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I’d never considered myself to be much of a “researcher”. Yes, I love environmental science, and most science learning, but when I thought about my future, I never saw research in it. Now, as a first semester Sophomore, I’ve found myself leading my own research project under biology professor, Dr. Norris Muth.
Last year, I began working on the project of mapping the street trees of Huntingdon Borough. I continued that project into this year, but a few weeks ago, Dr. Muth and Jim Savory (a member of the Tree Commission) approached me with a new project – the Huntingdon Champion Trees project. Well, that’s not quite our official name, but it sums it up fairly well. Essentially, our goal is to find the biggest tree of each species across Huntingdon County.
We had an article published in The Daily News (Huntingdon County’s newspaper) about our project, and the tips started rolling in. So far, people around the county have contacted me about almost 20 different trees. I’ve been going out a few times a week since then just to try to keep up with it!
Besides the fact that it’s incredibly cool to have my own project so early in my college career, the project itself somehow managed to combine everything I’m interested in. I love Urban Forestry (trees in cities and towns), history, people, and Huntingdon. I’ve met someone who lives in the same house that their grandparents once lived in, I went to one home that had an old carriage house, and a ramp in the front yard so people could get into the carriage, and I’ve seen some really, really huge trees.
I know trees are not everyone’s thing. Heck, they’re barely anyone’s thing. However, that’s not the point. Even though Juniata does not have a forestry program, I was able to invest myself fully in my interests.
When I was twelve years old, I performed in Little Shop of Horrors at my summer camp. I knew nothing about acting, it was the “kids version” of the show, and I had a stereotypically bad New York accent. I’ve loved musical theatre my entire life. This show was one of the first shows I really connected with, and ultimately fell in love with. Fast forward eight years later, and here I am, starring in Little Shop of Horrors as a real, college production!
Since the Juniata Theatre Department typically puts on a musical every three years, I was so excited to get back into my “element” from high school. Although I love getting to experience and train with different types of theatre (i.e. Shakespeare, devised work, contemporary plays, etc.) musical theatre has always been my favorite type, and is ultimately my goal for after I graduate. For this show, we brought in Tara Giordano, an outside director from New York, Gabriel Gould (who is actually an English Professor here at Juniata) as our Musical Director, and Nate Dryden, a visiting artist who focuses on aerial and floor movement (I was able to work with him last year on trapeze!) as our Choreographer. As for our cast, this is one of the first shows where the cast is mostly non-theatre students. We have four freshman, two sophomores, two juniors, two seniors and a graduate student! It has been such an amazing experience to have so many different types of talented people working on a beautiful show.
Rehearsals have been really hands-on for us, as we have been taking our ideas for our characters and going into so much detail about them, how they move, how they speak, how they think, what they want, etc. It definitely takes a lot more than just reading words off a page to make a play really come to life. Since the show takes place in the 1960s, we have to play with different styles of dance and attire from that period (our costumes are awesome). When blocking scenes, even though our director ultimately decides how the scene should look, Tara was always willing to listen to our ideas and encouraging us to embrace our impulses. It’s been a really educational, beneficial, and rewarding experience working on this show and putting so much effort into the play we’ve created.
We have all been hard at work for the past two months memorizing, blocking, building, and singing our hearts out in rehearsal every day. While you’re in a production, it often seems like the actual performances of the show are ages away, until one day you wake up and realize you’re opening in a week! It’s been really crazy watching this show grow from a script in our hands to a real play on stage with a live band, a beautiful set, and soon an audience sitting in front of us! Little Shop of Horrors opens on October 21st at 8:00 PM, and will be performing on the 22-23rd, and 27-29th as well. Tickets are free for Juniata students and $20 for general admission! If you are in the area, and want to see a hilarious, bloody, romantic, and slightly terrifying musical, then I hope you come see the show!