St. Mary’s College stages ‘Encountering’
Bert Frauman, center, reflects while being surrounded by members of the cast.
Play of words, actions is therapeutic journey by Michael Reid Staff writer
Independent St. Mary’s College of Maryland professor Leonard Cruz had a vision in his head about a play he wanted to conceive, and that play has taken the form of “Encounters: A Performance of Spoken Word, Dance, and Music,” which runs through March 2.
The play, which consists of true stories from several of the cast members, innovative costumes and modern dance, is an emotional journey into what people are and what they stand for.
“I really wanted a collaborative process with the students,” said Cruz, who kick-started the play’s creative process during a course he taught in September. “I tried to broaden it ... but the students were constantly writing more about their identity, their struggle as college students, so that was the direction the piece was going in. And I, as a director, have to be flexible in just taking it for what that was. I was hoping to broaden it to global social justice.”
Cast members found their inspiration for their monologues from personal experiences, passages from books or song lyrics.
“It is basically a play about all of us, all of our different stories we’ve experienced through life or college,” said senior Scott McInerny, an economics major with a minor in dance. “Some are more uplifting than others. Some are pretty dark. There was no rhyme or reason to the stories we picked. It was just a story of who you are, why you are the way you are and what has shaped that.”
“I think what’s nice and what’s important is that you hear a wide variety of these students’ stories, and they are St. Mary’s College students, and so it’s very much about this generation,” Cruz said. “Our generation is talking about politics and war, and these kids really want to talk about themselves, their identity, their struggle right now with who they are. It’s about them.”
The play begins with an emotional journey of single words from the U.S. presidents and ending with, “Can’t we all have peace?”
Fernando Maldonado speaks about his family’s values, while Ginny Huber recounts how her diminutive stature oftentimes gives people the wrong impression.
“I’m short,” she says, “and people think I’m bitchy, but I just want to be heard.”
In her monologue, Carrie Meeder tells how people have mannerisms but that those are often taken the wrong way.
“The story was me kind of talking about my everyday life and people in general who have subtle little things we do that make you feel comfortable,” said Meeder, who is majoring in sociology and minoring in music. “We preoccupy our minds with these mannerisms that aren’t addressing real problems or your real anxiety or your true anger and sadness.”
Kreea Greeves speaks of growing up in a military home and “seeing friends come and go. The hardest part is when they ask me where I’m from. Hmm. I don’t really know.”
Katie Niccolini says “dancing helps me express myself.” Erica Burns speaks about sexuality, and Bert Frauman intones that he’s “a vegan with muscles, and my name’s a verb for whatever I do.”
Celia Frances Rector says she wants to be an actress because “I know it’s the only choice for me.” She also wants to make her mark on the world and refers to a tattoo that reads, “But a walking shadow” that runs down her side.
“It’s all about the parallel between acting and philosophy on life, which is that so many people spend their whole life worrying about being remembered once they’re gone, and they forget to live them,” Rector said of the inking she received two years ago. “You’re on Earth. You’re basically a shadow, and then you’re gone, and that’s it. Live your life. Don’t worry about what happens after you die because why does that matter? So many shows you’re saying lines that were written for you and you’re playing a part, but in this show you’re playing yourself. I’m playing me. I’m playing Celia Frances [Rector], wannabe actress.”
Hannah Dickmyer wants to be a princess — not for the castles and handsome prince — but because they are “loving, kind and good.” Windy Vorwick tells of her feelings of having social anxiety.
“I have a lot of anxiety issues, but when I’m onstage it all goes away because I’m a character,” said Vorvick, who is majoring in theater with a double minor in English and dance. “[The stage] is really the only place I feel at home.”
The play also includes plenty of singing. Vorwick does an acoustic version of Coldplay’s “Clocks,” and Meeder does Adele’s “Hometown Glory” and Daft Punk’s “Digital Love.”
“I guess because it’s one of my favorite songs because in this age group there’s a lot of hyper-sexuality, and that’s not really been my comfort level,” Meeder said of the latter tune. “The song talks about how we’re dancing, and it’s fun, and it’s not anything weird or sexual. You can just revel and be glad for the fact that two people can be vulnerable in a fun, positive environment.”
Vorwick and Rector, who also are best friends, team up in one of the most powerful moments of the play about sexism.
“All of the stories we told are things that have happened to us personally, and we have the same views on the subject,” Vorwick said. “In the beginning, we’re experiencing things together, and then when we pull apart we’re synchronized.”
The piece is so emotionally moving that Cruz selected the duo to perform the movement at the American College Dance Festival, which will be held March 8 through 11 at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
The costumes were designed by Jess Lustig, while Rector and other members of the cast made a number of them.
“All of our costumes were made to represent [who we are],” said Rector, whose sheer, flowy costume was made to resemble candles and smoke, while Vorwick’s billowy dress was designed to imitate a tempest. “All of them have to do with who we are and how we perceive ourselves.”
Cruz said the collaborative effort was taxing at times.
“I’ll be honest. It wasn’t easy because I have to make that decision of what fits in and what doesn’t,” he said as he sat outside the theater following a dress rehearsal. “So in that sense of a way it was very difficult for them because I would say, ‘OK, this won’t be in. This will be in. This won’t be in.’ I needed to keep [the] integrity and balance and flow of the piece so no one stood out. It was very hard.”
mreid@somdnews.com
If you go
St. Mary’s College of Maryland will perform “Encounters: A Performance of Spoken Word, Dance, and Music” 8 p.m. Feb. 28 and March 1 and 2 p.m. March 2 at 18952 E. Fisher Road, St. Mary’s City.
Tickets are $6 or $4 for students, staff and seniors.
Call 240-895-4243, ext. 4243, or email boxoffice@smcm.edu.
Defense cuts could strike Maryland -- Gazette.Net


