Tag Archives: Christine Fusselman

Central Penn students, staff Present ‘Taboo’ Topics To End Violence

By Christine Fusselman

Media Club Reporter

On Feb. 25, staff and students presented the third annual production of “The Vagina Monologues,” in the Capital BlueCross Theatre.

Eve Ensler, Tony Award-winning playwright, performer and activist, wrote the piece, which premiered in 1996.

According to Ensler, after what began as general conversations with friends and developed into interviews with 200 women, she wrote the play to “celebrate the vagina.”

In 1998, though, Ensler stated, “the purpose of the piece changed from a celebration of vaginas and femininity to a movement to stop violence against women.”

The play represents a great variety of women in a range of situations. It is funny, it is poignant, it may make some people in audiences uncomfortable, but audiences nearly always relate to it. It is not just for women, either, and may give clarity to men and women who consider these topics unmentionable.

“I went to my first production as an undergraduate, and I found the message of female acceptance empowering,” Melissa Wehler, dean of The School of Humanities and Sciences, said  “I was emotionally moved by the stories of women — which were also stories about myself — being talked about in ways that were considered taboo.  I saw women taking ownership over their bodies in a way I had never seen before.”

Activities Director Adrienne Thoman directed this year’s production and seamlessly filled in to perform a monologue at the last minute.

“Bringing ‘The Vagina Monologues’ to Central Penn College each spring is always meaningful to me,” Thoman said. “On a college campus, unfortunately, sexual assault statistics are incredibly high. Nationwide, one in five students report that they have been forced to have sexual intercourse against their will before graduation. That is awful, terrifying and heartbreaking.”

Cast: (Back row): Christine Fusselman, Caitlin Copus, Casey Rodriguez, Morgan Littleford, Megan Peterson, Megan Cline, Teta Gaye, Yarisaliz Cales, (Front row): Madison Foley, Nautica Chance, Jaida May Woodfolk, Catherine Davis, and Jasmine Harvey. Not shown: Director, Adrienne Thoman and Crew: Tyesa Primer (stage manager) and Mallar Peters (sound/lighting)

Cast: (Back row): Christine Fusselman, Caitlin Copus, Casey Rodriguez, Morgan Littleford, Megan Peterson, Megan Cline, Teta Gaye, Yarisaliz Cales, (Front row): Madison Foley, Nautica Chance, Jaida May Woodfolk, Catherine Davis, and Jasmine Harvey. Not shown: Director, Adrienne Thoman and Crew: Tyesa Primer (stage manager) and Mallar Peters (sound/lighting)

The “Vagina Monologues” was again presented as part of what Ensler coined as V-Day. According to V-Day.org:

  • V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.
  • V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations.
  • V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sex slavery.

“This show gives us a chance to start a proactive conversation about sexual assault and the many other issues unique to women,” Thoman said, adding that she was proud of Central Penn students and staff helping bring stories of women’s experiences to light.

Wehler said she began participating in “The Vagina Monologues” as an actor and as an audience member in college because doing so seemed taboo. Now, she participates for some different reasons.

“When I was in college, … I was drawn to the taboo at that age,” Wehler explained. “Now, I participate in it at our college because I think it’s important for my students to see me transgressing social norms and rules, and how empowering it can be to do so.  I also participate because I love being a part of a collective of powerful women who are not afraid to speak their truths and who help me to speak mine.”

Communications students and monologue participants Morgan Littleford and Jasmine Harvey, both 18, said, “It was fun!”

Harvey added that participating in the production helped her gain confidence in herself and her ability to speak in front of an audience.

Proceeds from this year’s event went to the YWCA Carlisle – an organization that provides support to women and girls with programming related to domestic violence and sexual assault (health and safety), empowerment and economic advancement, and racial justice and civil rights.

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Editor’s note: Fusselman acted in the production.

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Central Penn College Welcomes Local Artists

Art Association of Harrisburg Winter Soiree held in Capital BlueCross Theatre

By Christine Fusselman

Media Club Reporter

Central Penn hosted the first Winter Soiree of the Art Association of Harrisburg (AAH) in the Capital BlueCross Theatre on Jan. 31.

