Student Performing Arts Update for January 2022
Thank you so much for your patience and understanding as the Spring 2022 semester begins. We know that the delayed in-person start has been challenging, and Platt House and the PAC Shop are here to support you. We are all disappointed that the best laid plans are once again disrupted by Covid 19, but we are optimistic that this is temporary. We are asking you to be mindful of everyone’s needs as we push through as a student performing arts community. In advance of this long email, we need to say that we at Platt House and the PAC Shop are committed to working with you on modifications and solutions to make this semester work. We await more directives from the University together and we will get through this together.
Platt House & PAC–Exec will be hosting a virtual Town Hall on Saturday, 1/15 for all student performing arts groups. At that meeting, we will discuss the updates below, share any new guidance, and answer any questions you have to the best of our ability at that time. This meeting is mandatory for all student performing arts groups. Please be sure to send at least one Exec/Board member. This should be someone very knowledgeable about the group who will report the details back to all group members.
Student Performing Arts Town Hall Meeting
Saturday, 1/15 @ 5pm ET
Note: The Zoom Link has been removed from this website in the interest of cybersecurity. Please contact your group’s PAC Representative on the PAC-Rep listserv, or email us at platthouse[at]pobox.upenn.edu for the link.
Mandatory for all student performing arts groups
As shared previously, in-person student group gatherings, including student performing arts activities, will not be permitted until at least Monday, 1/24. This date will likely be extended. This is a mitigation strategy for Covid-19, and this policy has been communicated from Campus Health and University Life leadership. We cannot control how long in-person student group activities will be suspended, and we will share any updates as we receive them. Please make sure your groups do not gather in person while in-person student group gatherings are not permitted. We expect University guidance on this very soon.
Platt House will be open with limited hours and limited capacity starting on Wednesday, 1/12. Capacity in rehearsal rooms will be limited to one person per room max, and capacity in the Lobby will be limited to 5 people max, spread out throughout the space. Green passes will be checked, and either N95 or double masks need to be worn at all times, no exceptions. Below is the current schedule, starting Wednesday, 1/12:
- Sundays: 1pm-5pm
- Mondays through Fridays: 12pm-8pm
- Platt House will be closed on Monday, 1/17 in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
- Saturdays: Closed
The PAC Shop will be open by appointment only (https://tinyurl.com/
At this point, since we do not know exactly how student performing arts activities will unfold for this semester, we are working on and we encourage you all to work on backup plans. This can include plans for virtual auditions, rehearsals, and shows; pushing back activities until later in the semester; scaling down productions (the PAC Shop can assist with these logistics); sharing resources; and more.
At this point, Platt House, the PAC Shop, and PAC–Exec believe it would be wise to plan for all performances to occur either after Spring Break and/or to be produced virtually. We are hopeful that student performances can be conducted in-person later in the semester, and virtual is always an option to keep in mind.
Given a shortened timeline for in-person activities this semester, and in order to be equitable to groups, we will be asking you to share resources more than in a typical in-person semester. This may mean additional groups in space shares, scaled down productions, shortened tech times, and more. This consolidation will require your input. PAC–Exec will send a form out for your input, and this will be discussed at the Town Hall.
We will be rescheduling the Pre-Production meeting originally scheduled for Friday, 1/14 at 3:30pm, so you can remove that calendar item for now.
We absolutely understand that these updates are not what anyone was hoping for as we begin this new semester. We are here to support you. Feel free to send any questions to platthouse[at]pobox.upenn.edu or reserve them for our meeting on the 15th. We may not be able to answer all questions right away, but we will do our best.
We are so grateful to work with all the students in this vibrant community, and we look forward to supporting you and your missions as the semester continues. Please take care.
Platt House & the PAC Shop
Arnab Mishra, W’96
During his undergraduate experience at Penn, Arnab Mishra spent tons of time flexing his creative muscles in and out of the classroom. He shares that his college experience was a transformative one, especially due to Penn’s cross-disciplinary nature. Arnab majored in finance and used his elective credits to dabble in literature, writing, and music classes, even learning how to play the sitar (the latest in a long line of instruments he grew up playing). When not studying, Arnab worked at the student radio station and served as a columnist for the Wharton journal. He interned at multiple magazines in New York City and realized that his original plan to pursue journalism as a career was not the correct path for him. However, Penn offered him the chance to experiment with multiple career paths, all while forging lasting connections with peers from diverse backgrounds who helped him expand his ability to see the world. Arnab credits these friends with providing him new perspectives even to this day (even on pandemic Zoom calls).
