Archive for March, 2012

March Madness Through the Eyes of Twitter

By Claire Karon

March madness. This month is dominated by the most intense, grueling, and emotional tournament in college basketball. It consumes the lives of people young, old, sports fans, and non-sports fans alike. There is something fascinating about watching basketball games between teams you never thought would play each other, and trying your best to predict the outcome. Who doesn’t get a thrill out of arguing with family and friends about which NCAA Men’s basketball team is superior?

Especially when you have no connection to that team, or the reason you want them to win is because the team they are playing you absolutely can’t stand. It is the time of the year to prove to yourself how much you know about college hoops, and if you are like me, to prove to your friends and family you know more than them too…who doesn’t like a little bit of friendly competition.

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The story is no different here at Marquette. If you kept up with the MU Basketball season at all this year, you know that it was filled with lots of exciting games, devastating losses, and a huge amount of support from the Marquette community. Lots of this support came from one of our favorite social media sites; Twitter. From my perspective it almost seems that Twitter is becoming just as popular (if not more) than Facebook. Especially when trying to reach a large group of people with similar interests. The Marquette community is a very tight knit one. Yet for a “medium sized” school our following is exponentially greater than that. Support from students, alums, families, and the community helped make Marquette’s NCAA Tournament experience that much more exciting. There are a number of different Twitter accounts that are all associated with Marquette University, and during tournament time most of the Tweets are usually something #mubb related.

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Bringing “The Laramie Project” to Coastal Carolina University

By Stephen Hudson-Mairet

The Laramie Project at Coastal Carolina University. Photo courtesy Stephen Hudson-Mairet

The Laramie Project at Coastal Carolina University. Photo: courtesy Stephen Hudson-Mairet.

I have just completed a one-week residency at Coastal Carolina University, where I created scenic designs for “The Laramie Project.”  It has been an interesting process to design a show a little over a year after we produced the same show on Marquette’s campus. For those of you who saw the Marquette version, I thought I would share a bit about the process on this production.

The Coastal design was greatly influenced by two elements. The first was the space itself. The Wheelwright auditorium on the Coastal Carolina campus is vast—a large proscenium that is fairly deep. When I visited in October, I was struck by the openness—a quality I remember from my days in the great plains of Kansas. This is big sky country I wanted to represent, and this space would allow for that. At the same time,  I wanted to maintain the opportunity for intimacy between the audience and the performers, as the play consists of a series of monologues. I ended up with a large open rake that could be filled with furniture and performers that was backed by a large projection screen. The play is book-ended by a large projection of the sky in the day time at the beginning, and the night-time starry sky at the end.

My second influence was the play itself. On re-reading “The Laramie Project this fall, I was struck by how this is really a play about a community, and the impact this event had on that community. It is centered around the heinous crime committed on Matthew Shepard, but the play illustrates the impact, reaction and tenor of the community in many ways.  I sought to represent the community in abstract through the scenic design. I did this by dividing the three acts into scenic movements—the first act has large steel frames that fly just in front of the projection screen— these frames fly in and out and represent the multitude of voices and personal lenses that the story is told through.  The second act brings in a barrage of video panels that attack the audience with news media, much like the town of Laramie experienced.  The fact that CCU had a large supply of surplus flat panel video screens was a big plus. The third act clears the visual field to bring us toward resolution.

I am proud to have been involved in this important production twice in the past year—once as the department chair and main cheerleader, and as the scenic designer of this latest project.  “The Laramie Project is a show that has the capability to make great change in the world. Had Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project not undertaken this venture, the story of Matthew Shepard may have gone the way of many a media story—hot today, gone tomorrow. The fact that audiences continue to hear of Matthew’s story, and hopefully commit to make a change in their world accordingly, is heartening. It is one of the reasons we have a Theatre and Social Justice commitment at Marquette—to work with our audiences to use theatre to focus on issues of injustice in the world in order to actively make our communities better.

Stephen Hudson-Mairet is an artistic assistant professor, artistic director and chair of Performing and Media Arts at Marquette University. The Laramie Project opens on Thursday in the Wheelwright auditorium on the Coastal Carolina University campus in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The Power of a Smile

By Carole Burns

I used to be amazed at the number of people my father knew; everyone from the clerk at the grocery story to the toll-booth worker on our way into (or leaving) Iowa seemed to be his friend. His friendly chatter and smile were infectious indeed, and were traits passed on to all seven of his children. As a result, I don’t believe that any of us would be considered shy by today’s standards.

