All posts by Stephanie Miller

Elizabethtown College tells “Rats’ Tales” to Audiences of All Ages

If you ever attended your local library’s Children’s Story Time, you’ve seen Elizabethtown College’s production of “Rats’ Tales.” The one-act play features student actors going over the top to act out stories and often narrate themselves in over-the-top ways. The show is advertised for ages nine to 99, and coming after productions of Shakespeare and “Spring Awakening,” is something relatively new for Etown’s Fine and Performing Arts Department. But that is easy to forget, as “Rats’ Tales” is one of Etown’s most upbeat and entertaining production this year.

“Rats’ Tales,” written by Carol Ann Duffy and Melly Still, uses the well-known folktale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin as a frame story. When the Pied Piper takes the town’s children away, the parents cope by telling stories about childhood…and rats. Actors play multiple roles as citizens of Hamelin and characters in various stories.

Junior Tyler Rossi plays the Pied Piper and many other characters from a prince to a mysterious stranger, removing both the rats and the children from the town of Hamelin with his enchanting music. Overall, Rossi’s performances are the best of the show; he clearly has no problem making a fool of himself and makes each of his characters endearing in the few minutes he has to play them.

Another standout is the scene-stealing senior David Callahan, who high-knees his way through a story as Rossi’s butler, leaving the audience in stitches. Senior Katherine Campbell, in her final Etown show, is also notable, at one point playing a witch who comes into the audience. Even when she doesn’t change her acting much between stories and characters (which include a witch and a queen), it is easy to see that the stage is her happy place.

Also obviously happy to be performing is junior Anna Sorrentino, who unfortunately gives one of the less engaging performances of the night. She mostly goes through the motions, letting loose once while standing still during a story about a girl in a wooden dress. Junior Dante Sarracino, in his third Etown production, could also use some work; he shouts most of his lines and he’s usually angry, even when his characters are not.

Even though “Rats’ Tales” is a play, music is still used. Sophomore Sarah Lohrfink plays the flute, hitting a few noticeable wrong notes. Senior Suzie Al-Absi plays the guitar. I don’t know much about music, but to me these instruments could have blended together better. The actors’ singing was much better, as many of the actors have been in the school’s musicals. No song is ever longer than thirty seconds, starting with a hymn conveniently led by junior music major Francesca Artus in her first Etown production. Sorrentino sings the same rat-catching song Rossi sang in the play’s opening during a story in which she catches rats herself, uniting the stories and their frame.

The show features an intricate use of shadow work. Artus’s shadow is hilarious as a horse that’s obviously a human behind a screen, but the all-ages audience buys it. The rat cutouts are obviously on sticks, which is fine, but sometimes one could see the shadows of the hands controlling those rats, which is not fine. Still, the shadows were a fun and unique addition to the production, and techniques like one shadow growing while another shrinks perplexed the audience.

Most of the sound effects were generated by the actors themselves, including rats scurrying on the floor (actors crouching and tapping the ground). The actors also created some of the props using their bodies; Campbell mimes a pair of scissors by bending and swinging her arms together while saying “SNAP!”.

The sets required audiences to use their imaginations, as the stage was usually nearly bare, contributing to the story-time vibe. The same half-dozen benches, ladders and pieces of fabric were used over and over to make kitchens, staircases, rivers and even a fire.

Campbell and junior Tasha Lewis oversaw costumes. With actors playing so many characters in such a short time, the costumes had to be and were versatile. Senior Amber Mangabat begins the play as a cook and plays another one later, but this is a very different cook than the first one; her apron is tied to cover just her waist. Under Campbell’s witch cloak is the same dress she’s worn the whole show. Sorrentino wears the most story-specific piece; instead of wearing the four separate dresses her character does, her skirt is divided into four sections and she spins it when she needs a different dress.

Despite its simple theatrical elements, “Rats’ Tales” is an imaginative production. Director Terri Mastrobuono, adjunct professor of theatre, has created a production absorbing and genuinely entertaining enough that the audience can simply imagine any flubs away. In conclusion, no story is perfect, and “Rats’ Tales” is no exception, but the actors (and therefore the audience) get so into it that most subpar elements vanish as easily as those pesky rats.

Humans of Etown: Angela Wesneski

Elizabethtown College junior Angela Wesneski is more than the sum of her parts. A secondary math education major, Wesneski has made the most of her college career, getting involved by selecting the activities most important to her while planning for her future.

Leading the Flock

August will mark the start of Wesneski’s third year as a Peer Mentor at Etown. Sitting on a couch in the Blue Bean Café, she happily reflected on her experience with the program and speculated what next year will be like; the College reduced Peer Mentors from two per First-Year Seminar to one for the 2018-2019 year.

