Gem on The Ocean, The Full Experience

At 5:30, I walked out of Fairchild Martindale Library and into a wonderful weekend. My classes and afternoon meetings were finished. A sense of relief flooded my body, as I allowed myself to mentally and physically release a week’s worth of challenging exams, tense interviews, and sleepless nights. A slight pounding in my head gnawed at me as a reminder of my exhaustion, but I chose to believe it was nothing more than euphoria pulsing through my veins. After all, I had an exciting evening ahead of me and sleep could certainly wait.

For one night, I would try something different. To say that I rarely indulge in Lehigh’s art scene is a gross understatement. During my freshman year, I attended a production of student run plays in Zoelner’s Diamond Theatre. During my sophomore year, I witnessed nothing more than a holiday choir concert at the Packard Memorial Church. Both events served as an eye-opening exposé of student talent and the experiences transcended my expectations of Lehigh’s art scene. Yet, as a second semester sophomore, my praise of Lehigh’s student talent is merely a hypocritical afterthought, because I have done the bare minimum to support it.

I would visit my brother in Washington DC and marvel at the cultural haven of arts and history available to him and other students at American University. To an extent, I was jealous of his enriched student experience, which contrasted the work hard, play hard mentality that envelops Lehigh’s student culture. Despite my longing for something different, I never attempted to find Lehigh’s cultural core, but tonight was an opportunity for change. For the sake of this reflection and my creative appetite, I bought tickets to see Gem on the Ocean.

I walked down South New Street, across the East Fourth intersection, and into Full of Crepes, where I met my girlfriend for an early evening dinner. Crepes in hand, we continued our stroll down the street and enjoyed dinner before the show on the Greenway. Neither of us knew anything about Gem on the Ocean and despite our curiosity, we decided to save the details for later. My only exposure to August Wilson was during an IB literature course in high school, where my classmates and I reenacted scenes from The Piano Lesson. Based on my reading, I knew that Wilson is known for conveying the comic and tragic aspects of the African American experience. I was excited to see how Lehigh students would capture and portray his unique style.

Our seating was ideal; we were far enough to suspend disbelief and capture the entire scene, but close enough to appreciate the set design and crafted facial expressions of the performers. Like a Monet painting, we wanted to stand back and witness each scene as a cohesive image. The student performances were incredible, far surpassing my expectations for this controversial work of art. The play itself gave way to a thought provoking message about morality and equal opportunity. Beyond the quality of the show, the cultural importance of Wilson’s work has hopefully inspired a new perspective and awareness among our student body.

To further engage in the experience, I ventured behind the scenes to learn about the production process and all of the hard work that made for a memorable performance. I initially decided to attend Gem on the Ocean because one of my brothers coordinated the stage management and set design for the production. After seeing the play, I spoke with him about the experience and I learned so much more about the process behind the performance. The picture below is a bird’s eye perspective from the rafters above the diamond theatre stage. From this vantage point, Alex spent many hours supervising rehearsals every Wednesday. Listening to him speak about the intricacies of the production was akin to standing two inches away from Monet’s Water Lily Pond and observing the patterns of each brushstroke. With a newfound appreciation of the artistic journey and the final destination, I can say with certainty that I will be returning to the Diamond Theatre as soon as I can.

Reflection

Piano Lessons at Lehigh University

When I was younger I use to play the flute. While I no longer remember all of the fingering and my flute has been in the back of my closet for a few years now, I never forgot how playing the flute would release all of my stress and angst. Music has a way of doing that. It allows you to express your feelings without saying any words, and sometimes it can be an even better way of communicating.

As a second semester senior, I decided this semester to take on a goal that I have had my entire life – I decided to learn how to play the piano. Lehigh offers piano lessons for credits, but I had a full schedule, so I decided to simply sign up for lessons. My decision to do so has been one of the best decisions I have made here at Lehigh.

I walked into my lesson for the first time not knowing what to expect. I knew how to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and that was about it. My instructor, Helen Bleedle, made me feel comfortable from the start, continually encouraging me even though when I tried to play my left and right hand together one hand would freeze and the other would play something completely different than what was written on the music in front of me. Even though at times I felt like I was a small child who couldn’t figure out how to type on a computer, Helen never let me give up. She taught me how to communicate to the world with my fingers and a piano, as opposed to in school where I learn how to communicate with a pencil and paper and my voice. From this experience I have learned how important it is to be able to express yourself in all different mediums. Music is a language that everyone can understand, no matter where you come from. Helen taught me how to have a conversation with anyone through teaching me how to play the piano.

