Art Imitates Life

The storyline seems simple enough: Tony and Theresa are set up on a blind date by a mutual friend. Naturally, complete awkwardness ensues over a casual beer as the two exchange college stories. Not pinning her hopes on their meeting, Theresa is much less interested in Tony, but after he persists, she agrees to a second date the next weekend.
From there, Tony’s pursuance escalates. Quickly. From flowers on her desk every morning to voicemail messages, Tony just doesn’t let up, even after some very definitive instructions and negative answers. However, it only gets worse as Tony begins to stalk Theresa – following her to and from work and sending graphic and explicit letters to her house.
[set] These scenes are the basis of “Boy Gets Girl,” a play performed last weekend in MSU’s Arena Theatre. Unfortunately, the scenes played out are not a drama reserved just for the stage, or even a made-for-T.V. movie. It’s also disturbingly real.
According to Bonnie Nicholas, social work master’s student and Safe Place intern, eight percent of all women in this country will fall victim to stalking. Additionally, MSU Safe Place statistics report that 25-30 percent of the college population has experienced battering in dating relationships.
Theatre senior Meredith Tierney discovered contemporary writer Rebecca Gilman’s play while on study abroad in London last summer and was intrigued by the idea of producing and directing it. After examining several different works, Tierney thought combining the theme and subject matter of “Boy Gets Girl” with the educational properties of the theater was a great idea that hits close to home for many students.
“I thought, ‘Here’s a good chance to educate the people using something I love,’” Tierney said.
In order to prepare her cast for the serious subject matter of the play, Tierney turned to Safe Place, MSU’s on-campus shelter specializing in helping stalked and battered women, as a resource. Additionally, Tierney contacted staff members at The Listening Ear, a free and confidential crisis center in East Lansing. In turn, each cast member had their own methods of preparing for their particular roles. While psychology senior Derek Dubuque did more mental preparation for the role of Tony, theatre senior Sarah Dunn sought out legal cases involving stalking to learn more about what Theresa was going through.
“It was really shocking,” Dunn said of her research. “The important thing to remember is that there are places to go, and there are standard procedures to help people.”
[rehearsal] The play also did a great job of illustrating how stalking and violence can permeate all aspects of a victim’s life. In “Boy Gets Girl,” most of Theresa’s interactions are with her co-workers, on whom she came to rely for support. Mathematics senior Jared Shirkey played the role of fellow writer Mercer Stevens and English junior John Mallory was the editor at the magazine where Theresa worked. While the two help Theresa cope with her situation, they also have small vignettes throughout the play that examine the culture they’ve been raised in and the point at which a break-up becomes unhealthy.
Theatre senior Laura Dieterle played Detective Madeline Beck, the woman who helps Theresa sort through her crisis and obtain her personal protection order against Tony. Although the detective is a good resource for Theresa, she is also an example of how victims of stalking are often treated. Throughout their scenes together, Beck insinuates that Theresa may have done something to lead Tony on and tells Theresa the majority of the responsibility rests on her: she has to move out of her apartment and take different routes to work. The detective even says changing her name would be a good idea.
Nicholas agreed, while troubling, each of the portrayals was an accurate example of real-life incidents. She reminds people, while the police are very good resources and it is very important to contact them, shelters and counseling centers should never be left out. She also mentioned that the Personal Protection Order division of the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety works closely with organizations like Safe Place and The Listening Ear so that victims are given the most specialized and effective care possible.
[safe2]After each show, the cast members and a Safe Place representative took the stage to answer questions from the audience. During the talk-back session on Thursday’s opening night, Nicholas reminded the audience that the staff at Safe Place can help in a number of different ways, including advising people on healthy versus unhealthy relationships and providing victims with guidance to navigate the legal system, assistance in obtaining personal protection orders and setting them up with support groups.
“Boy Gets Girl” was not just another production of the theatre department, but was a social statement concerning a real-life issue, as well. In the case of “Boy Gets Girl,” art was used to imitate one of the uglier aspects of life.

