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Matt Lund ’99

Matt performed a free concert in Hinton Music Hall at Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro). He performed originals and covers on vocals and electric guitar with members of his bands. Yes, that’s plural. Matt is a member of three: Rescued Souls, Axe of God, and The Time Raiders. Matt majored in music at K. He earned a Master of Arts in Jazz Studies from MTSU. Since then he has been a highly sought after sideman for performances and recording sessions, and is also active in The Lund McVey Group. He directs the MTSU Commercial Music Ensembles and teaches jazz guitar private instruction and the MTSU course “Introduction to Music.” He also serves as an instructor of guitar lessons and camps at the Middle Tennessee Arts Academy in Smyrna and Gene Ford Music in Brentwood.

Retiring K Professor Celebrates Long Musical Journey

Jim Turner at work during a rehearsal

So much has changed in James Turner’s life since he traveled north from Florence, South Carolina. As Turner contemplates his retirement after 23 years as Professor of Music and Director of Vocal and Choral Activities at Kalamazoo College, and as he stares down impending minor heart surgery at the end of the summer, he takes a moment to contemplate the long road traveled.

Turner earned his bachelor of arts from Mars Hill College in North Carolina and his master’s in music from Louisiana State University.

“I was married back then, and working in my first teaching position,” Turner recalls his southern beginnings. “My wife and I both received threatening notes from the Ku Klux Klan. We were both teaching black children. I was eager to get out of that climate.”

Turner moved from Tennessee to Detroit to teach at Marygrove College. He was no longer married. Turner had realized, and accepted, that he was gay; it was time for a new beginning.

“I taught at Marygrove for 12 years and then applied for a position at a college on the west side of Michigan; I later learned I was turned down for that position because I was gay. So I took a partial appointment with the Bach Festival in Kalamazoo when there were only six people in the choir, and I met Barry Ross and Zaide Pixley there. They told me about a part-time position at Kalamazoo College. I applied, and President Jimmy Jones made me feel very welcome.”

Professor Emeritus of Music Barry Ross, who founded the Kalamazoo College and Community Orchestra in 1994, and Zaide Pixley, the now retired Dean of First Year and Advising, encouraged Turner to hang in for a full-time position. And it happened. Turner was put on the tenure track, and he also became Bach Festival music director and conductor as well as the conductor of the College Singers and the select Chamber Singers. He also frequently collaborated with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra.

Turner’s teaching of and enthusiasm for music has gone far beyond the campus borders of Kalamazoo College. He has fostered the love of music in high school students, for nearly 20 years, with the annual High School Choral Festival.

“I modeled the festival after a program I started back at Marygrove,” Turner says. “K’s festival today features 10 high schools, different ones each year, with 200 to 250 students participating, and every year we have a waiting list.”

The educational event celebrates the works of Bach and his contemporaries, as well as many 19th- and 20th-century composers. Students work with a nationally recognized master clinician and rehearse together in five choirs with singers from ten schools. Each choir performs for 20 minutes, then works with the clinician to further polish their performance.

“Whether these students grow up to be choral singers or not, what we learn from making music together is how to collaborate. That can have global importance,” Turner says.

In the summer of 2016, Turner was the recipient of the Arts Leadership Educator Award from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo’s Community Arts Awards.

More important than any award—and one of the great gifts of Turner’s long career—is all that he has learned from the students he has taught. “I admit I got caught up in traditional choir music for a while,” says Turner. “But when I was teaching women’s choirs at K, with many of the women not really having any background in music, the singers brought in different perspectives, social ideas, and they got me out of that traditional mode to try something new. One of my K students said to me, ‘I’m tired of always singing about Mary and Jesus.’ So we tried some women composers, sang an Emily Brontë poem, another by Emily Dickinson. We sang choral music with a tie to social justice. Teaching music to youth has gotten me out of my paradigm, out of my box.”

Even sweeter than an award for educational leadership are the words Turner recalls hearing from a K alumna.  “A philosophy student,” Turner says, “she had a goal to live on all seven continents. At the time, she was a short-order cook living in Antarctica, and she said that I had been the most influential professor during her time at K.”

Turner says he will miss the students who broadened his horizons as much as he broadened theirs. He will miss the many great friends he’s made in the K community. He lives now an easy walk from campus, but once his last day at K is done, he and his partner, Jack, will move to Fremont, “a small town with only four stoplights,” he says, “and a great place to maybe start a garden, raise rabbits, chickens and goats.”

