Students take charge in new theatre endeavor

By KATHERINE FOREMAN

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players—or so Belmont University now contends.

It’s evident in the university’s first all-campus theatre production group, bringing together students of various majors and courses of study in the pursuit of a common passion.

The idea for Student Theatre @ Belmont University, the campus’ first theatre organization open to the entire community of students, originated in January 2012, when senior Ryan Brennan was brainstorming a proposal for his honors thesis project.

“Working with the honors program pushed me toward finding a senior thesis that gave back to the university and its community,” says Brennan.

However, simply giving back to the community was not the only driving force behind Brennan’s endeavor. 

“I came to Belmont as an AET [Audio Engineering Technology] major. I was surprised to find how limited my opportunities were in being involved with theatre on campus without at least minoring in it,” says Brennan.

“Once I was accepted into the musical theatre program I also found that it was very hard to work with my peers in the theatre department,” he added. “All of this pushed me into the mindset that eventually started this entire endeavor. I wanted to give musical theatre majors a chance to work on straight plays from both an acting and directing standpoint. Far more important than that, I wanted to create something that would allow anyone on campus to act in a mainstage production regardless of major.”

EVERYONE WELCOME

The organization includes students from both the musical theatre and theatre departments, as well as those from other majors, such as entertainment industry studies.

“I have been involved in STBU since I heard of it earlier this semester,” says entertainment industry studies major Ava Puckett. “I have been missing the theater world for a while, so I am thrilled that Ryan has started this organization on campus. I think many people would love to be involved in the organization since it seems to be the only theater group available for not theater majors. It has meant a lot to me, since I hope to be involved in film some day.”

“I would encourage everyone with even the slightest interest in theatre to get involved with STBU,” says performance major and organization actor Blair Allison. “I know a lot of people who did theatre in high school but aren’t majors who are aching to be a part of something. This organization is the perfect opportunity for them. Here they can still grow as artists and even learn from one another.”

The creative team behind STBU has been hard at work since the second week of the semester developing the organization’s first main-stage production, which is set to open this weekend.

“After auditions, acting rehearsals began Sept. 22 with table work. We got into full swing on our feet rehearsing four-five times a week since our master class from an outside professional actor Eric Pasto-Crosby on Oct. 1,” says Brennan. “I think it’s safe to say we mounted this production in a little over a month.”

The team’s goal for the first show was, in the words of Brennan, to produce “something that people want to talk about.” Partnering with Belmont Bridge Builders, an organization on campus dedicated to creating a community for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students and faculty, STBU’s first production is a modern work titled “Stop Kiss,” which centers on the relationship between two women.

“I don’t want this play to come across as an immature rebellion over the controversy of our former soccer coach,” says Brennan. “This is an opportunity to mount work that is beautiful, gains attention, and that will cause ethical and moral discourse. 

ADDING A NEW TWIST

Putting a modern spin on the preconceived notion of theatre and getting the community interested is a goal to which STBU is equally dedicated.

“Theatre is not a dying art form,” says Brennan. “I have nothing against the classics, but my generation specifically does not seem to have as much an interest in theatre. We’re putting up works that are going to show the community that theatre is topical, realistic, and contemporary. Having non-majors in our productions helps this. When someone who doesn’t usually see Belmont’s musicals or theatre department shows comes to see their friend and they see that theatre like this not only exists but that it is available for them to be a part of then I feel that I’ve done my job.”

STBU member and actor Rose Eichhorn shares Brennan’s viewpoint, saying “The organization means a lot to me because we will be doing shows that inspire people and make them think about certain issues that people in our own community are facing. I think it is important to bring that kind of awareness, and the fact that we can do that with an art form that I love is incredible.”

In Brennan’s eyes, the success and outreach of the organization will be largely “determined by the will of its members,” and a successful provocation of the audience.

“My last semester is dedicated to making sure this organization does not start and end with me. I will drive the organization as far as I can. Those students who express an interest in mounting additional shows, starting improv groups, giving masterclasses, and other things of that nature will drive it even farther,” says Brennan. 

