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Broadway star to give Shapiro Lecture Nov. 5

The University of Toledo has partnered with the Toledo Symphony to welcome Broadway star and Tony- and Grammy-winning performer Audra McDonald to town.

McDonald will share the story of her career, both as a singer and an actress on Broadway, opera stages, film and television, at the Edward Shapiro Distinguished Lecture Sunday, Nov. 5 from noon to 2 p.m. in Doermann Theater.

McDonald

McDonald’s lecture at UT will follow her performance with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra Saturday, Nov. 4, at 8 p.m. at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle.

“The opportunity to engage in a conversation with an artist of Audra McDonald’s stature is an honor and a privilege for our students and the greater Toledo community,” said Charlene Gilbert, dean of the UT College of Arts and Letters. “We are pleased to partner with the Toledo Symphony to bring this internationally renowned performer to campus following her Toledo performance. This lecture is exactly the type of event that shapes and enriches the academic experience of our students and engages the community with our university.” 

McDonald is the winner of a record-breaking six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards and an Emmy Award. She was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2015, and she received a 2015 National Medal of Arts — America’s highest honor for achievement in the arts — from President Barack Obama.

In addition to her Tony-winning performances, including “Carousel,” “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Porgy and Bess,” she has appeared on Broadway in “The Secret Garden,” “Marie Christine” (Tony nomination) and “110 in the Shade” (Tony nomination).

On television, McDonald played Mother Abbess in NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live!” and Dr. Naomi Bennett on ABC’s “Private Practice.” She won an Emmy Award for her role as host of PBS’s “Live from Lincoln Center.” On film, she has appeared in “Seven Servants,” “The Object of My Affection,” “Cradle Will Rock,” “It Runs in the Family,” “The Best Thief in the World,” “She Got Problems,” “Rampart, Ricki and the Flash” and, most recently, Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast.”

Doors will open for McDonald’s free, public lecture at 11:30 a.m. with seating on a first-come, first-served basis.

Tickets remain available for McDonald’s performance with the Toledo Symphony. Tickets range from $49 to $99 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 419.246.8000 or visiting toledosymphony.com.

“We are reaching new heights this season with our programming, bringing the greatest voices of our generation to Toledo,” said Felecia Kanney, director of marketing for the Toledo Symphony. “Audra McDonald is one of the finest voices in the world. Her program of Broadway favorites by Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, George Gershwin, and songs from her latest album titled ‘Go Back Home’ is a program that will be remembered for years to come.”

The annual lecture is made possible by the Shapiro endowment left by Dr. Edward Shapiro, professor emeritus of economics, who retired in 1989 and wanted to provide opportunities for the University to bring world-renowned speakers to Toledo.

Past Shapiro Distinguished Lecture speakers include Elie Wiesel, Oliver Sacks, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Toni Morrison, Wynton Marsalis and E.J. Dionne Jr.

Department of Theatre and Film to present comedy to celebrate Department of Mathematics and Statistics’ centennial anniversary

The University of Toledo Department of Theatre and Film’s production of playwright Tom Stoppard’s acclaimed comedy, “Arcadia,” will open this week.

Performances will be Friday through Sunday, Nov. 3-5 and 10-12, in the Center for Performing Arts Center Theatre. Curtain time Fridays and Saturdays will be 7:30 p.m., and the Sunday shows will start at 2 p.m.

Thomasina Coverly (Grace Mulinix) worked with her tutor, Septimus Hodge (Justin Petty), in this scene from “Arcadia.”

Special matinee performances for schools and community groups will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 7-8, at 9:30 a.m.

“Arcadia,” Stoppard’s 1993 play, has been praised by many critics as the finest work from one of the most significant contemporary playwrights in the English language. Set in a Derbyshire country estate in England, “Arcadia” takes visitors from 1809 to the present — and back again. The characters of the past try to predict the future, while those in the present attempt to uncover the past. It is a comedy about history and science, philosophy and mathematics, love and death, and the human desire to know everything — even if that’s impossible.

The production is directed by guest director Qarie Marshall. In addition to teaching at UT on an adjunct basis, Marshall is a professional actor, voice-over artist and choreographer. He said he is excited to direct a Stoppard production having appeared in some of his plays, including “The Real Inspector Hound” and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” and having seen many of his productions.

