2020 Virtual Expo

Performing Arts
Judging Round

Artificial Emotional Intelligence: Perfectly Imperfect Performance in Pierce Gradone’s “Automaton”

Student Author(s): Taylor Barlow, Junior (Music)
Faculty Mentor(s): Andrew Hudson (Music)


Computers have evolved to become a prominent part of everyday life, making it easier to complete most tasks with fewer errors. Pierce Gradone’s “Automaton” for solo bass clarinet recognizes the role technology began to play in music during the 1940’s and 1950’s and continues to play today. Performers can sometimes be viewed as an “imperfect shadow” when compared to a computer’s capability to execute “flawless” performance. Many musicians chase after perfection in fear of becoming obsolete. However, what does it truly mean to be “flawless?” A computer is incapable of playing from the heart in the way humans are, often making our supposedly “flawed” performances more personal. “Automaton” deploys many “heartless” machine-like qualities through the use of extended techniques. This presentation focuses on enabling performers to walk the line of machine-like perfection and organic expression by exploring Gradone’s usage of extended techniques, and how to engage them from either musical perspective. The piece starts with a machine-like passage of notes characterized by key clicks. As “Automaton” progresses, these machines crumble and a human voice emerges, leaving the technology either obsolete or wholly organic, and us to wonder whether we are hearing a truly human voice or a flawless computer reproduction.

The Mermaid of Bellcove Bay

Student Author(s): Alex Faulkner, Junior (Acting)
Faculty Mentor(s): Denise Gabriel (Theatre)


In my presentation I will be talking about the development of my three-part play, The Mermaid of Bellcove Bay, which was inspired by my studies and personal experiences while in Provincetown during the Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival. While in Provincetown I experienced the subtle clashing of two communities: the local queer community and the ever-growing tourist population. This project came into fruition after I witnessed a family of upper-middle-class, assumed cis-heterosexual tourists gawk at a local drag-queen who was promoting her nightly drag show. This project is a personal fantasy-fear fugue that hides underlying queer-centric critiques of our society’s moral values and practices. As I continue to develop this piece, I hope to discover a depth of knowledge about queer history that has been hidden and erased from our society. My purpose in creating this piece is to educate audiences, tell stories of those who are silenced, and to challenge the modern norm we practice in our storytelling as artists.

Tennessee for Pre-Teens: Tennessee Williams’ Short Fiction as Theatre for Young Audiences

Student Author(s): Matthew Lopez, Senior (Anthropology, Drama)
Faculty Mentor(s): Denise Gabriel and Rachel Briley (Theatre)


An oral presentation about The Provincetown Tennessee Williams festival’s lectures, and performances as research, and inspiration for modern abstractions of Williams’ work.

The audience got to see a short skit about the rules of croquet, and how it’s played. Then they saw a staged reading of Matthew Lopez’s original short play based on William’s short story Three Players of a Summer Game. Then they got to give feedback and write in their own scenes. After intermission, the scenes were read aloud, and the most voted upon scenes were added into moments expressed by the audience, and they saw the staged reading again along with their new scenes.

The goal is to bring the audience in as development participants in a developmental process and create their own unique theatrical experience.

MAMA Mindfulness Arts Mindfulness Action

Student Author(s): Cameron Robinson, Junior, Tevondre Bryant, Sophomore, and Carla Fuller, Junior (Theatre)
Faculty Mentor(s): Denise Gabriel (Theatre)


How can current theatre practitioners begin to create a culture for young artists that supports emotional, physical, and social well-being? These undergraduate researchers sought to answer this question with mindfulness practices. The UCLA Mindfulness Research Center defines mindfulness as “paying attention to present moment experiences with openness, curiosity and a willingness to be with what is.” Through a partnership with Triad Stage, the researchers began teaching mindfulness workshops at Dudley High School, a Title I school in Greensboro. They also utilized an approach inspired by the novel Escape to Berlin by Adrian Piper, which analyzes how she peeled off the layers of her socialization–as a black educator– in this country to become her authentic self. “Then you are really free. That is when you become the self you really are” (Piper, 21).  Organically, these workshops made space for the high school students to create a performance piece that explored the impact of going to a majority black high school. The undergraduate researchers will perform an original piece based on their work with the high school students and on their research of Piper’s novel.

The Bombarde Reed: Understanding the Design and Construction

Student Author(s): Alex Stewart, Junior (Music)
Faculty Mentor(s): Mary Ashley Barret (Music)


The Bombarde is a small, double- reed instrument native to Brittany made to accompany the bagpipe in Breton music. The most important part of this instrument is the reed, as it is responsible for the production of sound. Bombarde reeds cannot be mass produced; they must be made by hand to achieve a good tone quality and function well with the instrument. There are very few people alive who know how to make them and fewer still who are willing to take on new customers. 

In the initial development of this study, the only available resources found that relate to the Bombarde were written in French and focused on the music of Brittany, not the construction of reeds. Dr. Barret and Alex Stewart had access to a collection of approximately thirty different reeds from Brittany in various strengths through EJ Jones, a local Bombarde player and bagpipe instructor of Alex.

Throughout the course of this research, Barret and Stewart learned as much as they could about the Bombarde reed construction and devised a system to make them. Information about the dimensions of the reeds was gathered and a detailed reed diagram was constructed. Twelve reeds were crafted and tested by several Bombarde players in the NC area. 

Designing Costumes for Pippin, One of the School of Theatre’s Mainstage Productions

Student Author(s): Jacquelyn Whiteside, Senior (Theatre)
Faculty Mentor(s): Deborah Bell (Theatre)


In our production of Pippin, showcasing the legendary Bob Fosse’s exuberant dance style was the predominating factor in the director and design team’s concept. To achieve this, I utilized medieval characteristics and contemporary dance silhouettes with bold figure-revealing lines, vivid colors, and slick textures. Ultimately, my costumes enriched the performers’ strikingly articulate dance moves, while underscoring the wit and panache of Fosse’s bold vision.

A cohesive, visual design fulfils the director’s goal of storytelling. Achieving this required vigilance in character groupings, frugality in resources and budgets, mastery of technical skills in costume and armor construction, and expertise in wig and makeup tailoring. In addition, my knack for music theory and dance techniques greatly influenced the functionality and appearance of costumes.

While I initially felt intimidated with the daunting challenge of designing costumes for one of UNCG’s spectacular mainstage musicals (a task usually reserved for graduate students and faculty members), I took great pleasure in collaborating with my team and seeing my ideas successfully realized on stage. I thank the Lloyd International Honors College for awarding me a Summer Research Grant and I appreciated the opportunity to participate in the Southeastern Theatre Conference’s Design Competition in late February in Louisville, Kentucky.

Access presentations not submitted for the judging rounds through our program link on the virtual expo homepage.