Wednesday, November 20, 2013

OU-C theater program is not dogging it with upcoming performance of Sylvia

As usual, Sylvia (played by Jennifer Adams) is in the middle of Greg (Ben Roark) and Kate (Gwenndolyn Aume) relationship during a recent rehearsal at Ohio University-Chillicothe. The OU-C theater program will present the play Sylvia on Dec. 6 and Dec. 7 in the Bennett Hall auditorium.

Doggone it, the Ohio University-Chillicothe theater program is presenting the heart-warming romantic comedy Sylvia at 8 p.m. on Dec. 6 and Dec. 7 in the Bennett Hall auditorium.

Admission is free as part of a “preview night” for the Friday night performance. Tickets will be available for sale at the box office outside of the auditorium prior to the Saturday performance. Tickets for that performance are $10 for adults, $9 for senior citizens and free for OU-C students. Group rates of $8 per ticket are also available.

The play, which was written by A.R. Gurney and was first staged in 1995 in Manhattan, involves Greg and Kate, a middle-aged couple who move to the city after 22 child-raising years in the suburbs, and the street-smart dog who turns their worlds upside-down.

Sylvia the dog soon becomes the centerpiece in their lives, for better or worse, adding excitement at a time that Greg and Kate are looking to wind down.

While Greg is quickly overcome by the charms of the canine who earns the reputation as man’s best friend, Kate sees the dog as competition. As with any good tale involving a character with a tail, Kate later has a change of heart through a transformation that is bound to draw a laugh from even the cat-lovers in the audience.

“I always say that, instead of choosing the plays, the plays find us, and that is certainly true again with Sylvia,” said director Ken Breidenbaugh. “Each semester, a group of actors shows up, and we find what best fits them.”

“We have done this play before, and it is a real crowd-pleaser. This is, indeed, a play about a dog and a person’s relationship with man’s best friend. It also explores the dynamics of marriage and what happens when a new creature is brought into the mix,” Breidenbaugh said.

The canine aspect of the play makes it especially appealing.

“The audience quickly becomes caught up in the play. Many people have pets and realize how attached an individual can become to an animal, so it is easy to identify with Sylvia,” Breidenbaugh said.

The student-actors are quickly warming up to the production.

“I think, for a lot of men, their dog is like a child to them, especially after their own children have grown up,” said Ben Roark, a Unioto High School graduate who plays the role of Greg. “But, it is more than just a story of a man and a dog. It is about the connection individuals have with their pets.”
Roark likes the role he has in the play.

“It is really active and not boring, to say the least. The main thing is to sell to the audience the relationship Greg has with his dog,” Roark said.

Gwenndolyn Aume, a post-secondary option student from Logan Elm, plays the role of the wife, Kate.

“She is very likable but, at the same time, she can be short with her husband and she gets frustrated with the dog,” Aume explained.

Kate’s feelings toward the pooch change over time.

“She grows to accept the dog, especially when she realizes Greg still cares about her. It makes it seem that Kate really does have a heart, “Aume said.

Jennifer Adams has the difficult cross-species task of playing the role of Sylvia. “I have always been a pet person, and it has been an adventure to channel my inner dog,” said Adams, a Chillicothe High School graduate.

“Since I am not wearing the costume or makeup to appear as a dog, it is more of a mentality than overall physical appearance,” she explained in assuming a canine persona. “It is more in the mannerisms. There is an opportunity to hear the dog vocalize its thoughts. Sometimes, they are deep thoughts and, at other times, the dog is just sniffing stuff.

As would seem appropriate, this particular play has become a pet project of all who are associated with the OU-C theater program.

“It is a lovely story, and I like to think of it as an early Christmas present to our theater patrons,” Breidenbaugh said.

Current photo exhibit on Chillicothe Campus features work by Benjamin Montague

By public relations student writer Megan Valentine

The photo exhibit “Militainment and Insects” by Benjamin Montague is currently on display in the Patricia Scott Gallery in Ohio University-Chillicothe’s Bennett hall through Dec. 24. Montague is a faculty member at Wright State University.

