Posts filed under ‘College of Arts and Architecture’
Those who attend the Penn State production of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost at University Park this month will see a play that’s set not in Shakespeare’s 17th-century England but instead in the United States in 1914.
That was the idea of director Edward Stern, who wanted to give the play a modern touch and make it seem less foreign to theatergoers. Stern also has some of the actors play musical instruments—guitar, harmonica, clarinet, etc.—during the show. The result is a different and intriguing kind of Shakespeare experience, and you can see it at the Pavilion Theatre starting tomorrow night and continuing through Saturday, Feb. 23. (There are two shows on the 23rd: a matinee and the evening performance.)
Stephanie Koons has more about the show in this article from the Centre Daily Times, and below is a gallery of photos I took during a dress rehearsal last weekend. The cast includes a Penn State theatre faculty member and more than a dozen undergraduate and MFA students—and as always, the stage design, lighting, and costuming are terrific.
Tina Hay, editor
People are often surprised to hear that you can study opera at Penn State, but faculty members Ted Christopher and Bev Patton have a cool little program going, and their students will perform excerpts from a Mozart opera called Cosi Fan Tutte this weekend in the Music Building’s Esber Recital Hall.
I got a sneak preview last evening at a dress rehearsal and, as was the case the previous two times I saw Penn State students perform opera (see stories here and here), I was impressed. The voices are great, and the costumes for this show—designed by Richard St. Clair, head of costume design at Penn State—are terrific.
Cosi fan Tutte is a comedy whose title translates to “Thus Do They All,” though in the context of this opera, it means something closer to “Women are Like That.” Even though I’m a bit opera-impaired, and I was concentrating harder on getting photos than following the plot, I found it plenty entertaining—and laugh-out-loud funny in some spots.
In the photo above, the philosopher Don Alfonso is played by junior music major John Carpenter (who has a wonderful baritone voice); he’s flanked by Ferrando and Guglielmo (grad students Carlos Feliciano and Michael Hanley, respectively). Below is a shot of Ferrando and Guglielmo trying to disguise themselves as Albanians, along with the maid Despina, played by junior music major Jamie Rapaport:
And below are the two leading women in the opera, who are engaged (at the beginning of the story, anyway!) to Ferrando and Guglielmo: Fiordiligi, played by senior Julia Wolcott, and Dorabella, played by freshman Lisa Rogali.
Don’t let all of those Italian names intimidate you: They sing the whole thing in English.
You can see Cosi Fan Tutte tomorrow (Friday) at 8 p.m. or Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Esber Recital Hall. Admission is two bucks for students and $4.99 for non-students, with tickets available in the recital hall lobby starting 45 minutes before curtain.
Tina Hay, editor
The crew involved in the Penn State theatre production of Sweeney Todd not only put on a matinee on Saturday, but some of them stuck around afterwards to answer audience questions for an hour.
Director Susan Schulman, along with the stage manager, costume designer, lighting designer, scenic designer, and technical director, fielded questions about everything from how they get the blood off the actors’ clothes to how Sweeney’s wicked barber chair works to what was involved in getting the 1850s London accents right.
A lot of the questions came from a group of two dozen young people sitting behind me, so when the session was over, I introduced myself to the group’s leader. It turns out that the students are from Cambria Heights High School in Patton, Pa., and they’ll be staging a version of Sweeney Todd in December. The group leader was Patricia Stiles ’80g, who’s the director of the show.
Here are a couple of cool things I learned from the Saturday-afternoon session:
—Meat pies. The meat pies that Mrs. Lovett sells (and into which Sweeney’s victims eventually get baked) are real pies in this production—but they’re not meat pies. The actors actually bite off chunks of them onstage, “so they have to be palatable,” says Schulman. The Penn State Bakery provides the pies, and, according to Schulman, they’re actually apple pies. “They’re delicious, by the way.”
—Trap door and chute. Sweeney Todd’s M.O., as you may know, is to get his victims into his barber chair, then slit their throats and send them sliding off the chair, through a trap door in the floor, and down a chute to the pie shop. Theatre student Ryan Stanger, who is the show’s technical director, was the guy (more…)
I’m always a little squeamish at scary movies and plays, so I approached the dress rehearsal of the musical Sweeney Todd the other night with some wariness.
