An adynaton is a figure of speech that describes something that is entirely impossible — for example “when pigs fly” or “raining cats and dogs.” That makes Adynaton Productions an interesting choice of a name for a start-up film company run by people who believe everything is absolutely possible.
“If you want to make a movie, pick up your iPhone and make a movie. This is going to sound — no it is — cliche, but I’m going to say it. ‘Just do it!’ Nobody’s going to advocate for you like you will. You have to make it happen for yourself.”
These are the impassioned words of Kemari Bryant, a junior in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) School of Theatre BFA Acting program and the Co-Head of Development for Adynaton Productions, a group of filmmakers that also includes School of Theatre students Michael Newman as Co-Head of Development; Cameron Linly, Head of Production; and J. Andrew Speas, Co-Head of Outreach and Distributions with alumnus Randall Simmons, Jr. (‘20 BA Theatre concentration in Directing.)
The group came together to make movies because they felt there were stories to tell and new ways to tell them. Co-Head of Outreach and Distributions J. Andrew Speas says Adynaton Productions merges realism and absurdism to talk about things that are impactful to modern audiences:
“Our characters are people being people in the oddest ways but there is always this heart in everything we do, and we always choose stories that are in the now. A lot of those seem to center around Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. We are always looking for ways to frame that conversation. Those conversations are not always easy to have, but we find ways to make them digestible through the medium of film.”
So far, they’ve tackled topics such as mental illness and depression in Sad Clown (April 2020); race, toxic male masculinity, and mob mentality in Libations (April 2020); and the role of community vs. traditional nuclear family in Brina (July 2020). Now they’re taking on politics in their current project Mothman: An Anti-Hate Superhero Comedy.
Co-Head of Outreach and Distribution Randall Simmons describes the film in which the protagonist takes on a vigilante alter ego:
The character Mothman is a young Black student journalist who has uncovered fraud in his school’s student body election. This story is vital because it gives a voice to the voiceless. It opens up the opportunity for a Black superhero. It encourages people to — like a moth — find light in the darkness to fight political corruption and injustice.”
You may wonder how four students and one very recent graduate have managed to build such a filmography in less than a year. Talent aside, it takes determination, resourcefulness, and a good plan, all of which Adnynaton founders say have been fostered in CVPA’s School of Theatre.
“We’re in college. We’re surrounded by all of these amazing brains. It’s a great time to be collaborative,” says Bryant. “We’ve been well-prepared and we’ve been allowed to stretch. My advice to other students is don’t get trapped, that you don’t have to pick just one thing, one art form.”
Speas adds, “UNCG exposed us to so many different types of work and ways to work. Not every BFA Theatre program talks about film. Here, we have Flannery’s class where we learn how to do everything from casting to directing to just running the boom mic and the clapper. We use those skills every day on the set of an Adynaton film, and we switch up our roles from film to film. We are grassroots. There is no hierarchy. We learned in our theatre classes that it really is the person to the left of you and the person to the right of you that are going to make this work.”
The “Flannery” to whom Speas refers is Michael Flannery, an Associate Professor at CVPA who teaches Acting for the Camera, the class which Speas and the others enthusiastically credit with preparing them for their filmmaking endeavors. Flannery shrugs off the praise saying what the students have accomplished so far is remarkable:
“There is so much talk today about the content of film and television not being representative of what the world really looks like. This group decided that they weren’t going to complain about it. They were going to do something about it. They’ve created their own content that reflects their world. What they’ve done already is incredible, and they are just getting going.”
Adynaton’s filmmakers say they intend to keep going, and to meet increasing production budgets they found Seed & Spark, a film-centric crowdfunding platform. They set a goal to raise $10,500 to make Mothman and they had nearly a third of that in less than one week. The CEO of Seed & Spark found the project so worthy she gave it a company endorsement and made a personal investment, and there was a large anonymous donation from as far away as Ohio. The group is celebrating being over goal now, but Speas knows they may need every bit of it.
“One of our other professors says something we all take to heart. John Gulley (Professor of Theatre) always says ‘Prepare and Improvise’ and man, is that good advice! We know how to stretch a dime, but we always want our prep to outweigh the improvisation.”
Striking a balance between the two seems to be a core strength of Adynaton Productions which begins shooting Mothman in a few weeks. And like a moth to the flame, you can bet these young artists will be drawn to create another film as soon as this one is in the can.
For more information on Adynaton Productions:
Facebook: Adynaton Productions
Imagine it’s the first day of school — the very first day of school in your very first job as a teacher. Add to that, you are an arts education teacher at a time when so many school districts across the country are facing a budgetary crisis. Now, toss in a pandemic that turns teaching into a virtual juggling act of online classes and hybrid schedules.
School of Music Class of 2020 graduates Nygel Harris, Emily Gordon, and Nick Shoaf are experiencing all of those things but they say they wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.
“I have wanted to be a music teacher for so long because I know the impact music education can have on a person”, says Nygel Harris who received his Bachelor’s Degree in music education in May and is now the Orchestra Director at LeRoy Martin Magnet GT Middle School in Raleigh, NC.
“I was such a shy and insecure kid. High school band helped me become more confident, more social, and even more loving. That was an important developmental stage in my life, and band class gave me a safe environment. I want to be able to provide that for others.”
The Wake County School System, where Harris teaches three levels of orchestra and guitar, started the year out online and will switch to a hybrid schedule at some point.
