The TMA department says hello to new faculty and staff that have joined BYU this year–Milinda Weeks, Alexandra MacKenzie Johns, Tina Bellon, Katie Gneiting, Maren Bills, and Shelby Luke.
Milinda Weeks comes on board to the BYU Theatre Design & Tech faculty after teaching at Snow College for 12 years. She graduated from Snow College with a degree in Theatre Arts after having tried several tracks in the theatre wing but falling in love with set design. She says her favorite part about her first semester at BYU is “Everyone is so incredibly kind. The people here are just amazing and so supportive. I’ve loved getting to know the department and the students. I like to design, but I love being in the classroom and teaching. The students are just fantastic.”
Alexandra MacKenzie Johns comes to BYU to teach playwriting after teaching theatre in Jordan for the past year, and before that in India. Her global experiences have led her to edifying and enriching experiences of creating theatre with people of different backgrounds and denominations, but she looks forward to being able to create theatre in a space where she can be explicit about faith in Jesus Christ. She is excited to find the nexus between theatre and being a disciple of Christ while being surrounded by fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She most looks forward to telling stories and building creative relationships with students in an institution where “we’re all educators and we’re all learners.”
Tina Bellon replaces Elizabeth Funk as the TMA Department Administrator after having joined BYU the year before as the TMA Program Coordinator. After teaching piano for 15 years, her family convinced her to start this new adventure when the job opportunity wouldn’t leave her mind. Although intimidating stepping in to fill Elizabeth Funk’s shoes, Tina finds that it’s a good challenge and loves the interaction with the students, faculty, and staff. She says, “That’s why I’m here–it’s a good environment. I loved BYU as a student, and now I love that I get to work here.”
Katie Gneiting comes to BYU as the new TMA Program Coordinator after recently graduating from Utah State University with a BFA in Vocal Performance. Katie schedules theatre classes and is the administrative assistant for the Theatre Education and Theatre Arts Studies programs. She also supports the Student Theatre Association and manages the group travel for all of TMA. Her favorite part about working at BYU is the devotionals. She says, “The devotionals are a really cool and unique aspect of BYU. They’ve been very helpful for me with guidance and increased spirituality. It’s different from what I’m used to in an academic environment, but it’s nice having that sort of atmosphere.”
Maren Bills returns to BYU after graduating last year in MDT, taking over the position of MDT & BFA Acting Specialist. She is finishing up teaching and directing theatre at the American Leadership Academy in Spanish Fork, and is excited to be back at BYU. She loves the people and the environment here, and was thankful to Dayne Joyner for reaching out to her about the position. She is excited to balance being at BYU, teaching voice and acting privately from home, and continuing to perform in the community.
Shelby Luke joins BYU as the Assistant Costume Shop Manager after working as Shop Manager and Draper at Southern Utah University for six years. Shelby graduated with a BA in Theatre Arts from BYU in 2011 and MFA in Costume Design and Technology from Penn State University in 2016. Initially she planned to work in New York, but after her first job in academic theatre, she realized she loved working with students. Coming to BYU, she says, “Lot’s of things slid into place and it was perfect. It’s a bigger operation here and I love it.”
In the past year, two of our dear faculty and staff have retired–George Nelson and Elizabeth Funk. In the coming months, Rory Scanlon will also retire after a long career dedicated to BYU.
George Nelson first came to BYU in 1990 as part of the theatre education program, and eventually transitioned to the theatrical writing program. A skilled playwright, he has written several award winning plays and helped his students go on to get graduate degrees in theatrical writing. He leaves behind a legacy at BYU of building up the strong foundation of what has become a nationally recognized theatre education program, as well as his remarkable playwriting skills and devotion to educating prison populations. We will miss his passion and energy in the TMA department.
Rory Scanlon has been at BYU for 39.5 years, serving in multiple capacities during that time. He has taught costume design, makeup design, and scenic design during his time here. He has also served in the dean’s office three times throughout those years, and currently holds the position of associate dean in the CFAC. He finishes out his long career managing the construction of the new music building. Describing his favorite part of working at BYU, he says, “I can talk about what I believe as a full human, and not just in my field. I can meld that together with my personal and religious life and talk to students about developing the whole personality.” He retires February 1 just as deconstruction of the HFAC begins, and likes to joke that he is going down with the ship. His retirement plans include serving a mission with his wife and continuing his extensive research into costume design for the Book of Mormon and Bible.
Elizabeth Funk first came to BYU in 2000 and was the TMA Department Administrator for over 20 years. Throughout that time, she formed relationships with absolutely everyone and grew to become the driving force behind the TMA department. She is remembered as the lifeblood of the culture of the front office. Says Kyle Stapley, “Elizabeth set everyone up for success in the department. She knew everything about anything, and we could always go to her and she knew what was going on. She was a pleasure to be around and always had a smile on her face. We miss having her positivity, grace, and knowledge.”
The TMA department feels gratitude for the legacies and examples of its beloved faculty and staff that have retired, and extends a warm thanks to them for the years of service they have devoted to BYU. We are also very excited to welcome our new faculty and staff, and we look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together!