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grab your coffee, sit back and hang out with the UD Honors Program for a while

Category: Claire Davanzo (page 1 of 5)

Student Night at the REP

Even our newest readers know, if nothing else, this about me: I’m a theatre buff. I am the “wait on line at TKTS in the winter cold to see a matinee, sit through rush hour traffic to catch a certain musical, act in just about anything” kind of theatre buff.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that one of my favourite events on campus is Student Theatre Night at the REP. Thanks to the Honors Program and our awesome free tickets program for some of the best events on campus, my friend Brian and I got to see Wit last Thursday. Any attempt to express how excited I was about this would do my feelings injustice; I have wanted to see Wit for over a year.

photo1-3Student Night at the REP actually starts with a meet-and-greet the hour before. The theatre buys snacks and drinks, and all the students get to mill around and chat with each other. There are also a handful of raffles; it turned out to be my lucky night in more ways than one, because in addition to seeing an astounding production, I won at $25 gift card to Deer Park! As someone who doesn’t win raffles very often (and who is made a laughing stock twice a year at family occasions that merit playing seemingly endless games of Bingo), that’s notable. Take that, Mom.

Wit itself is the remarkably beautiful tale of a 17th Century English Literature professor named Vivian Bearing, who discovers she is suffering – and in fact, all but dying – from Stage IV metastatic ovarian cancer. She agrees to an experimental and highly intensive chemotherapy regimen, consisting of eight rounds of radiation at full dosage, and the play details her life during these treatments as well as reveals a series of flashbacks which tell the tale of Vivian Bearing’s life before her illness.

It all sounds quite grim, doesn’t it? Imagine the audience’s surprise when Wit managed to have the room laughing within the first few lines. Vivian Bearing is a wonderfully sarcastic narrator, full of pithy references and comments that make her time in the hospital and her interactions with the people in it far more entertaining than we’d have expected.

What is even more captivating than the witticisms (pun intended!) of the comedic moments in the play is Vivian’s touching and deep character development. She begins Wit as a strong, confident woman who stands at the pinnacle of her field of research at the cost of human relationships. However, at the end of the play, Vivian is a shell of who she once was, and is left wishing she had more meaningful memories, more family and friends and kindness and compassion, to look back on.

I heard more than one person say that Wit “hit way too close to home for me,” and saw several people, like me, wiping tears from their eyes as they left the theatre. Wit really makes you think about where you stand right now, consider what matters to you, and imagine a life without those precious people in it. It was, in a word, stunning.

The World Is Your Classroom

As a Secondary English Education major at UD, there are a great number of things I could tell (and even teach!) you about things you can learn in a classroom. Off the cuff, I could come up with at least a dozen “lessons within lessons” I’ve learned in classrooms throughout my college career alone. However, the most important piece of advice I’ve ever received in a classroom led me out of those rows of desks, out onto campus, and even farther out into the world.

photo1-2This piece of advice came from a professor whose insight and wisdom I have cherished from the moment I stepped into her classroom the fall of my freshman year. She handed out a syllabus that is still one of the most daunting documents I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across, and when she finally let class out (and there is no syllabus week for this professor), she said:

“You will never again be able to explore and experiment with so many activities and events, for so little cost, as you will be able to on a college campus.”

She went on to explain that any students who attended three events on campus and wrote up a short reaction paper for each would receive three points added to their final grade. Honors nerd? I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how quickly my mind leapt to seizing that extra credit opportunity.

What this professor asked, however, turned out to be a little more daunting than I had expected. I consider myself an outgoing person (and for those of you reading on campus or at home, no knowing snickers from the peanut gallery), and I still found it challenging to attend events in which I wasn’t sure I’d even have an interest. Nevertheless, attend those sorts of events (and earn those three extra credit points!) I did, and continued to do for the next two semesters I intentionally took this professor’s classes.

Maya Angelou at the University of Delaware.

Maya Angelou at the University of Delaware.

Some pearls of wisdom from the events I attended and activities I explored… The first and foremost is that there will always be more people than you anticipated at a gathering that coaxes attendees with free food; in other words, you should get there early to get the best of what they’ve ordered, and a seat for the actual event. I also learned that yoga happens to be much more athletic and exhausting than I’d supposed, but that those last five minutes where you just lie on the mat and listen to yourself breathe make the hour of human-pretzel making worth it. And when your university gets a guest speaker like Maya Angelou to come to campus and speak? You better believe you’re going, and you better believe it’s going to change your life.

