College of Fine Arts News Archive

February 2016

  • Photographer Orton to discuss unique Upshaw family photo project

    Photographer Orton to discuss unique Upshaw family photo project

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    Richard Orton
    February 10, 2016—Robbie Goodrich

    Texas photographer Richard Orton will discuss his book “The Upshaws of County Line: An American Family” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, in The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House.

    The presentation takes place during the fourth annual Nacogdoches Main Street Wine Swirl, which is a wine-and-food pairing event that showcases Texas wineries and local restaurants inside the doors of downtown Nacogdoches businesses.

    Although tickets must be purchased in advance to participate in the Wine Swirl, admission to Orton’s talk is free, according to Alisa Steed, events coordinator for the art galleries of Stephen F. Austin State University. Orton’s talk is also presented in observance of Black History Month and is an official Nacogdoches 300 Tricentennial event.

    “We are excited to present this event free to our community in honor of Black History Month and as special added value for Wine Swirl participants,” Steed said. “Richard’s enthusiasm and commitment to this project are contagious and highlight an important segment of Nacogdoches County history. Many members of the Upshaw family are expected to attend and participate in the presentation.”

    In the late 1980s, Orton became acquainted with the Upshaw family, which had lived for decades in the northwest Nacogdoches County community of County Line. He began a project of documenting the community’s history through photographs and oral histories that resulted in the eventual publication of his book, “The Upshaws of County Line: An American Family” by the University of North Texas Press in 2014 after 25 years of preparation.

    Three brothers, Guss, Felix and Jim Upshaw, and their families established County Line in the 1870s. What stimulated Orton’s curiosity about County Line was how quickly emancipated slaves were able to own their own land, and, as a result, had the opportunity to live relatively autonomous, self-sufficient lives while raising their families in the time of Jim Crow.

    “That is why I wanted to make photographs there and collect their oral history,” Orton explained. “I was most fortunate to be allowed to do that.

    “The story I tell in my book and presentation is personal and universal,” he said. “It’s about the strength of family and community and the resilience of humankind. Because I am white, and the community is black, it speaks directly to the potential for black/white relationships. In County Line, I am on cultural turf not my own, which, in a different sense, is the common experience of black people in America.”

    Being in County Line, and being accepted there, gave Orton the opportunity to learn this family’s story, and in telling that story, it became part of Orton’s own, he said.

    “The story I tell is the story of a white man given the opportunity to ‘integrate’ into a historical African American community (so to speak),” Orton said.

    He does that through images captured through the camera lens and through the words of people born and raised there. His presentation provides an opportunity for diverse audiences “to recognize their commonalities and engage in positive dialogue about race,” he said.

    Orton, who is a native of Nacogdoches and returned to East Texas in 2007 after living and working in Austin for 36 years, is active on the boards of the SFA Friends of the Visual Arts and the African American Heritage Project.

    For additional information, call (936) 468-1131.

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  • SFA theatre students to present Heifner’s ‘Porch’

    SFA theatre students to present Heifner’s ‘Porch’

    February 10, 2016—Robbie Goodrich

    Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre will present the student-directed “Porch” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, and at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, in the Downstage Theatre on the SFA campus.

    “Porch” is half of SFA Playwright-in-Residence Jack Heifner’s 1978 Broadway debut, “Patio/Porch,” two one-acts portraying conversations between women. In “Patio,” the women are disappointed sisters. In “Porch,” they are a domineering, aging mother and her fading daughter who are “locked in a dance of death,” according to Dominique Rider, Dallas junior theatre major and director of the play.

    “The two find themselves on their porch on a hot day in Texas, and the dance continues as it always has,” Rider said.

    The two-member cast features Dallas senior Celeste Galey as Dot and Maple Grove, Minnesota, freshman Marie Phillips as Lucille.

    The production staff includes Rebekah Webb, Dallas sophomore, stage manager; Danika Pettyjohn, Fort Worth junior, scenic designer; TJ Davis, Beaumont junior, costume designer; Brian Steek, Houston sophomore, lighting designer; Devin Bruton, Nacogdoches junior, sound designer; Victoria Medrano, Edinburg sophomore, hair and makeup designer; and Taylor Solice, Mesquite junior, properties designer.

    Rider was most recently seen in the title role in SFA’s Mainstage production of “Macbeth” last fall. After directing “Porch,” he will participate in SFA’s Festival of New American Plays in April.

    Faculty production advisor for “Porch” is Melissa McMillian-Cunningham.

    SFA’s playwright-in-residence since 1997, Heifner is the author of more than 30 plays and musicals produced in New York, Los Angeles and theatres around the world. He is best known for the play version of “Vanities,” which ran for five years in New York, is published by Samuel French, and became one of the longest running plays in Off-Broadway history.

    The Downstage Theatre is located in the Griffith Fine Arts Building, 2222 Alumni Drive.

