|January 2008 Back to Simonsays e-mail||
Faculty member featured on French television in a documentary on the french fry
Show aired January 6, with Maryann Tebben and her research on the French fry in French literature, how that "lowly tuber" crosses social class lines in French life, and its very different role in American public life.
"The humble potato transformed into culinary gold: why is the frite iconic to French food and the French identity?" asks Maryann Tebben, the faculty member in French who has studied the debut and significance of the French fry in both French literature and French life. Tebben appeared on French television on January 6.Tebben traces the appearance of the frite in French life, then follows its crossing to America via Thomas Jefferson, and observes the different roles this ubiquitous food plays in French and American cuisine and culture. For a link to her paper click here.
The humble potato makes its way to the French table, slowly
"The potato was not widely adopted as part of the French culinary repertoire until the early 19th century," writes Tebben, but potatoes were known in France in the 16th century — called truffole, triffole, treuffe, or cartoufle. The potato was generally disdained as poor man's food. "But the renown of the pomme de terre owes much to Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, apothecary and pharmacist of the Invalides [military hospital] under Louis XVI, who promoted its use in the 18th century. He convinced the king of its merits. On October 21, 1787, Parmentier's "menu tout en pommes de terre" included fried potatoes as well as coffee made from potatoes that was served at the Invalides."
Exactly when the frite appeared — and whether or not it was Belgian or French, is not known of course — but sliced fried potatoes were a recipe in the La Cuisinière Républicaine of 1795-1796. "Fried potatoes cut into strips were the first hot dish sold by street vendors in Paris in the 19th century under several forms, including matchstick (allumettes), "les Pont-Neuf" (thicker cut), and pommes soufflés, mythically attributed to the age of Louis-Philippe when it is said that in 1837, for the celebration of the opening of the new rail line Paris-Saint Germain, a cook refried some frites he had prepared earlier and invented pommes soufflés.
"The pure form of the frite, as a French product, is necessarily tied to Paris and to the golden age of urban development, when Paris was constructing the French identity for 19th-century Europe. The designation in French that perhaps comes closest to "French fries" is "les Pont Neuf," she says. The oldest bridge in Paris (the first stone was laid in 1528) "it serves as one of the core symbols of Paris, of the monarch, of the French. ...The pomme frite was rising in popularity and in symbolism in the 19th century, just as the Pont Neuf itself inspired numerous artists and writers. In culinary history, the French fry probably belongs to the Belgians, but mythologically frites are unquestionably, unalterably Parisian."
Tebben cites many literary references to pommes frites, as she documents the spread of its popularity among the social classes. From Flaubert in 1845, to Emile Zola in 1878, to Marcel Proust in 1922, Tebben shows the fruit vendor, the earthy lower classes and the social elite enjoying the frite.
Frites become "French" when they cross the sea. "Jefferson is widely credited with bringing the frite to America in the 18th century, following his travels in France," she writes.
"But the amiable culinary relationship that led to the naming of frites as French fries in English degraded in the 20th century, on both sides," writes Tebben. "With the birth and growth of McDonald's restaurants, the fast food phenomenon overtook America (rendering French fries ubiquitous here), and quickly spread to Europe, fostering accusations of cultural imperialism and hatching the Slow Food movement in Italy. McDonald's entered France in the late 1970s in a shopping mall on the outskirts of Paris."
But it was post 9/11 politics that brought the culinary relationship to a new low. "On February 20, 2003, Neal Rowland, owner of Cubbie's Diner in Beaufort, North Carolina, declared that his restaurant would no longer serve French fries but "freedom fries" in retaliation for the French refusal to sanction the U.S. war on Iraq. The U.S. Congress followed suit, mandating on March 12 that the cafeterias in the House of Representatives would serve "freedom toast" and "freedom fries" in lieu of the offending "French"-monikered items. Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) called the change "a small but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France." The French embassy responded, first by pointing out that French fries are actually Belgian, and then declaring that "We are at a very serious moment dealing with very serious issues and we are not focusing on the name you give to potatoes." —JM (Above illustration by Anna Myers '01)
South Berkshire Concert Series gears up for an active winter/spring
By Larry Wallach
This winter and spring will be unusually active for the visiting musicians series on campus called South Berkshire Concerts. There will be four concerts in all, two of which will include the artistry of the Simon's Rock music faculty. They all take place in McConnell Auditorium and are free for Simon's Rock community members.