Usually when I went to my piano lesson I was running from class. I would be stressed and usually a little sweaty thanks to the hills of Lehigh. Each time by the end of my 45-minute lesson I felt completely refreshed and ready to take on my life again. If anyone at Lehigh is dealing with stress issues, I would highly recommend taking up an instrument and participating in these classes. For 45 minutes during the lesson, and whenever you are practicing, you enter a new world of wonder where nothing outside of the room you are in matters. You can create whatever type of world you want. These lessons have opened up my eyes to the wonders of music and I am excited to learn even more about the art. I can honestly say that I want to continue my study of piano even after I leave Lehigh, and who knows I may even pick up another instrument one day.

I am grateful to now be a part of the music community and excited to share what I have learned with my peers and the world.

Lil Wayne at the Sands

I went to the Lil Wayne concert at the Sands on February 23.  While I’m not that into concerts, I figured I might as well take advantage of one of my favorite Hip-Hop artists performing live within five minutes of campus.  I went with a couple of friends and we had someone drive us there and pick us up when the concert was over.  I wore very casual clothes and a big jacket since it was cold.

While I am not into converts, I must say that Lil Wayne made the experience as good as it could be.  Wayne, in a Kanye-esque rant talked about how he is the best rapper and how it’s not a hit song if he’s not on it.  We only went to the Sands to watch the concert, and when it ended we went back to our house.  The atmosphere was very intense, Wayne had total command over his audience and seemed to genuinely enjoy his interaction with his fans.  The concert was really fun because Wayne performed a lot of the songs he has been on.  While Wayne has been very successful in solo ventures, he seems to be at his best when featuring in a song.  I forgot how many hit songs Wayne has had a part of.  Listening to Wayne cover all those different songs really reminded me of my teenage years.

This was the first event I have ever attended at the Sands.  I think it is a very nice place.  I hope that it will be able to attract bigger name performers in the future.  I hope to attend more events at the Sands in the future.

Jennifer Whitaker: The Blue Hour

I attended the poetry reading by Jennifer Whitaker on March 23rd, which was about of the Lehigh University Creative Writing Program Notation Series. I attended this event because it was mandatory for my Introduction to Writing Poetry class. However, I have a high interest for poetry so I would probably have attended apart from having to go for class. It was my first time attending the notation series and I wish I had known about them during my previous years at Lehigh. The experience was different from what I expected. The only time I have seen poetry recitations is during competitions and spoken word. I have never seen an actual poet read their work and that was a total different experience. I was able to dress like I was going to class and it was at 7:30pm so it gave me time to get a lot of school work done prior to attending. There were refreshments afterwards and the brownies were amazing.

Jennifer Whitaker’s poems tend to have a theme of traditional fairy tales. The poems written were very dark which was the opposite of how Ms. Whitaker delivered the poems. She was very talkative, happy, and bubbly. I wondered how someone so bubbly could write such dark poems. Prior to going to the recitation, I was aware that Jennifer Whitaker wrote dark poems so I was expecting her to have a more somber demeanor. But that was not the case. The language and imagery of the poems were amazing. The imagery was good that I actually felt uncomfortable because I could envision what was happening in some of the poems that I rather not envision because the story was so dark. Ms. Whitaker stated that majority of her poems are based on her father, that made me think that maybe the bubbly personality and the speed of her speech was due to nerves. Hearing the poems really opened my eyes to some of the unfortunate things that some people face in life. I am curious to know whether Jennifer Whitaker writes her poems as a way to spark conversation or whether it is used as a method of personal therapy.

Attending this recitation was a great experience. It was nice to do something different that I never experienced on campus. Especially, since I will be graduating in May it was nice to step outside of my comfort zone here on campus. I really enjoyed hearing the poems. It was a different experience from just reading the poems. I was able to get a different emotional reaction from hearing the poems read by the poet.

Gem of the Ocean

I decided to go see Gem of the Ocean last night. I had never seen a theater production at Lehigh before and my best friend is a student artist in the costume shop and had mentioned the play to me and I thought it would be really interesting to see especially since this is something that she puts so much time and effort into. The experience for me wasn’t that of when you typically go to the theater, which I personally liked. I didn’t get all fancy or anything like that, I came straight from the library and was able to buy a ticket right at the door and go in and escape the fact that I have two tests coming up next week.