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A Surreal Short

Whirling through art history by sliding down bright blue flowers in a Henri Rousseau landscape and gliding through Salvador Dali’s masterpieces may seem like an unfathomable journey. But to filmmaker Josh Kapusinski, it’s an odyssey that began in mid-Michigan, traveled “across the pond” and has come full circle to this year’s East Lansing Film Festival.
[flower] Twenty-four-year-old Mason, Mich. native Kapusinski became interested in visual arts as a broadcast cable production major at Western Michigan University, and after spending a year of his undergraduate career studying at the University of Leicester in England, he fell in love with the country. Following graduation from WMU in 2002 he headed back to the United Kingdom to pursue a master’s degree in media production at the University of Sunderland.
“I think it’s really cool to inspire people visually,” Kapusinski said. “It’s a way of giving back, and I think that’s fun.”
Last year Kapusinski and his fellow film students began outlining their graduation film projects and deciding how to make them happen. Kapusinksi sought to create life within a still image, but neither he, nor his film partner Tian Qian, were quite sure how they were going to do it. By the time they met with their advising professor they had narrowed down their ideas to one concept, but when they pitched it, he wasn’t exactly impressed. He promptly asked for a “Plan B” and off-the-cuff, Kapusinski introduced an idea he and Qian had only toyed with, the concept played out in the imagination of a young girl who gets caught up in various pieces of classic art at a museum. Fortunately the professor loved the idea and “Penny’s Crossing” was born.
Since its initial pitch, the nine-minute film has garnered acclaim in small circles throughout the world. After its completion last summer, “Penny’s Crossing” has been accepted to the Beijing Film Academy Film Festival in Qian’s native China as well as domestic film festivals such as the New York Short Film Festival, the New York Get Shorty Film Showcase and of course the East Lansing Film Festival.
“Penny’s Crossing” will be featured in the student film contest beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 3, in Theater D in Wells Hall. A total of ten short student films from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin students will be shown in the 108-minute program the directors are scheduled to attend. The films range in genre from documentaries to comedies but all should prove to be entertaining and eye-opening.
“I thought the student work that was submitted was among the best of all the submissions this year. I kept having to go back to my notes and really confirm what I was watching was indeed a student film,” Erin Kay Burke, Lake Michigan Film Competition Program Director said. “Time after time, I was surprised and delighted by the student work, and I hope to continue seeing such quality from the ‘future of film.'”
[clock] “Penny’s Crossing” tells the story of a 10-year-old girl who becomes enthralled with the exhibits on her visit to an art museum, and her daydreams land inside the paintings. Penny starts her journey with the romanticism of Henri Rousseau and travels through Salvador Dali’s surrealist visions (mixed with some Andy Warhol’s pop art) before ending in Wassily Kandinsky’s geometric montage of abstract expressionism. Along the way she floats on music notes, wanders past melting clocks and hops through a checkerboard into whirling circles and whizzing squares on her tour of the more than 100 paintings used to construct the film.
“I just thought this was a very unique way to tell a story and visually engaging to the spectator; to involve the audience with the art on such a visceral level was mesmerizing to me,” Burke said.
To create the story, filmmakers shot Charlotte Eleanor Bell, as Penny, in stills on a chroma-key “green screen” with a digital camera. They then painstakingly cut her (and her trademark umbrella) out, superimposed the images on the canvases and brought her to life in the classic paintings. Next, little elements of each painting were also animated to bring the whole concept together. Kapusinski explained this was naturally the most difficult part of the entire process, but it was also the most exciting. Although tedious, both Kapusinski and Qian specialize in editing and were actually enthusiastic about having so much post-production work to do. The pair knew what they wanted to animate and how they wanted each scene to look, and the multitude of ideas and small details translated into hundreds of hours in front the computer with editing software.
But Kapusinki still believes coming up with the initial idea, writing the story and shooting the scenes, was harder than the editing. “It was like a post-production explosion,” Kapusinski said. “We just wanted to skip everything else and get to the editing.”
As with any such project, there are bound to be setbacks along the way and Kapusinki and Qian were not immune to slip-ups. The filmmaker jokingly tells the story of how he and Qian envisioned Penny with a unique umbrella and he was sure he found the perfect prop while shopping one day. However, when he brought the transparent polka dot umbrella to the studio it was a few takes before either of them realized the green screen was visible through the clear plastic. Luckily, Bell had brought her own slightly squared and vibrantly red umbrella to the set and it soon became a mainstay in the piece.
Now home from England, Kapusinski splits his time between working at a production company in Kalamazoo and marketing the film. Together, he and Qian compiled a teacher’s guide with suggested classroom activities and lesson plans to help guide discussions. He is also working on creating a pitch for educational networks like PBS, hoping the film may be the makings of a pilot for an “edutainment” series.
Although Kapusinksi admits he never saw himself making such “soft” films, he has really taken an interest in art in general, as well as art education, since the making of the film.
“I think it’s important to bring art education to young people in an entertaining way,” he said. “It’s exactly what is needed to bring change.”
For more information about the film, or to purchase the DVD and educator’s guides check out www.PennysCrossing.com. For movie times and locations for the East Lansing Film Festival and to look at other student film submissions, please visit www.ELFF.com.

