|November 2007 Back to Simonsays e-mail||
An alumna works with local teens on environmental
Brenda Mathisen ('03) runs the new Gt. Barrington Greenagers
Brenda Mathisen spent much of her senior year feeling impatient. Of course, she was as busy as any other senior, but she wondered why she was "sitting at a desk and not giving anything back to the world." In other words, she was ready to graduate. A math and music major—John Myers was her thesis advisor—she enjoyed the work she was doing, but she was ready to try something different.
Now, 19 months after earning her BA, she has tried a couple of jobs, those she saw as ways to give back to the world: She worked at a farm (Farm Girl Farm) and then at the Berkshire Co-op Market. As for sitting at a desk, she finds it's acceptable in small doses, and in her new job running a fledgling program, the desk is where she makes flyers and prints newsletters to get the word out about her work.
Mathisen is the new director, the first director in fact, of the Greenagers, an organization set up for teens who want to "improve our quality of life by beautifying our planet, building a sense of community, protecting our future, and doing it all in a way that's fun," according to a brochure she wrote. The Greenagers program is being sponsored by a not-for-profit called the Center for Peace through Culture.
Mathisen says the Center for Peace through Culture works to identify belief systems that separate people and belief systems that bring people together. Once the systems that bring people together are identified, then the organization tries to work with that idea. Not all ideas that bring people together are entirely positive of course, she says, citing post 9/11 fear as an idea that may join people, but since the fear unites groups against one another, it isn't what the Center for Peace through Culture has in mind.
The Greenagers will work to bring teens together to work on environmental issues. They will work with the Simon's Rock environmental groups, as well as the Lake Mansfield Alliance and other local organizations. Their office is located in the Granary building on Rosseter Street, and on Wednesdays, teens will gather there to brainstorm their ideas. On Sundays, they will go on hikes. They will also learn to build a straw bale hut; and the rest depends upon what they decide on Wednesdays.
Composing an odyssey
Livingston Hall Chair in Music Laurence Wallach talks about writing Odyssey Quartet, to be premiered November 10
Just like the characters who grow in ways mysterious even to the writer, so were the movements of Laurence Wallach's Odyssey Quartet. As he wrote the music, during his sabbatical in Spring, 2006, he watched the movements develop, and he worked accordingly. To hear him tell it is like listening to a writer talk about a persistent character, one who forges the story with his personality.
In the Odyssey Quartet, there are at least three such characters, the movements "Voyage," "Exile," and "Return." In fact, the journey that would become this piece of music, to be premiered by the Prometheus Quartet on November 10 at 8 p.m. in the Daniel Arts Center, was a surprise to the composer. "I didn't know it was going to be an odyssey," he says.
While writing, at the end of the first of three movements, "Voyage," he realized that something had gone wrong: the voyage ends with a shipwreck. And so "as the second movement progressed, it was about exile. At the end of that movement, I knew I needed a return."
The 28-minute piece was written especially for Prometheus, and the arrangement was made before the 2006 sabbatical. "I like writing for the group. I know they are good and what they can handle," said Wallach.The way Wallach works
"I start writing by making sketches. I have a Moleskin ® notebook...with music paper. If I'm on the train, I take it out and jot down ideas."
He says he sketches different pieces of different kinds of textures. When he was sketching this piece, he says, " I wanted to create places where there were very unified sounds. I knew they would be blocks, like clear sailing." The opposite, he said, a conflictual, active kind of warlike feeling, is followed by the third voice of intense sorrow.
"The third movement, the coming back, was in a way the most fun to write," he said. "I love writing light and fast music. I get into trouble because not everybody can play it. In a way, that was the most spontaneous, though none of it was spontaneous. There are a million versions on my computer."The piece is very complex, Wallach says, and at the first rehearsal, the group asked if he would conduct it. "Once the group is familiar with it, they will play it without me. But for the first performance, November 10th, I'm going to be up there."
