Category Archives: Pendulum work

Home away from home: alum take over stage for Elon-only concert in the Big Apple

It started on a bench in Central Park.

Elon University 2011 alumni Claire Manship and John Yi sat in the heart of New York City, talking about various aspects of their lives. After wandering around several topics, Manship brought up the concept of creating a concert together.

As music theatre majors from Elon, the roommates started talking about how they could engage in a concert that also included their acting friends, Yi said, who was completely on board with the idea.

The first step was to create a solidified concept of the concert. After jogging their memories, they decided to bring back an exercise they had learned at Elon. This exercise, created by acting professor Richard Daniel, taught Manship and Yi one of their first lessons in Elon’s music theatre and acting programs.

Daniel had the students finish the sentence, “Hello, my name is.” The answers varied and revealed a lot about each person. Yi said he and Manship loved this concept and decided to name the concert they would create, “Hello, My Name Is…”

image“It is a concert series showing the challenges, joys and lives of 20-somethings living in NYC striving to make their dreams come true,” Yi said. “It is a concert for 20-somethings to share what is going on in their lives right now.”

The second step was to book the venue. Manship called 54 Below, a renowned Broadway venue. Yi said they both wanted the show to start in a serious venue. When the representative from the venue said they had late-night spots open, Yi and Manship jumped at the opportunity.

“Obtaining 54 Below as the venue was definitely a ‘wow’ moment for both Claire and I, as it shed light on the often surprising dynamics of self-efficacy,” Yi said. “I give full credit to Claire who made it happen, and I definitely admire her for never backing down until she hears a response from the horse’s mouth.” 

They also needed to get a concert lineup. Manship and Yi decided to make this show unique – it would include only Elon alumni. They received a good response from the performers they invited.

“Elon produces the type of performing artist that if they say they’re going to do it, they’re going to do it and do it really well,” Yi said.

Yi said he really wanted to include Elon students with Broadway credits, so when Alex Ellis, Class of 2005, joined in, he was very excited.

However, when push came to shove, the alumni with Broadway credits had to drop for various reasons. Yi said he could never be mad at these performers because they were getting work, and in the theater and music theater fields, getting work is not easy.

“After we cleaned up the lineup and got our venue, step three was making sure we had our rehearsal down and an accompanist for the show,” Yi said.

Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 9.38.13 PMElon alumnus Christopher Staskel, Class of 2010, offered up his friend Max Mamon, who is a writing and composing partner at the New York University graduate program, to play for “Hello, My Name Is…” His friend offered to do it for free.

Yi said while he was happy to see people from his alma mater come together to put on one powerful concert, there was a drawback to having only Elon alumni on stage.

“The only downfall of having an Elon-centered, Elon concert is nobody knows what Elon is outside of Elon,” he said. “No one knows what Elon is. No one in non-profit really knows what Elon is. It’s a little more of a low-key school. That is one of the disadvantages that we recognized that we would have to face.”

Despite this challenge, 54 Below had a good-sized crowd when the first concert ran Nov. 17. Yi knows the difficulties he and Manship faced along the way helped them in the long run.

“There were a lot of unforeseen challenges that helped us grow,” he said. “We knew there was going to be these challenges that we didn’t know of.”

During the show, Manship and Yi were not simply watching from backstage. They had their own performances.

“I’m excited to sing a duet with my roommate and dear friend, John Yi,” Manship said. “He is so incredibly talented and I’m pumped for our song.” 

Yi said their duet was focused on capturing the visceral power of love and how it sometimes emanates from overwhelming sacrifice and pain. Choosing the song they would sing together was not an easy one, Yi said.

“The song selection process leading up to finally choosing ‘All The Wasted Time’ was somewhat arduous, seeing as we both have high expectations and we didn’t want to forcefully push the artistic process in a way that felt unnatural,” he said. “It was also very important for us to find a song that complimented the blending of our voices.”

The audience, as one would expect, was full of Elon alum as well. Sarah Oldham, Class of 2012, said what stood out to her, aside from the incredible talent, was the community she felt.

