Professors Show Off Talent in the Musical 1776

By Niki Fritz

Here in the Telecommunications Department, we know Mike McGregor and Steve Krahnke for their skills as professors and mentors. But lurking beneath those scholarly appearances, are two talented performers. Their talents were on display over the last two weeks in the Cardinal Stage’s production of the musical 1776.

For those unfamiliar with the Broadway classic, it is a musical about the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Written in the sixties during the Vietnam War, the musical also reflects on the realities of war and the decisions that lead a country to the battlefield. Steve also notes, 1776 is a rather unusual musical in that “it is not a very musical musical. There is a lot of talking … This is musical drama more than musical theater.”

The show is still popular with audiences, partially because the political themes still resonate with people today. “People like the show because it is just not cynical. It is an unvarnished view of real people trying to do a hard thing, trying to do what people considered the right thing,” Steve explains.

Mike adds that the musical offers another hopeful look at how politics can operate. “There is a lot of compromising [in the musical]. I think that is interesting to people today, to see how much people were willing to give up to get something done. Today politicians are my way or the highway; they would rather the government go into default than compromise. The play resonates with people. The audience thinks ‘If they could do it then, why can’t we now?’”

In addition to all that heavy political discourse, the show also features some foot-stomping good dance numbers. Both Mike and Steve get in their fair share of singing and dancing. In fact, faculty member Paul Wright, who saw the show last week, was impressed by the performers’ moves.  “I think the highlight for me was Steve doing a pirouette. Steve had a nimble and precise pirouette.”

But despite his nimble dance moves, Steve wasn’t always 100% confident in his abilities, especially since he has not performed on stage in more than 25 years. The only reason Steve even auditioned was because the directors asked him to try out. “I think they just needed middle age guys who could sing,” Steve jokes. “I was as stunned as anybody when I got the part. Almost everybody in the show is better at what they do than I am at what I do.”

However, Steve soon got into his character, Roger Sherman, a pro-independence delegate from Connecticut. “It was not easy learning to [perform] again,” Steve explains. “I don’t like doing things I’m not good at. It took me a while to build my confidence.”

Steve Krahnke in 1776  as Roger Sherman, the delegate from Connecticut who always carries a gigantic tea cup

Steve Krahnke in 1776 as Roger Sherman, the delegate from Connecticut who always carries a gigantic tea cup

As for Mike, he is more of a seasoned vet, having performed with Cardinal Stage six times before including last season’s production of Les Misérables. But 1776 has a special place in Mike’s heart; he played Thomas Jefferson in a production of 1776 at Spring Mills almost 25 years ago. He loved the play and the part so much, he told the director of this year’s show that he would dye his hair and commit to a face-lift if he could play Jefferson again! Although Mike didn’t get to play the young TJ, he was a phenomenal Dr. Lyman Hall of Georgia.

After weeks of prep, including 12-hour rehearsal on Saturdays and nightly practice, the troupe sang and danced their way through 10 performances ending Saturday night with a final show. Both Steve and Mike, say that it will be nice to get back to some normal routine and see their families again. Mike’s wife has even taken to calling herself a “theater widow” since Mike did back-to-back musicals this year. But despite all the rehearsal time and sometimes brutal hours, both Mike and Steve say the experience was worth it.

“Standing on stage with bunch of other people feels great,” Steve says. “For me that is better than individual bow.” However, Steve says he’s not rushing back for another production for quite a while.

Mike on the other hand might take a little break but the stage will always be calling him.

“I just love being on stage. Rehearsals are hellish and that’s okay. In theater you work really hard during rehearsal and then you have a blast during the performance. Everyone did their fair share of complaining but once you get on stage and people are applauding and laughing, it is all worth. I doubt I’ll do another one soon but I doubt I’ll ever give it up.”

Mike McGregor in 1776 at far stage right during the musical number "Cool Cool Conservative Men"

Mike McGregor in 1776 at far left during the musical number “Cool Cool Conservative Men”

Alfred Kinsey… Detective and Media Professor?

