Senior theatre studies majors’ envision ‘Nightmares,’ Poe tribute

Fog seeps underneath the black curtain. Candles flicker golden rays of light across the stage. It’s quiet until a shriek is heard in the dark, then chaos consumes the room with banging, stomping, chains clanking and eerie music blaring.

This was the backdrop to most scenes during the performance of Elon University’s senior theatre studies majors’ senior thesis, “Lucid Nightmares,” Feb. 24-26.

“Lucid Nightmares” is an original work written by the senior theatre studies majors and minors based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe helped introduce American readers to the short detective fiction story in the 19th century. His emphasis on macabre, gore imagery and overwhelming feelings of abysmal darkness helped champion gothic romanticism, and became a mainstay in American literature. During this time period, American literature made important advancements that finally distanced itself from British influence and took a form of its own.

“We wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before, that was in the public domain, and that could be very creative and could give us a way to use all of our different majors,” Sarah Beese, senior theatre studies and history double major, said about choosing Poe as the play’s subject.

When most Elon students hear the word “thesis,” they think of lengthy papers and agonizingly endless days and nights spent in dark corners in the library. But for theatre students, this term takes on an entirely different meaning. Seniors in the Department of Performing Arts are instead tasked with working on a production team of a performance.

Beese and the three other seniors working on the show, Elizabeth Floyd, Jayme Mantos and Ashley Meeks, started the production process in May when they began thinking about a topic to focus their play on. Rehearsals started in January and full-scale rehearsals started in February.

The theatre studies seniors of the past haven’t done a production of this scale as their thesis before.

“The senior thesis usually entails working on another production,” Beese said, including helping out with BA productions, design, costumes, etc.

Sophomore vocal performance major Corbin McConnell plays the role of Charles and police officer.

“The production process has been a lot of reminding myself of how much I love what I do,” McConnell said about being able to be in the show.

When he found out he was cast in the show, he went up to each of the production team members and personally thanked them for allowing him to perform in his first college level show.

Phillip Danieley, a sophomore creative writing and psychology major, did a lot of acting in high school but he might not have ever gotten a chance to perform in a college level show if not for this production.

“I’ve missed being on stage so much and it’s been great to finally do this and be with great people who care about what they’re doing, very driven, motivated people,” Danieley said.

“Lucid Nightmares” was performed in the Harold Acting studio, and every performance has been sold out, people even came to the final dress rehearsal so that they would be able to see it performed.


Billy Stevens: African American Music Creates Community

Billy Stevens explains that the instrument that the slaves brought over was the banjar, banza, or what we know as the banjo.

Billy Stevens explains that the instrument that the slaves brought over was the banjar, banza, or what we know as the banjo.

Lecturer and musician Billy Stevens came and performed his lecture concert, “Sincere Forms of Flattery: Blacks, Whites, and American Popular Music,” at Elon University Wednesday, Feb. 20 as part of the celebration of Black History Month.

Stevens explained that, from the beginning, American popular music – which is a fusion if European and African music – was shaped by the musical movements of African-Americans.

“All the great musicians of the ’60s were inspired by black music,” Stevens said, including examples such as the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.

Music has become all about telling a story and that, Stevens said, is derived from an African group called the griots. Griots were professional musicians in Africa. He explained that they were storytellers, but they didn’t just tell the story, they sang it while accompanying themselves by playing string instruments.

The Africans had many methods of creating music and rhythm that has influenced the music we know today. They infused their singing with flat, gutted sounds and played multiple rhythms simultaneously. Their method of call and response came from when they were working in the fields and one person would call out and the others would respond, creating music.

Stevens told the story about the 1739 Stono Rebellion in South Carolina where originally, Africans were permitted to drum and dance on the plantation. But the slaves decided to rebel and were able to overpower their plantation owners, such as by burning down their owners’ plantations. They were able to do this successfully by playing the drums to communicate commands with each other.

“African music creates community and community creates power,” Stevens said. The slaves had the power of community and music on their side to be able to overpower their owners so greatly.

This is the instrument that the Africans brought with them to America. Originally called the banjar/banza. It is very much like the modern banjo. This is what the instrument sounded like played by Africans.