Marshall said his goal is to deliver audiences an authentic Stoppard production. “Quite simply, I want to get out of the way of the playwright and let him do his work. Stoppard has done all the heavy lifting in the construction of this beautiful play.”

“Arcadia” is one of two math-based plays the department is presenting this season. The other is “Proof” by David Auburn, will run Feb. 2-11. The department is collaborating with the Mathematics and Statistics Department on the production. Dr. Alessandro Arsie, associate professor and associate chair of mathematics, approached Dr. Edmund Lingan, professor and chair of theatre and film, during spring semester and suggested the collaboration to coincide with the 100th anniversary celebration of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Working together, they decided that Stoppard’s play, with its plot and themes rich with mathematical ideas, would be perfect to commemorate the centennial celebration.

Marshall said it’s all good fun, and you don’t need to be a math wiz to enjoy the show. “You don’t have to know anything about chaos theory, fractals or iterated algorithms. Stoppard’s genius gives you everything you need.”

The cast of “Arcadia” features UT students Justin Petty, a sophomore majoring in theatre, as Septimus Hodge; Zane Traxler, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering, as Jellaby; Bryan Harkins, a senior theatre major, as Ezra Chater; Keeyong Hong, a senior theatre major, as Richard Noakes; Faith Murphy, a sophomore theatre major, as Lady Croom; Rachel Hybarger, a senior theatre major, as Capt. Brice; Kenzie Phillips, a senior majoring in theatre and environmental science, as Hannah; Becca Lustic, a sophomore theatre major, as Chloe Coverly; and Austin Rambo, a junior majoring in theatre and media communication, as Valentine Coverly.

Rounding out the cast are Brad Smith, a 2005 UT College of Law alumnus, as Bernard Nightingale; Jude Lingan, a student at the Toledo School for the Arts, as Augustus/Gus Coverly; and Grace Mulinix, a student at Toledo Early College High School, as Thomasina Coverly.

Tickets are $8 for students and children; $10 for UT faculty, staff and alumni, and military members and seniors; and $15 for the general public. Call 419.530.ARTS (2787) or order online at utoledo.tix.com. Tickets also will be available at the door.

Love gone wrong: UT Opera Ensemble to present tragedy

The University of Toledo Opera Ensemble will present Henry Purcell’s tragic opera, “Dido and Aeneas,” Friday through Sunday, Nov. 3-5, in the Center for Performing Arts Recital Hall.

Friday and Saturday performances will be at 7 p.m., and Sunday’s show will start at 3 p.m.

Alana Miller, mezzo-soprano, and Moises Salazar, tenor, rehearsed a scene in the title roles for “Dido and Aeneas.” 

This 17th-century English opera recounts the love of Dido, queen of Carthage, for the Trojan hero, Aeneas, and her despair when he abandons her. A monumental work in Baroque opera, “Dido and Aeneas” is remembered as one of Purcell’s foremost theatrical works. It was also Purcell’s only true opera, as well as his only all-sung dramatic work.

One of the earliest known English operas, “Dido and Aeneas” owes much to John Blow’s “Venus and Adonis,” both in structure and in overall effect.

The cast features UT students Meridian Prall and Alana Miller, mezzo-sopranos, as Dido; Paige Chapman, soprano, as Belinda; Robin Smithberger, soprano, as Second Lady; Ryan Tequilla, baritone, and Moises Salazar, tenor, as Aeneas; Katie Driscoll and Kate Walcher, mezzo-sopranos, as Sorceress; Mackenzie Payton, soprano, as First Witch; Danielle Hale, soprano, as Spirit; and Nate Krebs, baritone, and William Floss, tenor, as First Sailor. Elizabeth Atkins, soprano, also will perform as the Second Witch.

Sailors and chorus members are UT students Brandon Warren, tenor; Phil Smith, bass; and Nicole Savastuk, soprano. In addition, Dillon Sickels, bass, will perform.

Dr. Denise Ritter Bernardini, assistant professor of music, is producing and directing the show.

The production is the first of the season for the ensemble. Its spring show will be Benjamin Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” March 23-25.

Tickets $10 to $15 are available through the Center for Performing Arts Box Office, online at utoledo.tix.com or by calling 419.530.ARTS (2787).  