“Part of what makes leaving Elon so hard is leaving behind a strong sense of community,” she said. “Although the alumni performing spanned five years of graduating classes, you could truly tell their shared experience as performing arts majors brought them back together in New York with a desire to perform together. I don’t think that is something you would find coming out of a lot of other schools. 

Manship said if she had to describe the concert she and Yi put together, she would use three words: discovery, fearlessness and nostalgia.

Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 9.25.39 PM“I wanted to create a cabaret and concert series like this one because I believe in the talent of Elon alumni and I also think we should create our own opportunities,” she said.

Both alumni said Elon helped them get to the successes they have experienced since graduation.

“Elon prepared me to be a well-rounded individual who, with no questions asked, pursued what I wanted to do after school,” Yi said.

Manship said Elon is her greatest training ground for theatrical performers and she is honored to call it her alma mater.

Because Yi and Manship have such strong ties to the Elon community, they were eager to offer advice to the Class of 2014 music theatre majors. 

“Relish every moment because where you are right now is where you are supposed to be,” Yi said. “I’m happy with what I’m doing, but I’m always relishing every moment. What’s happening right now is supposed to happening. The universe puts systems in place for us to achieve the goals we want to achieve according to its own time.”

Yi said it can be hard to relish the negative emotions, like frustration, fear and anger. However, it is best to savor those moments, release them and then move forward. He also encourages the seniors to attend every dance class they can since practice rooms in New York City are generally very expensive.

Yi and Manship have big plans for the next show, which is booked for February. They hope the show will include alumni from other schools and top music theater schools from around the country. They are also planning on changing the name of the concert and rebranding it to include alumni outside of Elon. Overall, the next show will be more diverse.

“Through multiple means of feedback and the inevitable process of trial and error, we definitely intend on ensuring that the logistics, operations and long-term impact of the show constantly improve,” Yi said. “Amidst all of this room for improvement, however, Claire and I also intend to cherish this concert series as our fun, creative project.”


Eye of the tiger: Runners greet mud, obstacles at The Wild Stampede

By Stephanie Butzer

Heat by heat, runners at The Wild Stampede conquered numerous obstacles, uneven and slippery terrain and lots of mud.

The mud and obstacle 5K, created by Legend Race, attracted more than 150 people of all ages and running levels to the Conservators’ Center grounds.

Just thirty seconds into the race, participants in The Wild Stampede had to face three large and muddy hills. The third heat of runners had to slip and slide their way through the course since two previous groups had made the mounds slick.

Just thirty seconds into the race, participants in The Wild Stampede had to face three large and muddy hills. The third heat of runners had to slip and slide their way through the course since two previous groups had made the mounds slick. All multimedia by Stephanie Butzer.

After they finished the race, participants had the chance to walk around the facility and visit the Center’s animals. But there was a great challenge to fight through first.

Runners met their first obstacle — three muddy hills with water on the opposite side — within the first minute of the race. After a half-run, half-swim through a pond, they entered the woods where the obstacles were more difficult and complex.

One of the highlights of the race, as well as one of the hardest tasks, was a lake crossing. Participants had to cross by hanging from a fire hose. Many different techniques were used — some went headfirst or feet-first while others decided to simply swim.

Participant Chris Roach said he had done this sort of exercise before, but this obstacle tested him the most.

“It can be really challenging cause I did it when I went to boot camp for the Army and I remember going across that rope,” he said. “But this out here, it’s like, wow.”

Roach said he had participated in the Greensboro Zombie Mud Run the weekend before and said he enjoyed The Wild Stampede more because of the animals.

After the race, participants and spectators were invited into the facility to view some of the Conservators’ Centers animals. Arthur Tiger, a rare white tiger, entertained some guests with his immensity and toothy yawns.

After the race, participants and spectators were invited into the facility to view some of the Center’s animals. Arthur Tiger, a rare white tiger, entertained some guests with his immensity and toothy yawns.

“[In the Greensboro race], you felt short-changed,” Roach said. “Here, it’s like you get to see not only the animals, but you get to meet all these different people. Everything here is just so much better. It’s far better than being chased by a zombie.”