“I was a really big fan of the two Peer Mentor system, and not just because it’s fun to have friends, though it is really super fun to have friends,” Wesneski said.

In addition to Peer Mentoring professor of history Dr. Brain Newsome’s World War II class for three years, Wesneski took the class herself as a first-year. Wesneski is the only Peer Mentor she knows of to be involved with the same First-Year Seminar (FYS) for all four years.

“It’s because I’m special,” she said with a chuckle.

Still, she said she will miss having her peer partner, sophomore Aubrey Mitchell, there to help lessen the awkwardness of interacting with new first-years.

“It’s more difficult to be funny because we won’t have someone who’ll always laugh at you and diffuse any tension,” she said.

Even with all the changes, Wesneski is still interested to see how the program goes and looks forward to mentoring her group of first-years.

“This could be volunteer position and the good, caring Peer Mentors would still care and be there,” she said. “I know I would be.”

Dancing on Her Own

Wesneski danced (mostly ballet) for many years before coming to Etown. Her dance studio had a strong Christian foundation, so she and the other girls had a lot in common to begin with. She even credits the girls she danced with and her studio for getting her through high school.

“I spent most of my ‘how to be a person’ years learning how to be a person there,” Wesneski said.

When she got to college, the thought of dancing with people in a different context felt so weird that she didn’t dance in E-motion, Etown’s dance club, her freshman year.

Wesneski said that while she still loves dancing, she would rather choreograph a dance than participate as a dancer. However, students must dance in E-motion for one semester to be eligible to choreograph. Through a combination of preferring to choreograph, having an overall busy life and even questioning her leadership skills, Wesneski decided not to participate.

“I can remember times when I was in a position of power and didn’t do as well as I should have,” she said. “And I probably have moments that went wrong that I think went wonderfully. We all look at the past with rose-tinted glasses, right?”

Calculating the Future

To understand Wesneski’s attitude about math, one need only ask her about her Honors in the Discipline project; she’s using a combination of journals and creative projects to try to change students’ mindsets about math and whether they’re good at it.

“We’re going to make students like math,” she said. Wesneski will implement her curriculum while student-teaching next spring; she just needs a local teacher who will let her do it.

After college, Wesneski plans to work in an urban school north of Etown.

“I’ve looked at Boston or maybe New York,” she said. “I hate heat and heat hates me.”

She said she’s noticed urban students building good rapport with younger teachers and hopes to bring her enthusiasm for math and everything she does to her future classroom.

“I think an urban school the right place to be when I’m young and enthusiastic and don’t yet hate children,” she said with a laugh. “If those things ever aren’t true maybe I’ll have to leave, but for now, I think that’s where I belong.”

Humans of Etown: Dana Morykan

Elizabethtown College first-year Dana Morykan studies in the Schlosser Residence Hall lobby.

“My first memory is such a weird memory. It’s such a gross one too. I was six. And I don’t have a lot of memories from my childhood. But when I was six I ate an entire bag of Twizzlers. A little while later I was sitting on my couch and all of a sudden I just started running. And then I started throwing up in the middle of running. And that’s my earliest memory. It’s such a weird memory to remember. First my parents thought I was really sick and then they realized that I ate the whole bag of Twizzlers. They were like, ‘Why did you eat all of them?’ and I was like ‘They’re really good.’ It made perfect sense to me. But my parents just kept freaking out and started cleaning it up. While they were cleaning my mom looked at me and said, ‘You’re an idiot.’ And I said, ‘I know.'”

 

Click here for a video of first-year Ryan Runkle describing his favorite Etown memories.

Click here to hear from first-year Kelly Armstrong.

C. Thompson Scores Hundredth Goal in Loss to Marymount

Senior Carly Thompson, center,  runs down the field during Elizabethtown College’s recent women’s lacrosse game against Marymount University.

The highest jersey number on the Elizabethtown College women’s lacrosse team is 99, but senior Carly Thompson can go higher. Thompson scored her hundredth career goal Wednesday, Feb. 28 at Wolf Field as the women’s lacrosse team lost to Marymount University 18-13.

Thompson’s goal came with 14:34 left in the first half and tied the game at four points each. She didn’t know it was her hundredth goal at the time, but enjoyed the moment nonetheless.

“It was cool. It was shocking,” Thompson said after the game.

Thompson knew she was close to 100 goals at the end of last season, but became more focused on recovering than scoring after tearing her ACL last year. Now she is intent on playing as much and as well as she can during her final season.

