When I heard that Penn State Centre Stage would be presenting the Shakespeare classic Twelfth Night this season, I pictured a production and costumes that would be—well, Shakespearean.
But it turns out that director Steve Snyder wanted to offer a more contemporary take on the tale. He set it in 1953, and studded it with a few musical numbers from the 1940s and 1950s—songs like “As Time Goes By,” “Unforgettable,” “Beyond the Sea,” and “C’est Si Bon.”
After all, Snyder says, the themes of the 17th century play are still relevant: “We still fall in love with the wrong people,” he writes in the show’s notes. “We still try to disengage from life, or alter how we engage with life, when it gets hard. We still desire to rise or somehow get more. We still have that one relative who is insufferable, but is still family. We still deal with bullies, then sometimes become the bully ourselves. We still have to learn and re-learn the need for forgiveness, kindness and mercy.”
Snyder is an Equity actor and faculty member in Penn State’s School of Theatre, and virtually everyone else involved in the play—from the cast members to the set designer to the costume designer—is either an undergrad or grad student in the school. It’s an impressive ensemble.
Twelfth Night had a preview performance on Monday and and will have another tonight, with the official opening tomorrow night. The show goes dark next week, but resumes Nov. 29. It closes Dec. 3. More information here.
Below are a few photos I took at a dress rehearsal last weekend. Click on them if you’d like to scroll through them individually.
Tina Hay, editor
Anyone looking for something to do at University Park this weekend has plenty of choices. Between sports and music, you could pretty much spend your whole weekend on campus.
Last night a friend and I took in the Straight No Chaser concert (photo above) in Eisenhower Auditorium. The 10-member group does entirely a cappella versions of pop hits and Christmas tunes, including a hilarious version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” that you can find on YouTube. The ensemble got its start 20 years ago as a student singing group at Indiana University, which made for some good-natured banter on the eve of today’s Penn State football game with the Hoosiers: Group members tried to make the case that it was about time for Indiana to beat Penn State, and audience members responded with a spontaneous “We Are…” cheer.
Eisenhower will host another concert tonight: the Penn State Glee Club’s annual fall concert. Meanwhile, over at the Bryce Jordan Center, there’s a concert tonight by Brand New.
And then there’s all of the sports on campus this weekend:
—The men’s ice hockey team beat Alaska-Anchorage 7-3 last night in the Pegula Arena. And, because it doesn’t make much sense for a team to travel all the way from Alaska to play just one game, the two teams will square off again tonight at 7.
—The women’s ice hockey team skated to a 1-1 tie with Lindenwood this afternoon at Pegula.
—The women’s field hockey team, fresh off winning the Big Ten championship, was upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament today, losing to Princeton, 2-1. A tough end to the season, but an impressive 17-3 record.
—The women’s soccer team—defending NCAA champs—beat Bucknell 6-0 last night at Jeffrey Field in the first round of the NCAAs.
—The men’s basketball team lost to Albany, 87-81, last night in the Jordan Center. The Lions return to the BJC Sunday evening at 6 to host Duquesne.
—The women’s basketball team hosts St. Peter’s in the BJC tomorrow afternoon at 1.
—The wrestling team has its first home meet of the season tomorrow, hosting Stanford at 2 pm in sold-out Rec Hall. The Lions are coming off a 45-0 shutout of Army last night at West Point.
Other than that, it’s pretty quiet around here this weekend.
Tina Hay, editor
The fight for Kelly Ayotte’s U.S. Senate seat appears headed for a recount.
Ayotte ’90, the Republican incumbent from New Hampshire whose race was one of the most closely watched of the 2016 election, is locked in a dead heat with Democratic governor Maggie Hassan. As of Wednesday afternoon, that race was still too close to call: With all precincts in the Granite State reporting, Hassan held a lead of roughly 700 votes among more than 700,000 cast. Citing the totals, Hassan declared victory Wednesday, but Ayotte has yet to concede, and both sides expect a recount before the results are official.
Ryan Jones, deputy editor
Penn State field hockey won the Big Ten Tournament over the weekend, marking the first time since 2012 that the Nittany Lions have won the tournament and earned an automatic NCAA Tournament berth. Head coach Charlene Morett-Curtis ’79 led her squad to victory over Maryland in the championship game, 2-1, thanks to goals from Aurelia Meijer and Gini Bramley.
This win was significant for more than one reason: It marked the 500th win in Morett-Curtis’ time at the helm of Penn State’s field hockey program, making her the third coach in school history to win at least 500 games along with women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose (1,207) and men’s volleyball coach Mark Pavlik (522).
The Lions will kick off NCAA Tournament play on Nov. 12, taking on Princeton at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex at 11:30 a.m. The two teams played earlier this season and the Nittany Lions came out on top, 4-2.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor
The 46th New York City Marathon took place on Sunday. Among the 52,000 runners were Penn Staters Stephanie Littell and Ashley Vargas ’14, both of whom ran to raise money to support the families of fallen first responders.