Further down the course, the runners experienced obstacles like a log throw and an A-frame. The race ended with hills similar to those at the start and a long flat stretch to the finish line.

“It was great —challenging at points,” Roach said. “You don’t really know sometimes what’s ahead of you so it kind of surprises you.”

After the runners received a medal and T-shirt, many entered the grounds or had lunch, courtesy of Manna Concessions.

Leah Gardener, a participant and graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said The Wild Stampede was her first mud run.

“It was really cool when we passed the animals on the last leg,” Gardener said. “It was really good. They did a great job.”

Click here for The Wild Stampede photo gallery.

Conservators’ Center holds obstacle 5K for the wild at heart

One of the obstacles in The Wild Stampede was for participants to get across a lake via fire house. Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

One of the obstacles in The Wild Stampede was for participants to get across a lake via fire house. All photos by Stephanie Butzer.

By Stephanie Butzer

There are few races that incorporate balance beams, mud hill crawls and rope climbs. There are even fewer that guide runners past exotic animals.

The Conservators’ Center, in conjunction with Legend Race, a local company that constructs unique races, will host The Wild Stampede, a mud and obstacle 5K that runs along the Center’s outer border Sept. 21.

Some of the obstacles will mimic toys in the animal enclosures, such as the A-frame, a common plaything for tigers to run up and down.

Fred Augustine and his wife, Gail Augustine, created Legend Race, a obstacle racing company focused on low costs for intense local races. Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

Fred Augustine and his wife, Gail Augustine, created Legend Race, a obstacle racing company focused on low costs for intense local races.

Fred Augustine, founder of Legend Race, has been constructing the course since late June. This will be the first race the Center has held, and Augustine said it will be a challenge the whole family can enjoy. He said the run is a good mud run for both beginners and experienced athletes.

“This won’t be timed because we want more families to come and tour the animals and get a feel for what’s up here,” Augustine said.

Maximus MacClennen, the Center’s coordinator, said the question his team asked themselves when planning the race was how to make The Wild Stampede more entertaining than the dozens of other mud runs in North Carolina.

“It’s like, you can go out to a field and do your mud run and leave or you can come here, do your mud run and you might hear some lions and tigers while you’re doing it and then afterwards you can take the whole family on a tour,” MacClennen said.

Two groups of Elon University students — Service Learning students and Leadership Fellows — came out to the Center to assist with digging trenches and moving large parts of the obstacles into place Aug. 16 and Aug. 23, respectively.

At a trial run, two men attempt to scale a wooden - and slippery -  A-frame. Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

At a trial run, two men attempt to scale a wooden – and slippery – A-frame.

“The 23 of us not only arrived at the Center with jittery determination, but also with uneasy anticipation,” said freshman Kelly August, a Leadership Fellow. “As a member of the staff explained our tasks for the day, howls and unrecognizable growls sounded in the distance.”

After working for hours on the obstacles, August and the rest of her group were able to see the animals inside the compound.

“The dedication of the volunteers and workers at the Center left the biggest mark on me,” August said. “It was easy for the 23 of us to complain about the heat or the bugs, but to those who give entirely of themselves to this cause, it was just another day doing what they love.”

Freshman Dexter Blank, also a Leadership Fellow, said he thinks the Center deserves more recognition for its animal care, so hopefully the race will bring in more positive publicity.

“The event will be one-of-a-kind and I have no doubts that it will be a success,” Blank said. “I believe that our group was very helpful, worked hard and represented Elon in a very respectful manner.”

The race fee is $50 and includes a walkabout of the compound. Spectators can pay a small fee to enter. Sixty percent of the proceeds go to supporting the animals the Center cares for, including big cats, wolves and binturongs.

Faculty, staff aim for higher student success with new initiatives

By Stephanie Butzer

Students will bring in their own excitement for Elon University’s 2013–2014 school year, but the faculty and staff are pushing for new and better strategies to ensure students are more successful and satisfied than ever before.

Academic and student aid departments have been organizing fresh measures to introduce in the fall semester. In addition, new professors and courses that span many areas of study will add more diversity and value to Elon’s already detailed classes.

