IU alum Todd Wagner shares a wealth of insights as entertainment, tech entrepreneur

Todd Wagner family

Todd Wagner returned to Indiana University Nov. 11 as a Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecturer. His wife, Kari, and children Bryce and Charissa also visited campus. Photo by Chaz Mottinger.

Entertainment and technology entrepreneur Todd Wagner spoke last week at IU Cinema as part of the Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture Series.

For Wagner, a 1983 graduate of Indiana University, the visit also was a chance to share his alma mater with his family.

“This campus is beautiful. It’s amazing,” he said. “I look back at (my time at IU), and those are some of the best years of my life, so it’s fun to come back and talk to folks.”

Wagner personally introduced the IU Cinema screening of “Good Night, and Good Luck,” a film he produced that was nominated for six Academy Awards in 2006.

He also met privately with students from The Media School and the Kelley School of Business, including its Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation program.


Today, Wagner is CEO of 2929 Entertainment, a media company he owns with longtime business partner Mark Cuban.

Their company includes 2929 Productions, which creates independent feature films; Magnolia Pictures, a film distribution business; AXS TV, a high-definition cable and satellite network; and Landmark Theatres, a national chain of art-house cinemas with an outlet in Indianapolis.

In the late 1970s, however, Wagner didn’t know what he wanted to do in life. He came to IU and studied accounting in what is now the Kelley School of Business.


Todd Wagner produced the films “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Akeelah and the Bee.” Photo by Karen Land.

“You don’t know it at the time, but you’re starting your life’s journey and it’s making you an adult,” Wagner said. “It’s the whole experience. It’s not just the business school, it’s the social aspect, it’s the friends. … It was all those things rolled into one.”

For Wagner, serving as president of Kappa Sigma fraternity was an important lesson in leadership. “If you can lead your peers, you can lead just about anything,” he said. “When you’re eventually the boss, they have to listen to you. But when you’re not their boss and they still listen to you, you’ve accomplished something.”

Wagner has accomplished some things — some monumental things — over the course of his career.

In 1999, when he was still in his 30s, he and Cuban sold their pioneering online streaming company Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $5.7 billion.

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Meet Tal Samuel, conductor of IU Fall Ballet and Jacobs School doctoral student

Post courtesy of IU newsroom intern Sheila Raghavendran:

Like a skilled puppeteer, she gracefully infuses the orchestra with life, color and movement. With each sharp, smooth and affectionate gesture, she pulls the strings that run the show.

Tal Samuel is a doctoral student at the Jacobs School of Music and serves as assistant conductor at the IU Opera and Ballet Theater. She conducted the Fall Ballet performances Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, consisting of “Divertimento No. 15,” “World Premiere” and the short ballet “As Time Goes By.” She said that conducting from the pit is challenging because the conductor has to constantly control and react to the action both in the pit and on the stage.

“(In ballet) you are serving the dancers on the stage,” she said. “You are helping them and supporting their bodies with the music, in order to make what they need to do possible. The orchestra players don’t see what’s going on onstage, so in a way, I am their eyes, and I have to be able to adjust really quickly to anything going on onstage. It’s a lot of responsibility.”

Samuel, an international student from Israel, was asked this year to conduct the entire Fall Ballet after she conducted George Balanchine’s “Emeralds” in the 2014 production. She said that mastering and transitioning between the three distinct parts of the show was a feat that she and the orchestra devoted time to refining.

Tal Samuel, an Indiana University graduate student, conducts musicians during a dress rehearsal for the fall ballet, "As Time Goes By", at the Musical Arts Center on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016.

Tal Samuel led musicians through a dress rehearsal for the Fall Ballet, “As Time Goes By.” Photos by James Brosher.

“You have the very classic Balanchine ballet with Mozart’s music (‘Divertimento No. 15’), then you’ve got ‘Saudade’ (‘World Premiere’) with this very modern kind of dance, with the Arvo Pärt music, which is almost religious, meditative,” Samuel said. “Then you have the Twyla Tharp choreography (for ‘As Time Goes By’), which is extremely modern and energetic, to music which is very classical, Haydn’s ‘Farewell’ symphony. So I think the variety is what made it extremely interesting and worth watching.”

Juggling multiple musical styles and guiding the show from the pit was something that Samuel was always passionate about. Growing up in Israel, she was introduced to music through the piano, and the viola soon after. She said she developed an interest in conducting after many years of playing in orchestras.

