Erskine blessings

Merry Christmas everyone!  Today is born our Savior!  I pray that the holiday season finds you and your family healthy, happy, and enjoying the many blessings God has bestowed upon you.  I know that, personally, I am so grateful for surviving the last month of school, including a rather stressful exam week.

In honor of the Christmas season, I wanted to resume my blog posts by writing about some of the greatest blessings that God has given me through Erskine.  I do apologise in advance: I have no photos to do this post justice, so my ramblings will have to suffice.  I will make up for it in future posts.  So…(in no particular order) here we go!

I am grateful that, as a Christian college, Erskine brings us all together through our shared faith in so many ways: college chapel services; prayer before classes, meetings, and performances; various organizations and clubs; small-groups and Bible studies; impromptu gatherings in the residence halls; and so many others.

I am grateful for being able to live in Carnegie Hall for 3 of my 4 years at Erskine.  As a freshman, Ms Ruth and my SLAs were always supportive and helpful no matter the emergency (of both the small and large varieties).  I met so many great girls my first year that I still study, laugh, and cry with.  As an upperclassmen, I’ve had the ability to serve as a Student Life Assistant for 3 years (this is my second in Carnegie).  I have an even greater appreciation for my awesome freshman year now that I understand more fully what goes on behind the scenes, and I love being able to watch out for and get to know my girls.  And, lets’ be honest: Carnegie is probably the prettiest building on Erskine’s campus. Who wouldn’t love living in a beautiful hundred-year-old hall?

I am grateful for Ms Ruth, the RD in Carnegie for the past 20 years.  This woman wears a whole lot of hats, most of which she wears quietly.  She has the best stories, knows absolutely everything about Erskine, and has lived a terribly exciting life.  I have learned so much from her and she truly has the best advice.  As an added bonus, Ms Ruth makes sure that the halls of Carnegie are truly decked with boughs of holly, lights, trees, and bows.

I am grateful for every professor I have had the opportunity to learn from.  They challenge me academically and personally–often intertwining–and have truly helped me become a better, stronger, more well-rounded individual.  I am confident that they have prepared me fully for graduate school and beyond.  I know my professors not just as teachers, but as individuals.  I know their backgrounds, their families, and their hobbies.  I cannot think of another college where you would form this type of relationship with one professor, let alone most or all of them.  Erskine often talks about “thriving,” and my professors are the reason I thrive here.

I am grateful that Erskine gave me the opportunity to study abroad at the University of St Andrews.  All of my scholarships transferred, making it very affordable for me to spend this past spring there.  I was more than ready to get there and heartbroken to return home.  St Andrews was so much fun and a priceless experience that I will never forget.  It is hard to be so far away from all of the friends I made there; but on the plus side, I have friends to visit all over the world now!

I am grateful for the psychology department.  At many colleges and universities, psychology can be the “easy” major.  Not here.  I have definitely worked hard for my As and I am amazed sometimes at both the number of pages I have read over the past 3.5 years and how much I have learned.  I know that learning is the point of college, but we as students (and by “we,” I definitely refer at least to myself) tend to get caught up in grades and GPA.  Dr Elsner, for example, always laughs when we come to his office stressing about grades.  As he and the other professors have gradually gotten us to accept, it’s most important to focus on the work and the learning; the grades are secondary.  As a psychology major, I have gotten to write countless papers, learn statistics software,  conduct and present original research, collaborate with other students, participate in a summer research internship, be accepted to intern at a mental hospital this spring, and become the psychology lab manager.  Graduate school? Bring it on.

I am grateful for the music department.  Despite not majoring or minoring in music, I have a music scholarship and get to take voice lessons and sing with the Choraleers.  I’ve also been a member of the Chamber Choir and Bella Voce and performed in opera workshops and various other performances over the past several years.  It is definitely a blessing to practice and perform with such talented individuals, and the faculty … talented doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Some of my favorite college memories relate to Choraleers retreats and tours.  I have grown as a musician and as a Christian and I know my experiences with the department will serve me well in future ministry and life in general.