You’re probably familiar with the story of Benjamin Barker, who gets sent off to a penal colony on trumped-up charges, and come back 15 years later with a rather large chip on his shoulder. He changes his name to Sweeney Todd, opens up a barber shop upstairs from Mrs. Lovett’s meat-pie shop, and … well, let’s just say that some of his clients end up in some of the pies.
The theatre folks asked me if I’d take photos at the dress rehearsal this past Monday night, and that’s an assignment I just love. But after reading through the entire detailed synopsis on Wikipedia right before heading to the rehearsal, I wondered, Will I have nightmares tonight?
It turns out I had nothing to worry about. Yes, Sweeney Todd is definitely dark, and yes, there is blood. (Or stage blood, presumably.) But the Penn State production is just so terrifically well done that I got completely caught up in the story and thoroughly enjoyed it, in all its intensity.
Plus, to my surprise, there are plenty of funny moments. Emma Stratton, the junior musical theatre major who plays Mrs. Lovett, has some hilarious facial expressions, and the song she and Sweeney sing as they hatch their meat-pie plot—a song called “A Little Priest”—is a hoot.
What’s especially cool about the Penn State production is that it’s directed by Susan Schulman, who directed the show on Broadway in 1989 and earned a Tony nomination for her efforts. Schulman is now on the faculty in Penn State’s School of Theatre. And the cast is an impressive mix of musical theatre students along with faculty member Ted Christopher (he plays the role of the judge who sentenced Benjamin Barker). Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton, a sophomore in the musical theatre program, is powerful as Sweeney, showing us a transformation from lost love to near-demonic possession to heartbreak again.
Sweeney Todd opens tonight and runs through Nov. 2, with a matinee Oct. 20. I can’t imagine a better show for the Halloween season.
Tina Hay, editor
Tim Vitullo loved his engineering classes. He wanted a job in the field. But when it came time to write his honors thesis, he just didn’t want to do one about civil engineering. That seemed, to him, like a step on the path to a master’s degree, which was not in his plans.
But he had something to fall back on—his music. And thanks to the Schreyer Honors College policy that allows students who enroll as freshmen to choose any field for their thesis topic (if they get permission from their department and can find an adviser), Vitullo ’12 Eng created a unique thesis.
He composed and performed a jazz album titled This is the Thing! You can listen to it here.
“I had the best of both worlds,” Vitullo said. “I dig Schreyer for letting me do this.”
Vitullo grew up doodling and wanting to build things. But he also began taking piano lessons—or, as he put it, “started down the rabbit hole”—in the second grade. He moved on to various band instruments and, by junior high, he’d added the guitar.
He’s played in various bands—mostly rock, at first—back home in suburban Pittsburgh and around State College. He’s currently in Pittsburgh, looking for a full-time civil engineering job and “trying to find the right balance between engineering and music for me,” and playing rock, country, jazz, and blues … whatever he can find. He’s starting to think about another album, too.
I’ve been listening to This is the Thing! on and off since early May, when Christian Brady, dean of the Schreyer Honors College, tweeted out a link to it with this introduction: “Man, I cannot tell you how much better my day just got thanks to this EP.”
So I clicked, and the music saved me during a long day of copy editing. Vitullo composed in a a variety of jazz styles—the first track,”Cold Coffee,” is hard bop, and it’s followed by “Too Flat for Five” (modal), “Bossa Nueva” (Latin), “Minor Incident” (fusion), and “Plus Two Leslie” (ballad).
Vitullo had to turn in a written component, too, so you can click here to read a summary of the thesis and download a PDF. (All of the honors theses are open and available to the public; they’ve been online since 2010.) He discusses the artists who influenced his composition, his thoughts on American jazz and why today’s most popular albums were recorded decades ago, and a little bit about his process.
I figured the hardest part of the thesis would be, you know, actually composing the music. Turns out that while that wasn’t easy, Vitullo had a harder time actually getting the album recorded. He had to line up musicians and secure a studio and time to record—and that costs money. He eventually found musicians to play without pay, but of course that cut into practice time.
