CSUF Theatre: Italian American Reconciliation

Photo by Jordan Kubat

Cal State Fullerton’s production of John Patrick Shanley’s Italian American Reconciliation is directed by Professor Maria Cominis and runs October 7-30, 2016 in the Hallberg Theatre on campus. Italian American Reconciliation is a tale about Huey, a man who is safely divorced from his shrewish first wife (who shot his dog), but he feels he cannot regain his “manhood” until he woos and wins her one more time. This lighthearted romantic comedy by the author of the critically acclaimed movie, Moonstruck, is hailed as “lovely” and “bathed in moonlit madness” by The New York Post.


Award-winning John Patrick Shanley has written over twenty-three plays and ten films. He grew up in a working class family in the Bronx, attended college and failed his first year at New York University. He joined the United States Marines and later enrolled once again at New York University—this time graduating as valedictorian. Perhaps, he is best known for, Doubt: A Parable, which earned a Drama Desk Award, Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award, Drama Critics’ Circle Award and more, and his film Moonstruck, which received three Academy Awards and a Golden Globe Nomination.

Professional actor, author and director Maria Cominis earned an MFA from the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Rehearsing in the Zone, A Practical Guide to Rehearsing Without a Director. As an actor, Maria played the recurring role, Mona Clark on ABC’s Desperate Housewives and is a member of Neo Ensemble Theatre in Los Angeles where she both acts and directs.

The cast of Italian American Reconciliation includes Rey Pulice as Aldo Scalicki,
Arash N. Fakhrabadi as Huey Maximillian Bonfigliano, Sarah Ellsworth as Teresa, Summer Ruley as Janice and Rose Genevieve Rodriguez as Aunt May.

Scenic Design is by Ana Martinez, Lighting/Sound Design is by Benjamin Hawkins, Costume Design is by Spencer Purdy and Hair/Makeup Design is by Katherine Riddell.

Italian American Reconciliation plays at 8pm on October 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29 and at 2pm on October 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30. 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 here!


CSUF Dance at Jacob’s Pillow

Photo by Jena Wijtman

This past summer, CSUF Dance Majors, Jonathan Kim, Andrew Corpuz, Kevin Lopez and Chris Jensen were selected to represent the CSUF College of the Arts Dance Program at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance in Becket, Massachusetts for Inside/Out American College Dance National Gala Highlights Concert on August 25. The COTA Dance Program was one of four programs out of over 500 in the United States that were chosen to perform at the festival.

“The Pillow” is the country’s only National Historic Landmark that draws people from all over the world to the longest-running international dance festival through the School at Jacob’s Pillow. The school is recognized as one of the most prestigious professional dance schools in the nation and offers hundreds of performances and workshops each season. Professor of Dance and Program Director, Debra Noble, notes the immense honor for both the dancers and the dance program to be selected. “It reflects highly on our dance program and the training that our students are receiving.”

Our students’ experience was highlighted in the September News of the American College Dance Association:

Photo by Priscilla Alvarez

“Humbled is the only word that comes to my mind whenever I am asked to express my short- lived experience at Jacob’s Pillow. Having the privilege of being a part of the first [ACDA performance at the Pillow] was something that pushed me in every way as a dancer. The experience granted me a taste of just how glorious this craft can truly be. The four universities were really able to have the whole VIP experience, with a private tour of the grounds and exclusive look into the Pillow’s own archives which is a gem within an already Historic National Landmark. Mr. Shawn would be so proud of what the farm he bought has become. The Inside/Out, with its free admission, feels just like a summer picnic with friends watching the art of dance. Within the trees, its backdrop of the mountains, the Pillow creates the most ego-free, inclusive environment that I have ever experienced. All that Jacob’s Pillow has shared with us left me full of love for the dance world.” – Kevin Lopez

“Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow was simply one of the most amazing opportunities I have ever encountered.  Just thinking about all the people who have come and gone through Jacobs Pillow and we had the chance make our mark in such a special place. Thank you.” – Chris Jensen