Poet to read, sign book that explores domestic anxieties

The ultimate deadline — that’s what spurred Erin Adair-Hodges to get tapping on the keyboard.

“I’d kept intending to write poetry again only to realize one day in my late 30s that ‘one day’ had probably already passed and that my chance to create is finite,” she said. “This is true for all of us, it’s part of the mortal bargain, but knowing this intellectually and knowing this with your whole soul is pretty different.

“I kept waiting for someone to tell me it was OK to take myself and my work seriously, but it was understanding that no one would do so which actually allowed me to make the commitment to poetry.”

Making that promise led to her debut, “Let’s All Die Happy,” which was released last week. The 112-page book is part of the Pitt Poetry Series published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

The title is the first line of the poem, “Everybody in the Car We Are Leaving Without You.”

“Titling a book is a fairly soul-crushing process,” Adair-Hodges said. “It has provoked strong reactions — love or hate … But, ultimately, I think it’s an honest presentation of the tone and concerns of the collection.” 

Through witty, spot-on observations infused with cerebral pop culture references, the UT visiting assistant professor of creative writing shares her perspective on being a woman. Titles of poems include “American Idyll,” “Ode to My Dishwasher,” “Self-Portrait as Banshee,” “The Mammogram” and “I Would Have Listened to Rush.”

“Many of us, especially women, are taught that adherence to certain conventions will provide us with meaning and fulfillment — the idea that if we do what we’re supposed to, believe what we’re told, we will be happy. I believed this for a long time until the evidence of my life could no longer support that,” Adair-Hodges said.

Adair-Hodges

“Breaking from what we’ve been inculcated with frees us to find the truest versions of ourselves, but it can also leave us without the security that these kinds of institutions provide. It can be scary, this figuring out of what’s next and why. This has been part of my own personal, intellectual, emotional and spiritual path, one that I’m still on and using art to sort out.”

After receiving a master of fine arts degree from the University of Arizona, Adair-Hodges shelved poetry — for eight years. She was the arts editor of a weekly paper for a while, taught writing, and started a family. After her son was born, the allure of words beckoned.

“At the newspaper, I wrote hundreds of pieces — criticism, profiles, reviews and more — all of which sharpened my attention to language and precision,” she said. “Teaching writing required I be able to articulate and provide evidence for my instruction and insight. All of this provided me with the tools to express the vision of my work I’d been carrying around inside me for years.”

The native of New Mexico recently had her work featured on “PBS NewsHour” and took home the 2016 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize for “Let’s All Die Happy.”

“I think now as much as ever, we need to heed women’s stories. The work may resonate with some while challenging the imagination or empathy of others, but I believe it has value if for no other reason than it’s an honest expression of my experience in the world.”

That candor comes with comedy.

“As a poet, I use humor to engage, to get closer to the matter,” Adair-Hodges said. “Humor, to me, is a way to honesty, a path that must necessarily cut through some darkness.”

She will read from and sign “Let’s All Die Happy” Thursday, Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. in Libbey Hall. Books will be available at the free, public event sponsored by the UT Department of English Language and Literature. Purchases also can be made at online book retailers and the author’s website, erinmolly.com.

“I think we’re all drawn to poetic expression, the translation of our experiences into art, into something that connects to others,” Adair-Hodges said. “Poetry is only as hard to understand as life is, so I think if you’re inclined to work through some of life’s mysteries and truths, you’ll find value in poetry — often, it’s just a matter of finding the work that speaks to you.”

Alumna to give lecture Nov. 1 on Islam in France

“Islam in France Secular Society” will be discussed Wednesday, Nov. 1, at 1 p.m. in Memorial Field House Room 2420.

Mariah Pasternak, who graduated summa cum laude this year with a bachelor of arts degree in French, will deliver the lecture hosted by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature.

Her lecture will cover information from surveys she conducted in Pau and Lyon, France. These surveys asked people for their opinions about secularism in France and about their perceptions of Islam. She also will give some background about secularism in France, as well as cover some information about Islam.

“This topic is crucial today because as Western societies become more and more multicultural and terrorism becomes more frequent, there is a need to evaluate opinions people in the West have about Islam and its integration in society,” Pasternak said.

She came up with this topic due to her contact with Muslim students on the UT campus, as well as her interest in French politics.