My bottom line? I’ve learned a lot inside my classrooms in my three years at UD, but I’ve learned just as much outside them, just being around the amazing people and opportunities the campus has to offer.

A Gentleman’s Guide to a Jaunt in New York

Those faithful readers who have been with me since I started writing for 186 over a year ago (ah! old! no!) know that, as tradition has dictated for the past three years, I take a trip into New York with my mom the Wednesday morning of my spring break. Tradition did not fail me this year, which meant I was up bright and early last week to hop the bus into the city.

Tradition also brings me into the city during UD’s gloriously long winter break, although I have to admit, I prefer spring break’s trip. That’s because the first thing my mom and I do when we arrive in the city is wait outside on line at TKTS for discounted tickets to a matinee Broadway show. And let me tell you, waiting outside in the morning during the winter in New York? Highly unpleasant. I’ve never been so convinced that I’m contracting and dying of hypothermia as when I’m waiting in that line in the dead of winter.

photo2-2Our trip last week, however, was a definite improvement on the winter version: warm, but not too warm, and with only a touch of rain which we somehow managed to avoid. After a serious internal debate over which show to choose (you would not believe how many amazing musicals and plays are on Broadway right now), we finally settled on A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, purchased our tickets, and made our customary Times Square Starbucks run. It was even warm enough to get an iced coffee, rather than a hot chocolate just to help feel my fingers again!

Now, here is where my mom and I stray from tradition a bit. One of my mom’s favourite churches in the city is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and if you haven’t seen it, I (as someone who has toured it enough times that I’d need a third hand to keep count) would highly recommend walking through sometime. However, St. Pat’s is undergoing restoration right now, and we came across the Church of St. Mary the Virgin and chose to explore that instead; founded in 1868, the Church is home to some amazing artwork and an astounding sense of history.

photo3-2After we finished our tour of St. Mary’s, my mom mentioned she knew of a historic tour through Radio City Music Hall (is it obvious yet from whom I inherited my nerdiness?). Radio City is another building full of artwork and history I knew nothing about before that tour; my favourite fun fact is definitely the fact that even the carpets have deliberately designed patterns (abstract art musical instruments!).

Gentleman’s Guide, which we saw after a delicious lunch at Café Metro, is a wonderfully witty musical that follows Montague Navarro as he tries to kill off the eight other people in line before him for the place as the Earl of Highhurst. That doesn’t necessarily sound like it would be funny, but trust me, it was; Gentleman’s Guide has all the charm of a live, singing version of Clue, with the murderer as the star. It’s fair to say that this Gentlewoman’s Guide to a Jaunt in New York was easily the highlight of her (read, my) spring break!

Old-School Shakespeare: Not What You’d Expect

The man, the myth, the legend: William Shakespeare. You might hate him; you might not understand a word he wrote; you might love Ten Things I Hate About You and consider that your big interaction with him; you might be a purist and cherish every word he ever wrote (cough). No matter what you think about him, there’s no denying that Shakespeare is one of the world’s most (if not the world’s most) renowned poets and playwrights. With that towering reputation in mind, most teachers, actors, and producers present Shakespeare with the grandiose loftiness and painstaking effort that most befits his acclaimed name.

Not so in the production of Thphoto2e Tempest I’m in this semester, opening in less than a week. Forget everything you think you know about Shakespeare.

Headed by Honors senior Angel VanBennekom as a critical part of her thesis, these performances of The Tempest incorporate “original staging,” or putting on the show as close to the manner in which Shakespeare would have done it. As it turns out, this involves a lot more singing, dancing, and interacting with the audience, and a lot less sitting in the dark clapping at all the right moments. One of the unbreakable rules you’re taught as an actor is not to break the fourth wall: not to talk to, or even look out at, the audience; this makes teasing, taunting, flattering, flirting with, singing to, dancing for, and generally bringing the audience right into the performance an exciting challenge.photo5

Amazingly, I do believe we’ll be able to hook these audiences (though you’ll have to come see for yourself to prove me right!). Like I said earlier, forget everything you think you know about Shakespeare. This isn’t your high school literature class, where you dragged yourself through scene after scene, reading alone in your room after school. This production of The Tempest will have you splitting your sides laughing one second, and wanting to cry the next; I’m not exaggerating.