In school, Arnab realized that his favorite pursuits combined the creative and the analytical. After graduating, he made his way back to New York, working in investment banking and private equity. The firm where he worked had raised a growth capital fund in the midst of the dot-com bubble, and he spent time investing in mid to late stage technology companies. Arnab discovered a love for technology entrepreneurship and building businesses from the ground up. After attending Harvard Business School, he relocated to San Francisco to work on his first of two startups. Both companies were eventually sold to larger public companies, the first to the French-based Alcatel and the second to east coast-based Broadsoft. Arnab still lives in the Bay Area with his wife, originally from Northern Virginia, and their two children. After two decades, he jokes that their family has finally stopped asking when they will move back east. Arnab currently serves as the Chief Product Office at Xactly, where over the last four years he has dramatically expanded the company’s product line, applying a knowledge of market opportunities and user needs. Arnab loves his job, as it once again allows him the room to be analytical and to creatively suss out solutions.
Arnab has also been a very active alum. In 2013, he joined the James Brister Society. Founded in the early 90s and named after the first African American to graduate from the University, the James Brister Society is the umbrella alumni organization for diversity and inclusion at Penn. Arnab has served as the Co-Chair of multiple committees in the Society, and what he loves most is helping advise the University on initiatives to create a more inclusive space for faculty, staff, and students. When asked to join the Platt House Alumni Advisory Council, Arnab was not sure if he was the best fit, since performing arts was not at the foreground of his college experience, nor his current work. However, Arnab says he was drawn to Platt House’s goal of increasing diversity and inclusion initiatives and Platt House’s ethos of uplifting voices. One of Arnab’s first roles on the Council was supporting a panel discussion on racial and social equity in the arts this past spring. The session was geared toward alumni with a goal of updating them on current trends and goals in the student performing arts spaces. Platt House is so excited that Arnab has joined this team, as we are grateful for his experience with advocacy work and his perspective from the business world. Many of our students have followed in his footsteps as students in the Wharton School, and we have a lot to gain from his insight.
When asked why the arts are important, Arnab shares: “I dont view art as a thing unto itself. I think the notion of art and the notion of creativity lives in every single discipline out there. It’s universal.” Arnab explains that even when creating software products, there is a level of artistry within them. Arnab also shares that he believes philosophically that “art is a place where the human spirit can be expressed like no other. I think having those outlets for people is really important. [People] can talk frankly about sensitive subjects through art. In the US, the more diverse and progressive and accepting we become as a country, the more we need the arts to create a space for those discussions.” Arnab believes that students can leverage their performing arts experience beyond college because every performance is a team effort. He says it is the team that works together to deliver a unified product, which is business in a nutshell. He continues, stating that the performing arts also demand a kind of rigor and help people learn to be comfortable addressing other people. “Studies show that leaders who are comfortable being vulnerable in front of others are the most effective in leading.” Arnab reminds us that the performing arts help shape new leaders, no matter what discipline they ultimately pursue.
This interview was conducted by Jadel Contreras, C’22.
Restarting and Reuniting – In Person Performing Arts
Dear Members of the Student Performing Arts Community,
I hope you are having wonderful summers. At Platt House and in the PAC Shop, we are so happy that we will be open and in person this academic year. As the University has stated, Penn will be open at full capacity for the academic year. In fact, Platt House already has available hours for full rehearsal room usage. You may be pinching yourself and asking if this is real. We get it. There is a certain anxious feeling about just jumping back in after so much time with restrictions. We too are wrestling with that feeling.