“I felt concerned about some of the comments from the French far right and wanted to investigate how much impact those ideas had on people,” Pasternak said.

She began her research on this topic during her freshman year as an undergraduate for an honors project. Afterward, she decided to expand upon her research and create a survey project.

“Students should attend this talk because the college-age generation will eventually lead the way in deciding how to work with multiculturalism, immigrants and the Muslim community to find solutions during times of societal tension and terrorism,” Pasternak said. “As a part of this future effort, today’s students will have to consider the balance between religion and state separation and religious expression.”

For questions or more information, contact Dr. Gaby Semaan, director of Middle East studies and assistant professor of Arabic, at gaby.semaan@utoledo.edu.

Possession topic of Oct. 30 disability studies lecture

Dr. James L. Cherney will discuss “Ableism and the Possessed Body” Monday, Oct. 30, at 4 p.m. in Carlson Library Room 1005.

His free, public lecture is co-sponsored by the Disability Studies Program and the Department of Communication.

“Western culture has long had a strong ableist tradition of using physical disabilities to signify an inner evil or unseen malicious presence,” Cherney, assistant professor of communication at Wayne State University, said. “From Richard III to Captain Hook, characters have been given disabilities in order to reveal their cruelty.”

He will talk about the most explicit of these stories: narratives of possession.

“In these narratives of possession, disabled bodies, deviant behaviors and unconventional mentalities are read or viewed as evidence of the demonic possession itself,” Cherney said. “This coding of disability appears in Cotton Mather’s ‘Memorable Providences’ in 1689 and continues in contemporary stories like William Peter Blatty’s ‘The Exorcist’ in 1971.

“In exploring this theme, I hope to help us understand why ableism remains so powerful in our culture, and critiquing it becomes a way to challenge ableist thinking and bigotry.”

For more information on the lecture, contact the Disability Studies Program at 419.530.7244.

Professor to lead nationwide discussion on book about history of people with disabilities

Dr. Kim E. Nielsen is gearing up to meet with 60 American Association of University Women book clubs across the country — in one night.

She will discuss “A Disability History of the United States” during an ¡Adelante! Book of the Month Club webinar Thursday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m.

“American Association of University Women leaders chose the book to include in their monthly book discussions to commemorate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and members have submitted questions ahead of time,” the UT professor of disability studies said. “I’m looking forward to a lively conversation.”

Published by Beacon Press in 2012, Nielsen’s book is the first to cover the entirety of American disability history, from pre-1492 to the present.

“I spent more than five years chronicling this history that spans 800 years. It begins prior to the European arrival and follows how history has changed over time,” she said.

In her book, Nielsen illustrates how concepts of disability have shaped the American experience in relation to immigration, establishing labor laws, and justifying slavery and gender discrimination. Her work includes powerful stories spanning narratives of women being involuntarily sterilized to accounts of returning veterans with disabilities securing civil rights.

The American Association of University Women created the ¡Adelante! Book of the Month Club to spotlight important, interesting stories and strong writing by women from all backgrounds.

Sociology and Anthropology students and faculty conduct research, volunteer in Dominican Republic

This past summer, eight undergraduate students and one graduate student from the University journeyed to the Dominican Republic for a field school where they partnered with a social and education development nongovernmental organization called Project Esperanza.

The two-week program was part of a six-week course offered through the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and was co-taught by Dr. Karie Peralta and Dr. Shahna Arps. The program was designed to follow the steps a researcher would take to enter a community and begin work for the first time.

UT students Jacalyn DeSelms, left, and Perfenee Womack ran a camp activity with local children at the Project Esperanza’s school in the Dominican Republic.

During the first few days, students visited cultural museums and local monuments to become more familiar with the history and culture of the Dominican Republic. Students then began volunteering at Project Esperanza’s annual summer camp, which serves the children who attend the organization’s grassroots, bilingual Haitian Creole and Spanish school.

“For many of our students, this was their first time gaining experience working with children, particularly in an educational setting, and several of them recognized that they were good at it,” Peralta, assistant professor of sociology, said. “This involvement was important for our students because it facilitated connections with and deeper understandings of the children whose parents were participants in our household survey.”