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Feel Like a Kid Again

In Disney’s new touring production On the Record you’ll find, literally, “anything your heart desires will come to you.” From the Aristrocats and Ariel to Baloo and Buzz Lightyear, the show captures 64 songs from the past 75 years in a wonderfully mixed montage. Even if some of the songs are not familiar, the show will certainly make you want to break into song, dance and most likely your Disney movie collection sometime soon.
This production is certainly an all-ages show; the crowd gathered at the Wharton Center Tuesday night ranged from young toddlers to senior citizens. However, clocking in at approximately two and a half hours (with intermission), the show may be a little too long for young children.
[poster] The production is divided into 17 “sessions” that take place in a magical recording studio. The premise of the show is that the cast of eight performers comes together to sing, dance and act out the tunes while they make the ultimate compilation of Disney hits. The leads of Kristen, Julian, Diane and Nick are complimented by the chorus quartet. Kristen (played by Ashley Brown) and Nick (Andrew Samonsky) often steal the show with their powerful voices.
The set of On the Record is purposely understated, allowing the music to take center stage. This is quite a contrast to Disney’s usual over-the-top productions. Keeping with the environment of a recording studio, the initial and most frequently seen backdrop is made of giant acoustical tiles, and the most prominent props are four chrome boom mics on wheels. Throughout the show, the white tiles are washed with many different colors, adding ambience and dimension to the simple stage. The mics are used in nearly every scene as transitional objects (they become the perfect boat in “Kiss the Girl”), but grow redundant and overused as the show continues. Continuing its simplicity, the actors are all dressed in sharp gray and black outfits. The only costume change in the entire production comes with the sparkling finale.
Beginning with the classic Disney staple, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” the first act includes a prologue and eight recording sessions. Session three is a crowd favorite – “The Work Song” from Cinderella – where the foursome even emulates the high-pitched mouse voices. On-site sound engineers actually manipulate the singers’ live voices during the show to give the tune its authentic feel.
Courtney Pohl from Portland won four tickets for her family in a local radio contest by singing “The Work Song” from Cinderella. The curly-haired three-year-old said it was her favorite song in the production as well, though she sang and danced through each number.
Although session one seems to start out a little slow, the fourth session’s staging provides a change in atmosphere and gives the show a boost. A black curtain with fiber-optic stars flies in to cover the tiles, and two staircases become the staging for romantic songs like “So This Is Love,” from Cinderella, and “A Whole New World,” from Aladdin. The session rounds out with the entire cast seated on the steps singing “The Second Star to the Right” from Peter Pan.
Session five illustrates Disney’s talent (and success) with animated musicals, highlighting the Academy Award-winning The Little Mermaid. The orchestra opens with the cool Caribbean beats of “Under the Sea” and closes with the charming “Kiss the Girl.” Although the lyrics of “Under the Sea” were jumbled at times, the musicians and their talents really stood out. Also in this session, Kristen has an outstanding solo with “Part of Your World” and Diane revives the character of Ursula the Sea-Witch with some creative lighting. As the stage goes completely black, five bright green strands of illuminated rope with flashlights at the ends are lowered down for Diane and the chorus members. The five performers dance and twirl in the lights, which seem to become seaweed and Ursula’s tentacles, and they use the flashlights to eerily illuminate their faces.
[helfer] Clever staging for the song, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” becomes a fabulous flurry of non-sensical syllables and sheet music. The session begins with chorus members bringing the music to the four primary actors waiting at music stands. However, because of the length of the lyrics, the sheets soon turn to reams of yellow paper flying around the stage. “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” (from Song of the South) and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” (Cinderella), as well as other songs, get added in to become a ridiculous and thoroughly entertaining remix.
“I liked the ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ one,” said nine-year-old Taylor VanRemmen. “It was really fun.”
The number, “Be Our Guest,” from Beauty and the Beast, has been a favorite of movie lovers, as well as theater-goers, for almost 15 years, but On the Record gives it a unique twist by singing it in several different languages throughout session 12. A screen flies in at center stage and projects the scene from the movie, as lyrics in French, German, Japanese and Swedish sound from the stage.
As the cast is wrapping their “recording session” and parting ways, they finish with the cherished “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio, before doing an incredible quick-change for the finale singing “The Bare Necessities” and “Spoonful of Sugar.”
“I enjoyed the whole show,” said season ticket-holder Sandy Helfer of Holt. “I liked ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ best, though; it’s classic Jiminy Cricket.”
On the Record runs through Sunday, March 6, at the Wharton Center. For showtimes and ticket information visit: www.whartoncenter.com. For a complete list of the show’s songs check out the On the Record Web site.

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Absolutely No Talking, Slurping or Jeans

