Time for student brilliance again

(thoughts from the director….)

April is typically a very busy time in Lehigh’s cycle of life. Just as the sun rises each day, April is the month when students are wrapping up course requirements, presenting major capstone projects, making final edits to creative writing pieces, and marathon rehearsals for last of the season’s performances. Some students are launching Kickstarter campaigns or starting small business ventures while others try not to think about graduate school, summer internships or study abroad.

The campus is also alive with nightly award dinners. It’s a great time to bathe in the warm glow of student achievement and wonder at their potential. Collecting trophies, or certificates is a great way to bask in the glory of the moment. But there are also a slew of other ways to celebrate our students’ genius by watching them share their joy in art making; ALL of it.

In the next weeks, we have again the opportunity to watch them dance THEIR dances, play THEIR music, read THEIR words, view THEIR vision of the world and experience THEIR culture. They are sharing their vulnerability through their moment in the spotlight. The memory of what we are about to witness in the remaining days of April will dance across our minds as we watch these students walk across the commencement stage.

These students are alive with wonder and ultimate potential. To watch them shine, is to share the joy in our hearts as we encourage them to keep taking chances. We hope you can find a bit of time away from your own work routine to see the brilliance.  Please consider the connection between tomorrow’s weather forecast, and the student music performances on the University Center Lawn.







There are plenty of other events and activities blooming. Consider subscribing to the weekly newsletter for posts on what’s happening in the next week. After a couple of weeks, if you decide you don’t want to us to collect all the information about what arts events are happening on campus and in South Bethlehem (and sometimes, north side….), just unsubscribe.

Take a look at this week’s listing below the same message you just read above.

Amaranth 2014 – it’s submission time!

Getting published matters! Ask any academic.
We are happy to support the efforts of Amaranth, Lehigh University’s Literary Magazine by sharing their a call for submissions.
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For over a few decades, Amaranth has been Lehigh University’s premier literary magazine. Featuring the best imaginative writing and art work from our undergraduate and graduate students, Amaranth seeks to provide an accessible outlet and source for creative expression throughout the university. Student editors select literary and graphic works for inclusion in their journal and nominate the best of these for the prestigious Williams prize, awarded annually. 2011 witnessed the launch of their online presence and submission portal, and online editions of the magazine will begin appearing in Fall 2014.  They have worked diligently on the site to provide more information on Amaranth and creative possibilities across the campus. They are currently developing a blog and have established a growing social media presence.  They encourage our readers to follow them on Facebook or Twitter for updates, contests, and news.
To contact Amaranth or submit your work, please email them at amaranth@lehigh.edu 
The Amaranth website includes comprehensive information about the magazine including, not not limited to:

Submission Guidelines (as quoted from their website)

Amaranth welcomes short stories, micro fictions, poetry, photography, graphic art, and works of electronic literature. Submissions are accepted from both undergraduate and graduate students and English and non-English majors. Although we receive the majority of our submissions from Creative Writing classes, we also encourage students to pull work from their “half-done” drawer and revise for publication. Please submit no more than two stories, three pieces of visual art (photography and graphic art), and five poems at a time, along with a cover letter explaining your literary interests and career at Lehigh. Cover letters should include a word count and indicate whether the submission is fiction, poetry, or visual art. Simultaneous submissions are accepted on the condition you alert us immediately if your piece is accepted elsewhere.

It is through this literary magazine that Lehigh University students can share their creative writing. Go ahead, reveal your brilliance!




“Something from Nothing”…. improvisational theater.

1554370_10152698793853765_31232843_nA very special experience from the Lehigh University Department of Theatre, “Something from Nothing,” opens this Friday April 4th and runs through April 12th.Through a unique collaborative approach, Lehigh students have devised a theatre piece using improvisation, creating an assortment of characters together from lost objects.  Directed by Wolfston Visiting Professor Greg Scot Mihalik ’99.

What is improvisation? According to the website improvcomedy.org:

Improvisational theatre is as old as time. It pre-dates the invention of writing, since long before we started writing scripts we were telling stories by acting them out.