First and foremost, Turner adds, will be a focus on his health. A recent diagnosis of a heart ailment has increased his appreciation for all the richness that life offers. He will heal to the sound of music, and when it is time, he will reconnect with his network of friends through music.

“Music, specifically singing, can change lives, even save lives,” he says. “Music is one of those few things that can connect us all, across generations, across races and ethnicities and all the differences of being people, and bring us together.”

In fact, music brought together several of Turner’s former students on the occasion of his final Concert by the College Singers and Women’s Chorus in May. “Tim Krause ’07 sent out the music for the last song for that concert,” explained Elizabeth Wakefield-Connell ’08, “so that all alumni attending could surprise Jim by joining in for that last song. We were there on behalf of the many students who sang for Jim at K. He is a wonderful teacher, conductor, and a good friend. K College will not be the same without him.”

Being There

There’s no business like show business. And Kalamazoo College’s Department of Theatre Arts just showed the acting world it means business.

K theatre arts majors Grace Gilmore ’15 and Lindsay Worthington ’17 recently returned from competing at the 47th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Grace Gilmore and Lindsay Worthington

Grace Gilmore ’15 (left) and Lindsay Worthington ’17

The pair beat out thousands of other student artists from across the country to present their work at the week-long, all- expenses-paid festival in the nation’s capital. Only 125 students were invited to attend.

Gilmore, a theatre arts major and religion minor, was one of only eight students in the country competing for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. Worthington, a theatre arts and music double major, traveled to Washington, D.C. to showcase her talents in Sound Design Excellence.

Both categories featured KCACTF students from much larger colleges and universities, several of whom were graduate students enrolled in Masters of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) theatre programs and other specialized acting classes.

“Grace and Lindsay are extraordinary,” says Professor of Theatre Arts Lanny Potts. “They are recognized as the best-of-the-best in the nation in their fields. It’s rare for students from any small program and liberal arts college to achieve this sort of recognition.”

Gilmore spent the week at the Festival immersed in classes that focused on everything from stage combat to situation comedy. She worked alongside professional actors, met with casting directors, and had the opportunity to network with peers from across the nation and in the Washington, D.C. theatre community.

In addition, she went behind the scenes and toured the Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and the world-famous Shakespeare Theatre Company.

“Just being there was so surreal,” says Gilmore. “It was an unbelievable experience.”

For the 21-year-old, whose first acting role was as a jester in a middle school play, performing on the Kennedy Center stage in front of peers, directors, New York-based casting agents (and even her parents!) was the high point of the week.

Her parents, K alums Sherry (Christy) and Jim Gilmore, class of 1983, were both theatre arts majors.

“You could say theatre is in my blood,” Grace says.

Worthington, meanwhile, experienced her own festival highlights. In her master class she worked alongside professional lighting designer (and six-time Tony award nominee) Beverly Emmon as well as award-winning composer, sound designer, and audio artist Obadiah Eaves.

Emmon and Eaves critiqued the students’ work, offering their feedback, suggestions, and ideas. And the students got the chance to share meals and free time with the two professionals.

“It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Worthington says. “We were able to ask them questions about their careers and really get to know them.”

The Road to Nationals
Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center’s founding chairman, KCACTF is a national theatre program working to improve the quality of college theatre in the United States. Comprised of 18,000 students from more than 600 academic institutions in eight different regions, KCACTF gives theatre departments and student artists the opportunity to showcase their work and receive outside assessment.

Earlier this year, KCACTF officials visited K and critiqued the work of the students in the theatre department. Gilmore and Worthington, along with 13 others K students, were nominated to attend the KCACTF Region III in Milwaukee. Three additional K students attended as part of their senior class seminar, and two others participated for professional growth and networking. The group joined 2,000 other theatre students from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin for the weekend competition.

“They are recognized as the best-of-the-best in the nation in their fields.”

Gilmore, nominated for her performance in Romeo and Juliet, beat out 274 students for the prestigious Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Award. Of the 16 finalists who competed in the final round of the competition, 13 of the 16 were post-undergraduates working on their M.F.A.

“I was absolutely shocked. We went into it clearly as underdogs,” Gilmore says. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would win. No one from K has ever won. When they said my name, I couldn’t believe it.”

She received a scholarship and an invitation to attend the National Festival.

