A Broadway musical may seem like an odd way to tell a tragic tale, but author and composer Maury Reston pulled it off with Titanic, which debuted at New York’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in early 1997. The play went on to win five Tony Awards, enjoyed modest success before closing two years later, and lives on today in regional theatre.
(The play is no relation to the James Cameron movie of the same name, which came out in December of 1997.)
In the Penn State Centre Stage production of Reston’s musical, which opened last night in the Pavilion Theatre, theatre students and faculty bring to life the complicated characters involved in the 1912 disaster—from the ship’s proud owner (Bruce Ismay, played by Steve Snyder) and designer (Thomas Andrews, played by Richard Roland), both of whom are on board for the maiden voyage, to the snooty first-class passengers, to the wannabes in second class, to the emigrants in third class sailing toward a better life in America.
The musical traces a trajectory that starts with the optimism and opulence of the first few days on the ship and ends with the encounter with an iceberg and the disbelief, anger, and grief that follows.
In an especially intense scene, Ismay, Andrews, and the ship’s captain (Edward Smith, played by Ted Christopher) hurl recriminations at one another. Later, after the lifeboats are full and those left on the ship face the inevitable, Andrews agonizes over whether his design is what has led so many people to their deaths.
Titanic runs through Oct. 17 in the Pavilion Theatre. Highly recommended.
Tina Hay, editor
Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1990. Along with the athletic benefits that came from joining a major conference, our Sept./Oct. 1994 issue points out that there were academic benefits that came with the move. Namely, Penn State joined the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, which is made up of every Big Ten school and the University of Chicago. Here’s what then-executive vice president and provost John Brighton had to say about the CIC:
“The academic implications of the Big Ten and the CIC are far more important than the athletic implications, though the two are not in conflict or competition. The vastness and magnitude of CIC efforts will help us improve the way we do things. We are are now exchanging ideas—on a regular basis—with a group of schools that rank among the best research universities in the country.”
This issue also includes a look at some of the diners that used to be in State College, which was a diner hotbed. There is also a profile on author Alecia Swasy ’85, a story on beagles tasked with sniffing out agricultural contraband, and a collection of the best student poetry from the College of the Liberal Arts’ Katey Lehman Creative Writing Awards.
The NYC pizza rat—you know, the rat who dragged a slice of pizza down a flight of subway steps last month and achieved instant fame—is still making headlines. Well, this morning on my walk to the office, I noticed this focused friend having his morning pizza outside the Hintz Family Alumni Center. (New Yorkers aren’t the only ones who brunch.) We don’t know much about Penn State Pizza Squirrel, but we do know that he deliberately chose to take a break from hoarding nuts for the upcoming winter to snack on this likely hours-old cold slice from—just a guess—Canyon Pizza. We won’t judge, Penn State Pizza Squirrel. You do you.
Amy Downey, senior editor
Some time last week, I was notified about a new Twitter follower called School Street Posters. It caught my attention for a few reasons: First, no one follows me on Twitter. Second, it’s got a pretty cool street map of State College. And, finally, I already owned two similar posters, but for cities where I used to live, Philadelphia and Boston. Here was a graphic designer with a similar concept, but instead of city neighborhoods he’s diagramming the street maps of college towns. Smart. Although Eric Strand launched School Street Posters just last year, he’s already created screen prints for the entire Big Ten and Big 12 conferences, plus plenty of other schools. As for State College, they’re available in several colors, but we’re partial to the classic navy and white version. I’m thinking a campus map like this is much more accurate—and way prettier to look at—than the one I drew up for my dorm room my freshman year.
Amy Downey, senior editor
Ahead of the 1988 season, when a sports writer from the Washington Post, Ken Denlinger ’64, approached Joe Paterno with the idea of following a class of recruits from start to finish—with unfettered access for five years—and writing a book about their experiences in the larger context of big-time college football, the coach said one thing.
Upon the book’s publication in 1994, Paterno revealed:
“I said, ‘Ken, I want it honest. I don’t want it to be one way or the other. I want it honest. I want it to be a book that somebody could pick up and understand just a little bit, have a little better insight as to what these kids have to go through.’ And from what I understand, Ken’s written an honest book.”
