Thursday, October 23, 2014

[158] MTSU Theatre pulls back the curtain on ‘A Doll’s House’ Nov. 5-9

MURFREESBORO — The play is 135 years old, but the upcoming MTSU Theatre production of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” is serious about ensuring that its true focus of discovering personal identity remains clear.

The eight-member cast of “A Doll’s House,” which opens Wednesday, Nov. 5, in MTSU’s Tucker Theatre, is directed by theatre professor Kyle Kennedy, who said they’re fully aware of the challenges of bringing the originally controversial classic to the stage.

“What’s relevant about this play today is not only dealing with the roles of the sexes and with women’s lives,” Kennedy said. “Ibsen’s biographer said the playwright wanted to make clear ‘that the primary duty of anyone was to find out who he or she really was and to become that person,’ and reading that meant a lot to me. It’s a theme that speaks to our whole audience, the whole variety of people in it.”

The 7:30 p.m. performances of “A Doll’s House” are set Nov. 5-9 at MTSU, and a 2 p.m. matinee is planned for Sunday, Nov. 9.

Tickets for the MTSU Arts performances, sponsored by Ascend Federal Credit Union, are available online at and at the Tucker Theatre box office an hour before curtain times.

In brief, the play, which premiered in Denmark in 1879, follows a young wife and mother whose well-intentioned efforts to help her family backfire and tear apart her seemingly perfect life.

Ibsen, one of the founders of realism in theatre, intended it as a scathing criticism of 19th-century society’s accepted roles for wives and husbands. The conclusion caused such controversy that some productions presented an alternate ending — to Ibsen’s extreme dismay — and theaters were subjected to protests and threats.

Auditions for this MTSU Theatre production were held in September, and the cast began rehearsals Oct. 1 for what director Kennedy and cast members admit is a “verbose” and challenging play.

“These lines definitely are not even monologues; they’re more like dissertations,” Kelsey Blackwell, a junior theatre major from Memphis who portrays the lead, Nora Helmer, said with a laugh.

“Still, this piece really touched me, and I feel so humbled to be a part of it with these great people. This show has so much history and it has such a great message that's relevant today.

“Even though this was written in the late 1800s, I want people to understand that love and marriage should be genuine and real. Regardless of when it's set, it's still very important to understand.”

Blackwell was most recently on the Tucker Theatre stage in the 2013 production of “A Year with Frog and Toad,” where she played “Mouse.”

“I like this particular show because of its relevancy but also because it shows how much times have changed. It's really interesting,” said Dominic Gillette, a junior theater major from Chattanooga who portrays Nora’s husband, Torvald.

“This play gives you a chance to actually dive into characters and find back stories and find out a lot about your character. It's good for us as students to get that kind of training right here. It’s definitely a different type of show from what we’ve done at Tucker in a while.”

Gillette was part of this fall’s recent “American Tall Tales” revival at MTSU, where he portrayed “John Henry.”

The cast also includes Abbey Kairdolf as Nora’s friend Christine Linde; Christan McLaurine as family friend Peter Rank; Saul Rodriguez as Torvald’s employee, Nils Krogstad; Beth Ann Stripling as Anne-Marie, the Helmers’ nanny; Victoria Crawford, the Helmers’ maid; and Jay Mullens as the delivery boy. Crawford and Mullens also provide the Helmer children’s voices.

“We select plays for production each year by committee, and we want to make sure that all of our theatre students, during their years at MTSU, are exposed to different dramatic styles, forms and genres of theater,” director Kennedy explained. “`A Doll’s House’ is historically notable because it’s one of the hallmark plays of the realist movement.

“We’re glad for the opportunity for our students to be exposed to a great play with great characters that addresses a very important theme. And we’re glad for the opportunity to present it to MTSU audiences.”

General admission tickets are $10 each and $5 for K-12 students and senior citizens. MTSU students with valid IDs will be admitted free.

Tickets for “A Doll’s House” also can be ordered by phone by calling 888-71-TICKETS (888-718-4253) 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information about MTSU Theatre’s current season anytime, visit

[157] MTSU speaker issues ‘a call to men’: Change attitudes, stop domestic violence

MURFREESBORO — A leading anti-domestic violence activist donned a wireless microphone and took his message directly to men in an appearance at MTSU.

Stepping out from behind the podium and walking in the audience, Tony Porter issued “A Call to Men: The Next Generation of Manhood” Oct. 21 in the Tennessee Room of the James Union Building.