“I was so proud of Carly,” senior Katie Thompson, C. Thompson’s twin sister and fellow lacrosse player, said in an email. “Reaching 100 goals isn’t just about this season, it’s a milestone for her entire career.”

The game started off on a good note (literally) as a blue sweatshirt-clad dog in the audience whined along to the national anthem, making some of the few dozen attendees laugh.

The laughing stopped as the game remained close in the first half. Marymount was first to score, with senior Abby Wescott scoring against Etown junior goalie Abby Kopytko under two minutes in. Wescott also scored her hundredth goal in Wednesday’s game. C. Thompson scored thirteen seconds later in the first half, tying it at one each.

No team led by more than two points in the half. Other early Etown scorers included first-years Emily Garvin and Kate Ziegler and junior Madelyn Baker, who finished with one, four and three goals, respectively.

A few falls and penalties on both sides and vocal teams and spectators also marked the first half. One Marymount parent loudly encouraged a player who fell to “stay on [her] feet” and “be athletic!”. Marymount junior Jessica Crew scored the last goal of the half, bringing Marymount up eight to seven.

“It’s a really close game. There are definitely some high tensions out there,” sophomore spectator Megan White said at halftime.

The game remained close until partway through the second half, when the Saints pulled away for good. Wescott’s hundredth career goal, scored with 21 minutes remaining, brought Marymount up 11-8. Ziegler scored the game’s last goal with 5:36 left. After that the Saints maintained their lead, leaving the final score Marymount 18, Etown 13.

Etown is now 1-2 for the season. Marymount left the game undefeated at 3-0. Etown outshot Marymount 36-22 and Kopytko had three saves.

“We watched the film and have come up with a million things to improve from the Marymount game,” K. Thompson said. Still, she said she is proud of how well the first-years played.

“Honestly, I would have taken a win instead of an announcement about the goal but that’s okay,” C. Thompson said.

Click here to listen to a podcast interview from the game!

Bowers Center Groundbreaking met with Celebration, Apprehension

Elizabethtown College President Carl Strikwerda and other prominent figures broke ground for the Bowers Center for Sports, Fitness and Well-being Friday, Feb. 2 at 4 p.m.

Administrators, student athletes, donors Kenneth and Rosalie Bowers and members of the Board of Trustees gathered in the Jay Walk to celebrate what for some has been a decades-long project.

“I remember them [the administration] thinking about building a field house when I was a student here,” executive director of college engagement opportunities Mark Clapper said. “And I graduated in 1996.”

Strikwerda opened the ceremony by reminding everyone of the groundbreaking’s status as the start of the largest construction project in the College’s history. He, dean of students Marianne Calenda, board of trustees chairman Robert Dolan and campaign steering committee chairman Jim Shreiner then thanked everyone who helped with the project.

Calenda ended her speech by thanking Etown students and calling them “a group of believers.”

Not all students believe in the Bowers Center, though. Senior track and field captain Mitchell Schlegel did not attend the ceremony because he feared he would stand up and interrupt it. In explaining why he did not attend, he mentioned other things the College could focus on, like residence hall renovations.

“It is easy to relish in the glory of a brand new building,” Schlegel said in an email. “The more you don’t look at anything else, the better the building looks.”

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Bowers Center for Sports, Fitness and Well-being kicked off the biggest construction project in Elizabethtown College history.

According to Calenda, the building has four purposes. These include engaging all campus community members and attracting new students.

Professor of communications Dr. Kirsten Johnson’s opinion on the building hinges largely on how well the latter goal is accomplished.

“If the building can bring in students and make current ones satisfied with the College, then it’s great,” Johnson said. “If not, I think it’s a colossal waste of money.”

Now that the College has taken the first official step in construction, Johnson said she plans to use the building, but is concerned about the planned lack of locker room space. Unlike students who have easy access to their residence halls, faculty cannot go back to their rooms to shower if they work out in the middle of the day.

Following the ceremony, everyone moved outside for the actual groundbreaking near Wolf Field. Shovels lined nearby bleachers and were distributed to trustees and administrators. The Bowers couple stood front and center, armed with a golden shovel Strikwerda gave them during the ceremony.

The building will open in Fall 2019. As a senior, Schlegel said he no longer cares much about the building, which he said could spark the end of the College if it makes the administration neglect other problems too much.

“Why would a freshman go and sit in a specialized living room with limited seating and no white boards on the other side of campus when…there are much better facilities for doing school work?” Schlegel said. “Raising enrollment is about making better everything that we already have.”