LMU Professors Royer, Loo Earn Honors

Royer’s Work Recognized with Lifetime Achievement Award

Judith Royer, C.S.J., has been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her 40-year career dedicated to developing and fostering the talents of theatre students. Royer, a theatre arts professor at Loyola Marymount University, received the honor from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival on Feb. 14 in Los Angeles. Also see 15 Noteworthy Art Professors in Los Angeles.

“Thousands of faculty and hundreds of thousands of students have been influenced and shaped by the generous rigor of Professor Royer,” said Rodger D. Sorensen, associate dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications at Brigham Young University, in announcing the award.

“Sister Royer’s presence in the department is a blessed and welcome one,” said Kevin Wetmore, professor and chair of the Theatre Arts Department at LMU. “Her dedication to the development of new work and to theatre as a form of social justice, allowing students to engage in the community and use their art to make the world a better place, are in many ways the heart of what we do in LMU theatre.”

Since 1969, the Kennedy Center theatre festival has given more than 400,000 college and university theatre students the opportunity to have their work evaluated, to improve their dramatic skills, and to receive national recognition for excellence. Royer conceived and developed the Region VIII Respondents Workshop, which many other regions observed and subsequently instituted. The purpose of the workshop is to give constructive, structured feedback on the students’ work as a complete theatre-going experience.

“Sister Judith is THE reason I came to LMU,” said Marc Valera, a working actor and 1997 LMU graduate with a B.A. in theatre arts. “I had known Sister Judith through [the Kennedy Center theatre festival] where she commands great admiration and respect. … Beyond having an overall brilliant theater mind, she beautifully teaches the most vital of acting disciplines, text analysis.  It is the same work that I do now whether the job is for a play for hundreds or a TV show for millions.”

In addition to her work in the Theatre Department, Royer is also director of the CSJ Center for Reconciliation and Justice, which was established at LMU in 2012 and is host to forums on social justice topics and is a resource for education and reflective action.

Royer, who has taught at LMU for more than 40 years, has directed more than 35 plays and 40 original scripts in the United States and British Isles. She has worked as a producer, director and dramaturge with new play development programs sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, Playwrights Theatre, The Mark Taper Forum and Theatre Gallery in Los Angeles, of which she is the founder and former artistic director. Bryant Keith Alexander, Dean, College of Communication and Fine Arts celebrates Sister Royer in her efforts of “expanding the social consciousness of the power of performance; coupling critical aesthetics with the arts that do justice.” He adds, “Her presence in the Theatre program and at LMU is testament to the quality of an LMU education. I am pleased to have her as a faculty member, and even more so, the ability to call her a colleague and friend.”


LeBlanc Loo Wins Prestigious Graves Award in the Humanities

Rosalynde LeBlanc Loo, assistant professor of dance, has won the prestigious Graves Award in the Humanities to create an interdisciplinary, core curriculum class at Loyola Marymount University that examines “the interconnectedness of dance, culture and history.” Also see “The Body Tells a Story” in LMU Magazine.

The award includes a $12,000 stipend to support her research, which will focus on the work and methods of renowned choreographer Bill T. Jones. In particular, she will examine his work, “D-Man in the Waters,” the dance he created in 1989 about the AIDS epidemic at its height.

The Arnold L. Graves and Lois S. Graves Awards, administered at Pomona College, encourage and reward “outstanding accomplishment in actual teaching in the humanities by younger faculty members.” It is given to about a dozen teachers biennially, with applications accepted from about 40 private, liberal arts universities on the West Coast.  LeBlanc Loo is a recipient for the 2013-15 cycle.

As noted in the LMU application – which includes nominating letters from President David W. Burcham and Dean Bryant Keith Alexander of the College of Communication and Fine Arts – LeBlanc Loo is popular and respected among colleagues and students.

“Professor LeBlanc Loo’s scholarship and teaching,” Burcham wrote, “exemplify well the teacher-scholar model of transformative education, articulated in LMU’s new strategic plan, which promotes faculty who ‘conduct research and creative work that contributes to the larger body of knowledge while setting an example for the importance of lifelong learning.’ ”

Before joining the faculty, LeBlanc Loo was a professional dancer and a member of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. In recent years, Jones has limited his teaching, entrusting LeBlanc Loo and a very few others to impart his choreography, style and technique to future dancers.

The dance, “D-Man” is named for Demian “D-Man” Acquavella, who was a member of the Jones’ troupe when the dancer was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988.  Acquavella died at 32 in 1990.

“Demian’s personal story is subtly, but indelibly, inscribed in the dance,” LeBlanc Loo said in her grant application. His story underscores the appropriateness and timeliness of her research, explaining that the “absence of AIDS from current political and social discourse in this country has left successive generations without any way to contextualize the spirit and intensity of the art made in response to it.

“Therefore, it is against the backdrop of Jones’ ‘D-Man in the Waters’ that I see a valuable opportunity to integrate my larger research agenda of narrative and dance into an immersive and multi-faceted experience in the classroom.

LeBlanc Loo will do research at the Performing Arts Library in New York City, which has extensive records on Jones and contemporary dance, including video archives. The only taped interview that Demian gave about his connection to “D-Man in the Waters” is part of the archive. She will also interview family and former colleagues of Acquavella.

At the same time, LeBlanc Loo expects to utilize the research to complete a documentary about Acquavella, the troupe and the impact of AIDS on their art. “As a scholar and teacher, I investigate ways in which personal, cultural and historical events inform choreography. I try to situate movement in its larger context, stressing the fact that dance can be, and often is, a beautiful repository for narrative.”

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