For his part, Denlinger found the experience to be “wonderful,” mostly because of the diverse class of athletes profiled in For the Glory, which chronicles the lives of the 28 players recruited to Penn State in 1988, among them Tony Sacca, O.J. McDuffie, John Gerak, Greg Huntington, and Todd Burger.
Denlinger died Saturday after a long battle with cancer.
In his 18-year career at the Post, starting as a reporter in 1965 then as a columnist from 1976, Denlinger covered every major sporting event from the Super Bowl and World Series to the Olympic Games and the Triple Crown of horse racing. He developed a reputation for not being intimidated by power, whether it be in the form of institution or a coach. Athletes for Sale, a 1975 book he co-authored, was based on a series of investigative articles for the newspaper that detailed the unseemly way college basketball recruited high school athletes.
In a fond tribute to his former colleague, award-winning sports writer John Feinstein recalls:
“Anyone who got mad at Ken Denlinger … was mad at the wrong guy. He could be tough when he needed to be in print, but there wasn’t a mean bone in his body. He was a wonderful reporter, a superb columnist, a mentor to a slew of young writers at The Post and — more than anything — a loving husband, father, grandfather and, as he loved to tell us all, a proud great-grandfather.”
His book on Penn State, Denlinger said, came about due to his relationship with Paterno, who he had known since his days working at the Daily Collegian, and his desire to examine the university’s footprint on the college football landscape. The journal Kirkus Reviews described it as “a thoughtful and compelling book” that “is neither a bronzing of Paterno nor a whitewash of college sports. Given the trajectories of the young men he covered, that would be impossible.”
Denlinger died at his home in Frederick, Md. He was 74.
B.J. Reyes, associate editor
To say that Farnoosh Torabi has accomplished a few things since I last saw her would be an understatement. Back in the spring of 2008, we asked Torabi ’02 to host a New York City roundtable of economic experts—all Penn Staters—for a story on the economic crisis for the magazine. I don’t think I’ve had occasion to talk to her since then.
But about that “since then”: Let’s just say she’s been busy. She’s written three books, earned the Alumni Association’s Alumni Achievement Award, gotten married, had a kid, launched a podcast (So Money, named the No. 1 podcast of 2015), appeared on the Today show a bunch of times, and formed her own enterprise: Farnoosh Inc. You may have seen our short profile of her in our Sept./Oct. 2015 issue.
Today she spoke at the Penn State Forum luncheon, offering some advice and humor from her most recent book: When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women.
There’s a lot of evidence, Torabi says, that a woman who makes more money than her husband can face tough challenges: Couples in which the woman is the breadwinner have a 50 percent higher divorce rate, and the husband is five times more likely to cheat, to name just two statistics. Not to mention the frustration and resentment the woman might feel—or the judgmental comments from her family or friends.
Her book offers 10 suggestions; in the luncheon today at the Nittany Lion Inn, Torabi spotlighted three of them: (more…)
Through multiple revisions and repeated rejections, Kwame Alexander continued to believe that the book that would become The Crossover was “the best thing I’d ever written.” It seemed like no one would agree with him—18 editors turned down the manuscript, leaving Alexander to settle on publishing it himself—before one company finally bought the book. It was a smart choice: Published last year, The Crossover was awarded the 2015 Newbery Medal as the best children’s book of the year.
On Thursday, Alexander was on campus to accept another honor: the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, give annually for “the most outstanding new book of children’s poetry.” The award is named for Hopkins, the prolific children’s poet and Scranton native, and presented by the Penn State Libraries and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book. For Alexander, who remembered reading Hopkins as a child and then reading Hopkins to his own daughter, said receiving the award “felt like coming full circle.”
The Crossover started, Alexander says, as “a book of poems that were linked. I didn’t realize it was a story.” The final version, a “novel in verse,” tells the story of tight-knit, basketball-loving twin brothers who face conflict and family tragedy. The book’s bumpy path to publishing—Alexander say he was told “boys don’t like poetry, and girls don’t like basketball”—taught him to “accept the no’s.” After absorbing all that rejection, the eventual “yes” was that much sweeter.
An eager advocate for the use of poetry in education, Alexander called the form “the bridge that gets students to appreciate language and literature.” With a freshly signed copy of The Crossover in hand, I’m looking forward to sharing that bridge with my own kids this weekend.
Ryan Jones, senior editor