Yet, the excitement is also real. Here is the chance to plan in a smart and strategic way. An analogy might be that that you have been in a desert without water for a long time and when you finally get to that water, you drink so much of it in one sitting that you become ill. Ideally, you would have built up to a normal amount of water in your system so your body could process it. The elated feeling of ending your thirst will turn to an unhealthy feeling, and you will wish you hadn’t over indulged. We are asking you to use this logic when planning your performing arts experiences as well. Groups are no longer used to 20 hours of rehearsal per week or having multiple shows complete with all the production required for an in-person experience. Savor the experience of being able to do what you love without overdoing it. Prioritize your rehearsal and performance needs without losing the chance to bond and engage with each other. Soak in the moment without losing yourself and all your free time. Step back in one foot at a time, and be mindful of all that you are doing.
In addition, there are takeaways from this pandemic that we can still apply. Many groups made your shows accessible to everyone. Why stop now? You found ways to meet over Zoom. Could Zoom meetings help you this year too when you all can’t be in the same room? Many of you dove into social justice issues. Don’t stop now. Overall, some people felt more in tune with their mental health needs and the needs of others. Let’s keep that going. And let’s normalize mask wearing for those who wish to keep using masks to protect themselves. Mask acceptance is important.
Lastly, remember that we are here to help. PAC-Exec is here to help. And you should have all identified someone in your group or a recently graduated individual who can help you remember how to do in-person shows. We are planning helpful training sessions as well as an engaging PAC CONference. You can also ask us anything at any time. Or just let us know what you are doing by reaching out or in a meeting with your group advisor. We love to hear from you, and we cannot wait to see you.
Stay tuned for informative emails as we continue our summers. Stay safe and keep in touch.
With warm greetings from all of us at Platt House and the PAC Shop,
Updated COVID Regulations and Guidance
Dear Performing Arts Group Leaders,
It is great to be back on campus again! I am meeting some of you for the first time and others I haven’t seen in almost 2 years. It feels great to be sharing the same spaces with you again. As the saying goes, with this new freedom comes great responsibility. We at Platt House and the PAC Shop are doing everything we can to follow University rules and common sense to keep everything open and available for student performing arts groups. To maintain everyone’s safety, Penn has instituted Covid-19 mitigation requirements. These requirements include vaccination, masks, testing, and participating in Penn’s Open Pass application. We are also asking everyone to safely space your activities, take breaks, and end rehearsals ten minutes early to add for air flow in between groups using spaces. As a result, Platt House and the PAC Shop will also be following all of these requirements and expect nothing less from every user and group in their use of Platt House or other facilities on campus.
In addition, we strongly encourage each organization to gauge the comfort levels of their members and add any additional mitigation efforts as they see fit. We also encourage maintaining some level of hybrid participation such as Zoom classes and meetings to offset the number of in-person activities.
All organizations planning any in-person performing arts activities should designate at least two Health Marshalls again to ensure these rules and guidelines are being followed while indoors. This applies to rehearsal, performance, tech, and any other group activities. Please see below for more specific information. Please complete this form to register at least two members of your group who will serve as Health Marshalls.
We will be in touch with additional guidelines for performances in the coming weeks.
Failure to comply with these regulations could result in loss of space usage in our facilities, being reported to the University’s Covid response team, and possibly demerits for groups within PAC.
Please complete activities in the safest ways possible to hopefully keep them in person. If group members are uncomfortable with in-person activities, their membership status should not be jeopardized, and groups should find ways to make their activities accessible.
Be sure all members of your groups/parties are aware of all the regulations above and that everyone adheres to them.
Please note: these protocols are per current University guidance. Regulations could change at any time. Please keep an eye on any communication related to Covid protocols.We will keep providing guidance on how to best follow these rules, but please comply. We want to stay in this together.
Stopping the Hate and Starting to Heal
Stopping the Hate and Starting to Heal: Living With and Through the COVID-19 Pandemic
An Invitation to a Guided Session of Healing, Processing, and Community-Building for Penn Asian and Asian American Alumni, Graduate/Professional Students, Undergraduate Students, Faculty, Post-Docs, and Staff
In these challenging times University of Pennsylvania Asian Alumni Networks (UPAAN), Penn Spectrum, International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS), Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA), Undergraduate Assemblies (UA), Graduate Student Center (GSC), Pan-Asian Faculty & Staff Association (PAFSA) and Pan-Asian American Community House (PAACH), in partnership with Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), Special Services, Restorative Practices @ Penn, and Penn Global have come together to offer a healing, processing, and community building space for Asians & Asian Americans who have experienced or are concerned about anti-Asian bias or harassment related to COVID-19. This pandemic, and the hateful rhetoric which has sprung up around it have directly and indirectly harmed many in our community – the Circle will be an opportunity to process with others who have similar experiences and support one another as a community.
These Circle spaces are an opportunity for people with direct lived experiences of anti-Asian racism, bias, or harassment to share their stories and be in community with others who have similar experiences.
Wednesday 3/17, 12:00 PM -1:30 PM ET, Facilitators: Dr. Anh Le (faculty) & Dr. Rupa Pillai (faculty)
Thursday 3/18, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM ET, Facilitators: Rae Chaloult (staff) & Peter Van Do (staff)
Undergraduate Student sessions
Saturday 3/20, Time: TBD (2pm or 3pm ET), Facilitators: Kevin Park (young alum) and Qingrong Ji (undergraduate student)
Tuesday 3/30, 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM ET, Facilitators: Sue Yee Chen (young alum) and Jun Li (alum)
Wednesday 3/24, 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM ET, Facilitators: Ling Yeh (alum) and Phil Kim (alum)
Graduate & Professional Student sessions
Thursday 3/25, 10:00 AM -11:30 AM ET, Facilitators: Vivien Yiu (graduate/professional student) & Linshuang Lu (alum)
Thursday 3/25, 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM ET, Facilitators: Richard Le (alum/staff) & April Zhou (graduate/professional student)
Registration link for this event is available at our dialogue series website: http://bit.ly/STOPPINGHATE
You will receive the meeting link to your session of choice upon registration.
Please join us to gather with others with similar experiences to heal, build, and be together.
Thursday, March 18th, 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM ET
ANTI-RACISM & MENTAL WELLNESS WORKSHOP w/ Dr. Ramani
Anti-Racism & Mental Wellness Workshop: Turning off the Gaslights and Illuminating Brave
Dr. Ramani Durvasula (MedCircle, SxSW, TEDx, the Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery) is a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, CA and Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and the Founder and CEO of LUNA Education, Training & Consulting, a company.
Registration link for this event is available at our dialogue series website:
Message from Platt House and the PAC Shop regarding Anti-Asian and Anti-American Acts of Violence
Platt House and the PAC Shop join the University community in condemning anti-Asian and anti-Asian American acts of violence, including the recent attacks in Atlanta. We want to reiterate that as a department at the University, we support you and stand with you in solidarity against these abhorrent and violent actions of racism and white supremacy.
We are so grateful to our colleagues in the Pan-Asian American Community House (PAACH), Penn Global, and members of the Task Force on Support to Asian and Asian American Students and Scholars (TAAAS) for their work on addressing this ongoing crisis. Please visit the TAAAS website to learn more about this work and the FlattenTheHate campaign.
Additionally, PAACH and Penn Global are offering the upcoming opportunities to engage:
Turning off the Gaslights and Illuminating Brace Spaces – Anti-Racism & Mental Wellness Workshop featuring Dr. Ramani Durvasula
Thursday, 3/18, 8pm-9:30pm ET
Register here: http://bit.ly/
Stopping the Hate and Starting to Heal: Living With and Through the COVID-19 Pandemic
Restorative Practice Circles for the Penn Asian & Asian American Communities
Circles for Undergrad, Grad, & Professional Students, Faculty, Staff, Post-Docs, Faculty, Alumni
Dates and Registration link available here: https://paachatupenn.
More information on these programs can be found below.
Platt House is hosting a Performing Arts Anti-Racist workshop for interested students in April. For more details, and to sign up, please visit our site: https://upenn.co1.
We send our support to our Asian and Asian American community members. We see you, and we are here to support you.
Platt House & PAC Shop Staff
Outdoor Rehearsal Reservations and Guidelines!
Platt House Staff and PAC Exec are pleased to announce that Outdoor Rehearsals will be allowed starting Tuesday, February 9th. Groups may apply for one 45-minute rehearsal per week for the next three weeks. We will be able to expand this IF everything goes smoothly and all rules are followed and no COVID outbreaks occur due to careless behavior by performing arts groups.