Vitullo noted in his thesis, “the sense of personal pride that these recordings and compositions instill in me is overwhelming. However, it would be interesting to hear the hypothetical recordings if a longer preparation and a larger budget were possible before the recording sessions occurred.”
I’m certainly no expert, but I think the album turned out great. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Twice a year, I find myself staring at my computer screen feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed.
When it comes time to schedule classes, I’m always intimidated by eLion’s lists and lists of courses. That’s what happens when you go to a school with 40,000 students and more than 160 majors. I’m usually fine with classes in my areas of study (journalism and English), but general education courses are a different story. There simply are too many. Some seem intriguing; some, not so much.
Gen-ed requirements have changed a lot over the years: Now, all baccalaureate degree programs include a 45-credit gen-ed component, including three credits in health and physical activity, nine credits in natural science, six credits in art, six credits in humanities, and six credits in social and behavioral sciences.
So as students begin to schedule for fall 2012, I took a look at some of Penn State’s more interesting gen-ed courses. I begin with a class I took last year—a class where SpongeBob appears on the syllabus.
Course: Geosci 040: The Sea Around Us
Requirement satisfied: GN (Natural Science)
Why I took it: I’m not a science person at all. I had to late drop meteorology my freshman year (who knew predicting weather included calculus?) and needed an easier science class to take.
Interesting assignment: Once, we reported to the HUB-Robeson Center for class. Our lab that day consisted of analyzing the aquarium on the bottom floor. I had no idea there was such an intricate ecosystem living just 100 feet away from Sbarro’s. The most interesting aspect, to me, was that the 500-gallon tank has a self-regulated lighting system, which gets dark at night to mimic the real ocean.
What I got out of it: A new appreciation for beaches and environmentalism. When I visited Cape Cod last summer, I had a hard time looking at the dunes without thinking about how big they once were, and how they got there.
Course: CMLIT 120: The Literature of the Occult
Requirement satisfied: GH (Humanities)
Interesting assignment: Read the third installment of the Harry Potter series.
What you can get out of it: “In all honesty, an appreciation for the Harry Potter series,” says Alexa Agugliaro, who says she wasn’t on the J.K. Rowling bandwagon before enrolling in the course. “There are a lot of major drabby classes that people have to take while they’re here, so why not, if you have the room, take a cool class about like vampires and monsters.” It’s not all Harry Potter and Twilight, though. Agugliaro wrote her final term paper on the witches in Macbeth.
Side note: Agugliaro says the teacher wore a wizard hat and a robe every day and had a magic wand.
Course: KINES 028: Fencing
Requirement satisfied: GHA (Health and Physical Activity)
Interesting assignment: Just fence. Senior Matt Giacometti said there’s not much variety to the course, but he doesn’t mind. Students participate in basic drills, then fence each other. “It’s fun,” Giacometti says. “Exactly what you want from the class.”
What you can get out of it: “A ton,” Giacometti says. “I’m learning from coaches that have succeeded at the highest level. These guys have coached Olympians.” Giacometti’s professors for the course? Assistant coaches with the Penn State varsity fencing team—a program with 12 national championships and more than 170 All-Americans in the last 28 years. Did you know that Suzie Paxton ’93, a former Nittany Lion fencer and 1996 Olympian, started fencing in this gym class?
Course: Applied Linguistics 100
Requirement satisfied: GS (Social and Behavioral Sciences)
Interesting assignment: During one class, the students were asked to think of as many examples of semantic word as they could. As junior Jackie Giraldo recalls, “That was the first time I ever heard the word yinz,” Giraldo says.
What you can get out of it: Says Giraldo: “I learned how language has evolved over time, but also got a deeper look at how words have evolved, how syntax has evolved, and why things are said different ways in different places. I definitely have a new appreciation of communication of different cultures.”
Course: INART 115: Popular Music in America
Requirement satisfied: GA (Arts)
Interesting assignment: Students were required to participate in online discussions. One debate revolved around who is the most influential musician today, with one student making a good case that the answer was definitively Lady Gaga.
What you can get out of it: “I now understand the hardships that a lot of musicians had to endure in the past in great music from that, era like the jazz and blues,” junior Jared Cruz says. “And it also influenced the development of music nowadays.”
Emily Kaplan, intern
Last week, we introduced to you to Cody Goddard ’10, a photographer who works with old-fashioned equipment and techniques. As promised, Cody posted the results of Friday’s Halloween-themed tintype shoot to his website. Check them out here. The photos—and the costumes—are fantastic. Although I watched the making of some of these images, it’s still hard to believe they’re not actual antiques.
A collection of Cody’s tintypes will be on display at the Green Drake Art Gallery in Millheim, Pa., this month, as part of the “Under 30 – The Work of Young Artists” exhibit. The show opens today.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
Cody Goddard came to Penn State prepared to study computer engineering. And he did, for a year—until he attended a photography workshop as a sophomore. In the workshop, Goddard ’10 not only discovered a love for photography, but became particulary interested in old wet-plate techniques, like tintypes, which create images on sheets of metal.
On Friday, Cody, who now works on campus for the College of Arts & Architecture in the e-Learning Institute, set up a makeshift studio in the Visual Arts Building, where he offered to make tintypes of anyone who showed up, preferably in Halloween costume. Our graphic designer, Jessie Knuth, and I stopped by Friday morning to check it out.
The tintype process is fascinating. Cody was nice enough to walk Jessie and me through the making of a tintype, and his explanations were so clear, even a photography neophyte like me could understand.
He begins in the darkroom with a plate of aluminum.
A couple of Saturdays ago, I arrived at the gym early, too early to snag my favorite bike for the 10 a.m. spinning class. So I ended up chatting with a couple of other early arrivals, and I mentioned how much I like 3:30 football games because I have more time to get in a workout before kickoff.
Turns out, they love any home football games. Because they can buy groceries, pick up whatever they need at Target—without having to wait in line. I was incredulous; in my three “tours” of State College, I’ve missed one home game. Under duress. “You never go to football games?” I asked. Turned out, they wouldn’t even think of it.
My spinning classmates aren’t alone. You can meet more people who ignore Penn State football—and learn what they do during the games—in our November/December issue, which should be making its way to your mailbox if it’s not there already.
We’ve got a couple of other good stories in this issue:
—English professor Sandra Spanier ’76g, ’81g talks about the first volume of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, a project she’s spearheading, and recommends the one Hemingway book you should read if you’re going to read just one. (It’s not my favorite book, A Moveable Feast, but of course it’s an excellent choice. And, no, I’m not going to give it away here.) Still to come: about 15 more volumes of letters.
—And we’ve got a profile of Beverly McIver ’92g, an artist I’m ashamed to say I knew nothing about until I read the story. She paints beautiful portraits of herself and her loved ones, paintings that, as my colleague Ryan Jones writes, “offer unflinching takes on race, gender, and mortality.” You can get a sense of her work here, and the backstory in Ryan’s article.
Please let us know what you think!
Lori Shontz, senior editor
When it comes to recycling, I know I’m a little quirky. I suspect my family would go so far as to use the word “eccentric.” I really have trouble throwing something away if there’s any chance whatsoever that it could be recycled—or if someone, somewhere might be able to use it.
This explains, for example, why I save packing peanuts and every so often take a big bagful of them out to Tait Farm, which re-uses them in their mail-order business. Or why I once spent money to ship a box of empty pill bottles I had accumulated to a friend in Madison, Wisc.—one of the few places where they can be recycled.
So I was impressed to discover that Penn State’s Center for the Performing Arts has organized a drive to collect and recycle—of all things—plastic candy wrappers. Anyone attending a CPA show during the 2011–12 season is invited to bring in candy wrappers or multi-pack candy bags (trick-or-treat candy, anyone?) and drop them in one of the collection boxes in the lobby. The CPA staff will then ship the wrappers to an organization called TerraCycle, which will recycle them.
TerraCycle will also reward the CPA’s efforts by making a donation to a clean-water initiative in a developing country.
It turns out that the “Candy Wrapper Brigade” is (more…)