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Theatre Senior Capstones

Many college students spend hundreds of hours dedicated to creating their “senior thesis”. Some schools require it, some students pursue it as an independent study, and many present it at our ever-so-popular Liberal Arts Symposium. In the Theatre Department, we have a project called “Senior Capstones”. This capstone is an encapsulation of our four years at Juniata; where we’ve been and where we’re going. We are required to build a piece (whatever that may be) that we can take with us after graduating, and that reflects our future goals. For example, if you want to work in live theatre, creating your first short film as your capstones simply because it interests you may not be the most effective choice.
Performing my piece "Too Many Voices" during Senior Capstones.
Performing my piece “Too Many Voices” during Senior Capstones.
            For me, I have been in love with musical theatre since I was little and my career goals revolve around Broadway in New York City, so I knew I wanted to sing for my capstone. I also wanted to do something a bit different, something that would set me apart from other people. I began working on my capstone over a year ago, playing with different ideas and music and challenging myself with each step. I decided to play with recording my voice, and see what it would be like to harmonize with myself live on stage. And what better way to incorporate music and theatre than with a cabaret?
            I began selecting shows and pieces that I loved singing, or that told a story, that I could work with in some capacity. Some of the pieces I chose were solos, but others were more ensemble pieces with multiple characters singing. I will say it was a very ambitious project. I started with too much material that all felt cluttered and messy. I then began doing research, and watching other performers do original cabarets to get a sense of style and concept. Then I begam to write. I wanted the script to be natural, with the ability to talk freely instead of sticking to a scripted monologue. Instead of sitting and writing lines down, I recorded myself talking naturally, and then transcribed the lines that way, so that the text was comfortable and not forced. This entire process took a few weeks, and I eliminated pieces of music that didn’t fit with the emerging story as I went. It took a while for me to begin to put my piece on its feet, but luckily performing a solo cabaret requires little equipment or collaboration, so I was able to rehearse in my free time. Each senior was doing the same process as I was (creating a concept, writing a script, casting, etc.) so it was helpful to talk to one another. Every senior in the department met with the theatre professors every week as a group to discuss progress, questions, and feedback, so we were never left alone in our creative process. Once we started full-time rehearsals, we were all working together every night to further our individual pieces, as well as bring them together to create an evening showcase. We rehearsed for about two full weeks before bringing in our professors to observe, as well as an outside lighting designer. We incorporated lights, sound, and costumes for several rehearsals before we eventually opened the show to the public. We had two performances, as the Theatre Department’s contribution to the Liberal Arts Symposium.
            Not only was this process incredibly rewarding, but it was truly eye-opening for me. There were many tasks I assumed I would be able to do on my own, that I realized half-way through that I could not do. I made mistakes. I got feedback, sometimes positive and sometimes negative. Instead of curling up and crying every time someone had something to say about my piece, I took it and asked myself how to make my piece better, or stronger, or clearer. I realized that writing, directing, and starring in your own show is hard. If I could do this process again, I would have brought in an outside director, who could watch my performance and give me specific notes (since it was impossible to step out and see how my piece looked). I would have changed our rehearsal format, and given myself more time to work in the space before bringing it all together. This process was long, strenuous, and tiring, but I learned so much about myself along the way. I created a beautiful piece of theatre that I hope to take with me and perform in the future. This piece combined my passion for musical theatre with my personal journey of self-discovery, all packable into a small carry-on suitcase. I owe everything to my professors, who act as my mentors, friends, and shoulders to cry on when I need it. They have taught me everything I know about acting, and I would not be here, feeling as intelligent and confident as I do if it was not for them.

The Revelations of Traveling Abroad

Everyone at Juniata sells living abroad, and I have to warn you, I’m going to sell it as well.

 

Ireland seemed picturesque before I came here. It is rolling green hills, friendly people, good music, good beer. It is all of those things, but it also has its low points. I’ve gotten splashed by a car driving through a puddle (yep, it actually happens), I’ve gotten soaked inside and out by rain, I’ve gotten sick, and I’ve spent too much money on that good beer they have. But all in all, it has been an incredible, real experience.