World-renowned author, playwright and eccentric, Oscar Wilde, once said, “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it means to be a human being.”
[curtain] Quite simply, I concur. I truly believe live stage performances are among the most perfect expressions of art in the world. Historically, the stage has been a forum for a wide range of themes and messages; writers, lyricists, choreographers, musicians and, of course, actors and dancers have done everything from addressing social ills to providing glossy entertainment. Unfortunately, it’s become glaringly clear not everyone holds theater in such high regard.
Some may call me a snob – I prefer “purist” – but I believe, with as many elements as the cast and crew pull together and the number of hours they put into presenting flawless performances, it is the audience’s duty to show the utmost courtesy and respect.
Thus, for your perusal, a brief introductory guide to theater etiquette:
1. Be on time
As you will soon see, the rules of theater etiquette do not exist independently, rather each one leads into another, and together they make for an enjoyable experience. That said, the most important rule for being respectful to the performers and fellow audience members is being on time for the show. Not only is it irritating to have people step on your toes or block your line of sight, it can really throw off the performers.
[watch] “I was doing a show my senior year in high school in a small black-box theater and someone came in late and actually apologized to me,” general management and theatre performance senior John Gilmour said. “I hate people who are late.”
However, as theatre senior Annie Stulberg points out, there are a few remedies to this mortal sin. “When you are late to a performance, it is more polite to enter the theater and find the closest open seat to sit in until there is a break and you can move down to your original seats without disturbing the rest of the audience or the performers,” Stulberg said.
2. Know what you’re seeing
Up to this point it’s doubtful you’ve missed the fact you’re reading an online publication. Thus, you more than likely have some mastery of the computer and the Internet, as well as the skills necessary to Google the show you’re interested in. Yet the nagging question remains: Why don’t you research the show you’re about to spend $50 (or more) on?
Just because the Tony Awards Administration Committee gave the show rave reviews doesn’t mean you’re going to love it too. Jonathon Larson’s Rent won a Pulitzer Prize for drama as well as four Tonys and a slew of other awards. However, that didn’t necessarily mean everyone was ready for his brilliance, incorporating drag queens and drugs into a modern rock opera. After all, there’s nothing more disheartening than reaching an intermission and having to listen to the lady behind you complain that “there’s no talking, all they do is sing” or that she doesn’t like the show because there’s too much dancing.
Additionally, theatrical productions are intricate bodies of artwork with hundreds of facets that include lighting; costuming; staging and, of course, dialogue and music. If you don’t have a decent grasp on the plot and its characters, you’ll likely spend a good deal of time sorting out the story and missing the details of the show. Furthermore, the production that’s happening in front of you is completely unique; there is no rewinding in these shows, and each night the performance is a little different, making it impossible to see the same thing twice. Therein lies the beauty of live theater.
3. Dress appropriately
If you’re going out for a nice evening at the theater, dress like it. For any professional production (think the Wharton Center or shows in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Chicago, etc.) it is rarely suitable to wear anything more casual than dress pants and a nice shirt or sweater for women and men.
At an evening show it’s certainly appropriate to dress nicer and add some glitz. A nice skirt and top for women and a neat shirt and tie for men are great options. Matinees do not require patrons to dress up quite as much, but jeans or sweatpants are never proper attire. College, high school and community theaters naturally are more casual than professional shows but it’s always best to look nice. If you decide to wear jeans make sure they’re nice-looking and paired with an appropriate shirt or blazer.
[no] 4. Refrain from talking, eating or drinking during the show
It’s incredibly rude to hold a conversation with your date, crinkle your candy wrappers or slurp your drinks during a theatrical production. There are intermissions between acts. If you must talk to someone, chances are it can wait until then. And I haven’t even gotten to the extraneous cell phone rings yet. If you are anticipating any necessary calls simply set your phone to vibrate and keep it in your pocket or lap, then quickly and quietly leave between scenes or numbers. Also, as Stulberg points out, it is never acceptable to yell or catcall to performers in any show.
If you really want a cocktail, enjoy it with dinner before or after the show and leave the snacks at home. Moreover, some theaters, like the BoarsHead in Lansing, ask if you feel you’ll need any sort of wrapped candy during the show, unwrap it and keep it readily available so there won’t be a need to disturb anyone else. Do you really have to have that KitKat in the middle of Act II? Unless you’re having a coughing fit and need a throat lozenge, it can wait.
5. Just be courteous (and get plenty of rest before the show)
The rules of theater etiquette, just like any societal guidelines, revolve around just being courteous to fellow patrons. Of course, not everyone knows exactly what respect means, let alone how to exercise it. If they did, people would have already stopped and there would be no books on the subject (which may, in fact, be useless, because if you are really rude enough to violate rules #1-4, chances are you’re not going to seek out a book on remedying it). Nevertheless, think before you act, especially in the theater.
[cain] A real-life model is the perfect highlight for what we’ve just learned. At The Producers last year the man seated behind me came in late (see rule #1) and promptly fell into a deep, snoring sleep (#5), waking up only to ask when intermission was. He returned from intermission (did I mention he was in jeans and a T-shirt? That covers #3!) with a bloody Mary in each hand (too many violations of #4 to count).
Please, don’t be “that guy.” If nothing else, take heed of these general rules, be courteous to fellow audience members and performers and save the “two-fisting” for the frat parties.
After all, as Gilmour says, “You can be naïve once; after that you’re just perpetuating it and being stupid.”

