Lawrence’s Dillon earns Goldwater award on strength of math research

Travis Dillon ’21

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University’s Travis Dillon ’21, a mathematics major who has done significant research both on and off campus, has been named a 2020 Goldwater Scholar.

This marks the second consecutive year a Lawrence student has been among the national honorees in the Goldwater program, which honors the late Sen. Barry Goldwater and was designed to foster and encourage high-achieving students in the fields of math, natural sciences, and engineering. Willa Dworschack ’20, a Lawrence physics major, was named a recipient a year ago after doing extensive research in atomic and molecular optics.

Dillon is being recognized with the Goldwater award for his undergraduate research in mathematics, much of it in partnership with his Lawrence math professors.

Claire Kervin, assistant professor of English and director of Fellowships Advising at Lawrence, called Dillon a “motivated and productive” student who turned in thoughtful and well-presented work on the Goldwater application while taking part in a high-level math program in Budapest during fall and winter terms.

“He is one of the best recipients of constructive criticism I’ve seen in 15 years of assisting college writers,” Kervin said. “He is obviously deeply invested in complex research ideas, but is also capable of, even enthusiastic about, conveying these erudite concepts to others with differing levels of expertise.” 

Dillon, now back in his home state of Washington working remotely during spring term, said his research speaks to his deep love of mathematics.

“Although they have all been in mathematics, their focus varies quite a bit,” he said of his research projects. “I think it’s perhaps not widely known, but research mathematics comes in a lot of flavors. At a high level, geometry studies the properties of rigid structures, topology studies what happens when you’re allowed to bend and stretch them, number theory investigates the properties of counting numbers, which contains surprisingly deep questions and interesting questions.”

Much of Dillon’s research has focused in an area known as combinatorics, including developing a new combinatorial theory of Gaussian blur, a commonly used technique in computer science to “filter out noise from data,” and investigating symbolic dynamics. His work has taken him to Texas A&M’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), a research program sponsored by the National Science Foundation, and, most recently, to Budapest to study in the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics (BSM) program. He was to be there during spring term as well, but the COVID-19 pandemic rerouted him to his Washington home, where he is finishing the Budapest program online.

“I applied because it was recommended to me as the best mathematics study abroad program, and quite literally everyone I asked about the program had nothing but incredible praise for the program,” Dillon said of BSM.

Two of Dillon’s four undergraduate research projects have led to published papers with his professors. The other two have papers in the works.

He praised Lawrence’s math faculty for challenging and inspiring him, and highlighted his research work with Assistant Professor of Mathematics Elizabeth Sattler. He worked with her on the symbolic dynamics research.

“Our main goal was to answer a question from one of Professor Sattler’s previous projects,” Dillon said. “Over the course of the project, I introduced a much larger class of symbolic dynamical systems and answered the question in this more general setting. This was my favorite research project. I really enjoyed working with Professor Sattler, and my research ended up incorporating combinatorics, algebra, analysis, and even a hint of number theory. This sort of interdisciplinary thinking in mathematics is very exciting to me.”

After graduating from Lawrence next year, Dillon plans to attend graduate school in pursuit of a Ph.D. in mathematics.

The Goldwater honor will do nothing but help as he moves forward. It is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in the math and science fields, and is administered by the Goldwater Foundation, a federally endowed agency established in 1986. Goldwater Scholars have impressive academic and research credentials that garner the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs.

“It’s affirmation that I’m on the right track to accomplish my goals,” Dillon said. “I have also put a lot of work into my mathematical endeavors—taking advanced courses, enrolling in multiple reading courses at Lawrence, conducting research, some of it independently, studying mathematics intensely in Budapest. As with everyone, it’s really nice when these efforts are recognized.”

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

Lawrence donates boxes of PPE supplies to aid Appleton’s COVID-19 battle

Abby Screnock and Joe Sagar deliver boxes of Lawrence University’s PPE supplies to the City of Appleton.

Communications

Lawrence University has donated more than 25 boxes of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the City of Appleton for use by health care workers and first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The supplies, which would normally be used by Lawrence students in science labs, came from the school’s Chemistry and Biology departments and included protective gowns, lab coats, goggles, and gloves, said Christyn Abaray, Lawrence’s athletics director and assistant to the president. Professors and staff inventoried the school’s PPE supplies to pull together the donations to make available to the city.

“During these uncertain times around the world, communities are working together in intentional and deliberate ways,” Abaray said. “As an entrenched, established member of the Fox Valley community, we at Lawrence readily mobilized to donate the on-campus PPE supplies for our Fox Valley community’s front line. The only way we will persevere is in partnership with each other.”

Lawrence’s spring term began on Monday. All classes are being held via distance learning.

“Kimmel” show, Instagram live all part of quarantine life for Tweedy family

Spencer Tweedy ’19 (Photo by David Zoubek)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Singing around the house isn’t anything out of the ordinary for Spencer Tweedy ’19.

