In 2004, Fox’s American Idol drew 27 million viewers each week, Netflix was solely a DVD-rental service, YouTube didn’t exist, and no one at the University of Notre Dame could major in television. Ten academic years of the television major at Notre Dame later, it is now the department’s highest-enrolled concentration, and graduates can explain why the television industry has changed so much, point to previous eras in TV history that can help us predict what future developments are on the way, discuss the cultural implications of the changing entertainment landscape, and credit a growing slate of internships for allowing them to witness these developments firsthand.
Two faculty members and former chairs who were instrumental in the development of the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre are taking their final bows. Mark Pilkinton, who expanded the department in the 1980s and pushed for the building of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, retired this summer. Donald Crafton unified the department during his tenure as chair and expanded it to include film and television studies. He will retire after the fall semester.
From the first flicker of life in Frankenstein’s monster to the spark of unexpected connection between two high school students, the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre’s 2016-17 theatre season features an array of diverse, compelling productions. The department will present two student-written plays, In Paradisum and The Pink Pope, followed by an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Lauren Gunderson’s I and You, and Christ’s Passion: Medieval Mystery Plays.
Matthew Payne will join Notre Dame’s Department of Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) as an assistant professor this fall, bringing research and teaching interests that range from the rapidly evolving field of video games and interactive entertainment to convergent media, new media literacy, media representations of war, and ethnographic audience research. His book, Playing War: Military Video Games After 9/11, examines how games like the Call of Duty and Battlefield series “transform international strife into interactive fun."
An interdisciplinary group of media critics and creators from around the world gathered at Notre Dame this summer to discuss issues related to television, video, audio, new media, and feminism. Console-ing Passions, held on campus from June 16 to 18, began in 1989 as an effort by feminist media scholars and artists to foster new scholarship on television, culture, and identity.
Singer, songwriter and producer Todd Rundgren will serve as an artist-in-residence for the Department of Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) at the University of Notre Dame from Sept. 22 to Oct. 1. During his residency, Rundgren will teach several classes, work with students and teachers in the South Bend/Mishawaka community, perform with student bands in a concert Oct. 1 at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, organize an on-campus collection of used musical instruments for national redistribution to music students in need and, in conjunction with his Spirit of Harmony Foundation, present an award to Notre Dame alumnus Bill Hurd.
Political science major Patrick Vassel '07 didn’t come to Notre Dame dreaming of a career on Broadway. But a path that began with acting and directing in shows on campus has led him to New York's biggest stage. He's now associate director of Hamilton, the blockbuster musical that's won Tony Awards, a Grammy, and the Pulitzer Prize. Vassel has been a key figure in the show's development, working with actors and technicians night in and night out.
Twenty-two Notre Dame students who study in the College of Arts and Letters have received 2016-17 grants from the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program, offering students grants to conduct research, study, and teach abroad. The total number of finalists from Arts and Letters alone surpasses the previous University-wide Fulbright record of 17, set last year. In all, 27 Notre Dame students were named Fulbright finalists for 2016-17.
About seven years ago, Mary Celeste Kearney began noticing how much “sparkle” had become part of girls’ culture—in makeup and clothing, as well as in girl-oriented media. She began compiling a “taxonomy of sparkle” in contemporary films and TV series to explore its sociocultural significance. The resulting essay, “Sparkle: Luminosity and Post-Girl Power Media,” has been honored with the Katherine Singer Kovács Essay Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.
The abandoned island of Inishark off the coast of western Ireland is coming to life again thanks to new technology—a multimedia book project by Notre Dame anthropologist Ian Kuijt and filmmaker William Donaruma ’89. Through an innovative collaboration, they’ve created Island Places, Island Lives, a guidebook detailing the heritage and history of Inishark and its neighboring island, Inishbofin. Along with text and photographs, the book incorporates short videos of the island that appear on a smartphone or tablet when readers, using a free companion app, hold their device over key images in the book.
Graduates of the College of Arts and Letters are in demand in the business world. Through a broad liberal arts education, Arts and Letters students develop problem-solving, analysis, and communication skills—attributes that recruiters from major companies are seeking in college graduates. When companies like Vanguard, Epic Systems, Abercrombie & Fitch, and General Mills come to campus looking to recruit new employees, Arts and Letters students find great jobs.
Greg Kohs ’88 will wait as long as it takes to earn the trust of his film’s subjects. Kohs, who majored in American studies in the College of Arts and Letters, makes his living directing television commercials and independent documentaries. His newest film, The Great Alone, about four-time Iditarod champion and cancer survivor Lance Mackey, won the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at the Seattle International Film Festival this summer.
After adapting his award-winning documentary On the Bridge into a graphic novel that both portrayed stories of veterans and offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Olivier Morel’s emotions and struggles as he interviewed them, the FTT assistant professor was inspired to create an undergraduate course. In Graphic Wounds, Graphic Novels, in-depth readings and discussions with some of the genre’s leading authors revealed how trauma and recovery are depicted in nonfiction graphic novels.
Justin Mitchell ’95, Greg Kohs ’88, and Mike Canzoniero ’93—three Notre Dame alumni who became professional filmmakers—were invited back to campus last year to create short films about fans’ first time attending games at Notre Dame Stadium. Producing “First Time Fans” with Fighting Irish Digital Media, Ted Mandell of the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre wanted to give the alumni full access to a Notre Dame football game. But he also wanted to make existing students part of the project, so they could see what it actually means to be “on set.”
A new beginning in Crested Butte, Colorado. A carnivorous plant on Skid Row. A chance meeting in a Moscow cafe. And, a fresh look at Jane Austen’s beloved Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. The 2015-16 theatre season of the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Film, Television, and Theatre offers four distinctly different productions—Wildflower, Little Shop of Horrors, The Bear and Afterplay, and Pride and Prejudice—which together make this season one not to be missed.
- Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2014
- Award of Distinction in the Society of Cinema and Media Studies Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award competition, for being part of a project management team for the video essay journal [in]Transition …
Disheartened by anti-Muslim rhetoric that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Anne García-Romero resolved to write a play that explored the intricacies and nuances of interfaith love, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence. After years in the making, that work has become a reality. Paloma—which received its West Coast premiere and ran for a month this summer at the Los Angeles Theatre Center—focuses on a romance between a Muslim man and a Christian woman.
In a new course, Special Effects for Studio and Stage, associate professional faculty member Ken Cole taught Department of Film, Television, and Theatre students how to brainstorm and design a wide range of practical illusions for use in creative productions. The group of about 10 students simulated explosions, used makeup to create realistic-looking wounds, built props out of scraps and spare parts, and conjured up a realistic rainstorm.
When Jack Blakey was studying theatre at Notre Dame in the 1980s, he never dreamed he would one day be hearing legal disputes on the federal bench. But his liberal arts courses were preparing him for it nonetheless. Blakey was formally installed this spring as a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, following his nomination by President Barack Obama and confirmation by the U.S. Senate last year.
Eugene Staples has a vision: Entertainment can be more than a distraction—it can be an inspiration. It can teach kids how to be better people. It can make the world a better place. That sense of responsibility—the desire to make things that make an impact—was sparked at Notre Dame, and was recognized this spring by the Television Academy Foundation, which honored him with a Mister Rogers Memorial Scholarship.