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March 2013

How I Learned to Drive – a vehicle toward empowerment

how i learned to driveHow I Learned to Drive, by Paula Vogel, opens March 8 in the Studio Theater of the new Karen Hille Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at Pacific Lutheran University.

Often described as one of the most disturbing love stories in theatre, How I Learned to Drive contains issues of pedophilia, incest and misogyny. The audience is urged to examine their relationship with the term "empowerment" and what it means to them as individuals. 

“These are topics that the normal audience, actors, director would run from, but the play won a Pulitzer Prize so obviously the playwright handled these issues very well,” says Dr. Lori Lee Wallace, director of How I Learned to Drive. “Paula Vogel is sort of a genius, she took an issue which could be viewed very black and white and just covered it with color, and it turned out to be a really beautiful story.”

Set in rural Maryland the play recounts the relationship between a young girl, Li’l Bit, from a tightly knit, lower-middle-class family, and her uncle-by-marriage, Uncle Peck. The play thoughtfully integrates the metaphor of driving with the idea of control and manipulation.

The March 8 premiere is presented as part of the first event of the 2013 School of Arts and Communication (SOAC) Focus Series. Four events, each with a different disciplinary lens, address various aspects of empowerment. A post-performance discussion will be held March 8 immediately following the show. Meet with members of the artistic staff and cast and gain insight into the author's work and production process. The audience is encouraged to participate in this open format, and offer their own insight, experiences or questions relating to empowerment.

Show dates are March 7 (Student Preview), 8, 9, 15 & 16 at 7:30 pm and March 17 at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased through PLU’s box office at 253-535-7411 or at the door. Tickets are $8 general admission and $5 to the PLU Community. 

Art and the Holocaust: Understanding Aesthetic Experience as Empowerment

What role can the experience of art play in our understanding of the Holocaust? We attempt to answer this question Thursday, March 14 at 3:40pm in Lagerquist Concert Hall, as Assistant Professor Heather Mathews examines artworks as tools of empowerment. First we look at paintings and objects made post-war to address the issue of German guilt, and end with a performance of Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time.” 

HolocaustWe’ll explore the individual empowerment of artists who are survivors and artworks made by sympathetic artists, which empower a society as a whole. In survivors’ artwork, they consider the ways their lives have been, and continue to be, impacted by the Holocaust as young children. 

“Such individual expressions—personal histories, memory of the losses endured—give a specificity to a crime that, at times, seems too vast for comprehension,” Mathews writes. “And, importantly, these expressions help us to understand how it is possible for the survivor to persevere, perhaps even to flourish, in spite of the trauma that shadows their early lives.”

Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time" was premiered during World War II in Stalag VIII-A, a prisoner-of-war camp in Görlitz, Germany, outdoors and in the rain, on January 15, 1941. Written and performed during their internment, Messiaen performed on piano with musicians he met on the journey to the camp. They played on decrepit instruments to an audience of fellow prisoners and guards.   PLU Music faculty - Cameron Bennett, piano, Svend Ronning, violin, Craig Rine, clarinet, and Richard Treat, cello - will perform the entire monumental work and Bennett will offer some opening comments. 

This event is the second event in the 2013 School of Arts + Communication (SOAC) annual Focus Series, under this year's theme: "Empowerment" and is held in conjunction with the Powell-Heller Holocaust Conference.  The event is free and open to the community. This event will be streamed live - Click Here.  

Image credit: Stolpersteine

Where are they now? Art and Theatre alumni check in

All the way from London to New York, we are checking in with SOAC alumni from the 2011-2012 academic year who share their life experiences and advice. Below, see what Andrew Deem '12 (Art & Design) and Angie Tennant '12 (Theatre) have put their PLU education to in the last year. Next month stay tuned for updates from Music and Communication alumni. 

deemAndrew Deem '12

Degree: Bachelors of Fine Art: Studio Arts
Organizations: Choir of the West, Art Club

Where are you now? "The summer after graduation I taught children and adults the fundamentals of ceramics at the Open Arts Studio in Tacoma. Now I am in London at The Royal College of Art getting my MA in Ceramics and Glass. I am also working with a potter Nicola Tassie as her assistant one day a week in London." 

