This Week at SOTA

NKU School of the Arts - Nov. 16, 2020

Interconnected Series with Kaleena Sales on Nov. 17

Kaleena Sales is the second speaker in the Interconnected // Design Lecture Series. Her virtual talk is Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. hosted by EKU with support from AIGA Cincinnati.


Kaleena Sales is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Tennessee State University, an HBCU (Historically Black College and University), in Nashville, TN. She is endlessly interested in the intersection of Black culture and aesthetics and believes that identities and experiences have an invaluable role in helping to diversify the ways in which designers solve problems. As a member of the AIGA Design Educators Community Steering Committee, Kaleena has advocated for a more inclusive view of design history through her Beyond the Bauhaus series. The connective thread throughout her art and design work and her writing is a focus on sharing minority stories as a form of advocacy to normalize Black lives and include them into the spaces where they’re so often excluded.


Register in advance for this free event.


Interconnected — a new design lecture series for the 2020-21 academic year — is a collaboration with the design & art programs at Eastern Kentucky University, Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University, the University of Kentucky, and University of Louisville, in partnership with AIGA Cincinnati, AIGA Louisville, and AIGA Nashville. This year’s focus — Black Voices in Design — aims to diversify and decolonize our pedagogical practices and design curricula. Each university hosts one speaker for a live, virtual lecture free for interested students, faculty, and professionals in design community across the region. This line-up features exceptional talent across the field of art and design.

Final Summit Series Nov. 18

The final session of the Summit Series will take place Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. on Zoom, focusing on Equity and Allyship: LGBTQ+ in the Arts. Along with a student panel, Ronnie Gladden breaks down his diversity leadership work and research. Dr. Gladden coined the term, transgracial theory, which embodies the intersection of the transgender and transracial phenomena. Dan Davidson, aka Sparkle Leigh, will join Dr. Gladden. He recently was quoted in Cincinnati Magazine as saying, “Remember to breathe. Maybe that’s enough, that little reminder to keep grounded and keep going. When I wasn’t able to be that, Sparkle was.”

Virtual Dance Film Festival Nov. 23

The annual Emerging Choreographer’s Showcase (ECS) will be presented virtually as a Dance Film Festival. The showcase will be free-to-watch starting Nov. 23 on the NKU ECS website and SOTA YouTube channel. This showcase is student produced and student led where dance students learn about choreography, stage design, and stage management and can grow in their artistic expression. ECS was founded in 2014 by dance alum, Kat Wolf, who graduated in 2016 and is the owner of NKY Dancewear.

Happy Retirement, Christine Jones!

Earlier this year in January, the Theatre and Dance Program bid a bittersweet farewell as one of our dear colleagues, Christine Jones, left academia to begin a well-deserved retirement from teaching. Mrs. Jones came to NKU with an incredible resume and breadth of experience in stage, film, television, print, and voice-over work. In addition to having trained at both the University of Florida and the University of Virginia, her professional work was the cornerstone of her pedagogy and focused on the practical application of our craft and discipline. Mrs. Jones transferred her wealth of knowledge and professional work into meaningful and engaging training opportunities for her students.


During her time at Northern Kentucky University, Mrs. Jones shared with her students an abiding love and respect for the craft of theatre. This included teaching a variety of courses for the program, including multiple levels of acting, auditions, and film/television performance, as well as work in dialects, improvisation, and race/gender studies in theatre. The breadth of her experience and training granted Mrs. Jones a unique perspective on the training and professionalism required for a career in the theatre. Serving as mentor and advisor to many students during her time at NKU, Mrs. Jones always helped her students to achieve their best self as a person and an artist.


As if her academic credentials weren’t impressive on their own, Mrs. Jones demonstrated the philosophy of life-long learning and the continuous pursuit of reinvention and betterment of one’s craft. She has appeared in numerous films, shorts, television series, and voice over projects over the past few years, including: Divine Decision: Double Down; Promises to Keep; Notzilla; Healing River; From Gettysburg to Baghdad; Once the Ground Thaws; Carol; Triangles and Tribulations; The Dooley and Pals Show; and 99.2: A SpyQuest Adventure, among many others. In 2006, Mrs. Jones moved further into the world of film and television by co-creating Table For Five Productions, which has gone on to produce the highly lauded series Divine Will which is now available on the PureFlix Entertainment Channel (pureflix.com). Recalling his time working with Mrs. Jones, Marc Leif – President of Rockin’ the Wall Studios and owner of Marc Leif Film Group shared:


“It's hard for me to express sufficiently what a brilliant, skilled, warm, humane, and gracious actress, artist and collaborator Christine is. She was an unalloyed blessing to work with; full of unflagging positive energy, ideas, and endless creativity. I would have simply died had I not had the blessing and good fortune to have had her work on my last project. She's simply magic.”


