Author: Ed Berthiaume

Photo gallery: Cabaret performances take audiences on Odyssey of Cultures

Dynamic dancing, singing and fashions were on display over the weekend as the 43rd annual Cabaret took visitors to Stansbury Theatre on a journey around the world.

Cabaret, presented by Lawrence International, is a highlight of spring term on the Lawrence University campus. This year’s theme was Odyssey of Cultures.

More than 80 international students took part, showcasing elements of their history and culture in two performances.

Below is a sampling of photos from the big weekend. You can find a larger photo gallery here.

Innovation alive and well at Lawrence as students eye a three-peat in The Pitch

Lawrence students participate in The Pitch in 2018.
A team from Lawrence University won The Pitch in 2018 for the second straight year.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

There is an entrepreneurial spirit at Lawrence University, weaved into the liberal arts education in everything from science programs to music instruction.

So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Lawrence students have come away with the title — and the money — in each of the first two installments of The Pitch, a “Shark Tank”-styled competition involving colleges and universities in east-central Wisconsin.

On Thursday, Lawrence will aim for a three-peat.

Students from six schools will deliver their pitches for innovative product ideas to a panel of judges — and in front of a live audience — at 4 p.m. at Titletown Tech in Green Bay. Joining Lawrence students will be entrants from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, St. Norbert College, Fox Valley Technical College and Moraine Park Technical College.

Each school will have two entries. For Lawrence, Hamza Ehsan ’20 will pitch EVSmart while Emma Liu ’19 and Katie Kitzinger ’20 will pitch Jetsetter’s Closet.

EVSmart involves the creation of an app that would identify and facilitate the use of charging stations for electric cars. Jetsetter’s Closet would facilitate the rental of stylish clothing for world travelers.

They emerged as Lawrence finalists following a round of competition on campus. Similar competitions were held at each of the participating schools. The students who advanced will work with a judge in the lead-up to Thursday’s regional competition to better hone their presentations.

Lawrence students have come out on top each of the past two years. First it was a trio of 2017 graduates, Ryan Eardley, Felix Henriksson and Mattias Soederqvist, who successfully pitched their idea for Tracr, a forensic accounting software product. Then last year, Ayomide Akinyosoye, Alejandra Alarcon, Nikki Payne and Alfiza Urmanova took top honors with their idea for WellBell, an innovative wristband device with an S.O.S. button that can be used to send notifications for help, be it an assault or other point of danger or a medical crisis.

The WellBell students, all LU seniors now, are actively developing their product and working with mentors, while the Tracr project is on hold but could be reactivated in the future, said Gary Vaughan, coordinator of Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program and a lecturer of economics. The finalists behind Tracr have graduated and now have jobs in finance around the globe — Eardley was hired as director of innovation at Nicolet Bank, a primary sponsor of The Pitch, while Henriksson is working as an analyst with the international markets arm of a bank and Soederqvist is in management consulting.

This year’s contestants will be competing for more than $50,000 in cash and in-kind services — with first place receiving $10,000 cash and $15,000 worth of in-kind services, second place getting $7,500 cash plus in-kind services and third place earning $5,000 cash plus in-kind services.

The panel of judges come from the business community across the region.

Lawrence’s deep and successful dive into The Pitch competition comes in large part because of the investment the university has made in its Innovation and Entrepreneurship program. While Lawrence doesn’t have a business school, it does provide an I&E concentration, which spans all disciplines and can be an important piece of any student’s transcript. In addition to a myriad of class offerings, Lawrence has a student club — LUCIE (Lawrence University Club of Innovation and Entrepreneurship) — that fosters the innovation mentality. And students across multiple disciplines get hands-on entrepreneurial experience with such community projects as Startup Theater, the Rabbit Gallery, Entrepreneurial Musician and KidsGive.

“About half of the students studying I&E are from economics, but the other half are from all over,” said Claudena Skran, the Edwin & Ruth West Professor of Economics and Social Science and professor of government. “They’re from art, they’re from music, they’re from government.”

She and other faculty members across the disciplines work closely with Vaughan to facilitate that entrepreneurial mindset as students make their way toward graduation and the job market.

More details on Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program here

While the I&E program has shown its mettle on a daily basis in recent years, the school’s early success in The Pitch has put an exclamation point on that, Vaughan said.  

“We pitch against MBA students, and we’ve done really, really well,” he said.

Developing skills in The Pitch isn’t just about launching a new product idea. It’s also about learning how to present yourself when you jump into the job market for the first time after graduation.

“That is its own pitch,” Vaughan said.