Worthington was the only student nominated to attend the regional competition for her work on TWO (!) different entries in sound design. Her submission for Peer Gynt ended up taking top honors in Milwaukee—giving her a ticket to the National Festival, which turned out to also be an unplanned, but very welcome, trip home for this Bethesda, Maryland, native.

Neither Grace nor Lindsay took top honors at the National Festival, but they returned to Kalamazoo with a playbill full of experiences, contacts, job and internship opportunities, and memories to last a lifetime.

“I didn’t go into it thinking I would win,” says Worthington, who was awarded the Williamstown Theatre Festival Internship for Sound Design. “I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much had I been stressed about the competition. Just being there, to me, felt like winning.”

WOWed

Holly Hughes

Holly Hughes reads at the launch party for Memories of the Revolution. Photo by Mona McKinsry

The women who performed at the WOW Café Theatre on the Lower East Side of New York City sometimes called themselves the Uncooperative Cooperative. Holly Hughes ’77 was one of those women. She has also said, more than once, that WOW saved her life.

WOW, or Women’s One World, a feminist theatre space started in the early 1980s, was (and still is) a place where many gay women like Hughes found themselves and their art. WOW became the safe place where women who had long felt themselves on the margins of society could express themselves as rebels even while developing lasting bonds of friendship and support with each other. Their uncooperative selves found cooperation in each other.

Hughes is a contributing editor to Memories of the Revolution: The First Ten Years of the WOW Café Theater (co-edited with Carmelita Tropicana and Jill Dolan). The book, published by University of Michigan Press in 2015, is a collection of memories, play scripts, and photographs of WOW’s first decade. Authors, along with Hughes, include playwright and actor Lisa Kron ’83; Carmelita Tropicana from the theater troupe the Five Lesbian Brothers; and actors and playwrights Peggy Shaw, Lois Weaver, Deb Margolin, and others.

“WOW was so warm and welcoming,” she says. “It was my sorority. They were breaking the rules. I was looking for that kind of sense of community. Particularly a feminist sort of community.”

WOW was different than other theatre groups in that no play was censured, no auditions were required, any play got the stage. Whatever members wrote was performed, no questions asked.

“The idea that was implicit in this was that people get better by doing the work,” Hughes says.

Having that kind of acceptance, Hughes found, fostered a daring creativity. She had expected to work the back stage, but the Café was too small—“I think maybe it was 12 feet across,” Hughes says—to have a back stage. She instead found herself performing and writing plays of her own. And she found she liked it.

“When I say now that WOW saved my life—I came of age in a place where I couldn’t access a feminist and LGBT movement. And while I loved K, and I have fond memories of my time there, it was at a time before we had women’s studies, for example. I was really struggling with trying to figure out who I was in the world, and it wasn’t just personal questions about my sexuality. It was larger questions about identity and a larger political landscape, about feminism and what was then known as the gay liberation movement. WOW helped put my personal struggles into a larger political context. That helped me enormously.

“At WOW, I was able to have conversations with women that didn’t make me feel crazy,” Hughes adds. “Working on this book, I realized a lot of women coming of age at the same time I did, in the 70s and 80s, the way that they experienced their gender, their sexual identity, was with the feeling that they were crazy. Their sense of injustice was made to seem like a psychological problem. Looking back, I realized how adrift we all felt. But here at WOW we found affirmation.”

Hughes found her voice as a performer and as a playwright. Her work has earned her critical praise, including two Obie Awards and a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (one of which was recalled when her art was discovered to have a gay theme), Creative Capital, and others.

Hughes studied visual art at Kalamazoo College. “And I took a lot of English. I loved it. I wasn’t an English major, but I was very interested in writing, but still thinking of myself as a visual artist. This was the world of which I wanted to be a part.”

In art and theatre, too, Hughes says she has seen a huge shift in work by and about women and groups at the margins who have not always found venues for their art.

“In my more than 30 years working in theatre and performance art, I’m seeing incredibly thoughtful, innovative, provocative, confusing work done about gender and sexuality and race. We are moving away from the stereotypes. Things are starting to shift, they are starting to break open. And audiences are asking for it. Audiences want to be challenged.”

As a professor today in theatre and drama, at the Stamps School of Art and Design, and of women’s studies at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Hughes strives to teach the upcoming generations to think about the differences in people in a new way. Sharing the manuscript of Memories of the Revolution while still in manuscript with some of her students, she found that the material and the experiences recounted drew interest.