Blue bikes or yellow bikes, they are free bikes
They are scattered around the campus, for students to use to get from here to there. Thanks to some Community Council funding and a little elbow grease, the yellow bikes are in circulation.Ken Geremia had found some old bikes years ago, when he was Associate Dean of Residence Life. Perfectly good bikes that someone had once thought would be good for students. So, he broke the locks, repaired them, and put the bikes out for use. Before he left Simon's Rock and the Berkshires last year, the Community Council had funded the purchase of five more bikes.
When he decided to come back to the area, and back to Simon's Rock, this time as RD, the bikes weren't on his mind, but there they were: "They came in the winter and nobody had put them together. They were still in boxes. I came back and found these lovely bikes."
There are five new bikes, with the three leftover in various states of repair, he says. To build the program, he is asking that students who do not want to take their bikes when they graduate, may donate them to the program.
Geremia sees the bikes as a good way to get from one place to another and to get a little exercise at the same time. Some kids use them to get to town. Now that the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority bus isn't coming every hour students must call ahead the bikes may be even more useful, he says.
Geremia says the Community Bike Program is part of an idea that is spreading around the country's campuses.A few other bike programs
Blue Urban Bikes, is a bike loan program in Carrboro and Chapel Hill North Carolina, where program planners have big ideas for future use, including five hubs for borrowing bikes. Their purpose is environmental, and they say people can lessen their environmental footprint by biking instead of driving.
Campuses aren't the only places; some cities are becoming free bike zones as well. In Pittsburgh, the Community Bike Program was especially created for use along the riverfront, the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system. There, residents can access the blue bikes, and the program's creators hope in doing so, they will connect with the rivers and riverfronts.
Bike programs have been hitting the tourism travel press lately, and in cities such as Paris and Rome, apparently bike use in on the rise. In London, the OYBIKE System, while not free, is a rental system, in which people can rent bikes at subway stations, public buildings, and parking lots.Here at Simon's Rock, the yellow bikes are free, and Geremia hopes that fact and the distances between buildings will encourage students to take advantage. The program includes blue helmets.
November 9, Katrina-related events at Simon's Rock
A talk about rebuilding efforts in New Orleans; John Lawson gives an artist's talk; Aimée Michel directs a student production of The Tempest
Above Photos of John Lawson by Shanna Gregory ('07)
Three performances of William Shakespeare's The Tempest will be presented at Bard College at Simon's Rock. Opening night is Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m., in the McConnell Theater of the Daniel Arts Center. This is followed by a second performance, Thursday, Nov. 8, also at 7:30, and a final performance on November 9 at 8 p.m.
The production is being directed by Aimée Michel, a former Shakespeare company director in New Orleans whose office and home were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. While this production is not about Katrina, it did grow out of that experience.
"I chose to direct The Tempest out of a belief in redemption and healing." Michel says. "When Katrina happened in August, 2005, I was the artistic director of a professional Shakespeare theatre in New Orleans. Our theatre offices as well as my home were under over 6 feet of water for 6 weeks and we lost everything both at home and the office. All the archives for the theatre, all the files, etc..."
The following April the company was able to produce a play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, for New Orleans school children, but shortly before opening night the 42-year old actor who was to play Puck suddenly died as a result of a heart attack. The actor was also scheduled to play Prospero in The Tempest in the summer of 2006. But instead Michel decided to produce another play.
"And then I came to Simon's Rock. Now, two years after Katrina, I am finally ready to process all that happened, and the time finally felt right to direct The Tempest."
The Tempest, says Michel, "is a play about a journey through terrible trauma towards healing and forgiveness. Prospero and his 3 year-old daughter are cast out to sea to drown by his own beloved brother. By good fortune, he lands on an island, which shelters him and provides for him and his daughter for 12 years. Once again, fortune presents him with the opportunity to come face to face with this brother and heal. It takes all of his power and courage to forgive this brother and heal. But he knows the healing will not happen without the forgiveness. This is the journey many of us affected by Katrina are taking."
The play is not about Katrina, says Michel, "but certainly it is coming out of my artistic processing of that event."
Other related events on November 9