On Stage with Andy Park
In his theater career, Andy Park has worked with puppets and whales. He writes musicals and started his own theater company. Now, he brings his life experience to the stage at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In this episode of Faculty 101, find out how UNL students earn professional experience in theater and why Andy Park recommends you leap before you’re ready.
Show Notes: Learn more about the Nebraska Rep ›› nebraskarep.org; Learn more about Andy Park ›› arts.unl.edu/theatre-and-film/faculty/andrew-park
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[00:00:00.810]Dandelion goes into position.
[00:00:03.690]In a darkened space in Temple Building
[00:00:05.990]at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
[00:00:08.080]the ensemble cast of a new production
[00:00:10.960]is immersed in dandelion rehearsal.
[00:00:14.150]Are you guys ready with the dandelion over there?
[00:00:16.920]It's the first go at maneuvering
[00:00:19.020]a large-scale dandelion made of wood and paper,
[00:00:22.190]a seven-foot stem and removable seedlings
[00:00:25.280]that actors carry off the stage.
[00:00:31.420]This is a scene from "A Thousand Words,"
[00:00:33.650]a production for the 2020 season
[00:00:35.690]of the Nebraska Repertory Theatre,
[00:00:37.580]known fondly as the Rep.
[00:00:40.200]Yeah. Okay, good.
[00:00:41.280]Let's pause for just a second.
[00:00:43.090]Director Andy Park wants to see a little more movement
[00:00:46.690]from the seedlings.
[00:00:47.991]Try to imagine that they're actually blowing
[00:00:50.500]in the wind as opposed to...
[00:00:52.000]The show came together through a process
[00:00:54.340]called devised theater.
[00:00:56.300]Park is excited about the process
[00:00:58.220]that included his students.
[00:01:00.070]They've never devised before,
[00:01:02.150]and so being a part of teaching that process to the students
[00:01:06.270]and then seeing what they came up with,
[00:01:08.230]getting to know them,
[00:01:09.680]and seeing what we've come up with together,
[00:01:12.890]it is truly a beautiful piece I think.
[00:01:15.550]In this episode of "Faculty 101,"
[00:01:17.680]find out how students benefit
[00:01:19.430]from being part of a professional theater,
[00:01:22.110]and learn how taking a chance before he was ready,
[00:01:25.670]helped shape Andy Park's career.
Okay, switch partners now.
[00:01:29.891]To be able to inspire young people.
[00:01:32.960]Ace your finals.
[00:01:34.030]It's really rewarding.
[00:01:35.090]I love the students.
[00:01:37.060]Welcome to "Faculty 101,"
[00:01:39.320]life hacks and success stories from Nebraska faculty.
[00:01:46.100]It's time for orientation.
[00:01:48.030]Who is Andy Park?
[00:01:50.080]We're going to take it
[00:01:50.913]where you pick up the hat right off the...
[00:01:53.100]During this rehearsal,
[00:01:54.300]Park guides two student actors who perform a scene
[00:01:57.270]with an old man puppet named Jeremiah Wolcott,
[00:02:00.290]the narrator for the production.
[00:02:02.340]Jeremiah has white hair and bushy eyebrows
[00:02:05.240]and is held and manipulated by the two puppeteers.
[00:02:08.690]They make Jeremiah come to life.
[00:02:10.784]Great, I love when you're brushing off the hat,
[00:02:13.719]but can we also make sure that his eyes stay active
[00:02:16.700]during this part?
[00:02:18.040]Park is artistic director
[00:02:19.560]of the Nebraska Repertory Theatre
[00:02:21.350]and faculty in the Johnny Carson School of Theater and Film.
[00:02:24.910]He loves teaching
[00:02:25.950]because he says students are energetic and don't hold back.
[00:02:29.670]That willingness to play and explore
[00:02:32.730]and to not go the safe route,
[00:02:35.730]that's where you can find true beauty
[00:02:37.660]and really make great headway.
[00:02:39.810]I love just the natural risk-taking ability of students.
[00:02:46.670]Park himself has the energy of a student
[00:02:49.020]and the childlike wonder of a kid in a candy store.
[00:02:52.330]Oh, I got to show you these guys.
[00:02:53.660]These guys are going to be so cute.
[00:02:55.580]These are penguins.
[00:02:57.300]He shows me some of the nearly 100 large-scale puppets
[00:03:00.740]in various stages of development
[00:03:02.540]that will be used in the show.
[00:03:04.370]William Shakespeare makes an appearance,
[00:03:06.660]along with mechanical woodpeckers
[00:03:08.960]and the iconic, nearly-touching hands
[00:03:11.500]from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
[00:03:13.960]And when they're painted, they're going to be beautiful.
[00:03:17.310]The giant dandelion is a metaphor
[00:03:19.460]in the story of an old man nearing the end of life.