Continuing with the arts, I am grateful to be an active member of Erskine’s theatre department.  Actually, we technically aren’t even a department, but that certainly does not stop us from acting up a storm!  As a member of Alpha Psi Omega, I get to help make the magic happen both on the stage and behind the scenes.  I had to take a break from the improv this group this past semester, but I hope to finish out my time at Erskine as an active member again this spring.  My fellow Thespians are, quite frankly, talented. And did I mention funny?  They are definitely both.  In sum, if you have never seen any music or theatre performances at Erskine, you are missing out.  We’d love to see you in the audience!

I am grateful for my friends.  Late night studying, paper writing, rehearsing, procrastinating, finding amusement in Due West, 2AM excursions to IHOP, cooking together, and so much laughter …  I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

I could probably easily spend another thousand words  writing about how great Erskine is and how God has blessed me in my time there, but my mom is about to take the baked ziti out of the oven and I am too excited to eat a big chunk of it.  I hope your stomach is as happy as mine is about to be.

I pray that your heart may be content and that this season will bring you happiness and peace.  Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

A Fun Night of Music

Well, it’s that time of the semester again. Walk up to just about any Erskine student these days, and they’ll tell you, “This week I have two papers to turn in, three projects due, two tests, and a quiz.” Oh, yes, and then finals. During the rush of these last few weeks before summer, these words of Aristotle’s become particularly apt: “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

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Christine singing Sondheim's witty piece "Lovely"

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Heather singing "I Remember Sky"--this girl has an incredibly rich, full voice. Gorgeous!

In addition to approaching deadlines, innumerable concerts, events, and theater productions are taking place on the Erskine campus about this time. Balancing the academic and the social, thus, becomes quite the challenge, but I was extremely glad this past Thursday that a friend persuaded me to go to a recital put on by Erskine’s voice studios. I had vast amounts of homework waiting to be done, but I nevertheless took a break long enough to head over to the auditorium for “An Evening with Sondheim”—and I’m so glad I did!

Everyone on the program did a fabulous job, and the repertoire ranged from the stirring strains of “Johanna” and “Not While I’m Around” to more humorous selections like “Lovely” and “Children Will Listen.” It was a lot of fun to hear some extremely talented freshman sing solos for the first time. Christian and Heather sounded especially amazing, but I sadly don’t have any videos of their performances because I was too mesmerized by their singing to have the presence of mind to record it. Will—another freshman, to whom I happen to be related—gave an entertaining rendition of “Giants in the Sky,” acting as Jack from Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods. All in all, it was a fun and delightful evening and worth giving up some precious study time. But now, back to the books!

The cast taking a bow at the end of the show.

The Game’s Afoot!

Finishing off my Saturday, yesterday evening I headed down the road to Abbeville Opera House with a couple of friends to see a play, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily, directed by the professor of my acting class this semester, Michael Genevie.  When we found our seats, I opened the program to see that one of Erskine’s own, Dr. Brad Christie (English and Theatre professor, now the Dean), was playing Dr. Watson!  We enjoyed the suspense and humor, remembering our own experience last spring when Erskine put on a series of short Sherlock Holmes plays for dinner theatre.  After the show, we walked just around the corner from the opera house to Main Street Coffee Co. for some sweet treats (I had a delicious cinnamon bun) and coffee before heading back to Erskine.  It was the perfect end to round off a great Saturday.

Whodunit?

It was Mr. Green in the ballroom with the wrench!

Although the big fall play finished a couple of weeks ago, the semester was not over for the theatre department.  As a member and president of Erskine’s Alpha Psi Omega – a national honorary fraternity for theatre – I get to be involved in planning and carrying out other theatrical events in addition to plays.  This past week, for example, Alpha Psi Omega hosted a self-created murder mystery, the first ever edition of Clue: Erskine Edition.

Since the beginning of the semester the seven of us members have been planning this event, which is more complicated than you might think.  Luckily, one of our members, Bryce, took a class on detective fiction last J-term, so he took the lead in putting together the mystery.  We had to start by figuring out how to structure the game, give clues, and all the details of location, date, etc.  We ended up using many of the ideas of the game to set it up, as well as taking some from the Clue movie.

We set up six of the classic rooms from the board game in the areas surrounding Lesesne auditorium – the ballroom, study, lounge, library, dining room, and billiard room – and hid five of the six weapons throughout the rooms (the missing one being the murder weapon).  We had the six participating teams of students rotate throughout the six rooms, interviewing the six suspects who were stationed one in each room.  We also had clues hidden in the rooms, and through the interrogations of the characters the teams gained information to help them find the killer.