Porter, whose presentation bore the name of the national violence prevention organization he co-founded, is a life skills trainer and consultant for the National Football League. His other clients include the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the National Basketball Association.

Porter said he wanted to deconstruct the nature of violence by men against women, nonjudgmentally dissecting the behavior of even well-meaning men to reveal disregard for the women in their lives.

The event, which was sponsored by the Distinguished Lecture Fund and the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, was part of MTSU’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence and create a safer environment for all members of the campus and surrounding communities.

But rather than holding an event with the traditional focus on women, who are usually the victims of such violence, the June Anderson Center brought in Porter to specifically address the role that men play in creating this problem and offer ways to combat it.

Open to the public, the event drew a sizable number of men that included students, MTSU staff and community members from whom Porter solicited feedback throughout his remarks. Some 140 fraternity members attended a second session tailored to that audience, according to Barbara Scales, director of the June Anderson Center.

Referring to peer pressure to adhere to traditional notions of masculinity, he explained, “When we as men begin to develop an interest in the experiences of women outside of sexual conquest, our manhood is called into question.”

Porter used video sketches, PowerPoint slides and audience interaction to drive home his points. He described in detail what he called “the man box,” a collection of destructive behaviors men are socialized to treasure as manly. They include suppressing emotions, making decisions without asking for help and viewing women as property.

“These rigid notions of manhood are killing us as men,” said Porter.

He also noted that even men who never would hurt women physically “help create a fertile ground” for men who are violent by devaluing women, regarding them as property and objectifying them.

In pointing out men’s lack of awareness of women’s safety issues, Porter asked how many men check the back seat for intruders when they get into their cars. Only four men raised their hands, but numerous women raised their hands.

“They’re thinking about how to survive while we’re simply thinking about what’s next,” Porter explained.

Dr. Newtona “Tina” Johnson, director of the MTSU Women’s and Gender Studies Program, suggested during the question-and-answer period that men who wish to explore the subject more deeply should take the program’s classes.

Kim Reynolds, a counselor for the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program in Murfreesboro, stated that nearly 500 orders of protection for domestic violence victims have been issued so far this year.

[156] Nobel recipient drives creativity, science education in MTSU talk

MURFREESBORO — As the first featured guest lecturer in MTSU’s new Science Building, Nobel laureate Harry Kroto mentioned the 1996 international award he received during his one hour-plus public lecture.

But at MTSU and virtually anywhere he goes nowadays, the dialogue is more about science in general, science education for young people and creativity rather than the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

At the invitation of MTSU chemistry professor Preston MacDougall, Kroto spoke at both the MTSU event to a near-capacity crowd Oct. 20 in the Science Building amphitheater and an overflow crowd attending the Oct. 16-19 American Chemical Society Southeastern Regional Meeting in Nashville.

“I want to tell students what science actually is,” said Kroto, 75, an English-born chemist who has been part of the Florida State University faculty since 2004. “It’s (science) not well understood. It’s a way of thinking, as much as anything else, about the world and what is actually true and correct. It’s the way the universe is.”

“What I like about science is the internationality of it,” Kroto told his captivated audience during his humorous and entertaining talk titled “Carbon and Nano in Outer Space.” International citizens are a part of his present and past research teams.
The crowd — MTSU students, faculty, staff and administrators including President Sidney A. McPhee, and people from the community — enjoyed his lecture and PowerPoint presentation.

“It was absolutely inspiring as a young chemist to see someone who is so passionate about everything they do,” said MTSU senior biochemistry major Robbie Mahaffey of Shelbyville, Tennessee. “He was amazing. My professor asked me if I was going to be here. I had planned to study because I have an exam Wednesday, but this seemed like an opportunity not to miss, to hear someone speak who had won a Nobel Prize and has years of experience and wisdom to give out for free.”

Henry Bradley, a senior biochemistry major and MTSU Chemistry Club president from Newport, Tennessee, had the honor of introducing Kroto and spending time with him earlier in the day.

“I think it is such a privilege to represent the student body and introduce Sir Harry Kroto,” Bradley said. “It’s not every day when someone who wins the Nobel Prize comes to your school. They (Nobel recipients) obviously did something to advance human knowledge.”

 The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in various fields of chemistry.

Kroto shared the 1996 Nobel Prize with Robert F. Curl Jr. and Richard E. Smalley for their discovery of fullerenes, a series of carbon molecules, also known as “Buckminsterfullerenes.”