Both women were members of team “Answer the Call – The New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Fund.” Littell, a Penn State grad student working toward her master’s in homeland security, cited the work she does with the NYPD as her reason for joining the team. Vargas is an NYC resident who called it an honor to run in support of the people who keep the city safe.
The two managed to finish within a few minutes of one another: According to the unofficial results of the race, Littell crossed the finish line in 4:23:51 and Vargas finished in 4:34:25.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor
Shane Ryan is not from Ireland. His dad is originally from the Emerald Isle — he’s been here for 30 years and still has a thick accent — but the redshirt senior member of Penn State’s swimming team is a native Pennsylvanian, born and raised just outside Philadelphia.
And yet when Ryan approached the blocks for the semifinals of the men’s 100-meter backstroke at the Rio Olympics, he wasn’t wearing red, white, and blue. Instead, Ryan was there representing Ireland, his adopted homeland and the country where he spent the past year of his life.
The idea of swimming for Ireland has been in Ryan’s head for some time. He’d competed for the U.S. in the past, and was 0.01 seconds away from qualifying for the national team in 2015. But Ryan started thinking about his future. “If I stay here, they only take top-2,” Ryan explains. “I could get top-2, but I could also get dead last, something could happen. So for my best interest, I decided… that I was gonna go to Ireland.”
He made this decision just before finals week of Penn State’s 2015 spring semester. Ryan was a junior at the time — he ended up redshirting what would have been his senior year — and said that he made this decision in three days.
The process of becoming Irish started on May 13, 2015. He flew over to Europe, went to the pool, met his coaches, dropped his things off at the house where he stayed, went to meet with a lawyer, and got his name on a lease to prove he was living in Ireland. He needed to do a few other things to establish residency, like get Ireland’s version of a social security card, but once he signed his lease, the clock began counting down.
Ryan had to live in Ireland for a year to become a resident. He ended up staying over there for 16 months, living with extended family while training in the pool and working for the Football Association of Ireland. Because he wasn’t a resident yet, he wasn’t able to swim for Ireland and instead competed for a club team.
Fast forward a year and Ryan officially “turned Irish” on the day before he left to go to European Championships in London.
But getting to that point was a challenge for Ryan due to his performance in the pool. His training was more intensive than ever before – Ryan swam five days a week, where he would begin practice early in the morning and accrue about 70,000 meters. He calls swimming that much “absurd” because as a sprinter, his training has never been about distance.
Having trained in the States his entire life, the European style of training was new to him. He cites the emphasis on nutrition and training being more technically and aerobic-based as major differences. “I needed that reality check,” Ryan says. “If I want to go for (the Olympics in) 2020 and if I want to go pro – which that’s the plan, to become pro once my NCAA eligibility ends – that’s what I need to do.”
He also remembers experiencing his lowest point in December of 2015 after a meet in Amsterdam. His performance wasn’t up to par and it led to him and his coaches sitting down and discussing his training regimen. “I tried doing what the coaches told me to do and it did not work out,” he says. “And I had to sit down with them and say ‘Listen, this is not gonna work.’ I swam like a 55.2 (in the 100-meter backstroke). I’ve done that without swimming for two weeks.
“We changed the training,” Ryan continues. “We changed to more speed, more power, more lifting, more static rope work, and it turned out to be great.”
Ryan qualified for the Olympics in March. He eventually made it to Rio, where he swam the 50 and 100-meter freestyle and the 100-meter backstroke. His performance in the 100 back got him to the semifinals, where he came in 16th — he wasn’t happy with his time of 54.50, but coming in 16th was the best-ever finish for a Nittany Lion in an Olympic pool, while his time of 53.85 seconds in the prelims was an Irish record in the event.
Prior to stepping onto the block for the semifinals, he heard “Let’s Go Shane” spontaneously break out. As it turns out, his mother — along with some friends who made the trip down and brought a Penn State flag — convinced all of the Brazilian natives in their section to chant for her son. It was so loud that the chant could be heard on the other side of the natatorium.
Now, he’s back in State College with a different perspective on what he needs to do to be the best swimmer and teammate possible. His goal is for Penn State to be one of the top programs in America, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
“The coaches can only do so much and that’s where the teammates come into play,” Ryan says. “If I don’t see something that’s right, I’m gonna call them out on it — on the coaches’ side, even on the men’s and women’s sides. We need to do what’s best for the team and what’s best for this university, and I’m here to do that.”
This is something that Ryan says he learned during his time abroad. He needed to figure out what worked for him, and now that he knows what works (and, more importantly, what doesn’t), he can go up to his coaches and teammates and offer advice, support, and when necessary, constructive criticism.
To celebrate his biggest achievement to date, Ryan decided to get the Olympic rings tattooed on his ribs. One day after he came back to campus, someone asked him whether he got them because he went to the Olympics or if he got them because he felt like it.
As Ryan said, people don’t just get the Olympic rings tattooed onto their bodies. No matter which country they represent, an Olympian is an Olympian.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor