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Faculty Speakers Series features presentation about teaching in China

As part of the ongoing Penn State Beaver Spring Speakers Series, Irene A. Wolf, senior instructor in philosophy, will present “An American Woman's International Teaching Experience” noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, room 16, Student Union Building.

The free program, which is open to the public, will highlight her personal and professional travel and teaching experiences in Guangzhou, China, in the summer of 2013. Wolf, who is chair of this year’s Beaver campus Undergraduate Research Fair Committee, is a longtime committee member and has a history of working with and mentoring students in research and service learning projects.

Last spring one of her senior psychology students, Kyung Min Kim, was invited to present a paper, “Problems of Market Values Placed in the U.S. Education,” at the 2013 State University of New York (SUNY) Oneonta Undergraduate Philosophy Conference.

In 2012 Wolf, along with a faculty and staff member, traveled with Beaver campus students to spend a week living and working with members of the Navajo Nation in Tuba City, Ariz. The Navajo Nation -- which consists of 27,000 square miles in the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah -- is the largest geographic Native American reservation in the United States.

Wolf's research interests cover various topics, including diversity, culture, and advocacy; women’s issues, and the values of altruism, patience, tolerance and reflection in life. She holds a doctorate in philosophy and a master’s degree in philosophy from Duquesne University and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and psychology from the College of St. Benedict, Minnesota. Contact Wolf at iaw1@psu.edu or 724-773-3843.

Public invited to hear presentation by coauthor of 'Stabbed in the Heart'

The public is invited to attend a free presentation by Lynn Shiner, coauthor of the book “Stabbed in the Heart,” 10 a.m., Friday, March 28, in the auditorium of the Penn State Beaver Student Union Building.

The program is cosponsored by Crisis Center North, Pittsburgh. Shiner’s two children were murdered, as was the only child of coauthor Nancy Chavez. Shiner’s husband killed their children, Jen and Dave, and then committed suicide. Chavez’s daughter, Randi, was killed by Randi’s husband and his accomplices, all of whom were sentenced to life without parole. With the help of journalist and coauthor Nancy Eshelman, the women decided to write the book as a way to educate the public about children who are murder victims while raising awareness of the issue and dealing personally with their losses.

Shiner is the director of the Office of Victims’ Services with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. She has 35 years of experience in state government and has turned the Victims Compensation Assistance Program into a national model through streamlining processes, legislative changes, and technology enhancements that ensure the program is victim-centered. She received the National Crime Victim Service Award in 2004 from Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Chavez, who also is a victim of domestic violence, organized the 5K Run/Walk for Hope and Courage, which has raised more than $271,000 to provide support for victims’ families. In addition, she established Randi’s House of Angels to assist children and families who are exposed to or are victims of domestic violence. She also sponsors a three-day camp to empower children who have experienced domestic violence. She is a trained mediator for victims of violence for the Pennsylvania Department of Correction and is featured in the Pennsylvania Commission for Women's book, "VOICES - African American and Latina Women Share Their Stories of Success.”

Eshelman spent most of her career at The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, where she was a reporter, editor, and columnist. She is the recipient of awards from The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association and The Associated Press Managing Editors. She has taught at Temple University, Penn State Harrisburg, and Lebanon Valley College and currently teaches part-time at York College of Pennsylvania.

For information about the women and the book, visit http://www.rjdblessings.com. For information about domestic violence prevention and victim support, contact Crisis Center North at http://crisiscenternorth.org, or call the hotline at 412-364-5556 or call toll-free at 866-782-0911.

New play takes root, expands to international tour

The commissioned play 'Blood at the Root' explores issues of race, class, sexuality and discrimination — and the all-student cast seized the opportunity to share important conversations with peers at campuses ... and others around the world.

When the members of the School of Theatre’s M.F.A. Acting class of 2014 finish their degrees, they will have a lot more than the Penn State mainstage on their résumés. They will have the experience of performing, marketing and touring — throughout Pennsylvania and internationally — a newly commissioned play that examines issues of race, class, sexuality and discrimination in a way that only live theatre can.

The School of Theatre commissioned up-and-coming playwright Dominique Morisseau, who recently won the prestigious Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, to write a play for the class of 2014. Commissioning a playwright to create a new work for the graduating class is nothing new — the School of Theatre has been doing it since 2010. But what happened over the past year has taken the students — literally and figuratively — farther than they ever imagined.

