Tag: Academics Pursuits

Various academic interests and projects.

  • The Show That Got Away!

    It was the first week of March in 2020 and we are rehearsing “Merrily We Roll Along,” my first musical at Villanova University, the last show in Villanova Theatre’s previous home, Vasey Hall. Little did we know that 2 weeks later the world would change forever. We never got to do this show, and Vasey Hall would close with little fanfare. 4 years later and I just closed my second musical as an alumni last week! I’m so glad I have been able to come back and perform on the Villanova stage. …

  • Sayings Songs

    This is a term that I hope to coin having done extremely limited research. While many songs and lyrics generate common sayings, like, “You can’t always get what you want” or “See you later alligator,” to name a couple well known sayings, “Sayings Songs” are songs where the lyrics come from common sayings.

    The most famous and expertly crafted example I can think of is from the Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta, “Iolanthe.” “If You Go In You’re Sure to Win” looks like any song with a verse chorus structure with the third verse sung by the Lord Chancellor taking on a different melody, both to set him aside as the one who is making the big decision during this song, but the “verse” is actually the bridge in the classic AAB structure. Also, each chorus, starts with the same first two lines and followed by 4 unique lines each round, repeating the final stanza. By doing so, W. S. Gilbert has crammed in 4 unique sayings per chorus, forcing our performers to learn different lyrics for each chorus, in three part harmony, no less. Here’s a recording, featuring my favorite Gilbert and Sullivan singer, John Reed!

    A contemporary example of a sayings song that immediately comes to mind is Rose Garden by Lynn Anderson. It contains many wise sayings such as, “still waters run deep” and “live and let live.” It’s a catchy tune, that may sound familiar. It was also sampled in the 90’s by Kon Kan in the song, “I Beg Your Pardon.” Give the original Lynn Anderson song a listen below!

    Returning to musical theatre, I was just in a production of Kander and Ebb’s “Curtains” a couple years ago and there was a song called, “In the Same Boat,” while not a great example of a “Sayings Song” since it’s really only one or two sayings, extrapolated, to some extent. It’s also a quodlibet, taking several songs and layering them together to create one big song as explained at the beginning of this track. Take a quick listen below.

    My final example comes from the show I am currently working on, “Stiff Upper Lip” from “Crazy for You.” I play the role of Eugene Fodor who actually introduces the song with the line, “But in our part of the world, we have a few sayings about this sort of thing. Stiff upper lip!” literally setting us up for a list song of sayings, simply, this time, they are all British! If you want to know how this song goes, you’ll have to come out and see me in Crazy for You at Villanova Theatre or look it up on your own.

    However, what’s interesting about these examples of “Sayings Songs” from musical theatre and operetta, in a story telling capacity, is that they come at a time of ponderance or decision making. In “Iolanthe,” the Lord Chancellor is trying to make a decision about the fate of his ward, Phyllis, and if he should allow her to marry or simply marry her himself. In “Curtains,” the locked-in cast of a show, subjected to a murder investigation, attempt to recreate the conditions of a murder, while workshopping a troublesome number. Lastly, “Stiff Upper” lip comes at a time when the cast of another “show within a show” are deciding if their show should go on given a nonexistent audience and pending foreclosure of the theater. In all instances a moment of clarity comes shortly after this song with the characters making decisions that ultimately determine their fates. Even thinking about “Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson, these sayings are all advice of some sort, often given at times of reflection.

    As I continue working in musical theatre, I will be keeping a keen eye out for other examples of what I hope to coin as “sayings songs” and add to the list and examine their similarities and differences, perhaps updating here as I go. Reach out to me if you have any thoughts on this or have any other songs to add to the list.

  • I am a Mensa Member

    I am a Mensa Member

    That’s right, the title says it all, I am a member of Mensa International.

