TDPS Welcomes New Faculty to the Maya Brin Institute for New Performance
September 22, 2021 School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies
These artist-scholars join the TDPS faculty to expand the school’s innovative research and teaching.
By Kate Spanos ’16 Ph.D. theatre and performance studies
The School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies welcomes three new faculty members this fall: Amith Chandrashaker, assistant professor of lighting design; Andrew Cissna, multimedia technologist; and Van Tran Nguyen, visiting assistant professor in digital humanities. These are the first positions funded by the recently launched Maya Brin Institute for New Performance, which adds courses, expands research and funds new teaching positions, undergraduate scholarships, graduate assistantships, classroom and studio renovations and instructional technology.
The institute is established through a $9 million gift from mathematics Professor Emeritus Michael and Eugenia Brin, along with the Brin Family Foundation. It is co-directed by Jared Mezzocchi, associate professor of multimedia design, and Kendra Portier, the school’s Maya Brin endowed assistant professor in dance. The institute is part of Arts for All, a new initiative at the University of Maryland that expands arts programming across campus at the intersection of technology, innovation and social justice.
“By fostering collaboration, experimentation, curiosity and functional skill-building, we are generating a dynamic research environment where rigorous creativity and discovery can thrive,” said Portier.
This fall, Chandrashaker is teaching design studio classes in lighting, Cissna is teaching computer assisted design and Tran Nguyen is teaching a course on performance and new media.
Amith Chandrashaker is a lighting designer for theater, dance, opera, television, concerts and events. His work has been seen off-Broadway, at major regional theaters, Houston Grand Opera, The Joyce Theater, CNN, NBC and on Virgin Cruise Ships. He has also worked internationally at The National Dance Company of Wales, Staatstheater Nuremberg, Aalto Theater Essen, Lyon Opera Ballet and the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Prior to coming to the University of Maryland, he was an adjunct professor at Pace University and New York University’s graduate program in Design for Stage and Film. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts and a Master of Fine Arts from New York University’s Design for Stage and Film program.
Andrew Cissna is a lighting and media designer who has designed over 100 productions in Washington, D.C., and regionally around the country. In Washington, D.C., he has designed for Round House Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Theatre J, Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, Kennedy Center Theatre for Young Audiences, Imagination Stage, Olney Theatre and many others. Regionally, he has worked at Perseverance Theatre Company in Juneau, Alaska, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. He is also the production manager for technology for Spoleto Festival USA, held every summer in Charleston, South Carolina. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in lighting design from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Maryland.
Van Tran Nguyen is a multimedia artist who has shown work at exhibitions at the University at Buffalo, Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Art Center, Buffalo Arts Studio, Lycoming College, Collar Works Gallery and Big Orbit Project Space of CEPA Gallery. Her research is centered on nostalgia and identity construction and her artistic practice interrogates race, gender and class through the mechanism of parody. Tran Nguyen is currently the 2021 Windgate Artist Residency Fellow at the State University of New York at Purchase. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in fine arts and biology, a Master of Fine Arts from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a doctorate in the philosophy of electronic art from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.