What is the most valuable thing you learned from PLU?  "The importance of community across a wide spectrum of ages, races and disciplines." 

What is a skill that you learned at PLU that has transferred to your “real world” work? "The ability to problem solve. There are always difficulties, but it is how we approach them so we can overcome them that is important. (I'm still working on this.)"

What is one piece of advice you would give graduating SOAC students about the future? "Be humble. Be confident. Stay positive. Make a lot of friends. Don't be a slacker." 

To the right, a video of Andrew Deem's soda kiln project his senior year. 

Angie TennantAngela Tennant '12

Degree: Bachelors of Fine Art - Theatre, Acting Directing with an English Literature minor
Organizations: Alpha Psi Omega (Member and Historian), Vpstart Crow (President), CLAY CROWS Improv (Member), SOAC Advisory Board

Where are you now? "I currently reside in New York City. Upon graduation at PLU, I was accepted into the MFA Acting program at The New School for Drama, and I'm in the middle of my second semester. It's a three-year, intensive program that hones actors by giving us a safe and challenging space to learn and practice our craft. We focus intensely on collaboration with the new playwrights and directors also seeking their MFA's, and this allows us to form an artistic company. I have actually been accepted into the school's smallest year, with only 17 other actors in the program. I work for The New School, as well, in a work-study position."

What is the most valuable thing you learned from PLU? "Honestly, the most valuable thing I think I took away from PLU was a knowledge of who I was--what I wanted, how I thought, what I wanted to pursue, what issues were important to me, and in what conditions I could best work. A series of amazing professors and courses all contributed to helping me begin to formulate my answers to these very difficult questions. Not to mention, I gained an invaluable knowledge and appreciation for the theatrical process as a whole."

What is a skill that you learned at PLU that has transferred to your “real world” work? "Though I'm certainly still in the academic world, the education I received at PLU has certainly given me a strong base for adjusting to such a diverse city and an intensive program. PLU's emphasis on vocation allowed me to find my passion (theatre) and therefore gave me the drive to seek out a way to continue learning, while not being afraid to really strive to fulfill my vocation. As for the adjustment to the city, it's impossible to truly prepare yourself for living in NY, but I believe the [International Honors] classes I took at PLU gave me a foundation for looking at the world from various perspectives, something that's unbelievably important in a city with so many different people crammed into a tiny island!"

What is one piece of advice you would give graduating SOAC students about the future? "To graduating SOAC students: You've begun your training to become an artist. Don't be afraid to go and start doing your art. Move across the country, or to a different country! Find a program that excites you, or stay and invest yourself into a community. Regardless, do your art. There's a beautiful book by Stephen Pressfield called The War of Art. In it, he argues that each artist is bestowed with a divine inspiration, a need and drive to create in their specific medium. And it is our duty, as artists, to overcome the Resistance we face (internal and external) to our creative processes. So work to overcome them. Don't allow yourself to stop being the artist you are. No matter what else, do your art."

New exhibit exposes ecological change through art 

RichmanThe University Gallery's upcoming exhibit provides audiences with a view of the natural world through the eyes of two Washington artists. The University Gallery presents the work of Cynthia Camlin and Elise Richman in “Each Form Overflows its Present.”  The new exhibition features the ever-changing natural world and is inspired by concerns of climate change. The exhibition will open on March 13 and run through April 10.

In this exhibit, the artists’ paintings act as a metaphor for the current state of the earth. Although the artists have different processes, they both work to convey ecological concern. 

Camlin’s work is landscape-based, often representative of ice sheets and global glacial melting. Her icy landscapes explore relationships between abstract and naturalistic visual languages. Her pieces symbolize geological and environmental changes. 

Richman uses poured paint to evoke the natural shape of land. She depicts water and the local marine environments showing the interconnectedness of nature.   

“All of my painting processes act as models of environmental systems and states of flux,” Elise Richman says in her artist statement.  “The poured paint dries into forms that evoke the contours of islands, water bodies, and/or fluid dynamics.” 