Visitors entering the black-box theater were drawn in by the striking artwork displayed on metal grid frames and a few tables throughout the room.

Central Penn’s own Danielle Klebes’ larger-than-life oil painted portraits were displayed front and center. Klebes has won Best in Show in the AAH Annual Figure Show two years in a row.

Her paintings included the familiar faces of Summerdale campus students “Kamal” and “Steve-O,” and another artist-in-residence, Dalton James, who is the college’s writing center director and her spouse. (Klebes uses the last name “James” in her personal and non-art professional life.)

“I feel like the painting describes me, because it’s big, like my personality,” quipped Steve “Steve-O” Osango.

According to Carrie Wissler-Thomas, AAH president and sales gallery manager, the association’s soirees, typically held throughout the summer at various homes and businesses, are designed as audience-builders and fundraisers. She added that the Central Penn show was the first AAH meet-the-artist soiree held on a college campus.

“The space surprised me,” said jewelry artist Alonna Marie Columbo. “It is a great space. The exposed dark ceiling … is simple and elegant. It is a beautiful space to display fine art.”

Columbo displayed her handcrafted jewelry, some of which was made with gold sandstone and tiger’s eye.

Sarah Davidson, who works in the Central Penn marketing department, shared her photography, which she said included “examples of nature in all forms of life, from beginning to decay.”

Davidson said the show was a “very nice way to mingle with local artists and other members of the community.”

Dustin Nispel and Jessica Flynn, two owners of The Rooted Artist Collective, in York, shared their talents from the theater’s stage. Both worked on paintings during the show, with previously painted works nearby, but also took some time to present a poetic duetNispel and Flynn performed “Bottom of the Blossom,” a poem that won them first place in an international poetry contest in Macedonia in October. According to Nispel, the trip to Macedonia required some serious fundraising, but was an incredible experience, which included touring a mosque built around 1406.

 Jessica Flynn and Dustin Nispel performing a poetic duet, “Bottom of the Blossom.”

Jessica Flynn and Dustin Nispel performing a poetic duet, “Bottom of the Blossom.”

Nispel’s book of poems, “The Tower,” and Flynn’s poetry book, “Through the Cracks,” are both published by Poem Sugar Press and available on Amazon.com.

Representing the art of music with his combination of electronic and international traditional instruments, including a Chinese Hulusi, poet, painter and musician Jonathan Frazier entertained the audience with a variety of melodies.

Frazier said he has “always played keys and guitar,” but his collection of international instruments began developing more recently with his purchase of a flute from the annual Native American Pow Wow held during Harrisburg’s Kipona Festival.

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Painter, illustrator and musician, Jonathan Frazier entertained soiree guests with international instruments such as a Chinese Hulusi shown here.

Frazier, a former Central Penn adjunct instructor, also works as an illustrator when he is not playing music.

AAH member Andrew Guth presented a sampling of his work with block printing at the soiree. Guth’s colorful shapes were displayed on fabric bags and framed prints. His work can be viewed at the Millworks in midtown Harrisburg, where he leases studio space.

Guth felt the “vibe” was different than that at the typical soiree, but said, “The staff and president were very welcoming.”

Romeo Azondekon, Central Penn’s director of cultural diversity, displayed some framed works in mixed media.

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Central Penn College’s Chief Diversity Officer, Romeo Azondekon, shared his artwork which combines bursts of color and texture.

Local photographer Mary Fox also exhibited.

“This may be the start of a wonderful tradition,” according to Matt Lane, director of the Central Penn College Education Foundation.

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Which Way Did He Go?

An ex-con shares how he got on a better path

By Christine Fusselman
Media Club Reporter

Let’s bring in the guy who’s spent 25 years in and out of prison to inspire our students!

What?

But that’s just what Business and Communications Program Chair Russell Kulp did recently. He invited Ronald L. James to speak to a group of Central Penn College students from two oral communications classes and a freshman seminar class on Nov. 20.
Since last year, James has done speaking engagements – sharing the message from his book, Choices – Lessons Learned from a Repeat Offender (2013).