Photo by John Evans

“It was an honor to be a part of the historic collaboration between the American College Dance Association and Jacob’s Pillow. Performing on the Inside/Out stage was a surreal, humbling, and rewarding experience that intensified our passion to pursue dance. [The four performers in the dance] each started late, and being a male dancer has brought its own baggage in our respective journeys. The piece August has allowed us to explore masculinity, community, and resilience through movement. Sharing this work with Jacob’s Pillow has been nothing short of dream, a dream worth fighting for.” – Jonathan Kim

“The Pillow was a perfect place to see [the dancers] off and out to our separate paths. It was a breath-taking experience. Thank you.” – Andrew Corpuz

Many thanks for the American College Dance Association and Jacob’s Pillow for the opportunity you provided for our students!


Faculty Feature: Robert Istad – Outstanding Professor 2015-16

CSUF School of Music – Director of Choral Activites, Dr. Robert Istad

“I’m so proud of you”

CSUF choral students are familiar with this phrase from Dr. Robert Istad. Whether it is after a successful recital of ambitious music or before a performance of a major choral-orchestral work, it serves to validate that they are meeting or exceeding the standards set by the School of Music’s faculty. It is also their sign that they living up to the legacy that has been long established by the CSUF Choral Program.

For the past five decades, CSUF’s choral program has been a major artistic force in Orange County. Professor David Thorsen founded the choral program in 1960, and maintained a national reputation for musical excellence until his retirement in 1995.  In 1996, Professor John Alexander joined the faculty at CSUF and initiated a long-standing relationship between the School of Music and the Pacific Chorale, one of the United States’ most highly acclaimed choral organizations. CSUF’s choirs under Maestro Alexander performed nationally and internationally at major conferences and concert venues.  During his tenure, John Alexander reestablished the nationally recognized graduate program in choral conducting, and founded the Elliot and Kathleen Alexander Memorial Scholarship which provides financial support for outstanding choral conducting students at CSUF.

CSUF Students receiving the Elliot and Kathleen Alexander Memorial Scholarship


Each summer, Pacific Chorale and Cal State Fullerton collaborate to offer the Pacific Chorale Choral Camp which offers local high school students the opportunity to strengthen and expand their skills as choral singers. Two-year veteran of the summer camp and current sophomore in vocal performance in the School of Music, Danielle Pribyl, explains that “(The camp) gives you an enriching vocal experience over the summer break… you are given theory lessons, work on your musicianship and get the opportunity to sing in a barbershop quartet, mini opera scene, or even mini musical theatre scene.” James Gjurgevich, an incoming freshman and also participant in the choral camp highlights that the camp “allowed me to explore and gain real experience in conducting, barbershop, solo performance, and many more areas of music not generally touched on at the high school level.”


Pacific Chorale Summer Choral Camp 2016


In 2006, John Alexander retired from academia and Dr. Robert Istad, one of John Alexander’s former students at CSUF, assumed leadership over the choral program. Through Dr. Istad’s commitment to academic excellence and rigorous training, CSUF continues to prepare singers and conductors for further study in performance and teaching positions. With the assistance of Dr. Christopher Peterson, the School of Music boasts a 100% job placement rate for choral music education students in the credential program. With the support of the voice faculty, the vocal program emphasizes the importance of two major skills to their students: Professionalism and Musicianship. These standards earn the students singing opportunities they would not often receive at other institutions.

In the past year, Dr. Istad has championed the superb standards of his mentor’s choral program in performances of Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna,” Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms,” and CSUF’s Christmas celebration, “Deck the Hall” with our University Symphony Orchestra in Meng Concert Hall. The choral program also shared the stage with alumna and international opera star, Deborah Voigt, for the School of Music Gala last fall. Our highest level choral ensemble, the University Singers, sang a full performance of Handel’s “Israel in Egypt” with the Horizon Music Baroque Orchestra and were hired to sing the “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddess” at Segerstrom Hall. This summer, Dr. Istad prepared members of University Singers and Concert Choir to participate in professional performances with Andrea Bocelli and in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra’s production of “Star Trek Live,” both at the Hollywood Bowl.