According to the artist’s website his work on these particular collections evolved as he realized how the topics were surprisingly connected.

“It began as an escape, an exercise to see how light passed through and around [the insects’] bodies.  I was like a child peering through a microscope for the first time,” says Montague. “Soon, though, [they] began to take on a deeper meaning as I realized how intertwined the photos were with my imagery of war. The fragile, temporal corpses of these imperfect specimens are like memories, a beautiful fleeting reminder of life and death.”

The pieces in the “Militainment” portion of the gallery play off of the images featured in his “Images of Conflict” collection. He zoned in on America’s current fascination with interactive military simulations and video games and the rising demand for such commercialized entertainment.

“Since 9/11, we have seen the demand for battlefield style, first-person shooter war games rise dramatically… This work attempts to explore the space between realism/authenticity and entertainment in the military gaming industry.  I am intrigued by this symbiotic relationship, and visually explore this through my images,” he says of the photos.

According to Montague these pieces explore the question of whether these types of games allow young people to developing an emotional connection to ongoing wars and the individuals fighting in them or if they are simply creating a culture desensitized to violence.

Montague is an associate professor of photography at Wright State. He earned his MFA degree from the University of Delaware and his bachelor’s degree from Marlboro College. He has exhibited his work widely and is currently represented by Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art in Santa Fe, N.M., and Works on Paper Gallery in Philadelphia, Pa. He has won several grants, including an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award. His work is included in collections of the Columbus Museum of Art and the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.

Book by OU-C administrator chronicles true impact of volunteer services on homes and people’s lives

Brenda Phillips sees first-hand up how organization repairs homes and lives

What began as a project focusing on organizational effectiveness became a book and a life-changing experience for an Ohio University-Chillicothe administrator.

Brenda Phillips, Ph.D., associate dean at OU-C, is the author of a new book titled Mennonite Disaster Service:  Building a Therapeutic Community after the Gulf Coast Storms.  The book, which was recently released, chronicles the experiences of both volunteers and homeowners, who were impacted on the Gulf Coast after hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike.

To write the book, Phillips spent a year in 2010, the fifth-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, conducting research which included “participatory observation,” working alongside members of the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The experience allowed her to gain an inside understanding of the group, their efforts and those they impact. She interviewed 162 people, mostly low-income individuals, whose homes had been badly damaged or destroyed by storms.

“I wanted to know the organization from the ground up, so I spent a year on the research and working as a volunteer. MDS has a reputation as being the best at what they do, and I wanted to learn what they are doing right that makes them so effective,” she said. “MDS is known for going to the ends of the earth and focusing their efforts on people who are least like to recover from a disaster, such as the elderly, people with disabilities and low-income families.”

Originally, Phillips set out to evaluate the organization and help them understand how they can better perform their duties. It soon became much more.

“It began as an evaluation of MDS so they could know what they need to do better. Also, I wanted to know how they do such an outstanding job with volunteer labor,” she said. “As I observed the work that was taking place and its impact, the larger message is what is the meaning of volunteer service and what do both the recipients and the volunteers get out of it?”

“This type of volunteer work is a life-changing experience for all involved. Beyond the building of homes, it is about building a therapeutic community and seeing how healing these things can be for people.”

Although the MDS consists of expert builders whose work routinely exceeds building codes, at the heart of their efforts is a genuinely caring approach to others.

“I learned that they work really hard at relationships. Homeowners who were helped by MDS talked mostly about the kind of people who came to build and repair their houses rather than the projects themselves,” Phillips said. “People would often start crying when I spoke with them. The most common word they used to describe the volunteers was ‘family.’ Part of the Mennonite theology and belief system is that you practice what you preach, and the MDS certainly personifies that.”

As one homeowner explained, “I had no idea these kind of people was in the world. They didn’t look down on you, they made you think you was somebody. The volunteers came from all over the world, Canada, Pennsylvania, the Amish. You have to lose everything to know. They felt our hurt and were there with open arms, somebody to care about you … you have to go through tragedy to know how nice people can be.”