Those who enjoy Elon’s go-green attitude will be thrilled to discover the Office of the University Registrar has changed to a paperless environment, according to Rodney Parks, an employee in the office. The environmentally savvy change will give students the opportunity to access many functions online, such as ordering transcripts. Degree audits have also been changed to a more readable web format with color-coded sections.

Parks said the registrar can Skype with students who cannot meet in person to discuss transferring credits from other schools.

“The goal will be to be a national leader in student-centered services within a two-year period,” Parks said.

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning will offer new courses this year, according to Peter Felten, the executive director of the Center. Some highlights include Greek language and culture studies with Kristina Meinking, an honors course exploring questions about life on other planets taught by Tony Crider and Anthony Weston and a teaching and innovation course taught by Kevin O’Mara.

“The deans keep their fingers on the pulse of curricular changes, new faculty and such,” Felten said.

The School of Communications will welcome six new faculty and staff members who are going to bring more knowledge to business journalism, public relations, advertising, interactive media and sports management courses, said Paul Parsons, dean of the School of Communications.

“The faculty this fall will complete a year long curriculum discussion about how best to prepare students for the rapidly changing world of communications,” Parsons said. “In the new curriculum, which would be implemented in 2014-15 at the earliest, I anticipate a greater emphasis on multimedia, mobile media, visual communication design and media analytics, within the context of a liberal arts education.”

Students who earn grades worthy of the Dean’s List and President’s List will be able to receive tangible certificates to display their honors. Student transcripts will also show the term averages and will break apart transfer credits, which were previously lumped together, so the student and third parties know where the credits came from.

Lastly, seniors graduating in May 2014 will get a pleasant surprise upon graduation: The diplomas will be much larger than in previous years.

Sounds erupt from the Conservators’ Center last Saturday

Kira Lion shows off her huge teeth at The Conservators' Center "Sounds of the Center" event April 27. All photos by Stephanie Butzer.

Kira Lion shows off her huge teeth at The Conservators’ Center “Sounds of the Center” event April 27. All photos by Stephanie Butzer.

By Stephanie Butzer

With a single human yell, the Conservators’ Center comes alive. Staff and volunteers around the grounds join in before their voices are drowned by 20 lions “oofing,” three wolves howling and nine tigers chuffling.

“The ones who know them best are the best ones to get them going,” said Mandy Matson, director of communications at the Center.

Over and over, the Conservators’ Center received feedback from visitors about how the sounds they heard at the center had been the highlight of their experience.

Community members were invited to attend the Center’s “Sound of the Center” event April 27 to hear lions, wolves, tigers and New Guinea Singing Dogs communicate with each other and people.

Visitors were encouraged to wander the trails at their own pace and listen to staff members talk about how and why the different animals communicated, what they were saying to each other and to the people and why their sounds are so important.

Freya Tiger examines groups of visitors as they watch her interact with the lions that share her enclosure.

Freya Tiger examines groups of visitors as they watch her interact with the lions that share her enclosure.

Meghan McGrath, a staff member who helps in Outreach Services, organized “Sounds of the Center,” but not without a team of enthusiastic and passionate staff members behind her.

“This would not have been possible at all, with any planning that I had done, with all the execution I had, without the community and team of people we have here,” McGrath said. “You always have hiccups, but even without them, we can’t do things like this without our volunteers coming out and supporting us.”

The idea for the event first came into bloom when McGrath became fascinated with introducing the community that had already seen the Center as an entertainment destination to a more education-heavy experience.

“This was our first experiment with seeing how (far in) education we can go and how far we can go in this direction and still have people be motivated to come out and meet our animals,” McGrath said.

The staff members were scattered around the Center, each engaging in an intellectual conversation about various animals. Their passion was evident as they described the animals as they would a friend.

Kim and Frank Pyne have worked with the Conservators’ Center since 2007 and during “Sounds of the Center” they spoke to visitors from inside the wolf enclosure.

The mixed pride rests as the "Sounds of the Center" event comes to a close April 27.

The mixed pride rests as the “Sounds of the Center” event comes to a close April 27.

