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Activities at Whatcom

War of the Worlds at Whatcom

Martians invaded Whatcom’s Heiner Auditorium from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on the evening of March 12.

Sort of, anyway.

Members of Whatcom’s Communication Club, in conjunction with the Literature Club and several members of Western’s Communication Club, staged a radio-style production of “War of the Worlds,” author H.G. Wells’ classic tale of a Martian invasion that was adapted into a famous 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre.

Guy Smith, communication studies instructor at Whatcom and advisor for the communication club, said the adaptation was directed by student and communication club member Matthew Tremaine, who decided to put the production together as part of an independent study project.

Smith said Tremaine had been taking CSMT130, “Oral Interpretation of Literature,” which analyzes a variety of orally-interpreted and performed texts, including entertaining speeches and radio productions like Welles’ “War of the Worlds” broadcast, which caused widespread panic when it originally aired the evening of Oct. 30, 1938.

Before the beginning of the performance, Tremaine explained to the audience that an estimated 32 million Americans were listening to the radio that evening, and many listeners who stumbled upon the broadcast without hearing its introduction were duped into believing that an actual Martian invasion was taking place because of the news-bulletin format of the performance.

Whatcom instructor John Gonzales, who attended the performance and has directed the college’s radio-style production of “A Christmas Carol” for the last three years, said radio drama was still new in 1938, at a time when radio was used primarily for news communication.

“To do a drama set in the mode of a radio broadcast,” Gonzales said, “it was totally unexpected.”

Gonzales, who has also performed in radio adaptations of “Casablanca” and “Bride of Frankenstein” with the Museum of Radio and Electricity’s “Midnight Mystery Players,” enjoyed the performance and said that radio adaptations are a good, retro medium.

“When it’s done well,” he said, “I think people find it compelling.”

Smith said the idea to do a radio-style production of “War of the Worlds” was his suggestion, and Tremaine liked it, despite the amount of work he ended up having to do.

“I didn’t expect it to be as difficult as it was,” Tremaine told the audience afterward. He not only had to re-write the script (the location the event takes place is changed to Washington and some language and references are modernized for a more contemporary feel), but had to research and analyze the piece in a 25-page paper, as well as hold auditions and do casting.

The use of contemporary music in the production—which, early on, features brief news interruptions of a DJ doing a marathon of 90s hits—made it easier to adapt, said Smith. Even though the group rehearsed for about four weeks, he added that the best part of doing a radio-style production is that no one has to memorize lines, and can just read them from the script.

Still, in such a visual society, the performers dressed up and used several props. “We like visual candy,” said Smith.

Overall, the crowd seemed entertained throughout, laughing at some of the more corny moments while being engrossed in the compelling dialogue of others.

Unlike Welles’ 1938 performance, however, no one here was fooled. Although, after the performance, as the audience got out of their seats to leave, actor Kristopher Powell wanted to make sure.

“Remember,” he light-heartedly told the crowd, “this was fiction.”

-by Matt Benoit

Hughes is latest addition to “Discover the WCC Library” poster series

Tara Hughes’ background is as diverse as her taste for books, which made her the perfect candidate for this year’s addition to “Discover the WCC Library” poster series.

Hughes, who originally wanted to be a theater major, has a Ph.D. in English and has taught English classes varying in focus from major British authors to Native American literature.

“She’s been on the list for a while and her time had just come,” said Linda Lambert, Library Director and member of the committee choosing poster candidates.

Hughes easily fit the three criteria for being featured on a poster: a reader, a library user, and a library supporter. Lambert brought the idea of a poster series from a La Connor library she had previously worked for. Teachers and students may be featured on the poster – anyone who is cool and enthusiastic about the library, said Lambert.

It may seem basic to get yourself on a poster, but Hughes’ is anything but.

“I have a secret ambition to teach a whole class on Harry Potter,” said Hughes, an avid fantasy reader. While her students were studying Gothic literature during fall quarter, she decided to mix it up with reading and responses for “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” The students’ responses were very thoughtful, she recalled, and showed a surprisingly bigger depth to Harry Potter than she had originally conceived.

Fantasy in literature can sometimes be regarded as escapist or, mere entertainment with little value but to spend time on a Saturday afternoon – but Hughes heartily disagrees.

The fantasy genre “can be a type of renewal,” says Hughes. “If done right, like J.R.R.  Tolkien, it can get us to look again at certain aspects of our society.” She admires J.K. Rowling and the Potter books for their “subtle social critiques, and spoofs on certain institutions within society.”