Ronald L. James, author of Choices – Lessons Learned from a Repeat Offender (2013)

Ronald L. James, author of Choices – Lessons Learned from a Repeat Offender (2013)

“Ron’s book, Choices, is an incredible journey from the depths of despair and hopelessness to exhilarating heights,” Kulp said.  “Ron’s message is touching hearts and changing lives.”

Students from one of Prof. Maria Thiaw’s oral communications classes described the presentation:

“Climatic – (James) has great story telling abilities,” says business management student Darrin Zehring, 19.

Neya Beattie, 29, is a health science major. She called the presentation “Powerful. It was a wake-up call.”

James captured the attention of the audience by talking about some of the poor choices he made in his life and asking, “Who’s choice is it?”

He explained that the choices he made in his youth snowballed into increasingly poor choices as he got older, leading to smoking, drugs and alcohol. The choices got worse after that, eventually leading him to spend more than 25 years in and out of varying levels of incarceration.

During the presentation, James asked the audience, “What’s your dream?”

Students replied with mainly career-focused dreams, including being a detective or in another law-enforcement job, or being a forensic scientist or cosmetologist.

Another relayed a dream of being happy.

He then asked, “What can derail you?”

James’ answer: “Some people don’t know they’ve made a bad choice until the consequence comes.”

RonCard_1

He then gave examples of the negative results others had when they drove too fast or agreed to that second drink.

James shared about a time in his life when he was fighting an addiction to heroin, and after using up all of his other resources, he went home to his mother, whom he calls “Mi Mi.” She welcomed him home like a “prodigal son,” offering him food, a hot shower, clothes and a place to stay.

He said she used to always say: “Good, better, best. May you never rest – until the good get better, and the better best.”

Even after he stole her wedding rings to sell for drug money, she would welcome him home when he showed up. It wasn’t until years later, and after her death, that he realized his regret.

“I robbed my mom of having a son,” he said.

Criminal Justice major Brett Sherman, 19, said, “His story was shocking. He stole from his mom. When she told him, ‘You needed them more than me’ – that was painful.”

Prof. Thiaw said she knew someone who had dealt with addiction. “I never truly understood how very destructive that is to the family until hearing these stories.”

Prof. Janet Bixler wrote, “Ron James shared his story about choices. His presentation was a wonderful complement to my freshman seminar curriculum, where the students are exploring goal-setting and strategies for overcoming obstacles. Mr. James made it clear that the choices we make have the power to move us forward toward success or to create giant obstacles. His life experiences vividly illustrated our need to examine the intentions and motivations behind our actions, thoughts and desires.”

James’ decision to change came in prison.

“I saw myself for who I was,” he says.

He began to read to improve the reading skills he sorely neglected in school. He also chose to help and guide new inmates, and found that he enjoyed helping others.

Today, James is touring middle and high schools, along with colleges in Pennsylvania and other nearby states. Recent stops include The Ohio State University, and in nearby Shiremanstown, River Rock Academy, where he spoke to adjudicated youth. James says he is looking forward to taking his speaking tour to charter schools in Houston. He also uses his affinity for helping others by being a life coach.

He and his wife, Annie, welcomed a baby girl this month. Her name is Mireya, which means “miracle.”

More information about James and his book can be found at his website. It includes video links, blog entries and contact information.

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Jekyll and Hyde – and Hyde and Hyde and Hyde: The Stage is Set

By Christine Fusselman

Media Club Reporter

Murder! Mystery! Mayhem!

This steampunk version of the Victorian era Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, playing in the Capital BlueCross Theatre in The Underground Nov. 19 and 20, promises to be unlike any you’ve seen.

Dr. Jekyll is confronted by not one, but multiple facets of his own alter ego in this adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher.

Director Janet Bixler, theater director and Central Penn faculty member, says she chose to use the steampunk style because it is a way to add elements of science-fiction from the industrial age, along with fun and creative costumes and staging.

Steampunk is a theatrical costuming and literary science fiction and fantasy genre that combines Victorian-era clothing and contemporary or old-looking mechanics, usually operated by steam.

