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LU music prof at heart of national effort to raise funds for out-of-work artists

Andrew Crooks directs music during a dress rehearsal of The Marriage of Figaro, staged during Winter Term at Lawrence University.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University Assistant Professor of Music Andrew Crooks has helped launch an online fund-raising campaign that has already brought in more than $237,000 to assist musicians and other artists across the United States who are struggling because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Artist Relief Tree (ART) was started earlier this month as music venues began to close and performances and tours were canceled, putting many artists out of work. The web site, www.artistrelieftree.com, received more than 3,500 requests for help in its first four days.

While it started with a goal to raise $10,000, organizers have now reset the target at $1 million.

For artists not in salaried, stable positions, the shutdown of performances on such a massive scale is heartbreaking, Crooks said in an email interview from his native New Zealand, where he is hunkered down to teach remotely during Spring Term.

“It is very painful to bear witness to these stories, both through Artist Relief Tree and via social media, as well as via more personal communications with friends,” he said. “There is extreme anxiety in the arts community, and we wanted to offer a little help, a little hope, and as much sense of community and solidarity as we could possibly muster.”

Crooks, who serves as a vocal coach at Lawrence and was the music director for the Conservatory’s Winter Term production of The Marriage of Figaro, teamed with a handful of other artists from around the country to form ART.

4 ways Lawrentians can pitch in, stay connected amid COVID-19 crisis: Details here.

Numerous notable performers and authors have since jumped on board with endorsements, among them Russell Brand, Brene Brown, Ani DiFranco, Brian Eno, Ben Folds, Rhiannon Giddens, George R.R. Martin, Mike Posner, and Lawrence’s own John Holiday.

The process works like this: An artist in need can request funds, with a requirement to provide some basic documentation about their work. On a first-come-first-served basis for those who qualify, ART will provide a financial assist. Monies began going out on March 18.

This isn’t going to sustain anyone long term. But it’s an effort to help a community that is reeling, to embrace a sense of togetherness among artists, and to raise awareness along with dollars, Crooks said. Many of these artists who were lined up to perform in some of the world’s great opera houses and other performance venues have no fallback. In many cases, no performance, no paycheck.

It was a team of six artists and arts administrators, all tied to the world of opera, who launched the project, Crooks said. He and Morgan Brophy, of Wolf Trap Opera, have served as co-founding-directors. The organizers are all working as volunteers.

“They have poured their hearts and souls and time into this passion project,” Crooks said. “They all care so, so much … about their artistic friends all over the world.”

Back at Lawrence, the efforts are drawing applause across the Conservatory.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our remarkable faculty,” Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl said. “This is such a great example of turning compassion into action, which is exactly what we want to model for our students.”

For more details on the project, see www.artistrelieftree.com or visit ART on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/artistrelieftree.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Looking to pitch in? 4 ways Lawrentians can help during COVID-19 crisis

Kate Zoromski, associate dean of academic success, restocks the student food pantry in Sabin House. The pantry makes food and other necessities available to Lawrence students in times of need. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The move to distance learning to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the midst of this global pandemic is a heavy lift for Lawrence students, faculty, and staff.

These are challenging, unprecedented times. But it’s a path we must take, and we must take it together.

“We have always risen to the challenges that face us with resilience and ingenuity,” President Mark Burstein said in a letter to the Lawrence community announcing the difficult decision to go to distance learning for Spring Term. “I know, as we have in the past, we will rise to this challenge and ensure that Lawrence continues to create a learning environment second to none.”

For details of COVID-19 response at Lawrence, see here.

As we lean into the values and commitment that have always defined the Lawrence experience, we ask everyone in the Lawrence community to do what you can to help our students navigate these uncharted waters. Among the ways we all can help:  

1. Donate to the Student Pantry: Whether for students on campus during spring break or those who will be here during Spring Term due to an inability to get home, the pantry can be an important connection. It offers supplies and food to students, but also needed items such as personal products. You can buy/donate directly through Amazon via a wishlist. Please note that Amazon has removed “non-essential” items from qualifying for rush shipping, but orders and deliveries are still being accepted and processed. More information about the Student Pantry is here: https://www.lawrence.edu/students/services/foodpantry

2. Contribute to the Lawrence Fund: The Lawrence Fund – Supporting Our Students (SOS) emergency fund has been established to aid students’ unexpected and urgent expenses related to the impacts of COVID-19. This fund will make available critical resources for immediate needs like our new distance-learning model, food, travel, housing, and other unexpected expenses. Every contribution helps support the University’s ability to assist students.

3. Be an alumni connection: Help Lawrence students network by signing up for our new Viking Connect program. Connecting with a current student and providing some positive guidance has never been more important. This is a chance to reach out virtually while still making a personal connection. See link here: https://vikingconnect.lawrence.edu/page/about

4. Support each other: Be supportive of other Lawrentians through use of the Alumni Directory. Stay connected in these difficult times and check in on one another using the directory and via Lawrence’s many social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Find the alumni directory here: go.lawrence.edu/profile

We are Lawrentians, now and forever. Let’s come together to be supportive as we grapple with difficult challenges and show our current students the path forward. In the darkness of uncertainty and deep angst, let us again be the light.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence alumnus brings classic Sam Shepard production to Cloak Theater

Paul McComas ’83 and Megan Corse star in Fool for Love, coming March 13 to Lawrence.

Update: This event has been canceled.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Playwright Paul McComas ’83 is passionate about a good number of things in this world, among them his alma mater and the work of the late writer and actor Sam Shepard.

Those two passions will come together on a Lawrence University stage on Friday, March 13, as McComas brings his adapted production of Shepard’s 1983 Fool for Love to Cloak Theater.

The play, set for 8 p.m. and starring McComas and fellow Chicago actor Megan Corse, begins with a set of “songs of foolish love,” followed by McComas’ 45-minute adaptation of Fool for Love, a sometimes funny, sometimes tragic rollercoaster of love and heartache that was a signature piece in Shepard’s 50-year career as a playwright, actor, director, and author. The play earned Shepard a Pulitzer Prize nomination, and it was later adapted to a feature film by Robert Altman.

To bring the touring production to Lawrence is a particular thrill for McComas, who counts the late Fred Gaines and other Lawrence faculty as mentors who set him on a course of creative exploration that has defined his career in the arts. The production will serve as a fundraiser for the Lawrence Conservatory’s Fred Gaines Student Playwright Series.

“There’s no education like a liberal-arts one,” McComas said of his time at Lawrence. “I see those lessons popping up daily — in every story or script I write, every stage or screen performance I assay, every song or instrumental piece I compose, every film I direct, every class I teach. I see it even in my thought processes and my most strongly held beliefs, namely the empathetic, altruistic, progressive ones.”

It was while at Lawrence that Gaines, the former theater and drama professor, introduced McComas to the work of Shepard. He’s been hooked ever since. He calls Shepard one of the great influences on his own writing and acting.

“Like him, I favor work that has one foot each in mainstream psychological family fiction and drama and material and themes that are more out there on the fringe,” McComas said. “I love the tension of that interplay in his work, and I aspire to it in my own.”

Productions of McComas’ Fool for Love have all been fundraisers for various causes since it premiered in 2018. It’s recommended for ages 13 and up. An audience conversation with the actors will follow the performance.

General admission tickets are $15 ($8 for seniors and non-Lawrence students), but free for members of the Lawrence community. For more information, call the box office at 920-832-6749 or visit www.facebook.com/events/696721090860700/.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Tight-knit cast ready to open “Figaro,” a comic opera full of messy relationships

A scene from a dress rehearsal of "The Marriage of Figaro."
Erik Nordstrom as Count Almaviva performs with cast mates during a dress rehearsal for The Marriage of Figaro. The cast in Tuesday’s rehearsal will be on stage Thursday and Saturday. The opera, with four performances between Thursday and Sunday, is double cast. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Class dynamics are certainly part of The Marriage of Figaro, the classic opera from the superstar duo of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte. But Copeland Woodruff, director of Opera Studies at Lawrence University, said he’s more fascinated by another element of the story as his Opera Theatre students prepare to open the production on March 5.

