Precious Movements shares what happens after the cross

The turnout for the Precious Movements concert on March 13 was larger than the mime ministry had expected. Latecomers ended up standing in the aisles of a completely packed auditorium for the almost three-hour concert. But no one seemed to mind: The atmosphere and energy brought by the performers kept the crowd engaged.

For their sixth annual concert, Precious Movements chose to illustrate the struggles of everyday life encountered even after becoming a Christian. Each piece followed the story of a fictional character named Kori who represented the personal testimonies of the group’s members. According to the program, “Kori will go through different struggles but God walks alongside her in the midst of her brokenness.”

Figaro, Figaro, FI-GA-RO!

This semester, Eastern’s theatre department is trying something new. Instead of having one musical, it is having 16–well, 16 songs from 16 musicals, that is.

“Life is Pandemonium: A Series of Scenes from Random Musicals and Operas” is the title of the Opera/Musical Theatre Workshop’s upcoming show, which will be performed on March 27 and 28.

Directed by music professor Teresa Nevola Moyer, alumnae Natalie Cisternas and Jacqueline Bach and senior Kevin Monaghan, “Pandemonium” combines song and dance routines with minimum stage and costume design to create a unique show.

“The show has such an energy,” Moyer said. “It will make our students shine.”

Of the 16 songs, five are ensemble pieces that feature the majority of the 23 cast members. The other pieces are duets and trios.

The chosen songs come from a variety of musicals and operas including “Hairspray,” “Wicked,” “Avenue Q” and “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Each of the cast members will be in more than one song, with some in as many as six.

Thirteen of the cast members are enrolled in Moyer’s class, MUS130C. The other members are in either Acting Lab or Acting Through Song. Rebecca Whitlow, music director for “Pandemonium,” co-taught MUS130C.

Teaching the class was an interesting experience for Moyer and Whitlow. The first of its kind at Eastern, MUS130C brought many students together with varying levels of musical experience.

“Everyone had a little bit of experience, but there’s all different levels,” said junior Kat Moorman, one of the performers. “There are some who have been singing for years and others who have never sung before on stage.”

Although production has been challenging at times, the students have done a great job overcoming any difficulties.

“Everybody’s so excited,” Whitlow said. “Part of what helps them memorize the music is that they’re just so jazzed about it.”

Moyer also said that the cast is the “nicest group of students ever.”

The performers agree that the process of putting together “Pandemonium” has been a good experience, despite the sometimes chaotic nature of rehearsing so large a production.

“I love the collaborative process and how everyone works together,” sophomore Kendra DeMicco said.

Sophomore Chris Packard agreed. “It’s been really great working with everyone,” he said. “This is my first foray into Eastern theatre, and it’s been a fantastic experience.”

From seniors to first-years, alumni to faculty, “Pandemonium” is a true work of collaboration. Should “Pandemonium” succeed–and it seems that it will–the cabaret-style show will reappear on the McInnis stage every two years.

“There is something in each of the 16 scenes that will relate to everyone,” Whitlow said, encouraging students to attend.

But the question is: Are the performers ready?

“They’re already ready,” Moyer said. “We just have to piece it together.”

Villanova to finish literary festival with Irish flair

Could you use a little more culture in your life, or did St. Patrick’s Day leave you with a hankering for all things Irish? Do you simply enjoy good poetry?

On April 20 at 7 p.m., Villanova University will host an event that caters to all three of these appetites.

As the final event in the University’s months-long Literary Festival, Irish poets Seamus Heaney and Peter Fallon will read selections of their work.

When he was 18 years old, Fallon founded The Gallery Press, which has since blossomed into Ireland’s most highly regarded literary publishing house.  But his success as a publisher has not overshadowed his poetic achievements. 

In 1998, the Irish Times named Fallon’s “News of the World: Selected and New Poems” as one of its “Books of the Year.”