“I’m really interested in uncovering what my students want to say,” Hughes says.  “What their desires are, what’s burning and big inside them. I want to help them put that into a larger context.”

While some of the questions with which Hughes grappled in her earlier years on the stage are less demanding today, she finds that some of her students have questions of their own, ones that fit the context of their times and that require a voice that is just as personally defining.

“My students who are not white, who are not male, who are not cisgendered, students who come from poverty or other experiences of marginalization—there’s a process of finding a voice that you feel can be heard and respected,” Hughes says. “I can help them find that voice.”

Different Drum

Rohan Krishnamurthy '08 in concert

Rohan Krishnamurthy ’08 in concert

Rohan Krishnamurthy’s future called at the age of eight.

Like most kids that age, Rohan (who would go on to graduate from K (2008) with majors in chemistry and music) spent time on the telephone. But he wasn’t chatting with friends about homework, school or sports. He was on speaker with a music professor 1,000 miles away, learning how to play the mridangam, a classical 2,000-year-old South Indian drum.

The eventual pay-off? Today Rohan is one of the most prominent musicians in Indian and world music, and a leading composer, entrepreneur and educator.

Child Prodigy

Growing up in a musical family, Krishnamurthy became intrigued with his father’s mridangam at a young age. His father had purchased the drum in India with hopes of learning to play the complex instrument.

The mridangam, Rohan explains, is typically made from a hollowed piece of jackwood whose two ends are covered with three different leathers and a special rock paste. Its rhythm system is thought to be one of the most complex of any form of classical music. To create the unique layers of pitched and unpitched sounds, percussionists tap both ends of the conga-like instrument with specific fingers.

“It’s an incredibly versatile instrument where you get an entire drum set’s worth of sounds from one drum,” Rohan says.

His parents appreciated and supported his interest in the ancient instrument but weren’t sure how far he’d end up pursuing it.

“Nobody thought I would take up the mridangam seriously,” he says. “I sometimes wonder why I took it so seriously at such a young age. It honestly was something beyond words that attracted me to it.”

His early lessons intensified his interest. After a few months, however, his teacher, Damodaran Srinivasan, was transferred and moved nearly 1,000 miles away. With no other mridangam professors within 300 miles, Srinivasan, who saw something special in his young student, suggested they learn over the telephone. The unconventional speaker phone lessons proved to be successful and continued for more than a year.

“There were lots of days when I practiced five to six hours,” Rohan says. “My first teacher really had a vision for me and I credit him for putting me on this path.”

Rohan’s unorthodox journey to mastering the mridangam continued with lessons from one of India’s most esteemed mridangam professors and performers— Guruvayur Dorai. Rohan met the mridangam maestro when he was performing in the United States. Impressed by Rohan’s talent and commitment, he offered to teach him when he and his family visited India. In the summer of 1997, Rohan traveled to Chennai to begin lessons. The relationship continues two decades later—with meetings occurring whenever Rohan travels to India and when Dorai performs in the United States.

Rohan with the president of India

Rohan with the president of India

The lessons and dedication to his craft paid off. Before beginning his studies at Kalamazoo College as a Heyl Scholar, Krishnamurthy had performed hundreds of concerts internationally, sharing the stage with Grammy Award-winning artists of Indian classical and world music, symphony orchestras and jazz bands, and racking up numerous international awards and accolades along the way.

More in Four

At K, the chem-and-music double major was able to continue his cross-continental musical endeavors while taking classes because of “the supportive mentors and faculty,” he says. “They were so accommodating. I could not have done everything that I did during those four years at almost any other school.”

For example, his academic schedule needed to be flexible enough to give a concert for the leader of the second most populous nation on the planet. Between his junior and senior years, when most of his peers were focused on Senior Individualized Projects, Rohan was preparing to play for Dr. Abdul Kalam, president of India. He traveled with his dad to New Delhi to the presidential office and estate where he gave a private performance and had a one-on-one meeting with the Indian leader.

At K, Rohan was named to USA Today’s All College Academic Second Team, a national award that profiles exceptional undergraduates from the across the United States. He was the only student selected from Michigan, the only student to be recognized for musical accomplishments and the first student ever selected from Kalamazoo College.

After graduating magna cum laude, he continued his education at the University of Rochester’s famed Eastman School of Music where he earned two master’s degrees (musicology and ethnomusicology) and his Ph.D (musicology). During his graduate school days, he founded and directed a popular percussion ensemble and continued to perform around the globe.