“It’s complex human relationships,” Woodruff said of the storyline that mixes love and betrayal and suspicion in equal doses, all with comedic undertones. “And everyone on stage is making poor choices, often times for selfish reasons to punish someone else.

“I’d really rather tell that story. Certainly, there’s class distinction in it, and you can’t ignore that, and you shouldn’t ignore that, but, for me, there are a lot of other interesting things, human elements that are going on, and they’re complicated.”

The comic opera was written by Mozart, the composer, and da Ponte, the librettist, in the 1780s, but, Woodruff said, if you want to think about it in more modern times, think Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl. You know, coveting your best friend’s girlfriend.

In short, Figaro, Count Almaviva’s longtime friend and personal valet, is set to marry the Countess’ maid, Susanna. But the high and mighty Count is plotting to seduce the servant Susanna, on her wedding night no less. The Countess is on to him and teams with Susanna to catch her husband in all his lecherous ways. Confusion and mischief happen along the way.

Emily Richter ’20, a music performance (voice) major from London, is in the role of the Countess. She said the cast has been eyeing opening night since first receiving the music in June and then prepping that music through fall term.

“We then spent the two weeks of D-Term peeling away the layers of what we’re saying and pushing the boundaries of what is possible with this show,” she said. “Since then we’ve spent 12 hours a week staging and trying to capture the nuance of the show.”

Emma Milton is Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, to be held in Stansbury Theater.

The Marriage of Figaro will be presented over four days in Stansbury Theater — 7:30 p.m. performances on March 5, 6, and 7 and a 3 p.m. matinee on March 8. The show is for mature audiences. Admission is $15 ($10 for seniors, $8 for non-Lawrence students); free for Lawrence students, faculty, and staff.

It features a cast of 11, plus stage and technical crews, two rehearsal pianists, a student pit orchestra, and a 14-member chorus. It’s a big show, running three hours in length, and it is double cast, making for an imposing undertaking.

“It’s one of the most generous casts I’ve worked with in a long time,” Woodruff said. “They’re just generous with each other as far as sharing the stage space and working with one another.”

For Richter and other seniors in the cast, this is a final bow at Lawrence. She called her castmates “uplifting” and said the bonds being built will last long after the final curtain.

Max Muter is Figaro in Lawrence University’s The Marriage of Figaro.

“To get to be in an opera this massive with people I’ve been singing with now for almost four years is such a special experience,” she said. “Never again will we get to be in a show with people we’ve essentially grown up with for four years. It’s a very special thing, and I think that closeness, vulnerability, and trust shows up on stage.”

For more on Lawrence’s Opera Theatre program, visit here.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Update: Lawrence to go to distance learning for Spring Term

Lawrence University will switch to distance learning for the Spring Term due to concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Lawrence has launched a web site that houses Lawrence-related information on COVID-19. It will continue to be updated as needed. The site includes a coronavirus FAQ.

“While there are currently no known cases of COVID-19 on the Lawrence campus, we recognize that we can no longer continue as usual and still protect all members of our community, especially those most at risk,” President Mark Burstein said Thursday in a letter to the Lawrence community. “As a result, and in consultation with faculty, students, and staff, we have determined that the best course of action for Lawrence is to move to distance learning starting Spring Term. This was an extraordinarily difficult decision to make.”

Students will be required to stay off campus at their permanent residence or otherwise away from campus during Spring Term and access instruction remotely. Students can petition to stay on campus (but still study remotely) if they are international students with travel restrictions such that they may not be able to return to their home country and have no domestic residence option; if they lack needed technology to access distance learning; or if there are other extenuating circumstances.

Spring break, which begins March 19, will be extended an extra week. Spring term will now begin April 6. There will be no in-person instruction.

See President Burstein’s letter here.

For updates from Lawrence on coronavirus, see here.

Registration now open for wide range of Björklunden summer seminars

Summer seminar participants gather on the deck of the lodge at Bjorklunden during the summer of 2019.
Bjorklunden will host 37 seminars from mid-June to mid-October.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Björklunden, Lawrence University’s pristine northern campus in Door County, is once again beckoning visitors for summer seminars that feed a desire for lifelong learning.

