Allegheny College senior Charles Allen Ross has been awarded the Dr. James H. Mullen, Jr. Student Prize for Civility in Public Life, which annually recognizes student leaders who have demonstrated a strong passion for, and deep understanding of, civility on the Allegheny College campus and in community work.
Prize recipients exhibit a depth and breadth of activities, roles, responsibilities, and years of involvement that have a significant impact on civility and respect on the campus and beyond.
Ross is a community and justice studies major with minors in education studies and theatre. He has served as president of the Men of Color Advancement Association (MOCAA), an America Reads student tutor, and a member of the Allegheny football team, among many other roles on campus and in the community. Learn more about Ross on the Dr. James H. Mullen, Jr. Student Prize for Civility in Public Life website.
The Dr. James H. Mullen, Jr. Student Prize for Civility in Public Life is modeled after the national Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life, which was established in 2011. The student prize was established in 2017 and renamed in honor of Mullen upon his retirement after 11 years of service as Allegheny’s president.
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Hold it and picture a field of poppies glistening in the sunlight among the rolling green hills. You are peaceful. You are floating among the clouds. Now exhale slowly and feel the love.
Joshua Searle-White has dropped plenty of coin to hear gurus share visions like this in workshop settings through the years. In the process he developed a love-hate relationship with the self-help and new-age movements — some of the philosophies and practices might seem strange and nonsensical, he says, but by the end of each weekend, he’s glad he stuck it out.
Searle-White, professor emeritus of psychology at Allegheny College, explores that relationship in a one-person stage production that he will preview in Meadville on October 26 before taking it to the bright lights of New York City in an off-Broadway show on November 3.
The play is called “The Weekend Workshop,” and it’s the story of a man who is pressured into going to a workshop because he is told he needs to “find himself.” Searle-White describes the show as “simultaneously a scathing critique of and a love letter to the self-help and new-age movements.”
“The new-age movement is low-hanging fruit,” says Searle-White, who retired in 2018 after 22 years of teaching at Allegheny. “It’s easy to make fun of it, but at the same time I love it.”
In “The Weekend Workshop,” the hero confronts the question: “What is the difference between something that is just goofy and something that is utterly profound?” The 90-minute production includes energetic staging, clever wordplay and lots of physical comedy.
Searle-White has behind-the-scenes assistance in the production from Dan Winston, a 2010 Allegheny graduate, who is the director; LeeAnn Yeckley, the technical director of Allegheny’s Playshop Theatre, who is the stage manager, and Noah Stape, a junior at Allegheny, who is the lighting operator.
“When Josh came to me with his idea for an original show and asked me to direct, I had no hesitations,” says Winston. “It’s unlike any other show I’ve ever worked on or seen. Josh performs it entirely on his own, splitting himself between seven unique and fully-realized characters. You’d think having only one actor on stage would make the show monotonous or that it would be difficult to have interactions between characters, but we worked really hard on fleshing out each character and blocking the show so that you feel like the characters are really alive in front of you, even when Josh is playing someone else.”
The show grew out of one of the courses Searle-White taught called “The Human Potential Movement,” and it takes on all sorts of new-age practices from eye-gazing to trust falls and cuddle puddles. Searle-White plays all the characters, which include the unnamed hero, Steve, Kip, Candy, Max, Star Thunder Hawk Flower (yes, that’s really what she calls herself!), and, of course, the Guru. “Everything that I make fun of in this play, I have done myself,” he says. “I love all of it. But I also resist it with my entire being. I sign up for workshops, but then when the time comes actually to go, I start making up excuses for why I shouldn’t or imagine all the other things I could be doing instead. But despite my resistance, and despite the many difficulties with these workshops, I keep going.”
The production in New York City is part of the three-month United Solo Theatre Festival, which features one-person shows and is the largest of its kind in the world. Searle-White and his crew will have 15 minutes to prepare the stage, 45 minutes for a technical rehearsal, 90 minutes for the play, and then 15 minutes to clear the stage. “It’s a real challenge,” he says.
Searle-White is not new to the stage, having appeared in some Meadville Community Theatre productions. He has also taught storytelling at Allegheny. “I’ve always loved the creative process. I’ve written stories and performed them for years, but I’ve never tried a full-length show until now,” he says. He currently is working on another play aimed at college students that will explore the issues of sexuality, relationships and consent, which will debut in Meadville in the spring of 2020.