Students spent eight mornings running the camp and seven afternoons conducting surveys to gather data on the social demographics and living conditions of families with children who attend Project Esperanza’s school. They collaborated with interpreters and local community guides in the data collection phase, which enhanced students’ cross-cultural research skills. Under the guidance of Peralta and Arps, they also worked on data coding and data entry.

Dr. Shahna Arps, standing left, and Meg Perry started a craft activity with camp participants in the Dominican Republic. UT students Madeline Bengela, seated left, and Melissa Tehan also were on hand to help.

“From a faculty perspective, it was fascinating to observe our students gain confidence in their survey administration, note-taking, observation, and data entry skills,” Peralta said. 

“Our students were eager to learn, adaptable and open-minded,” Arps, lecturer in sociology, added.

In total, the students ended with 92 surveys. The data collected will help inform Project Esperanza’s programming efforts.  

Students also were given the opportunity to attend a talk by a local teacher on Haitian-Dominican relations and Vodou, a creolized religion; a presentation on natural medicine and herbal remedies made from common plants; and a discussion on sustainable tourism.

They also learned about the historical and present challenges of coffee growing, and they planted coffee seeds, made bug traps, and brewed coffee.

“The field school in the Dominican Republic was an outstanding opportunity and experience, and I feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of it,” said Meg Perry, a fourth-year anthropology student. “Working with a developing, materialistically impoverished population has added to my worldview and has made me a more empathetic and humble person.” 

Students who went on the trip presented a panel session titled “Reflections on Field School Research in the Dominican Republic” Oct. 20 at the 16th annual Ohio Latin Americanist Conference at Ohio State University.  

UT team receives entrepreneurial award

A group from UT recently was awarded the Spirit of I-Corps award for exceptional overall performance in the Bay Area National Science Foundation Innovation Corps Program.

The team — made up of Dr. Kevin Czajkowski, UT professor of geography and planning; Kimberly Panozzo, UT graduate student; and businessman Navin Singhania — participated in the seven-week curriculum to promote entrepreneurship and see how their innovation can have a commercial impact.

Kimberly Panozzo, Navin Singhania, center, and Dr. Kevin Czajkowski posed for a photo in front of the Domaine Chandon Winery in Napa Valley, where the UT team interviewed grape growers about using tile drains.

Their research focused on agricultural drainage tiles that are used to remove excess water from fields and help make the soil more fertile. Farmers have expressed how hard it is to find old underground tiles to repair or to add on to.

The UT team, called Drain Tile Mapper, developed a technique to detect underground drainage tiles using remote sensing.

“When we started the program, we thought that there may be interest in knowing where tiles were,” Czajkowski said. “We found out that there is a real need for mapping them.”

Drain Tile Mapper received a $50,000 grant to conduct customer discovery and attend the national program.

“Receiving the award was really quite a surprise. We felt like we were just barely keeping up with the teams,” Czajkowski said.

Panozzo and Czajkowski traveled to New York, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and throughout Ohio to interview potential customers about tile drains. Each week, Panozzo prepared a web presentation based on what they learned from the interviews.

The group is discussing whether to form a company based on their experience with I-Corps and the research they did with drainage tiles.

Documentary exploring effects of family promise to be shown Oct. 25

Just when her art career began to flourish, Beverly McIver had to make good on a casual promise she made years ago to take care of her intellectually impaired sister, Renee, if anything happened to their mother.

The 2011 documentary titled “Raising Renee” chronicles how honoring that pledge changes the sisters’ lives. Filmed over six years, the movie shows how Beverly’s pledge to care for Renee is tested.

The Disability Studies Program will screen the 81-minute film Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m. in Gillham Hall Room 5300.

The free, public screening is part of the Women, Disability and Film Series put together by Dr. Ally Day, assistant professor of disability studies, for fall semester.

“This fall’s series is about analyzing how women with disability are represented through narratives of interdependence,” Day said. “How are women more likely to be represented in relation to their families and why? And what kinds of choices do women with disabilities — particularly intellectual disabilities — have in relation to living in their own apartments or with family members?”

After the screening, attendees are invited to stay for a panel discussion on the film.

“All films this fall address women in varying intersections of class, race, sexuality, gender and disability, and I expect lively discussions,” Day said.

The next film in the series will be “Margarita With a Straw,” which will be shown Thursday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. in Gillham Hall Room 5300.

For more information on the film series, contact the Disability Studies Program at 419.530.7244.