He is, after all, part of a very musical family, his father being Jeff Tweedy, founder, singer, and guitarist of Wilco.

But singing with your dad and brother – in the bathroom – for a TV audience of nearly 2 million people? Well, that’s a little different for the young musician not quite a year removed from his Lawrence University commencement.

The 24-year-old Spencer joined his dad and brother, Sam, Monday night on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, singing Evergreen, a song from the elder Tweedy’s 2019 solo album, Warm. It was filmed as the Tweedys – including mom and wife Susan Tweedy – are hunkered down in their Chicago home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and was shared widely by Rolling Stone and other media sites.

Wilco was supposed to appear Monday night on the Kimmel show, but, alas, the band’s tour has been paused and even late-night hosts are self-quarantined. Next best thing? Jeff Tweedy and his boys, live from the bathtub.

“It was super fun,” Spencer said. “We sing at home all the time, and we’ve been doing it even more lately on Instagram. So, it felt the same as any other time we’re singing at home except this video was going to end up in front of a much larger audience.”

The Instagram that Spencer speaks of is The Tweedy Show, a newly launched, quarantine-inspired look at the Tweedy household, filmed and narrated by Spencer’s and Sam’s mom and housed on her already well-followed @stuffinourhouse account. Music and antics from the Tweedy household are now front and center for the world to see on a nightly basis, streaming live at 9:30 p.m. and continuing perhaps as long as the coronavirus lockdown lasts.

“Thankfully, we all get along really well,” Spencer said. “The challenges of living in more or less close quarters aren’t too bad for us. So, I’m really grateful for that.”

A musical life

Spencer has been back in Chicago since graduating from Lawrence, working as a drummer-for-hire on a number of music projects. He released an EP of his own songs a year ago, songs that he worked on while in Appleton. The philosophy major split much of his time at Lawrence between his studies and playing music with friends in the Conservatory.

“One of the really, really cool things about my time at Lawrence was that the boundary between the Conservatory and the college is pretty permeable,” Spencer said. “I was really able to participate in all of the percussion ensembles that I wanted to. (Professor of Music) Dane Richeson was so welcoming. And I think the system is set up that way, where you can mix and match. I majored in philosophy and I was still able to play in things like the drum ensembles and in some of the jazz programs, too.”

Spencer also tapped into the recording facilities at The Refuge Foundation for the Arts in Appleton, which partners with Lawrence on a number of levels.

His philosophy studies, he said, provided him with avenues into his music and other passions. That continues to be true.

“The philosophy program really gave me a lot of skills to understand problems,” he said. “I feel like I really, really grew in my ability, to put it super crudely, to just think about stuff. Philosophy is sort of a big umbrella under which you can put all your other interests and any facet of the world you’re interested in and it gives you these frameworks for understanding them better.”

Initially drawn to Lawrence because of what he calls its “Midwestern humbleness,” Spencer said he walked away four years later with a deeper appreciation for the school’s commitment to its students.

“Everybody who is there cares,” he said. “I wish Lawrence was recognized more for having that quality. Every professor I interacted with was just so extremely dedicated and so extremely caring.”

A spring term like no other

Spencer said he’s thinking a lot about those Lawrence students who are about to embark on a spring term in which they’re living at home and studying from afar amid COVID-19 fears. He’s staying in contact with friends who are still in school as best he can.

“I can’t even begin to relate to some of the challenges people are going through,” he said. “I say this with no intention of paternalism or telling people what to do, but I just think any crisis benefits from people having patience and compassion, and also confidence that things are going to be OK as long as we can have that patience and compassion.

“I think Lawrence students who are being affected by this right now know what to do. They’re going to be able to do their work at home, and in the end, whether or not they get anything out of this weird term at home will depend on the strength of their relationships with their professors. And I have a lot of confidence in that because I know how strong those relationships can be.”

Building a career

In the meantime, Spencer will continue to put the building blocks on his own music career. Besides his dad’s band, he’s already put his drumming skills to work on behalf of Norah Jones, James Elkington, and Amos Pitsch, among others.

“It’s definitely a plus,” he said of entering the music business with a father who is so accomplished. “I’d be a fool to look at it as anything other than a plus. There are definitely challenges sometimes. There are people who struggle to see anything past that and what they know about my family and know about my dad, but that’s really far outweighed by all of the ridiculous privileges of being able to grow up in a family like mine.”

It’s a family you can get to know a little better in the coming days and weeks, one The Tweedy Show Instagram stream at a time.

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

Lawrence to add new faculty member in Spanish department for 2020-21

Miriam Rodriguez-Guerra

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A new tenure-track faculty member will join Lawrence University in the Spanish department beginning this fall, Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat announced.

Miriam Rodriguez-Guerra comes to Lawrence from the University of Arizona, where she is completing her Ph.D. in Hispanic Linguistics with an emphasis on phonology.

Madera Allan, chair of Lawrence’s Spanish department and a member of the search committee, said Rodriguez-Guerra brings background and teaching skills that will benefit students in and out of the classroom.