“I think that STBU will get a pretty large following once the show is performed. The crucial character in theatre is the audience, and I think we’ll definitely bring one in. Once word spreads I’m sure people will want to get involved. I can see Belmont’s community paying more attention to the theatre scene, and realizing that theatre can be for anyone,” says STBU vice president, producer, set designer, and technical director Bekah Reimer.

 “This may sound corny, but I hope that the students will not only enjoy the performances, but have an open dialogue about what they make them think about and feel,” adds Reimer.

As the organization grows, Brennan hopes to branch beyond the occasional show and create a wide array of opportunities for students with a passion or interest in theatre. 

“I hope to grow this organization far beyond one annual show. I mentioned more shows, improv groups, master classes and things of that nature. All of these things are determined by the interest of our members. In the future, I hope the organization will grow to put on musicals, straight plays, read original works, ten minute film festivals, and eventually give back to the community in any way we can,” says Brennan.

Student Theatre @ Belmont University welcomes all students with no charge of fees or membership applications. Members are expected to attend 75 percent of all meetings.

“I want STBU to be something that continues after its founders have graduated,” says Blair Allison. “It’s a wonderful outlet for people in the theatre and musical theatre departments (and other non majors) to work together and meet new people that they wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s how it is in the real world. You are never cast with a tight knit group of people you know.”

Brennan credits his team, which includes Garrett Marx as treasurer, Jordan Gonzalez as secretary, and Adrienne Ervin as PR head, as “the unsung heroes of all [his] work,” and insists that “none of this would be possible without the insurmountable work done by my creative team and officers of the organization.”

Africa study program puts at-risk kids first

By LANE SASSER

The Belmont School of Religion will be sponsoring the sixth edition of Belmont in Africa in May.

The three-week study abroad trip will have students serving and learning in Gaborone, Botswana and Cape Town, South Africa. The time spent from May 5-23 will earn students six academic credit hours.

The trip is recommended for juniors, with third year writing and junior-level religion being the offered courses. Dr. Mark McEntire of Belmont’s religion department and Dr. Charmion Gustke of the English department will be supervising.

The Kamogelo Orphans and Vulnerable Children Project is one organization Belmont will be working with and has served with in the past. It is a large school and daycare facility for children in Gaborone.

 “Many of them are orphaned – some are not – but their parents are affected by HIV and AIDS,” said McEntire, the trip organizer. “We’re there to help the teachers out, give them a little bit of a break, give the students a little bit of a change from their normal routine and do some craft and recreational activities.”

Working at Kamogelo was the highlight of the trip for junior Shelley Mills, who went last May. She found friendship with a shy 5-year-old girl named Thuto.

“The whole week we were there she clung to my hip and the very last day before we left she looked at me and told me she loved me,” said Mills. “Totally cheesy, but to gain a bond with a child that doesn’t normally do that blessed me beyond measure.”

After seven days in Gaborone, the remainder of the excursion will be spent in Cape Town. One day between travels, students will visit Robben Island off the coast of South Africa to go on a safari.

“There are some cultural, historical and entertainment aspects to the trip, as well as community service,” said McEntire.

While in Cape Town, students will be able to try their hand at preparing African dishes. A cooking class will be taught by a woman who specializes in cuisine from Cape Malay, a distinctive cultural region in South Africa.

“She does a class where you come in, learn, prepare the meal and eat it with her,” said McEntire. “That’s a new foot into a cultural area we haven’t done before.”

Students will also be serving through African Encounters in South Africa, helping with the needs of communities impacted by apartheid. Under the apartheid policy in South Africa, people were put into different living areas based on their race.

“There is still a lot of segregated housing and living arrangements in South Africa and a lot of underserved neighborhoods because they’ve been racially segregated,” said McEntire. “They’ve been fenced off, put on to very poor land when they were relocated, so there’s a lot of need for them to have community development done.”

Learning and experiencing the effects of apartheid was one of the most interesting parts of the trip for Mills.