    I had mentioned in another post that I had switched to community college in the middle of my undergrad. While at community college, I had made a few new friends taking my computer science courses. An undergrad in computer science usually requires two semesters of calculus and I ended making one my first friends in my calculus class. As is the case with college friendships, we took to each other fast and spent most of our study time together, doing homework or working on group projects.

    At some point my friend expressed his frustration with being at community college, which happens to be where his mother works, so he got to go there for free. In any case, he was bemoaning how everyone at community college was so stupid. I turned to him and said, “Well, you met me here, I’m pretty smart!” To which he replied, “Well, you’re no genius!” For whatever reason, that stuck with me.

    A while after I even stopped attending community college, the Mensa convention came to town and was at a hotel about two blocks from where I live. If you came with a check for the test fee, you could be tested that day and see if you qualified for entry. That’s what I did and when the results came back, I had scored in the 99th percentile, more than enough to qualify. In the end, this was something I had to prove to myself. I never even told my friend. We began to lose touch once we were no longer in school together.

  • BS Computer Science with a Minor in Music

    BS Computer Science with a Minor in Music

    Also an AS in Computer Science along the way.

    After high school I started college at West Chester University. I actually entered the university as an undeclared student, meaning, I hadn’t picked a major. Without knowing it at the time, this kind of put me behind the other students, who actually knew what they wanted to be studying, by about a semester. I knew that I wanted to be part of the music program, but I didn’t really understand the application and audition process and since neither of my parents had attended college, let alone for the arts, they were no help at all.

    After one semester, I finally made my way into the music program as a Music Composition Major with Voice as my instrument. I managed to get a couple semesters under my belt as a music major before I had to switch schools.

    I wasn’t taking my undergrad education very seriously and needed to withdraw from a couple courses to avoid ruining my GPA. My music education was suffering as well. I didn’t understand how much more commitment these courses would require than regular academic college courses, which remains true to this day. Arts courses often have labs or out of class time required. Think about choir performances for college choirs. The performance itself must be a significant part of one’s grade. So, it made sense to change my major to something else I was good at, I.T.

    For whatever reason, understanding technology is somewhat of a gift. First, before pursuing IT as a major, I had to switch schools. I registered at the local community college in order to knock out as many required courses in my new major as possible before transferring to a new school or back to West Chester to complete the degree. This was a major cost cutting measure since, essentially the first two years of my college education were a wash with the exception of being able to declare a music minor.

    Once I completed as many transferrable courses as possible at community college, which actually granted me an Associated Degree, I returned to West Chester and finished my Bachelor’s in Information Technology in 2003 on my birthday.

  • Temple University

    Prior to starting grad school at Villanova University, I wanted to pick up some extra training in theatre. I completed the entire acting concentration which includes Acting One through Five as well as Voice for the Actor, Speech for the Actor, Advanced Speech, and Dance for the Actor. I also took Acting for Film and Television, Acting for Commercials, Unarmed Stage Combat, and Single Sword.

    It was here that I was first exposed to the works of Uta Hagen and Michael Chekhov while also learning Shakespeare and about the business of being an actor. This is also where I was exposed to the vocal techniques of Pasty Rodenburg and Kristin Linklater. This is also where I learned about IPA and began independently working on Accents and Dialects. I also took the opportunity to join the University Choir and take private voice lessons.

    One of the most interested classes, of course, was those taught by Ian Rose, Unarmed Stage Combat and Single Sword. Below is a picture of my certificate from when I passed my Unarmed Certification for the Society of American Fight Directors. Also, there’s a couple videos of my midterm and final performances.

  • The Study of Acting

    The Study of Acting

    While training, I have been exposed to a variety of acting styles and techniques. There are two, however, that resonated with me as performer and continue to inform my performances. That would be Uta Hagen’s, “Respect for Acting” and Michael Chekhov’s, “To the Actor.