The first, on Feb. 9 (Saturday at 8), will be the third appearance on campus of the team of Hiroaki Honshuku on jazz flute and wind controller, and faculty member John Myers on guitars. The sparks really fly when these two master musicians encounter each other, and with their instrumental versatility matched to their virtuosity, the prospects shape up for a wide range of musical styles and moods.
Next comes another return visit, from the Hawthorne String Quartet, the group of Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians who appear every year with a theme for their unique programs. This year on March15 the theme is "American Music at Mid-Century," an exploration of music by master composers from the 20th century, as well as of their currently active students. The featured composition will be a superb flute quintet by Walter Piston, who was composition teacher of Leonard Bernstein and many others at Harvard. Other composers represented include Aaron Copland and David Post.
We are lucky at Simon's Rock to have as a Berkshire neighbor one of the most extraordinary classical pianists in the world today, Peter Serkin. He has already appeared here three times, including the very first public performance given in McConnell in May of 2004. He is returning on Easter Sunday, March 23 at 2 p.m., to offer yet another unique program combining the relatively familiar and always welcome music of Brahms with the rarely heard, challenging, colorful and spiritually exalted music of the late French master, Olivier Messiaen. Plan to show up early to get a good seat; Peter fills the hall whenever he appears.
Finally, the Walden Chamber Players make their first appearance here on April 12 (Saturday at 8). They will perform works that they have commissioned from three Berkshire composers: Sheila Silver, Alice Spatz, and Larry Wallach (SR music faculty). These will be first performances of all three works; all are scored for the combination of oboe, violin, viola, cello, and harp. The second half of the program will consist of works by two modern masters: Alfred Schnittke, and Elliott Carter, who will be celebrating his 100th birthday this year — and he's still composing!
These visiting musicians offer the campus the opportunity to be entertained and stimulated by a wide range of musical experiences, some new and unfamiliar, but all offering the opportunity for musical horizons to be expanded. (Above photo: Hiroaki Honshuku)Larry Wallach is Livingston Hall Chair in Music
Eli Pariser '96 visits with students
"This is not what I thought I was going to be doing with my life," Eli Pariser told a robust student crowd the last Saturday in January. Circled around him in the Sprague Lounge of the Livingston Hall Student Union 60 students listened to the story of his catapult into a life of national and even international public affairs, from a small organization's IT director and website creator in Boston, to executive director of a 3.2 million member organization, MoveOn.org Political Action. Pariser said he tried five or six concentrations while at Simon's Rock. He was also active in many campus activities, and he told the group that several times he had invited guests to come to speak to students, only to have the disappointing experience of seeing only three or four students show up to listen. He was pleasantly surprised by the turnout for his visit. Looking to the table of cookies and cupcakes outside the room — a bake sale to raise money for a student trip to work in a Bronx soup kitchen — he joked,"The food really worked."
Pariser told the story of how he found himself leading one of the largest Political Action Committees in the country. (Click here for his 2005 Commencement Address)
He also urged students to get involved, and praised them for their large voter registration numbers. Echoing his message of 2005, he told students to look around, see what needs to be done, and simply step in and start to do it. Don't wait for others who may know better what to do. He also answered several questions, including those about the role of the Internet in politics, the middle in American politics, and the experience of being disliked by those who disagree with him. (Photo of Eli Pariser by Judith Monachina)Eli Pariser's visit was co-sponsored by the SR Voter Registration Coalition, and the Student Life Conversation Series. —JM
Alumni featured on campus panels
By Lezlie Lee
Last semester a number of alumni returned to campus to participate in career events organized by the Office of Alumni Affairs and Win Student Resource Commons. On Family Weekend, eight alumni shared experiences and insights gained since their student days at Simon's Rock. Then, following each of the two sessions, I moderated a good hour-long dialogue. Between sessions, panelists were available for individual lunchtime conversations with students.