I really didn’t know what to expect from this experience. When I walked into the theater and sat down I noticed that the stage didn’t look like the ones I’ve seen on Broadway. First off there was no curtain. And there was no off stage area. I later learned that this is called a thrust stage, which helped me connect the dots as to why there was no set change at all – something I had never experienced in the theater before. I had never really experienced a play like this before at all, from the stage to the story line to the acting. The story took place in one room in one woman’s home, there were no other set locations or traveling it all took place in one spot. The acting was nothing short of phenomenal but also different that what I had seen before. For starters the cast was no more than 10 people. I was shocked that such a small cast could give such a big performance. Another thing that stuck out to me was that a lot of the actor’s lines seemed to be an exchange of monologues.

However all of this ‘skew from the norm’ for me was a really refreshing and awesome experience. It was cool for me to kind of step out of what I’m used to and experience something else that is different in my opinion. I really enjoyed the play and I think the cast and the set and everything overall was incredible.

“Spec Spec” Experience by Teresa Castillo Donoza

As a member of a performance group, LU’s Finest Step Team, I typically do not get to watch others perform during certain talent shows or showcases of the arts. Although, I would love to watch I am not able to because I am either too tired from practicing and performing or have a lot of assignments during the same time period. Usually, I arrive at the place where we are performing fifteen minutes before we go on and leave ten minutes after we perform.

I have always felt extremely guilty about not being able to show my support for my fellow performers at “Spec Spec,” the Diversity Life Weekend talent show. This performance is when most performance teams need the support of their fellow performers since it is a competition for cash prizes. There is also an extra amount of pressure in knowing that the vast majority of the audience is prospective students instead of current Lehigh students. When I was assigned to attend an arts event for my entrepreneurship class, I saw the opportunity to attend “Spec Spec” this past Saturday as a student instead of just a performer.

On the day of the “Spec Spec,” April 9th, I  I met up with my friends and prospective students before the show to go to a Diversity Life Weekend barbecue. Once we ate and finished taking pictures in the photo booth we decided to go to Grace Hall, where the talent show was being held, thirty minutes before the doors opened in order to get the best seats. As we waited my excitement rose as we talked more and more about who was performing. When the doors opened we chose seats in the front row so I could leave to perform with ease and come back without interrupting others. We waited thirty more minutes for the event to actually start but got even more excited as we waited. Once the background music stopped and two people stepped onto the stage I knew the performance was beginning.

Spec Spec

Knowing the two people who were hosting the event, I screamed their names and cheered them on along with others who knew them to let them know they were appreciated. The first team to come on the stage was African Renaissance. Countless cheering and comments came from the crowd.

“Get it girl!”

“We love you African Renaissance!”

“I see you Anjela!”

I could not help but joining in on making comments like these and making sure my friends on the stage knew they were doing a spectacular night. The show was off to a great start and everyone was excited to see who was next. As the performances went on I had to go back stage because it was almost time for Lu’s Finest to perform. Backstage I talked with my fellow teammates about the performances I had seen and we jumped around in excitement knowing that in one minute we would be the ones the crowd would be cheering for. As I was performing I heard people scream my name and make similar comments I had made before. Knowing that others were enjoying the performance I worked so hard for made me realize how important it was for me to attend these events and show my support for my fellow performers. We walked off stage as the crowd cheered on and were met with excited performers on other teams who told us how great we did.

Lu's finest

As I walked back to my seat I felt guilty for all the times I could not find time to stay and watch performances in art showcases. I have always felt supported as a performer therefore how could I not plan in advance to make sure I could go support other performers. In between acts I told my friends how I was going to make it a point to support other teams even if I was tired after performing. Not only was I excited to see what people I knew had worked on this whole year but I was also excited to watch other performances I had never heard of before.

Bad Company

Performance after performance my thoughts about how important it was to support other performers strengthened. Near the end the end of the show the crowd grew restless as everyone waited for the winners to be announced. After various drum rolls, the order of the winners was: Overdose in third place, African Renaissance in second, and Bad Company in first. The crowd cheered and I was so happy that I was able to stay to see my friends get the recognition the deserved. Although I had been at “Spec Spec” before, getting to experience this event as a member of the audience was extremely valuable to me and I cannot wait until I get the chance to experience this again.

Spec-Spec: A Showcase of Student Talent

This past Saturday, I attended Spec-Spec, a talent show put on by Lehigh students which took place in Grace Hall.  This show featured many different performances, ranging from dance groups like African Renaissance to a Chinese yoyo act.  The show also included many opportunities for audience volunteers to keep everyone engaged.

I was invited to the event on Facebook about a month before it took place, but did not consider going until my friend Emma Stevenson told me she would be performing in it as a part of Latin Dance.  This was the push I needed to attend, as I wanted to go to see Emma’s performance and show my support.

