Graduating COFAC Students Go Out with a Bang…. Or a Flash

By Kolette Herndon
University Relations Student Writer

Seniors in the Western Illinois University College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) who will graduate this spring said their goodbyes with a whole new twist this year. At the beginning of every semester, theatre majors attend a unified audition where they present a song and monologue for all the directors who are directors of that semester’s shows. Students are then called back for specific shows.

But during this year’s audition, Nate Curlott, of Long Grove, IA, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in theatre, stepped forward and parodied the song “One Day More” from the musical “Les Miserables,” singing “One Term More” instead.

Shortly after, a flash mob began including all of the graduating seniors in theatre and musical theatre and all of the third year graduate students from the University’s acting program.

This idea was sparked as the students returned from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Saginaw, MI, a week prior to the audition. This idea “brought the house down” as Assistant Theatre Professor Lysa Fox said. She expressed how the production spoke volumes about this “truly phenomenal group of students who will be missed when they graduate in the spring.”

To see the video of the flash mob, visit


Students Open Dance Studios in Macomb

A few WIU students have taken on some big responsibilities in the past two months. Lauren Krohe, a junior broadcasting major from Table Grove, IL and Kimmie Nott, a senior exercise science major from Macomb, have recently become business owners of Project Dance Company, a new dance studio in Macomb. They also have another location in Keokuk, IA. With the help of Kolette Herndon, a junior journalism major from Macomb, the young women have developed a new dance team and recreational classes for children ages 3-18.

The dance studio offers styles such as jazz, hip-hop, ballet, tap and contemporary. The Project Dance Company competition team plans to travel all over the tri-state area to participate in regional competitions. Krohe and Nott have developed a fun and inspiring atmosphere for students to learn and share their love of dance.

An article was recently published in the Western Courier with more information regarding these students’ accomplishments as new business owners and how they were able to open up their own studio:

Also taking on a new challenge in the dance world is Karmyn Dorethy, a freshman theatre major from Colchester, IL. This young woman has also opened her own studio in Macomb. “Drive” Studio of Dance is located on the Macomb Square where the former tavern, Top of the Town, once was.

Dorethy has hired Emily Rhein, a senior musical theatre major from Des Moines, IA, and Hope Zegiel, a senior political science major from Montgomery, IL, help her teach her classes. Her studio offers styles of jazz, hip-hop, contemporary and tap. The “Drive” dance team had their first performance at Colchester’s Labor Day celebration in early September. Dorethy hopes to provide a place for her students to do what they love.

Dorethy’s new journey was also featured in the Western Courier. Check it out here for more information about how and why she started her new business in Macomb:

WIU Alumna, Employee, Wins Top Prize at Illinois State Fair

StateFair_01Western Illinois University graduate and office manager Deb Lutz, of Good Hope, has mixed art and geometry into a project that won first prize in the digital imagery division at the Illinois State Fair.

Lutz received her bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and justice administration from Western in 1984 and a second bachelor’s degree in graphic communication in 2005. She is currently the office manager in the WIU Department of Geography.

Lutz’s winning artistic piece is a fractal, which is a representation of a geometric math equation. Fractals are often endlessly repeating patterns, which vary according to a set formula. The winning project is titled “Swirlfrost” and this is the first time she entered one of her pieces in the Illinois State Fair.

“A fractal is a pattern that reveals greater complexity as it is enlarged and is a computer-generated image that graphically represents the behavior of a mathematical equation,” Lutz said.
Fractals are actually geometric figures, just like rectangles, circles and squares, but much of fractal geometry represents a particular symmetry of scale, called self-similarity, which can visually model natural phenomenon like coastlines, ferns, ice crystals, snowflakes and mountains.

Using a computer program to generate the images from a variety of equations, the fractals are considered “math equations expressed in form and color.” Once rendered from the generator, she can then make adjustments in Photoshop.

Lutz has copyrighted more than 200 fractals and loves the fact they are “infinitely varied and never get boring.”
“I brag about them without shame because I feel as if all I’ve done is take a photograph of an extremely beautiful natural phenomenon that’s ‘out there’ but unknown,” she said. “All I’ve done is stumble across the exact equation that each image represents. I love bringing them to the world at large and feel they belong as artworks so wish to present them as such.”

More of her work can be seen at She will also be exhibiting in the upcoming “Perspectives” show at the West Central Illinois Art Center in downtown Macomb and one of her pieces has been accepted to the national juried show, “64 Arts,” at the Buchanan Center in Monmouth.

Lutz is also one of the artists chosen for “Rocky on Parade,” a project that will result in numerous fiberglass “Rocky” mascot dogs being artistically decorated and placed around Macomb.