Thanks go out to Alana Joli Abbott '96, Keith Brierley-Bowers '80, Penny Brierley-Bowers '81, Jeff Cua '00, Evan Leibu '99, Nang Maung '01, Charles Rejonis '80 and John Wyche '80 for their participation in Family Weekend and the excitement, enthusiasm and career expertise they brought to the fore.
In a second collaboration, the Office of Alumni Affairs and the Win Student Resource Commons brought three individuals to campus for a Simon's Rock Legal Event. Alums Amy Lavine '98 and Bruce Schoenberg '81, as well as former Dean of Students Chris Lucht, led an informal career exploration panel on law school and legal careers. The session, held in the Sprague Lounge of the Livingston Hall Student Union, was well attended by students who ranged from those in the process of applying to law school to those just considering law and wanting to know more about what a lawyer does. The three panelists brought three different points of view to the discussion, from a non-profit institute work to corporate law to litigation in a private practice. This session was the first in what is hoped will be a series of events involving Simon's Rock alumni in the legal field. Bruce Schoenberg and Gabrielle Glemann '99 are working to create an alumni legal group to network with students and each other.
As mentioned earlier in this issue of Simonsays, Eli Pariser '96 was on campus this semester to talk about his work with MoveOn PAC. The Office of Alumni Affairs looks to more alumni coming to campus for events similar to these this spring. If you have suggestions, please be in touch with Lezlie Lee, Director of Alumni Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Alumni in theater report from New York
Rebecca Jones graduated from Simon's Rock in 2005, and along with classmates Chloe Demrovsky, Adam La Faci and Loren Vandegrift — all theater majors — worked professionally in theater for a year after college. "We decided to come together to create our own theater company, along with Jyll Mihlek and Mat Bussler, two Western Massachusetts natives," says Jones. And with the production of original comedy The City That Cried Wolf at the 2006 Berkshire Fringe Festival, they launched the State of Play Theater, followed by successful runs at the Pioneer Arts Center of Easthampton and the New York International Fringe Festival. From the New York Fringe they were personally invited by the artistic director of the acclaimed 59E59 Theaters to perform the show there for a full run. Says Jones: "We are so excited about this opportunity. We would love to share our success with the Simon's Rock community that supported us so generously at the beginning of our careers."
The City That Cried Wolf ran Dec. 5 -30 at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street. LaFaci tells us that SR core company members/producers for The City That Cried Wolf were Chloe Demrovsky, Rebecca Jones, Adam La Faci, Loren Vandegrift and Jessica Suter '03.
On Dec. 14, 2008, Andy Webster of The New York Times reviewed the production, calling it "a theatrical take on fairy tales that conjures its own magic."
For more information, visit www.stateofplaytheatre.comDuring the same weeks in New York another 2005 graduate, John William Schiffbauer, saw five one-act plays he had written go up at an Off Off Broadway theater in TriBeCa. He tells us: "It has a cast of twelve actors, and among them are Leslie Boles '03, Adam La Faci '01, Loren Vandegrift '01, and Paige Dana '02." —JM
Ben Bontempo ('02) talks about his work with a local theatre
By Kate Abbott
Ben Bontempo '02 recently drew on his experiences in impressionistic theatre, improvisation and clown and mask work to play a living scarecrow. Bontempo acted in Simon's Rock and community theatre in the Berkshires and has worked at the Issue Project Room community artists' centre in Brooklyn. This past fall, he played the title role in Feathertop with the Castle Hill Theatre, at the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington.
At Simon's Rock, Bontempo explored illusions that separate the actor from the audience —a blank mask, a funny nose—and he learned the dramatic body language an actor needs to communicate through and around them. He appeared in Joan Ackerman's The Batting Cage and in a movement piece based on Peter Barnes' Sunsets and Glories, among others.
Bontempo said Nicki Wilson, producer and director, and founder of Castle Hill, had seen some of his work at Simon's Rock, and she offered him the part of Feathertop, a scarecrow with the blank face of a pumpkin. Wilson and Andy Jaffe adapted Feathertop from a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story. A witch creates a scarecrow and brings it to life. She teaches the scarecrow to move and speak, and to resist its natural pull towards the open fields ? until it sees itself in a mirror and must decide whether or not to remain a man.
