DePaul celebrates “Spring Awakening” this fall

Abortion, masturbation, sex and nudity are often not choice topics of discussion throughout private, Catholic institutions.
However, DePaul University, known as the country’s largest private Catholic school, will jump start their Theatre School Showcase series with a focus on many of these themes. Opening Friday, Sept. 28, is DePaul’s take on one of the most controversial shows introduced in years…”Spring Awakening.” The show tells a story revolving around teenage sexual exploration and expression during a time when religion and authority’s presence was overwhelming inhibiting.
A modern take on a century old German play, the rock musical is the first of that variety to be performed on DePaul’s Merle Reskin Theatre stage, 60 E. Balboa Ave., in two years.
“There’s a lot of expectations,” said Alexis Links, The Theatre School production coordinator. “It’s definitely been the hot topic around here recently.”
At a Catholic university supportive of drag performances in student centers and weeks devoted to LGBTQA awareness, it should come as no surprise that DePaul was behind putting on the show from the beginning.
“What the story is about is the danger of not talking about it {sexual exploration} and the tragedy that happens when people are forced to keep quiet,” said the show’s choreographer and Theatre school professor, Julia Neary.
“It speaks more loudly to the frustrations of teen angst in a vocabulary that wasn’t allowed in our parents generation.”
Not only does Neary have experience working with the student cast members in preparation for the “Spring Awakening” run, but she also has had many of them as students in her Acting and Movement classes, allowing for an easier, more “collaborative” choreographic process.
Neary said that the language she uses in class was familiar to many involved and helped the cast form a safe and comfortable performance environment, something especially important when approaching such heavy subjects as teenage abuse and abortion.
“I wanted to make sure students felt comfortable embodying the characters and performing in a more open environment,” said Neary. “It was important that the movement that I had them do come from a more organic place. “
To compliment Neary’s teaching approach, Professor of Musical Theatre and “Spring Awakening” music director, Mark Elliott, appointed sophomore Janie Killips as his assistant to better the bands efforts to understand the importance and role of the show’s music.
“I think it took off some pressure,” said Killips, of her participation with fellow students, explaining her comfort with the shows music and message despite the initial hesitancy from many fellow classmates. “This was really in my ‘box.’”
The education of youth on topics that are oftentimes disregarded or avoided until major tragedy strikes is the overall theme stressed by both Neary and Killips.
“It speaks a great deal on the power of being informed,” said Neary. “It is a very pure story.”
Reflected in both content and subtext, it is hoped by DePaul that “Spring Awakening’s” emphasis on young adult voices being heard is draws a significant parallel to their overall mission as well.
Under the direction of Damon Kiely, “Spring Awakening” will run through Oct. 6.

A tale of two Mindy’s

The pilot episode of “The Mindy Project” has Mindy Lahiri all over the place…spending the night in jail, in the delivery room, a wedding reception toast, on a date, and even at the bottom of a pool.

In what may be Mindy Kaling’s biggest gig since playing Kelly Kapoor, on NBC’s, ‘The Office,’ she plays Lahiri, a thirty-something, single, romantic-comedy/Hollywood ending obsessive OB/GYN.

Similar to her character, Kaling has also been all over the place. Over recent years she has written a best-selling novel, voiced cartoon characters and co-written and produced multiple episodes of ‘The Office.”

Set to follow the season 2 premiere of Fox’s wildly successful comedy, “New Girl” on Tuesday, September 25 at 8:30 p.m., Kaling’s newest project presents a female character lead most women probably won’t want to punch in the face but, instead, would want to meet up with to grab drinks.

After a recent painful breakup, Lahiri is hung up on not having a boyfriend and shallowly dispelling her insecurities with thoughtless hookups with men she knows are no good.  Despite unhealthy fixations but with an honest charm, she insists that she is motivated to change her playgirl ways.