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

Roomful of Teeth’s Estelí Gomez to join Lawrence Conservatory

Head shot of Esteli Gomez
Estelí Gomez

Estelí Gomez will join Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music in the fall as the newest addition to the voice department.

The Roomful of Teeth vocalist has been part of two Grammy Award wins and was nominated in 2017 for the prestigious Gramophone Award as a soprano soloist. She’s also an accomplished voice instructor, holding a master of music degree from the McGill Schulich School of Music and a bachelor of arts degree in music from Yale.

“She is the rare professional vocalist who can sing at the highest level in practically any style,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory. “She is intellectually curious and loves to push the boundaries of classical music, and she is a passionate teacher. Estelí is the perfect fit for Lawrence and we are thrilled to welcome her to our faculty.”

Learn more about our award-winning Conservatory of Music!

Gomez, who performed at Lawrence with Roomful of Teeth in 2014 and 2017, said she’s thrilled to be joining Lawrence.

“In my musical travels over the last decade, having visited nearly 80 institutions of higher learning, no school has better exemplified my ideals for a multi-faceted, holistic approach to music education than Lawrence,” Gomez said. “As an undergraduate at Yale, I benefitted so deeply from my liberal arts education, while also exploring courses and ensembles offered through the graduate School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music. I believe wholeheartedly in access to interdisciplinary resources, and know that such access allowed me to become the adaptable, multi-genre, self-managed musician I am today.”

More details will be released at a later date.

Annual Cabaret to showcase music, dance, fashion from around the world

A performance of Thousand-hand Guan Yin at 2018 Cabaret.
A performance of Thousand-hand Guan Yin at 2018 Cabaret.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Cabaret, one of Lawrence University’s most cherished traditions, will take visitors on a journey of discovery this weekend.

With the theme Odyssey of Cultures, the 43rd annual celebration presented by Lawrence International will feature music, dance and fashion from places near and far, embracing our differences and joyously holding up our diversity as a point of light.

It’s a chance to not only soak in some beautiful performances on the Stansbury Theatre stage but also to learn a little something along the way, said Yidi Zhang ’20, president of Lawrence International (LI), the student organization that presents the annual extravaganza.

“Most of the feedback I get is really positive and encouraging, but sometimes I don’t think people are focusing on the educational part of Cabaret,” Zhang said. “That’s what I’m trying to emphasize this year. I started collecting information from all of the performers on their cultural background and which part of their culture they’re drawing from in their performance.”

To that end, posters will be displayed outside of Stansbury providing background on the songs being sung, the dances being performed and the fashions being displayed.

Cabaret will include 11 performance groups featuring 80 international students from Lawrence.

Performances are set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6 and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 7 in Stansbury Theatre. A free reception with cultural dishes in the Warch Campus Center’s Somerset room will follow Sunday’s performance

A performance of Tong Que Fu at 2018 Cabaret.
A performance of Tong Que Fu at 2018 Cabaret.

For Zhang, a junior from China majoring in music management, the educational component that comes with Cabaret is valuable on multiple levels. Taking an interest in and understanding other cultures is an important part of being an informed, enlightened, educated citizen of the world.

“Cabaret is only a starting point to encourage people to know the cultures, to get to know the people of other cultures,” Zhang said.

Photo gallery: See images from last year’s Cabaret

When Cabaret marked its 40th anniversary three years ago, our video cameras went behind the scenes: See it here

That goes for audience members coming to watch Cabaret as well as those participating in the production.

“We have more international students on campus now, so it’s not only for the international students to show what they have, it’s also for those international students to learn from each other,” Zhang said.

The number of international students at Lawrence — foreign nationals and those with dual citizenship — has jumped from about 50 a decade ago to more than 270 today. They come from 63 countries.

Lawrence International gives those students a chance to connect with other international students both academically and socially. While the annual Cabaret performance is the group’s most visible activity, it’s far from its only benefit, said Leah McSorely, associate dean of students for International Student Services.

“At LI, we talk about it as a family, a home away from home, so the students can really build a strong bond with each other and can support each other as they transition into this new culture. Cabaret is a chance to share just a little piece of their cultures, and hopefully get people interested in learning more.”

Zhang will be part of the entertainment lineup. She’s a singer-songwriter who has rounded up three other music students to perform a song that has deep roots in Chinese culture.

She’s a big believer in music’s ability to bring people together.

“I really do think that working with different artists to incorporate different aspects of the world together is a beautiful thing,” Zhang said. “Bringing the whole world together is my personal, ideal view of how the world should be, and music is doing that.”

