Let’s Go Diving!

by Spencer Duncan, dramaturg

sea-79606_640According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the ocean covers 70% of the world’s surface, yet 95% of it remains to be explored.

What could be down there?

We may not know, but through the efforts of oceanographers and marine biologists, we have discovered quite a bit. You can get a taste by diving into this clips from the BBC: Continue reading

Come Chat with the “Princess Academy” Cast

by Janine Sobeck, dramaturg


One of the traditions in the BYU Theatre and Media Arts Department is the Thursday post show. Each Thursday night, immediately following the performance, the cast and members of the production team join the dramaturg on stage to chat with the audience. This is a great opportunity for the audience to ask questions about what they saw on stage, learn more about the process that we went through, and to discuss the different topics of the show.

For Princess Academy, we will be holding our traditional post shows on Thursday June 4th and Thursday June 11th. We invite you to join us in the Pardoe Theatre and add to the conversation!

We are also delighted to announce an additional, special opportunity. On Saturday June 13th, directly following the matinee performance, author Shannon Hale will be joining me on stage for a brief Q&A with the audience. This will be a great opportunity to hear from the author of the original Princess Academy novel. We are excited to have her watch the show and delighted that she will be staying to chat afterwards! Continue reading

Tech Week!

by Janine Sobeck, dramaturg

Tech week is one of the most exciting moments in any show. It’s the time when we get to leave our rehearsal room, move onto stage, and add all of the production elements. To help the actors adapt to all the changes we usually make a gradual transition.


2015-05-08 10.46.49While still in the rehearsal room, actors are given certain rehearsal props and costumes to help them in the creation of their characters. In the case of Princess Academy, all the girls were given rehearsal skirts and all the characters were given rehearsal books and and other items (such as the miri flower). We also added all of the instruments used in the show.

Tech day 1:

2015-05-20 19.33.51The first day of tech included adding the set and sound. One of the biggest changes for our actors is the ramps on our stage. They finally had the opportunity to climb the mountain! Continue reading

Backstage at the “Princess Academy” Photo Shoot

by Janine Sobeck, dramaturg


Esa (Rachel Heath), Frid (Leah Hodson), Britta (Claire Eyestone), and Gerti (Tearza Foyston) get ready for the camera

One fun moment in every show is when you get to take the publicity photos. Usually it is the first time that members of the cast get into full costume, make-up, and hair and fully create their characters for others. It is also a chance for the director to find that one image that effectively conveys the mood, message, and style of the show to the audience.

For Princess Academy, director Megan Sanborn Jones wanted to concentrate on 3 things:

1. The Academy girls

2. The books

3. The mountain

As Shannon Hale has stated that one of her major influences in creating Mt. Eskel was our very own Wasatch mountains, we decided to gather the girls and their books and head up Provo Canyon. Continue reading

Announcing the PRINCESS ACADEMY Book Drive!

by Janine Sobeck, dramaturg

#6 - rescan 001Throughout her adventures at the academy, one of the most important lessons that Miri learns is the power and joy of reading. As the words and books come alive around her, she encounters stories and knowledge that have the ability to change her life.

In order to celebrate the message of Princess Academy, the cast and crew want to share the gift of reading with those who – like Miri – have little opportunity to have a book of their own.  To help us with our goal, we are creating a mountain of books in the Harris Fine Arts Center (HFAC).

We invite you to help our mountain grow by donating your favorite children/YA books (new and gently used please!). Books may be added to the donation bins in the HFAC, the HFAC box office, or the Marriott Center box office. After the show closes, all books will be donated to deserving children in the Provo School District. (Requested reading levels: K-6th grade.) Continue reading

The Journey of Books

by Heather Oberlander and Janine Sobeck, dramaturgs

Do you love to read? Is your home or office full of books? In a world where books can be delivered instantly to your e-reader, it’s hard to imagine a time when reading a book was a rare privilege. And yet, throughout the history of time, the wondrous stories and important information contained within the pages of books have not been always available to everyone. To see how far we have come, check out our brief look into the journey of books.

1200 B.C.

Phoenician_Alphabet_uaIt is around this time that the Phoenicians created the first known alphabet.

summariantablet copyThe first known use of writing was in Sumeria. People used clay tablets to record information about mining and crops.