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Side by Side

Among the most talented and well-known writers in musical theater is the legendary Steven Sondheim. His music and lyrics have helped shape contemporary American culture and even the late Jonathon Larson of “Rent” fame invokes Sondheim’s name in his works as a veritable theatre god. Now, the works of Sondheim are available to mid-Michigan theatre buffs at the BoarsHead Theatre in Lansing.
As the narrator points out, “Side by Side by Sondheim” is really more of a show than a play. There is no plot that laces the tunes together, rather the celebrity narrator introduces each segment and gives some background as to where the songs came from and how Sondheim gathered his inspiration. Known for his diverse subject matter and incredibly different shows, Sondheim’s songs span a broad range.
The story of Sondheim’s childhood is one rooted in music. After his parents divorce, young Sondheim and his mother moved to Bucks County, Penn., into the same neighborhood as musical theater great Oscar Hammerstein II. While observing Hammerstein writing “Oklahoma!”, Sondheim began to take interest in the craft. In the late 1950s he collaborated with Leonard Bernstein on “West Side Story” and Jule Styne on “Gyspy,” setting off his long trail of success.
[Applegate] For the most part, the thirty musical numbers – that’s right, thirty – are grouped with other songs from the same show to help give the two and a half hour performance a feeling of cohesion. There are only three singers, a narrator and a two-man “orchestra” to deliver the show. And of course, in true Sondheim style, the numbers cover a broad range of subjects and go back and forth from comedic to dramatic, sometimes within the same song.
Going from the torn Puerto Rican community of “West Side Story” to the burlesque shows of “Gypsy” cannot be easy for any actor or actress, but the BoarsHead’s trio composed of Jeff Applegate, Shannon Locke and Sarah Wallace pull it off very well.
New York City theater veteran Applegate, who plays Man, likens the experience of preparing for “Side by Side by Sondheim” to boot camp, “Sondheim is not easy stuff to learn and study,” he said. “Basically we prayed a lot for two weeks.”
As for the technical side of the show, the minimalist stage is set with three chrome stools against a screen of a repeated black and white print of Sondheim arranged in various shapes. The screen hides the orchestra of accomplished musical team of Jeff Kressler, MSU alumnus, and Dave Bacon. The backdrop for the whole show is the simple New York skyline, also in black and white.
“It was a fun revue of one of the greatest musical writers of our time,” said marketing senior Lisa Kraus.
[Locke]Now with more than 60 titles and joint-projects to his name, Sondheim continues to produce incredible works and open the theater to new audiences. Sondheim’s most recent success on Broadway has come with the introduction of the musical “Assassins”, a story about the American dream and those who live on the margins of society.
According to “The Guide to Musical Theatre”, “Not everyone feels comfortable watching Lee Harvey Oswald singing along with John Wilkes Booth [in “Assassins”], but, in stretching the possibilities of the musical, Sondheim is seeking to prove that the form has just as wide a range as a straight play. And for that we should all be grateful.”
“It was an absolute joy to do Sondheim,” said Shannon Locke, whose official title in the play was Woman 1. “The fact that we have the opportunity was a gift; a gift that I would gladly take any day.”
“Side by Side by Sondheim” runs at the BoarsHead Theatre inside the Center for the Arts (425 S. Grand Ave, Lansing) through February 6. For show times and ticket information visit Boarshead.org or call the box office at (517) 484-7805.

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How To Be…an MSU Student Through the Years

For most of today’s MSU students, life isn’t centered around livestock tending or preparing for next week’s sock hop. Daily schedules have come to include answering questions via remote control in lecture courses and constantly checking e-mail and Angel accounts just to make sure you’re up to date. Of course campus life wasn’t always this way: just as MSU has grown, changed and developed over the years, so have the students that earn their educations here. Take a quick tour of the evolution of the college student and be thankful that you have working electricity and so much more!
1855
Although founded in 1855, classes at the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan did not begin until the spring of 1857. Unlike the student body of today, it was not difficult to characterize the first students: there were 63 men and true to the school’s roots, they were agricultural engineers through and through.
While many students today spend their free time in the dorms watching T.V, playing video games or talking to friends online, the scenario was much different for the first State students. Among the first buildings on the new campus, the residence hall “Saint’s Arms” was a necessity that afforded students the convenience of living at the school and the ability to tend to their livestock at any time of the day or night.
1885
After a name change in 1861, the University was known as State Agricultural College. While the campus was beginning to broaden its horizons, and even let women attend class, technological advances were slow to follow. Only a year earlier, chemistry students were introduced to electricity in their laboratories but it would still be another five years before electricity illuminated the library. That same year the first football team took the field under the direction of mathematics and civil engineering professor Rolla C. Carpenter.
According to the Sesquicentennial Celebration website, campus was slowly developing and familiar fixtures like Williams Hall and the Beal Botanical Gardens were already in place.
1915
According to the MSU Museum, the turn of the century at Michigan Agricultural College was characterized by a strong sense of class unity. Students were abuzz as they prepared for important university traditions like the “J Hop”, an annual dance sponsored by the junior class, and the senior class picnic before graduation. The closeness of the dorms also supported a strong sense of class rivalry, an element that has since dissolved with the plethora of housing options and program structures.
Students’ deviously devised intricate plans to prank one another took up the popular pastime of “room stacking.” As printed in an early version of the Red Cedar Log, “room stacking” was an exact science that involved entering the entire contents of a victims’ room (closets, desks, beds, everything) into one giant heap. As a final touch, pranksters would empty inkwells on the mound and rig buckets of water above the doors for unsuspecting residents.
1945
The years following World War II were some of the busiest and most important for the Michigan State College Agriculture and Applied Science. Enrollment at the college spiked as men and women returned from the war, ready to use money from the G.I. Bill to fund an education and a better life.
Student interests were changing as well, in the early 40s the war effort was the most important and popular topic on campus. According to the MSU Museum, students spent their free time learning nursing techniques, helping with bandage rolling and collecting books for soldiers stationed overseas. Campus was dotted with victory gardens, barracks and Quonset huts used for living quarters and classroom space.
1975
As Bob Dylan prophesized and alumni Richard Cassel seconds, the times certainly had changed. By 1975 MSU had shortened its name from Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science and was settling down after the tumultuous and revolutionary 60s.
“There was definitely an intellectual calm about campus,” said Cassel, a 1978 telecommunications graduate. “It seemed like there were a lot of people majoring in psychology and philosophy. People were still seeking peace and idealism.”
In University news, students were flocking to the new Munn arena and mourning as legendary football coach Hugh “Duffy” Daugherty ended his coaching career at State.
In the days of disco, the now popular Rick’s American Café was an establishment called Lizards. A great place to gather and hang out, Lizards was most popular for its “all you can eat” spaghetti on Sunday nights when the residence hall cafeterias were closed.
“My friends and I needed a frequent-eaters punch card or something,” said Cassel. “We were there all the time.”
2005
Look around the university campus today and you would be hard-pressed to define a “typical” MSU student. Members of the academic community have more than 200 different areas of study to choose from and hundreds of clubs, organizations and leadership positions to sign up for. Sure, one look at the Ugg-clad, North Face-sporting masses could sway opinions about diversity, but there is no arguing that there is a niche for just about everyone at State.
Nearly every aspect of college life has changed since the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan was founded 150 years ago. Although still small, dorm rooms are filled with laptops, iPods, cell phones and dozens of other technological advances the first stall-mucking, seed-planting students could never have fathomed. However, the pursuit of higher academics and college memories still holds students together.
“I think that college students will always be unique. The friendships that I’ve made and the things that I’ve learned at State will stay with me forever and I think it’s been the same for most people that have come here,” said hospitality business senior Jenny Manchik. “I would like to try to revive that whole room stacking thing though.”
For more information about MSU’s past and to learn about the Sesquicentennial Celebration events visit the official university website at and check out the great exhibits in the first and second floor Union lounges.