Going to Cabaret

What: Cabaret, with the theme An Odyssey of Cultures

Where: Stansbury Theatre in the Music-Drama Center, Lawrence University

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (free reception with cultural dishes in the Warch Campus Center’s Somerset room will follow Sunday’s performance)

Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for students and free for children under 4. For Lawrence students, the $5 will be donated to the LI Grant fund or, if requested, refunded. Tickets are available at the LU box office at 920-832-6749 or www.lawrence.edu/conservatory/box_office. For more information, contact li@lawrence.edu.

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

Project 562 creator’s convocation, art installation looks to reshape the narrative of Native communities

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Brigetta Miller calls it a historic moment for Lawrence University, a big step forward in the understanding of Native communities and the need to embrace and value the knowledge, history and contributions of indigenous people.

When Matika Wilbur, creator and director of Project 562, arrives on campus on Friday, April 5 for a week-long artist-in-residency — including the creation of a contemporary mural celebrating area tribal communities — and an April 11 convocation address at Memorial Chapel, it will be significant.

Significant for Native students and alumni. Significant for the 11 federally recognized tribes in Wisconsin. And significant for the university.

“I see this spring convocation as history unfolding before our eyes since it’s the first Native American woman who has been chosen as a university convocation speaker since the opening of the institution in 1847,” said Miller, an associate professor of music in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee (Mohican) Nation.

“Given the fact that our campus is on sacred Menominee ancestral homelands, I believe our ancestors are truly smiling down on this event. It’s a very big deal for us to be visibly represented in this way.”

Stories to tell

Wilbur, a visual storyteller from the Swinomish and Tulalip peoples of coastal Washington, has been traveling the country as part of Project 562, using photography and art installations to connect with tribal communities and help redirect the narrative of their history, their present and their future. The 562 is a reference to the number of federally recognized tribes in the United States at the time the project launched in 2012.

Wilbur sold most of her belongings, loaded her cameras into an RV and set out to document lives in tribal communities across all 50 states. Connecting to college campuses along the way has been a big part of her journey.

“We are in a very critical time that requires educators, administrators and college communities to create a more inclusive environment for Native American students,” Wilbur says in her Project 562 plan. “By engaging in this social art project, students will have the opportunity to, a) organize, b) have their voices heard on campus, and c) elevate the consciousness and encourage the social paradigm shift to acknowledge the contemporary indigenous reality.”

That’s music to the ears of Miller, a 1989 Lawrence graduate who teaches ethnic studies courses in Native identity, history, and culture and works with Native American students on campus as a faculty advisor to the LUNA (Lawrence University Native Americans) student organization.

This community — on campus and beyond — needs to know that Native culture is alive, vibrant, intelligent, resilient, and moving forward, she said.

“I learned of her work a few years ago,” Miller said of Wilbur. “I saw her mission. I’ve been an educator for many years, and when I saw the beauty of what she was doing, substituting the historical distortions and fixed images of the past for the truth about our people, raising visibility for the historic erasure that has happened, sharing the many parts of our culture that often don’t make it into the history books, that inspired me.

“Her message is that we are resilient and we are strong and that we’re reclaiming our own narrative. She’s really aiming to share that part of our story, as opposed to one that popular American culture often believes is dead or invisible. As indigenous people, we are interrupting the settler narrative of the past, embracing our present and ensuring the future for our children. We are moving, we are shaking, we are scholars, we are artists — the sky is the limit for us.”

Wilbur recently teamed with Adrienne Keene, a member of the Cherokee Nation, to launch a new podcast, All My Relations, now live on iTunes, Spotify and Googleplay. It’s an extension of Project 562 in many ways, aimed at exploring relationships and issues important to Native people.

“I see her as a change agent,” Miller said. “Heads are turning.”

A reflection of who we are

At Lawrence, in the week leading up to the convocation address, Wilbur will work closely with Native students and allies to bring the outdoor mural to fruition. They’ll start with a workshop on photography and the important role of art in social justice, focused on how they can document the lives of indigenous people ethically and respectfully.

A group of students will then join Wilbur on visits to nearby reservation lands, where they’ll meet with tribal members, take photos, and participate in a seasonal longhouse ceremony. They’ll use the photos in the creation of a collage that will form the core of a mural to be installed using wheat paste on the outside north wall of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center.

The mural, a non-permanent installation expected to remain visible for two to five years, will be unveiled following the 11:10 a.m. convocation on April 11.

“It means a lot to me that this convocation and art installation will show the beauty and forward-thinking of our culture,” Miller said. “It means more than one can imagine for our current Native students. It’ll be the first time we’ve had contemporary Native American artwork on the side of one of our buildings. Our indigenous students will see themselves reflected back for the first time ever.”