    Tickets are $4. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit

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  • SFA pianist to perform recital with his children

    SFA pianist to perform recital with his children

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    Mario Ajero, associate professor of piano pedagogy at Stephen F. Austin State University, will present a recital with his children, Olivia, 7, and Antonio, 11, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, in Cole Concert Hall on the SFA campus.

    February 8, 2016—Robbie Goodrich

    Mario Ajero, associate professor of piano pedagogy at Stephen F. Austin State University, will present a faculty recital at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, in Cole Concert Hall on the SFA campus.

    The piano concert, which also features Ajero’s children, Antonio, 11, and Olivia, 7, is a joint presentation of the SFA College of Fine Arts and School of Music and is part of the Cole Performing Arts Series.

    Ajero has performed before SFA audiences with his son, who is an award-wining pianist, on several occasions.

    “Many people are familiar with my 11-year-old son Antonio due to his recent accomplishments,” Ajero said. “Not a lot of people realize his 7-year-old sister Olivia also plays piano and shows similar promise. I am looking forward to this opportunity to share the stage and piano with my two kids.”

    The program includes Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 81a as one of the featured works. It is sometimes known as the “Les Adieux” sonata, according to Ajero. The work was started in 1809 and depicts the departure of Beethoven’s patron Archduke Rudolf who fled Vienna due to the advancing Napoleon and his army upon the city.

    “The first movement is entitled ‘Das Lebewohl’ and is a musical farewell to the archduke,” Ajero said. “The opening motive imitates a distant horn call where Beethoven makes his intentions known by writing the word ‘Le-be-wohl’ over the three notes. The second movement, ‘Das Abwesenheit,’ expresses Beethoven’s feeling of loss and loneliness due to the departure of the Archduke. The third movement, ‘Das Wiedersehen,’ is a brilliant display of musical euphoria on Beethoven’s hope to see his friend once again some day.”

    Two pieces from “Estampes” by French impressionist composer Claude Debussy will also be on the program. The first piece, “Pagodes” demonstrates the heavy influence of Asian music on Debussy after he witnessed a Javanese gamelan group at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, Ajero explained.

    “His ability to bring this distinct Asian sound to the piano, especially in this piece, was quite revolutionary,” he said. “‘Jardins sous la pluie’ (Gardens in the Rain) is a toccata showpiece with a wide palette of chromatic, whole tone, major and minor keys and relentless rhythms to evoke the imagery of rain-soaked gardens. Within the work, Debussy incorporates French folk tunes for moments of respite, but the storm builds up again to a climax until the sun breaks through as the tonality shifts from minor to major at the end.”

    The performance will also feature “Romance” by Sergei Rachmaninoff, which comes from two pieces for six hands at one piano and was composed in 1891 for three sisters who were cousins of the composer.

    Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for students and youth. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit

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  • SFA theatre students to perform in ‘Clybourne Park’

    SFA theatre students to perform in ‘Clybourne Park’

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    February 8, 2016—Robbie Goodrich

    The School of Theatre at Stephen F. Austin State University will present “Clybourne Park” by Bruce Norris at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Feb. 23 through 27, in W.M. Turner Auditorium on the SFA campus.

    Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for drama, “Clybourne Park” was written in response to the classic “A Raisin In the Sun.” Passionate, balanced, funny and as timely as today’s headlines, “Clybourne Park” is a play for every American to see and to ponder, according to Zach Hanks, assistant professor of theatre at SFA and the play’s director.

    “I saw ‘Clybourne Park’ at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis a few years ago, and the experience was everything I go to the theatre to do – I laughed, I ached, and I thought deeply about myself, my attitudes and my culture,” Hanks said. “The themes around racism, discrimination and privilege are as timely now as they ever were. We’re in a post-Civil Rights Movement era, but grappling with the new versions of the same old injustices and conflicts.

    “This play shows us that the more things change – from ‘the Greatest Generation’ in Act I to the ‘Generation X’ characters in Act II – the more things stay the same,” he said.

    The School of Theatre produced the classic “A Raisin in the Sun” to enthusiastic audience response in 2010. In “Raisin,” an African American family in 1959 Chicago is moving to a white neighborhood, Clybourne Park. The first act of the newer play is set on the same day as one scene in “Raisin,” in the house that the family is buying. The second act is set in the same house 50 years later, with the tables turned – a white family now seeks to buy the house from a black family.

    “But many painful issues are still unresolved,” Hanks said.

    “Clybourne Park” features mature themes, suggestive dialogue, and very coarse language, including some profanity, which may not be suitable for younger audiences. Cigarette smoking is simulated in the production. In other media, this show might be rated “R” or “TV-MA.”

    “The strong language and mature themes make this a play for mature audiences, surely, but the social issues addressed are certainly ones we hope adult theatergoers may be inspired to discuss with their children the following day,” Hanks said.

    Single tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7.50 for students/youth. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit

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