Six of the seven Alpha Psi Omega members played the main characters, the seventh being the butler (of course!).  We all dressed in black with accents of our color; I, for example, was the flighty and affluent Mrs. Peacock, and wore a blue hat and scarf over my black dress, along with some peacock feather earrings that I borrowed from a friend.  We also enlisted the help of five other members of the theatre department to play characters such as Mr. Boddy, the maid, the cook, etc.  All of us adopted ridiculous, melodramatic characteristics, playing up our roles to make it more fun.  We had an opening skit to introduce all of the characters and the plot, and after a group had submitted the correct suspect, weapon, and room of the murder, we closed with a dramatic final scene and awarded the prize money.

Overall it was a great experience; though there were difficulties in working out some of the logistics, we all greatly enjoyed it – both the actors and the participants.  It went over so well that many students have said they would love to play again, so we hope to do a sequel in the spring!

All the world’s a stage…

What a week!  Last Monday through Saturday I spent at least four hours a day in our theatre and backstage, between dress rehearsals and three performances of our fall play, Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Overall, it was a great experience, but there is nothing so tiring (and fulfilling) as the final week of preparations and running a show.

Amber doing aging make-up on Rebecca, the Lady Gonzala

One element of theatre that I do not have much experience with is special make-up, but for this show I got to work a lot in this unknown territory.  I am used to doing normal stage make-up, but this time I got to experiment with aging and color make-up.  My friend Amber and I were in charge of making a few of the characters look moderately aged, so we had the daunting task of making college students appear on stage to have believable wrinkles and grey hair.  Also, for two of the characters I experimented with special color make-up to give the former (my character) sort of flames or wings around the eyes, and the latter spots of scale-like skin.  It was a daunting task, but we learned and it became easier every time.

Working on fancy eye make-up for my character, Ariel

Something that I enjoy about doing a Shakespeare play (every two years at Erskine) is the chance to work with a larger cast.  Because we have a smaller theatre department, we tend to do shows with a smaller cast; but when we do Shakespeare, as in this play, we bring many new people into the theatre.

On the other hand, there are challenges as well, the main one being that we do not have a very extensive capability for our sets and lighting.  Although we have a fairly good number of committed actors who have experience and skills on stage, we do not have very many students who specialize in set design or lighting.  However, we are all willing to learn and do what we can, so somehow we always make it work; for example, in this play we experimented more with the lighting, adding a little more to the effects of different scenes.

Although it always seems to be over quickly, after months of preparation it is nice to have more free time all of the sudden!  Besides, there are always new projects to be working on, and more upcoming performances to be preparing for at Erskine, so there is no shortage of enjoyable activities to occupy my time.  On to the next one!

The cast of Shakespeare’s The Tempest

An Evening at the Theatre

I am a lover of the arts: music, theatre, fine arts, writing, dance. . . so even when I am not involved in these, I also enjoy partaking in them from the other side, as part of the audience.  After all, what is a play, opera, ballet, poem, or sculpture without someone to enjoy it?  The arts are popular at Erskine, but sometimes students forget that there are great opportunities in the surrounding communities to enjoy the arts as well.

A lovely Saturday evening.

Abbeville, a mere fifteen minutes away, is a small community that offers many such opportunities, especially through the Abbeville Opera House.  Curiously enough, this historic building in the rural upstate is actually the state theatre of South Carolina!  Every year they put on a full season with about a play a month, and other special shows between these.  One of my good friends, Amber, was in the opening show of the season, The Sound of Music, so I drove over with a couple of friends for the last run of the show.  We ended up sitting close to handful of more Erskine students who had the same idea.

It is always fun to see the original stage version of a musical, especially one as well-known as The Sound of Music, and that I have seen so many times in its movie version.  There’s nothing like a live show, especially at a local theatre showcasing the talents of people in the community.  After enjoying the play, we greeted Amber, who played Frau Schmidt, the family’s German housekeeper.  Finally, after lots of hugs, congratulations, and animated discussions of the play, we ended the evening in typical Erskine fashion – a trip to IHOP for fun conversation and good breakfast food at 11:30 pm.