In her convocation address, Wilbur will discuss Project 562 and takeaways from her interactions with Lawrence students, the visits to area tribal lands and the creation of the mural.

Beth Zinsli, an assistant professor of art history who chaired this year’s Public Events Committee, said the invitation to Wilbur is part of a rethinking of convocation.

“In addition to our excitement about bringing an indigenous woman to campus for this honor, the Public Events Committee was interested in expanding what Lawrence’s convocation series could be — does a convo have to be a single, stand-alone lecture, or can its significance extend beyond the speaker’s visit and have a more lasting and visible impact?” she said. “I think Matika’s residency and the mural will be an excellent example of this.” 

The convocation will include a traditional Menominee flutist and an Oneida drum/dance group. There also will be an opening invocation spoken in the Menominee language by Dennis Kenote, chairman of the Menominee Nation Language and Culture Commission. That, too, is hopeful, a reflection of understanding and acceptance that hasn’t always been felt by Native communities on college campuses, Miller said.

“I hope this entire experience opens up the door to further meaningful conversations between cultures,” Miller said. “And I hope it attracts more Native students, faculty, and staff to our campus. I hope it raises visibility about the importance of the deeper cultural knowledge that indigenous people inherently bring to a college campus.

“I want Lawrence to be perceived as a welcoming place for Native students, families, and communities. We do welcome an indigenous presence here — students, faculty, local tribal members. Our doors are open to you. I want our people to know that.”

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

Spring Convocation

What: Convocation featuring Matika Wilbur, creator and director of Project 562, Changing the Way We See Native America

When: 11:10 a.m. April 11; unveiling of mural on campus to follow.

Where: Lawrence Memorial Chapel

Cost: Free

2019-20 Performing Arts Series loaded with impressive, creative talent

From a legendary guitarist who has delivered transformative performances for decades to a rising trumpet virtuoso who is already hailed as one of her generation’s best, the lineup for Lawrence University’s 2019-20 Performing Arts Series is stacked with impressive talent.

The lineup was announced Monday, with season tickets immediately going on sale for the Artist Series, the Jazz Series or a compilation of four shows from either of the series. Single show tickets will go on sale Sept. 17. All performances will be in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. For more information, call the Lawrence Box Office at 920-832-6749 or email boxoffice@lawrence.edu.

Artist Series

Portrait of four members of Brooklyn Rider
Brooklyn Rider

Brooklyn Rider, 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, 2019: With a focus on healing, this string quartet has been drawing rave reviews from classical, world and rock circles. They’ll be performing their new project, Healing Modes, a nod to the healing properties of music. It’s a return visit to Lawrence for the talented foursome.

“Their captivating performances often include collaborations with musicians from outside the classical music sphere” said Samantha George, associate professor of music with the Lawrence Conservatory of Music. “During their last visit to Lawrence, they performed with kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor and offered a master class to our students that focused on chamber music skills, improvisation, and extended string techniques. I am thrilled that we will have the chance to hear them play and work with them again next season.”

Portrait of Tine Thing Helseth
Tine Thing Helseth

Tine Thing Helseth, 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, 2020: The Norwegian trumpet virtuoso has quickly risen in stature, her intensity and enthusiasm garnering her rock star status. She has been hailed as one of today’s foremost trumpet soloists, at ease playing Bach and Haydn but also incorporating arrangements from the likes of Puccini and 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,” said John Daniel, associate professor of trumpet. “I would be happy to listen to her practicing scales or long tones.”

Portrait of Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe
Anderson & Roe Piano Duo

Anderson & Roe Piano Duo, 8 p.m. Friday, April 3, 2020: Known for their adrenalized performances, original compositions, and must-see music videos, Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe bring high energy to the piano duo experience. The Miami Herald referred to them as “rock stars of the classical music world.” They performed at Lawrence several years ago.

“The Anderson & Roe Piano Duo always give exciting and inventive performances,” said Michael Mizrahi, associate professor of music. “We are thrilled to be welcoming them back to Lawrence.”

Portrait of Melody Moore
Melody Moore

Melody Moore, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 18, 2020: A soprano who has played some of the world’s leading stages, Moore is drawing plenty of notice. Opera News called her “a revelation.” Her resume during the past year has included performances with the Houston Grand Opera and the Los Angeles Opera, and she is set to record a solo album of American music for Pentatone Records.