The event started at 8 p.m., so my friends and I decided to go out to a casual dinner before the event.  We went to Tulum, a Mexican restaurant which happens to be one of my favorite restaurants on the South Side.  I ordered my usual for when I go there, “the Mayan,” a burrito dish with chicken, rice, lettuce, pico de gallo, pineapple, and avocado.

It tasted incredibly fresh and my friends and I enjoyed the comfortable atmosphere, highlighted by a chalkboard menu, a guitar hanging from the wall, and patterned tiles and tablecloths to add to the experience of eating Mexican cuisine.

After dinner, we decided to head up to Grace Hall to get to Spec-Spec a little early.  Despite the cold weather, it was easily walkable and took us about 10 minutes to get there.  As we walked in, I was greeted by an usher at the door and was given a lollipop, which was a very nice touch.

Almost all of the seats were filled by the 8 p.m. start time.  Being that Spec-Spec took place during D-Life weekend, the event attracted both Lehigh students and prospective students who wanted to watch their current or future peers perform.

The show started a few minutes after 8 p.m. with performances by African Renaissance, Swing Club, Sigma Gamma Rho, Belly Dance, Echoes a-cappella, FwB rock band, Latin Dance, LU’s Finest Step Team, Chinese yoyo done by Allen Chan, Overdoze dance team, Leela, LU’s Dance Team, Dancin’, and Bad Company.

It was a great experience to be able to see many of my friends and peers, some of whom I didn’t even know were on dance teams, showcase their talents.  I particularly enjoyed the variety and uniqueness of each of these performances.  They ranged all across the spectrum, from hip hop dance to swing dance to even the Chinese yoyo.  There was a very good balance of different styles of music and performances that kept me engaged for the full two hours.

Interestingly, two of the performances incorporated the current presidential election in their acts.  Bad Company started their act by poking fun at politics and LU’s Dance Team sported matching shirts which read “Kanye 2020” to go along with their Kanye West themed dance mashup.  Other groups like African Renaissance, Latin Dance, Belly Dance, and Leela featured more cultural aspects in their attire and choice of music.  I greatly enjoyed being exposed to this genre of dance, music, and dress that I otherwise would not have known much about.

On top of the variety of performances, the three student MCs did an excellent job engaging the audience.  The talent show was structured as a competition where the winning act would get a cash prize, so the MCs recruited a handful of audience volunteers to be judges who would decide the winners.  In addition, the MCs called upon audience members to compete in a singing contest and a dancing contest in between acts.  One particularly memorable volunteer was a little girl, probably about seven years old, and her younger sister who both went up on stage to sing in front of us.  They were absolutely adorable and got a huge standing ovation from the audience.  This was a nice personal touch at Spec-Spec and I enjoyed the spontaneity involved in having fellow audience members like these sisters get up on stage and perform.

The final dance of the event included various members from all dance teams coming together as one group to perform for the audience one last time.  I really liked this aspect of Spec-Spec since it showed all the teams unite as a whole.

At the end of the event, the judges collaborated to determine the who the winners of the final cash prizes would be.  They gave the first place prize to the hip hop group Bad Company, the second place prize to African Renaissance, and the third place prize to another hip hop group, Overdoze.

All of the groups had spectacular performances, and it makes me wonder how much time and effort they spend practicing their routines.  I also noticed that there were quite a few people who performed in more than one group, so I wonder how difficult it is for them to manage their time and memorize multiple dance routines.

Overall, the level of talent exhibited by my Lehigh peers at Spec-Spec was incredible and I had a very enjoyable time watching them.  The performances even made me want to join a dance team at Lehigh, despite the fact that I have virtually no dancing ability whatsoever.  I highly recommend events like this for anyone looking to sit back, relax, and enjoy some quality performances.  In addition, I look forward to attending similar events like this in the future.

-Gabrielle Pomerantz, ’18

 

Marty Baron ’76 back on campus: Spotlight showing in Zoellner Arts Center

 

Back in February I had the opportunity to attend the showing of Spotlight at Lehigh’s Zoellner Arts Center. As many of you probably already know, this was a special showing at Lehigh because Marty Baron attended Lehigh for his undergraduate degree. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie or don’t know the story, Marty Baron ’76 was the first at the Boston Globe to push for the investigation of over 80 priests molesting boys in the Boston area. If it weren’t for him, this scandal may not have been uncovered. Shortly after we viewed the movie in Zoellner, Spotlight went on to win an Oscar for Best Picture.