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Living abroad is an opportunity to truly experience life in whatever country you go to. That includes the good and the bad. It’s not always as picturesque as one might imagine, but it teaches you more than a semester of classes at home ever could.

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I spent this semester in Cork, Ireland doing an internship at their Environmental Research Institute with UN Environment GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre. What that really meant was that I wasn’t really a student. I’m using my Environmental Fellows scholarship from Juniata to cover my cost of living and now that I’m done, I’m using my savings to explore a bit of Europe. It was odd working every day and not going to class, but I got to experience Ireland all the same.

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Cork has become my home in the past 3 months. This small little city has definitely taken a piece of my heart. The River Lee is always flowing past me. I can see farm fields on my walk home from work (and sometimes smell them). I have housemates who are kind enough to drive me to town when I need it. And the best part? All of the pubs have fireplaces. Now, I’m still 20, so I can’t drink in the states, but if anyone finds a bar with a fireplace there, let me know. Nothing is better than drinking a good beer and sitting in front of a peat fire.

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Overall, studying abroad has been an amazing experience. I’ve gotten to live with people from Ireland, and one of my best friends from Juniata. I’ve gotten to travel around the country to Kinsale, Killarney, Dingle, Dublin, Cobh, Waterford, and more. I’ve experiencing living outside of dorm life, buying groceries, making dinner every night, and working every day. I’ve gotten to live a different life.

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I love Juniata with all of my heart, but I am also so thankful for the opportunity Juniata provided me to live abroad. It’s no vacation when you’re studying abroad, that’s for sure. It’s definitely life with work, bills, bad days and good days… But it is also creating a whole new life for yourself in a whole new place. It’s not just limited to Ireland, either. Wherever you go, be it France, Australia, New Zealand, Spain­ – it’s an experience of discovering yourself and growing as a person.

 

Wherever you go, if you ever go abroad, jump into growth. See what part of yourself traveling will reveal. And if you’re lucky, have a good beer by a peat fire.

Blogging from Abroad!

Long before I applied for colleges, I yearned to travel. While I was drawn to Juniata College by its community feel, beautiful campus, and flexible POE program, an important factor in my decision to attend the school was the excellent study abroad opportunities it offers. With the help of my academic advisor, I chose from the many countries and schools with which Juniata is connected. Now, as a junior I am studying at the University of Leeds in England and fulfilling my dream to travel.

Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. While the pre-study abroad meetings that occurred during the semester before I departed were essential and extremely helpful, there was nothing that could prepare me for the reality of studying abroad. Coping with culture shock, missing my family and friends, and acclimating myself to city life and a university with a student population nearly twenty times larger than Juniata’s were all issues that I could not previously understand. Amidst the struggle to cope though, I found new people, new places, and a new sense of self that could only be gained through study abroad.

An adventure in the English countryside.
An adventure in the English countryside.

Once I adjusted to living in England and attending class for only six hours a week, I began to travel with my roommates. The public transportation in England makes its beauty and history easily accessible. My roommates and I have spent weekends in Scotland and Germany and have taken day trips to many places including Bath, Oxford, and London. Less than two months ago, I stood before Stonehenge marveling at a man-made miracle I thought I would only ever see on a screen. In Berlin I touched history when I visited a site where part of the Berlin Wall still stands. As a Museum Studies and Art History major, I have spent countless hours strolling through museum exhibits and gazing upon masterpieces by artists such as Manet, Rothko, Ernst, Dali, Rodin, and others.

Despite the importance of these experiences, the life lessons I have learned while abroad are the greatest benefit of this program. I have set my own budget, carried groceries for miles, and dealt with the consequences of my professors striking for nearly a month. I have learned to plan ahead, manage bus and train schedules, ask strangers for directions, and laugh at myself for foolish mistakes. I have opened up to the once strangers who also live in my flat from Chicago, Holland, and Australia, and they have become some of the closest friends I will ever make. I have figured out the importance of family and community in my life and in the process learned that I have a strong support system at Juniata and at home even though I am an ocean away.

Studying abroad is as much a way to discover yourself as it is an opportunity to discover a new part of the world. It is an educational experience that cannot be measured in credits or dollars. I know it will be one of the greatest lessons I carry with me after graduation from Juniata College.

