A ‘Grand Night’ of song and dance with Elon University musical theatre majors

As the stage lights rise in Yeager, the freshman musical theatre class runs out from the audience, dressed in their “blacks,” to perform “All Shook Up.” Running around on stage, arms wide open, they belt out the tunes at the top of their lungs in melodic unison. The senior class watches from below, awaiting their turn to perform, and remembering when they still had three years left of their time as musical theatre majors at Elon.

On the weekend of April 5 and 6, the musical theatre majors at Elon University got together to perform at Grand Night. Grand Night, the last time most musical theatre majors perform before the end of the year, is a musical review of different Broadway songs performed by different groups of people from the musical theatre department.

Songs this year included “Footloose,” from Footloose, “Take Back Your Mink,” from Guys and Dolls, and both “All Shook Up” and “Burning Love,” from All Shook UpThey also included two student arranged pieces: a mash-up of “Journey to the Past” and “Out There” arranged by junior David Newman and as well as “Run Away with Me,” arranged by freshman Ryan Monroe. All of the pieces were directed and choreographed by students in the department.

“Theatre is a team sport,” senior Chris Kalfas said in his speech at the end of the show on that Saturday night. One of the most important things Kalfas said he had learned this year, and throughout his four years at Elon, is that a successful scene depends on the relationship between you and your partner as well as making sure that you’re giving your fellow actors what they need while in the scene.

“Your friends’ successes are your successes and your failures are theirs,” Kalfas said. He said that the industry he and his friends were trying to get into is crazy and masochistic, but that they have to make sure they don’t lose themselves to its competitive nature

Grand Night is the last night most seniors will perform on a stage at Elon. This brings up anxieties on starting a new life somewhere else after graduation, finding new friends and leaving your old ones.

“I know when I move to the city, I’m going to have 16 family members that will be there to take care of me,” Kalfas said.

Not only are the people family on stage but they also treat each other like family in their daily lives.

“Please take care of each other and take care of your family because no matter what, they’re the ones you’ve got for the rest of your life,” Kalfas said.


Elon Biology major creates platform for local musicians to thrive

At West End on Wednesday March 20, people gathered to listen to local musicians strumming along on a dimly lit stage – it was not the typical atmosphere of a night at the bar, but this was the launch event for Elon University senior Alexander Zito-Wolf’s new company, Locallive.

Zito-Wolf, a biology major and business and psychology double minor, started a company similar to a large scale booking agency, but with a public relations and social networking component.

“The project I’m starting is sort of a social networking project with the aim of linking talented local artists with the venues and the fans that are appropriate for them,” Zito-Wolf said.

He first got interested with the concept when he acted as a booking agent for his friend, Jon Harrison.

“Halfway through I got the inspiration, like wow, this is a really cool atmosphere, this is a really cool scene,” Zito-Wolf said. “I wish that there was more of this available at Elon and also in the larger world.”

Zito-Wolf decided he wanted to partner with a local venue for the launch of Locallive, and the first place he thought of was West End Station. Owner of West End, Josh Ezrine, was excited to collaborate because West End is currently going through a lull and they are seeking a way to attract more people to the bar.

“They used to have this big West End Wednesday with an influx of college students and it’s been dying down a little bit,” Zito-Wolf said. “[Ezrine] said, ‘Wow, I would really like to work with you and get something started. If it’s going to bring me business and allow you to launch this project, it seems like a great deal.'”

The main importance of this project, according to Zito-Wolf, is having the ability to match musicians with venues that suit them and to make them accessible to their fan base. He recently went to Fat Frogg, a bar, grill and live music venue in Elon, and saw a band perform there that was completely inappropriate for the crowd that was in attendance.

“It was this hair metal band and we’re sitting around with a bunch of families and everyone’s like, ‘Oh God no, oh God no!’ and that doesn’t need to happen,” Zito-Wolf said. “Those people can be playing for their hair metal fans who are going to have a blast, who are going to really enjoy that and you can have a local acoustic show when there’s a family restaurant that wants that.”

Zito-Wolf believes there is a lot of interest for live performance at Elon but that it’s hard to come across a way to access it.

“I’ve been going to open mics and there’s always a lot of people there, there’s always a lot of interest,” Zito-Wolf said. But, being in a few bands himself while at Elon, he found it hard to find places to play.

“[There is] not a lot of place for hobbiest musicians [at Elon] – musicians who have talent but aren’t music majors or something like that,” Zito-Wolf said. “There’s little access to playing time if you’re not a music major.”

Along with Locallive benefiting the Elon community, it will also kick start what Zito-Wolf hopes to do in the future. A career path he is thinking about is expanding the business. He wants to find someone to take over the Elon branch of Locallive after he moves back to Boston and starts a new branch there.

“I’m trying to establish someone who’s a good all around person and who is really passionate about the mission,” Zito-Wolf said.

Zito-Wolf also thinks he can bring some of his public relations social skills to the science field. He thinks there is a huge unfilled gap to make science more communicable and more transparent.

“Science itself is this really collaborative field led by really anti-social people,” Zito-Wolf said. He believes by helping with communication throughout the science field, improvements can be made in the communication of science globally as well as the collaboration between scientists and science corporations.

Communication is a specialty of Zito-Wolf’s and that’s one of the main forces behind this project.

“The idea of the company is to facilitate fans finding the music that they like and that they want to see wherever they are, and to facilitate musicians finding and connecting up with those venues and those fans,” Zito-Wolf said.