The feeling was mutual, as expressed by MDS members.

One volunteer said, “These folks love their way of life.  Their livelihood came from fishing, shrimping, oystering.  They did not want to leave the bayou.”  Volunteers also felt connected to those they served, "It made all the sweat, heat, and manual labor was well worth it to see the joy in her face.” 

Phillips, herself, was moved by what she observed.

“It was very emotional, and trying to be a good analyst and researcher was sometimes difficult.”
MDS members are very adept at communication and organization.

“It is amazing what they do with all-volunteer labor,” Phillips said. “They are very well organized, with members of long-term crews organizing short-term teams or people such as those on mission projects.”

It was also a convergence of cultures. “With Mennonites, mainly from the northern region of the nation and across Canada, helping Cajuns in the bayou, it was a real blending of cultures,” Phillips said.

For Phillips, whose expertise is in disaster recovery, the writing of the book was therapeutic for her, as well.

“It is a very nice, positive story, which is a welcome break from my usual research, much of which focuses on the human and physical devastation of disasters,” she said.

Phillips, who joined OU-C in July, earned her bachelor’s degree from Bluffton College (now Bluffton University) and both her master’s degree and doctoral degree from The Ohio State University.

The book is published by Lexington Books, part of Roman and Littlefield publishers. Phillips is available to give talks focused on the value of community service. She can craft her talk to speak to congregations, mission teams, civic clubs, youth groups or others. She can be contacted at (740) 774-7297 or email at

Nicholas Kiersey’s ‘Battlestar’ book highlighted in Ohio University research publication

Those keeping a clear perspective appreciate the high level of scholarly activity occurring on the Chillicothe Campus.

In fact, an upcoming issue of Perspectives, which highlights research, scholarship and creative activity at Ohio University, includes an article about OU-C faculty member Nicholas Kiersey’s role in co-editing Battlestar Galactica and International Relations, a collection of 10 essays from scholars who explore the namesake show's far-reaching influence.

The article is available online at

Kiersey, assistant professor of political science, joined the OU-C faculty in 2008. His expertise is in comparative theories of empire, international relations and foreign policy. He holds a Ph.D. in planning, governance and globalization from Virginia Tech.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in European public affairs from the University of, Limerick (Ireland), a master’s degree in international studies from the University of Ireland and a second master’s degree in international politics and social science research methodology from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

OU-C hosting community screening of movie about nuclear power

A community screening of the moving “Pandora’s Promise” will be held at 7 p.m. on Nov. 26 in the Bennett Hall auditorium at Ohio University-Chillicothe. The public is invited to attend, and admission is free, courtesy of USEC.

The Chillicothe Campus is sponsoring the documentary by Academy Award-nominated director Robert Stone, which examines the role and future of nuclear power.

According to press information, the film “asks whether the one technology we fear most could save our planet from a climate catastrophe, while providing the energy needed to lift billions of people in the developing world out of poverty. In his controversial new film, Stone tells the intensely personal stories of environmentalists and energy experts who have undergone a radical conversion from being fiercely anti to strongly pro-nuclear energy, risking their careers and reputations in the process.”
A trailer for the film is available online at

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Storytelling guild to host inaugural meeting

In response to student enthusiasm for puppetry arts as a result of participation in the EDEC 2100 Literature & Storytelling class, a Storytelling Guild is being launched to create a place for everyone who loves puppetry to share stories and expand their craft as storytellers for children. 
Interested individuals are invited to attend the inaugural meeting from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 20 in the OU-C Child Development Center.

Please RSVP to or 772-7370.

The agenda will include a catered dinner (cost $5), sharing storytelling experiences, learning how to use sock puppets for impromptu prosocial stories, and  making a sock puppet.  Each participant will receive 2 story scripts.  Those in attendance will also discuss the best day and time for future guild meetings.