Hughes is just as interested in the spiritual side of literature as the social critiquing.

“It’s so important to, whenever possible, read literature for self-understanding,” she said. “The Courage to Teach” by Parker J. Palmer was a punch-in-the-arm for Hughes, who refocused her idea of teaching after reading it. She believes the grades are very important, but just as important is the relationship with the student. She allows revisions on her student’s final drafts, hoping that it will relieve some pressure and produce a higher-quality paper.

Featured on the poster, Hughes looks very relaxed, where she is placed among the woods—Lake Padden, in fact, where members of the Media Center traveled to take the forest photograph.

Besides being a lively decoration for the library, the poster is intended to make library users more enthusiastic about the array of knowledge that can be found there. Hughes is featured in the series along with other teachers such as Tim Watters and Ben Kohn. The complete poster series can be viewed at: http://library.whatcom.ctc.edu/content/ArchivesItem_11_148_v.

-by Reed Klein

The Dating Game at Whatcom

“Oooh, it’s that kind of dating game…” said a student from the audience.

Hosted by Chocolate Devotion, with questions ranging from “If you were a road sign, what would you be and why?” to “How would you cheer me up after finding out I failed a test?” the crowd was never less than entertained.

It started off with the bachelor. Three ladies were asked a series of questions, and based on their answers, the bachelorettes were either eliminated or chosen. At the end of the question round, Chocolate Devotion would say, “All right audience, who thinks we should go for contestant number one?” and do the same for the other two. The audience would cheer, clap, or woo for their favorite, and then the bachelor would choose his date. Before meeting his match, he met the two he let slip away.

He and his date will enjoy an all-expense paid dinner.

Then, the same thing happened, except this time a fair lady asked three bachelors a round of questions. They ranged from “What kind of car would you be and why?” to “What three things would you bring on a deserted island?” At the end, she chose her man, but before meeting him, met the two she let go.

All in all, it was quick and dirty, just the way Whatcom students like it.

-by Emily Huntington

2010 Winter Concert

Music was brought to the masses of the Heiner Center Auditorium the evening of March 9, as the collegiate choir and jazz band put on Whatcom Community College’s 2010 Winter Concert.

After the evening started off at 7:30 with a crowd-warming rendition of Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up,” courtesy of Whatcom Music Club president Logan Browning and another club member, the night’s performance began.

The collegiate choir, directed by Carol Reed-Jones, sang three compositions during their set: “Oh, How Full is My Bundle,” a Russian folk song; “A Little Golden Cloud,” by Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky; and “Wonfa Nyem,” a traditional Ghanaian song, which included the addition of two steady-beating drums and a shaker.

This was followed by a special treat: the performance of The Librettos. The group, this time comprised of Whatcom library staff members Linda Lambert, Sally Sheedy, Laurie Starr, Whatcom art instructor Pam Richardson, and choir director Carol Reed-Jones, sang a library-oriented parody of “Teach Me Tonight,” (“Let’s Read Tonight”) accompanied by Whatcom instructor Earl Bower (guitar) and jazz band members Connor Helms (piano) and Lyman Lipke (bass).

The group also sang the standard, “What a Wonderful World,” with Addison Stumpf on piano and Bower again on guitar.

The jazz band, running a bit behind schedule, forced the choir to improvise a short tune before the two musical groups joined together for a rendition of “Blue Moon.”

From there, the jazz band, led by director Frank Kuhl, performed Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life.” Kuhl did his best crooning—with an apology to Nat King Cole beforehand—in the lyrical version of the piece, before the jazz band played the instrumental version, which featured a solo from tenor trombonist Daniel DeLisle.

The band also performed “Walk, Don’t Run,” featuring a saxophone solo from high school student Tom Harris, before the jazz combo took on a solo-filled version of Horace Silver’s “The Preacher.”

Bellingham-based group “Brassworks,” featuring Kuhl on trumpet and jazz band member Emily Doran on Tuba, played three movements from Alex Wilder’s “Brass Quintet #1,” as well as a couple more tunes.

Dr. Christopher Roberts, Whatcom’s music program director, than led Bellingham local Don Phillips on stage. Phillips, who spoke to the audience for several minutes, was recognized for donating a large portion of his substantial collection of vintage sheet music to the college.

The jazz band then played two different arrangements, both donated by Phillips, of Irving Berlin’s “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” Afterward, the band brought the evening to conclusion with Joe Avery’s “Second Line.”

-by Matt Benoit


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