 For a pilot episode, Kaling is in good company. Bill Hader of “Saturday Night Live” is the oral surgeon heartbreaker who leaves her for another woman after two months and “The Office” costar, Ed Helms, also appears as Dennis, a “too perfect” date she runs out on. One of many fellow doctors she works with, Chris Messina’s, Danny Castellano, compliments Lahiri’s anxiousness with a temporarily charming quick wit and occasional patience for her ramblings.

Based on one episodes impression, I’ll be sticking around for episode two, rooting for both Mindy Kaling and Mindy Lahiri…that they both earn the well-deserved fairytale end to a story many setbacks in the making.

Chicago nextScholars paves way for local students

View the visual journey of these young Chicago students.

By Audrey Plank, Elizabeth Schuetz and Phillip Shilling.

Despite 40 mile per hour winds and possible tornado warnings, students from over 80 different local Chicago high schools gathered together on Oct. 26 to attend the 4th annual Chicago Scholars Onsite Admissions Event at the UIC Forum.

While the morning was dark, dreary, and rainy, the atmosphere inside the UIC Forum was anything but. Amid interviews and introductions were cheers of joy and excitement as scholars gained admission and scholarships to national universities on the spot.

A student wades through the crowd. Photo courtesy of Phillip Shilling.

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Northern Illinois University, and Colgate University were just a few of the participating institutions stationed throughout the crowded room.

With set appointments at five self-selected colleges, over 300 students were able to meet with admissions counselors, like Diamond Weathersby from Columbia College, to learn of whether or not they were qualified applicants for the upcoming school year.

However, in order to attend this event and possibly finalize their college career plans, participating students were to have researched and applied to these five schools before the September school started and also after attending summer college preparatory workshops.

Chicago Scholars is committed to partnering with organizations working with high school counselors and students from lower-income households, like CircEsteem, Deloitte Scholars, and LINK Unlimited, to provide individualized college counseling.

With $1 million worth of financial aid awarded each year and about half of admitted students being the first in their families to attend college, Chicago Scholars works with students in advance to avoid the anxiety often experienced at this stressful time.

Help with application and essay completion along mentoring support for both students and families is provided so that when it is time to make the big decisions, scholars are well prepared.

The Chicago Urban League, one particular organization participating in this past October’s event, works to provide African American children with the tools, programs and experiences, to reach their full economic potential. They strive to ensure that children are well educated and prepared to succeed in the local economy.

A student interviewing for university admission. Photo courtesy of Phillip Shilling.

Daisha Daniels, of Morgan Park High School in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, was one particular Chicago Urban League member to attend and commit to a university at the Onsite Admissions Event.

After a brief interview with Northern Illinois University’s admission counselor, Richard Tom, she learned of her definite admission. She was then able to review final admission requirements and how to go about applying for financial aid.

While many high school seniors learn of their college admittance through letter and e-mail notification, they often do not get immediate advising from university counselors. Daniels discussed her interests and potential majors and was given concise advice on how to settle on one in particular.

“It’s awesome to be able to admit students on the spot and to make their day,” said Weathersby. “This early in senior year, to really have them seal the deal, it’s much more rewarding than I ever could have fathomed.

Weathersby also stressed the importance of finding the proper fit at a university and that tuition, financial aid, available courses, as well as student diversity, are all extremely valuable aspects to be aware of prior to decision time.

Chicago Scholars strives to provide such students with as many college options as possible.

For example, Erin Baker, 17, another Chicago Urban League member and Morgan Park High School student, was able to get accepted to both the University of Arizona and University of Illinois at Chicago at the event.

“It helps students know what to improve on when applying to schools outside of this,” she said. “And it’s fun to know you are accepted really early.”

A final decision is made. The celebration begins. Photo courtesy of Phillip Shilling.

Lincoln Park attacks-Summer 2009

Throughout the summer of 2009, several men were attacked while walking about the DePaul and Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Many were robbed and beaten to the point of hospitalization. While many fought the attackers, they still have managed to remain uncaught by local police.

The incidents occurred during late hours of the night and early hours of the morning, and all within a few miles from each other.

Check out this map detailing the distance between and location of the seven attacks.