FSU performing arts students, faculty, Film School head to Big Apple for ‘Sight, Sound & Motion’

Don Gibson

A contingent of some of the best student and faculty ambassadors of the celebrated performing arts programs at Florida State University will take to the stages of New York City April 27-30 for “Sight, Sound & Motion”—FSU’s fifth annual arts talent showcase in the Big Apple.

In addition to an evening of vocal music on April 28 at Carnegie Hall with College of Music faculty and performances April 28-29 by students from the Acting and Music Theatre programs, this year’s showcase will feature a special screening of “Fields of Fuel,” the documentary that won the Audience Award in its category and a two-minute standing ovation at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

The writer, director and star of the feature-length film—some have compared it to the 2006 Sundance favorite “An Inconvenient Truth”—is a graduate of FSU’s College of Motion Picture, Television and Recording Arts (best known as The Film School), which will host the April 30 screening. The documentary, shot in the United States, Australia, Germany, Sweden and United Kingdom, lays out a case for reducing the nation’s oil dependence by increasing the use of biodiesel fuels and challenges audiences to “change your fuel, change your world.”

Because New York City is the heart of industries such as theater and publishing and home to agents who can help make or break a budding fine arts career, the annual FSU showcase is orchestrated to give ambitious students an optimal entrée to industry professionals right in their own big-city backyard. It is not only one of the most sought-after performance and networking opportunities for graduating seniors but also an ideal opportunity for distinguished FSU faculty to strut their stuff in the professional arts world.

On April 28 and 29 at 4 and 7 p.m. each day in the Alvin Ailey Theatre, a total of 15 rising stars—drawn from the College of Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance’s Acting Program and the Music Theatre program it runs jointly with the College of Music—will perform under the watchful gaze of agents who cast for Broadway and off-Broadway productions as well as for discerning Big Apple patrons and FSU alumni.

The following week, the Music Theatre and Acting students will head to Los Angeles and Burbank’s Falcon Theatre. “On May 8 at 7:30 p.m. we’ll be performing for our L.A.-area alumni and a whole different mix of top directors, producers and agents who primarily cast for film and television,” said Sally McRorie, dean of the College of Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance.

Meanwhile, on April 28 at New York City’s venerable Carnegie Hall, faculty members from FSU’s nationally recognized College of Music—including baritone David Okerlund, mezzo-soprano Wanda Brister, soprano Shirley Close and pianist Timothy Hoekman—will present an evening of vocal music beginning at 8 p.m. in the Weill Recital Hall.

“It’s a great chance for some of our more recently hired faculty to not only gain additional exposure in a world-class venue but also to share with New York City audiences some of the wealth of talent and teaching resources in the FSU College of Music,” said College of Music Dean Don Gibson.

April 30, the star of the Big Apple showcase will be “Fields of Fuel,” which will be screened at 8 p.m. at Manhattan’s Angelika Theatre. The two-hour-long documentary touts the benefits of fuel derived from organic sources such as corn, soybeans, switch grass or algae and includes appearances by energy experts and some familiar faces on the political and cultural scenes.

Writer-director Josh Tickell, an environmental activist and author who grew up in the shadow of Louisiana’s oil refineries, will be on hand for the event. A reception will follow.

“While certainly we’re thrilled to be screening a Sundance Audience Award winner in New York City during the FSU arts showcase and delighted to claim Josh Tickell as an alumnus, this documentary is much more than that,” said Film School Dean Frank Patterson. “It is an emotionally compelling, fact-filled story about what our country must do to become energy independent. With the national election upon us and this topic high on the agenda, the film couldn’t come at a better time.”

Tickell’s first book, “From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank: The Complete Guide to Using Vegetable Oil as an Alternative Fuel,” helped generate the 1990s biodiesel revolution. In 2006, he released his second book—”Biodiesel America: How to Achieve Energy Security, Free America from the Middle-East Oil Dependence and Make Money Growing Fuel”—and founded the Biodiesel America Organization, which became part of former President Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative on Climate Change. Clinton’s support enabled Tickell’s biodiesel-fueled “relief ships” to deliver 22,000 meals and clothing and medical supplies to areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Tickell and his producers plan to have the film screened in 50 cities around the country by Earth Day 2009. “FSU is where I got the tools to make this movie, and New York City is where the film begins and ends,” he said. “For me, it’s a perfect circle.”

FSU’s Alumni Association once again will play a key role in the annual arts talent showcase by welcoming its members from New York City and beyond. For the growing community of Big Apple area alumni, currently more than 3,000 strong, the performances interspersed with assorted festivities—including an April 27 cocktail reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at the elegant “W New York” hotel in Times Square—offer ample chances to reconnect with their alma mater both on stage and off.

Many showcase events are free of charge and open both to the public and alumni. For information on all performances and social events—including dates, times, venues and where applicable, admission costs and reservations—visit the Web site at sightsoundmotion.fsu.edu.