I was reminded of my dad the first week that I started working at Marquette University. Assistant Dean Rose Richard and I were walking down Wisconsin Avenue and a homeless person passed us on the street. Rose looked into his eyes and said “good morning, how are you?”. This person smiled back and said “well the day is sunny, so I’m doing good.” As we walked on, Rose turned to me and said, “you know Carole, people just want to be acknowledged.” She was right, and so was my father. People need to be acknowledged; to be seen and spoken to by others. Continue reading ‘The Power of a Smile’

Making the Case for Journalism in an Online World

By Steve Byers

Philip Meyer — the guru of precision journalism — gave a talk in October to an Austrian conference. I was derelict in my duty, so I just got around to reading it. Not only should I have read it last fall, but I should have made it required reading for my classes. It’s published by Nieman Reports, and you should read it, too.

Meyer links two major strands of journalism: the precision journalism field in which he was so important and narrative journalism, the field of Gay Talese and Truman Capote and Mike Royko and Jim Stingl. And, I would add, so many digital storytellers today.

Journalism feeds on facts, and the Internet culture makes facts available to us in such a stream that the need for journalism — for mediation — is more important than ever. As Meyer said, “Instead of replacing journalism, the Internet is creating a new market need: for synthesis and interpretation of the ever-increasing stream of facts.” Continue reading ‘Making the Case for Journalism in an Online World’

Curtains Up!

By Carole Burns

Photo from Marquette University's production of "Defying Gravity." Photo: Marquette University IMC.

Image from Marquette University's production of "Defying Gravity." Photo: Marquette University IMC.

It amazes me that some people will sit in line over night, in a driving rain, to see the latest movie. But ask the same people to see a live play, and they often times will think up a million reasons to not go.

Let’s look at the difference. A movie can be seen for months—even years— after its initial release. The movie will always be the same experience, with the same actors, sets and costumes.

A live play might be around for only a few weeks. Unlike movies, many different things can happen at a live show. While the actors will most of the time complete the entire run, sometimes the understudy will take a major role. The lines can vary depending on the energy in the audience that night. And once it is over, you will never have the opportunity to experience it the exact same way ever again.

A movie will cost you about $7 for a matinee, $9 for an evening show. A live play generally runs around $12, but the cost evens out when you get to refreshments. Popcorn and soda at a movie will easily remove that $10 bill from your wallet, while some live shows might have soda and candy for a mere $1 each.

Often times the live show will even allow you a break during the action in the form of intermission, making refills of your favorite snack, as well as a bit of conversation to discuss plot and story line.

All of this works together to make live performance an enjoyable experience, and a great way to spend an evening or Sunday afternoon.

A great example of this was the recent production of “Defying Gravity” that I saw at the Helfaer Theatre, which was excellent. It was apparent that the cast and crew worked had worked long and hard to assure the audience had a great experience.

The afternoon that I saw the play was sunny, but I didn’t see too many people outside. This made me wonder just what could have kept more people from being in the audience. I’m sure that it wasn’t due to the programs on television (I checked, and nothing good was on that day). Maybe it was the latest video game keeping them inside their homes and out of the auditorium seats, or perhaps the students were studying for mid terms.

The only thing that really explains it is that people have forgotten the value of live theater. The joy of seeing the action play out right in front of ones eyes. No computer graphics or special effects, no green screens, no digital animation—just a good story and strong acting.

For a long time, live theater had been the entertainment of choice. But these days we can choose to sit on our couch and let the world come to us. We can have food delivered and never even have to change out of our pajamas if we prefer. It may be convenient, but in doing so, we miss the chance to broaden our understanding of the world in which live.

These are things that a lot of us never consider. It has been a long time since live theater received the attention that it deserves, so let’s start a new trend. The final show of the Marquette Performing Arts Mainstage season is “The Comedy of Errors” by William Shakespeare. It starts this April, and I recommend that you check it out. You can sit back and relax, turn off your phone, and instead of multitasking, focus on one thing for a while. It will be the best gift you can give yourself, and I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Carole J. Burns is the Director of the Wakerly Technology Training Center at Marquette University. Follow her on Twitter @burnsy1217.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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