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“The Guys” of Grant County honored

Thirteen years ago, journalist Anne Nelson, now teaching at Columbia University, sat down with a New York City fire captain to help him write the eulogies of eight firefighters who died in 9/11, according to an article on the Columbia News webpage.

After hearing their stories, Nelson was extremely moved. Just a few weeks later, on a chance meeting with Jim Simpson, artistic director of the Flea Theatre, Nelson proposed the idea of a play based on her experience with the fire captain.

Eight days later, she’d written her first play, and two days after that, Simpson had scheduled it to be performed. Simpson’s wife, actress Sigourney Weaver, expressed interest in performing it and asked her friend actor Bill Murray (yes, the Bill Murray) to play the other role. Within a week, meetings for rehearsal had begun, according to the Flea Theatre website.

On Sept. 25, the Indiana Wesleyan University Theatre Guild will put on a free performance of Nelson’s play, “The Guys,” for the firemen of Grant County to honor and thank them for their work, some of whom actually went out to New York to help during 9/11.  

The following day, Sept. 26, the play will be open to the public.

Joan, played by Ashley Nossett (sr), interviews fire captain Nick, played by Seth Lawrence (sr), about the men he lost on 9/11. Photo by Hannah Whelchel.

Joan, played by Ashley Nossett (sr), interviews fire captain Nick, played by Seth Lawrence (sr), about the men he lost on 9/11. Photo by Hannah Whelchel.

Director Sharla Ball (sr) chose the play for her senior project as “a chance to share a story that I knew most of the audience had been a part of, … and I knew everybody would remember it.” She described it as less of a historical play and more of “a memory play.”

With an uncle who was a career firefighter and a grandpa who was a volunteer firefighter, Ball is most excited for the performances for the fire station. They will also be touring the play, getting another chance on Oct. 10 to perform for Hendricks County fire departments.

The show was cast in May, with Ashley Nossett (sr) portraying Joan, based off Nelson herself, and Seth Lawrence (sr), portraying Nick, the fire captain. They also met with Fire Chief Paul David and Captain Paul Thompson in May in order to start communicating about the performance for the fire station.

To begin their research for the play, Ball and Nossett got the chance to go to New York City during May term and tour a fire department that was just a block away from Ground Zero, right across the street from the towers, and hear one of the fireman’s stories. They saw the plaques on the wall of the station for the men that died in 9/11. They also saw the 9/11 Memorial. They also got to see a show at the Flea Theatre, where “The Guys” was originally performed.

To prepare for the role as fire captain, Lawrence shadowed the firemen of Grant County for a day. Getting up at six in the morning to be at the fire station for roll call, he got to hang out with the firemen, hear their stories, see how the fire truck worked and understand what their daily routine was like. 

“After time, things become diluted,” Ball said. She hopes that the play will be a good way “to remember what it was like back when it happened.” 

“Most of our generation has been living in a society where we’ve been in war since then,” Ball said. “People don’t realize that we’re still living in this era where we’re not at peace.”

Ball said the play is a chance to see what the world was like before 2001, before 9/11 changed everything.

Doing the Tango. Photo by Hannah Whelchel.

Nick teaches Joan how to dance. Photo by Hannah Whelchel.

Thirteen years after 9/11, “The Guys” has touched people in multiple ways.

Nelson referred to a Cambodian student who once spoke to her of the performance. The student said, “I just lost my best friend to cancer. This play is about me.”

“Some take it very literally,” Nelson said, “as a piece of history; some take it as a piece about mourning; some about finding friendship. I think where a person is at in life affects how they hear it.”

At the beginning of the play, Joan delivers a monologue about how different people have different degrees of distance from an event, like the ripples of being affected. 

“Everyone’s trying to find their own relationship to the event,” Nelson said.

The play will run Sept. 26-27 and Oct. 3-4 at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays will also have a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets are $7 for students, $10 for IWU employees and $12 for adults, according to the IWU Theatre Guild website.

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Switchfoot comes to IWU for second time

switchfoot_img01_hiresFive California surfers turned musicians will travel to Marion, Ind. April 4 to share songs about experiencing the world.

Switchfoot last came to Indiana Wesleyan University in spring 2010 when the Chapel-Auditorium opened for the first time. Now four years later, they’ve released their ninth studio album, “Fading West.”

The band will headline the 8 p.m. concert for Fusion, a youth event hosted by IWU, alongside music by the Brandon Grissom Band, Jordan Brown (alumna ‘12) and a dance performance by Momentum.

This concert is in the midst of Switchfoot’s Fading West tour that began in September 2013. Chad Butler, Switchfoot’s drummer, says some of the band’s best shows have happened in small towns on the tour.

“In those big cities, they get concerts every night,” Butler says. “And then sometimes in the smaller towns, the music is more appreciated.”

Butler is one of the original three Switchfoot members, alongside brothers Jon and Tim Foreman. Even after spending 17 years together and the additions of Jerome Fontamillis and Drew Shirley, Butler says it’s still fun.

“It’s such a gift,” Butler says. “Every morning I wake up and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to play music that I believe in with people I love.”

And now, the band has done something completely different than ever before — starred in a documentary.

“We picked our favorite places around the planet that had good surfing and went to look for new musical inspiration and chase waves around the world,” Butler says.

The documentary is called “Fading West,” just like the album, and follows the band through their 2012 World Tour. Butler says this it’s the biggest project Switchfoot has ever done in their almost two decades of music. All of the songs on their newest album are based off places they visited.

“It’s a documentary about music and surfing, but it’s also a look behind the scenes to the humanity and the brotherhood that we have in the band,” Butler says. “It has a real heart beat and I think it’s a human story that anybody can relate to.”