By Mona Malacane

It’s a real life game of Clue. A night of murder, mystery, and dinner fit for our department’s most theatrically talented individual, Mike McGregor. Earlier this year, Mike attended an annual murder mystery dinner fundraiser hosted by The Friends of TC Steele. The mystery incorporated local historical figures, such as Dr. Alfred Kinsey, some of Dr. Kinsey’s staff, Hoagy Carmichael, and Herman Wells. Set in the 1950s, the premise of the script is that President Herman Wells invited a group of friends to dinner to “discuss the work of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, and to generate financial and political support for his work,” Mike explained. But after the hors d’oeuvres, the night takes a turn … and the dinner guests are treated to an evening of live music, food, beverages, and a murder to solve.

whodunit

Mike played the part of Dr. Kinsey, a character he was already familiar with and somewhat familiar to … (see the pictures below). Because Dr. Kinsey plays a rather large role in the evening’s events, Mike and others who played the key roles were given their scripts before the dinner; those who wanted to play smaller roles were given cue cards at their seats that had conversation starters for table talk. “For example, among Kinsey’s staff there was a lot of partner sharing … So that became the fodder of the table talk. All sorts of reasons for a potential murder.” From that point on, everyone stayed in character for the remainder of the evening.

Don't they look a lot alike??

Don’t they look a lot alike??

So the night begins with a catered meal, Hoagy Carmichael at the piano, and a welcome introduction from President Wells. He is followed by a speech by Dr. Kinsey who starts to introduce his staff but realizes that one of them, Clyde Martin, is missing. At this point no one is particularly concerned about Clyde’s absence so he continues on to talk about his recent publication, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. As Kinsey is being criticized and critiqued by the dean of the music school, Clyde staggers in with a gunshot wound and clutching a note from the killer. President Wells can’t reach the sheriff so Kinsey recruits the help of his dinner guests to find the killer. Until this point, everyone at the dinner knew what was going to happen from reading the script. However, after Clyde staggers in, only two people know what will happen next – one of them is Mike and the other is the murderer.

The plot thickens throughout the evening as clues arise and guests try to figure out whodunit. As they are being served dessert, the dinner guests were instructed to write on a piece of paper who they thought killed Clyde and to provide a rationale. At the end of the night, awards were given to the guest who identified the killer, and also for the best performance. The evening was “filled with drama,” twists, and a grand finale!

Mike explained that one of coolest – and unexpected – twists of the dinner was that some of the guests actually knew the figures who were being played. For example, Mrs. Kinsey was played by a woman whose mother (who was also at the dinner) was friends with the Kinseys and was interviewed for his research.

Mike's award for Best Performance

Mike’s award for Best Performance

The dinner was performed/hosted on two weekends in February and Mike won Best Performance one of those nights. John Walsh also attended one of the dinners and played one of Kinsey’s staff; he won an award for correctly naming the killer. If you’re dying to know who the murderer was, I’m sure one of them could tell you …

Mike McGregor Shines on Stage, Sext with Caution, Jenkins at IU, Convergence Culture Brown Bag

Mike McGregor is a Stage Star

Professor Mike McGregor is known for his in-class humor. Outside of the classroom, he is also a performer.  And it’s been that way for a long time.  His first “performance” was in first grade, when he put on a revue for his parents in his basement with a boy from next door.  He got his first role in an 8th grade Christmas play and went on to perform in 10 musicals over the course of 4 years while in high school at Evansville North.

After spending time in Glee Club as an undergrad, it was in law school at Georgetown University that Mike came into something really special.  He began performing with the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society, offering “the only musical theatre group with its own law school.”  While there, Mike performed in six G&S shows and met the group that would later become the Music Lobby.  Defined as a small repertory company, the Music Lobby consisted of five young Washington D.C. lawyers, one self-employed editor/writer, and one systems analyst.  The Music Lobby performed anything for anyone.  Their repertoire included Broadway revues, full-length plays, Gilbert & Sullivan features, and productions of their own creation.  “We did lots of parody.  We changed classics like the Chorus Line to the Jurist Line and made it a play about lawyers looking for jobs.”  The Music Lobby was a busy group, performing everywhere from conventions to private parties.