Registration is open for 37 Bjorklunden summer seminars, presented by Lawrence faculty, alumni, and other experts. It’s a chance to learn while enjoying the peace and beauty of the 425-foot campus along the Lake Michigan shoreline, just south of Baileys Harbor.

Topics range from wildlife photography and the study of the stars to exploration of America’s racist past and the anatomy of a murder trial. The seminars begin in mid-June and carry through much of October.

“The seminar program embodies one of the most unique aspects of a liberal arts education — a commitment to lifelong learning,” said Alex Baldschun, an assistant director at Bjorklunden.

Visitors to the seminars, he said, come from all walks of life.

Some commute to the seminars. Others are Björklunden residents for the week, housed in the estate’s 37,000-square-foot lodge. Participants are able to explore the grounds and engage with the beautiful scenery in Door County.

Most seminars, which include meals prepared by Björklunden’s resident chef, begin Sunday evening and end Friday afternoon. Classes meet weekday mornings and some evenings, with remaining time available to enjoy Björklunden’s mile-long shoreline and wooded walking trails or to explore area cultural and recreational opportunities.

Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics, is among the Lawrence faculty leading seminars this year. She’s presenting an astronomy-focused seminar, The Stars: Mansions Built by Nature’s Hand, July 26-31. It’s something she’s wanted to do for years, calling the surroundings “singularly contemplative, especially for astronomy.”

To be able to do it in a relaxed atmosphere with a cross-section of deeply curious people, all the better.

“There’s something very freeing about being in a learning environment where there are no grades, just the love of learning,” Pickett said.

Complete seminar information, including registration, dates, course descriptions, and information on instructors, can be found at www.lawrence.edu/dept/bjork/ or by calling 920-839-2216. Questions can also be directed via email to mark.d.breseman@lawrence.edu.

The 2020 summer seminar lineup

Terry Moran leads a session during the 2019 summer seminars at Bjorklunden.
Terry Moran ’82 will be back to lead another summer seminar. The ABC News correspondent will present “The 2020 Verdict” Aug. 2-7.

June 14-19

Listen to the Birds / Don Quintenz

Wildlife Photography: Turning Passion into Productivity / John Van Den Brandt

June 21-26

Two Irishmen, Two Novels, Two Portraits / Robert Spoo ’79

July 5-11

Tritone Jazz Fantasy Camp / Bob DeRosa

July 12-17

Give My Regards to Broadway – The American Musical / Dale Duesing ’67

The Great Patriotic War: World War II Through Soviet Eyes / Victoria Kononova

July 17-19

Family Weekend/Grandparent-Grandchild Weekend / David Stokes

July 19-24

African America in Slavery and Freedom: How our Racial Past Informs our Present / Susan Pappas ’69

African America in Slavery and Freedom: How our Racial Past Informs our Present / Joe Patterson ’69

African America in Slavery and Freedom: How our Racial Past Informs our Present / Jerald Podair

Poignant, Prosaic, and Possibly Pointless: The Stories of Anton Chekhov / Peter Thomas

Richard M. Nixon: The Triumph and Tragedy of an American Politician / Tim Crain

July 26-31

Stitches in Time: The Genius of Medieval Embroideries and Tapestries / Jane Tibbetts Schulenburg ’65

The Stars: Mansions Built by Nature’s Hand / Megan Pickett

Water Cycle: A Journey Around the Science and Policy of Earth’s Most Precious Resource / Peter Levi ’01 and Titus Seilheimer ’00

Aug. 2-7

The 2020 Verdict / Terry Moran ’82

The American Civil War in Historical Perspective / James Cornelius ’81

Aug. 9-14

Is Belief in God Rational? / Terry Goode

The Fall of Rome: From Caesar to King and From Jupiter to Jesus in 500 Years / Nikolas Hoel ’99

Aug. 16-22

Creative Photography / Philip Krejcarek

Family Ties – The Case of King David / Bill Urbrock

Watercolor: The Expressive Medium / Helen Klebesadel

Aug. 30-Sept. 4

Flirting with Disaster: Turning Personal Obsession into Memoir / David McGlynn

The Original Book Club: Literary Legacies of Medieval Women / Catherine Keene and Danielle Joyner

What Happens Next?: The Importance of the Strong Storyline in Classic Hollywood Films / Jack Rhodes