“The Weekend Workshop” will be staged at 7 p.m. on Saturday, October 26, in the Montgomery Performance Space on Allegheny’s campus. The show is free and open to the public; the show is recommended for adults only (not suitable for children). The one-time staging off-Broadway will be held in Theatre Row at 410 West 42nd St. in New York City at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 3. The theater holds about 60 patrons, and admission will be $54.
In the meantime, take another deep breath. Feel the love. Namaste.
Mark Cosdon,Allegheny College professor of theatre and performance studies, appeared on a recent episode of the Australian television show “Who Do You Think You Are?”.
Cosdon’s segment was recorded in August in London, where he met with Noni Hazlehurst, an immensely popular Australian stage and screen performer who was featured in the episode. “Who Do You Think You Are?” is a documentary genealogy series that profiles celebrities and traces their family trees with affiliates around the globe.
“For over two decades I have been researching the Hanlon Brothers and the history of popular entertainments,” Cosdon said. “This work culminated in my book The Hanlon Brothers: From Daredevil Acrobatics to Spectacle Pantomime, 1833–1931, about a famed family of aerial and slapstick comedy performers. While I regularly field inquiries from other historians whose work intersects with mine or from those conducting research into their family’s roots, being approached by Warner Brothers to participate in ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ was certainly a most unusual and satisfying experience.
“Noni Hazlehurst is a beloved Australian performer. Her great-grandfather Patrick Carmody was employed by the Hanlon Brothers for nearly 10 years. We shot the first segment alongside the Thames and then traveled to the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the West End to shoot a second segment.”
The Allegheny College Playshop Theatre will present Lisa D’Amour’s “Detroit” from April 12-15 in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre in the Vukovich Center for Communication Arts.
Show times are Thursday, April 12, through Saturday, April 14, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 15, at 2:30 p.m. Directed by Professor Mark Cosdon, the show will feature five Allegheny students: Mark Shimkets, Marina Varvaro, Simon Brown, Cayla Brandon, and Noah Stape. “Detroit” runs approximately 90 minutes and is performed without an intermission.
“‘Detroit’ is a comically dark play about the suburbs of any midwestern American city, racked by financial hardship, addiction, and the fracturing of the American dream,” Cosdon says. “Suburban neighbors meet for a barbecue and slowly develop a friendship that will be tested while laying bare the American psyche. ‘Detroit’ is an agonizingly funny play with serious ramifications for all of us. Thematically, the Pulitzer-nominated ‘Detroit’ will feel readily accessible and familiar to anyone.”
“Detroit” features the work of two visiting guest artists, Andrea Ball and Chuck Hatcher. Ball’s scenic design captures the look of a first-ring suburb’s neighboring houses. Hatcher, a sound designer long associated with Cornell and the University of Cincinnati, has created a soundscape that conveys the aural realness of the suburbs.
In addition, Allegheny professors Michael Mehler and Miriam Patterson designed “Detroit’s” lights and costumes, the Playshop’s Sandy Everett is the technical director, and senior Amanda Fallon is the stage manager. More than 30 students were involved in the building process for the sets, and will work on its running crew as deckhands, dressers, and board operators.
Tickets are free for current Allegheny students, but they are encouraged to reserve tickets here. All others can purchase tickets by calling the box office: (814) 332-3414. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $8 for non-Allegheny students, Allegheny employees, and senior citizens. Due to strong language and themes some might find unsettling, “Detroit” is recommended for audiences over 14.
Ayanna Thompson, a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar and one of the world’s foremost authorities on issues of race in Shakespeare and the impact of nontraditional casting on audiences today, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 15, in Ford Chapel at Allegheny College.
A reception will follow in the Ford Chapel Oratory. The free event is open to the public.
Thompson’s talk is titled “Shakespeare, Race, and Performance: What We Still Don’t Know.” She is president-elect of the Shakespeare Association of America and a professor of English at George Washington University, specializing in Renaissance drama and issues of race in/as performance.
She is the author of “Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A Student-Centered Approach,” “Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America” and “Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage.” She wrote the new introduction for the revised “Arden 3 Othello,” and is the editor of “Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race” and “Performance and Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance.”
Currently on the editorial boards of the “Shakespeare Quarterly,” “Renaissance Drama” and “Shakespeare Bulletin,” she has served on the board of directors for the Association of Marshall Scholars.
Thompson will be on Allegheny’s campus for a two-day program on February 15–16 that will include classroom discussions, meeting with students, and her public lecture.
Phi Beta Kappa is a national scholastic society which has had a chapter at Allegheny since 1902. It was founded in 1776, has chapters at 286 colleges and universities, and has more than half a million members throughout the country. The Visiting Scholar Program gives undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America’s most distinguished scholars. The 15 men and women participating during 2017–2018 will visit 110 colleges and universities with chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, spending two days on each campus.