One of Mike’s best memories from his time with the Music Lobby was an invitation by then Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger to perform at Supreme Court’s annual banquet.  Further notoriety came when the Music Lobby was featured in an April 1979 article in the Washington Star, where Mike was described as a, “blond John Travolta” for his rendition of “Summer Nights” from the musical “Grease.”

After leaving Washington D.C. in 1983, Mike got involved with local theater groups, including Bloomington Music Works and the Cardinal Stage.  One of Mike’s favorite roles came in 1990 as Thomas Jefferson in the Spring Mill Theater’s rendition of “1776.”  He received rave reviews, as the perfect Jefferson with a strong voice.  Mike was also doublecast as Richard Henry Lee in that feature, and opened the show with a major singing performance.

When asked whether or not performing helps his teaching career, Mike laughs, “It definitely makes teaching easier.  Being a performer doesn’t hurt.  If I really need to get someone’s attention in class, I’ll break into a song every now and then.”  Now that stage days of his younger years are behind him, Mike is spending more time reading lines and learning music than he used to.  One thing that hasn’t changed is his love for the stage.  When asked if he ever gets stage fright, Mike explains, “Stage fright?  No.  I have stage love!”  Check out Mike’s 1980 performance with the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society as the Pirate King in “Pirates of Penzance” in the clip below.  And yes, he is the tall man belting his lungs out.

Sext With Caution: Matt Kobach’s Modern Guide to Fun, Happiness, and Self-Improvement

The first piece of advice offered by PhD student Matt Kobach on living a full and happy life: “if you are going to sext, always make sure that you sext with caution.”  From this post on his blog arises the its delightfully risqué title “Sext with Caution: A Modern Guide to Fun, Happiness, and Self-Improvement for a Twitter Attention Span.”

Sext with Caution is a modern day self-help blog for a generation operating in a world of information surplus. In 30 words or less Kobach provides readers with tips and tricks on living a happy life. The topics range from family and friends to more controversial subjects like sex and drinking. Regardless of topic an overwhelming positivity runs throughout the blog. Kobach encourages fun in moderation, occasional risk-taking, hard work and determination, and a constant awareness of the needs of others.

The project started over the summer. Not wanting the summer to get away from him, as it usually does for grad students, Kobach wanted to do something meaningful to better himself. After reading a number of self-help books he started keeping a journal, writing down his thoughts about being a better person in brief snippets. Positive feedback from his friends encouraged him to make those entries public and the blog format was born.

For Kobach, the format of the blog, as well as the blog’s underlying architecture acts as the perfect tool for conveying his message. Kobach’s views the world through the lens of evolutionary psychology. We are hardwired to respond to sexual stimuli, thus the title “Sext with Caution. “ In fact the blog’s initial title was “Eat more Waffles,” but Kobach figured that interest would be greater if it had a racier title.  In addition each post is presented with a picture, a response to the human desire for visual information even when the picture may only have a vague connection with the contents. The 30 word limit imposed on all posts results from the brains limited capacity to remember words in order.  As a result, Sext with Caution is easy to read, pleasing to look at, and exceedingly quotable.

The project screams for bumper stickers and a coffee table book.  Kobach has even partnered with a friend in the MBA program to help with marketing. While those plans are still down the road, Kobach does plan on revealing his remaining 756 posts over the next year.

Although full of useful tips and tricks, Kobach doesn’t want to give the impression that he has accomplished all that he has posted. In many cases, his posts serve as a goal, rather than an achievement.  Regardless, Sext with Caution is a fun read full of insights and thought provoking statements. Like all proverbs, some stick more than others, but with so many options, readers are bound to found a few that hit close to home.

You  can check out the blog here.

