Posts filed under ‘Campus events’

Penn State’s ‘Titanic’ an Engrossing Tale

SHIP'S CREW: From left, musical theatre major Benjamin Nissen as Second Officer Lightoller, School of Theatre faculty member Ted Christopher as Captain Smith, and musical theatre student Khaleel Mandel as First Officer Murdoch.

From left, musical theatre major Benjamin Nissen as Second Officer Lightoller, School of Theatre faculty member Ted Christopher as Captain Smith, and musical theatre student Khaleel Mandel as First Officer Murdoch.

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.

Richard Roland as the ship's designer, Thomas Andrews.

The Titanic‘s designer, Thomas Andrews (played by Richard Roland), is overcome with anguish as the ship goes down.

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

October 9, 2015 at 11:22 am Leave a comment

Some Advice and Humor from Farnoosh Torabi


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…)

October 2, 2015 at 2:42 pm Leave a comment

Getting a Read on “Madness,” One Book at a Time

Kicking off Thursday at noon, this year’s Penn State Marathon Reading will feature 10 books united by “madness and psychological themes.” For 24 (or so) hours straight, the normally tranquil lawn in front of Pattee and Paterno Libraries figures to get pretty intense.MARATHON

This year marks the fourth annual Marathon Reading, and after taking part in the first two—we read Catch-22 in 2012 and One Hundred Years of Solitude in 2013—I can vouch for this being a really cool event. I’m still kicking myself for missing last year’s marathon read, which introduced the theme concept with readings of famously banned books Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Fahrenheit 451. Sarah Denes of the School of Languages and Literatures, which co-hosts the reading, says a theme event gives readers and curious listeners alike the chance to “come and sit for maybe an hour and hear an entire reading.”

Whether you’re reading, listening, or (ideally) both, the marathon reading is a group effort. Denes says 328 people read at last year’s event, most for just five or 10 minutes at a time. Exceptions include the classes that drop in as a group—meaning each student might only read for two minutes—and the hearty bibliophiles who stick around for the overnight stretch. Denes says that last year, “there was one person who read for 25 minutes at 4:30 in the morning.”

I’m not quite that enthusiastic—or, well, crazy—but I’m excited to read during daylight hours on Thursday, hopefully while the opening book, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, is still underway. The marathon is set to end early Friday afternoon with Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, and like nearly all of the titles, you can expect to hear it both in English and at least one other language. Depending on when you show up, you might hear Kafka in German, Lu Xun in Chinese, or Camus in French.

Oh, and if you’re there Thursday afternoon, you might also recognize some of the readers: President Eric Barron and women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose are both set to read in the opening few hours, not long after we kick things off with the event’s now-traditional opening reader, Sue Paterno.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

September 23, 2015 at 9:02 am 1 comment

Eating Local—and Eating Well—on Campus

If you’re a foodie who lives reasonably close to State College—and assuming you don’t already have dinner plans tonight—you might want to think about swinging by Redifer Commons. Tuesday night is the latest installment of Redifer’s twice-annual “Local Food Night,” in which guests can try an entire meal made from food sourced within 150 miles of campus. Tuesday’s local offerings, which will be served at Piatto Felice, feature an entree option of grilled beef skirt steak or toasted local creamy cow cheese on focaccia with a honey glaze, along with baked Provence-style stuffed vegetables with sharp cheddar and roasted grapes, and an heirloom tomato and romaine salad with fresh basil and herb dressing.Redifer-Sustainable-Dinner-Sign-FA15

I know. It sounds pretty good.

I first heard about these local dinners—which are open to everyone, and run just $7.99—while reporting on the “eating across campus” feature we’re working on for our Nov/Dec issue. While wrapping up the actual eating portion of my reporting last week, I had a chance to talk with Stephane Gawlowicz, the French (and French-trained) chef who oversees all the food prep at Redifer, and who will be preparing tonight’s meal. We’ll have more on Gawlowicz in the magazine soon, but for now, it’s worth checking out this interview with him conducted by a member of Penn State’s new student farm.

And yes, you read that right—the university has a new student-centered farm, which is another topic you might be reading about soon in the magazine. The cool tie-in here? The romaine lettuce in tonight’s meal was grown by students.

If you make it over there, lettuce—er, sorry … let us know if dinner was as delicious as it sounds.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

September 22, 2015 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

Penn State’s artsUP: Vibrant, Hands-On Fun

From the weather to the array of options for discovery and fun, Sunday’s artsUP event at University Park was just about perfect. My family and I spent much of the day on campus, hearing live music (in groups both small and very, very large), painting, building, “throwing” pottery, and generally enjoying a terrific, creative vibe. I’m sure we weren’t alone in rooting for this to become an annual event.

For a taste, click on the photo gallery below.

One last thing: I sadly wasn’t able to get a decent shot of the Soul Rebels, the New Orleans brass outfit who closed artsUP with an hour-long set at Eisenhower Auditorium. If I had one very minor gripe about the day, it was that the band’s high-energy, funk-infused set didn’t really fit a comparatively staid venue where patrons are asked to stay in their seats. So it was fitting—and fun—when Rebels’ trumpet player/vocalist Marcus Hubbard announced, about two-thirds of the way through the show, that “We’re the Soul Rebels, and we’re in charge of the building.” Just like that, the crowd was up and dancing. Because what’s art if you can’t occasionally break the rules?