Rohan’s enthusiasm for the mridangam has extended beyond performing. In 2010 he designed and patented a new drumhead tuning system that won him first place in Eastman’s New Venture Challenge entrepreneurship competition. He now manufactures and distributes the RohanRhythm deluxe drums all over the world.

Since 2014 he has been sharing his passion for Indian music with others—teaching music theory and ethnomusicology as well as directing the Ohlone Hand Drumming and Indian Rhythm Ensemble at Ohlone College in the San Francisco Bay Area. His recent projects include a summer performance and lecture tour of Germany and recording a new soundtrack for Disney’s The Jungle Book live show.

Yet, just like his original teacher, Rohan also makes time to educate students outside the college classroom, with the help of modern technology.

The now antiquated speaker phone has been replaced by the award-winning RohanRhythm Percussion Studio, an online musical studio that uses state-of-the-art digital technology to teach students of all ages and skill levels around the world the art of South Indian drumming and cross-genre musicianship.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with dozens of students from four different continents, everyone from children to professional musicians and music professors ranging in age from two to 70,” Rohan says. “It’s quite remarkable to consider how far music education has come.”

He hopes that he and his students, together, can help preserve, promote, and advance the traditions of the 2,000-year-old instrument for generations to come.

Rohan continues to perform regularly in the United States, Europe, and India. Visit www.rohanrhythm.com for upcoming concert dates and locations. And watch videos of his performances.

Golden Ending

Thespian Scientist

Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College celebrated its Golden Anniversary in academic year 2013-14. In tribute, BeLight published short profiles of some FP alumni. We conclude that feature in this issue of BeLight with spotlights on Mary Mathyer ’14 and David Landskroener ’14.

Mary Mathyer as “Granny” in the play Into the Woods

Mary Mathyer played “Granny” in the play Into the Woods (photo by Kendal Kurzeja).

Mary Mathyer ’14 graduated this past June with majors in theatre and biology – each equally demanding and surprisingly complementary. Biology requires precision, but theatre teaches tenacity. Mathyer worked behind the scenes and acted on stage, experiencing first hand that each and every role in theatre is crucial for the success of the production – not unlike sundry scientists collaborating on an important research question.

K-Plan

Majors:  Theatre arts and biology

Study Abroad:  Nairobi, Kenya. “This incredibly challenging and fulfilling program took me out of the familiar and forced me to adapt and grow as a person.”

Senior Individualized Project:  “Carbon and Nitrogen Cycling by Nitrospina in the Dark Ocean.” “It is essentially using genomic evidence to investigate the metabolic pathways of a specific bacteria found deep in the ocean. This research was conducted at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine.”

Key K Experiences:  Summer 2011 at the Chautauqua Theatre Company in Chautauqua, New York, as the carpentry and scenic paint intern.  “Through the course of 10 weeks, we built and struck three sets for five shows.”  Summer 2013 at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences for SIP research as a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU) intern.

Past Theatre Experience

“I was heavily involved in my high school theatre department, in a few shows as an actor but mostly as a member of the crew. My roles included carpenter, painter, props master, and stage manager among others. I also had an internship with Sideshow Theatre Company in Chicago during my senior year of high school. I worked with them mostly on the set but also on various odd jobs involved in running a store front theatre company.”

Theatre Credits

“I have been involved in eight shows at K, both main stage and at the Dungeon. I have acted (Granny, among other roles, in Into the Woods), sound designed, been a spot op and board op. I have stage managed both Dungeon and main stage productions. I am often found in the shop working on building and painting the sets. I have received certificates of merit from the American College Theatre Festival for my video design of Stuff Happens in the fall of ’11 and for my stage management of Cloud Nine in the winter of ’12. I have taken classes in all areas of the department.  It has all been extremely rewarding.”

Post-Graduation Goals

“I plan to continue by biology education in graduate school. And though I don’t intend to continue my education in theatre, I definitely want to stay involved in theatre on the side. It has been a key part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I have no intention of giving it up.”

On Kalamazoo College

“I have taken classes with most of the theatre faculty, and they all bring unique views to what they do.  It’s impossible for me to pinpoint my most influential professor or class because they all have impacted my theatre experience. I found every class challenging in some way, and all broadened my knowledge of the theatre world. Theatre is  very hands-on. It is time intensive, but it is easy to put in the necessary dedication when you are doing something you love. Sometimes I felt like the theatre department has taken over my life, leaving me no time for anything else, but then I missed it when I wasn’t there. Theatre has taught me how to balance everything and still give my all. It’s addicting, but not a habit I want break.”