Heaney’s poetry collections have won him international acclaim and numerous awards, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 and the Golden Wreath of Struga Poetry Evenings (which, though you may not have heard of it before, is among the most prestigious of awards a poet can receive.)

Heaney is also very popular with readers. His followers have been nicknamed “Heaneyboppers” for their fanaticism. 

Eastern’s Dr. Christopher Bittenbender, chairperson of the English department and something of a Heaneybopper himself, has called Heaney “the rock star of the poetry world.”

“(Heaney) offers vivid, transcendental observations of the natural world in general and about the particular and local culture of Ireland,” Bittenbender said.

For tickets to this event, students should contact Bittenbender or the English department at Villanova.  The cost is $10 and tickets must be purchased in advance.

Wandering in Wonderland

Audiences were invited to a very important date on March 5: The day when the story of “Alice in Wonderland” would be magically retold in theaters around the world.

The new Disney movie, directed by Tim Burton, is a wonderful interpretation and compilation of both “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and its sequel, “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,” by Lewis Carroll.

The movie’s plot was based on an inspired interpretation of the Jabberwocky poem, found in “Through the Looking Glass.”

Written in portmanteau (a style that blends two words together to make an undefined yet understood word), the poem’s gibberish words manage to convey a clear premise: the Jabberwocky is a terrible monster that must be destroyed.

In the 1951 Disney version of “Alice in Wonderland,” the Cheshire Cat sings the infamous poem when he first appears to Alice.

Deriving the characters from their dual literary forms, the 2010 version gives fresh and exciting notions of the Wonderland that Carroll originally wrote about.

For instance, while the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen are in fact two very different characters, each appearing in a different book, this theatrical retelling combines them to create one major villain.

The Hatter, impressively played by Johnny Depp, also takes on somewhat of a different role this time around. In 1951, he was just a minor character, in charge of un-birthdays. Now his character serves as a confidant for Alice.

Anne Hathaway’s character, the White Queen, presents a feminist position, as she has no king or male counterpart with whom she shares power. (In contrast, the Red Queen depends on the Knave of Hearts for emotional stability.)

It is also important to notice that the movie ends with the return of Alice’s Victorian reality: A suitor waiting for her to accept his proposal for marriage. Everyone expects her to say yes, and this reality is paralleled by the expectations she encounters in Wonderland.

“This is my dream. I make the path,” Alice says after she realizes that her life is dominated by what others want her to do.

She has to decide whether she’ll succumb to the pressure of the status quo or whether she will fight the battles she chooses for herself.

It was most exciting to watch the final battle–the fight between Alice and the Jabberwocky–take place on a chess board, a central theme in “Through the Looking Glass.”

One of many references like it, the parallel was tasteful and somewhat moving.

These references were not forced on the audience, so they did not distract from the new plot, but were like catapults, continuously thrusting the story forward to a very emotionally satisfying end.

Rob Sykora rocks out at CMC

Rob Sykora is not sure when he first heard of the Contemporary Music Center, but the sophomore imagined being accepted into the “school of rock” of study abroad programs before even entering college.

An Eastern voice major who also plays the drums, guitar and bass, Sykora is currently spending the spring semester at CMC on Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts, where he was excited to lead his second concert of the program on Feb. 11.

Sykora said that weekly performances are held on a stage set up in a barn on CMC’s campus.

“It’s kind of intimate,” he said. “But we don’t play small stuff cause it’s a small venue.”
For his concert, Sykora wrote an original piece, which he describes as “a melodic alternative rock song.” He also planned to play two covers.

Musical styles vary across the campus. “One guy here is really into hard rock,” Sykora said. “But there’s another guy who is a terrific banjo player, and he brings the bluegrass aspect to things.”

Sykora personally prefers alternative rock bands like Anberlin but, he said, “I’m still trying to figure out my style.”

Students hold their concerts for relatively small audiences, made up mostly of fellow students and directors, but Sykora said, “I have family on the island, so at some point I’m going to invite them to come.”