Improv performers must develop a wide range of skills, including listening and awareness of other actors on stage. Instinct, quick thinking and action, and social comprehension are required for working without a script. Practicing improv has attracted many people across all walks of life for improvement in personal and interpersonal development. (cited source)

Special note: even though one might associate comedy with improv, improvisational theater is not always funny. 

What are the benefits to learning improvisation theater? The Theater Language Studio in Frankfurt Germany asks, “Wouldn’t [learning to think] on your feet help you in any facet of your life?”

There are two main reasons why improvisation is beneficial to study:

  1. Improved Speaking Fluency
  2. Improved Problem Solving ability

Improvisation breaks down the barrier between mind and voice. It increases the mind’s ability to form ideas, and present them in a coherent, salient manner. This skill translates to virtually every profession.

This production used improvisational theater techniques to discover the play; the story they wish to express. It’s a bold move for the Department of Theatre to try something so innovative. But given the previously mentioned benefits, one can see how this experience will be unforgettable to the students and audiences alike. Tickets for the general public are $12. Tickets for LU students with ID, $5.


Our friends at Discover Lehigh Valley have recently launched a new social media love fest, and you can join in the fun! It’s not too difficult. Just imagine all of the great times you are about to have as the weather gets warmer. Adventure awaits you in the Lehigh Valley. We know the seniors are about to be checking off those items on their bucket lists.

“#LVme is a 24/7 social media promotion that will not only highlight some fun Lehigh Valley photos, but give you the chance to win some great prizes including concert tickets, overnight hotel stays, gift certificates to local restaurants, and so much more.” (That’s totally copied form the Discover Lehigh Valley website; and why we referenced it. Because we’re good curators.)

We’ve looked at the prizes. Just imagine winning a chunk off your fancy dinner check, or a chance to experience a new adventure!

#LVme frames now available!

Entering is the contest is super easy. Just hold the #LVme picture frame while you capture your favorite Lehigh Valley scene, place, person or experience. Upload it using #LVme on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. If you need a few ideas – check out the bottom of this page.

There are a few South Bethlehem locations to pick up the frame: The Broadway Social, The Bethlehem Visitor’s Center at Steelstacks Campus, The Sands Event Center, and Sayre Mansion. But if you’re out and about beyond South Bethlehem, there’s many more places to pick up the frame if you find inspiration.

The contest runs until December 2014 – so you have spring, summer and fall to catch some of the evolving beauty of the seasons. C’mon, you know this campus is gorgeous. Let’s brag a little!

Winners will be drawn each month randomly, announced on their Facebook and Twitter pages, and notified through your social media accounts. Please make sure to follow Discover Lehigh Valley on Twitter (@LehighValleyPA), Instagram (LehighValley), and Facebook. Follow the #LVme tag to view all the photos.

National Arts Advocacy Day, 2014

{notes from the Director, Silagh White}

This is the first time in nine years I didn’t travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in the annual National Arts Advocacy Day. This pilgrimage is an incredible experience. It is where I first understood the appropriations process in a way that made much more sense than trying to follow polarized media sources. Here is were I learned that I really did understand the process at an early age. I am of the generation that watched School House Rock during the Saturday morning cartoon and cold breakfast cereal rituals.

The lyrics and images of this 3 minute video planted knowledge that stayed with me like a pair of Ruby Slippers. I only needed to make the shift that the Federal Budget is a law and BOOM – I learned how I could start making an impact on the value of the arts.

The annual affair in Washington DC comes complete with all of the pomp and ceremony of a walk through history and the awe of the process. The first of two days (Monday) is spent in a lovely conference room at the Omni Shoreham hotel. Yes, the one where a few presidential inaugural balls are held, and where a few notable movies where shot. If the event is scheduled late enough, the weather is in peak Spring season. One might even see the Cherry Blossoms. Obviously, this year was not the case, so missing the trip to DC had at least one advantage. I didn’t have to battle another snow event.