Bontempo said he took inspiration for the part from his Clowns and Comedy class with Karen Beaumont. The class created characters and short scenes, he said. Beaumont would be an authority; the clowns would try to please her and would comically, elaborately fail. The students wore clown noses, which called out and focused a manic, bumbling energy, but their work did not feel circus-like or slapstick, he said. Something sad and serious underlay the comedy.
Castle Hill is light-hearted and active in the community, Bontempo said, and Wilson has an intuitive understanding of what works well on stage. Children's theatre often tells a story in a series of shocks, he said, in short and pithy scenes. The actors have to be decisive and declarative enough that children understand the plot. The actors then have the challenge of deepening the story and bringing out its subtleties. He believes children are open to these depths and twists.
"Aimée Michel [Simon's Rock faculty in theatre] has talked about how free and open to space and impulse and improvisation kids are...," he said. "Give a few lines more harshly, change a scene, and they'll follow intuitively. I trust them to follow and not to need images from TV or a circus. They are more willing to trust a performer and take a journey with him."
Bontempo said playing Feathertop in solid orange makeup reminded him of Japanese No Theatre: his face, in its even color, became ageless and blank, like a mask. In his class with Beaumont, Bontempo learned the discipline of acting through a mask, as well as the comic art of clowning. The class begins with neutral, blank masks and then took on full character masks. They learned to wriggle and writhe with mean ones and float with gentle ones, Bontempo said.
"We put masks on and become children, newly newly born," he said, "because we've never done this before. You put on a mask and your personality in its most recognizable form is gone. Expressiveness of face is replaced by expressiveness of body. We have a lot of tendency to base acting on the face and hands. Take that away, and how does your body express anger — kick a chair, pound the ground?"
Many of his classmates were excellent dancers, he said, and moved beautifully. He and several friends improvised Bhuto, a form of Japanese dance that emerged after the Second World War, to live guitar music.
Bontempo performed Feathertop in the Triplex Cinema, in a setting made for screen, not stage. Working in a converted movie theatre has made him aware of the immediacy of acting: "When people see a movie, they're passive," he said. "In live theatre, they don't have that comfort. They can see our chests rise and fall when we breathe." He liked connecting to the history of the place, he said. He likes performing in spaces with tangible history, where he can see scuff marks on the stage and the dents where someone threw a chair.
Bontempo says he enjoys being an artist in the Berkshires, but outside of college it is a challenge to find venues for his work. With the independence and self-expression he has learned from Simon's Rock, he has been working to find venues or create his own. He values the Simon's Rock students who protested for workers' rights, who began the community garden, who quilt weird hammocks in their dorm rooms.
In the same spirit, he remembers Shirefest: young performers found a space, built a stage and created a venue for themselves. Bontempo is putting together a Vaudeville show with Simon's Rock alumni. He performs with his band in his own house, and young alumni gather there. He has also done work with Mixed Company and has had a show of silk screens at JWS Art Supply on Railroad Street. Feathertop is his second paying job as an actor.
"It's odd to be plying the trade for rent, after studying the theory," he said. "You have to worry about scheduling, punctuality, is your makeup good, did you mess up that line and will fewer people come next time. I'm pretty confident from my training at Simon's Rock that I can do what I'm supposed to do. The challenge is to advance my craft."
Second Annual EarlyStages Playwright mentorship program
Young Playwrights Call For Submissions! Berkshire Fringe Announces Second Annual EarlyStages Mentorship Program To be led by Emmy Winning Writer Bazaar Productions, presenter of The Berkshire Fringe, (Alumni Sara Katzoff, '95 and Timothy Ryan Olson '95) is pleased to announce that Laura Maria Censabella, Emmy Award winning writer and professor of playwriting at the New School for Drama, will return to mentor three young writers in the second annual EarlyStages program.
In July of 2008, three writers, who either reside or attend college in the Berkshires or surrounding counties, will be given the opportunity to focus intensively on developing a new play under the guidance of Ms. Censabella. The work of the writers will be presented as a free event during the fourth annual Berkshire Fringe.
During an intensive two-week seminar and rehearsal period here on the Simon's Rock campus in Great Barrington, participants will be supplied with room, partial board and complimentary tickets to all Berkshire Fringe events.