    Uta Hagen’s approach emphasizes realism, psychological depth, and the actor’s connection to the character and circumstances. Hagen’s principles, as outlined in “Respect for Acting” include:

    1. Object Exercises: Actors focus on specific objects to enhance concentration and sensory awareness, grounding their performances in tangible, sensory experiences.
    2. Substitution: Encourages actors to replace personal experiences with those of the character, fostering authenticity and emotional truth in their portrayal.
    3. Personalization: Actors draw on their own emotions and memories to connect with the character’s feelings, creating a genuine and relatable performance.
    4. Units and Objectives: Breaking down scripts into specific beats or units, actors identify their character’s objectives in each moment, promoting a dynamic and purposeful approach to scenes.
    5. Through-line of Actions: Emphasizes the importance of understanding the character’s overarching goals and desires throughout the entire play or scene, maintaining consistency and coherence in the portrayal.

    Michael Chekhov, a Russian actor and theater practitioner, outlined his approach to acting in his book “To the Actor.” Chekhov’s principles focus on the psychological and spiritual aspects of the actor’s craft.

    1. Psychological Gesture: Encourages actors to find a physical gesture that embodies the essence of a character, fostering a deeper connection to the character’s emotional core.
    2. Imagination: Emphasizes the use of imagination to evoke authentic emotions and experiences, allowing actors to tap into the rich inner life of their characters.
    3. Sensations: Actors explore the physical sensations associated with emotions, creating a visceral and embodied performance.
    4. Form: Highlights the importance of understanding the overall structure of a play or scene, guiding actors in creating a coherent and impactful performance.
    5. Rhythm: Advocates for the exploration of rhythmic patterns in speech and movement to enhance the expressiveness and dynamic quality of a performance.

    I highly recommend both of these books. Click here to get “Respect for Acting” and click here to get “To the Actor”

  • Hookman Student Performance

    While a student at Villanova University, I was asked to create and manage props for the student production of “Hookman” by Lauren Yee. This show required many props that could be borrowed from the Villanova Theatre props storage as well as many rather unique props that had to be made. Below are some of the interesting props I had to fabricate. To grab a copy of this amazing play, click here!

  • I Wrote A Musical

    I Wrote A Musical

    Ok, more like, I’m writing a musical. It’s got a structure with many of the scenes written and placeholders for the music. Unfortunately, there’s no music yet, maybe just a few brainstorms for words, if anything. However, it’s something I will be returning to. One thing that’s helped so much with the planning process of a musical, is a book, The Secret Life of the American Musical by Jack Viertel. The author takes a close look at the structure of dozens of popular musicals and explains how all the different parts work together. I highly recommend this book if you are thinking about writing a musical. You can grab it here!

  • The Patter Man

    The Patter Man

    I’ve recently fallen in love with the performances of John Reed, one of the last D’Oyly Carte Opera Company’s “patter men.” This particular patter man would go on to be the only one to have been officially recorded performing every surviving Gilbert and Sullivan operetta for the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. He brought a unique flare and character interpretation to every role he took on. I also learned he was a gay man, living with his partner, who was also his business manager, until the day he passed away in 2010. Here’s a link to his obituary as well as a lovely tribute. I just got his book, a lovely autobiography, dictated to a friend, transcribed and published.

    In my work getting my master’s in theatre, I specialized in trying to uncover the LGBTQ experiences of past performers and theatre practitioners. I look forward to researching about John Reed to try to find what particular queer influences he may have had on Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta in the mid 20th century. To get his book, “Nothing Whatever to Grumble At” go here!

  • I speak French!

    I speak French!

    And I sing in French too! Well, I guess the more accurate statement would be that I have studied the French language for years. I began in French 1 in 7th grade, many years ago. I progressed all the way through French 5 and even read a couple plays and books in French. I then took one semester of French in college. After that, speaking French was just a hobby. I hadn’t really given it much thought for some time. About a year ago, after seeing an ad, I installed Duolingo on my phone. Since then, I have brushed up on my skills, achieving at least a B1 proficiency on the The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. Within the next year I hope to become a B2 and become CEFR certified with the hopes of having the opportunity to teach French or even apply study abroad programs.