Since the documentary focused on one year of the band’s life, they were able to travel throughout the world and wherever they wanted. Butler says Indonesia and South Africa were his two favorite places.

In Capetown, South Africa, the band visited a children’s choir called the Kuyasa Kids. These children became orphans because of AIDS. It was Switchfoot’s second time visiting them and on the “Fading West” album, they’re featured in the song “The World You Want.”

“So these kids, they have a really difficult circumstance, and yet they have so much hope in their eyes,” Butler says. “And we were really inspired working with them … We have a lot to learn from them.”

According to Butler, the band has always had a heart for kids. For the past 10 years, Switchfoot has hosted a concert and surf contest called Switchfoot Bro-Am during the summer. All funds raised at the event through vendors, sponsorships and an auction benefit San Diego children’s charities.

“Kids are really important to us,” Butler says. “I feel like we’ve been given so much and music has given us such an opportunity. We look for opportunities to give back to shine the spotlight on kids who need help, who need a hand.”

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IWU students ready to shine in challenging opera

_MG_2070Sometimes, the grass isn’t greener on the other side.

Protagonist Laurie Moss learns this lesson the hard way in “The Tender Land,” an opera written by Aaron Copland and set in the Midwest United States during the Great Depression. Moss is the first member of her family to graduate from high school and longs to see new places and do new things outside of the rural environment where she spent her entire life.

Students from Indiana Wesleyan University will perform “The Tender Land” from March 21-22 and 28-29. According to Director Dr. Tammie Huntington, it will be IWU’s first full-length American “opera seria,” or serious opera.

One of the key challenges for the cast has been properly depicting the opera’s 1930s setting. Huntington has stressed the importance of this with her cast members.

“Each cast member was required to fill out a thorough background report on their character that required researching the time period through Internet, written and pictorial research,” Huntington says in an email interview.

Stage manager Braden Hunt (jr) says the way the characters sing the words and the style of music reflect the dialect of the time period in the United States.

“The cast takes off the ‘g’ on some of the words. So instead of ‘going,’ it’ll be ‘goin,’” Hunt says. “Lots of the music has a hoedown feel to it.”

Overall, Huntington says the cast has done an outstanding job with such a challenging production.

“The music is very difficult,” Huntington says. “[Composer] Aaron Copland uses a lot of mixed meter and unusual intervals to capture the natural pattern of speech and voice inflection in his characters. Our students have done amazingly well, and I’m very proud of them, but it definitely has been a challenge.”

Elise Duncan (sr), plays the lead of Laurie in the two Saturday performances and says the opera is very physically taxing.

_MG_2059“There isn’t any time for lulls of silence on stage with the music, because we have to put every movement we do on stage with the music,” Duncan said. “We have to keep our energy uptempo even when the music is slower.”

Since the opera is so hard on the body, Duncan says the cast members sometimes have to “mark” their parts, or sing quietly, to preserve their voices during rehearsals.

Duncan also says IWU will perform the opera with two casts. One cast will perform in the Friday shows, and the other cast in the Saturday shows.

“Having two casts gives us an interesting opportunity to see what the other cast is doing to get a different perspective on our characters,” Duncan says.

 Huntington says she believes members of the IWU community will enjoy the opera because many of the its themes are relatable to a college community.

“A Midwest farm, parents struggling to let go of their children, children struggling to create their own lives while still honoring and respecting their parents. These are very familiar themes on a college campus,” says Huntington.

Hunt echoes Huntington’s statements, saying the people who attend the opera will greatly enjoy the music.

“‘The Tender Land’ has a lot of fun, upbeat music,” Hunt says. “And it’s in English, unlike many operas, so the audience will actually be able to understand the words.”

The Friday and Saturday performances will take place March 21-22 and 28-29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Phillippe Performing Arts Center.

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McConn to host music and art show

DSC_9352Indiana Wesleyan University Students will be able to grab a cup of coffee, enjoy student-created art and listen to some of their favorite Crema bands in a McConn Coffee Co. hosted event called Cremapalooza.

Nick Archibald (sr), McConn’s business development manager, came up with the idea for Cremapalooza and took charge as the event’s organizer. He says the concept is something he has had in his head since the fall and he finally wanted to give it a whirl.

Archibald wanted Crema to go out strong this semester, rather than one last typical Crema of the year.

“It’s kind of just a celebration for the end of the year — kind of the [year’s] end of Crema, and to celebrate the cast, the people who have played for us all year,” Archibald says. “It’s our thanks to them.”

According to Archibald, students will create all of the displayed art and former Crema artists will provide the music. The six musical artists and groups performing will play in either the Commons or the 1920 Gallery, depending on their size and genre.

Archibald says the music will be set up in a concert format, with music sets growing longer with each artist until the final act caps off the night. Each set will run between 30 and 90 minutes.

The music lineup for Cremapalooza consists of some favorite Crema artists like: Jay Filson, Chad Hoy, Brothers and Sisters, Shea’s Rebellion, Double Take and Jonah Yoshonis, according to Archibald.

Although music will be the main focus of Cremapalooza, Archibald is excited to partner with the 1920 gallery to show off IWU student art.

“We want to partner with 1920 so we can kind of get people to know like ‘Hey, there’s something actually in there,’” Archibald said. “There are a lot of talented artists here.”

Archibald will graduate at the end of the spring semester, but says he hopes Cremapalooza will remain an IWU tradition even after he is gone.

“I hope to kind of leave it for the next few years and see if maybe another business development manager can improve on it or think of something better or even develop it more than I could have,” Archibald said.

Cremapalooza is free and will run from at 6:30 to around midnight March 29.

“I’m excited for it. It’ll be a long night, but everyone that I’ve spoken to, all the artists that are playing that night are excited,” Archibald said. “We’re hoping it turns out pretty big.”

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