[00:03:22.670]Really, the story that emerged
[00:03:24.900]is this character who is trying to come to terms
[00:03:27.900]with a lot of the details of his life.
[00:03:30.220]And so this show became this character
[00:03:32.130]who was trying to reconcile his past
[00:03:34.370]and trying to figure out how to say goodbye.
[00:03:36.730]And so the dandelion became this image of life,
[00:03:41.830]really of blowing in the wind
[00:03:45.800]and all the actions and the memories,
[00:03:47.560]everything that make you who you are.
[00:03:50.800]They're sort of all there.
[00:03:52.750]And then at some point,
[00:03:54.720]just like the old saying goes,
[00:03:57.690]a baby's born with a clenched fist
[00:03:59.700]but an old man dies with an open palm.
[00:04:04.690]And so at the end of the show,
[00:04:06.500]all these seeds begin to blow away.
[00:04:12.490]So just imagine that the wind is blowing
[00:04:16.547]and try to emulate that.
[00:04:19.420]I mean, you've all seen what...
[00:04:20.477]"A Thousand Words" came about
[00:04:22.170]through a class taught by Park.
[00:04:24.010]Students auditioned and then came together in the class
[00:04:26.580]to devise the show,
[00:04:28.520]creating every aspect from the concept to the script.
[00:04:32.580]We held auditions, students auditioned,
[00:04:35.190]and over the course of the semester,
[00:04:37.280]we developed a show.
[00:04:39.060]And we had designers in the class.
[00:04:40.660]We had actors in the class.
[00:04:42.120]We had an assistant director,
[00:04:43.480]a stage manager,
[00:04:44.990]and we slowly began to sculpt a piece.
[00:04:48.770]One of those students is Michaella Deladia, known as Mica,
[00:04:52.390]a member of the ensemble cast
[00:04:54.090]and a senior performance major.
[00:04:56.120]Mica says devised theater
[00:04:58.060]is a new and challenging experience.
[00:05:00.850]It's not something that I've ever had the chance to do
[00:05:04.590]and devise something from the ground up,
[00:05:06.850]which has been like accessing a different part
[00:05:09.730]of my artistic brain.
[00:05:12.580]Next up, lab work,
[00:05:14.380]a deep dive into research and creative activity.
[00:05:20.270]Jeremiah looked into the mirror
[00:05:22.640]and realized that he'd become the splitting image
[00:05:25.690]of an old man.
[00:05:27.580]The unusual process that brought "A Thousand Words"
[00:05:30.510]to the stage
[00:05:31.343]created a special experience for Park and his students.
[00:05:35.550]To be honest with you,
[00:05:36.400]this has turned into one of the shows
[00:05:39.030]that throughout my entire career, I'm most proud of.
[00:05:41.807]And the reason why is because I had the chance
[00:05:45.080]to interact with the students in a really profound way.
[00:05:51.440]As artistic director of the Nebraska Repertory Theatre,
[00:05:54.310]Park has been able to make changes
[00:05:56.280]to further enhance the student experience.
[00:05:59.160]The Rep used to operate as a summer theater,
[00:06:01.670]but Park oversaw a change to the academic year
[00:06:04.930]so that more students can be involved.
[00:06:07.340]By being part of a professional theater,
[00:06:09.240]students can work toward membership
[00:06:11.150]in the Actors' Equity Association.
[00:06:13.570]Yeah, it's one of the great catch-22s.
[00:06:16.500]You can't get into an equity show.
[00:06:18.260]You can't even audition for it unless you're equity.
[00:06:20.960]And you can't get equity points
[00:06:23.420]unless you're in an equity show.
[00:06:24.810]And so we are a professional theater
[00:06:27.900]that has the ability to give out equity points.
[00:06:31.110]Basically per week,
[00:06:32.860]students can earn equity points.
[00:06:35.750]It's called EMC equity membership candidacy points.
[00:06:39.030]And then when they earn enough weeks,
[00:06:40.840]they can decide to join the union if they'd like.
[00:06:43.530]So it's a huge opportunity.
[00:06:45.540]Mica Deladia is on her way
[00:06:47.360]to earning the coveted equity card
[00:06:49.460]that provides benefits and opens doors.
[00:06:52.470]I was into production of hair
[00:06:53.720]at the Repertory Theater here last year.
[00:06:55.300]So that was like six points, I think,
[00:06:58.240]because it's a point for a week.
[00:06:59.350]So that's been amazing
[00:07:00.730]because I want to get out in the actual professional field.
[00:07:04.810]I'll have these points to show the work that I've gotten.
[00:07:13.190]For every performance at the Rep,
[00:07:15.110]Park juggles the need to provide professional entertainment
[00:07:18.160]for the audience
[00:07:19.240]and a professional learning environment for students.