In addition to local touring, CSUF’s University Singers traveled to Carnegie Hall to perform the music of composer, Tarik O’Regan, and 110 singers traveled to Paris, France with our University Orchestra to perform Poulenc’s “Gloria” and Fauré’s “Requiem.”


(Top) – Dr. Robert Istad conducting the music of Tarik O’Regan in Carnegie Hall, Fall 2015 (Bottom) – Dr. Robert Istad conducting Fauré’s Requiem in La Madeleine in Paris France, Summer 2015

During the 2016-2017 season, the choral program will collaborate with opera star, Kathleen Battle, film composer, John Williams, Andrea Bocelli and the Pacific Symphony Orchestra. The University Singers will tour Scandinavia, the Baltics, and Russia in summer 2017.

Dr. Istad was selected to be CSUF’s Outstanding Professor of the Year, in recognition of his accomplishments with the students of the School of Music. CSUF’s tradition of high standards and demand for excellence in the School of Music’s choral program continues, and Cal State Fullerton’s wonderful choirs remain a major artistic force in Orange County.

Dr. Istad’s Outstand Professor Lecture will be held on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016 at 4:30 PM in Meng Concert Hall and it is open to the public. For more information on his lecture, check out the link here!

CSUF Theatre: Anna in the Tropics

(Left to Right) CSUF students, Shellie Sterling (Conchita), Wyn Moreno (Juan Julian), and Eric Stevens Flores (Palomo) in Cal State Fullerton’s Anna and the Tropics, directed by Fidel Gomez. Photo by Jordan Kubat.

Cal State Fullerton’s 2016-2017 season opens with the 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner Anna in the Tropics, written by Nilo Cruz and directed by Fidel Gomez. Anna in the Tropics runs September 23-October 9 in the Young Theatre on campus. This poetic play is set in a Cuban-American cigar factory in Florida in 1929 where cigars are rolled by hand while lectors entertain the workers and divert them from their monotonous jobs. The arrival of a new lector is a cause for celebration, but when he begins to read aloud from Anna Karenina, he unwittingly becomes a catalyst in the lives of his avid listeners, for whom Tolstoy, the tropics, and the American dream prove a volatile combination.

Award-winning Cuban-born playwright Nilo Cruz moved to the United States in 1970. A decade later, Mr. Cruz gained an interest in the theatre as an actor and director. After being invited to join Intar Hispanic Playwrights Laboratory, he began his playwriting journey. He is best known for Anna in the Tropics which was selected by a panel of judges who had never seen a production and awarded it solely based on the strong script. Mr. Cruz became the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for playwriting. Some of his other plays include Night Train to Bolina, Two Sisters and a Piano, Lorca in a Green Dress and The Beauty of the Father.

Director Fidel Gomez, an East Los Angeles native, attended Los Angeles High School for the Arts before making his way to the East Coast to attend New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He also trained with the American Academy of Dramatic Art, Stella Adler Conservatory (NY), Stonestreet Studios and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He is a co-creator and founding member of The Vault Ensemble based at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Mr. Gomez is an actor and playwright as well. He wrote and directed The Vault: Bankrupt and The Vault: Unlocked and co-wrote and acted in Melancholia, which toured internationally to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Television credits include NCIS, Walkout, Grey’s Anatomy, Undercovers, and 7th Heaven.


(Left to Right) CSUF students, Wyn Moreno (Juan Julian), Shellie Sterling (Conchita), and Eric Steven Flores (Palomo) in Cal State Fullerton’s Anna in the Tropics, directed by Fidel Gomez. Photo by Jordan Kubat.

The cast of Anna in The Tropics includes Miguel Torres as Santiago, Joseph Daniel Zavala as Cheche, Tina A. Burkhalter as Ofelia, Lauren Villalobos as Marela, Shellie Sterling as Conchita, Eric Flores as Palomo and Wyn Moreno as Juan Julian.

