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Sold-out ‘Grease’ packs Center Stage Theater

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Guests to Grease were welcomed with classic cars brought in by the Stray Angels car club.
Photo by Jason Bamburg

The musical, set in 1950s Chicago, has an abstract feel right down to the set design. “I wanted to honor ‘50s Chicago,” Director of Theater Stephanie Newman says. “These are kids who think they’re rock stars, but they’re just rough city folk.”

The show’s main characters, Danny and Sandy, met on the beach over summer break and fell in love, parting bitter-sweetly at summer’s end. Only they find Sandy has transferred into Danny’s school when fall semester starts. It’s a coincidence, but it reveals much about the social groups so many of us remember from our high school days.

Every generation has their own group of misfits who defy authority and come from less than upper-crust homes. Danny (played by Braydon Simmons) belongs to a gang who call themselves the “T-Birds,” in the social group known as “greasers” the “greaser in the future could be called the “stoners” today (whether they smoke pot or not) that we may be more familiar with.

Sandy (Madison Whittet), however, has just left a Catholic school and has yet to determine allegiances or fall in with a group, be they cheerleaders, the nerdy bookworms or “The Pink Ladies,” who are sort of the T-Bird’s auxiliary girls club.  She is pulled in these directions all at once, and the fact that Danny is both a jock and a greaser T-Bird doesn’t help Sandy’s indecision.

This is the classic struggle of the new kid; everybody wants to get to know you while simultaneously wanting to influence you. There is some measure of appeal in all of these newfound friends. She is certainly smart and shy enough to fit in with the brainy kids. Some unfamiliar extrovert inside may be calling her to cheer for the jocks (Danny is partially one), but the middle-finger raising audacity of the greaser culture (the other side of Danny) eventually wins out.

Sandy’s trajectory is easy to see when she is repeatedly tempted by cigarettes and alcohol (and the production centers around the rough kids). Rather than a female lead tapping into the sensitive side of the male – which was a common theme in the ‘70s— we have Sandy’s instant change into a sultry bad girl and likely the Pink Lady’s new leader.

Music director Michael Wheeler brought out great performances from the cast. Even the less seasoned vocalists among the cast could be forgiven a sour note here and there, as each and every song ended confidently and beautifully, whether by a single performer or a collective chorus. Wheeler must have emphasized the importance of a number’s ending to be spot-on.

Newman and her husband Travis were responsible for a spectacular set design, imagining her “abstract rather than detail” ‘50s vibe to great effect. Besides the subtle decoration of vinyl records and hanging guitars, the props (manipulated quietly by the cast themselves) included moving sections that served as settings for the beach, Rydell High School’s entrance, the gym, the cafeteria, “The Burger Palace,” the local drive-in movie, and Kenickie’s garage.

Kenickie, played by Ben Ruggles, could be said to be the de facto leader of the T-birds, if only because he has a “new” used car, and believes some work will transform it into racer and a “chick magnet.” The prop involved is the front end of a rusty Ford pickup on a rolling platform. This car is used in a few scenes but is most enjoyed as the centerpiece of a daydream sequence in which Kinickie imagines his car’s future, and the transformation is executed with a custom drop-on shroud of shiny fabric that makes the car look finished, bringing the song “Greased Lightning” to life.

The musical, created by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, first appeared at Chicago’s Kingston Mines nightclub in 1971 and ended its first Broadway run in 1980. At that time, it had the honor of being the longest run in Broadway’s history with 3,388 total shows. The 1978 film adaptation starring John Travolta and Olivia-Newton John was also massively successful, earning nearly $9 million on its opening weekend. One might think such an iconic and critically acclaimed show would be showcased in a larger venue, but the UCC theater program makes use of the Center Stage Theater (rather than the larger Jacoby on campus) for many reasons. Among them is the immediacy and proximity to the stage. “In the Center Stage, every seat is a good seat,” Newman says.

A larger space would also call for much more audio and lighting responsibilities, and Newman likes both to be as natural as possible. “It is important to learn how to fill a space with your voice,” she says, “my focus is on process and students more than a product.”

In this ethic, however, Newman and her incredible team have created an understandably sold-out production.

Though “Grease” is officially over after its highly successful run, the Theater Arts program will offer “The Lion in Winter,” starring Newman herself next. “It’s Game of Thrones-esque with British humor,” she says.

“The Lion In Winter” runs February 23 – March 11 and tickets are available at the Whipple Fine Arts Building or online at tickets.umpqua.edu

For students, shopping savings aren’t just for the holidays

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An app called Unidays is now available which gives students access to discounts when they register with the site. Deals are for many mainstream companies including Motorola, DC and Reebok. Products range from clothing, to televisions, to a $1 Wall Street Journal subscription.

Discounts also include 10 to 40 percent off promo codes, typed in at check out, for online shopping sites. Other savings on the site include gift card rebates and discounted percentages off online takeout orders (the restaurants, however, are mostly outside of Douglas Country currently). The app is available on Google Play or by signup on Uniday’s web page.

