DiversiTEAs Continue

The second of this fall's DiversiTEAs will be from 4 to 5 p.m., Thursday, Oct., 14, in Memorial Union Alumni Lounge B.

The session is titled "From Combat to Campus: the Challenges Veterans Face When Returning to College."

Rob Bishop and Christy Oslund, of Student Affairs, will discuss the transition from military to civilian life and the struggles veterans may have adjusting to academic life.

They will also outline programs and services offered by Michigan Tech to assist veterans returning to college.

DiversiTEAs were instituted in 2008 after a campus survey indicated such opportunity for social dialogue would be welcome. The sessions blend the interchange of ideas with the enjoyment of refreshment and teas from around the world.

The monthly event, a part of efforts to develop and celebrate diversity on campus, will continue until April 2011.

DiversiTEAs are free and open to students, faculty, staff and the community.

The host of the sessions is the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. For more information, contact Lori Weir at 487-1847 or at llweir@mtu.edu .

"Independence": Living Portrait of a Dysfunctional Family

by Dennis Walikainen, senior editor

An erratic mother who struggles between too much control and not enough, as well as three headstrong daughters who are fighting their way through adulthood: that’s the premise of "Independence."

The play by Lee Blessing will be performed by the visual and performing arts department starting Thursday, October 14, and cast and crew were busy prepping recently when they paused to chat.

Liz LaRouche, who plays middle daughter Jo, is excited to play the people pleaser of the trio. The third-year theatre and entertainment technology major says, "Jo is the peacemaker, stuck between the domineering mother and the other siblings." This is LaRouche's first play at Tech, but she acted in high school and did backstage work in "Proof," which was performed last school year.

"It’s a 'colorful' role," she says. "Considering she’s having a baby out of wedlock, by accident."

She credits Director Roger Held, chair of VPA, for his patience and guidance. "He gets you into the roles: who they are, what they do, why they do things."

The manic mother is portrayed by Trish Helsel, assistant professor in the department.

"Crazy," best describes Evelyn, Helsel says. "She is totally focused on herself and her projects that she can do without her absent daughters. She's resentful of their father and is struggling with the girls' move toward independence."

The complicated role includes Evelyn's belief that each generation destroys itself for the next.

"Evelyn believes her own mother lived her life for Evelyn and that she did the same for her children," Helsel says. "Of course, she hasn't."

Helsel says the role is incredibly tough, even more so than Lady Macbeth, a role she also played.

"The challenge is not making her a complete villain, and perhaps even making the audience uncomfortable: she is both a pathetic and a good person."

Junior Danny Sweet plays Sherry, the 19-year-old who just wants to be loved, she says.

"But, she's misguided," Sweet says. "She had a baby at 15, and she has tried to escape her family by having meaningless sexual encounters. During the play, she is at the end of her rope."

Sweet says the range of emotion in the character has been "great fun." "Sherry is the kind of person who pokes a bear with a stick. She has really high highs and low lows. She's really complex, bringing energy and comic drive to scenes."

Sweet transferred to Tech from Grand Valley State, and she appreciates the size of the VPA department and the individual attention she receives. This is her first show here.

Laura Larsen portrays the eldest, lesbian daughter, Kess, and she has to exude indifference.

"She's also on an emotional roller coaster," the third-year student says. "She's calm but, at any time, she can blow up. She wants to be both independent and accepted."

Larsen worked previously in "The Robber Bridge Groom," "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," and "Vast Empires."

Held is excited to do two Blessing plays, this and "Two Rooms," which is upcoming, in the same season.

"This one's a play with a definite style; a complex subject matter," he says. "It's an accurate depiction of a dysfunctional family in terms of psychological research. And it's not moralistic in any way."

He’s pleased with the preparation so far.

"The actors have turned out to be really good," Held says. "Liz is smart and sensitive, and Danny has shown an incredible level of concentration. Laura is strong and steady. Trish is complex, subtle, and at times has a scary ability to play powerful emotions. They each probe these interesting characters and make them very real."

"Independence" will be performed at 7:30 p.m., Thursday–Saturday, October 14–16 and Oct. 21–23, in the McArdle Theatre. Admission is $10 for the general public, free for Michigan Tech students, and $5 for other students 18 and under. Tickets are available at the door or online: http://www.tickets.mtu.edu .

Healthy Tip of the Week

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Play outside, this will increase your activity and reduce time in front of the TV or computer.