While raising three incredibly talented children, Kyley, Haley, and William with her high-school sweetheart husband Ken, Mrs. Jones began flexing another talent: writing. With her indefatigable spirit and talent for witty and thoughtful dialogue, Mrs. Jones started a collaborating with playwright Ken Jones and composer Jamey Strawn. Together they have created musicals which have been performed as far away as New Zealand and as close to home as The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. With multiple musicals now published, their canon includes: Sleeping Beauty: Rise and Shine; Snow White and the Dancing Dwarfs; Burgertown; Church Girls (available on iTunes); The Day Before Christmas; Lifelines; Lincoln: A Pioneer Tale; Cincinnati's Bicentennial Touring Show; Different Day; and Land Without Liberty. Thinking back on his writing partnership with Mrs. Jones, Jamey Strawn shared:


“It has truly been a joy to write musicals with Christine over the past 17+ years. As writing partners, we’ve enjoyed the luxury of collaborating with the freedom to express our ideas, argue about words, notes and rhythms, and make edits without the fear of offending each other or stepping on each other’s toes. We would feed off each other’s ideas, all for the good of the show. Her passion for writing and her wonderful sense of imagery made her lyrics a joy to set to music.”


While Mrs. Jones’ time teaching at NKU may have come to an end, her work as a writer, producer, director, and actress will continue for many years to come. Everyone who has worked with Christine or had her in class comes away better or stronger. As a major supporter of our program, we will all miss her and the way she inspired us to become better and stronger. Christine’s legacy will live on and our program will forever be a better place because of her. Cheers to our beloved colleague and friend and wishing you the very best in your retirement from teaching!

SOTA participates in NATS Singing Competition

Congratulations to all NKU SOTA participants in the Kentucky National Association of Teachers of Singing Student Auditions! 36 SOTA students participated from the Theatre and Dance Program, Music Program, and Music Preparatory Division from the studios of Joy Burdette, Ellen Graham, Xan Jeffery, Catherine Keen, Rita Larkin, Kimberly Lazzeri and Kelly MacKenzie-Thurley. Of these 36 participants, 10 placed as finalists.


  • From the studio of Xan Jeffery: Linnzie Hays (1st place Upper College MT Treble)
  • From the private studio of Catherine Keen: Jackson Hurt (2nd place Upper College MT TBB)
  • From the studio of Rita Larkin: Chloe Esmeier (3rd place tie Lower College MT Treble), Jordan Whittaker (1st place tie Lower College MT TBB), Chris Monell (1st place tie Lower College MT TBB), Richard Taylor (2nd place Lower College MT TBB), Erin Reardon (2nd place tie Upper College MT Treble), Sabrina Mack (2nd place tie Upper College MT Treble), Joshua Van Nort (3rd place Upper College MT TBB)
  • From the studio of Kimberly Lazzeri: Benjamin Barkdoll (1st place Junior Classical TBB)

Edges now available on-demand

In case you missed Edges during its initial run, it is now available on-demand through May 2021. $3 gets you a 48-hour rental and is available on ShowTix4U.


The NKU cast features Megan Carlson, Chloe Hedrick, Makenna Henehan, Caroline Rakestraw, Randolph Geers, Kanai Nakata, Alex Simpson and Tre Taylor. Special thanks to Norse Media and Chris Strobel for providing filming and editing support during the production process. Edges is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI.

Art Exhibitions on Understanding the Emotional Force of Race

NKU invites community members to virtually explore the themes and emotional force behind social unrest with its exhibition, “The Emotional Force of Race: An Exhibition and Call for Creative Response,” featuring the Mourning the Creation of Racial Categories project.


Led by Sociology Professor Dr. Joan Ferrante and by poet India Hackle, a May 2020 graduate, the project uses arts' transformative power to challenge assumptions about who we are and seeks to contribute to the national conversation around social unrest and racial disparities.


The exhibition is available to view through Jan. 31, 2021.


Learn more >

Bonner featured on dance education podcast

Tracey Bonner, Associate Professor of Dance, was recently a guest on Canada’s National Academy of Dance Education (CNADE) podcast "Dance Education In The 21st Century." The discussion revolved around how to create self-efficacy and foster individuality with pre-professional dancers. You can listen to this on any podcast platform.

Calling All Alumni!

We have revamped our Alumni pages and would love to have you share your story with us! If you graduated from any SOTA program, fill out our Alumni Update form and you may be featured on our website and other publications!

Photos from around campus and virtually