Henry Jenkins at IU

On Friday the Department of Telecommunications, in concert with Rob Kling Center for Social Informatics, Digital@IU, Sawyer Seminar on Social Sciences, Department of Communication & Culture and School of Education’s Learning Sciences Program, hosted Henry Jenkins. Jenkins, renowned for his work on fan cultures and media theory, delivered a talk to a packed house at the Optometry building previewing his new book Spreadable Media. The 75 minute talk covered topics such as civic engagement arising from interest in popular media franchises like Harry Potter, the complications arising from the value systems constructed by consumers when they share media, and the importance of the consumer when it comes to circulating media content.   The talk was followed by a reception at FARMBloomington which also marked the launch of the Digital@IU initiative.

Brown Bag

This week’s brown bag was a special treat, featuring Professors Henry Jenkins and Mimi Ito.  Attracting students, faculty, and staff from over six departments and schools on campus, Henry and Mimi talked about the trajectories of their stellar careers and also how they intersected and resulted in collaborative projects.  Henry, widely known for his research and writing on fandoms and convergence culture, explained his fascination with people’s engagement with media and pop culture and implications it holds for media production, policy, and education.

Mimi, a cultural anthropologist interested in the use of media technology, offered some words of advice for future academics. She emphasized the importance of building quality relationships with individuals with shared values and interests, especially when one decides to cut an unconventional career path that values freedom over security.  Furthermore, one must go beyond reinforcement of current networks to engage across networks.  This is where the greatest opportunities for collaboration lie.

For more information about Henry, you can visit his website here and Mimi’s website here.

Credits

Nicky Lewis:  Mike McGregor is a Stage Star, Brown Bag

Mike Lang: Sext with Caution, Jenkins at IU

Props, Docs, Homecomings, and the 1st Brown Bag

This week we bring you a potpourri of items from around the department. Check out what Professor Mike McGregor’s been collecting in his office drawer for all these years, find out when you can view documentaries produced and edited by some of our grad students, learn what Chase Martin’s been doing for the past year and a half, and feast your eyes on some highlights of the first T600 Brown Bag talk of the semester featuring Professor Rob Potter.


Objects in Offices, Segment 2: Mike’s Prop Drawer

Professor Mike McGregor isn’t one to always keep a straight face.  His sense of humor is known and appreciated throughout the department.  This week we stopped by his office to take a look inside his prop drawer.  Mike has been collecting various mementos, figurines and knick knacks since high school.  Many of the memories are from his time spent in law school and working for the FCC.  He does use some of the props when teaching media law classes, like his draft card and pocket edition of the U.S. Constitution.  However, while most are just for laughs and reminiscing about the past, many of the items have interesting stories behind them.

Mike originally acquired a pirate firearm while in law school.  Mike and his friends used to put on Gilbert and Sullivan shows, like Pirates of Penzance, to distract themselves from studying law.  In that particular production, Mike played the Pirate King and got to keep the gun out of it.

The Oscar Meyer Weenie Mobile is actually a souvenir from a former student.  While working for Oscar Mayer’s marketing and promotions department, she would drive the real Weenie Mobile around campus.

The wide variety of contents in the drawer create quite a conversation piece.  Take a look at some of the treasures we found while visiting his office:

Documentaries Airing on WTIU

Three graduate students who collaborated with undergraduates in a year-long documentary class will get to see their docs on local PBS station WTIU this month. The course, taught by Ron Osgood, allowed students to pitch possible documentary ideas in the first semester. Of the three docs selected for production in the second semester, two of them were pitched by grad students. MS student Mary LaVenture (who produced “A Four-Wheeled Fascination”) and recent MS graduate Satina Stewart (who produced “Love 2.0”) each headed up their projects, and MS student Erin Gupte contributed to the production of a documentary about the controversies surrounding the construction of Interstate 69.

Mary, who is currently in the process of submitting “A Four-Wheeled Fascination” to various film festivals, is happy with the way the documentary turned out and is looking forward to seeing it air on WTIU. She adds that creating the documentary was an eye-opening experience and a great opportunity to learn more about roller derby. “People seem really excited about the documentary, and the derby girls love it,” Mary says of the final product.