Allegheny’s Playshop Theatre will present “Love and Information,” a play by Caryl Churchill, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, February 22-24, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, February 25, in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre in the Vukovich Center for Communication Arts on the Allegheny campus.
In a whirlwind of 57 scenes and 100 characters, playwright Caryl Churchill snapchats a world awash in data, examining the ways that our exponentially growing environment of information impacts our interactions, feelings, and relationships. Screenwriter Tony Kushner calls Churchill “The greatest living English playwright” and this brilliant, funny and poignant play reveals a master work of contemporary theatre.
The cast includes 17 Allegheny students, Professor Daniel Crozier is the director, Associate Professor Michael Mehler is designing set and lights, and Miriam Patterson is designing costumes.
The Allegheny Playshop Theatre, now celebrating its 88th season, will stage William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” Nov. 16-19. Performances are at 8 p.m. Nov.16-18 and at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for non-Allegheny students, senior citizens, and Allegheny employees. Admission is free for Allegheny students with identification, but they are asked to make reservations. For more information or to order tickets, contact the Playshop Theatre box office at (814) 332-3414.
Costume Shop Supervisor Miriam Patterson was honored with the Ezekiel Board’s Choice Award for the costume design of the Playshop Theatre’s November 2016 production of “A Civil War Christmas.” The designs of the Board’s Choice recipients will be put in an exhibit to tour some of the colleges in the USITT Ohio Valley Section, and they will also be displayed at the national USITT conference in Fort Lauderdale in March.
The Allegheny Playshop Theatre, now celebrating its 88th season, is performing “Romeo and Juliet” November 16-19. Performances are at 8 p.m. Nov. 16-18 and at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre.
William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is a centuries-old tragic tale of star-crossed lovers, feuding families, and “violent ends,” taking place in Verona, Italy. The play captures the passions of teenagers experiencing independence, love, and familial duty during an important phase of their lives. Beth Watkins is directing the play, with stage-manager Rachel Ellis, Betsy Sumerfield choreographing the dance and stage combat scenes, and Jim Bulman serving as dramaturg for the production.
“We are conceiving the production as a rehearsal of ‘Romeo and Juliet’,” said Watkins, “where the audience will see actors warming up and preparing to rehearse. They will be wearing rehearsal clothes, adding hats, skirts, collars, and various costume pieces throughout our Act I. As the play progresses, wooden rehearsal swords will become steel, lighting will move from rehearsal light to full stage light, and scenery and props will become more ‘of the world of the play.’ By our Act II, we will be fully located in Verona, Italy in the late 15th century.”
The play will feature Thomas Cassidy ‘21 as Romeo and Emily Wilson ‘19 as Juliet. Also in the cast are Chloe Spadafora, Cayla Brandon, Kaleel Van Vorhees, Mark Shimkets, Alyssa Johnson, Nia Shuler, Maximus Levinsky, Draigh Ricketson, Noah Stape, Dominic Bell, and Kai van Rosendaal.
Though the play has been performed across the world thousands of times, it has maintained its fame over the years for a reason.
“I am so excited to be a part of this show,” Wilson said. “It’s one of those stories that has been written off as somewhat cliche, but it’s such an iconic play and is definitely still worth seeing and performing. You get to become part of a community and a history of people all connecting to the same text, one that is able to span the centuries and bring people from all backgrounds and walks of life together.”
The Playshop Theatre has also invited the Meadville Area High School ninth grade to attend a special morning matinee, to align with their freshman year curriculum studies of “Romeo and Juliet.”
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for non-Allegheny students, senior citizens, and Allegheny employees. Admission is free for Allegheny students with identification, but they are asked to make reservations.
For more information or to order tickets, contact the Playshop Theatre box office at (814) 332-3414.
Professor of Theatre Mark Cosdon flew to London to film a segment for Australian television’s “Who Do You Think You Are?,” a reality program tracing a celebrity’s family tree. The program will air later this year.
At the Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s annual conference in Las Vegas, Cosdon chaired a session devoted to the 50th anniversary of the musical Hair and participated in a panel focused on season planning in college and university programs. For the American Theatre and Drama Society, Cosdon chairs this year’s John W. Frick Award honoring the best best monograph published on theatre and performance of/in the Americas. In May/June 2017, Professors Cosdon and David Miller (Department of English) co-led their sixth experiential learning course to Italy.