Sept. 13-18

Which Way to the White House? Presidential Campaign Parades from 1896 to 2020 / Charlie Schudson and Steve Bruemmer

Wildflowers, Birds, and Mushrooms / Don Quintenz

Wildflowers, Birds, and Mushrooms / Charlotte Lukes

Writing Poetry in Forms / Marilyn L. Taylor

Sept. 27-Oct. 2

A Brief History of Creatures that Rule the Earth (Hint: They’re not humans) / David Hines ’76

Anatomy of a Murder Trial / Steve Licata ’75

Hollywood Votes: Images from the World of Politics in Films of the Classic Era / Jack Rhodes

Oct. 4-9

SPQR: The Senate and the Roman People / Daniel Taylor ’63

The 2020 Elections: What Next for American Foreign Policy? / Christopher Murray ’75

Watercolor: A Fresh Start / Helen Klebesadel

Oct. 11-16

The Weimar Republic: Grandeur and Disaster / Jon Greenwald

Oct. 18-23

World Religions in the Contemporary World / Brian Smith

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Trumpet soloist Tine Thing Helseth to play Memorial Chapel as part of Artist Series

Tine Thing Helseth

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Tine Thing Helseth, an acclaimed trumpet player from Norway, goes where most trumpet players don’t. She tours as a soloist.

She’ll take the stage of Lawrence Memorial Chapel on Friday, Feb. 28, the second concert in Lawrence University’s 2019-20 Artist Series. The concert is set for 8 p.m.

Helseth has been buzzed about for a decade. But she really jumped onto the international map with a 2013 performance with the BBC Scottish Symphony.

Challenging the boundaries of expected repertoire for a trumpet soloist, Helseth has explored a variety of genres, from classical Bach pieces to arrangements of songs by the Beach Boys.

“She makes such a beautiful sound on the trumpet, and phrases so expressively that you really don’t care what she’s playing, it’s captivating,” John Daniel, associate professor of trumpet at Lawrence, said when the Artist Series was announced. “I would be happy to listen to her practicing scales or long tones.”

Helseth teaches trumpet at the Norwegian Academy of Music and is a regular TV and radio presenter in her community. She also continues to tour extensively as a solo artist, chamber musician and orchestra collaborator, having worked with some of the most significant orchestras across Europe.

In a 2018 interview with Limelight, in the midst of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Helseth talked about the joy she finds in playing as a soloist.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of my string colleagues, especially violinists, and in some aspects they envy me a little bit, that I play the trumpet, because I can do more different stuff. We don’t have all the traditional big concertos, so I’m a bit more free to do commissions. …  It’s just a very different type of career.”

Tickets for the Lawrence performance are $25-30 for adults, $20-25 for seniors, and free for students.

Future performances in the 2019-20 Artist Series include: Anderson & Roe Piano Duo, 8 p.m. April 3; and Melody Moore (soprano), 8 p.m. April 18. For more on Lawrence’s Artist Series, see here.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

“Prom Night in Mississippi” to get screening, discussion at Warch Cinema

Prom Night in Mississippi was released in 2008, a partnership between director Paul Saltzman and actor Morgan Freeman. It tells the story of a small Mississippi high school holding an integrated prom for the first time. (Photo courtesy of Moving Beyond Prejudice)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Paul Saltzman, the director of Prom Night in Mississippi, a 2008 documentary about racism and race relations in a small town in Mississippi, will visit Lawrence University next week for a showing and discussion of the film.

The documentary, created in partnership with Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman, will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, in the Warch Campus Center Cinema, followed by a discussion with Saltzman.

Prom Night in Mississippi was made more than 40 years after Saltzman had participated in voter registration work with the SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) during the summer of 1965, witnessing the segregation of the south up close and personal. He said he returned to Mississippi in 2007 to see how — or if — race relations had progressed.

That led to a meeting with Freeman, who had returned to live near his childhood home in Charleston, Mississippi, population 2,000. Morgan would tell Saltzman a seemingly improbable story. The high school in Charleston, in 2007, still held two proms — one for white students, one for black students.