SCUBA for Spring Break

“Are you coming home for this spring break?” My parents ask. “Not this year, sorry mom and dad.” I respond. As someone who lives 500 miles from home, distance is usually the reason why I might not return home for breaks or long weekends. It’s an unavoidable day spent doing nothing but driving, and tends to get old quickly. But this year, I had the chance to go farther… 1000 miles further.

Nobody ever expects a small, rural, inland college to have a SCUBA club. Most people expect it to be a novelty, a space for misplaced sea-folk to commiserate about the trials of being landlocked. But at Juniata, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Along with events that introduce people to the joys of diving and yearly dive trips over spring break, SCUBA club also certifies divers with classes and pool dives. With more than 10 divers certified this year, SCUBA club had to go big.

Photo Credit Greta Hayden-Pless '18
Photo Credit Greta Hayden-Pless ’18

Our travels took us to midland Florida, where we dove and explored for a week. Most of our dives were in limestone caves and caverns which allow for beautiful, if somewhat harrowing diving. The dives are perfectly safe so long as you stay out of the more dangerous cave systems which are easy to get lost in; fortunately, all of these are well-marked and mapped. While bad weather forced us to cancel our ocean reef dives, we spent that time cavorting with manatees and paddling the beautiful Ichetucknee River in northern Florida before the long drive back.

The opportunities you’ll find at a niche place like Juniata are surprising, from research presentations in Oklahoma (where I’ll be headed the week after next) to diving in Florida. The mark of a true Juniatian, however, is how they face these opportunities. After a week with a dozen of my peers camping in hammocks, I’m happy to say that all of them deal cheerfully with the dreams that come with following one’s dreams—like in this case, the endless mosquitos and cold weather for camping.

–Written by Zach Hesse ‘18

National Women’s History Month: Juniata Alumni

March is Women’s History Month in the United States. All over campus we are having events such as “Boobie Bingo” and “Java, Poetry and Monologues” to celebrate great women in history and to bring attention to the women’s rights movement.

This past Saturday night I was in Baker Refractory for Boobie Bingo and they had placed pieces of paper on each table that had lists of notable women in history who were trailblazers. Women such as Pearl S. Buck who was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature and Sandra Day O’Connor who was the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Reading about all these amazing women in history got me all motivated to do something great with my future. Maybe I’ll write a novel like 2014 Juniata graduate Natasha Lane or run for a political office like Carol Eichelberger Van Horn a ’79 graduate of Juniata who was the first woman elected to the Court of Common Pleas of the 39th Judicial District of PA.

After failing to win a single bingo game, I returned to my cozy dorm room and opened up my laptop to do some research. I scrolled through Juniata’s distinguished alumni page and read names and accomplishments such as Heidi M. Cullen, Ph.D. ’92  the Chief Executive Officer and Director of Communications, Climate Central, Princeton University; Former Host, “Forecast Earth with Dr. Heidi Cullen,” The Weather Channel and Former Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research and the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction or Miriam Smith Wetzel, Ph.D. ’52 a Faculty Member at Harvard Medical School; Member of the team that developed the new medical school curriculum and Winner of Miss Pennsylvania, 1952.

After reading about the forty or so women listed on the distinguished alumni list, I wanted to find out more about what women alumni of Juniata have achieved. I opened up my LinkedIn and found the Juniata Alumni page and started scrolling. There were hundreds of alumni and countless accomplishments for all of them. I can’t list them all here but some notable ones that I saw were women such as Clarissa P Diniz, a 2014 graduate of Juniata College who is currently studying at Johns Hopkins Medical Center; Kelsey Kohrs, an associate dolphin trainer and water science operator at Discovery Cove; and Heather Fisher a 2007 graduate who is now a facilitator on the Multi-Disciplinary Investigational Team for the District Attorney/Government.

Juniata provides you with the education and the opportunities to achieve great things. They offer chances for students to collaborate with professors on research projects and incorporate real life objectives into the classroom to help build your portfolio and your resume. All I can say is that in ten or twenty years, I plan to be one of the women on Juniata’s distinguished alumni list.

Link to the Distinguished Alumni Page: http://www.juniata.edu/about/distinguished-alumni.php