On Festival Playhouse’s Golden Anniversary

“It was exciting to be on campus for this year-long celebration, furthermore because it was my senior year.  Everyone wants to go out with a bang, and having my final Playhouse season correspond with such a department milestone made the year unforgettable!”

Storyteller Developer

David Landskroener ’14 thinks failure teaches as much, or more, than success. In theatre Landskroener honed his storytelling skills and developed friendships that he expects will be with him long after graduation.

K-Plan

Major:  Double major in theatre arts and English with a writing emphasis and a concentration in media studies

“The ripple in the water was definitely Nessie.”

Study Abroad:  Aberdeen, Scotland. “I had an incredible experience abroad in Aberdeen. The city felt like a breathing entity all of its own, and the windswept greyness was very inspiring to me as a writer. I had so many great experiences, but my favorite two were visiting Loch Ness on a perfect blue sky day (saw a ripple in the water too, which was definitely Nessie), and seeing my favorite show ever, Matilda the Musical, on the West End in London.”

Senior Individualized Project: “I wrote a novel called Coffee Dog, about, naturally, coffee and dogs, and the combination of the two.”

Key K Experience:  “I completed an externship at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis the summer after my sophomore year. I was able to observe new plays being developed and see what a potential theatre/playwriting career could be like.”

Theatre Credits

David Landskroener

David Landskroener (Photo by Chelsea Miller)

“The winter of my freshman year (2011), I acted in a blocked stage reading of local playwright G. William Zorn’s new play Trinity at the Theatre Kalamazoo New Playfest. That spring I played keyboard for the Festival Playhouse production of The Who’s Tommy. Fall quarter of sophomore year I was dramaturg for Stuff Happens, and in winter I had a staged reading of a play I wrote in Ed Menta’s playwriting class put on at the New Playfest.  I was also a spotlight operator for Cloud 9 and assistant stage manager for Back of the Throat.

“My best theatre experience was when I took Directing I with Ed Menta. It was a demanding course, but when I saw my final scene that I directed—a scene from the film Precious—come to life, I instantly knew that all the writing and charts were worth it. I had brought this story to life in front of an audience, a feeling which I can only call a theatre high.”

Post-Graduation Goals

“I want to continue writing and hopefully wrangle that into a career. I’m considering eventually enrolling in a screenwriting program, or perhaps the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. A career in film also excites me, because I’m very interested in both screenwriting and film marketing. But my ultimate goal, no matter what happens with my life, is to just be happy.”

On Kalamazoo College

“K has been an environment conducive to my growth, nurturing my gifts and enriching my knowledge of the world. I have loved the majority of my classes, especially the writing ones, but the two classes that have shaped my K experience the most are “Playwriting” and “Intermediate Fiction” with Andy Mozina.

“I had never written a play before taking “Playwriting,” and boy, did I discover something incredibly fun and exciting. I learned how to make a story immediate and connect with an audience on a visual and auditory level. Professor Menta was (and still is) a very caring force in helping me cultivate this new interest. I even had a play I wrote in that class accepted at two new play festivals.

“’Intermediate Fiction’ influenced me tremendously. Professor Mozina is incredibly smart and funny and really knows how to connect with an individual on a personal level. The students in my workshop were some of the best writers and thoughtful people I’d ever met, and their varied critical perspectives really helped me pare my writing into something better, into the distinct voice that I have now.

“The K theatre department has been enormously significant in my time at K. I have made mistakes, learned new skill sets, seen the glory of success and the underrated glory of failure, grown as both an artist and an individual, and, best of all, made some of my dearest friends, who will definitely stick with me for the rest of my life. I have also become a better storyteller, which is the aspect of my life that I’m most eager to improve. I’m even sure my life after K will be in theatre, but my time with the theatre department of Kalamazoo College has played one of the biggest roles in shaping me into who I am.”

On Festival Playhouse’s Golden Anniversary

“I am incredibly happy that Festival Playhouse is still going strong after 50 years and continuing every year to give birth to a dizzyingly diverse array of plays. Unfortunately, Nelda Balch is no longer with us, but I think that Festival Playhouse has kept her vision alive through the hard work and artistic genius of those who followed in her footsteps. The future is full of stories just waiting to have their covers torn off and displayed proudly on the stages at Kalamazoo College.”