“I discovered why our culture doesn’t mesh as well with their culture and how to break some of those bonds to form new friendships,” said Mills. “I was given a new outlook on how to work with, accept and befriend those of other cultures.”

Up to 23 students can go and applications are due to Belmont’s study abroad office by mid-January, provided there is still space available.

Special needs take backseat at Halloween carnival

By CATIE BENENSON

Belmont’s Patton Hall sponsored a special Halloween carnival at Harris-Hillman school for special needs on Oct. 22.  

Toni Tan, a 19-year-old a sophomore RA in Patton, came up with the idea of the carnival.  A resident of Nashville, sponsoring a service event at Harris-Hillman was something she had wanted to do since high school.

According to Harris-Hillman’s website, Harris-Hillman is a school that serves students with multiple disabilities who come across the Metro Nashville-Davidson Country area. 

“I was always too caught up in organizations and clubs at my high school, but when I came to Belmont, I knew I wanted to organize a service project at Harris-Hillman,” Tan said.

During RA training in early August, Amber, the resident director of Patton, asked Tan if she had any ideas for service projects for the upcoming year. Tan shared her idea of a carnival at Harris-Hillman.  

“Amber was really enthusiastic about it,” Tan said. “We started planning the carnival together.” 

For three months, Tan met with faculty members at Harris-Hillman, came up with activities and games that the special needs children could participate in, printed flyers for her residents in Patton and organized transportation and shifts of volunteers.

More than 60 students signed up to help Tan with the carnival.  Volunteers were asked to dress in their favorite Halloween attire.  Students also received convocation credits for their service. 

The carnival took place in the school’s gym, where Tan and the residents of Patton built multiple activity booths for the children. Throughout the day, 120 children piled into the gym during their P.E. time slot, visiting each booth and interacting with Belmont students.

“I was stationed at the ‘mystery boxes booth’,” said Caitlyn Porayko, a resident of Patton hall who wore her Cinderella dress while volunteering.  “At the mystery boxes booth, the children placed their hand in a shoe box with items such as spaghetti as “dead man’s hair,” grapes as eyeballs and popcorn kernels as teeth.  The kids were able to use their sense of touch, and they had a blast feeling the items in the boxes.” 

Belmont students supervised other activity booths such as “pumpkin plates,” where the children decorated orange paper plates to hang on their wheel chairs.  There was also a Wii dance station and a small inflatable pool for the children to grab apples.  Belmont students handed out a wide variety of prizes such as coloring books, bubbles, figurines and toys.

Tan said that the service project was no easy task.  While some of the younger children were cheerful and hyper, many of the older children were aggressive, over stimulated and strong.

“One group of older children came and was not allowed to touch anything on the tables because they would most likely throw and break the items,” Tan said.  “The children couldn’t verbally communicate very well, but they could nod or shake their heads when answering my questions.  One child didn’t know how to react, so he grabbed my hand and bit me.”

Although eight hours of service was sometimes a challenge, Tan said that the Belmont students and Harris-Hillman students were “smiling, laughing and having a great time.” 

“I sometimes take my life for granted,” Tan said.  “Being around the children at Harris-Hillman reminds me to be patient and to open my eyes to how I should cherish the moments I get to interact with them.  I want to incorporate special needs with my nursing degree.” 

 Tan’s vision is to have the carnival at Harris Hillman a tradition to the residents of Patton.

 “I want it to be something annual,” Tan said.  “There are a lot of things to do and improve such as getting more people involved and maybe one day making it a Belmont tradition.”

Msic showcases: a shot at stardom?

By ALINA TICHACEK

How much you put into the Urban/Pop Showcase is how much you get out of it.

A spot in the showcase doesn’t mean an automatic record deal, but it does provide a great opportunity for one. With this year’s judging committee including current music industry professionals such as a manager, a publishing company and a booking agency, there are plenty of networking possibilities.

In addition, the winner of this year’s Urban/Pop Showcase, Rayvon Owen, won a free music video from Our Vinyl, a professional production company.