The main benefit of these performances, Sykora said, is the criticism the musicians receive. The director gives advice on the artists’ stage performances and music.
“I love getting criticized so I can learn, ‘Okay, this is what you don’t do,’ and get better,” he said.

Following his Feb. 11 concert, Sykora was advised to work on his vocals and focus his lyrics, but overall the performance was a success. “They said the band was pretty tight,” he said.

The semester-long program  at CMC gives aspiring musical artists, songwriters and managers an accurate idea of the challenges they will face in the music industry.

“It’s simulating the real world,” Sykora said, describing how student managers are always in communication with each other to coordinate their musicians to play together in concerts.

Students each earn 16 credits, taking several classes in the morning before spending the rest of each day rehearsing, writing and recording their music.

Sykora’s student manager, Brian Hansen, is excited by the quality of the equipment that all students at CMC have access to.

“Doors (to the recording equipment) are never locked;  they never limit us to have access to things,” said Hansen, a junior at Taylor University, who is taking the executive track at CMC. “I’ve never seen or used this quality of equipment.”

When Sykora entered the program, he was slightly hesitant, saying to himself, “Oh my goodness, am I going to be able to do this?” About a week into the semester, he stopped questioning it.

“I’m just in love with the place,” he said. “I wish it was a four-year program.”

CMC is selective, and Sykora explained that the application process included sending in several demos. In previous years, the program has hosted 30 students, but this year there are even fewer.

“I’m not a big crowd kind of person,” Sykora said, describing how much he enjoys living on a campus with only 21 students. He thrives on the intimacy of such a small student body and the serenity of the area where they are living for four months.

“It’s freezing as anything,” Sykora said of the island. “But it’s so calm, so nice.”

After a challenging fall semester, Sykora is grateful to get away for awhile. “Being at a completely different place –different state–is kind of refreshing,” he said.

Later in the semester, the group will break away from the tiny island and fly to Nashville, where CMC has connections with several people in the music industry. Though the trip lasts only a few days, Sykora said, “We get the opportunity to meet these people and dip our feet in the industry.”

Photography display in McInnis

The photographs Beth Altrogge currently has displayed in The Morgan Gallery, located in McInnis Learning Center, comprise her first solo exhibit ever. The exhibit, titled “Losing Ground,” consists of 14 unique and creative photographs.

Altrogge, originally from Indiana, Pa., is currently living in Philadelphia and working at David Sacks Photography Studio. Altrogge did not study photography in college, but the experience that she gained while working at the studio has influenced her art greatly.

Altrogge has been taking photographs her entire life and became interested in the artistic side of photography during her senior year in high school.

“I have to take photos,” Altrogge said. “It’s part of me–it helps me to live.”

Photography helps Altrogge capture life and share with others the way she views everything around her. When people look at her work, she hopes they enjoy what they see.
“I want to get them thinking about things,” she said. “If they don’t think when they look at my photography, it’s fine, as long as it makes them feel–feel anything.”

The art that Altrogge creates shows a lot about how she feels. However, everyone looks at her pictures with different eyes, creating a unique meaning for each individual. Her photographs mean a lot to her in a way that she could not put into words.

Music professor John Greenland is in charge of the Morgan Gallery and chooses which artists to feature. Greenland chose Altrogge because Dave Campbell, the last artist to share his art in the gallery, knew her and suggested her photographs be displayed.

Greenland is always looking for more artists to volunteer to put their artwork in The Morgan Gallery.

If you have not yet viewed Altrogge’s photographs, you are certainly missing out. When viewing the exhibit, make sure to check out “By the Hour.” This piece is her favorite photograph on display.

 “I am super grateful to Eastern for giving me this opportunity,” Altrogge said. “It is very kind of them.”

New horror novel gets two monster thumbs up

Owen Pitt’s life was the very definition of boredom.

That changed one Tuesday night when his boss suddenly changed into a werewolf and tried to eat him.

Five days later, Owen woke up and learned the insane truth: All of the monsters from late-night B-grade horror movies were real and there is good money to be made hunting them down.