The information you need is below. All groups must designate 2 health marshals who will ensure that the rules are understood by the groups, followed, and that everyone is subscribed and using Penn Open Pass. All rehearsals will be monitored by Platt Staff and Allied Guards to check Open Pass and other protocols. Please be sure to read the guidelines prior to completing the reservation request. Remember the masks, distance, and shortened time together followed by sanitation and honest open pass reporting will mitigate risk.
The schedule will be confirmed by Monday night.
Sara Outing, C’13
Sara Outing, C’13 is Platt House’s inimitable Administrative Coordinator! She came to Penn from Chapel Hill, NC and graduated with a degree in Theatre Arts. Since then, her journey has looped through the regional and Fringe theatre scenes of Philadelphia and its suburbs. In her time away from Platt House, she enjoys the gorgeous landscape and history of her neighborhood in the Northeast, practices a clutter of creative hobbies, and continues to freelance as a scenic designer, props fabricator, and puppeteer. As a student, Sara knew she wanted to try her hand at scenic design, so she engaged in design and carpentry gigs with 4A, Players, Singers, Quadramics, Stim, and the Theatre Arts Program. Additionally, Sara was a founding member of Keynotes A Cappella and was briefly a member of PLBD. These formative experiences sparked in her lasting loves for social dance, singing, and music composition.Through living in the Arts House residential program in Harnwell and participating in the performing arts scene on campus, Sara found a space not only for practiced talents, but also for new beginnings. Sara shares: “Despite the stereotype of performative excellence at Penn, within my creative community I felt the invitation to fly or fail at sight-reading a new tune on violin, to show up as a newbie at West Philly Swingers’ Fish Fry, to bumble through my first Noteflight arrrangement, to mix colors fearlessly in the PAC Shop.” During undergrad, Sara learned to enjoy and celebrate the experience of being an amateur just as much she celebrates honing her craft. This willingness has served her well in the freelance arts world. Sara reminisces over some Penn memories including watching friends and strangers shine onstage, specifically citing a Quadramics’ Fling Production of Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party, which “blew [her] teenage mind.” Sara also fondly recalls her own “rare” moments onstage, stating that she is not truly confident as an actor but is so proud of her past self for giving it her all. [Platt House jumping in to say that Sara is a humble, but truly skilled performer, acting included!]Sara is also the creator of the brand-new Backstage @ Platt House podcast! Sara identifies as a “podcast person,” her interest stemming from Welcome to Night Vale a few years ago and recently landing on Alie Ward’s Ologies. Back in March, Sara was working with a bunch of local arts alumni for an in-person panel. Once Platt House programming moved to the virtual sphere, the podcast format seemed like an obvious and exciting transition. The first season of the podcast features those local arts alumni and a few University staff. Backstage @ Platt House Season 2 will have a student focus, acting as a conduit among performing arts community members.
This summer, Sara was one of six artists awarded with the Black Puppeteer Empowerment Grant from Puppet Showcase Theatre near Boston. As part of her remote Creative Residency, she developed a short original shadow show alongside the other artists. Sara is next looking forward to her upcoming design project for an Alice Childress piece with the Philadelphia Artists Collective. She recently delivered a set of creative props to one of her favorite companies, Bearded Ladies Cabaret, whose projects are always artistically entertaining, emotionally nourishing, and queer as can be. Sara will also be diving into a props/paper/packaging design on an afrofuturist story-by-mail with an incredible company, Tiny Dynamite, and an incredible new collaborator, local playwright Jarrett McCreary. Check out Sara’s website for more!
To those interested in pursuing the arts beyond college, Sara says “The arts industries can sometimes romanticize ‘imposter syndrome’ as a noble trait of humble and hardworking creatives. Don’t fall into the trap of internalizing a value system that hurts you! After many years, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to land among companies, organizations, and collaborators who empower my sense of artistic self and pay attention to my financial health, but that work has to occur within as it does without. If you find imposter syndrome and self-denial, sit with it. Take note of your worth, and hold tight to people around you who do the same.”
