CMS Program awards alumni for work in entertainment
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 02:10
Four Tufts alumni in the entertainment field were honored during the ninth annual P.T. Barnum Awards for Excellence in Entertainment event, held on June 27 at the Creative Arts Agency in Los Angeles.
The recipients of this year’s awards were producer Coral Hawthorne (J ’71), art director and production designer Christopher Brown (LA ’91) and screenwriter and director Brian Koppelman (LA ’88). A cappella arranger and director Deke Sharon (LA ’91) served as honorary emcee.
The P.T. Barnum Awards were established in 2005 when a group of Tufts graduates in Los Angeles expressed interest in recognizing the lifetime achievements of alumni in the fields of arts and entertainment, according to Communications and Media Studies (CMS) Director Julie Dobrow, Each year, the Department of Drama and Dance and the CMS Program work with the Office of Alumni Relations and the New York and Los Angeles Tufts Alliances to honor select alumni.
“We have a group that’s comprised of both faculty and alums, so we all kind of have our collective radar out there looking for people in different fields to see what kind of interesting things they’ve done and what contributions they’ve made in their respective fields,” Dobrow said.
Now a freelance producer in Los Angeles, Hawthorne said that she has produced television shows including “In Living Color” (1990-94), “Reed Between the Lines” (2011) and “Second Generation Wayans” (2013-present). With an undergraduate degree in drama, Hawthorne credits the drama program at Tufts and at Tufts in London for inspiring her interest in entertainment.
“I had a great deal of experience working in the theater [at Tufts],” Hawthorne said. “I spent all my time there. I went to Tufts in London, where I was inspired by all we were able to see and participate in. It was just the beginning.”
Hawthorne also encouraged Tufts students interested in the entertainment industry to be confident and direct in achieving their goals.
“Be sure you want to do it,” she said. “Don’t take no for an answer, [and] learn about as many different things as you can.”
Brown, who double majored in drama and history, explained that the combination of two disciplines has helped him in his career as an art director and production designer.
“A good deal of approach to design and art direction requires you to do a certain amount of investigation and research, which my history training certainly prepared me well for,” he said.
Brown currently works as a production director on the upcoming AMC series, “Halt & Catch Fire.” He served as the art director for the first six seasons of the show “Mad Men” (2007-present), as well as the film “Twilight” (2008).
“As a design project, [“Mad Men”] has been a great chance to explore a really interesting period of architecture and décor,” he said.
Koppelman said that he has co-written films including “Rounders” (1998), “Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007) and “Solitary Man” (2009). He also co-directed the upcoming ESPN documentary about tennis player Jimmy Connors, “This is What They Want.”
Koppelman’s time at Tufts allowed him to pursue various interests, he said.
“I got to write all the time [at Tufts], and I acted in shows, and I was able to take classes in everything that interested me,” he said. “It was really a time of intellectual growth and creative growth.”
Sharon said that he has immersed himself in the a cappella industry since his days in the Tufts Beelzebubs and as a Tufts/New England Conservatory dual degree student. His projects include working as the vocal director for the film “Pitch Perfect” (2012) and the NBC show “The Sing Off” (2009-present), as well as establishing the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella and singing in the a cappella group The House Jacks. Sharon now serves as the vocal director for the sequel to “Pitch Perfect.”
He credited Tufts for making his career possible, as his experiences on the Hill introduced him to the world of a cappella.
“I think Tufts is an incredibly special place because it requires a high level of academic achievement, but at the same time motivates and inspires students to find themselves and forge their own path,” Sharon said.
Hawthorne expressed appreciation for both the award and her Tufts education.
“[The award] reminded me of where I had come from and how far I’d gone, and it reminded me how useful and wonderful my education actually was,” she said.