The training sessions offered on the first day cover the appropriations process, the numbers of the annual allocation request for the National Endowment for the Arts, some policy issues, and a ton of advocacy training. A big difference is to note the difference between actions of advocacy and lobbying. Most artists and arts organizations are non-profit and not permitted to lobby. Instead, we inform the elected officials on the impact of arts funding in our community. We localize the results of tax dollars allocated to our community and the resulting economic impact, the improved lives for our citizenry, and the quality of our shared living spaces. We participate in some role playing, to rehearse our five minutes with either a congressman or a senator, making sure our shared message has a localized spin and that someone in the room is an actual constituent from the official’s district. We also learn that staff members are our new BFFs – and that we need to build relationships with them.

At the end of the first day, a few celebrities join the pep rally for hundreds of constituents. There’s a fund raiser for the organization that is permitted to lobby (The Arts Action Fund). This is where the celebrities join in. One can get all caught up in the energy of rubbing elbows with the likes of Kerry Washington, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Josh Groban, Ben Folds, etc., but the real vitamin shot comes at the evening Nancy Hanks lecture presented at the Kennedy Center.

Over the past nine years, I have heard some amazing speeches. They inspire not only the advocacy work, but also the daily grind of audience building. These speeches come from a wide perspective of talent and expertise. Take a look at the list of previous speakers here. (Did you see what I did there? I actually took you to the page where you could view previous speeches, or order transcripts.)

Monday night’s speaker was NY Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner, Maureen Dowd. As with most speakers, she shared her personal relationship with art and connected her path to all of ours. Her speech is full of motivational quotes. I’ll share just one section of her speech here, and hope it’s enough to entice you to listen to the whole program:

“Without the arts, people would have underdeveloped imaginations. With underdeveloped imaginations, they would not lead either meaningful lives, or moral lives. Because without the representations of ‘otherness’ in art, you cannot imagine the pain or poverty that someone else is feeling. Nobody experiences everything. Everybody needs supplements. Everybody starts out too small for certain purposes and we need to be shone what’s possible. You can’t be a fully formed human being based only on your own experiences. We need to see other lives.

Art is precisely such a long and deep and disquieting tutorial for the individual imagination. You will not act to relieve suffering unless you understand it. And if you are not experiencing it yourself, as I hope you are not. The only way you can understand it by seeing depictions of it in movies and elsewhere in the culture.”

~ Maureen Dowd

The second day of the event is the actual work on the hill. This experience is both daunting and empowering. Five to ten minutes of a congressman or senator’s time can be a huge opportunity to inform them of the importance of the arts for their constituency. Their support of budget, policy and programs has long impacts. It is in that moment when you have to choose which story will support the evidence and the data expertly gathered by the the Americans for the Arts.

A few years ago, I had a profound conversation with our PA (15th district) Congressman, Charles Dent. Since then, he’s been kind enough to remember me when we walk parades together in Bethlehem. He asks me how the arts are doing at Lehigh University, his alma mater. I’m happy to share, “The students are busy blowing my mind, as always. And as always, there’s so much more we could do to inspire other.” I share other arts stories in his district. Congressman Dent is supportive of the arts, and his voting record reflects that.

The experiences I’ve had with the Annual Arts Advocacy Day have given me the tools to localize the work year round. Everyone needs a little boost to their work form time to time. Especially students. There are leadership and advocacy opportunities for students who share the value of the arts for our campus.

Zoellner is starting to gather students who have an interest in building more support for the arts on campus. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more, the next meeting will be this Friday at 4:30pm in Zoellner Arts Center. Contact Candi Staurinos for details.

Eve Ensler’s play “A Good Body” coming to Black Box

Readers who attended the fall presentation of Jane Comfort and Company Beauty, heard Notations speaker Peggy Orenstein (author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter) or saw any production of the Vagina Monologues might be interested in seeing a Lehigh Department of Theatre Student Black Box production of Eve Ensler’s play, A Good Body. The play runs March 21-23rd and is free, no ticket required. The synopsis:
Botox, bulimia, breast implants: Eve Ensler, author of the international sensation, The Vagina Monologues, is back, this time to rock our view of what it means to have a “good body.” “In the 1950s,” Eve writes, girls were “pretty, perky. They had a blond Clairol wave in their hair. They wore girdles and waist-pinchers. . . . In recent years good girls join the army. They climb the corporate ladder. They go to the gym. . . . They wear painful pointy shoes. They don’t eat too much. They . . . don’t eat at all. They stay perfect. They stay thin. I could never be good.”
We will be following up this post with more information about the production itself next week. In the meantime, please share this with others you think may have a particular interest in the content.