Photo Credits: Boaz Kim
Fall 2020 Follow Up
This week we all learned that the Fall 2020 semester will be fully virtual. While we had been eager to share our provisional plans for in-person activities, this latest update has released us from uncertainty and given new clarity to the situation. At Platt House and the PAC Shop, this moment is bittersweet: we are very sad that we must wait longer to be all together and to witness your creative power in person, and we are thankful that in the meantime, this decision keeps us all out of harm’s way.
Platt House and PAC Shop Staff are now refocusing our efforts with PAC-Exec to shape a lively and fulfilling semester of virtual programming that is accessible to our full community, wherever they may be across the globe. We look forward to incorporating your values, questions, and ideas into how this semester will take shape for student performing arts. Along with PAC Exec, we will be reaching out to determine next steps.
We want to remind everyone that your virtual engagement, social media posts, and recorded performances have already brought so much positivity to the world of Penn during this pandemic. We found out that other Penn departments were starting meetings with your videos to help uplift everyone. Your talents are endless, and we have been inspired to see you bravely adapt to your digital audience. A big round of applause to you!
In the meantime, please know that we are thinking of you, working to create meaningful programs, and looking forward to the end of this pandemic now more than ever. The past five months have affected us all deeply, sometimes in ways that are difficult to acknowledge and harder to share. Please know that it is completely valid to feel sorrow and mourn this loss. Please come to us for resources, for difficult conversations, for lightness and celebrations, for space to grieve – whatever you need. We’ll be here, just a few clicks away.
Platt House and PAC Shop Staff
Jennifer Weber, C’00
Get to know our featured alum, Jennifer Weber, C’00! Jennifer is a choreographer living in New York City. She graduated from Penn in 2000 with a major in Communications, but not before founding Strictly Funk Dance Company. Before Strictly Funk got off the ground, Jennifer was a choreographer and performing member of Bloomers. She says it was amazing, but singing is not her forte, so she wound up playing a mime and a bunch of frat boys. She auditioned for a handful of dance groups on campus, and was not selected, but she really began to miss dancing and decided to take matters into her own hands. Jennifer placed flyers all over campus and drummed up a ton of interest for a new dance group. Funk’s first audition had 20 people. When she came back for her sophomore year, Funk participated in Freshman Performing Arts Night (now rebranded as Student Performing Arts Night). After that showcase, 80 people auditioned for the group! Jennifer reflects fondly on the relationships that were built through that experience. She says that dancing is a “magical way to connect with people [I] wouldn’t have met otherwise.”
Creating Strictly Funk really launched Jennifer onto her future career path. She did not originally think she would be a professional choreographer. After graduating, she landed a job in marketing, but she found herself pulled toward a life in the arts. Jennifer says that seeing Funk succeed made it seem like it would be easy to create a company and succeed in New York. The reality of that goal was much more complicated, but her experiences with Funk absolutely prepared her to face any challenges head-on. And her success has only grown, demonstrated by the many exciting projects she is working on. She choreographed her first movie Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2, viewable on Disney Channel. One of the videos she made for it, Flesh and Bone has an astounding 23 million views! She also choreographed the musical & Juliet, currently running in London’s West End. It tells the story of a Juliet who leaves Romeo behind and goes on an adventure to discover her own identity. Her choreography for & Juliet was just nominated for an Olivier Award. And Jennifer’s acclaimed The Hip Hop Nutcracker has been touring in the US for the past five years and was even featured on a PBS special. This show, that she directed and choreographed, is a reimagination of the Tchaikovsky score told through the language of hip hop.
The road has not always been easy. Jennifer shares that working on a project basis necessitates a constant cycle of creation and hustling to find something else to create. She says that each time she takes on a new project, she essentially starts over, working with new people, redefining dynamics, and using her own vision to be a part of the project. It can be difficult for her not to not get frustrated, but she says it is important to focus on the amazing opportunities that await. To students interested in pursuing a career in the arts, Jennifer says “It is important to be honest with your passion.” She advises creating your own path, especially if one is not readily available to you. Jennifer also stresses the importance of building relationships and being authentic, as fostering those connections can lead to other opportunities. Jennifer reminds us that the arts are important because they bring people together, illuminate commonalities, and inspire. “Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams, and dream really big.”
This interview was conducted by Hannah Lottenberg, C’21.
Photo Credit 1: M. Emran