The year-long course culminated in May with a public screening of the three documentaries, but anyone who missed the spring viewing can catch the documentaries on WTIU throughout September. “This is something WTIU has been doing for the class for at least the last couple of years,” says producer Mary LaVenture. The documentaries are airing a week apart every Friday at 10:30pm this month. Here’s the schedule:

“Love 2.0”- 9/10 @ 10:30pm: This documentary produced by Satina Stewart explores the changing meaning of love in a world increasingly turning to online dating. Featuring interviews with people all turning to online dating for different reasons, “Love 2.0” examines the successes and perils of finding love in a digital world.

“Interstate 69: Under Construction”- 9/17 @ 10:30pm: This documentary produced by undergraduate student Ryan McDonald investigates competing forces in the controversy surrounding the construction of I-69 in southern Indiana. Interviewing proponents and opponents of I-69 construction, the documentary captures all the different viewpoints.

“A Four-Wheeled Fascination” – 9/24 @ 10:30pm: This documentary produced by grad student Mary LaVenture chronicles the history of women’s roller derby from its inception to present day. “Four-Wheeled” also interviews women from two roller derby teams in Indiana and explains the many ways in which roller derby teams are involved in their communities. You can view the documentary’s IMDB page here.

Chase Martin

If you’ve been hanging around the TV/Radio building for a few years, you may have noticed the return of a familiar face this fall—Chase Martin. Currently back from a hiatus in the industry, he’s finishing up his master’s degree while serving as Instructor of Record for T205, the undergraduate course on media and society. Chase has been assistant instructor for T101 before and even taught an extra section as Instructor of Record in the past, but this semester he admits he’s taking on a bigger challenge in his new role.

Though Chase is stepping a bit out of his comfort zone for T205, a class of 122 undergraduates, he’s ready to put a new and personalized spin on the class. “For me,” Chase says, “it’s about looking at new media and social media, and this gives me the opportunity to add my own input to the course.” For Chase, this personalization includes getting each student set up with a blog as well as a Mark Deuze-inspired Twitter feed during class, reminiscent of the professor’s T101 courses in previous semesters.

Chase, who spent his time away from the department working for a company that made learning software for the Department of Defense, is ready to be back in the academic swing of things and is currently collaborating with Professor Mark Deuze on research related to independent game developers in the video game industry.

“It’s nice to have the opportunity to indulge in the ideas available here,” Chase adds. “It’s great to come back and get to work through my thoughts.” Chase plans to continue his research on organizational models of video game companies.

Brown Bag

Professor Rob Potter had the honor of presenting at the first brown bag seminar of the semester this past Friday:

Is the Third Time a Charm?:  The spotty past, booming present, and hazy future of psychophysiology in the media psychology laboratory

Abstract

This talk begins by examining two distinct—and brief—moments in the history of communication scholarship when researchers employed measurements of physiological reaction during message processing as dependent variables in experimental research.  I then discuss how psychology’s move toward behaviorism curtailed the use of such measures in both these eras, even though they were separated by more than four decades.

This brings me to a look at the modern era, where measures of bodily reaction are much more accepted in communication research.  The reason?  These measures are now collected, analyzed, and presented under the assumptions of psychophysiology.  I’ll discuss these assumptions using some recent data collected in the ICR to illustrate.

Finally, I attempt to briefly predict what the future may hold for physiological measures of media processing . . . a prognostication that may not be as rosy as you may expect.

Watch some of the highlights from Rob’s presentation here:

It was great to hear all that Rob has been working on since his sabbatical to Australia.  He has recently finished a book on psychophysiological measures, which he mentions in the video clip.   You can find additional information on Rob’s book here:

Rob Potter’s New Book

Special Thanks

Rob Potter:  For telling us about the treasures in Mike McGregor’s drawer

Credits

Nicky Lewis:  Mike’s Prop Drawer and Brown Bag

Katie Birge:  Documentaries Airing on WTIU and Chase Martin