1154 B.C.

old-scrollIt’s not known exactly when scrolls began to be used, but it was sometime around 1154 B.C. Scrolls were made out of stretched animal skin called parchment.

woodandwaxcodexThe next form of the book was the codex. It was 2 pieces of wood bound together and covered in wax. The writing would be scratched in to the wax. The Codex was so important that it is still the official name of a bound book.

1 A.D.

accordianfoldPaper was invented in China around 1 A.D. They folded it in to books accordion style. It took quite a while for this discovery to reach the rest of the world. Continue reading

Shannon Hale on Books, Writing, and Seeing Her Stories Adapted

by Janine Sobeck, dramaturg

Award winning author Shannon Hale  (Photo credit: Jenn Florence)

Award winning author Shannon Hale
(Photo credit: Jenn Florence)

Shannon Hale is a native Utah writer who has taken the YA fiction world by storm. From her debut novel Goose Girl, to her popular Ever After High series, to her graphic novels, and more (including her popular adult adult fiction book Austenlandnow a major motion picture), Shannon has entertained millions of readers with her wonderful characters and fascinating worlds. Her books have also garnered critical acclaim, landing her on the New York Times best-selling author list and winning many awards (including the prestigious Newbery Honor for Princess Academy).

In honor of BYU’s theatrical adaptation of Princess Academy, I reached out to Shannon to hear a little about about her writing process, what books excite her, and how she feels about seeing her work transformed for the stage. I’m delighted that she took some time out of her busy book tour schedule (the third book in the Princess Academy series was released in March!) to share a bit about her world.

Janine Sobeck: What books were influential to you as a child?

Shannon Hale: In 3rd grade, my favorite book was THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN. My 4, 5, and 6 grade years were especially fruitful reading years. My favorite authors were Robin McKinley, CS Lewis, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Joan Aiken, Lloyd Alexander, Anne McCaffrey, Patricia McKillip.

JS: Could you describe your writing process?

SH: As a mom, I’ve learned to write whenever I have free time and space. I can’t get too fussy. As long as I have my laptop and no one’s talking to me, I can write. I write every weekday as long as I have a babysitter or my younger kids are in preschool. When the babysitter is sick or school is out, I can’t work. “Writer’s block” is a fancy way of saying “writing can be hard sometimes.” The best way to get past it is to give myself permission to write badly today and just keep writing.

JS: What is your favorite part of having your work adapted to a different medium (such as the theatre)?
Continue reading

Welcome to Our “Princess Academy”

By Janine Sobeck, dramaturg

princess academyWelcome to Princess Academy. My name is Janine Sobeck and I am the dramaturg on this exciting new adaption of Shannon Hale’s popular book. As we prepare for our May 29th opening, I will be posting the journey our cast and creative team have taken to transform this story from the page to stage. Stay tuned for insights into the adaption process, sneak peeks into the rehearsal room, a look at the work of our designers, and even an interview with award winning author Shannon Hale. I hope that you will follow along before joining us in the Pardoe Theatre.

A fan of the book? Let us know what your favorite parts or characters in the comments section below. Not familiar with the story of Princess Academy? Check out a brief synopsis (and even read the first chapter of the book) on Shannon Hale’s website Squeetus. Continue reading

Music and Performance with Patrick Livingston

by Rick Curtiss, Dramaturg

The_Winter's_TaleI had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick Livingston for today’s blog. He helped create the music and plays Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale. His double duty roles give fascinating insight into the creation of the show. After tonight’s (Thursday April 2nd) performance Patrick and the entire cast will be available for a post show discussion where you can be the interviewer and ask your questions about the show. Continue reading

Insights from Costume Designer Mary Farahnakian

by Rick Curtiss, dramaturg

The_Winter's_TaleAt a recent post show discussion for The Winter’s Tale (held every Thursday night after the show), one of the first questions from the audience was about the amazing costumes. I’m happy to report that I had the pleasure of interviewing costume designer Mary Farahnakian right before the show opened, and am excited to share her insights with you. The costumes in the show are inspiring in both their attention to detail and dedication to the themes of the show. Continue reading