“I am so thrilledto know that my friend and colleague will be visiting Lawrence to present what I know will be a phenomenal recital,” said John Holiday, assistant professor of voice in the Conservatory of Music. “I first met Melody Moore in 2015 at the Glimmerglass Festival, where she made an explosive role debut as Lady Macbeth. We met each other and have been inseparable as buddies. Not only is she the consummate artist, but she is kind, thoughtful, engaging and fiercely talented.

“The beauty in combination with the ferocity with which she sings is something that is mind-blowing to witness. Buckle up, Lawrentians, because we are in for an amazing treat.” 

Jazz Series

Side-by-side photos of Lawrence Jazz Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra.
Lawrence Jazz Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra

Lawrence University Studio Orchestra, part of Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, 2019: A special event combining sounds of the Jazz Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra with featured performances by members of the jazz faculty. Works include music by Fred Sturm, Chuck Owen, Duke Ellington, and more. More than 100 performers will showcase music that integrates jazz, improvisation and the beautiful sonorities of the orchestra.

Portrait of Miguel Zenon
Miguel Zenon

Miguel Zenon Quartet, part of Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019: Miguel Zenon is a multiple Grammy nominee. He’s considered one of the most groundbreaking and influential saxophonists of his generation. He also has developed a recognized voice as a composer and as a conceptualist, focused on a mix of Latin American folkloric music and jazz. A native of San Juan, he has released 11 albums under his own name while also working with a bevy of jazz innovators.

“His music honors two traditions — jazz and the traditional folkloric elements of Puerto Rico,” said Jose Encarnacion, assistant professor of music and director of jazz studies. “Every single album tells a complete, beautiful story that reflects a unique musical personality through contemporary arranging, creative imagination and improvisation.”

Portrait of Bill Frisell with Hank Roberts, Luke Bergman and Petra Haden
Bill Frisell with Hank Roberts, Luke Bergman and Petra Haden

Bill Frisell: Harmony featuring Petra Haden, Hank Roberts, and Luke Bergman, 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, 2020: Frisell has carved out a prolific career as a guitarist, composer, and arranger, showing extraordinary range and depth. His work is rooted in jazz but incorporates elements of blues and other popular American music traditions. The Grammy winner has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, filmmakers, and painters through the years.

“The way he moves complex harmonic voicings and linear phrases on the guitar with seamless sophistication is unparalleled,” Encarnacion said. “I personally love everything about his music, especially his collaborations with John Zorn and the Paul Motian’s group.”

Portrait of Tigran Hamasyan
Tigran Hamasyan

Tigran Hamasyan Trio, 8 p.m. Friday, May 1, 2020: The pianist and composer is called one of the most remarkable and distinctive jazz-meets-rock pianists of his generation. A piano virtuoso with groove power, his most recent recording was 2017’s An Ancient Observer, his eighth release as a sole leader.

“I really enjoyed listening to his original compositions and improvisations, which are beautifully influenced and fused with the rich folkloric music of Armenia,” Encarnacion said. “Tigran is definitely one of the most remarkable and distinctive jazz piano virtuosos of his generation.” 

“Breathe,” an opera performed in the water, ready for its debut at Lawrence

A photo link to video of "Breathe" rehearsal at the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool.
Take a sneak peek at what “Breathe: a multi-disciplinary water opera” will look like this weekend in Lawrence University’s Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool. It will be performed Saturday and Sunday.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Odds are, you haven’t seen anything like this before.

Yes, it’s an opera performance. And, yes, many of the usual expectations are there — there are opera singers and percussionists, trumpets, a cello, even a flute. There are dancers and a keyboardist and a bass player. Tuxedos will be worn. 

But there’s a twist.

The stage? Well, it’s a swimming pool. A fully functioning swimming pool.

Welcome to Breathe: a multi-disciplinary water opera, set to be staged this weekend at the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool at Lawrence University. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“When we normally consider the arts, we put it on a stage and we sit, and there it is,” said Loren Kiyoshi Dempster, the composer and musical director for the production. “But here the audience is going to interact in a much different way.”

The mastermind behind Breathe is Gabriel Forestieri, a Boston-based choreographer and director who teamed with Dempster two years ago to stage the water opera at Middlebury College in Vermont. He, along with Dempster and author and visual artist Adrian Jevicki, will try to bring that same magic to the pool at Lawrence this weekend, an invitation that came from Margaret Sunghe Paek, who is married to Dempster, is an instructor of dance in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and curates the Lawrence Dance Series.

“I saw the video of them in the water,” Paek said. “I said, ‘We need to bring that here to Lawrence. We need to bring some version of that here.”

It’s taken two years, but it’s finally here. This version is heavier on musicians than the one at Middlebury, a nod to the diverse talents available courtesy of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

Unusual as it might be, it wasn’t a hard sell, Dempster said.