Past showcase participants-turned-professional-successes include Apache Relay, a band formed by Belmont students. Some of the band members performed in past showcases and are now opening for the likes of Mumford & Sons.

Other acts, however, haven’t always seen later commercial success result from their showcase appearance.

“Bands have gotten record deals, but it’s not directly related,” said Lucas Boto, the Curb College Showcase Series adviser. “The bands that do the best have a history of performing or are well-rehearsed.”

This year the Urban/Pop Showcase started its first round of auditions more than a month before the actual showcase, requiring applications with sample recordings to be submitted by Sept. 22. For the applicants, though, preparation starts much sooner than that deadline.

Most of the bands have a musical background and have been playing all of their lives, said Showcase Producer Sean Fallon. But as Boto was quick to point out, sometimes the students with the most experience and outside success don’t even make it into the showcase, while those with little to no experience do get chosen.

Emmanuel Echem, a freshman trumpet player and one of this year’s performers, said he had never played with a commercial group before.

His past experience includes concert, marching, pep, and jazz bands, but never a commercial music group unaffiliated with a school. Still, he practices one to two hours per day in addition to four to five hours of ensemble rehearsal and/or performance, making him no stranger to the value of preparation.

Echem wasn’t planning on being a part of the Urban/Pop Showcase until the band Bluejays asked him to be a part of the horn section in their original song “I Got My Swag.” After daily rehearsals with the band, it was time for the live audition round.

From all of the applicants, only 10 bands were selected to participate in live auditions. These 10 bands auditioned at the Curb Café on Oct. 6 in front of a panel of judges.

The judges then selected four groups to perform in the Urban/Pop Showcase on Oct. 26. Bluejays was one of them.

This is a huge accomplishment for those selected, but transitioning from a small group of judges to a huge crowd is a big step. Despite never having performed in front of a crowd as big as that of the showcase, Echem said he didn’t get nervous.

“You just have to block it out because it’s distracting,” said Echem.

Sometimes, even good preparation doesn’t guarantee a spot in the showcase. Many applicants were turned down because judges deemed their genre didn’t fit perfectly.

Although the name implies only urban or pop acts are allowed, that isn’t always the case. The applicable genres are “open to interpretation” each year, said Fallon.

If the band could fit into the Christian, rock or country genres, the band is often passed over because its members will have another chance in be in the other showcases. This includes bands with Christian lyrics to their urban or pop songs and those who could cross genres, such as pop rock or country pop bands.

Other bands may not even fit into the urban/pop category, but are still selected since they don’t fit into the other showcase genres. Bluejays, who Fallon calls a “folk” band, were one such band that made it through auditions despite the seemingly incompatible genre.

In the end, the qualifications required of those selected to perform is “debatable,” said Fallon. The industry professionals always have the last say on what makes a band a good fit for the Urban/Pop Showcase.

Welcome to Media Writing I

You have landed on the website/blog for MDS 1130.01 Media Writing I. Greetings from Thom Storey, the instructor this semester. I am a veteran reporter and editor, college educator and current chair of the Media Studies Department.

This site features examples of solid journalistic writing by students enrolled in Fall 2012.

Theatre’s Bill Feehely partners for ‘juicy’ new role

By KATHERINE FOREMAN

A faculty member in the Belmont University Department of Theatre and Dance is cultivating a role of expansive proportions.

 Bill Feehely, assistant professor of acting and directing, founding artistic director of the Actors Bridge Ensemble, and member of the Actors Equity Association and The Dramatist Guild, is working on a new project this season. However, this endeavor does not involve hours of memorization, rehearsals and character development, or even a stage, for that matter.

 Feehely and his wife, Celeste Krenz, along with friend Lee Horrocks, all performers by profession, have merged their creativity, hard work and persistence into the entrepreneurial world. The Urban Juicer, the product of their collaboration, is expecting the opening of its first freestanding location on Dec. 15.