The creative side of Kroto indulges in highly effective graphics and logos.

“To be creative, you need freedom,” he said during his talk. “For me, creativity is not just pulling a new rabbit out of the hat. It’s bringing things from various areas together in a new way, sort of a synthesis.”

Pushing his personal project GEOSET, or Global Educational Outreach for Science Engineering and Technology, Kroto takes science education worldwide — and GEOSET helps students find jobs by inserting a Uniform Resource Locator, or URL, in a resume.

“At least 50 percent of my time now is trying to get universities such as MTSU to consider how modern communication techniques can be helpful to not only the university in teaching but also to the students, to the propagating of their careers,” he said.

“It turns out that students are very good at contributing to this (GEOSET),” Kroto added. “”We’re recording short presentations on projects by students on things that fascinate them. And they’re getting jobs and scholarships and awards because we’ve essentially revolutionized the resume by including a recording (through the URL link) in the resume.”

Earlier Monday, Kroto toured the Science Building and visited the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, where CEO Tara MacDougall, wife of MTSU faculty member Preston MacDougall, presented Kroto a blue center T-shirt he wore the rest of the day.

[155] MTSU touts new ‘Student Success Advantage,’ Science Building during Oct. 23 Jackson True Blue Tour visit

MURFREESBORO — Jackson will be the sixth stop this week on the statewide Middle Tennessee State University True Blue Tour to recruit outstanding students from West Tennessee.

MTSU will hold the True Blue Tour reception for all area high school and potential transfer students and their families from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, at the Jackson Country Club, 31 Country Club Drive, in Jackson. To register in advance, visit

The event — where deans and personnel from admissions and other academic departments share options and answer questions — also will feature interactive displays including the 40-foot, $1.8 million Electronic Media Communication mobile production truck and Concrete Industry Management’s mold to make concrete coasters by hand. A music CD will be available at the School of Music table.

In addition to the recently announced MTSU Student Success Advantage, which is full of incentives for future students to graduate in four years, the $147 million Science Building will be at the forefront of the agenda when MTSU representatives talk to prospective students, their parents or guardians and alumni.

MTSU officials will be pitching the recently announced “Graduate in Four (years) and Get More” program that highlights the Student Success Advantage for students starting in fall 2015. The program adds a total of $1,000 back to eligible Hope Scholarship recipients during the first two years ($500 each year), guarantees scholarships to eligible transfer students and returns tuition increases to eligible students who stay on track to graduate in four years.

To learn more, visit

Details about the new Science Building, which was officially dedicated Oct. 15, and other major changes regarding future scholarship and financial aid opportunities for MTSU students will be shared with prospective students and their families.

MTSU will treat area high school counselors and community college representatives to a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. To register in advance, visit

The Jackson stop will conclude the six-city True Blue Tour. MTSU already has visited Chattanooga, Johnson City, Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis.

Prospective students have multiple opportunities for a firsthand look at campus. They include:

• A Fall Preview Day will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, starting in the Student Union;

• True Blue Experience Days will be held Jan. 23, 2015, for prospective students in the Colleges of Behavioral and Health Sciences and Liberal Arts and Jan. 30 for prospective students in the Colleges of Mass Communication, Business and Education; and

• Along with daily campus tours, there will be special Saturday fall visit days Nov. 15 and Dec. 6. All start in the Student Services and Admissions Center. To register, visit call 615-898-5670.

To register for the Fall Preview Day or True Blue Experience Days, visit

The priority deadline to apply and receive scholarship consideration is Dec. 1.

MTSU True Blue Tour at a glance

Who: MTSU deans and academic personnel

What: True Blue Tour, recruiting prospective students from Jackson and the surrounding area

When: Thursday, Oct. 23
• 11:30 a.m. luncheon for high school counselors/community college advisers
• 6 to 8 p.m. student reception 

Where: Jackson Country Club, 31 Country Club Drive, in Jackson

Why: In an effort to attract future students to the MTSU in Murfreesboro, university officials travel by bus and automobiles 155 miles to “bring” the campus — 150-plus academic programs and much more — to Jackson.

Etc.: All public, private, homeschool and potential transfer students from West Tennessee are welcome. …  Attendees will be treated to interactive displays including the Electronic Media Communication’s 40-foot, $1.8 million mobile production lab — aka “The Truck” — Concrete Industry Management’s mold to make concrete coasters by hand, an MTSU School of Music CD, food and more.