March 2, 2011|Events
Officially, the event that draws jazz lovers from around the country to Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel each February is called the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival. But to the College’s student-musicians, it’s simply the Weekend of No Sleep.
It’s not just that the excess of rehearsals, performances and clinics leaves little time for rest. There’s also the excitement of being in the presence of some of the world’s best players. Who can sleep after you’ve just spent a few hours rehearsing with some of the same jazz greats you grew up listening to?
February 23, 2011|Events
Even Don Romano is never sure what sort of crowd will turn up for one of Elmhurst College’s Classic Film Society screenings. Romano, a senior psychology major, helped start the society two years ago, partly because he wanted to share his love of old movies. But he gets to share more love at some screenings than at others.
Earlier this year, seven people showed up to watch Citizen Kane, which is widely considered one of the greatest American films ever made. But nearly 70 came for a showing of The Ghost and Mister Chicken, which isn’t.
Spreading the gospel of classic cinema on a college campus is an unpredictable business. Romano belongs to a generation that knows more about Jack Black than Jimmy Stewart, so part of his mission is to give fellow students the chance to see great old films for the first time. When he wins a convert, he is thrilled.
“It’s not always easy to get college kids to come, because sometimes they have these preconceived ideas that the movies are going to be boring or irrelevant. But every once in a while, someone will come up to me after a film and say “That was great,” and want to know more.” Romano said. “That’s an awesome feeling.”
February 2, 2011|Events
In the Frick Center last week, the Wild Things were roaring their terrible roars and gnashing their terrible teeth.
“I’m made of feathers and I’ve got, like, a million pointy teeth!” one of them announced. He was one of 45 third-graders from schools in nearby Villa Park who had come to the College for a one-day drama workshop run by Elmhurst students. He was rehearsing for his role in a short dramatization of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are by stomping around in a circle and doing his best to appear menacing.
December 9, 2010|Events
Seventy-two hours before opening night, director Maria Vasquez was asking her actors at the Mill Theatre to give it another try.
Vasquez, a senior theatre major, watched from a perch a few rows off stage as the cast of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead ran through a key scene. Onstage, an actor made an entrance and, before she could deliver a line, collided loudly with a piece of stage furniture.
“Do it again,” Vasquez ordered, sending the actors back to their marks. “I don’t want to hear any kerplunk, people.”
Dog Sees God, which opens its three-night run on December 9, is one of four student-directed productions at the Mill this season. For students like Vasquez, the chance to direct means putting themselves in a position that is at once enviable and a little uncomfortable. On the one hand, it’s an opportunity to literally run the show. Or as Vasquez put it during a break in the rehearsal, “Being in charge is always fun.”
On the other hand, there’s the challenge of telling your friends and classmates that their work could be better. Vasquez got her first practical lesson in the director’s dilemma earlier this semester, at auditions for Dog Sees God. Thirty people tried out for the play’s eight roles. It fell to Vasquez to tell some of her friends that there would be no place for them in her show.
November 17, 2010|Events
It’s college admission season in America, time for anxious high school kids all over the country—and their even more anxious parents—to send applications off to their colleges of choice, then endure the seemingly interminable wait for a reply via U.S. mail. Think of it as one of those timeless rituals that defines the passage to college life.
Except it doesn’t have to be that way. Ask Blake Conrad.
Conrad is a senior at Lisle High School. I met him at Elmhurst’s admission open house on November 13 in the Frick Center, where he was one of about 200 prospective students checking out the College. The high-schoolers and their parents were chatting with some of the two dozen or so faculty manning tables around the Founders Lounge, getting answers from staffers about concerns ranging from financial aid to meal plans, and walking the campus with the College’s impressively enthusiastic student tour guides. Not long after Conrad arrived, he handed off a sheaf of papers to Tony Minestra, one of the College’s admission counselors. It was his application to Elmhurst College.
“All set?” Minestra asked him.
“Yep,” said Conrad, who sounded remarkably calm and confident for a teenager who had just handed over his permanent record for evaluation. As it turned out, he was right to be so confident.
October 20, 2010|Events
When Jennifer Boyle, chair of Elmhurst’s political science department, learned that she would be one of the panelists questioning Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and State Senator Bill Brady during Sunday’s gubernatorial debate at Elmhurst, she got going on her homework. She read policy papers. She scrutinized the candidate’s web sites. She pored over transcripts of previous debates. Then she consulted one final authority: She talked to her students.
Boyle offered students in her Introduction to Politics class and her senior politics seminar extra credit if they suggested questions for her to pose at the debate. About 20 took her up on the offer, and many of them were in the overflow audience at Hammerschmidt Chapel to see Boyle quiz the candidates.
It didn’t escape Boyle’s notice that she was the sole academic on the panel, which also included Chicago Tribune editorial page editor Bruce Dold and Phil Ponce, host of WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight.” So she was determined to speak up for the concerns of college students.
October 14, 2010|Events
When Al Hunsicker was a student at Elmhurst in the mid-1960s, he belonged to a group called the Hard Corps that devoted itself to, among other activities, making noise at football games. It’s a hobby he has never abandoned.
Among all the blue-clad Elmhurst fans at this year’s Homecoming game against Wheaton College, Hunsicker ’68, was one of the most conspicuous. He was the one ringing a cow bell to celebrate every big Bluejay play.
“It’s important for a team to know that its fans support them,” Hunsicker told me when I caught up with him in the hospitality tent during a halftime lull in the bell-ringing. At the time, the Bluejays held a 24-14 lead over their nationally ranked opponents. So I had to ask Hunsicker if the bell should get credit for the great first-half showing.
“No, it’s all about the athletic ability of the Elmhurst College Bluejay athletes,” he said diplomatically. Then he added, “And maybe the bell helped.”
September 15, 2010|Events
Ramona Meadors and Ashley Nimtz have been practicing their English accents.
The two first-year students, friends since their days at Elmhurst’s York High School, share an Anglophilia that originated in repeat viewings of “Dr. Who” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” Sometimes, just for the fun of it, they’ve been known to affect an accent worthy of John Cleese and the Ministry of Silly Walks.
“We’re kind of in love with the BBC,” Nimtz confessed to me, when I ran into the two at the annual Study Away Fair in the Frick Center last week. So maybe it’s no surprise that I found the two learning everything they could about the College’s relationship with Oxford University and the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, which sends five Elmhurst students to study at Oxford for a semester each spring. Meadors and Nimtz were having a long conversation with Professor of English Lance Wilcox—in their workaday, serious, American voices—about the chance to study at one of the world’s most storied universities.