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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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JK! Profiles: Three old guys and a freshman

These four Indiana Wesleyan University gentlemen will grace the Commons stage Friday, March 21 at 9 p.m. for the stand-up comedy event JK!. Each contestent has his own unique story and humor. Here’s a preview of what to expect:


Year: Freshman
Major: Pre-Declared
Residence: Hodson Hall
Your catchphrase: Holy-funky-bass-players batman!

How would you describe humor?
About the same way you would describe the color red to a colorblind person (Sorry colorblind people)

Will your act make me laugh, cry or both? And how?
If everyone laughs at me, I’ll cry.

What is your ideal breakfast?
I like a breakfast that’s smart, caring, and Christ-centered. Brunette breakfasts are my favorite but it’s hard to turn away from a blonde or red-headed breakfast.

As the youngest and least experienced JK member, what do you have that no one else does?
Being the youngest gives me the element of surprise to the audience and the perfect opportunity to impress them. They asked the same thing about Alexander the Great and Mozart when they were young. Look what they did. #TheMoreYouKnow #JKMeansJustKeven



Year: Senior
Major: Journalism, Media Communication, Cow Wranglin’
Residence: ‘Murica
Your catchphrase: WE UP! (we ain’t never down)

How would you describe humor?
With words. Or an interpretive dance. But probably words.

Will your act make me laugh, cry or both? And how?
Hopefully laugh, that’s like, the entire point of this whole thing, isn’t it? Unless I entered the wrong competition, in which case: Oops. If not, I intend to play off my own awkwardness and my intrigue with social norms that some people consider second nature. If you cry, you’ve probably got some things going on in your life. Wanna get some coffee and talk about it?

What is your ideal breakfast?
I like to feast on the hopes and dreams of freshmen.

You’re back in JK! after a one-year hiatus. What were you up to?
You know the training scenes in the Rocky movies? I’ve been doing the standup comedy version of that. Wearing sweatpants, listening to Brian Regan on my Walkman and drinking as much Naked Juice as possible.



Year: Senior
Major: Business Administration, Spanish
Residence: East Lodge 102 (It’s where the party’s at … jk it’s pretty chill there most of the time.)
Your catchphrase: Jeremiah 29:11 … Oh, catchphrase? I thought you said oft-quoted life verse … I guess I don’t have a catchphrase … yet!

How would you describe humor?
Observational. Think Jerry Seinfeld … mixed with an IWU student with senioritus.

Will your act make me laugh, cry or both? And how?
I think my act contains elements of humor AND sadness, but never at the same time, and never on purpose.

What is your ideal breakfast?
Wheat bagel, peanut butter and Vanilla Almond tea. Ask McConn. They’ll know …

Will Spanish be present in the act?
Con respecto a este asunto, no hay duda. I might even throw in un poco de Spanglish.



Year: Sophomore
Major: Applied Music, Media Design
Residence: Hodson Hall 3 North
Catchphrase: Pools are a great place to hold water

How would you describe humor?
My humor is weird and stupid but truthful and intentional. I like exposing stupidity and making people think a little harder about the things they do. But also I love my share of pointless humor using it to bring joy and a sense of comfort to others.

Will your act make me laugh, cry or both? And how?
Laugh, because I will tell a joke or two.

What is your ideal breakfast?
My ideal breakfast is cinnamon rolls, french toast, eggs and bacon and OJ all eaten in a gondola ride around the south of France.

Is there any power to your long curly hair?
Absolutely! Everything is better curly: fries, slides, ribbons … That’s where the power comes from. Imagine little drops of fun racing down my head slides (curls) leaping into the air and showering everyone with love and fun … Yea I know, it scares me too.


(All photos courtesy of Student Activities Council.)

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