“This [adaptation] adds a level of intrigue to the original in the way that he adds multiple Hydes,” Bixler says. “It becomes a more community story than a story of one man. Using four actors to play multiple roles symbolizes how gray our moral compass is and heightens the level of science fiction.”

Some of the players will be switching characters without switching costumes, making for quick, short scenes, according to Bixler. She says the play is very action-driven, yet very poetic.

Referring to this adaptation versus the original, Bixler says, “It has the same intention, but Hatcher broke it down to the essence of determining for oneself where you are on the (morality) spectrum of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

In this scene, Tyler Willis plays a surgical student who is trying to avoid the wrath of Dr. Carew, played by Paul Whitman. Dr. Carew is angry with Dr. Jekyll, played by Frank Butcher.

In this scene, Tyler Willis plays a surgical student who is trying to avoid the wrath of Dr. Carew, played by Paul Whitman. Dr. Carew is angry with Dr. Jekyll, played by Frank Butcher.  Photo by Christine Fusselman.

 

Sharing the stage with community members

Auditions were held in August and students, alumni and two community members were cast. When some of the cast left due to scheduling conflicts, two more community members were added, both of them experienced actors.

“I love the fact that the play calls on most of the actors to play more than one role,” says Paul Whitman, one of the community actors. “For years now, I’ve been an avid fan of Victorian melodrama as portrayed in BBC TV productions, so I’ve had huge fun trying out a cockney accent for Mr. Sanderson, the personal enquiries agent, and an Irish accent for the police inspector. It makes me wish I had taken to the stage a long time before this.”

Whitman added: “The blend of community members along with students has been great fun.”

Criminal justice student and actor Teta Gaye, 20, said she likes the community involvement.

“I feel like everything works much smoother and faster,” Gaye says “Central Penn College students should get involved more because of the opportunity, experience and the fun.”

Besides Gaye, the cast includes Central Penn students Tyler Willis, Alexis Ensley-Gregg and Jessica Grice. Besides Whitman, community cast members include Frank Butcher, Bob Zaccano and Anthony Geraci.

This scene depicts some of the same actors in different roles. (l to r) Teta Gaye is playing Poole, seated next to her is Paul Butcher as Jekyll, behind Butcher is Paul Whitman in the role of Enfield, and on the far right is Bob Zaccano as Utterson. Photo by Christine Fusselman.

This scene depicts some of the same actors in different roles. (l to r) Teta Gaye is playing Poole, seated next to her is Paul Butcher as Jekyll, behind Butcher is Paul Whitman in the role of Enfield, and on the far right is Bob Zaccano as Utterson.
Photo by Christine Fusselman.

It takes a village

“Although there are one-person shows, no production could be successful without a crew,” Bixler says.

The crew for this show includes Central Penn Students Daniel Blichasz, tech manager; Danielle Farber, stage manager; Jaida May-Woodfolk, crew; and Ashley Walker, house manager.

Community theatre member Mandi Lea Hurley is the dresser and steampunk subject-matter expert, and Aaron Lute, is the Central Penn Central technical support specialist to round out the crew.

If you go

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will begin at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 and 20. Tickets cost $7 general admission and $3 for students.

Tickets will be available at the box office. They can also be purchased online at http://www.centralpenn.edu/college-services/capital-bluecross-theatre/.

That page also has information about the Capital BlueCross Theatre.

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Student Players Delight Youngsters at Fall Harvest

By Kimberly Crone

Media Club Reporter

 

Once again, members of the Central Penn Players Drama Club demonstrated their acting chops when they performed the play Mysterious Golden Rose during Fall Harvest on Oct. 24.

The children’s play is an annual event, and as always, the Central Penn Players did not disappoint.

As children sat on the floor in front of the stage, the performers delighted spectators of all ages in the Capital BlueCross Theatre on campus. In addition to running among the audience members, the cast also interacted with the children during the performance, which prompted some hilarious responses.

Although the kids were energized throughout the play, several were tongue-tied afterward when asked about their favorite part or characters, but other spoke right up.

“The two girls were my favorite,” young audience member Jamel said.

He was referring to Annabelle and Anastasia, played by actors Teta Gaye and Jaida May-Woodfolk, respectively.