I’ve performed Shakespeare before, but never like this, and my character, Ariel, is one of the most musical and audience-interactive players in The Tempest. I sing in almost every scene, and direct most of my lines out to the audience even when I’m talking to someone on stage. When I’m not technically in the scene, I’ll be out with our hilariously unsuspecting theatre-goers and attempting to get them to interact with us, the stage actors, in any way I can. I haven’t had a live audience with which to practice just yet, but Sunday, March 23rd (opening night!) is coming up quickly.

photo4So. One more time. Forget everything you think you know about Shakespeare.

And come find out what the Bard’s really about.

 

 

Performances:

Sunday, March 23rd at 3:30 p.m. in the Trabant Food Court.

Sunday, March 23rd at 6:30 p. m. in the Trabant Food Court.

Monday, March 24th at 8:00 p.m. in the Scrounge in the Perkins Student Center.

Tuesday, March 25th at 3:30 p.m. in Smith Hall, Room 120. *Special performance for professors, classes, thesis students, and honors students (hint hint!).

Tuesday, March 25th at 6:00 p.m. in Pencader Dining Hall.

Wednesday, March 26th at 8:00 p.m. in Gore Recital Hall, Roselle Center of Fine Arts.

Polar Vortex Survival Guide

The single-digit temperatures and ungodly wind speeds crossing most of the United States this week are the freezing, unwelcome results of a polar vortex (also known, forebodingly, as an: Arctic cyclone, sub-polar cyclone, or circumpolar whirl). All home protection techniques and safety precautions aside, here is my first and foremost recommendation for surviving the Polar Vortex of 2014: do not go outside if you can help it. Instead, and to make the most of the next few frigid days, consult this Polar Vortex Survival Guide (with helpful pictorial aids!).

photo (61)-A hot drink. Take this from the girl who drinks iced coffee all year round (and yes, I do get some strange looks while ordering a caramel iced coffee, light and sweet, in the middle of January). Pictured is one of my favourites, a homemade salted hot chocolate.

-A cozy blanket, to be wrapped in while sipping the aforementioned hot drink. You should also find the comfiest place in your house to curl up, be it in your bed, on the couch, or right up next to the heater.8286316104_7f69219cf1

-A good book. Now that you’re tucked in with your beverage and your blanket, pick a book. An old favourite, a Christmas present, a recommendation from your mom… Just make sure it’s a book, because we all know we won’t have time to read for pleasure once we’re back on campus in the spring. Right now, I’m reading Tenth of December by George Saunders.

photo (64)-A fluffy hat. This one is self-explanatory. The window for wearing warm winter hats is painfully narrow, and I wait ten months of the year for December and January to roll around and let me wear my ridiculous hats. Even though I’m not stepping out into the Arctic tundra, I’m not going to miss out on the chance to wear one of these fabulous pieces of headgear around the house all day (owl plushie not included).

-A laptop or tablet. StumbleUpon, BuzzFeed, Tumblr… Not to mention the Almighty Netflix. The powerful tools of procrastination are yours to command, guilt-free, over the remarkably long winter break UD students have to enjoy. You will not find a better time to start a new show or to catch up on your neglected ones*.

*For those readers who are finally tiring of watching Breaking Bad straight through for the seventh time in a row, might I recommend: CBS’s Elementary; ABC’s Castle; USA’s Suits; BBC America’s Orphan Black; the BBC’s Downtown Abbey; and, as always, the BBC’s Doctor Who.

photo (65)-A board game that takes a really long time to finish playing. Once those unfortunate members of your family who had to venture outside into the abyss return to the warmth of your home, settle each of them down with their own fluffy hats and tuck into Monopoly, the notoriously lengthy family board game. Winter break is about seeing your family, too, after all, and there’s no better time than when you’re all tucked up away from the cold.

Happy Polar Vortex-ing!

Claire Davanzo

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