Fictionalizing economics: An interview with novelist Peter Mountford

An up-and-coming writer with a growing collection of accolades, Seattle-based Peter Mountford writes fiction that artfully blends insight, humor, and elegance with hard-nosed realism. He will be visiting Lehigh University to meet with students and give a public reading from his latest novel at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 10 in the Global Union lounge of Coxe Hall. He recently discussed his work, his sources of inspiration, and his longstanding fascination with economics during a conversation with Lehigh faculty member Bruce Whitehouse.

Peter Mountford - Photo Courtesy of Sarah Samudre

Peter Mountford – Photo Courtesy of Sarah Samudre

Bruce Whitehouse: Your new book The Dismal Science is the story of Vincenzo d’Orsi, a middle-aged World Bank official. You gave him a bit part in your first novel, A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism. Did you ever consider giving d’Orsi a more prominent role when you were writing that book? Why did you decide to make him the subject of your next novel?

Peter Mountford: Initially, the two books were one book—I wrote portions of what became the second book well before I wrote the majority of the first book. But they didn’t work as one book. It was trying too hard. They’re just about different things, so I cleaved them apart. The new book is so deeply informed by aging and grief, whereas the first book is so much about ambition and living for the future. So there was always going to be the two books, it was just a question which I’d write first. I have more in common with Gabriel, the protagonist of the first book, so that seemed more approachable, which is why I wrote it first.

Your fiction deals with people and places that many mainstream U.S. readers might consider unusual: you’ve written one novel about a hedge fund analyst in Bolivia, another about a globe-trotting economist, and I read that you’ve been working on a third set during the Sri Lankan civil war. You’ve said that you’re not interested in writing about “neurotic suburbanites or upper-middle-class dilettantes.” What kind of story captures your imagination and makes you want to write about it?

I got a BA in international affairs and economics, and I grew up in DC, and spent a few years in Sri Lanka at the start of their civil war. So I’ve seen the levers of power up close, how that all operates, and I’ve seen spectacular wealth and spectacular poverty, although I’ve mostly been awkwardly in the middle. After college, I took a job at a shady right-wing think tank. I was a token liberal: they paid me almost nothing, but gave me a nice title—adjunct fellow—and that title made it possible for me to publish op-eds in nice newspapers. They let me write whatever I wanted, more or less, as I was only there to give the illusion of balance. It was exhilarating, in a way. I went to Ecuador for almost two years and wrote about their devastated economy.

But I was just a kid, of course. My previous job had been flipping burgers at an on-campus diner, yet here I was meeting with the Ecuadorian finance minister asking him to let me see one of three copies of a highly classified report analyzing the Ecuadorian economy. Surreal. But after a couple years, I felt too much a fraud and had to quit the job—the whole business. I’d always loved reading and writing literature, that was by far my favorite thing in life, but here I was acting the part of this suit-wearing economist.

Finally, I realized that I had this unusual information about the world, something most writers don’t have access to, and that I should write about that. Artfully, carefully, not to sensationalize the issues, but to stare at them from the inside of a complex character wrestling with the kinds of questions that people in the real world wrestle with.DS-BookImage_01-shrunk.jpg

Do you feel common cause with journalists, social scientists or others who write non-fiction about contemporary issues? Why do you think you chose to examine those issues using the genre of fiction? 

People often remark that fiction allows a writer to be more real, more honest, than nonfiction. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true. You write a long article about the World Bank, and at best it’s very much the perspective of a journalist who did some interviews and is firmly on the outside of the experience. As a fiction writer, you get under the skin of the people, their monotonous and exciting and bizarre daily experiences. Through story you can access emotional truths that are almost impossible to come by if you, the narrator or author, are an outsider with little emotional vested interest.