Painter’s Roost Creates New Community Environment

On the easel at the front of the studio sits a canvas painted with a wispy black tree and a bird guarding its nest. Remarks are made by the six adults taking the class about how they would never be able to recreate that piece as they sit down at the counters, lined with canvases, on top rooster-printed stools.

Anita O’Donnell, owner of The Painter’s Roost located on Huffman Mill Road in Burlington, strives to create an environment where people can escape their daily lives, and their attachment to technology, and do something fun and creative.

O’Donnell, who grew up in Asheboro and currently lives in Julian, had been in the construction business for 21 years and worked as a project manager, but was laid off in March of 2010. For a while, she couldn’t find another job in the field of construction and even drew unemployment for a while until she was told that unless she was losing her house or starving, there really wasn’t much they could do for her.

“My husband said, ‘Why don’t you stay home for a while and you might like it.’ But after a while, he said, ‘You need to get a job, you’re driving me crazy,'” O’Donnell said.

After thinking about opening up a few different franchises that weren’t really what she wanted to do, O’Donnell learned about the concept of paint party studios.


“My daughter-in-law found out about this concept in Charlotte,” O’Donnell said. “She and I went with some friends and took a class, and I just kind of fell in love with it and eventually, about 2.5 years later, I convinced my husband to back me up on this.”

O’Donnell’s husband, who also owns his own business – a shredding company – thought that it would be good for her to learn how to open up a business on her own. This led O’Donnell to scour the Internet for information on getting a license, dealing with sales tax, getting a permit and creating her own domain name.

“With me being in construction, I think I got a little too involved with the renovation part,” O’Donnell said.

Being a former project manager in construction, it really helped O’Donnell with the development of the business. She helped with the designs and even did some of the renovation work herself, such as the paint-splattered floor.

Patrice Baldwin, an artist at the studio, heard about a job opening at The Painter’s Roost from a friend after also becoming recently unemployed.

“[My friend] said give Anita a call and I did, so it’s been great,” Baldwin said.

If not for the opening of this small business, O’Donnell and Baldwin both might still be out of work, along with the other approximately 10 percent of North Carolina residents, as of Dec. 2012.

According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, “approximately 543,000 new businesses were created each month in 2011,” which is down from 2010, but still higher than in recent years.

Unemployment Rates by Percent

Information retrieved from Google Public Data

According to the Wall Street Journal, the survival rate of new businesses has dropped. New businesses are more likely to survive past two years, but not past five. Despite these statistics, The Painter’s Roost, so far, has been a success in O’Donnell’s eyes.

After opening a little over a month ago, there has been a significant amount of interest, with the studio having already booked a good amount of private parties, mostly thanks to the giant farm animal O’Donnell has chosen to use to represent her shop.

“I have had just so many people drop by,” O’Donnell said. “You know I have a huge rooster on a sign out there and people are just wondering what that is and I think I just had to have a little bit of the country girl in me come out. I love roosters and I have roosters in my kitchen at home.”

She said it took her so long to come up with a name that she thought her business would be open before she knew what she was going to call it.

When you take a class at The Painter’s Roost, an artist, such as Baldwin, teaches you how to go about painting the piece chosen by the group. There is another artist, or O’Donnell herself, assisting students in the room if there are questions. Everybody paints the same piece, but it doesn’t always look alike.

“They’ve put their own spin on it and [show] their personalities and it’s great,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell said painting is a time where people can escape technology by not looking at their phone and getting away from the computer.

“People come in and their days are hectic from work or kids or whatever and you can just slowly see them start to relax, and laugh and have fun,” O’Donnell, said.

Even if customers don’t know how to paint, O’Donnell and Baldwin both said that participants leave wanting to come back.

“People say that they don’t know how to paint when they come in but when they leave, everybody has really liked what they’ve done,” Baldwin said.

One time, a man attended a lesson at The Painter’s Roost with his wife. O’Donnell said, at first, he didn’t look too thrilled to be at the class, but by the end, he was asking what they were going to paint next week.

This relaxed environment is quite the change of pace for O’Donnell.

“In construction, the only calls I ever got were [about] problems. I was the problem solver. I gotta stay on schedule. I gotta stay on my budget,” O’Donnell said. “There’s none of that here.”

Baldwin has owned many other businesses, but she has always enjoyed painting.

“When you enjoy what you’re doing, then it’s a lot of fun,” Baldwin said.

Owning The Painter’s Roost isn’t exactly the astronaut job O’Donnell dreamed of having as a child, but it’s something she loves and that her customers love, and she finds enjoyment in that.

Bryan Alexander Provides Insight on Digital Humanities and New Ways to Learn

Confusion spread across the sea of students, faculty and community members of the audience Wednesday, March 6, when Dr. Bryan Alexander pulled out his phone and said, “Make an expression that you think describes digital humanities.” That photo instantly went on Instagram.

Alexandar, senior at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE.org), spoke about Digital Humanities and the different tools that people could use when learning about the subject. Some tools he talked about included zotero.org, comment press and ngrams. Alexandar spoke of how technology was always changing while adding new on top of the old. Questions arose about the differences between the digital and the physical worlds. One instance was whether physical books and newspapers would cease to exist because eBooks and online news are cheaper to access. The question of online classrooms also occurred from the same context – if it’s more readily available and cheaper, will the physical campus be lost? To both of these questions, Alexander said not to worry because these are only dying down, not dying off.

Favorite quote of the night:

Digital Humanities might make the humanities come back to life and become more vibrant.

To find out more, here is a link to my Storify of the event.

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.”