian Sepel Dance Major Scholarship.  It is something we can do to honor him, his music and to help continue his warm support of our dance students.

Brian was born in South Africa and started his musical life playing in a variety of successful original rock and jazz bands, he built and ran his own recording studio, writing and producing audio for radio and TV advertising. After moving to America he free-lanced as a dance accompanist, playing piano for ballet, and percussion for modern dance classes at UCI, Chapman, IVC, Fullerton College, Santa Ana College and a number of smaller private studios, before settling down at Cal State University Fullerton. Some of the ballet luminaries he worked with include: Mignon Furman (AAB), Barbara Arms (Ballet Russe), Glenn Eddy (Nederlans Danse), Stephanie Saland (NY City Ballet), Brian Loftus (Sadlers Wells). The modern luminaries he worked with include: Donald McKayle, Risa Steinberg, Colin Connor, Louis Kavouras, Bonnie Oda Homsey. Together with his sister Merle Sepel-Wagner, Brian combined all his skills as an accompanist, composer and recording engineer to produce The Enchanted Doorway series. This educational series includes five titles of narrated story with music and instruction, for teachers to use as a dance class for children ages 4 to 6.”

We send our regards and keep his family in our thoughts.


CSUF Theatre: The Drowsy Chaperone


FULLERTON, CA–Cal State Fullerton’s production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” with Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar is directed by Sarah Ripper, choreographed by William F. Lett, with musical direction by Mitchell Hanlon. Performances will be held in the Little Theatre, November 18-December 11, 2016.

“The Drowsy Chaperone” is a joyous send-up of the Jazz age musical featuring one show-stopping song-and-dance number after another. With the houselights down, a man in a chair appears on stage and puts on his favorite record: the cast recording of a fictitious 1928 musical. The recording comes to life and the musical begins as the man in the chair looks on. Mix in two lovers on the eve of their wedding, a bumbling best man, a desperate theatre producer, a not so bright hostess, two gangsters posing as pastry chefs, a misguided Don Juan and an intoxicated chaperone, and you have the ingredients for an evening of madcap delight. The original production was hailed by New York Magazine as “The Perfect Broadway Musical.”

Director Sarah Ripper earned her MA in Educational Theatre from NYU, and received her BFA in Musical Theatre from Sam Houston State University. Sarah was the runner up in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Directing Competition in 2015 and is in her last year in the Department of Theatre and Dance’s MFA in Directing program. Some of Sarah’s directing credits include “Moon Over Buffalo” and “Spring Awakening” at Sam Houston State University and “Really Really” and “Dancing at Lughnasa” at Cal State Fullerton.

The cast of “The Drowsy Chaperone” includes Joshua Johnson as Man in Chair, Adriana Rodriguez as Mrs. Tottendale, Colby Hamann as Underling, Quentin Carbajal as Robert Martin, Cody Bianchi as George, Joe Stein as Feldzieg, Allison Schynert as Kitty, Marqell Edward Clayton as Gangster 1, Kyle Kayvaun Pazdel as Gangster 2, Ala Tiatia as Aldolpho, Kristina Dizon as Janet Van De Graaff, Erin Tierney as The Drowsy Chaperone, Kayla Contreras as Trix the Aviatrix, Matthew Ollson as Superintendent and the ensemble includes Evan Borboa, Lily Bryson, Hannah Clair, Jeff Garrido, Scout Lepore, Matthew Ollson, Allison J. Parker, Olivia Pence, Anthony Michael Vacio, and Samantha Wojtaszek.

Scenic design is by JR Luker, lighting design is by Katy Streeter, costume design is by Bradley Lock, sound design is by Cierra Peet and hair/makeup design is by Leland Stephens.

“The Drowsy Chaperone” plays at 8pm on November 18, 19, December 1,2, 3, 8, 9, 10 and at 2pm on December 3, 4, 10, 11. General admission tickets are $24 ($22 with advance Titan Discount purchase for students, seniors or with a CSUF ID). All tickets are $24 at the door. Tickets are available by calling (657) 278-3371, 11am-5pm, Monday through Friday and online.

Faculty Feature: Mike McGee

2016 OC Arts Awards Honorees – From Left – John Forsyte, Damien & Yvonne Jordan, Mike McGee, Andy Russell – accepting for PBS SoCal, Yevgenia Mikhailik, Allen Moon

On Tuesday, October 25, Arts Orange County held its 17th Annual OC Arts Awards at the Samueli Theater at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The ceremony gave special honors to exceptional organizations and individuals and celebrated their lives and accomplishments to the arts community. Cal State Fullerton College of the Arts’ own professor, Mike McGee was one of the 2016 honorees of the Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award!

