University of Memphis undergraduate Theatre & Dance students, Jon Castro and Greg Szatkowski, and MFA director/playwright Jung Han Kim, made a splash at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival last month with a solo piece called “Perfection.” This year, 50,000 performances of more than 3,000 shows were performed in 299 venues across Scotland’s capital city, making it the largest arts festival in the world.
“Perfection” is the story of a man who has been told he only has six months to live,” says director/playwright Jung Han Kim. “It explores how he focuses on the decision he struggles to make about what he should do and what he should say before he dies. In doing so, he covers all aspects of the human experience that we all face daily.” Jon and Greg alternated in the performances of this piece. Kim and his actors raised all the travel funds needed to make the international trip, with some assistance from the Department of Theatre & Dance.
Upon returning to Memphis Jon Castro reports: “We made about $1,600 at the box office, which will all be donated to charity to feed hungry kids around the world. Our show was a big hit and success, as we obtained amazing reviews including a five star review from The Skinny Magazine out of London. We put our name on the map across the world and, if that wasn't amazing enough, I think our show is being looked into getting produced somewhere else. I am so grateful I was able to go on this trip!”
Christine Lawler, reviewing for The Skinny, wrote “Perfection is utterly engaging, moving, and leaves the audience with strong imagery to take away with them. The play showcases excellent work from Kim and Castro, who both have strong careers ahead of them, if they maintain this standard of performance. With their profits going directly to charity to feed the hungry – hence the company name – they prove to have even more heart than is portrayed on stage.”
(click the link below to view review: http://www.theskinny.co.uk/theatre/edinburgh_festivals_2014/308849-perfection_c_nova).
While he was performing in Scotland, Jon was honored at a ceremony at The Orpheum Theatre. He shared a Memphis Theatre Award-- “The Ostrander”-- with his Theatre & Dance co-star, David Couter, for Leading Actor in a Drama for Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. The play also won the award for Best College Dramatic Production. The Memphis community recently got to know Jon when he was featured in a short promotional film, produced by Steven Ross, that chronicles the dreams and struggles of our typical U of M students. Professor Ross’ film showed Jon auditioning for, rehearsing, and performing the role that just earned him this acting award.
Like Jon, 40% of our undergraduate students are the first in their family to attend college. Many of them must work full-time, while going to school full time, just to afford tuition. It is particularly inspiring to follow their success and, of course, their representation of the U of M in distinguished international venues such as Edinburgh. As Jon says about his adventures, “I had an amazing time in Edinburgh. I learned and grew so much as a person and as an artist. I was able to utilize all that I have learned at The University of Memphis overseas at the biggest arts festival in the world.”
We congratulate Jon and his fellow students for making us proud to be Memphis Tigers!
You can view the promotional film about Jon at: http://www.memphis.edu/alumni/visionforum.php.
M. David Rudd, President