Ms. Censabella's professional career spans theater, film, and television. Her short play Posing was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and The Actual Footage won the Tennessee Chapbook Prize for Drama. Ms. Censabella also brings her passion and expertise as a teaching artist to EarlyStages. Her teaching experience includes the Actors Studio Drama School, Columbia University's School of the Arts, and The Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Bazaar Productions is requesting application submissions from talented young writers ages 18-26 who either reside or attend school in the Berkshires or surrounding counties. For application guidelines or more information please visit www.berkshirefringe.org. Inquiries can be answered by co-artistic director, Ryan Olson, at email@example.com or by calling the offices of Bazaar Productions at (413) 320-4175.
The EarlyStages program is supported by the Boschen Fund For Artists and the Karthryn J. Dinardo Foundation. All applications must be received by March 15, 2008.
The new Simon's Rock website
By Sean Wang '07
In May 2007, the Simon's Rock community happily welcomed the new website. Featuring a new design that is part of a new visual identity for Simon's Rock, the website has generated positive feedback from alumni, faculty, and students.
The web redesign is part of a quest for visual identity across multiple media, including all print materials from the college. In late 2005, the original website redesign team, which included Dean of Admissions and Student Affairs M. Leslie Davidson, Associate Director of Public Affairs Judith Monachina, and two staff members who have since left SR, met for the first time. The team invited companies to make presentations on their work, and selected Generation, a firm based in New York City, to carry out the design the website. Generation specializes in education and non-profit institutions, and its client list includes four Ivy League schools, Pomona, Bowdoin, Johns Hopkins, and the like. Generation cooperates with three sub-companies: Kane, Parsons & Associates conducts attitudinal research; Jan Krukowski & Company implements communications strategy; and Providence, Rhode Island based Tellart handles the technological aspects.
The new website was overseen by Co-founder and Design Director of Tellart Nick Scappaticci and the Simon's Rock website redesign team, headed by Admissions staff. Russell Miller did much of the work of bringing it online, and he credits Eline Potoski, Charlie Derr, and Peter Lai, all of whom were absolutely essential to making the new website happen. Coordinator of Communications and Events Justin Ober came on board last year and helped to continue the process of aligning the College's entire public communications. Not only the website, but the admissions brochures, catalogs, even the tuition bill envelopes began to carry a unified look. Since the website's inception, there have been much positive feedback. Web Producer Russell Miller thinks that the new website features "easy navigation" and "nice design," and Ober says that the feedback has been "positive in terms of usability" and that the website is "interesting and engaging."
But the website is not a finished project. Tellart is no longer part of website operations and Miller is in charge of the daily updates and management. He is also planning to offer training to faculty and staff to manage their own departmental websites using the templates that Tellart provided. "Right now, people submit their information to me, and I put it up on the website," Miller said, "but it can be a much simpler process with direct access to the content management for everyone." Ober also has hopes for the impacts of the website on campus. He described the website as a "two-way street" that not only provides information to the public but also receives feedback and improves constantly. Miller and Ober, with input from others, including Monachina who is public affairs associate director, form the current Simon's Rock website team. They held a dinner meeting with a group of students on November 15 to discuss some ongoing improvements and the future direction of the website.
As you browse the new Simon's Rock website, don't forget to document your experiences and offer suggestions to the team. You can easily express your opinion by sending e-mail to any team members. Remember, your involvement in the website makes it better!Contact Russell Miller: firstname.lastname@example.org or Justin Ober: email@example.com
Calling on New York City alumni
Remember being 17 or 18 and being uncertain about what came next?
Here's your chance to assure a group of current students that life beyond Simon's Rock can be great!
We're planning a group trip on April 11-12 to New York for junior and senior class students to explore various career paths. We are seeking alumni who would be willing to:
If you would be willing to participate, contact Lezlie Lee, Director of Alumni Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org by February 15. Please include your career area, contact info and a description of a visit, meeting, or experience you could host.
If you are willing to provide overnight lodging for a pair of students, send along pertinent details such as where you live, closest subway stop, directions, accommodations, and anything else that would be helpful. Many thanks!Back to Top