Professor McGee has worked as an art writer, curator, and arts administrator since 1982 and heads our College of the Arts’s graduate program in museum studies/exhibition design. Students who have studied with him have moved on to work at major galleries and museums in Orange County. On top of teaching at CSUF, Professor McGee has served as a past president of the Board of Trustees for the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, co-founder of the Grand Central Art Center, founding board member of the Arts Orange County and the City of Santa Ana Arts Commission, a member of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force for the City of Santa Ana (an integral part in the creation of the Artists Village), and doubled the number of works in our university’s sculpture collection.

Congratulations to Mike McGee on your Cultural Legacy Award! Your many contributions and the success of your students speaks influence that you have had in the arts community!

CSUF Theatre: Pride & Prejudice


Photo by Jordan Kubat


Cal State Fullerton’s production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Jon Jory, is directed by Professor Mark Ramont and runs November 4-20, 2016 in the Young Theatre on campus. Adaptor Jon Jory was the longtime producing director of Actors Theatre of Louisville who helped form the Humana Festival of New American Plays that produced several notable plays such as “The Gin Games” by Donald L. Colburn, “Crimes of the Heart” by Beth Henley and “Dinner with Friends” by Donald Margulies. In 2000, Mr. Jory’s successful career led him to be inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. 

Director Mark Ramont has worked professionally as a director, artistic administrator and educator at theatres such as Circle Repertory Theatre (NYC), Ford’s Theatre (Washington D.C.), the Alley Theatre (Houston), the Hangar Theatre (Ithaca, NY) and Capitol City Playhouse (Austin). He is a recipient of the Princess Grace Foundation Statuette Award and recent CSUF credits include “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail,” “Loose Ends” and “Don’t Dress for Dinner.” Jane Austen’s classic plot concerns the independent Elizabeth, her overzealous matchmaking mother and a string of unsuitable suitors. When she meets the handsome but enigmatic Mr. Darcy, she is determined not to let her feelings triumph over her own good sense. 

The cast of “Pride and Prejudice” includes Casey Bowen as Mr. Darcy, Jacob Cropper as Bingley, Patrick Curley as Wickham, Jacqueline Del Valle as Jane, Kelly Rosales as Elizabeth, Johnny Eberhardt as Ensemble, Sadie Elizondo as Miss Bingley, Jayson Guthrie as Mr. Gardiner, Megan Hill as Charlotte, Danielle Johnson as Mary, Siena Ledger as Kitty/Georgiana, Timothy Lee as Ensemble, Noa Lev-Ari as Mrs. Bennet, Michael Libera as Mr. Collins, Monique Magpayo as Mrs. Gardiner, Jeremy Mercado as Mr. Bennet, Wyn Moreno as Fitzwilliams/William, Emma Petersen as Lydia, Allie Revelino as Lady Catherine, Isobel Beaman as Ensemble, Sarah Bloom as Ensemble and Leo Torrez as Officer. Scenic design is by Ann Sheffield, lighting design is by Carly McNamee, costume design is by Dianne Graebner, sound design is by John Favreau and hair/makeup design is by Jaqueline Davis.

“Pride and Prejudice” plays at 8pm on November 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19 and at 2pm on November 12, 13, 19, 20. General admission tickets are $14 ($12 with advance Titan Discount purchase for students, seniors or with a CSUF ID). All tickets are $14 at the door. Tickets are available by calling (657) 278-3371, 11am-5pm, Monday through Friday and online.

Soon to follow in the CSUF season is “The Drowsy Chaperone” with Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. The winner of five Broadway musical Tony Awards (including Best Book and Best Original Score), is directed by Sarah Ripper, choreographed by William F. Lett, with musical direction by Mitchell Hanlon. Performances will be held in the Little Theatre, November 18-December 11, 2016.

CSUF Symphony Orchestra and Rob Kapilow


For over 20 years, Rob Kapilow has brought the joy and wonder of classical music – and unraveled some of its mysteries – to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Characterized by his unique ability to create an “aha” moment for his audiences and collaborators, whatever their level of musical sophistication or naiveté, Kapilow’s work brings music into people’s lives: opening new ears to musical experiences and helping people to listen actively rather than just hear. As the Boston Globe said, “It’s a cheering thought that this kind of missionary enterprise did not pass from this earth with Leonard Bernstein. Rob Kapilow is awfully good at what he does. We need him.”

Kapilow’s “What Makes It Great?” (WMIG) made its auspicious debut on NPR’s Performance Today over 20 years ago, and with its accessible ten-minute format it quickly attracted a wide base of fans and followers. Snowballing in popularity, it developed into a full-length concert evening and was soon snapped up by presenters looking to build new audiences. What Makes It Great?® has sold out regular subscription series in places as diverse as Kansas City, MO, Cerritos, CA, as well as at New York’s Lincoln Center, the Celebrity Series of Boston, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and the National Gallery of Canada.

Since Spring 2013, our School of Music’s University Symphony Orchestra has worked with Kapilow in his “What Makes It Great?” program to present Ludwig von Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with violinist, Bella Hristova, Franz Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony No. 8, and Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World.” This Wednesday, they join him for the fourth time for George Gershwin’s “American in Paris.”

Unlike normal orchestral concerts, the “What Makes It Great?” program focuses on one piece. The first part of the presentation features Kapilow breaking the piece down for the audience using examples from the score with the orchestra playing and his own compositions answering his question “What if the composer wrote it this way?” “He does a great job of breaking down pieces to the smallest motives so that the audience can understand and connect with the music,” explains senior cello performance major, Emily Balderrama, “He also will involve the audience by having them sing with him or clap a rhythm.” The second part of the program features a full run through of the piece with a question and answer session with the audience that both Kapilow and the orchestra members answer. Unlike any other orchestra concert at CSUF, the orchestra is trained to be flexible to try whatever Kapilow asks them to do.

The unique experience of the concert/presentation allows for a broad audience of children and adults seeking enrichment in classical music. Emily Balderrama explains that “Kapilow does a great job breaking the fourth wall and welcoming everyone to learn and participate in the world of classical music. It’s great for the performers as well since we learn more and look at our pieces in a new light.” Many of our students use Kapilow’s teaching style and model for their own presentations on music!

For more information on our School of Music’s Symphony Orchestra with Rob Kapilow, check out the link here!

Clayes 10th Anniversary Community Open House


Last year, the School of Music held its 50th Anniversary with their Dedication Celebration which featured performances by the Symphonic Chorus and University Symphony Orchestra with Titan alumna, Deborah Voigt. Since 2006, the Joseph A.W. Clayes III Performing Arts Center has been the beacon for training the next generation to mold the arts landscape. In it’s 10th year, Dean Dale A. Merrill and the College of the Arts invite students, alumni, supporters and community members to come “behind the scenes” and discover what makes the Clayes Performing Arts Center an amazing resource for arts students and audience members.  Step into a variety of performance and rehearsal spaces where students will be showcasing their talents, join a backstage tour that highlights students’ work in our Scenic and Costume Shops, an art exhibition, refreshments and more!

Save the date for Sunday, November 6, 2016 from 2 PM – 6PM. A special Jazz performance will be held in Meng Concert Hall at 4pm and will feature the School of Music’s Jazz Orchestra students alongside with guest artist, Doc Severinsen, and other invited guests.

Here are more events happening during our open house!:


Scene from Pride & Prejudice
James D. Young Theatre
2:15pm, 2:45pm, 3:15pm

Scene from Drowsy Chaperone
Jerry Samuelson Musical Theatre Room
2:30pm & 3:00pm

A Conversation with Emeriti Chair of Theatre & Dance Susan Hallman
A conversation about the history of the Clayes Performing Arts Center, from A to Z.William J. McGarvey Family Dance Studio
3:15pm – 3:45pm

Dance Presentation featuring dance students from the Department of Theatre & Dance
Selections from Fall Dance Theatre
William J. McGarvey Family Dance Studio
2:15pm, 2:45pm

Cello Performance featuring students from the School of Music
Kathryn T. McCarty Grand Foyer
2:00pm – 3:30pm

“A View From Above” Canopy Tour
Guests will see what 5 tons of tuning looks like (aka “The Acoustic Canopy” that hangs in Meng Hall) from the unique perspective of the choir loft behind the stage.
Vaughncille Joseph Meng Hall (Upper Level entrance)
2:15pm – 3:00pm

Sound Design: An Evolution from Studio to Stage
A look into the process of creating and designing theatre production cues which begin in a recording studio and are completed on stage.
Douglas R. Young, Terry Forrest Young, and Megan Forrest Young Audio Studio
2:00pm – 3:45pm