“Monster Hunter International” is the first novel from author Larry Correia. It is a spectacular book. Correia seamlessly weaves plenty of action, horror, comedy and even a little romance into an engrossing, even addicting, page-turner that leaves readers unable to put it down until they finish reading.

Monster Hunter International is the world’s premier Hunting organization, and it asks Owen to be its newest recruit. Owen soon finds himself thrust into a plot to unleash an ancient, devastating evil on the world, simultaneously trying to cope with bloodthirsty vampires, vengeful government agents and a strange old man who seems to have taken up residence inside his head.

One of the things that really shines about the book is its plot. Correia has created a rich, original story filled with enough surprises and twists to keep the reader on the edge of his seat. Granted, there are a few old clichés and worn plot devices, but these are pretty much unavoidable in the horror genre, and Correia makes sure they are few and far between.

Correia also takes a few stereotypical fantasy creatures and completely turns them on their heads. Orcs, for example, are friendly to humans and thoroughly addicted to heavy metal. Elves also make an appearance, but Correia’s re-imagining of them is too good to spoil here.

The characters are also a refreshing break from the horror genre norms.

Trip Jones, for example, is a young African American male with long dreadlocks. Normally, you would expect him to be either a star athlete or a delinquent. Instead, he’s a shy former schoolteacher and fantasy-book addict.

Holly Newcastle, a member of Owen’s team, is a blond-haired, blue-eyed ex-stripper. Surprisingly, she’s smart as a whip and hated her old job–she only danced to help pay for medical school.

Even Owen is not the typical horror hook hero. He’s a big, stocky guy with a hideous scar across his face, he can’t talk to girls and he can be an oaf at times.

Though “Monster Hunter Vendetta” is dominated primarily by action and suspense, Correia also added a healthy dose of humor into the story. Readers will find themselves chuckling throughout the entire book, and some parts will leave them in stitches.

For readers who complete the book and find themselves desperate for more, the book’s sequel, “Monster Hunter Vendetta,” will be available from Baen this September.

Small interior, big taste

Situated along Lancaster Avenue in Wayne, right next to Capri Water Ice, Joe’s Place is a small mom-and-pop restaurant. Joe’s Place is a great spot to go for breakfast, lunch or Sunday brunch.

The narrow storefront leads to an equally small interior. Through the front door, customers walk into the front dining area. With a self-serve refrigerator stocked with a variety of sodas and other refreshments, the main room consists of the kitchen and bar-style seating for five or six.

In addition to the seating in the front room, another small room is tucked around the back with seating for ten to fifteen customers.

Behind the counter, an elderly man cooks multiple orders. Yes, that is actually Joe. The namesake of this little eatery actually prepares the majority of the food.

Newcomers will instantly feel like they stepped into someone’s living room, due to the room’s size and décor. Pictures, hats and many other types of sports memorabilia from local high schools, colleges and professional teams hang on the walls.

Seating is self-serve, and often you may have to wait up to fifteen minutes for a table to open up. The wait on Sunday mornings may force people to stand outside in the parking lot or sit in their cars.

To avoid waiting long for a place to sit, arrive as early as possible.There is also the option of take-out if you do not want to eat in.

Once you have rounded up enough chairs for your party, you are faced with a fairly typical breakfast and lunch menu. Anything can be ordered at any time, providing it is still in stock.

Prices are refreshingly low for an eatery found on the Main Line. For instance, an omelet with a side of hash browns and your choice of sausage or bacon is only $5. Most of the items found on the menu will fit into the $4-$10 range.

The service is quick and the waitresses are a group of older women who know the menu well. They are not as demanding as the servers at a place like Pat’s Cheesesteaks–they just want to know your order and not much else.

For instance, when ordering a cheeseburger, a customer was asked what he wanted on it.
“Uh cheese?” he said, confused by the question.

“Very funny,” was all that the waitress said.