“Miriam is a dynamic scholar and teacher, with vast and varied experience and interests that will allow her to contribute to a number of programs across campus,” Allan said. “She studies bilingualism from multiple perspectives—phonological, cultural, and philosophical. We are thrilled to welcome a sage and enthusiastic new colleague to the Spanish department.”

Rodriguez-Guerra’s emphasis at Arizona has been in the areas of speech, language and hearing sciences, phonology, and sociolinguistics. For her dissertation, she has done extensive language and phonology studies with young Latinx children in Tucson, Arizona, focused significantly on the speech benefits of growing up bilingual.

“My dissertation contributes to the fields of Hispanic linguistics and speech and hearing sciences as it provides a bilingual approach of analyzing substitution patterns and it contributes to the description of growing up bilingual in the U.S.,” Rodriguez-Guerra said in a letter to Lawrence. “The results of this study give back to the community as this project provides speech and hearing clinicians new resources to better understand sound development for bilingual preschoolers in Tucson, Arizona.”

Rodriguez-Guerra holds a bachelor’s degree in English philology from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Spain), a master’s degree in phonetics and phonology from the Spanish National Research Council (Spain), and a master’s degree in Spanish from the University of Arizona.

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

Lawrence students volunteer to tutor kids online during COVID-19 pandemic

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is joining several other universities in a community engagement program in which college students are volunteering to tutor younger students online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With elementary, middle, and high schools across the country moving instruction online, there’s an urgent need for online tutoring at all grade levels.

Kristi Hill, director of the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change, is overseeing Lawrence’s portion of the program, in partnership with St. Norbert College and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Kristi Hill

“After sending out a virtual volunteer interest survey, 53 Lawrentians expressed interest in volunteering to provide online tutoring,” Hill said.

Training for the interested students is already under way.

Implementing the program quickly is key as so many students have been displaced from their schools.

“We are hopeful the program will start to address the educational equity gap that is likely to occur due to school closures,” Hill said.

The program was created by Dr. Bola Delano-Oriaran, associate professor of teacher education at St. Norbert College, who invited her colleague, Dr. Marguerite Penick-Parks, graduate program coordinator and professor at UW-Oshkosh, to collaborate on this program. St. Norbert and UWO launched the program with more than 100 of their students signing up. To date, five other colleges and universities are involved in the collaborative program with more than 600 registered families.

Lawrence students are expected to participate in the program through May 29.

Families, both locally and across the country, can sign up for the tutoring for their children at go.lawrence.edu/VITAL. They must have basic internet service, and acceptance will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Students will be assigned the same tutor for the duration of the program.

The Appleton Area School District is assisting Lawrence in launching its portion of the volunteer project.

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

Lawrence’s Buenzli, Rosa earn President’s Award of Excellence

Erin Buenzli (left) and Ariela Rosa ’15

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Two Lawrence University staff members who work closely with students and alumni have been honored for their tireless work and their willingness to reach across departments.

Erin Buenzli, director of wellness and recreation, and Ariela Rosa ’15, associate director of corporate, foundation, and sponsored research support, are the recipients of the 2019-20 President’s Award of Excellence.

The President’s Award of Excellence Committee and President Mark Burstein announced the honors. In past years, the awards have been announced at the annual Service Award Luncheon, but because of steps taken to protect the Lawrence community during the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been postponed. It’ll be rescheduled at a to-be-determined date.

Nominators cited Buenzli and Rosa for championing the staples of the President’s Award — support, stewardship, innovation, and teamwork.

To see videos about Buenzli and Rosa, and to see past President’s Award winners and this year’s service award recipients, click here.

Buenzli: Seeking wellness

While Buenzli’s work is based in the Buchanan-Kiewit Wellness Center, she is active across campus, organizing an annual wellness fair, holding pop-up wellness sessions in unexpected spaces, and even teaching an annual Spring Term wellness class.

“She is in every space you could possibly think of on campus and she’s always looking beyond her position description for the good of Lawrence,” said Kristi Hill, director of the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change.

Leah McSorely, associate dean of students for international student services, applauded Buenzli for reaching out to all students on campus and making wellness services accessible for all.

“She makes sure Lawrence is at the forefront of providing an inclusive wellness space,” she said.

Rosa: Advocating for others

Rosa, meanwhile, drew praise not only for her stellar work on the grants team but also for her willingness to mentor others and be an advocate on and off campus for inclusiveness and fairness.

“She is someone who stands up for people whose voices aren’t heard, making sure people feel supported, making sure people know where to go when they need things, and just having a much bigger vision for what it means to be an inclusive campus community,” said Emily Bowles, coordinator for experiential funding and professional networking.

Jaime Gonzalez ’16, an assistant director of admissions with a focus on diversity, inclusion, and access, called Rosa’s mentoring skills an extension of who she is as a person.

“We kind of all go the extra mile to help and support one another,” he said of the Lawrence culture. “And Ariela is kind of the person who goes the extra, extra mile.”

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

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