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A Preview of the Blues

As dozens of dedicated students shuffled out of the frigid winter air and into the Wharton Center on the evening of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the cast and crew of “Blues for Mr. Charlie” were warming up for a very important preview of the Theatre Department’s latest production.
According to co-chairs Paulette Granberry Russell, senior advisor to the president for diversity and director of Affirmative Action, Compliance and Monitoring and psychology senior Kiara Hill, the 2005 Commemorative Celebration Planning Committee was looking for a new way to honor the legacy of King.
Loosely based on the racially motivated and brutal kidnapping and murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi, “Blues for Charlie” by James Baldwin addresses many of the issues and struggles that King experienced first-hand during the Civil Rights movement. Written as a protest play, many of the scenes are flashbacks that recount the battles that were all too familiar prior to the 1960s and unfortunately continue to seep into today’s society.
“I’m very happy that the committee decided to do something different this year,” said Director Lamont Clegg. “I believe the message of this play is ideal for the day we have set aside to honor Dr. King.”
The cast began their two-scene preview with the opening minutes of the play. Reverend Meridian Henry paces back and forth in his Mississippi church instructing college students on how to remain non-violent in the face of persecution and taunting. In the scene the actors role-play the ugly scenarios that they might encounter with accusations filled with derogatory terms and punctuated by pushing and shoving. Henry’s character, played by human biology senior Alan Sloan, is a revolutionary figure much like Dr. King. While preparing the students for their peaceful march, he is also coping with the murder of his son Richard whose funeral is scheduled for the next morning.
The second scene the cast presented comes later in the play was a sharp contrast from what the audience saw only moments earlier. This time the action centers on Henry and local newspaper editor Parnell James, played by mathematics junior Jared Shirkey. Henry has become frustrated with the increasingly violent social atmosphere and begins to question himself as well as his ideals and his faith. James steps in as Henry’s lone white ally and as the Reverend pushes James to help him root out Richard’s killer, the editor backs down from because he does not want to betray his sources or his friends.
After the scenes closed, the cast and crew reconvened on stage for a “talk back” session to help audience members process the complex material they had just seen. Many of the questions posed by the audience dealt with cast’s preparation techniques and wanting to know how the actors became comfortable with the negatively charged dialog they deliver and vile characters they embody each day in rehearsals.
“I like to think that when we’re on stage we’re doing a job,” said theatre senior Aaron Dean who plays murderer Lyle Britten in the productions. “We’re not those characters,” he added emphatically.
Other student actors offered their methods of examining and breaking down stereotypes and used humor as a tool in becoming comfortable with such weighty issues. However, at the heart of all the discussion were the wrenching messages steeped in real historical events and a prevailing feeling of hope for the future.
“One of the reasons the department chose this show is to think about issues we don’t like to think about and don’t want to think about,” Clegg said.
“This time in our lives is all about learning. This is the time we should take advantage of it. We’re practically being handed this opportunity,” echoed Malik Williams who plays the slain Richard.
“Blues for Mr. Charlie” opens at the Auditorium’s Fairchild Theatre on February 3 and runs Thursdays through Sundays until February 13. For more information visit www.WhartonCenter.com.