 

Weeks before the Spotlight showing in Zoellner, I received many emails inquiring students to sign up to attend. Having not seen the movie but heard lots of buzz about it over Winter Break, I immediately signed myself and a friend up to attend. I was further intrigued when learning about how a main character portrayed in the movie went to Lehigh. Over the course of maybe 2 more weeks, I received a few more emails about the event, and started to hear more buzz about it on campus. I was actually surprised how much advertising there was about it, because generally I don’t find out about many events occurring in Zoellner. There were also many articles anticipating the event in local newspapers around Lehigh:

Morning Call

Morning Call 2

myLehigh

Lehigh Webpage

 

People were dressed in varieties of attire, mainly casual clothes that they would also wear to class, but I could also tell some people were dressed ready to head out for a Thursday night of partying after the movie and discussion afterwards. My friends and I grabbed dinner at Tulum before the showing, which was a nice start to the evening.

Upon arriving at Zoellner for the showing, I was amazed how many people were already seated and looking eager to not only watch the movie, but also hear from Marty Baron during the Q&A session after the movie. As the theater continued to fill until every seat appeared full, I realized how awesome it was to see much of the Lehigh community come together to not only support a Lehigh alum, but also take time out of their Thursday night to watch a movie they otherwise could watch in a normal theater, or even find online. I hadn’t seen the theater that full since our freshman convocation in August of 2012.

I really enjoyed watching the movie because I felt it was a very well made film, but the Q&A session afterwards was my favorite part of the night. It was amazing to hear Marty Baron’s personal opinions on how he was feeling when he was investigating, as well as his thoughts on the movie and its huge success. It was great to see current Lehigh journalism majors look up to Marty so much because of his courage and strength to speak up about such a controversial subject. Overall, this was a great night with very productive conversations. I could tell everyone there was very engaged the entire time and really enjoyed being present with Marty Baron.

Winter16-Baron-1

“Gem of the Ocean” an Experiencial Review by Carolyn Koch

After realizing the deadline to my entrepreneurship project was rapidly approaching I “googled” the Zoellner Arts Center to see what was going on this week. I saw “Gem of the Ocean” fit nicely into my schedule on Wedneday night.

After I ate an early dinner at Lehigh’s Upper Court with my sister, I went to the library to get a couple extra minutes of work in before the performance.  While packing up in the library I tried to convince some of my friends to come with me to see “Gem of the Ocean” but to no avail. So I left the library by myself and headed off to Zoellner. The time was around 7:05pm as I was walked down Packer Ave at this strange time of day. I am familiar with Zoellner as a lot of my immediate friends participate in the arts, so I knew where to go when I got there. I made my way to the ticket window and got my ticket. It was the “pay what you will” performance but I felt guilty when the girl in front of me paid the student ticket price of $5 so I wound up doing the same thing.  After purchasing my ticket I headed over to the Diamond Theater.

Capture

When I walked into the theater I had zero idea what to expect. I hadn’t done any research on the play and had no idea what it was about. Being one of the first few people there I found a seat, sat down and took it all in. I heard the sound of a rocking chair and eventually noticed the person sitting in the top right corner. I used to do stage design in high school so I was really in awe of the scene in front of me. I was even more impressed by how the actors used the space during the performance.

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As students, professors and people started filing into the theater it became very loud with an excitement of what was to come.

“Do you know what this is about?”

“Hey! I’m so glad you made it!”

“Which class are you here for?”

As conversations swirled around me, I felt a little awkward as I had come alone and was still sitting by myself at this point. By the time I spotted someone I knew the show was about to start and everyone was scrambling for a seat. The lights flickered, everyone got quite and the show began.

The first half of the show was great! There were moments where the theater was cringing from embarrassment and then in the next moment laughing at the characters on stage. I love performances for this reason in particular – you have the opportunity to experience with other people even if you go alone. Like I had mentioned before I had come alone and felt weird about it, but in these moments we were all together experiencing the same thing. I became more at ease. During intermission I had some conversations with people I had never met before and got to see how they interpreted what we all had just watched.

As people were getting the “unnaturally yellow” popcorn (the women who was selling it described it as such) I looked at my clock and realized I was going to be late for a meeting if I had stayed for the second half. I did not realize how long the show was, or how long it was going to be. I had checked the Zoellner website to check when it was starting but there was no run time anywhere to be found.  Feeling torn I had to leave.

My experience with the Arts on Lehigh’s campus has always been a matter of figuring out how to fit it into my schedule, being an engineering student and an athlete seeing performances was never my top priority unless my friends were in it. The funny thing was, I knew a lot more people in this performance than I thought.  I wish I could have seen the end of it, which is why I’ll be going back this weekend to see it again – this time knowing the full time commitment.