Locally, UCC’s website now shows some places offering student discounts such as 15 percent off all used books at “While Away Books” on Harvard Ave. in Roseburg.

Josh Jones, owner of While Away Books said, “We want to help people, who are trying to help themselves.” While Away Books also offers 15 percent off used books to teachers, home schooled youths and foster parents. They often host book signing events with four authors participating this month.

Though the acquisition of many student discounts may not require proof of enrollment, businesses are entitled to request such documentation. Student ID cards are available from the Student Life office in the Campus Center building. Call 541-440-7749 for current ID processing hours.

For UCC services, validation of a student ID is required each term you are enrolled. Validation stickers are available at the information desk in the Campus Center, from the cashier in the Administration building, and at the library circulation desk.

To access deals for students on the UCC’s home-page, hover over “CAMPUS LIFE.” Proceed by clicking on “Student Life” to the right, then once again to the right, click on “STUDENT IDS & PARKING PERMITS.” Now scroll down. The discounts are listed under this link.

If you’re in Lane County, Springfield’s Cinemark offers a discount to students. Some places might even be worth traveling to just for the student discount. NextStep Recycling was founded by Lorraine Kerwood who is known for her environmental and community work. NextStep Recycling, located in Eugene at 2101 W 10th Ave., offers 20 percent off many products, including refurbished computers, to students.

An analysis of the bias in national media headlines

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A news story’s headline can often be its most salient point, but a headline can also be misleading, divisive and inflammatory.  In a time where information is constantly transmitted and consumed as events unfold, viewers often only see news headlines. While many outlets claim to be fair and unbiased, this is not a realistic reflection of their own reporting. Inaudible shouting matches and banter between pundits, anchors and hosts can be seen any night on national news channels.

Every person and media organization has some sort of opinion, and no one person or news organization can describe all pertinent facts in every news story. FOX News and CNN at times have very similar, or even equivalent headlines, but not all the time.  Those subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, differences can prime viewers to think of a person, organization or topic in a specific way before the viewer reads the content of the news story.

Below is a side by side comparison of Fox News (left) and CNN (right) headlines regarding some of the major developments that led up to the special investigation of Russian ties to the Trump campaign. It is important to keep in mind that the dates included are dates of publication, not necessarily the date of the event described in the headline.

FOX

 

July 5, 2016: FBI’s Comey: Clinton ‘extremely careless’ about emails, but bureau will not advise criminal charges

Oct. 28, 2016: FBI reopens Clinton probe after new emails found in Anthony Weiner case

Nov. 4, 2016: Dems trying to nudge Comey out at FBI after Clinton probe decision

Feb 24, 2017: Trump blasts FBI ‘leakers’ after reports on Priebus conversation

March 20, 2017: White House stands ground after Russia probe confirmed, says no ‘collusion’

 

May 3, 2017: Comey hearing: FBI chief defends ‘right choice’ on handling Clinton email probe

 

May 10, 2017: James Comey fired: Ousted FBI director learned he was fired from TV

May 16, 2017: Report: Trump asked Comey to end Flynn investigation

May 17, 2017: Robert Mueller to oversee Russia election probe as special counsel

May 18, 2017: Trump rails against ‘witch hunt’ amid special counsel appointment

 

 

CNN

 

July 5, 2016: FBI director: Hillary Clinton ‘extremely careless’ but no charges recommended

 

Oct. 28, 2016: Comey notified Congress of email probe despite DOJ concerns

 

Nov. 7, 2016: FBI clears Clinton — again

Feb 24, 2017: FBI refused White House request to knock down recent Trump-Russia stories

 

March 21, 2017: FBI: Trump campaign, Russia ties investigated, no wiretap evidence found

May 3, 2017: Comey hearing: FBI chief defends ‘right choice’ on handling Clinton email probe

May 9, 2017: Trump’s letter firing FBI Director James Comey

 

May 12, 2017: Sources: Rosenstein sees no need for special prosecutor in Russia probe

 

May 17, 2017: Memo: Trump asked Comey to end Flynn investigation

May 18, 2017: Special counsel appointed in Russia probe

 

 

For potentially more neutral sources, readers can also check timelines on FactCheck.org or PolitiFact.com.

FactCheck.org claims to “seek to devote an equal amount of time reviewing claims by Republicans and Democrats,” and they compare media stories with primary, original documents. They are funded by the Annenberg Foundation, founded by Walter Annenberg who also established the Annenberg School for Communication at University of Pennsylvania and Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Reagan.

PolitiFact is a Pulitzer Prize-winning website operated by the Tampa Bay Times, currently owned by the non-profit Poynter Institute. Bill Adair, formerly of the Washington Times, started PolitiFact (The Times has been accused of bias to the right by Right Wing Watch, a site run by People for the American Way; however, it has also won a Pulitzer prize and has background and expertise in investigative media practices). PolitiFact discloses that it “currently receives funding from the Democracy Fund, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation” as well as reader contributions.

All fact checking sites receive some complaints related to bias, but The Mainstream found these two to be the most neutral, reputable and transparent.

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