Journalists make for fun characters because they’re outsiders, they’re often alone, in a way, and their job is to engage with dramatic and complex questions. Economists make fun characters because their work is very often a kind of pre-made metaphor for life. What’s the exchange rate here in this argument with my ex-wife? There’s laws of diminishing returns—isn’t that called growing up? Cost benefit analysis is, I’m quite sure, a major part of courtship, even if you’re madly in love with someone, you’re crunching the numbers in some way.

A writer I know is writing about a conflict archeologist. That’s another one of those jobs that, as a novelist, it’s just a dream: your work is done. The job title itself conveys a huge amount of character information. Economists have that quality, I’d say.

Economics and money have been consistent themes in your fiction, and are at the root of many of your characters’ actions. Is it challenging, as a fiction writer, to give the material factors underlying human behavior their due? Do you think you could ever write a novel that is not, in some deep sense, about money?

I’m obsessed with how people adore and abhor money, how we’re ashamed of money if we have too much, too little, or even just the right amount. Everyone’s quietly or not so quietly freaking out about money, and yet very few people write ambitious character-driven fiction about people whose inner-lives are animated by their relationship to money. It’s odd, considering what a powerful force capital—or its absence—is in the world. It’s not hard to write about, but I think it’s hard—ironically—to market a book where money is central. Books about finance are kryptonite to book clubs, who want desperately to escape from such concerns when they dive into a book. So I have to explain to my readers that the books are actually fun, if you just give them a chance, but it’s an uphill battle.

Movies and TV about people’s relationship to money are so ubiquitous as to be sort of cliché, but the literature of this era and culture still seems quite wary. The novel I’m working on now isn’t quite as overtly about people and their relationship to money, although it is certainly a powerful force in the book. But the big questions in the one I’m writing now concern the nature of truth, violence-contagion, and the secret pathways that information travels on. It’s quite a brutal book, I suppose, but also funny. I’m having fun writing it, as always. If you’re not having fun as a writer, you’re never going to make it—it’s just too hard, otherwise.

[Click here to read a review of Mountford's 2014 novel The Dismal Science.]

Balinese Shadow Puppets at the Ice House 3/15

Mock Turtle Marionettes presents ShadowStories with Balinese music at the IceHouse

A wonderful program will be happening on Saturday, March 15th at 10 AM at the Charles Brown IceHouse in Bethlehem. ShadowStories, features three shadow puppet plays and live music performed by Gamelan Mekar Sari, an ensemble comprised of Valley devotees of Indonesian music. The program will include Mock Turtle’s new shadow play, The Grumpy Gecko, accompanied by Balinese gamelan music played on drums, gongs, cymbals and metalophones.

Also a part of our shadow puppet program will be two of the theater’s most popular shadow productions, Travels to Tondo, a story from Africa, and the Legend of Sung Low, a Chinese shadow tale.  ShadowStories will be followed by a free workshop/demonstration of the gamelan musical instruments and the shadow puppet theater.


Some readers might remember a few students of the South Mountain College program performing on the Gamelan Mekar Sari with other community members in 2012.

smd-puppet-mdHere’s an image of a traditional Balinese Shadow Puppet. This is NOT Doug Royston, but we use this here to offer an idea of what the performance might look like.

Tickets are $5 for the show and $7.50 for the show and workshop combination.

Contact Mock Turtle Marionette Theater for details, directions and reservations at 610-653-3462doug@mockturtle.org and our website atwww.mockturtle.org.

The Charles Brown IceHouse is located at 56 River Street, on Sand Island, Bethlehem.

This year’s series is supported by Just Born, The County of Lehigh, The Hoch Foundation, The Century Fund and The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Special travel advisory – no, not more snow…
The annual Parade of Shamrocks may have street closures after the performance. We suggest you consider alternative routes and extra time, just in case.

For an extra boost of cultural immersion, even though Thailand is not Bali, the closest you’ll get to the tastes of these cultures can still be experienced in restaurants not too far from the Ice House. We suggest either:

Of course those aren’t the only Thai restaurants in the Lehigh Valley – but at least these can get you started.


Hawkacappella Invitational

Last Friday, (February 21) a few Lehigh a cappella groups held the annual “Hawkapella” invitational. Lucky for us, student photographer Jenna Guma, ’17 took some great shots. She surely captured the joy here:

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