[00:07:22.530]He leverages his contacts in the industry
[00:07:25.120]to bring professionals to the stage at the Rep.
[00:07:27.920]Visiting artists also act as role models
[00:07:30.420]and teachers for students.
[00:07:32.200]Especially because my job is
[00:07:33.830]to run a professional theater here,
[00:07:35.390]that's my primary focus,
[00:07:37.600]I think it's important
[00:07:38.433]to treat the students as professionals
[00:07:41.480]and to hopefully inspire them to act like professionals.
[00:07:44.930]They know how they're supposed to behave in rehearsals.
[00:07:47.920]They learn a sort of accountability
[00:07:50.770]and they see it modeled from folks
[00:07:53.120]that have been doing it at the highest levels
[00:07:55.420]in this country.
[00:07:56.355](stirring music ends)
[00:07:59.000]Ready for office hours?
[00:08:00.440]How did Andy Park get here?
[00:08:05.330]Jill Hibbard uses an Exacto knife
[00:08:07.580]to clean up the papier-mache on the dandelion she designed
[00:08:10.690]and created for "A Thousand Words."
[00:08:13.080]So I'm just kind of cleaning it up
[00:08:14.540]so that it will function a lot better.
[00:08:16.540]Jill is working on her master of fine arts
[00:08:18.770]in scenic design.
[00:08:19.780]And she says at the Rep,
[00:08:21.260]Andy Park is both a professional role model
[00:08:24.090]and a good human being.
[00:08:25.890]First, he's probably one of the kindest people ever
[00:08:27.800]and he's very generous with his time.
[00:08:29.230]He's generous with our time.
[00:08:30.530]And he's open to all sorts of ideas.
[00:08:33.890]And he's interested in making sure
[00:08:35.290]that everyone has their input,
[00:08:36.930]and the ideas that he comes up with
[00:08:39.380]are just off the wall, crazy.
[00:08:41.350]So he's a really great example of how to treat people
[00:08:43.910]and how to work in an intense environment
[00:08:45.510]that has a very quick pace.
[00:08:47.037]"A Thousand Words" takes advantage
[00:08:48.750]of Parks' extensive experience with puppets.
[00:08:52.120]As a child, he taught himself to be a ventriloquist
[00:08:55.160]after seeing a puppeteer on a family vacation
[00:08:57.750]to an amusement park.
[00:08:59.670]And then I started saving tin cans.
[00:09:01.330]So from the first grade to the fourth grade,
[00:09:03.710]I saved tin cans till I had $324.95
[00:09:08.610]to buy my first puppet.
[00:09:10.200]And I still actually use that puppet to this day.
[00:09:14.500]Parks' experience in the professional world of theater
[00:09:17.130]is extensive and varied.
[00:09:18.960]In Chicago, he was the founding artistic director
[00:09:21.750]of Quest Theater Ensemble,
[00:09:23.590]an award-winning free theater
[00:09:25.530]dedicated to providing access to the arts.
[00:09:28.510]He's been involved in productions all over the country
[00:09:31.510]and collaborated with a long-time friend and composer
[00:09:34.700]on 12 musicals.
[00:09:36.330]Probably the favorite one I did
[00:09:38.010]was a show called "A Christmas Wish."
[00:09:40.280]And the reason I love it so much is
[00:09:41.920]it was a weird idea that just took off.
[00:09:44.320]And it's set in a taxidermy shop
[00:09:46.900]and so the animals come to life every Christmas Eve
[00:09:51.580]and they get one day
[00:09:54.020]before they turn back into just normal taxidermy animals.
[00:09:57.550]And it was a weird idea but it was a big hit in Chicago.
[00:10:01.040]And one of these days,
[00:10:02.920]I think it would be a big hit here too.
[00:10:05.110]So maybe that will see the Rep stage at some point.
[00:10:10.140]Also in Chicago,
[00:10:11.270]Park served as artistic director for the Shedd Aquarium.
[00:10:14.970]I wrote, directed, conceived,
[00:10:16.930]and created multi-species aquatic shows.
[00:10:20.310]I had dolphins,
[00:10:24.790]penguins, sea lions.
(sea lion barking)
[00:10:27.520]And I did it for 10 years.
[00:10:30.110]Actually, I might very well still be doing it
[00:10:32.830]but I started to feel like,
[00:10:34.900]I love working with animals
[00:10:36.460]but I could sure use a conversation with an actor too.
[00:10:43.290]While in graduate school, Park had an apprenticeship
[00:10:46.260]at Vermont's Bread and Puppet Theater,
[00:10:48.130]where he worked with Peter Schumann,
[00:10:49.810]the theater's founder.
[00:10:51.160]Park was influenced by Schumann's creativity and skill.
[00:10:54.860]He is a true genius.