“Wolves make an awful lot of noise and in every bit of social behavior that they do, there are noises,” Kim Pyne said.

When wolves were in a disagreement, she said they rarely partake in a serious fight.

“What you will see is a lot of sounds, a lot of noise, a lot of posturing and suddenly huge big-sized-looking animals because they’re fluffing their fur out to make themselves look big and scary. It’s all sounds and noise and signifies nothing, to quote Macbeth.,” she said.

Staff and volunteers explained the different howls of their three white wolves and how, from across the Center, they could identify which animal had howled. Down the walkway, other members pointed out the small gruffs and “oofs” the lions and tigers made.

At the end of the night, the staff heard a lot of positive feedback about the loose structure of the evening event. Keepers stayed afterwards to talk to people who wanted to return to see another “Sounds of the Center.”

“Little things like that are what makes us so successful,” McGrath said. “It’s not necessary for us to succeed (with the event), but it really helps reinforce the idea that were community and that we all work together.”

For all pictures, click here. 

Faith Force athletes conjure power in Lamb’s Chapel

By Stephanie Butzer

In The Lamb’s Chapel in Haw River, a large countdown timer ticked down the minutes until Faith Force, a group of world-class athletes who use feats of strength to build and share faith, ran onto the stage.

Jeff Terrell twists a horseshoe into a heart. Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

Jeff Terrell twists a horseshoe into a heart. Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

When the countdown reached zero, intense music blasted around the auditorium and crewmembers set bricks on fire. The flames were large enough that the front row leaned backwards, away from the heat. From behind the tall flames, Russ Clear, a six-time world champion in bench press, ran up to every set of enflamed bricks and smashed them with his fists. A thick chain around his neck glinted against the fire.

As crewmembers extinguished the fire, two male and one female member of the team walked onto a raised platform, held a hot water bottle, and started to blow in it. It slowly started to expand. When the material had stretched into the size of an extra-large balloon, where the pressure was about the same as a truck tire, they popped.

The feats of strength continued when Mark Kerr, a world champion strongman, attempted to get into the Guinness Book of World Records by curling three frying pans and then breaking a baseball bat behind his back.

Just a few minutes later, Clear bent an inch-thick pole of steal in half. The heavy music and aggressive performance drifted off and the members wiped their foreheads. Kerr started talking to the audience about why Faith Force was at the chapel.

There was a bigger message behind the athletes’ physical strength. Between the high-energy crusades, they talked about personal stories involving their faith and testimonies of God’s truthfulness. Kerr encouraged members of the audience to talk to somebody who had not yet “opened their heart to Jesus.”

“All of us know somebody who needs Jesus Christ,” Kerr said. “All of us.”

Kerr introduced the upcoming acts and the team went back to breaking the physical barriers. Jeff Terrell, the founding member and a competitive bodybuilder, twisted a horseshoe into a heart, which he later gave to a child in the audience. Another member ripped through multiple phone books.

As the crew cleaned up behind him, Clear stepped up to talk to the audience. He thanked the church for helping send Faith Force to hundreds of schools in North Carolina. The athletes are currently getting ready to go to 100 to 150 schools in the region and Clear said they were looking for a miracle to get them to all those schools. He emphasized that the group was not “begging for bread,” but urged any kind of contribution.

“Your kids are priceless,” Clear said. “I know mine are – I got nine of them. I can’t keep track of all of them, I think it’s nine now.”

Jeff Terrell lists a 300-pound log over his head. Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

Jeff Terrell lists a 300-pound log over his head. Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

As donation buckets were passed around, Clear introduced Terrell’s next routine: lifting a 300-pound log over his head.

Toward the end of the night, Ron Waterman, an Ultimate Fighting Championship athlete, stepped up and started telling the story of his life before he embraced Jesus Christ. He described his childhood-self: a kid that was as wide as he was tall, and who struggled in school, especially mathematics. But Waterman forged a relationship with his Physical Education teacher, who encouraged him to join the wrestling team at the school. Years later, Waterman fought in UFC 20, 21, 22 and UFC Japan before he was offered a contract with the World Wrestling Entertainment.