More: Black Excellence Ball, Cultural Expressions highlight People of Color Empowerment Week

A decade earlier, Freeman had offered to pay all costs if the school would unite the two proms, open to all students. The school turned him down.

When they met, Saltzman asked Freeman if he’d be interested in revisiting that offer for the 2008 prom. Saltzman would come along with his camera to document the process from start to finish.

Freeman said yes, leading to the making of Prom Night in Mississippi.

The documentary weaves together student-made videos, interviews, and intimate moments with students, school officials, parents, and Freeman.

“I live here,” Freeman tells a group of seniors at the school. “I think it is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of, that in this time … you children are being brought up this way. It hurts me deeply.”

Most students at the school seem to approve of the integrated prom, but a group of white parents move ahead to plan their own whites-only prom. They refuse to be interviewed for Saltzman’s film.

The integrated prom is held that spring, and it is well received, marking what Saltzman called a turning point for the town.

“Many of the senior students, black and white, impressed me with their openness and awareness,” Saltzman said at the time. “Their courage to attend their first mixed prom and to share their feelings about race gives me hope that we are indeed heading in the right direction.”

Using this film as a catalyst, Saltzman and fellow producer Patricia Aquino later created Moving Beyond Prejudice, a nonprofit that works with young people and their communities to shine a light on prejudice and promote inclusion.

The Feb. 25 showing in the Warch Cinema is free of charge. A discussion will follow. The program is in conjunction with Black History Month and is co-sponsored by Lawrence’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Diversity and Intercultural Center.

Bonus: While on campus next week, Saltzman also will speak about another passion — the Beatles. He’s published two books on the band, The Beatles in Rishikesh and The Beatles in India. His talk at 11:10 a.m. Feb. 24 in Harper Hall is titled, The Beatles in India and How I Met the Beatles.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Black Excellence Ball, Cultural Expressions add to February celebrations, discussions

Singing, dancing, and much more will again be part of the annual Cultural Expressions celebration, set for Feb. 29 in Warch Campus Center.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Lawrence University’s Black Student Union (BSU) will host events each of the next two weekends that honor Black History Month and celebrate people of color on campus and beyond.

The second annual Black Excellence Ball will be held Saturday, Feb. 22. It is a formal dance used as a way to showcase the beauty and elegance that is racially diverse people. It is open to all racially diverse people and allies.

This year’s Excellence Ball is themed All That Jazz and will be held from 8 to 11 p.m. in the Warch Campus Center.

The following weekend, Cultural Expressions, an annual talent showcase, will be held Feb. 29, beginning at 7 p.m., also in Warch. It’ll be preceded by a dinner in the Diversity and Intercultural Center in Memorial Hall at 6 p.m. and an art gallery display in Warch at 6 p.m.

Cultural Expressions has become a February tradition at Lawrence, one of the highlights of winter term.

More: Prom Night in Mississippi to get screening, discussion in Warch Cinema

The Excellence Ball was added last year, joining with Cultural Expressions to provide bookends to a People of Color Empowerment Week on campus. Empowerment Week is organized by AIO in collaboration with Alianza, Beta Psi Nu, BSU, Diversity and Intercultural Center, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and SOUP.

Among the events happening during Empowerment Week: Kickoff dinner at 6 p.m. Feb. 23 in the Diversity and Intercultural Center; Mariposas Del Alma, a Los Angeles-based band representing the Latinx communities, performing at 8 p.m. Feb. 24 in Warch; a screening (and discussion) of the 2008 documentary, Prom Night in Mississippi, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25 in Warch Cinema; a Brown Girl Recovery Workshop at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 in the Diversity and Intercultural Center; Cooking for COTS from 4 to 8 p.m. Feb. 27 in Sabin House; and comedian Jasmine Ellis performing at 8 p.m. Feb. 28 in Warch. Also, the Cultural Expressions Art Gallery will be on display from noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 28 in Warch.

Cultural Expressions will serve as the finale for the big week. It annually features a bevy of Lawrence students performing everything from music and dance to spoken word and comedy. 

Admission for all of the student-organized events is free.

Awa Badiane is a student writer in the Communications office.