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A Carol Invasion

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go…”
True. The streets twinkle with gold and green, and the familiar December chill is here to stay. The sounds, decorations and general holiday cheer of December began long before the “un-official” start of the season (the day after Thanksgiving) with dancing Santas and Christmas carols spotted and heard in department stores as early as Halloween.
But it’s also beginning to SOUND a lot like Christmas, EVERYWHERE you go. In every store, mall, and even in the car it’s nearly impossible to escape hokey holiday music this season.
The tradition of singing Christmas carols is said to have been introduced into church services in the 12th century by St. Francis of Assisi. The first carols of course revolved around the nativity story, but as Christmas became more widely celebrated and commercialized, and the legend of Santa Claus more accepted, other holiday songs began to seep into popular culture.
Enter some of the most annoying songs that inevitably hit the air waves every December:
“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”
Made popular by Elmo & Patsy, this song about poor Grandma’s run-in with Santa Claus is funny for the first few days of the season, but after that, the eggnog jokes and southern twang just become too much.
“The Chipmunks Song”
The first time Alvin, Simon and Theodore hit their high notes, particularly when Alvin requests his “hula hoop,” it’s cute. But, as the song continues, the insanely high voices are enough to make listeners swear they’re listening to an old, broken cassette tape.
“Little Drummer Boy”
With everyone making covers of these “pa rum pum pum pums,” this holiday classic will undoubtedly be pounded into every innocent listener’s head at some point this season.
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”
Covered by various artists over the years, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” was a great attempt at a hip Christmas carol, but after it’s been used in every holiday movie and parade, it’s status has moved to overplayed.
“Santa Baby”
There’s just something inherently wrong with every throaty version of this sexy holiday song that prompts a chubby man in a red velvet suit to “hurry down the chimney tonight.”
Don’t let the abundance of over done, trite holiday tunes become overkill this season. Embrace holiday music by seeking out some lesser known carols and making a unique mix CD. Our favorites include Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “White Christmas,” Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song,” to highlight other cultural celebrations. And your favorite band or performer is sure to have a Christmas CD on shelves. We also recommend checking out the “Maybe This Christmas” collection, with seasonal favorites from artists including Ben Folds, Death Cab for Cutie, and Badly Drawn Boy on three individual CDs.
But, remember, as your ears bleed thanks to the holiday music blasting through the department store, anything, anything , beats those damn barking dogs.

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Don’t Be a Scrooge

Looking for a little Holiday spirit before finals? A nice holiday date, perhaps? Break out of the fluorescent glow of the library lights and soak up a little culture before heading home on break. The Lansing-area has many fun, festive and affordable shows to put college students in the merry mood this December.
“A Christmas Carol”
Boarshead Theatre
The company of the Boarshead Theatre re-creates one of the most famous tales of the Christmas season. The classic characters of Ebeneezer Scrooge, the Cratchit family, and of course, The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future come alive on this Lansing stage. The production opens its 19-show run with a post-Thanksgiving performance on Friday, November 26 and runs through December 23. Check the theatre website for specific show times. Tickets start at a very reasonable $8 and are available at the theatre (425 S. Grand Ave.), by phone at (517) 484-7805 ext.0 or at www.boarshead.org.
“A Classic Holiday: MSU Children’s Choir and the Beaumont Brass”
MSU School of Music- Wharton Center
The MSU Children’s Choir and the Beaumont Brass Bands combine to create a
beautiful show for all ages on December 18 at 8:00 p.m.. The production promises classic holiday favorites, a reading of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and a special appearance by Santa himself. Tickets for this single-night engagement range from $12 – $25 and are available at the Wharton Center Box Office, online at www.whartoncenter.com and via phone at 1-800-Wharton.
“Holiday Voices”
Riverwalk Theatre
For one night only, the Riverwalk Theatre is presenting a holiday montage of songs and stories performed by Lansing area media personalities and celebrities. A suggested donation of $10 gets you an evening full of holiday entertainment plus cookies and eggnog. The theatre is located at 228 Museum Drive in Lansing and online at www.riverwalktheatre.com.
“Glorious Sounds of the Holiday”
Wharton Center
This one-night-only concert, featuring the MSU Symphony Orchestra, brings 250 singers from the MSU Chorale, State Singers, and Choral Union together in one spectacular holiday performance. The curtain goes up at 8:00 p.m. Saturday, December 4, at the Wharton Center. Tickets for this single night engagement range from $12 – $25 and are available at the Wharton Center Box Office, online at www.whartoncenter.com and via phone at 1-800-Wharton.
“A Christmas Carol”
The Wharton Center
The Wharton Center, too, is putting on another adaptation of the time-honored Charles Dickens’ tale, this one set to music and full of dancing. Tickets for the December 19, 3:00 p.m. one-day-only performance range from $12-$25 and are available through the Wharton Center box office, at www.whartoncenter.com and by phone at 1-800-Wharton.
“Improv Got Run Over by a Reindeer”
The Performance Network- Ann Arbor
The Performance Network encourages theater-goers to abandon the typical holiday play and the stress of the endless hours of shopping for a few hours of bowl-full-of-jelly shaking laughs. The professional and intimate theater consistently delivers great performances. This late-night show makes its debut Wednesday, December 9 at 11:00 p.m. and runs weekends through December 18. Tickets are $10 with a $3.50 discount for seniors and half price student rush tickets the day of the show. Check out www.performancenetwork.org for additional times and online purchasing.
“Radio City Music Spectacular”
Fox Theater- Detroit
Although a bit pricier than community theaters ($20.50-$100), the Radio City Christmas Spectacular has become a Detroit Christmas tradition for good reason. The Radio City Rockettes will have 26 performances during their month long stay in Detroit (November 26- December 26). The energetic show features a touring company of the critically acclaimed precise dancers and a range of numbers including the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and the Living Nativity. Tickets and show times are available through Ticketmaster at their outlets or online at www.Ticketmaster.com.