Richman is Associate Professor of Art at the University of Puget Sound. She has exhibited at the Center on Contemporary Art in Seattle and in Tacoma’s Woolworth Windows. Camlin is Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing at Western Washington University, with work featured at both the Tacoma Art Museum and the 2012 Neddy at Cornish exhibition.

Join us for an opening reception from 5-7pm on March 13. Regular gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 8am-4pm. 

Louis Hobson '00 shares experience and advice at PLU workshop 


So now what? After going to the Big Apple and making it big – as in a key part on a Broadway, Tony-winning, Pulitzer Prize winning play big – what’s next?

Louis Hobson ’00 gets asked that question a lot these days. And his answer seems to be, everything. Just last month, Hobson acknowledged he will be artistic director of Seattle’s Balagan Theatre in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Hobson will also star in the Balagan’s first show of the season: Les Miserables, which will begin its run in September. Hobson also hopes to use his New York City ties to bring some off-Broadway productions to the Seattle theater.

“Here we go, fingers crossed,” he said in a recent interview at the Studio Theater on the PLU campus before a workshop..

Hobson moved back to the Northwest last fall, and lives in Tacoma with Noreen Hobson ‘99, and his three children Gwen, 5; Thomas, 3; and Charlie, 10 months. Life has seemingly come full circle for the performing arts major, who after appearing in a number of plays after graduating from Pacific Lutheran University in 2000, decided in 2008 that it was time to take the plunge and see if he could make it in New York City.

So with no prospects and only the promise of a blow up mattress on a friend’s living room in Queens, Hobson left his wife behind and took the risk. And that make all the difference for the Puyallup native.

Within a few weeks, he’d landed a role in Next to Normal, a Broadway play that later won the Pulitzer Prize that year for theater. Hobson has been working steadily since, with parts in musicals such as Leap of Faith, Bonnie and Clyde and he co-starred in Sweeney Todd, at Oregon’s Portland Centerstage. Aside from working in the theater scene here, and Hobson also has some irons in Hollywood, including appearing in a movie in which Johnny Depp will make a cameo.

He took all this experience and recently boiled it down to bits of advice as workshops he held in January at Pacific Lutheran University. His main points: Follow your passion and take risks.

On the first point of following his passion, Hobson told the class that during his sophomore year at PLU, his father nearly died of an aneurysm, and Hobson, who was an music education major, decided that he was done with playing it safe. His real passion was the theater. So he switched and hasn’t looked back since.

“Life is too short to do something you don’t love,” he said.

On taking risks, Hobson stressed that is was better to fail spectacularly, rather than simply turn in mediocre work.

“It’s better to attempt to be brilliant and fail, than just accept being mediocre,” he said.

The Choir of the West heads to Dallas

COWThe Choir of the West has been selected to perform two concerts at the American Choral Directors Association National Conference, to be held in Dallas, Texas from March 12-17, 2013. ACDA is the largest organization for choral professionals, with more than 20,000 members worldwide. The choir was selected through a highly competitive audition process, and will be one of 45 ensembles on the conference program, ranging from elementary age choirs to professional ensembles.  

The Choir of the West will perform selections from its 2013 Winter Tour program:

  • Brian Galante (PLU Faculty): Exultate (premiere)
  • Thomas Weelkes: When David Heard
  • Francis Poulenc: Sept Chansons (1. La blanche niege, 6. Marie, 4. Tous les droits)
  • Eriks Ensenvalds: Northern Lights (premiere)
  • Dominick Argento: So I'll Sing With My Voice

The choir will hold an open rehearsal from 6:30-7:15 pm on Thursday, March 14th at the Cathedral of Guadalupe (located in the Dallas Arts District), and will perform twice on Friday, March 15th:  4:30 pm (Meyerson Symphony Center) and 8:00 pm (Winspear Opera House).

Mobile Hot Shop visited PLU in February - Gallery

The Museum of Glass Mobile Hot Shop came to PLU in late February. While their presence on campus lasted close to a week (it takes a few days to heat up and cool down the kilns), the highlight was the glass-making demonstrations on Wednesday, February 27 when artists crafted glasses and goblets right before our eyes. Click through the photos below to see the making of a purple glass creation.