The instrument that the Africans actually brought with them from west Africa was called the banjar or banza. It was an instrument very similar to the banjo. The first time white people played the banjo was in 1830 and that was in black face.

At the end of the Civil War in 1865, there was a brass band concert with 500 musicians, all of the military marching musicians. They had to pawn off their instruments to be able to head home. Stevens said that this left New Orleans with a plethora of brass instruments and, with many brothels in their red light district in Storyville containing pianos, this was a great combination for new music to emerge. This form of music was known as jazz.

Stevens said that the 1890s was the most important time period for American popular music because that was not only when jazz became popular but also gospel, ragtime, and blues music.

All of these types of music tell a story, which in turn creates a strong community of people who listen to that music, sing that music, and/or appreciate that music. Stevens explained that Africans felt safe when they were part of a community.

“It’s about everyone gathering together and making music together and creating community,” Stevens said.

When popular musicians get on stage today, audiences flail and scream song lyrics at them, proving that music has the power to unite people in a unique way just as it always has with the Africans.

Elon University’s Sweet Signatures Strive for the Best

This past Saturday Elon University’s all female a cappella group Sweet Signatures participated in the South East quarterfinal competition of the International Championships of A Cappella. They worked the whole month of January, learning new songs for the competition and perfecting their performances. Though they didn’t place, it was still an honor for them to even compete. Only nine groups out of each region were chosen to compete and, to put that into perspective, Elon has five groups here. Sweet Signatures is the only group on campus that competes and they pride themselves in that fact.

Having only been around since 2001, Sweet Signatures has already made a name for themselves with their CDs and their performances. Not only people from the university but also people from the surrounding community come out to see them perform. These girls are all people who just like to sing on their own free time – none of them are music majors. While being in many other organizations on campus, this is the one outlet these girls have for singing and performing.

Gun Control Debates Reach College/University Communities

After mass shootings like the ones in the Aurora, Colo. movie theater, the Wisconsin Sikh temple, the Portland mall, and the Milwaukee spa, conversations about gun control arose, but in the wake of the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the conversation of gun control has become ubiquitous.

In 2012 alone, 151 people were either physically wounded or killed in the aftermath of these mass shootings. In the last 30 years, there have been over 62 mass shootings in the United States. The question that many people are asking is whether or not changing our gun control laws would have prevented any of these incidents.

James Mendez, a resident of Gibsonville, N.C., believes that the laws we have now are ok but that they need to just be more strictly enforced. He believes that changing the current gun laws won’t stop people from obtaining guns illegally or doing horrific things with them.

The current gun control laws are focused around the Second Amendment:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Michelle Lewandowski, a junior human services major at Elon University, believes that the focus to leaning too much on the gun control laws currently in place and not enough at mental heath issues.

“I think that [gun control laws] need to be stricter and that they need to have more restrictions if the person has a mental illness,” Lewandowski said.

According to a poll done by CNN, sides are split on the issue some people saying we should have more restrictions on guns and others saying we need to focus on mental health issues.

CNN poll on views about gun control laws

Jeffery Zieminski, a freshman at Elon University, says that the current gun laws are okay but what is being thought about now after the Sandy Hook shooting is unnecessary.

“[People] talk about giving guns to elementary teachers and I don’t know how I feel about that,” Zieminski said. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Even after all of the hype about gun control laws and public displays of the victims who lost their lives during the events, many people have either been going out to buy guns for themselves or are thinking about getting one. According to a study done by Huffington Post, 67 percent of Americans who own guns have them for protection against crime. Of those that own guns, 74 percent own a rifle or shotgun, 68 own a hand gun, 17 percent own a semi-automatic and the rest own other types of guns.

Marianne Everett, an employee at Skids Restaurant in Burlington, N.C., is currently planning on obtaining a gun permit and wishes to purchase a hand gun for herself and her fiance.

“We have a right to protect ourselves,” Everett said.

She also believes that people on college campuses should be allowed to carry guns as long as they are responsible with them.

Kevin Heiman, a freshman at Elon University would disagree with Everett.

“I don’t want to get killed with a rifle in class.”