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Distinguished director helps IU Opera Theater give voice to ‘Madama Butterfly’


The IU Opera Theater production of “Madama Butterfly” will be performed Nov. 4, 5 and 6 at the Musical Arts Center in Bloomington and Nov. 11 and 12 at Clowes Memorial Hall in Indianapolis.

Post by IU Newsroom intern Amanda N. Marino: 

When Lesley Koenig was invited to direct “Madama Butterfly” for the Indiana University Opera Theater, she could not turn it down.

“It’s my go-to cry opera,” she said.

Koenig has built an impressive resume with more than 30 years in management at the Metropolitan Opera, San Diego Opera and Opera Boston. After directing around the world, she is now nestled in New England as managing director at the Weston Playhouse in Vermont.

This fall, however, she’s been at the Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, shaping “Madama Butterfly.”

The drama about love, loyalty and loss is set in Japan in the early 1900s. It revolves around a U.S. naval officer and the title character, a geisha also known as Cio-Cio.

The IU production opens Nov. 4 to 6 at the Musical Arts Center in Bloomington before taking wing in Indianapolis Nov. 11 and 12. The shows at Clowes Memorial Hall will give Indianapolis audiences the chance to experience the internationally acclaimed IU Opera Theater in their own backyard.

Top-notch talent

Lesley Koenig

Visiting director Lesley Koenig is a veteran of the Metropolitan Opera, among other major companies.

Arthur Fagen, chair of the Department of Orchestral Conducting in the Jacobs School, said working with Koenig on “Madama Butterfly” is an amazing opportunity for IU students, because of the breadth of her professional experience and her willingness to teach.

Fagen has known Koenig since 1986, when they both worked at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. “She really is a top-notch director,” he said.

Koenig “communicates the essence of the opera” and is very aware of how various roles interact, he said.

Fagen also praised her talent for bringing her own viewpoint to an opera without changing anything intrinsically related to the show.

Koenig said each director has to choose operas that fit his or her personality.

In addition to the drama of “Madama Butterfly,” she loves its complex staging opportunities and the beautiful score by Giacomo Puccini.

“It’s a big sing and a lot of acting,” Koenig said.

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Alexander Julian emphasizes communication, color in seminar with IU design students

“Design is creative problem-solving.”

This was one of the major points made by Alexander Julian, an award-winning fashion and home furnishings designer, when he addressed a crowd of School of Art and Design students Oct. 26 at Indiana University Bloomington.

His appearance at the newly renovated Kirkwood Hall was part of The Bill Blass Fashion Design Seminar Series.

“Bill Blass is the reason I’m here,” Julian said.

His words were more than a nod to the lecture series endowed by the Indiana-born designer: “Bill Blass is the reason that all American designers exist.”

Alexander Julian

Alexander Julian spoke at IU Bloomington Oct. 26.

He recounted how Blass warmly welcomed him to the rarefied air of the fashion elite, when Julian was a young designer winning his first Coty Award in 1977. Julian would win five of the coveted awards before they were discontinued eight years later.

Through spoken remarks and “Listening to Color,” a video made in conjunction with his 2006 retrospective, Julian related his meteoric rise in men’s fashion, his forays into home furnishings and the recent relaunch of his clothing brand.

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School of Art and Design invites students, public to its spirited Open Studios event

Group mural

IU Bloomington art students and their guests will create a collaborative mural Oct. 28 at the annual Open Studios event. Here is how the 2015 painting turned out.

On Friday, Oct. 28, the Department of Studio Art will present a night of crafts, exhibitions, interactive art-making, pumpkins and prizes.

The free Open Studios event is designed to be an entertaining way for current students — and potential ones — to learn about classes and programs offered in the School of Art and Design, a part of the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington.

Photo booth

“Cheese!” Photo booths are part of the Open Studios fun at the School of Art and Design.

It’s also a night when members of the public can observe artistry in action and everyone can partake in fall fun at four buildings on the Indiana University campus.

Guests should begin their tour at the Friends of Art Bookshop on the first floor of the Fine Arts Building, where maps and punch cards are available. If visitors get their cards punched at all of the activity areas, they can win prizes in a random drawing.

Here’s a look at the participating art haunts on campus, and a sample of the Halloween treats they have in store:

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Monsters, masquerades, Muniz and more: Campus events mark Halloween week


At left, “Frankenstein” is from the “Pictures of Caviar” series in the Vik Muniz retrospective at the Eskenazi Museum of Art.