“With the conservatory here and the wealth of really great musicianship available and people who are really excited to try something different, you find there is a curiosity there,” Dempster said. “It’s really doubled in size.”

Gabriel Forestieri and Loren Kiyoshi Dempster float in the water while performing "Breathe."
Gabriel Forestieri and Loren Kiyoshi Dempster will reunite for “Breathe,” a water opera.

Innovative opera nothing new at Lawrence: Mass broke down barriers

More on Lawrence Conservatory of Music here

There are more than 20 performers in the cast. Some are students from the conservatory, some from the college, some are athletes — including a diver — and some are professional dancers from the community.

“I saw a diver doing dives one day,” Paek said. “I went up to her and said, ‘Would you want to be in a water opera?’ And she’s in it. Things like that happened.”

That diver is Maddy Smith, a freshman biology major and member of the Lawrence swimming and diving team. It’s been a thrill, she said.

“I get to do diving in a different way, a more artistic way,” Smith said.

In the second to final scene, she’ll be on the board for seven dives. The biggest challenge, she said, is slowing everything down.

“They’ve been talking to me about how I need to slow down all of my dives and just kind of listen to the beat of the music and just go through it all at a slower tempo.”

Trial and error

Dempster said he had his doubts when Forestieri first broached the water opera idea. He had to go into the water to convince himself it was doable.

“Gabe was working with dancers and bringing them to the pool in Middlebury,” Dempster said. “The question was, can I make sound underwater or even play the cello underwater? So, I messed around with that, and eventually figured out that, yes, it kind of works. After a bunch of experimenting and reading and doing research, I found you can buy a hydrophone, something that would be used by a marine biologist to record whales or sounds of marine life, and you can use this to record playing underwater.

“I have this cheap cello, or strange-looking box cello, as I call it, that when you dunk it underwater, it still has enough air in it to create a resonator, so when I play on this hydrophone, it makes a sound of some kind. Definitely not like a regular cello. It has a very watery kind of sound.”

Safe to say, this isn’t like any cello recital you’ve been to.

“It very much has the effect of performance art,” said Dempster, an Appleton resident who teaches at Lawrence, has a private cello studio, and is a guest artist at Renaissance School for the Arts. “We wear our tuxedos and get in the water. There are always these different things happening. It evolves into a thing with singers and percussionists and trumpet players.”

Dancers use float belts as they rehearse for "Breathe" in the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool.
Dancers use float belts as they rehearse for “Breathe” in the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool. The water opera is set for 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Not all of the instruments are getting wet, of course. Some are played above the water. There’s even a kayak in one scene. Much of the musicianship and dancing takes place on the deck or on the water, but almost every cast member ends up in the water at some point, and the entire pool is basked in dramatic lighting.

The audience — restricted to no more than 250 or so because of limitations of the space — is encouraged to move around during the performance, best to experience a variety of angles.

“It’s really about transforming the space,” Paek said. “Gabriel’s hope is that people will go into the space and feel it and experience it differently. Even if they go swimming there every day, they’ll be aware and present in a new way.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge as showtime draws near has been getting in the needed rehearsals. This performance, as you might expect, comes with its own set of challenges.

“We can only rehearse when there are lifeguards,” Dempster said.

WATER OPERA

What: Breathe: a multi-disciplinary water opera

When: 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (March 30-31)

Where: Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool at Lawrence University

Admission: Free, but reservations are required by calling the Lawrence Box Office at 920-832-6749. Access is limited to about 250 people per performance.

12,000 Voices: A reading of “12 Angry Men” by 12 impassioned women






“It made me realize, oh my goodness, it’s about how important each of our voices are.”

Associate Professor of Theatre Arts
Kathy Privatt

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The voices of thousands of women will ring out from stages across the country from April 5 to 8, part of a nationwide effort to draw attention to the power of one’s voice when it comes to participating in the electoral process and speaking up for justice in the judicial system.

The 12,000 Voices project is an opportunity to push for voter registration — it’ll come on the heels of the April 2 election that has Wisconsinites voting on, among other things, a State Supreme Court justice as well as Court of Appeals and Circuit Court judges — and to remind people of the powerful responsibility that comes with being an American citizen, not the least of which is voting and jury duty.

In Appleton, the effort is being led by Lawrence University’s Kathy Privatt, the James G. Ethel M. Barber Professor of Theatre and Drama and associate professor of theater arts, and Maria Van Laanen, president of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

Privatt will direct a reading of 12 Angry Men, featuring 12 women from the Fox Cities in the roles of the jurors, set for 3 p.m. April 6 in the Kimberly-Clark Theatre inside the Fox Cities PAC.