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The Obama administration’s proposal to cut military spending outlined this week by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has some giving dire predictions for Maryland, which is ranked as the seventh most dependent state on military spending in a Bloomberg Government study.

“The handwriting is on the wall,” said Bob Stewart, executive director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994, Municipal and County Government Employees Organization. The union represents about 10,000 county government employees in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

The proposed Pentagon budget cuts, which are expected to be presented to Congress on March 4 with the overall fiscal 2015 federal budget proposal, would shrink the size of the Army to the lowest levels since before World War II. It also calls for the retiring of some aircraft and naval ships, a reduction of Marine Corps troops and possible military base closures.

But the process still has to go through Congress and could turn out benefiting Maryland, said leaders of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.

“Usually, cuts to defense and the federal government have not turned out well for us,” said Barbara Ashe, executive vice president of the chamber. “But it’s really too soon to know. There could be some benefits for our area, such as in research or cybersecurity.”

Ashe, who started the Veteran Institute for Procurement as president of the chamber’s community foundation, said the mood among government contractors she has heard from this week was good.

The VIP program has grown into a national program that has helped some 350 veteran-owned businesses win government contracts since 2009, with the earliest 146 graduates increasing the size of their businesses by an average of 44 percent in the year after completing the contracting program.

“They are glad to see that a budget has passed, and there is some certainty there,” Ashe said.

Maryland is home to about 29,000 active military service members and 16,000 National Guard and reserve members, according to a report from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. Tens of thousands more work in civilian defense jobs and as contractors.

Military service members earned an average of $51,380 in 2010, which does not include housing and living allowances, according to state figure. Federal civilian workers residing in Maryland in 2010 earned an average of $84,458.

Reviewing the plan

Defense spending in Maryland in 2009 of about $20 billion was 7 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, the seventh highest, according to the Bloomberg study. Two-thirds of the amount was for contracts with Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. and others.

Lockheed Martin executives are “reviewing the Pentagon’s spending plan as outlined by Secretary Hagel,” according to a statement a spokeswoman emailed. “We’ll continue to assess the budget once the President delivers it to Congress and they begin their appropriations process.”

Virginia was the most military dependent state in the Bloomberg study with $56.9 billion in defense spending.

A significant chunk of the 2009 defense spending in Maryland — about $1.4 billion — was in Montgomery County, according to Bloomberg. The county is home to not just Lockheed but Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which has about 8,500 employees, and the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, which has some 1,300 employees.

About $1.4 billion also was spent in Southern Maryland, which has Patuxent River Naval Air Station, while $1.0 billion was spent around Fort Meade in Central Maryland. Some $648 million was spent in Frederick County, home to Fort Detrick.

The Pentagon has increased contracting in Maryland from $6.3 billion in 2000 to $12 billion in 2010, according to state figures. The Department of Health and Human Services was the second-largest federal contracting agency to Maryland in 2010, with about $5 billion.

Lockheed Martin was the top single government contractor in Maryland in 2010 with $1.7 billion, but only $287 million came from the Pentagon, according to the state report.

The state legislature is considering forming a commission to develop strategies to deal with declining federal military budgets. The commission would specifically focus on strategies noted as effective by the Office of Economic Adjustment of the U.S. Department of Defense, which include boosting clean-energy industries.

Connecticut formed a similar commission last year, and other states are in the process, said Miriam Pemberton, a research fellow with the think tank Institute for Policy Studies.

With national military spending expected to decline in the next decade by about $500 billion, there is likely to be significant loss in jobs and impact to the gross state product, said Del. Talmadge Branch (D-Dist. 45) of Baltimore, who filed the bill to form the commission in the House of Delegates. More than 30 delegates have signed on as co-sponsors, including several from Montgomery County.

“This commission will help us create a framework for the conversion process,” Branch said.



kshay@gazette.net