Post by IU Newsroom intern Amanda N. Marino:

Whether you’re looking for tricks or treats this Halloween, there’s plenty to do at Indiana University Bloomington. Here is just a sampling of the events and exhibitions out there. The full list is so long that it’s scary!

IU Auditorium

Dennis James Hosts Halloween, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 — IU alumnus and world-renowned organist Dennis James will return to IU Auditorium to help bring “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” to life with an organ accompaniment that is both spooky and satisfying.

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Candidates for lieutenant governor discuss arts and culture at local SPEA-sponsored forum


Joe Hren moderated a forum on the arts held Oct. 17 with the candidates for lieutenant governor in Indiana. A radio broadcast of the forum will air at 8 p.m. Oct. 19 on WFIU.

Two candidates for lieutenant governor in Indiana shared their views on the arts Monday night at the WFIU studios before an audience of about 50 students and other invited guests from the community.

Republican Suzanne Crouch, the current state auditor, and state Rep. Christina Hale, a Democrat, each were granted opportunities to speak separately rather than engage in debate at a very civil forum sponsored by the Arts Administration Program in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington.

Karl Tatgenhorst, the Libertarian candidate, did not respond to an invitation to participate.

Both candidates in attendance agreed on the value of art and culture in creating a sense of place and its value in making Indiana a state that attracts young people and top talent to live and work.

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IU Bloomington a cappella group Hooshir will open for Vocalosity at IU Auditorium

Hooshir rehearsal

Hooshir music director Becky Mann warms up the group during a rehearsal at the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center. Hooshir will open for Vocalosity Oct. 20. Photos by James Brosher.

Post by IU Newsroom intern Amanda N. Marino:

Students stand around a piano on the second floor of the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center rehearsing for an upcoming performance. Nobody is playing the piano, though. All the music the group is making comes from their bodies.

Hooshir, an a cappella group at Indiana University Bloomington, recently won a contest to open for Vocalosity Oct. 20 at IU Auditorium.

When they sing, Hooshir’s energy is intense and fills a room. All of them move to the music as they sing an a cappella rendition of “Larger Than Life” by the Backstreet Boys and a compilation of “Demons” and “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons.

Musical director Becky Mann, a senior, explained that Hooshir formed in 2006 when the White House called IU Hillel’s rabbi, Sue Silberberg, looking for a Jewish a cappella group that could sing at its annual Hanukkah party. Silberberg said they had a group, and promptly formed it when she hung up the phone.

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‘(Re)Imagining Science’ exhibition at Grunwald Gallery turns collaboration into an art

What happens when we look at science differently?

Artists and research scientists at Indiana University Bloomington have teamed up in more than a dozen creative partnerships to visualize scientific principles and foster new ways of understanding.

Rosamond Purcell photo of eggs

Rosamond Purcell’s “Field Collector’s Box of Murre Eggs” appears in “(Re)Imagining Science.” Purcell speaks at noon Oct. 13 at Harlos House.

The results of their collaborations will be on display in the exhibition “(Re)Imagining Science” Oct. 14 to Nov. 16 at the Grunwald Gallery.

Opening night begins with a 5 p.m. lecture by visiting photographer Rosamond Purcell, whose exquisite still life images breathe life into the lifeless and uncover beauty in the discarded.

“Purcell is a scientist, an artist and a poet: the comprehensiveness of her vision reminds us of the time when disciplines had not yet separated into supposedly different modes of understanding the world,” said Christoph Irmscher, Provost Professor of English and director of the Wells Scholars Program.

In the exhibition, 18 of her photographs will accompany the projects made by the IU faculty teams.

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‘Resilience’ play delves into hidden history of African Americans in the Hoosier state

With a single word, “Resilience,” Liz Mitchell and Gladys DeVane have described two centuries of life among African Americans in Indiana.

In a single weekend, they hope to shine some light on history that has been largely hidden.

These two longtime Bloomington residents will present their new play Oct. 14, 15 and 16 at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center.

Resilience promotional card“I’ve always been passionate about African American history,” Mitchell said.

She’s a collector of facts, a gatherer of stories. When she travels the state and crosses the country, these are her souvenirs.

Over time, Mitchell discussed her discoveries with DeVane, an actress, storyteller and retired professor from the IU Kelley School of Business. “I told her what I’ve seen — different things I found out that I didn’t know,” Mitchell said.

DeVane felt these little-known stories about Indiana should be written into a play, so last year they did just that.

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