 “It is a fresh food company that is dedicated to creating healthy, high-quality whole food options for people who are interested in the newest insights into diet and nutrition,” says Krenz in regard to the mission of their store.

 “Right now, the way we’re eating is horrible,” says Feehely. “[The Juicer] focuses on a new trend in nutrition and diet.”

 Juicing is a cultivating health trend in the U. S. and has even made its way to the corporate world. According to a July 2012 issue of the New York Times, companies such as Merrill Lynch and Citigroup are beginning to adopt juice cleanse programs to strengthen corporate bonds.

 “Juicing has been around for a very long time but because of the nature of the process it has not ever been marketed in an accessible way to a mass audience,” said Krenz.  “In the past, it would have been challenging to find a juice that was consistent from location to location due to the fact that every juice outlet would have different concoctions.  The Urban Juicer juices are extremely consistent across the board and hopefully within the next 3 years, they will be available nationwide. We are the biggest juice company in Nashville at this time.”

PUTTING THEIR HEADS TOGETHER

The idea for The Urban Juicer was conjured amid casual conversation during which Horrocks discussed his experience with a 60-day juicing fast and the physical benefits that ensued as a result. That was when they knew, says Feehely.

 “We were all talking one night about how limited our choices were in Nashville for whole foods and wishing we had a really great juice bar,” remembers Krenz. “We became very enthused and within a week Lee had developed a website and we were on our way.”

The store’s first opening was in April, after the group was contacted a couple months prior about a small smoothie bar being sold in the YMCA of Bellevue. Within four months the company had expanded to two locations, the other in the YMCA of Green Hills.

 “A lot of this is serendipitous,” says a grateful Feehely, who added that all of the details seemed to fall right into place. “The response has been great.”

 For the past six months the partners have been working on new and innovative ways to make their store more accessible to the public, including the design of a phone app that can be used to preorder food and beverages.

 Their big step, however, is the opening of the first independent commercial location, which will face toward a steady flow of traffic on 8th Avenue South near Franklin Road. Construction for the new location began on Aug. 15.

“Eighth Avenue is a great location, close to Belmont and easy to get to. Lots of traffic, visible front, and has a commercial kitchen space,” boasts Krenz.

 Hoping to have six locations up and running by spring 2013, the partners have been hard at work perfecting their menu, functionality, and popularity in preparation for the ultimate goal of franchising. 

 “It’s kind of like going into a Starbucks,” says Feehely. “Our thing was, if we liked it, and thought it was worth putting on the menu, we did.”

 Feehely, who is juggling his entrepreneurial endeavors with a full-time faculty position, credits Horrocks and Krenz as the collaborative force behind the business’ successful infrastructure.

 “We all have a creative input,” says Feehely. “I am there as a sounding board to do the things that are necessary.”

 “[Bill and I] are enjoying the creative aspects of developing a company. Lee Horrocks is my actual business partner and runs the company on a day-to-day basis as well as developing product lines and implementing the business model,” says Krenz.

 “[He] has an instinctive grasp of marketing for the business and a personal passion for quality and excellence that has made this company successful so far. [He] really focuses on the functionality and efficiency of the workspace, [and] has an amazing eye for design and flow. At some point, as we franchise, my role will change but we have yet to see exactly how our team will grow,” she added.

 While Horrocks and Krenx are busy with the logistical side of things, Feehely has been busy promoting the store both on and off campus, and “trying to keep Celeste centered and calm.”

 “Bill is a pleasure to work with and never ceases to amaze me with his multi-level understanding of the connection between people and business,” says Krenz.

MAKING A BELMONT CONNECTION

Implementing the Belmont community into their progress is something that the brains behind The Urban Juicer are striving to do. Whether it’s through promoting it to students who visit the Y, employing Belmont students at their locations, or even possibly adding a Belmont student discount with the opening of their new location, generating a campus-wide interest and accessibility to students has been a priority.

 “It’s a really great atmosphere—the people are really nice,” says Belmont University senior Bekah Reimer. “I love working there, and have a lot of fun.”