But do not let that scare you off. As long as you tell them what you want, your food will arrive quickly and exactly as you ordered.

The food itself raises only one question: “Why is this food so cheap?”

Sure, it comes on a paper plate served by a no-nonesense waitress, but the taste itself is what really matters.

Pay the check in the front room at the cash register. Don’t forget to include your drink if you grabbed one from the refrigerator.

This little place on the Main Line boasts some of the best down-to-earth eating around, and for those on a budget this place is worth several trips a semester.

New Play Workshop premieres six plays

The process of creating a play is a complicated affair, sometimes requiring hundreds of people to write, direct or act in a single production. But what if a play could be written, staged, memorized and performed in the course of 24 hours?

This impossible mission became possible on Feb. 5 as 27 actors, directors, playwrights, producers and managers gathered at the Jammin’ Java to begin the second annual New Play Workshop.

According to ’06 alumnae and producer Liz Carlson, the New Play Workshop is meant to inspire true collaboration between individual members in the process of creating a play.

As the workshop’s program states, “These (plays) are not meant to be polished, completed pieces–rather they are each a triumph of the collaborative process, which is at times messy, vulgar and exhausting.”

Each of the six production teams included one playwright, one director and two actors and actresses. The groups worked together almost nonstop to have their plays ready to perform on Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. by writing, revising and practicing their lines until they were practically perfect.

Even though all of the groups had similar props and sets to work with, every play was “still absurdly different from each other,” Carlson said.

The subjects of the plays ranged from the troubles of two cupids who accidently break up The Beatles to an ancient romance of a Muse and King Solomon to the forming of a friendship between an actress and a “ladder thief.”

There was dancing; there was singing; there was even swimming. All of the actors and actresses, from first-years to seniors, did a great job despite having only a day to memorize–and act–their parts.

In short, the New Play Workshop created some truly innovative plays without any pre-preparation or adequate sleep, a feat that anyone should consider extraordinary.

If you missed seeing these brand new plays, don’t fret: Many of these pieces will be performed again at the Performance Arts Living Room on April 30 and May 1.

Great tragedy or just tragic?

It seems as if up is down and down is up in Villanova University’s rendition of Euripides’ Medea. Everything is reversed. Where the audience should feel pity and remorse, the college’s adaptation leaves room for only anger and bitterness.

Wholly unmoved by either Jason’s lament, enacted by Chris Serpentine, or Medea’s final stand, performed by Kimberly S. Fairbanks, I sat there wondering what I’d just paid nine dollars for. I looked around the stage, eager to place my eyes on anything other than Serpentine’s ridiculous writhing form or Fairbanks’ over-dramatized glare, and found the set to be much more entertaining.

The design and dressing of the space was picture perfect. Created with nods to the 1950s, the cracked plaster wall, the large, wooden double doors and double-paned glass window took the audience  there effortlessly.

Sand in the corners of the stairs, large flagstone on the terrace and moving boxes gave the sense of a greatness that had been lost–of a place that had once hosted grand parties and vibrant dinners and now only served as a prison for Medea’s grief.

Medea’s sorrow, however, was overshadowed by the stunning collective and individual performances of the chorus, the messenger and the nurse.

The chorus, played by Jessica Bedford, Lizzy Dalton-Negron, Stephanie King, Gigi McGraw and Kathleen Mulhearn, sang with sincerity and truth.

They, along with the messenger, played by Will Windsor Erwin, were altogether more compelling than the play’s leads. The conviction with which Erwin communicated the horror he had seen as the princess suffered a most gruesome death made my skin prick with fear of such evil.

Danielle DeStefano’s portrayal of the nurse, her wholly unspoiled attitude and honest relation to the audience, was uniquely refreshing. The only thing truly interesting about Serpentine’s performance was the way his cigarette smoke lingered and slowly crept toward the audience.

Villanova’s performance just goes to show that it doesn’t matter how much acting experience a diva has under her belt, she can still be outshined by a lesser-known actor with star potential.