Scenic Design is by Kristin Campbell, Lighting Design is by John Favreau, Costume Design is by Kaylynn Sutton, Sound Design is by Devon Swiger and Hair/Makeup Design is by Vanessa Cortez.

Anna in the Tropics plays at 8pm on September 23, 24, 29, 30, October 1, 6, 7, 8 and at 2pm on September 25, October 1, 6, 7, 8, 9. 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 at this link here!

Alumni Feature – Scott Tolleson

Scott Tolleson (BFA Illustration, 2000) works for Disney as an Art Director and is the CEO and Founder of StolleArt Studio where he creates custom toys and art inspired by pop culture, comic books, his family, and toys from his childhood.

As a child, Tolleson always had an interest in art. “I can’t recall a time when art wasn’t important to me. I was always the kid in the class that the others would ask me to draw things for them. I recall drawing a lot of Transformers, Masters of the Universe and M.U.S.C.L.E as a kid. I was really into collecting Mad and Cracked Magazine along with Wacky Packages as a kid. I think these sorts of things inspired me at a young age and led me to believe that one could have a career at making art” states Tolleson. He started at Saddleback Community College and completed an Associates Degree in Art before transferring Cal State Fullerton in 1996. During his time at CSUF, Tolleson was a member of the Pencil Milage Club and participated in an animation program with Warner Bros. He continued on to finish his Bachelors of Fine Arts in Illustration in 2000.


The Designer Toy Awards (DTAs) is the leading award honoring excellence and innovation in the Designer Toy art field. For his work in 2015, Tolleson was awarded their Artist of Year Award.

For his spotlight, Tolleson leaves us with advice for aspiring artists:

“Don’t do it unless you have a passion for it. Every artist I know that is successful puts in many many hours and not because they have to but because they want to. Let negativity from others fuel your passion instead of discourage you. Always try new things to keep your interests fresh but also stay focused o the things that are working for you in your art. Always play, learn, experiment and listen.”

For more information on Scott Tolleson, check out his website here.

Faculty Feature: Hiromi Takizawa

Hiromi Takizawa, art
Hiromi Takizawa, Visual Arts Assistant Professor

Cal State Fullerton’s College of the Arts is home to one of the few locations where students can pursue studies and a fine arts degree with a concentration in glass. This unique program is run by Titan alumni and new faculty member, Hiromi Takizawa. Professor Takizawa earned her BA and MA in Glass from CSUF, completed her MFA in Craft and Materials Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University, and has been featured artist in galleries across the United States.

While she grew up in the world of ceramics and other arts, Professor Takizawa’s fascination with glass began when she stepped into the glass studio at Santa Ana College. Takizawa recalls that “During my one year study abroad, I knew I wanted to go into the arts. I happened to walk into a ceramics and glass studio in community college and that was it… Glass was something new, so I took a class and I knew right away that this was something I wanted to do.” After her studies in Orange County, she awarded her with emerging artist awards and top prizes for innovative work in glass. In 2007, her work was featured at Urban Glass in New York where she was selected as Best Graduate MFA Student. The following year, Urban Glass offered her a solo exhibition and her career took off as an artist with other invitations and residencies throughout the country.

Takizawa highlights the reflective, refractive, and transparent quality of glass which attracts her to the art and sets it apart from other art forms. In terms of process, she describes working with glass as “fluid” while working and molding it in its heated state. The history of glass goes back a long time with a variety of traditions for common uses. However, in the United States, the history of glass-making as an artistic medium is new with a fifty-year history. While her training comes from a basis of creating vases and other glassware, the same skills can be used to explore the possibilities for artistic sculptures.


During her time at Cal State Fullerton, Taikizawa looks to Professor Christina Smith as a mentor. She values her time at CSUF as it gave her a place to develop her craft and establish connections with colleagues and faculty members who helped her during her career. Now that she is a teacher at CSUF, it has come full circle. As she teaches the next generation of artists, Takizawa hopes her students will not give up. “There are two different kinds of talents. The first is that you are extremely talented at what you do. The second is that you never give up. I am definitely the second kind. Keep making work and follow your passion.”

For more information on Hiromi Takizawa, check out her website located here!

The Grand Central Art Center

gcacThe College of the Arts is fortunate to count as one of its units the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana. Grand Central, run by Director, John D. Spiak, and Associate Director, Tracey Gayer, is a contemporary visual arts space that serves the campus, local, and regional communities through art exhibitions and programs curated by the GCAC team, as well as projects initiated by their artists-in-residence. The organization stands out as a unique place that hosts projects through their on-site galleries, blackbox theatre, and provides housing for both master level arts students of CSUF and visiting artists-in-residence. “Absolutely worth it! This graduate housing it totally different,” explains MFA Theatre student, Tina Burkhalter, “I am surrounded by people who are artists, my neighbors – literally right next door… There are art galleries and a theatre below in Grand Central which has allowed me to meet many wonderful artist-in-residence who have put on deep, meaningful, and well thought out exhibitions.” The theatre students, through the director of the CSUF Department of Theatre and Dance, are active in the spaces provided by Grand Central to create a unique work and performance environment that allows for the production of their works.

Many other universities and organization have these spaces or programs, but rarely are they all located in one place, under one roof.

Through the GCAC artist-in-residence program, Grand Central supports and works directly with the artists to develop new projects. “We invite and believe in our artists and their process. They don’t have to have a project when they come, so they are open to explore and get to know this community and the resources that GCAC may be able to provide,” explains Spiak, “the works are all well received because they are relevant to this community and beyond, addressing the issues, concerns and wonderment of the now.”

Grand Central and the College of the Arts have worked to provide students opportunities to interact with their artists-in-residence through exhibitions, studios engagements on site, as well as workshops and integrated academic collaborations on campus.  Artist/Composer Lisa Bielawa has been an ongoing visiting artists-in-residence at GCAC for the past four years, as she has been researching, developing and realizing her ambitious serial broadcast opera project and winner of the 2015 ASCAP Multimedia Award, “Vireo.” During her time in residence, she has provided master workshops with CSUF music and composition students.  She has also made possible the opportunity for other performers involved with Vireo to provide workshops to CSUF students.  Through the residence Lisa, as well as Vireo performers Laurie Rubin and Matthias Bossi, performed as part of the CSUF New Music Festival founded by CSUF Music Professor Pamela Madsen. The full twelve episodes of Vireo will premiere in spring of 2017, in collaboration with Los Angeles based independent television station KCET.

Photo from the Unfinished Conversation: Reconstructing the Invisible Exhibition last year!

Spiak highlights last year’s exhibition by Bosnian born, New York based artist, Aida Šehović, in collaboration with Santa Ana forensic investigator, Leonard Correa, as a great example of relevancy. There work and resulting exhibition Unfinished Conversation: Reconstructing the Invisible explored the similarities in their process of dealing with personal traumas. Šehović lived through the war in the 1990s in her homeland while Correa also lives with the images of locations where horrific crimes were committed in Santa Ana. Šehović created a video interviewing her parents about their experience losing everything during the war – including her father drawing their beloved house from memory. Correa photographed common and familiar locations in Santa Ana, scenic images taken during perfect morning sunlight with no individuals present, yet locations where he was a first responder to horrific crime scenes of the recent past.  The images were presented with written text by Šehović from recollections told to her by Correa. A visitor may not have come knowing what the exhibition was all about, but after seeing the locations in Santa Ana and the stories that accompany them, they would realize that these locations were all places where homicides took place within their own communities. By connecting these stories of trauma and place, which is a relationship we are all familiar with through minor and major personal life experiences, the art becomes more relevant to the visitor.

Join us on the first Saturday of each month for the Downtown Santa Ana First Saturday Art Walk where Grand Central opens its doors for visitors to experience exhibitions and programs! Currently, Exploring The Nowannago: Kentifrican Modes of Resistance, a video and performance work featuring Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle and Tyler Matthew Oyer is on exhibition in the main gallery. The work provides a critique on labels of queerness, racial, and gender constructions.