New Post-MFAs Bring Energy, Enthusiasm to Campus

This photo shows a young white woman with long dark hair posing for the camera. Only her head and shoulders show.  The background is marine green.
Laura Epperson is one of two new post-MFAs in the theatre department this year. Photo courtesy of Laura Epperson.

The Center for Communicating Science at Virginia Tech would like to introduce two of our newest post-MFA fellows, Laura Epperson and Mason Rosenthal. Both Epperson and Rosenthal joined the School of Performing Arts here in Blacksburg this fall following their Master of Fine Arts studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Epperson began her education in performance art with a bachelor degree in theatre performance from the University of Evansville in 2012 and an MFA in drama and theatre for youth and communities from the University of Texas at Austin in 2020. She has instructed undergraduates in multiple settings through a teaching assistantship at UT-Austin in addition to directing a virtual devised performance piece through the Wheelock Family Theatre at Boston University.

In describing her work, Epperson says her focus is “how healing-centered engagement and rigorous aesthetic practice supports us in identifying, dismantling, and reimagining unjust systems.” To pursue that effort, she served as a resident teaching artist on the Performing Justice Project facilitated by the Center for Imagining and Performing Justice in Austin, Texas.

Her MFA thesis, Our Voice is Powerful: Toward an Aesthetics of Healing in the Performing Justice Project, examines “how aesthetic development relates to healing and justice within a performance-building process with youth.” This work received the 2021 Distinguished Thesis Award from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education.

While she is in Blacksburg, Epperson says, she hopes to engage with community members through original performance that “imagines a more just and joyful future for all.”

This photo shows a young white male seater crosslegged.
Mason Rosenthal joins Epperson as a new post-MFA working in the theatre department this year. Photo courtesy of Mason Rosenthal.

Rosenthal began studying performance art in Manhattan, attaining his bachelor of fine arts degree in drama with a minor in art and public policy from New York University. He received an MFA from UT-Austin in performance as public practice in 2020. In addition to his university studies, Rosenthal was part of NYU’s Atlantic Theater Company Acting School on faculty from 2007 to 2011 and practiced as a creative resident at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania.

Recently, Rosenthal says, his performance-based research has focused on changes in the American toy industry and culture and how they may reflect larger changes in American identities. His recent public-access TV series, titled How Do You Jew?, dissects “difficulties of inheritance: the legacies of late stage capitalism, whiteness complicated by Jewishness, toxic masculinity, and the environmental impact of the post-World War II plastic boom.”

Rosenthal says that in Blacksburg he intends to continue pursuing performance-based research and “make art around [his] ideas with student collaborators.”

Rosenthal and Epperson both expressed their excitement to teach the undergraduate course “Introduction to Applied Collaborative Techniques” in spring semester 2022 (TA 2404), a course developed by Center for Communicating Science director Patty Raun. Both hope to collaborate with students, colleagues, and community members for future projects while working alongside the Center for Communicating Science.

“We look forward to their contributions to our workshops and initiatives at the center,” said Raun, “as well as learning from their perspectives as we collaborate to teach the undergraduate class.”

A warm welcome to Laura and Mason!

By Brandon Cleary, Center for Communicating Science student intern

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