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Get on the Carousel

Six horses, complete with saddles, come alive to one of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrical compositions, as the costumed dancers shake their manes, dig their hooves and prance through each unfolding eight-count in their interpretation of the beautiful carnival animals coming alive in the musical “Carousel.”
[nose]A co-production of the MSU Departments of Opera and Theater, “Carousel” brings the story of innocent mill worker Julie Jordan and her love Billy Bigelow, the rough carousel barker, to the Fairchild stage. The audience follows Jordan, played by music education junior Shelagh Brown, as she falls in love with Bigelow, played by theater junior Nathaniel Nose, during her ride on the carousel. Although the townsfolk chide the romance of the all-American girl and her less-than-honest man, Julie and Billy continue with their marriage and life together. However, their relationship turns rocky as out-of-work and frustrated Billy begins abusing Julie.
[carousel]“He’s a coward. He’s that red-blooded American male who refuses to be vulnerable,” said Nose of his character. “He doesn’t have any redeeming qualities, save one. He’s just a bad guy.”
When Billy must resort to robbery to support his then pregnant wife, he gets mixed up with villainous Jigger Craigen. A murder ensues and Billy commits suicide to avoid his inevitable prison sentence and the shame that it would bring to his family.
Years go by and Billy is given a second chance to return to earth to visit his wife and child for a day. By this time fifteen years have passed and his daughter is now a blossoming teenager, coping with growing up and the burden of a nagging and infamous legacy left by her father.
The musical numbers throughout the production illustrate the story and bring a light-hearted element to the otherwise dark plot. Throughout the “Carousel Waltz,” the town anticipates the arrival of the exciting new ride, and the men raise the topper for the centerpiece of the production. Each dancer is then delicately placed in their frozen poses to begin the number and transform into living horses.
“It’ll be a different twist. Something no one else has ever done and that’s all the more reason to do it,” said Professor Dixie Durr, the show’s choreographer. “They’re all fancy and they’re all beautiful in their own way,” she said of each horse.
Getting ready for the first clambake of the season, the men are anxious for the women-folk to finish all of the last minute preparations. The exuberance of “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” gives off a flirty tone with clinging couples and kissing lovers.
As the sailors come into port in “Blow High, Blow Low” the male portion of the cast shoulders the dancing and singing responsibilities. Punctuated with an ending formation that creates the nose of a ship, complete with a “maiden” on front, the number should prove to be energetic and funny.
Renowned creative duo Rodgers and Hammerstein collaborated in 1944 to create the second of many musical masterpieces in “Carousel.” Adapted from the opera “Liliom” by Hungarian writer Ferenec Molnar, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s version takes place in coastal Maine in the late 1800’s and tackles many complicated issues, especially poignant for the time in which is was written.
Although Rodgers and Hammerstein are famous for the many productions they have written together, including “Oklahoma!”, “The Sound of Music” and “South Pacific”, it was “Carousel” that was named “Best Musical of the Century” by Time Magazine in 1999.
“It’s a ground-breaking in that it deals with many dark issues,” said director and assistant professor of voice Melanie Helton. “It’s an interesting story about domestic violence, a classic bad guy and ultimate redemption.”
The production is a shift from what most students expect in musical theater. The eye-opening plot and prevailing message will appeal to many, even those who are not typically fans.”
“It’s a serious, dark story,” said Nose. “You’re not coming to see a fluff musical.”
“Carousel” opens on Thursday, November 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Fairchild Theater in the Auditorium. Friday and Saturday nights’ shows are at 8:00 p.m. The production ends its run with a Sunday matinee at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are available at the Wharton Center Box Office (as well as by phone at 1-800-Wharton and at whartoncenter.com ). Rates are $8 for students/children, $12 for senior citizens and $16 for adults.

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