[00:10:56.620]He's the one that started large-scale puppetry.
[00:10:59.480]It's where I learned to stilt walk.
[00:11:01.030]It's where I learned to make puppets.
[00:11:04.700]And to devise, honestly.
[00:11:06.610]It's where I learned that too.
[00:11:08.200]Park brings his experience and contacts to the Rep
[00:11:11.450]and to the classroom
[00:11:12.680]to benefit students like Mica.
[00:11:14.800]He does a really amazing job
[00:11:17.880]of having a give and take in the rehearsal.
[00:11:21.370]And that makes us feel like we're such an important part
[00:11:23.970]of the process, which is amazing,
[00:11:25.200]because we're also learning from him at the same time,
[00:11:29.020]because he has such an eye.
[00:11:30.510]He has such a vision.
[00:11:32.230]And he's great at putting it on the stage.
[00:11:37.610]Now it's time for a pop quiz,
[00:11:41.633]and wisdom for all of us.
[00:11:44.255](bright music ends)
[00:11:45.200]It's clear Andy Park is passionate about theater,
[00:11:48.720]but he also has a passion for baseball,
[00:11:53.610]especially the Chicago Cubs.
[00:11:55.860]He was in Chicago when the team won the world series.
[00:12:00.040]I was there and I was at the big rally,
[00:12:02.240]where people were climbing up on things
[00:12:04.000]they should not have been.
[00:12:05.270]And it was exciting.
[00:12:06.640]You might think working in theater
[00:12:08.110]would mean Park stays up late and sleeps in.
[00:12:11.050]You'd be wrong.
[00:12:12.170]Getting up very early,
[00:12:13.450]I think that is my number-one top-secret move.
[00:12:18.020]I get up every day at 5:15.
[00:12:20.210]It's quiet. I can work.
[00:12:22.340]And no one will ever ask me for a meeting at that hour.
[00:12:26.610]As a college student,
[00:12:27.790]Park was influenced by a job he took at a summer theater.
[00:12:31.320]When the director got sick,
[00:12:32.730]Park stepped up to be the assistant artistic director
[00:12:35.940]and eventually found himself in the director's job.
[00:12:38.870]That changed my life.
[00:12:40.090]It taught me that I wanted to be more than a puppeteer.
[00:12:42.840]I wanted to be more than an actor.
[00:12:44.940]It taught me I wanted to be a director,
[00:12:46.580]and more than that, an artistic director.
[00:12:48.870]It was an opportunity that I definitely did not deserve.
[00:12:51.990]I hadn't earned it.
[00:12:53.110]Somehow or other, I rose to the occasion
[00:12:55.700]and I was good at it
[00:12:56.870]and I did it.
[00:12:58.110]That's why Park encourages students to take the leap.
[00:13:04.220]Move before you're ready.
[00:13:05.870]I think a lot of times we aren't quite prepared we think,
[00:13:08.950]and so we limit the risks that we take.
[00:13:13.760]We don't step up to whatever opportunity might be there
[00:13:18.160]because we think, oh, I might not be ready for this.
[00:13:21.400]But I don't think that's the right approach.
[00:13:23.020]I think it's way better to just jump into it
[00:13:25.910]and you'll figure it out.
[00:13:27.952](electric guitar stroke)
[00:13:28.820]And now graduation day.
[00:13:30.410]Final thoughts from Andy Park.
[00:13:32.710]So we're going to take this from the mirror scene
[00:13:35.190]and we're going to...
[00:13:36.023]The ensemble cast of "A Thousand Words"
[00:13:37.900]is excited for opening night.
[00:13:41.290]Mica Deladia believes the audience will connect
[00:13:43.830]with the performance in unique ways.
[00:13:46.450]It's light-hearted. It's really fun.
[00:13:48.380]But it also touches on a lot of life lessons
[00:13:52.320]and things that we come across in life
[00:13:53.660]that I think everyone can touch on and understand.
[00:13:57.410]And that's the beauty of theater.
[00:13:59.800]In divisive and contentious times,
[00:14:02.210]theater helps unite us.
[00:14:04.160]Theater does a really good job
[00:14:05.790]of bringing a diverse group of people together
[00:14:08.260]to share a common experience.
[00:14:09.800]And I just feel like in that space,
[00:14:12.930]anything can happen.
[00:14:14.090]The conversations that we need to move forward,
[00:14:16.240]to rethink our positions,
[00:14:18.450]all of that is possible because of theater.
[00:14:24.660]That's it for this episode of "Faculty 101."
[00:14:27.100]In the show notes,
[00:14:28.000]we link to the website for the Nebraska Repertory Theatre.
[00:14:30.726](bright music continues)
[00:14:34.627]"Faculty 101" is produced
[00:14:36.310]by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
[00:14:43.405](bright music fades)
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