Danielle Farber, Daniel Blichasz, Teta Gaye, and Jaida May-Woodfolk share a laugh with the audience.

Danielle Farber, Daniel Blichasz, Teta Gaye, and Jaida May-Woodfolk share a laugh with the audience.  Photo by Christine Fusselman.

The play, written by the Central Penn Players Drama Club and inspired by classic fairy tale books, was about two friends who question whether the mysterious golden rose they discover is magical, after they face a series of peculiar adventures in Fairyland.

Daniel Blichasz, who played the roles of the troll, dragon and tree, was ecstatic after the performance. As the troll, he frightened Annabelle and Anastasia at first, but by the end of the play, he had achieved the thing he was searching for – their friendship.

“It went wonderful,” he said. “All the actors were energized. We brought it to the table, and the kids enjoyed it.”

Tyler Willis, who played the knight, agreed.

“It went spectacular,” he said.

Cast member, Tyler Willis, answers a question for an audience member during the post-show question and answer session. Seated next to him are (l) Ashley Walker and (r) DaShawn Godfrey.

Cast member, Tyler Willis, answers a question for an audience member during the post-show question and answer session. Seated next to him are (l) Ashley Walker and (r) DaShawn Godfrey.  Photo by Christine Fusselman.

Professor Janet Bixler was pleased with the children’s play as well as with the Pennsylvania Regional Ballet, members of which had performed earlier in the day.

“Today’s been going really well,” Bixler said following Mysterious Golden Rose. “The Pennsylvania Regional Ballet put on a contemporary number and two ballet pieces. The dancers ranged in age from 7 to teenagers. We had almost a full house for them. The kids’ play was high energy.”

Bixler said the Central Penn Players are proud of themselves, and that they should be because of the hard work they put into the production.


 

The Cast

Annabel – Teta Gaye

Anastasia – Jaida May-Woodfolk

King – DaShawn Godfrey

Knight – Tyler Willis

Mysterious Stranger – Ashley Walker

Troll, Dragon and Tree – Daniel Blichasz

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Campus Players, Youth Ballet To Perform at Fall Harvest

By Kimberly Crone

Media Club Reporter

The Central Penn Players Drama Club is primed for the curtain to rise in the Capital Blue Cross Theatre in The Underground at Fall Harvest on Saturday.

Central Penn Theater Director Janet Bixler said she is especially excited about this year’s lineup.

Grace in Motion

Pennsylvania Regional Ballet youth between the ages of 6 and 18 will present duets and group performances from noon to 12:30.

“I think it’s great that we as an East Penn Township nonprofit can give back to the community and to the Central Penn community with this performance,” the ballet’s executive director, and Central Penn marketing and merchandising alumna, Kathryn Aumiller said.

Drama, Please!

Also, from 12:45 to 1:15 p.m., the Central Penn Players will stage a play the members created.

The play, Mysterious Golden Rose, is particularly suitable for children 2 to 8.

Ashley Walker plays "The mysterious stranger".

Ashley Walker plays “The mysterious stranger”.  Photo by Christine Fusselman.

 

Bixler said she’s especially proud of the drama club students for creating the play, and is excited about the performance.

Danielle Farber plays the antagonist in the play, the Witch and Daniel Blichasz plays the dragon in Mysterious Golden Rose.

Danielle Farber plays the antagonist in the play, the witch, and Daniel Blichasz plays the dragon in Mysterious Golden Rose.  Photo by Christine Fusselman.

In the play, two best friends take a walk through Fairyland and encounter several challenges. A stranger suddenly appears with a magical golden rose, leaving one friend to believe the rose will solve all their problems.

Will it?

Bixler’s lips are sealed, so people will have to see the play to find out.

Have a Few Laughs

Giggles and guffaws will be sure to fly when standup comic Earl David Reed returns to Central Penn, taking center stage at 1:45.

Reed, a local favorite, and also popular in cities such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City, has performed at over 100 colleges and comedy clubs.

For more information on Reed, go to www.imearldavidreed.com.

Also, find more about Fall Harvest, alumni weekend and Central Penn College at www.centralpenn.edu.

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