Waterman said as he grew in popularity, he gained a lot of materialistic things: a fancy car, a big house. But he said he still felt empty.

“I was aiming to achieve a lot of things,” Waterman said. “A lot of people would say, ‘man, this guy has everything. He’s got a lot of worldly success.’ But, I was missing something. I found out it’s impossible to say ‘no’ to the things in this world unless you first say ‘yes’ to Jesus Christ.”

Burlington resident Wendy Wilkie said her sons always look forward to seeing the members of Faith Force at the church. They have gone to the performance for the past three years.

“These guys work in an amazing way with kids and adults, so to watch hearts changed is amazing,” she said. “I have a 9-year-old. It’s important to show him the way.”

While the members of Faith Force twisted metal, tore through phone books and distorted frying pans, a giant backlit cross on the wall glowed behind them.

“(Faith Force is) awesome,” Wilkie said. “Best way to say it: awesome.”

Verbal, non-verbal conversation about eating disorders explored in Elon senior’s thesis

Senior Cecilia Potter's "Reflections" examines eating disorders through a unique viewpoint: theatre, dance and dialogue. Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

Senior Cecilia Potter’s “Reflections” examines eating disorders through a unique viewpoint: theatre, dance and dialogue. Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

By Stephanie Butzer

Dancers in Cecilia Potter’s senior thesis, “Reflections,” emitted several emotions related to eating disorders throughout the performance Friday night: anger, guilt, wonder and hopelessness.

“It’s that constant negative cycle that everybody who has had an eating disorder can relate to,” Potter said.

The dance follows the story of a young woman struggling with bulimia, how it affects her friends and how she ultimately overcomes it.

Potter, a theatre studies major and dance minor, dedicated the performance to one of her best friends from home is currently struggling with bulimia and anorexia. She said “Reflections” is for her friend and for other dancers in Potter’s demographic who have an eating disorder.

“People say it’s limited to adolescents but I really believe it’s a college thing, too,” Potter said. “I’ve noticed it on Elon’s campus and other campuses. This is my way of bringing awareness to the community as much as I can.”

Initially, Potter and the other dancers participated in acting exercises. Then, she transferred them to learn how to get the same message across, but through dance. Potter hoped this would serve as a bridge between verbal and non-verbal expression.

“It trained them to communicate better and be aware of each other rather than just dancing,” Potter said. “It was communicating – having a movement dialogue.”

Eating disorders are a big problem for dancers, Potter said. Many of the dancers in “Reflections” can relate to the issue through their own lives or through people they have seen struggle with it. The dancers did many exercises where they could explain these battles.

“It’s definitely unlocked a different level of emotion that I don’t think could be brought just through movement,” Potter said. “We needed to talk it out and we needed to have these kinds of exercises to get it out.”

Potter decided to do an independent senior thesis because she wanted to do a show that wasn’t “straight-up acting,” she said. She wasn’t interested in writing a script and performing it; she wanted to dance. While there are theatrical elements in the show, the story is told through dance.

Jane Wellford, professor of the performing arts, and Kevin Otos, associate professor of theatre, have advised her through the process. Potter said it was helpful to have professionals help her with both the theatrical and dance sides of the production.

“I was really proud of her for going for it and making it happen because she had to make it happen by reserving the space, getting the dancers and seeing her vision through,” Wellford said.

Potter is expecting a mixed review from her audience. She described the performance as a movie when a truthful thing is exposed and people giggle because they are uncomfortable.

“I think the subject is pretty forward so it might bring some discomfort but that’s kind of what I’m going for,” Potter said. “It’s not a dance where you leave and think, ‘oh, that was fun and happy.’ It’s something to think about it and I just wanted to have some resonance in the audience’s mind.”

Potter had a certain picture of the show in mind when she started planning the performance and as practices started, this picture slowly changed into something she said she is happier with. She said she hopes the message in “Reflections” will help spark conversations about the prevalence of eating disorders. Dancing helped the conversation become both verbal and non-verbal.

“What could be more personal or more revealing than the human body as the instrument for portrayal?” Wellford said.

All photos by Stephanie Butzer.