Ryan Jones, senior editor


September 21, 2015 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

Movin’ On 2015: Behind the Lineup

When we wrote about Movin’ On in the latest edition of the magazine as one of our great spring traditions, negotiations were still underway for this year’s lineup. But we wait no longer, as the headliners were announced last week for the 40th annual student musical festival:

The key to drawing a crowd? “We make sure our lineup is incredibly diverse,” says senior Tara Bendler, the executive director of the event. “We understand how big Penn State is and we want to appeal to as many students as possible.” (And the fact that it’s ticketless and open to the public doesn’t hurt, either.)

“This is a wrap-up of the whole year and a thank-you to seniors as they move on and leave Penn State behind,” says Bendler. “That’s why we make sure it’s not just accessible, but more importantly just a great day of music.”

—Amy Downey, senior editor

March 6, 2015 at 2:49 pm Leave a comment

The Evolution of ‘Humans of New York’


Brandon Stanton in Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium. (photo by Tina Hay)

Brandon Stanton, creator of the Humans of New York franchise, had some good advice for the 2,500 Penn State students who came to see him in Eisenhower Auditorium last night:

Don’t wait for perfect.

In the space of just four years, Stanton has gone from an unemployed bond trader to Internet sensation. His Facebook page—featuring his iconic photos and stories of everyday people—has more than 10 million likes, and his 2013 book, Humans of New York, spent 21 weeks on The New York Times Best-Seller List. A follow-up book, Little Humans, is due out next week.

But it didn’t happen all at once, he told the audience last night. Instead, he found his niche through an evolution, a gradual series of tweaks to his approach.

In 2010, as a 26-year-old bond trader in Chicago, Stanton “was looking for a hobby,” and after winning $4,000 in a football pool, he bought his first camera. Originally he photographed landscapes and landmarks in Chicago. When he eventually started taking photos of people, it was from far away, without their knowing.

Then, for a while, he would find someone who was engrossed in something—say, reading a newspaper—and position himself on one knee, waiting for them to look up and realize he was there. When they did, he’d snap their photo—which, needless to say, they didn’t always appreciate.

“I didn’t know you could ask people to take their photo,” he says simply.

HONY founder Brandon Stanton at an Eisenhower Auditorium news conference. (photo by Tina Hay)

HONY founder Brandon Stanton at an Eisenhower Auditorium news conference. (photo by Tina Hay)

When he finally did start asking, he was pleasantly surprised at how many people said yes: “I remember feeling such satisfaction. And I realized, This is kind of special.”

About five weeks into his new hobby, Stanton got fired from his job, and got the idea to move to New York City to pursue his street photography. Given New York’s rich diversity of people, he says, “I just thought, This would be such a great place to do a [photo] blog.

“I was sleeping on a mattress in the cheapest room I could possibly find in Bedford-Stuyvesant, taking 20 to 30 portraits a day,” he recalls. “And that went on for six months, in complete anonymity. It was a very hard and lonely time.

“Then I discovered Facebook.”

Stanton created a Facebook page, began posting a few photos a day, and the fans started trickling in—a huge antidote to the loneliness. “I started noticing names of people I didn’t know who were following my work. It was the most liberating feeling in the entire world … it lifted a million pounds off my shoulders.”

At first the photos carried only short captions, if any. So another turning point came in late 2011 when he started attaching stories to the photos. Stanton recounted having been sick with the flu and unable to get outside to shoot new portraits, so he rooted around in his existing photos and found one of a woman dressed entirely in green—even green hair. He remembered that she had said something to him that day, and he decided to put her comment into the caption:

HONY screen grab

The caption reads:

“So do you do a different color every day?”
“No, I used to go through different stages. But then I found that I was happiest when I was green, so I’ve been green for 15 years.”

The photo—one that Stanton had initially regarded as a “throwaway”—became an instant hit. (Currently it has nearly 156,000 “likes.”) Stanton changed his approach accordingly, and now spends as much time talking with each of his subjects as he does shooting their photos; brief excerpts from those conversations now accompany the portraits he posts to his Facebook page. The questions he asks are personal—”What is your greatest struggle right now?” “Can you remember the time when you felt the most afraid?”—and the answers he gets are surprisingly honest.

In August and September of this year, Stanton took his HONY concept to an international level, doing a 50-day world tour in partnership with the United Nations. His photos of schoolchildren, shopkeepers, and young mothers in such countries as Iraq, Israel, and Ukraine revealed that even in areas ravaged by conflict, people are … well, people. There’s a reason for that, he told his audience last night: He went out of his way to look for ordinary people and moments.

“If I’m covering a rally or protest with 12 journalists, and they all have cameras … there could be one guy who’s really angry and all 12 photographers will be gathered around that person. And that’s the photo that goes out to the world. People want to find the extreme images and stories; those are what really sell newspapers.

“I wanted to depict normality in places where very extreme headlines are coming out … to apply this normal intimate process in some scary places.

“I’m just trying to show normality. Not extremity, just normalcy.”

Stanton’s lecture last night was sponsored by the Penn State Student Programming Association.

Tina Hay, editor

October 3, 2014 at 1:46 pm 1 comment

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