It will be one of many such readings taking place at performance centers, college campuses, high schools and community centers across the country during that four-day period.

12 Angry Men focuses on a single juror who stands up for a defendant he believes is about to be wrongfully convicted. The film was released in 1957, 16 years before the last of the 50 states allowed women to serve on juries. The message in these readings with all-female casts — the dream is to eventually get 12,000 women involved — is about embracing all of our responsibilities as citizens.

“It’s about how we live our lives, and in this case, how we live our political lives,” Privatt said. “But in a completely nonpartisan way. We live in a democracy. That means that jury duty is important. It means that voting is important, that that’s part of being an American.”

Kathy Privatt and Maria Van Laanen hold a 12,000 Voices sign.
Kathy Privatt (left) and Maria Van Laanen are leading the “12,000 Voices” effort in Appleton.

In the movie, which would later debut as a Broadway play in 2004, the holdout juror in a murder case raises his voice for justice against intense pressure from his jury peers.

“It made me realize, oh my goodness, it’s about how important each of our voices are,” Privatt said of the classic film. “And that that’s what democracy rests on, that we’re willing to engage with our voices, that we’re willing to be in conversation with each other.”

Van Laanen, who spearheaded local participation in the project, will be in the cast, joined by 12 other women (12 as jurors, one as the guard), all in local leadership positions:

Kimberly Barrett, vice president for diversity and inclusion and associate dean of faculty at Lawrence

Becky Bartoszek, president and CEO of the Fox Cities Chamber

Tracy Bauer, music director and teacher at Mishicot High School

Lisa Cruz, president of Red Shoes PR

Alison Fiebig, corporate communications manager of U.S. Venture

Karen Laws, longtime community leader and philanthropist

Lisa Malek, co-host and producer at WFRV-TV

Linda Morgan-Clement, the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life at Lawrence

Karen Nelson, diversity coordinator for the City of Appleton

Colleen Rortvedt, director of the Appleton Public Library

Jennifer Stephany, executive director of Appleton Downtown Inc.

Christina Turner, president of the Trout Museum of Art and the Building for the Arts.

Maria Van Laanen, president of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

The 12 Angry Men reading with an all-female cast was first done in New York a year ago. It drew such a buzz that organizers floated the idea of stretching it across the country.

“When I heard talk in New York about this program and what it achieved when it was done a year ago, and the fact that they were going to try to make it a nationwide effort, it just really rang true to me,” Van Laanen said. “It is so important that we understand that one voice does make a difference, and we need to make sure we are finding a place where we can speak our mind and yet be open to being influenced by other people.

“And 12 Angry Men is a great example of that. You have 12 people with divergent views coming in and really working through, conversationally, how you discuss differing views, and then take that information and find a consensus.”

The League of Women Voters is partnering with the Appleton effort. Attendees will have an opportunity to register to vote or confirm their voter registration information at the April 6 event.

These are fractious political times. Advocating for participation in the process, for sharing your voice in constructive conversation, for raising your hand to participate is part of the message coming from the 12,000 Voices project.

“One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Tennessee Williams when he talks about theater being truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion,” Privatt said. “To me, that’s the heart of theater right there. Whatever it is, whether it’s a happy story or a sad story, whether it’s a rip-you-to-shreds kind of story, once we put it into the fictional, all of a sudden, it’s a little bit more palatable. And this feels like one of those moments where we can absolutely use the pleasant disguise of illusion to talk about something that is really central to who we are as a nation, and who we perhaps aspire to be.”

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

On Stage

What: 12 Angry Men, a reading performed by 12 impassioned women, part of the nationwide 12,000 Voices project

When: 3 p.m. Saturday, April 6

Where: Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, downtown Appleton

Cost: Free (RSVP on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/400996640712037/ or at http://foxcitiespac.com/events-tickets/tickets/events/12,000-voices

More information on 12,000 Voices: https://12000voices.com/

Career Communities launched to better connect students with fields of interest

Lawrence students participate in last year's edition of "The Pitch."
Whether participating in “The Pitch” (here in 2018) or connecting with alumni in your field of interest or applying for internships, Career Communities will provide connections for Lawrence students.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Finding internships and other career opportunities, connecting with alumni in fields of interest and being part of conversations with others on similar career paths just got easier for Lawrence University students.

New Career Communities — an online resource guide divided into eight groupings of related fields or potential career interests — are being publicly rolled out to Lawrence University students as the spring term begins.

The Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement (CLC) has been prepping the Career Communities in recent weeks in anticipation of the spring rollout, part of a heightened effort focused on making sure all Lawrence students are job-market ready when they graduate and are connected to valuable resources as they prepare for life after Lawrence.

“For the first time, we’ve pulled all the resources the university has that support a particular career area and put them all online in a very easy-to-use fashion,” said Anne Jones, interim dean of the CLC.

Does a liberal arts education prepare you for today’s job market? Mellon Foundation report says yes.

The Career Communities are not tied to a particular major. Instead, they’re set up in broader career industry teams. The eight communities include:

Career Communities came out of recommendations from the recent Life After Lawrence study. Staff in the CLC then worked with faculty to develop the eight Career Communities based on job market trends and student interests.

“It’s not meant to be, ‘I’m an English major, what can I do with an English major?’” Jones said. “It’s meant to be more, ‘I’m interested in the area of health care, what does Lawrence have going on or what can they connect me to that will help me validate whether that’s the right career for me or help me get some experience? If I am interested, what can I do to help get myself to be more competitive in the job market or in the graduate school application process?’”

In addition to being a resource for the students, the Career Communities should provide better guidance for faculty, coaches and staff as they work with students on career possibilities, Jones said.

Among the points of interest that are a click away in each of the communities are references to popular jobs in that field, internships, alumni contacts, research and volunteer experiences, student organizations, funding opportunities, upcoming events and links to relevant courses or other academic information.

Students do not have to stick to just one of the Career Communities. Exploration is part of the process.

“We hope students will explore multiple communities that align with their interests, goals and post-graduation plans,” Jones said.

Acclaimed TV, theater director to return to Lawrence as Commencement speaker

Lee Shallat Chemel ’65

A Lawrence University alumna who paved an impressive 40-year career in theater, film, and television will return to campus on June 9 as the 2019 Commencement speaker.

Lee Shallat Chemel, a 1965 graduate who first attended Milwaukee-Downer College before transferring to Lawrence when the two schools merged, spent much of her career directing such notable television comedies as “Family Ties,” “Murphy Brown,” “Mad About You,” “Northern Exposure,” “Spin City,” “The George Lopez Show,” “Arrested Development,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” “Gilmore Girls,” and, most recently, “The Middle.” Her list of directing credits includes more than 500 episodes on more than 90 TV series or specials, from her debut with “Family Ties” in 1984 to her work on “The Middle” in 2018.

She is a four-time individual Emmy Award nominee for directing — three prime time, one daytime.

Details here on 2019 Commencement events at Lawrence

Chemel graduated from Lawrence with a bachelor’s degree in English, magna cum laude, in 1965. She later earned master’s degrees in Asian theater and education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a master of fine arts in acting from the University of Washington’s Professional Acting Training Program. She was an East Asian Languages Fellow at the University of Michigan.

She then taught in public schools in Norwalk, Connecticut, Racine, Wisconsin, and Seattle, Washington, before launching a career in theater.

Chemel received five L.A. Drama Critics Awards for directing in theater.

As a professional theater director, she worked at theaters across the country including the Alley Theatre in Houston, Trinity Rep in Providence, Rhode Island, The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and South Coast Repertory in Orange County, California, where she worked for more than 10 years, also serving as Conservatory director.

She has served as a member of the California Arts Council and on the Liberty Hill Foundation Grants Board, as well as board positions in the Directors Guild of America.

“Lee Shallat Chemel’s successful career as a director of theater, television, and film provides a wonderful example for our graduating class,” said Mark Burstein, president of Lawrence University. “Her passion for and understanding of culture, humor, and current society makes her one of the leading entertainers of our generation. We look forward to celebrating this alumna’s accomplishments at Commencement this spring.”

Chemel mixed her theater successes with a robust career in television. She had a hand in directing episodes in some of the most iconic series in television history, and working with some of the leading actors and actresses of the past 30 years. Her stint with “Gilmore Girls” included the title of co-executive producer as well as director. She also worked as a producer on “The Nanny” and “Happily Divorced,” and she was director on a pair of TV movies.

In addition to her Emmy nominations, she was the recipient of three BET Awards for outstanding direction in comedy and two Humanitas Prize Awards.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, David, a retired actor and teacher. Their daughter, Lizzy, is a graduate of Bard College and an artist living in Brooklyn, N.Y. Their son, Tucker, is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California.

The June 9 Commencement will mark Lawrence University’s 170th. 

Commencement exercises will begin at 10 a.m. at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, located several blocks to the west of campus in downtown Appleton.