WIU Grad Works on “Sharknado” Movie

Ryan Budds, WIU Alum in Sharknado in SyFy

Ryan Budds, a 2008 Western Illinois University graduate with a degree in English, bills himself as a comedian, writer, trivia host and superhero on his website. Photo by Syfy (Syfy Media, LLC)

Ryan Budds, a 2008 Western Illinois University graduate with a degree in English, bills himself as a comedian, writer, trivia host and superhero on his website. The Midwest native, who now lives in California, recently added actor to that list, working as an extra in the science fiction movie, “Sharknado.”

Budds played a “beach victim” in the recently aired television movie from the SyFy channel that has created quite a buzz. He also worked as a production assistant on the film.

“I got to be killed in the first few minutes of ‘Sharknado,’ he told the website, ‘UPROXX: the Culture of What’s Buzzing.'” ( “We started filming in January, and the days were long and hard. Lots of hauling stuff, unpacking/packing trucks and driving people around on errands. Not exactly glamorous, especially on a low budget movie. But I learned a lot about how to make a movie and eventually the day came where I got to drop the equipment and get in front of the camera for my cameo.”

Budds earned the right to act in the movie by winning a comedy contest at Flappers in Burbank, CA.

“I was to play Beach Victim #1,” he said. “They put me in beach clothes and covered my leg in prosthetics and makeup to make it look like a shark had chomped it off.”

Budds he has worked as a comedian, opening for comics such as Dennis Miller, Zach Galafinakis and the Wayans Brothers.

Two WIU Graduates Part of Chicago Theatrical Production

Spelling Bee 1

Two Western Illinois University alums are part of a July production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at Theatre at the Center in Chicago. The production opens today (July 11).

Ann Davis is a 1996 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology and a minor in art and a 1999 Master’s of Fine Art graduate. Patrick Tierney is a 2007 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in musical theatre.

Davis is the production manager and technical director for the production, while Tierney plays the part of Leaf Coneybear.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a musical based around six students in a spelling bee, each with personal quirks.

Davis said she feels Western’s industrial technology program is an excellent academic path that has helped her career.

“David Patrick in the theatre department was a very kind man who saw potential in my design skills,” she said. “Ray Gabica was extremely inspiring as a professor and coworker. Mike Thompson had a lot to do with me finding the theatre department.”

Tierney said his Western education taught him that “the work can never stop.”

“At WIU, I learned that you always have to keep going, always striving for new ways to improve, new ways to grow,” he said. “I haven’t stopped the work since I left WIU. The positivity I received in the theatre department is something that I have kept with me in my professional career, and it has helped immensely.”

The production runs through Aug. 18. For more information about the play, visit

WIU Alum Honored for Act of Kindness

A 1989 Western Illinois University alumna is receiving notoriety in Phoenix, AZ, because of an act of kindness she performed during her work day. Screen-Shot-2013-06-28-at-9.40.43-AM

Natalie (Petersen) Simonick, who received her bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and justice administration and her minors in political science and management, is a police sergeant with the Phoenix Police Department.

While on patrol one night, Simonick saw 18-year-old Cristian Felix walking in an isolated area. She learned the teen was walking six miles each way to his job at a fast food restaurant because there are no buses running during the times he would need a ride.

Simonick gave Felix a ride home that night but the boy’s work ethic left an impression on the officer.

“I asked him if he ever had a bicycle, because that’s a little safer than walking,” Simonick told the Fox television station in Phoenix. “He said he’s never ridden a bicycle before.”

The officer decided to give the boy an extra bicycle she and her husband had at home. She and her husband also taught Felix to ride the bicycle. She also gave him a helmet and light.

“It’s really something when someone comes up on the street and then offers to do a kindness for you,” Felix told the television station. “It’s great – I’ve never had an actual bike before, now I just want to ride it all the time.”

For more on this story, visit

Alumnus Throws Out First Pitch at Cubs Game

130602_Cubs_007 130602_Cubs_010Earlier this month, Western Illinois University alumnus Stephanie McCurry was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game to honor her status as a female veteran.

McCurry, an Abingdon, IL, native who graduated in 2007 with a communication degree, was invited to the June 2 game in Chicago.

June is an exciting month for McCurry, who will be married Saturday, June 15, in Peoria and who wrapped up her 10-year career with the Illinois National Guard last weekend.

She also recently ended a nine-month deployment at Camp Virginia, Kuwait, where she ran recreational programs for the troops.

As a lifelong Cubs fan, when the opportunity with the team presented itself, McCurry was excited but nervous.

“Basically, the Cubs called the USA, the USA contacted the public affairs officer and Major League Baseball contacted me,” McCurry told the Galesburg Register Mail recently. “They were looking for a female soldier recently back from a tour to throw out the first pitch.”

At the stadium, McCurry received VIP treatment, including meeting the umpires and some of the players. Her family and her fiancé were in the stands cheering her on.

“It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good,” McCury said of her pitch.