 The new location is set to open in stages, with the new retail space expecting its grand opening on Dec. 15, and their newly-developed juice cleanse programs, which will provide customers with the amount of juices they will need daily to participate in a week-long physical detox, will be launched early next year. There has also been mention of catering healthy lunch alternatives to schools as the company expands.

 “Our juices and super food wraps and salads taste great, look amazing and contain absolutely no preservatives, fillers, or artificial sweeteners. We stand out because of our commitment to quality and service,” says Krenz.

 “Many juice stations, like the ones insider grocery stores, do not have specific recipes,” she added. Every time you get a juice it tastes different…sometimes good and sometimes terrible. Sometimes people read about certain ingredients and want the benefits of particular vegetables so they just toss things in together without knowing exactly what ‘works.’”

 “Our carefully crafted juice combinations give you the most amazing taste experience while enhancing your overall nutrition,” says Krenz. “Our produce is always super fresh and our juice staff is knowledgeable and extensively trained. We believe that juicing is an important part of detoxing, meeting nutritional needs and helping to maintain a healthy weight. Bottom line is, we have an amazing team.”

Libertarians mobilize

By SKYLER SCHMANSKI

A new on-campus organization is looking to make a huge impact at Belmont University.

Belmont’s chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) became the newest addition to the national libertarian activist coalition on Sept. 28.

With its official recognition by the university, the campus organization joins a network of more than 325 chapters nationwide.

“I was so excited,” said chapter Vice President Cassia Noelle. “We’ve put in plenty of work and time already trying to get this going, and it’s nice to see that pay off.”

Noelle said she shared the sentiments of other politically-estranged students before becoming active in YAL.

“I tend to be very politically-minded, but there wasn’t an organization at Belmont that represented my beliefs.”

It was then she discovered fellow libertarian Steven Rodriguez was attempting to establish an official chapter at the university. Rodriguez is credited with spearheading the initiative and has since become the chapter’s founder, president and event services coordinator.

Rodriguez said he saw Belmont’s student body had a significant interest in presidential candidate Ron Paul’s ideas during the Republican primaries and became motivated to channel these libertarian interests into an effective organization.

“I was wondering to myself; are these people going to live past the election cycle and see his ideas move on?” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to see if we could generate this sustaining interest in liberty rather than just through one election cycle.”

With the petitioning and approval process now complete, the organization is seeking to follow through on its major goals.

“We intend to get the word out about liberty and limited government, educate those who are interested, discourage political apathy and hold relevant events,” Noelle said. “I think one of our primary goals this semester is just to build up the club and get some enthusiastic, dedicated members.”

Although no meetings have been held since YAL gained official status, the leadership is projecting membership numbers based on students who indicated they would be interested in joining the libertarian group during the petitioning process.

Despite not having an actual figure, Rodriguez remains confident the club will flourish.

One of the key factors in attaining the desired participation is communicating and building connection with other chapters and liberty-based organizations off campus.

“I have to examine our university and see how we can tailor to its students’ interests and also look at the other chapters and see what they do that are more general and more successful in that sense,” said Rodriguez.

He is also considering working in conjunction with other Belmont organizations. One possibility is the independently-run right-of-center newspaper Right Aisle Review.Although he said he remains hesitant about forming a direct relationship with the paper due to ideological discrepancies, he expressed interest in seeing how it will play a role in YAL’s development.

Dr. Vaughn May, faculty adviser to the paper, expressed similar interest and said he was pleased with both the paper’s and YAL’s mutual ability to promote debate on both sides of the aisle.

“I figured Right Aisle Review might offer a publication outlet for some of the libertarians who I think will populate this YAL group,” May said.

On YAL’s end, this is predominantly due to Rodriguez’s commitment to maintain nonpartisanship and avoid any party affiliation. Education about the principles of liberty, he said, should be their foremost objective.

Rodriguez encourages students to explore what YAL has to offer, evoking the famous words of fifth-century B.C. philosopher Pericles: “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an intereste in you.”