Throughout the afternoon…

  • Guided backstage tours will depart from McCarty Grand Foyer and will feature stops in the Lois M. Brockett Costume Shop and the Lee & Nicholas Begovich Scenic Laboratory
  • Exhibition of art by students in the Department of Visual Arts in the Millie and Dale Hallberg Theatre
  • Doors will open for the concert at 3:45 pm – general admission seating

CSUF College of the Arts: Dance


Photo from 2016 Spring Dance – Photo by Edwin Lockwood

Although modern dance is comprised of many styles and genres, a look at three eponymous schools of movement and technique developed during the first half of the 20th century can provide insight into the heart of its expression: Graham, Horton, and Limón. Graham, named for the often touted “mother of modern dance, ”Martha Graham, is based on “contract and release, ”where dancers use different parts of the body in opposition to create dramatic tension and convey emotion. Lester Horton developed his technique concurrent with Graham, but 3,000 miles west of the epicenter of modern dance, New York City, in California. This physical and creative distance allowed him to freely incorporate folkloric elements from around the world into his style, which approaches dance as an unrestricted expression of movement. Jóse Limón, also a contemporary of Graham and Horton, based his principles of dance on “fall and recovery” where dancers use the floor as a launch pad from which to rise, fall, and rise again, creating gravity defying and theatrical gestures.

Prof. Debra Noble teaching CSUF Dance Students

The dance program at Cal State Fullerton is fortunate to have each these significant innovators of dance represented in three of its core faculty: Lisa Draskovich-Long (Graham-based), Debra Noble (Limón), and Alvin Rangel (Horton). The depth and breadth of their professional experience enriches the educational training of their students and contributes to the artistic clarity of the dance program. Each of these faculty members has their own extensive professional background with which to draw from: Rangel has danced professionally in companies from his native Puerto Rico to Mexico to numerous companies across the United States. He also performs with his company, In-Version Project, and was awarded Best Dancer by the Austin Critic’s Table for the 2011/2012 season; Noble, a highly regarded dancer whose choreography has been lauded by Dance Magazine and National Public Radio (among others) has 30-years in the field as a dancer and choreographer. She directed her own dance company, In Forward Motion, for 10 years and choreographed work in the video for musician Dave Matthews’ Grammy® nominated song, Crash; Draskovich-Long danced professionally for over a decade with Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and studied with the legendary David Hochoy, former rehearsal director for Martha Graham and now artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company. She has also choreographed several Off-Broadway productions and locally at Rogue Machine Theater in Los Angeles. In interviewing all three professors of dance, one point was consistently –and independently –brought up in each conversation: that the dance faculty at Cal State Fullerton has a unified, student-centered vision based on a passion for the art form, dance technique, and academic rigor. For Alvin Rangel, the goal is to effectively teach historic repertory in order for students to physically and intellectually articulate the tenets of modern dance. This also holds true for Lisa Draskovich-Long. She notes that training in modern dance takes time explaining, “Martha Graham once said that it takes ten years to make a dancer” She also adds that many of the students “start from zero”in terms of modern technique. Since many of them come from competition-based dance studios where modern dance is not taught, they learn these foundations during their time in the program. Another strength of the program comes from its rigor, which is due in part to Debra Noble. Like Rangel and Draskovich-Long, Noble advocates for a strong basis in the language of dance. For her, this basis provides a framework from which students will eventually build their own aesthetic vocabulary, adding that in order to inform your craft, it is essential to stay open to all ideas. Having come from the “dance meccas” of Chicago and New York, her extensive artistic and administrative background enabled her to see the needs of the program with what she calls “a different eye” when she was hired in 2000. She was instrumental in creating assessment-based criteria with an emphasis on training, advisement, and exposure to professional practices.  Part of this exposure includes guest artists who teach rigorous workshops, many of whom are internationally recognized. This can lead to professional opportunities after graduation, and many alums have gone on to accept full-time dance contracts right out of school. Rangel often hears from these alums, who thank him and the faculty for having such high expectations of them during their time in the program, a work ethic they have applied as professional dancers, choreographers, and instructors in the field. Noble points out that the comprehensive nature of the faculty is unique among universities. While many dance programs tend to be comprised of faculty with very similar training, the styles of dance represented by faculty at Cal State Fullerton range from ballet to modern.

Photo from 2016 Spring Dance – Photo by Ben Licera

Draskovich-Long, Noble, and Rangel bring round out this program with their vast depth of experience and knowledge. Through them, the next generation of dancers stands ready to share their gift, inspire, and innovate, much like Martha Graham, Lester Horton, and Jóse Limón did before them.