Familiar power struggles in play as Lawrence’s “Richard III” hits the stage

Chris Follina ’20, as Richard III, rehearses with Alec Welhouse ’23, as the Duke of Buckingham, during a dress rehearsal for “Richard III” in Cloak Theatre. The Lawrence Department of Theatre Arts production runs Feb. 20-22. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Alex Freeman ’23

History has a way of repeating itself.

As a Lawrence theater and English double major who is doing her Senior Experience in conjunction with the Department of Theatre Arts’ production of Richard III, Haley Stevens ’20 hopes audience members remember that famous adage as they watch the action unfold this week on the Cloak Theatre stage.

Written almost 400 years ago, it might not initially be obvious how the themes and content of Richard III could be relevant to a modern audience. But when looking at today’s political climate, some of Richard III’s key plot points—betrayal, power struggles and rumor campaigns, to name a few—may not seem so foreign, she said.

“I want the audience to feel like this is weirdly familiar, like unexpectedly familiar,” Director Timothy X. Troy said, echoing Stevens’ assessment. “It’s not necessarily a happy thought. It happens every day in rehearsal as we’re working our way through scenes. We’re like, man, that just happened last week. … But that’s true of all great literature. Each era finds its way into it. These were people who lived through a tumultuous time. And guess who we are?”

For the cast and crew of Shakespeare’s Richard III, the past five weeks of rehearsal are finally coming to fruition. Set to open on Thursday night, Richard III will be performed in Cloak Theatre at 8 p.m. Feb. 20–22, with an additional 3 p.m. matinee Feb. 22.

With an abridged script that has condensed the original four-hour play into 90 minutes of action, the production, subtitled “I am Myself, Alone,” tackles the challenge of analyzing the choices individuals make, both in a historical context and today.

Carly Beyer ’22, as Queen Elizabeth, rehearses with Ben Carlick ’20, as Dorset, during a dress rehearsal for “Richard III” in Cloak Theatre.

The production tells the story of Richard III, an English nobleman who will do virtually anything to ensure his rise to the throne following a 30-year civil war—no matter the cost. In order to condense the play to 90 minutes, an effort spearheaded by Olivia Gregorich ’17 and Troy, the team had to choose one primary thematic point of view to depict in depth. Settling on the concept of human agency and the factors that restrict it, this production explores the challenging idea of how individuals can make the best decisions for themselves when their options are inherently limited.

Although this concept can easily be understood by a modern audience, placing it in its proper historical context adds an additional level of depth to the production. This historical understanding was enhanced in 2012, when the body of the real Richard III was discovered and exhumed.

As part of the first generation of productions of Richard III since then, the production team has been able to rediscover the play and utilize information about Richard III that previously could not have been confirmed. Having this new knowledge allows the team to explore the production in a new light.

First, it is now confirmed that Richard III truly had a disability, which had previously only been rumored. Christopher Follina ’20, the actor who plays Richard and a theater and religious studies double major doing this production for his Senior Experience, also has a disability, which allows for a more influential and nuanced interpretation of Richard’s character, according to Troy.

Written only a few generations following the real events that occur in the play, original Elizabethan audiences would have been able to recognize the character of Richmond as their queen’s grandfather and would likely have had grandparents who fought in the civil war.

“It’s kind of the equivalent of watching a play around Vietnam or World War II,” Stevens said. “It’s something that happens even now when we’re generations removed from great conflict and then a play portrays it in order to bring back the understanding of what other people, your ancestors, could have gone through.”

Chris Follina plays Richard III in Lawrence’s production of “Richard III.”

Although this weekend’s audience will not have the same close connection to the characters and events of the play as the Elizabethan audience, Troy and Stevens both believe the universal themes and patterns depicted in Richard III can be transferred across time and found in every period of history—including this one. The specific players and timelines may change, but the fundamental story remains the same.

“When you do the show, you keep the story alive,” said Alec Welhouse ’23, the actor playing the Duke of Buckingham. “You don’t let the story die. If we weren’t doing this show, I don’t think anyone at Lawrence would be talking about King Richard or anyone like that. But since we’re doing it, it sparks that interest again. It gets people interested in Shakespearean times and makes you want to learn more about it.”

Alex Freeman ’23 is a student writer in the Communications office.