“This will be incredibly challenging and take consistent innovation on my part. I’m creating assignments where students record themselves and take pictures of their playing positions. One positive thing about this is it gives me more opportunity for individualized feedback since the students are submitting content every week. Our professors laid a great foundation for us to be successful in the years to come. They taught us not only pedagogical content and classroom management, they also stressed the importance of self-evaluation, creativity, and being flexible — something that’s needed more than ever.”
Emily Gordon is a triple major — Bachelor of Music in Music Education – Instrumental/General, Bachelor of Music in Performance – Trumpet, and a Bachelor of Arts in Arts Administration. She landed a position at East Iredell Middle School as the Director of Bands and Choirs, where she teaches all grade levels. For now she has a hybrid schedule with different groups of students coming on different days of the week.
“This year will be full of challenges. There is no way we could’ve prepared for this. I didn’t have any formal training about how to teach a performing arts class online, but our professors and mentors at CVPA taught us to be resilient!”
Nicholas Shoaf is Director of Choirs at Kernodle Middle School in Greensboro. He holds a BA in Arts Administration and a BM in Music Education. Like Harris and Gordon, he sees challenge and opportunity in this non-traditional school year.
“It is very exciting and scary at the same time to teach choir students online, but my generation is so technology driven in everything we do. I think that has helped me transfer knowledge and skills to online learning. The challenge I face is building a student/teacher relationship in a virtual environment.”
CVPA Music Education students spend approximately two-thirds of their classroom time in music and teacher licensure study, and work closely with faculty members in their specialized concentration. They study with academic and studio faculty, perform with a variety of large and small ensembles, and spend time interactively learning the craft of music teaching in area public schools. One of the faculty members is Brett Nolker, Associate Professor of Music Education, who specializes in choral and secondary-level general music education. Nolker is active in music education research, with areas of interest including music teacher development. He says that while methods are different during the pandemic, CVPA music educators have been trained well.
“While we value the important place of group music-making in our schools and society, our program has always emphasized providing the richest individual learning for each child in the music classroom. So, in this challenging time, we will continue to work with our students and alumni to use our assessment and technology tools to design instruction that provides the most engaging individual music learning possible, while continuing to advocate for the important and vital place of music in everyone’s life.”
Nygel Harris says he’s up for the challenge: “I’m confident that this can be a very successful year. It will just take all of the diligence that we music teachers can muster and we’ll have to be more adaptable than ever before!”
CVPA offers arts education degrees in all of the disciplines: Art, Dance, Music, and Theatre.
Here’s a breakdown of the May 2020 Arts Education graduates:
BA-Dance Studies: K-12 Licensure 4
BFA-Art Education (K-12): 3
BFA-Dance: Dance Education 9
BFA-Drama: Theatre Education 4
BM-Music Education: 2
Choral/General Music Education 12
Instrumental/General Music Ed 19
Total Arts Education Graduates 53
College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean bruce d. mcclung has announced the appointment of Kevin Vanek to the position of Foundry Director in the School of Art.
Vanek comes to UNC Greensboro from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) where he was the Studio Technician and an adjunct faculty member in 3D Design, Sculpture, and Foundry. Prior to teaching at USM, Vanek was a Master Fabrication Specialist for Bennett Forgeworks in Ridgeway, Colorado and a Visiting Artist at Colorado Mesa University.
Vanek describes himself as a dedicated Foundryman who crafts one-of-a-kind reliquaries using metal as an intuitive attempt to create physical objects that represent mental health and other societal issues. He has exhibited throughout the South and the East Coast at galleries including Artfields 2019 in Lake City, SC; Art on the Atlanta Beltline in GA; Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, OH; the National Ornamental Metals Museum in Memphis, TN; and Wiregrass Museum of Art, Dothan, AL. He has also had solo shows at several American university galleries.
From 2017 to 2019, Vanek co-chaired Demonstrations as a member of the Steering Committee for the National Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art and Practices. In 2018 he was a Hot Metal Artist in Residence at Franconia Sculpture Park, and he is a 2020 recipient of a Visual Artist Fellowship from the Mississippi Artist Commission.
Kevin Vanek holds an MFA in Sculpture from East Carolina University and a BFA in 3-D Studio Art: Sculpture and Glass from Bowling Green State University.
Please join us in welcoming Kevin Vanek to the CVPA faculty!
The College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) at UNC Greensboro is the premier and most comprehensive set of visual and performing arts programs in North Carolina with Schools of Art, Dance, Music, and Theatre. CVPA has been designated by the UNC System Board of Governors as an “area of distinction.” CVPA transforms lives by providing exceptional artistic and academic experiences. www.vpa.uncg
Welcome New Faculty and Staff!
During the spring and summer of 2020, CVPA added ten (10) full-time faculty members and two (2) new staff members. We officially welcomed (pictured L to R)
Tannis Boyajian (Scene Shop Supervisor)
Mya Brown (Assistant Professor of Theatre–Theatre Generalist in Acting/Directing)
Tori Foster (Assistant Professor of New Media & Design)
Dan Hale (Visiting Assistant Professor of Animation)
April Hill (Lecturer in Musical Theatre–Voice)
Catrina Kim (Assistant Professor of Music Theory)
Garrett Klein (Assistant Professor of Trumpet)
Kelley O’Brien (Assistant Professor of New Media & Design)
Matthew Reese (Graduate Student Services – School of Music)
Natalie Sowell (Director of the School of Theatre and Associate Professor of Theatre)
Emily Voelker (Assistant Professor of Art History)
Tara Webb (Lecturer in Costume Technology)