The play, “Blood at the Root” was inspired by the story of the “Jena Six,” six black teenagers in Jena, La., who were charged with attempted murder for a schoolyard fight after nooses were hung from a tree at their high school. Because previous assaults on black students had generated far lesser penalties, the conviction of the Jena Six sparked protests and civil rights demonstrations across the country.

The play “represents the culmination of a deeply personal and highly collaborative process,” says director Steve Broadnax, associate professor of theatre and head of the graduate acting program. “Together we developed a performance piece that celebrates looking beyond our differences in order to move forward.”

“Blood at the Root” hits the mainstage at the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center March 25–April 5, fresh off the heels of winning the Kennedy Center’s Hip Hop Theater Creator Award, which honors new theatrical works that engage hip hop “as an ever-evolving attitude of contemporary resistance and self-definition.” The cast will accept the award at the Kennedy Center on April 7.

The story of the Jena Six may be one for the history books, but it’s a 21st-century tale that played out in 2006-07. “Many people don’t realize events like this are still happening,” says Tyler Reilly, cast member and managing director for the tour. “This play points to conversations that are begging to be had.”

The cast of six — five graduate students and one undergraduate — started those conversations in summer 2013, when they performed the play on a four-city tour of South Africa, culminating at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. “We knew the play worked in the rehearsal room, but because it’s an American story, we were not sure how it would play out in South Africa,” says Reilly. “What we learned was that the play’s specificity of time, place and culture is actually what allows people to see themselves, their culture and their issues in the piece.”

The cast members’ experience in South Africa made them realize they needed to share the play with an even wider audience. When they returned to the United States, they formed their own tour company, designating specific responsibilities — such as managing director and marketing coordinator — to each cast member. They also began working with Penn State’s Office of Student Affairs to schedule performances at the Commonwealth campuses, which began in January 2014.

Each presentation of “Blood at the Root” — starting with the South Africa performances last summer — includes a “talkback” at the play’s end, facilitated by Broadnax, a cast member or other associated Penn State faculty. During a talkback session, the facilitator, cast and audience exchange questions and answers about the play’s artistic, technical and social aspects.

“It became clear in South Africa that we were starting very important conversations,” says Allison Jaye, marketing coordinator for the tour. “We feel we have a responsibility to provide a space where people can have these discussions. And we take responsibility for what we’re putting out there.”

This summer, the company of “Blood at the Root” will not only return to South Africa in June, but also perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.

What they’re putting out there is not necessarily easy to discuss, but the talkback sessions have shown that the play resonates with a wide audience. In South Africa, Reilly says, “in every city, we were told why the play was relevant to them and why it was important that we were performing it in their city.”

Jaye agrees, noting the play “has really become a conversation with the audiences we’re taking it to.” The response has been humbling, she adds. “It has been bigger and brighter and more enthusiastic than we ever dreamed. It has really become something bigger than us — it has become a ‘service.’ ”

Providing that “service” has also provided the student actors with an experience they never anticipated. Before they performed in South Africa last summer, they never considered a tour, let alone an international one. But this summer, the company will not only return to South Africa in June, but also perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. When Dan Carter, director of the School of Theatre, brought up the possibility of a tour, Reilly says, “we knew it was way too good an opportunity to pass up. But we also realized that if we wanted it to happen, we needed to take the reins and make it happen.”

Each cast member has a role beyond performing — in addition to managing director and marketing coordinator, there are coordinators for education programs, development, events and production. The students have organized several fundraising performances, including the U.S. premiere of the play at State College Area High School.

For Jaye, the experience has taught her anything is possible — if you’re dedicated. “You have to keep up, and you have to get out of your own way. You have to be willing to go at the speed that things are going to take off,” she says. “If one person is dedicated — if I believe in it with all my heart, and dedicate my time, energy and focus to it — then everyone else around me will begin to believe and be dedicated, too. That has been an invaluable lesson.”

While “Blood at the Root” is based on a story of racial injustice, the cast says the play is about much more than race. “This is not a Louisiana story; this is OUR story,” says Jaye. “This is happening here in State College, in Pittsburgh, in southern California, in Syracuse, N.Y. — all places I call home. And I want audiences to go beyond ‘race’ or deciding ‘this piece is about race.’ It’s not just about that — race is a heavy-weight vehicle for the themes that ‘Blood at the Root’ brings up, which I believe are challenge and change.”

During the course of developing and performing the play, it became clear the cast had an overarching goal — to get people talking. And if audience response is any indication, they have been successful.

“ ‘Blood at the Root’ doesn’t just stop here,” said an audience member at the Penn State Abington presentation. “It starts here. It plants the seed to have these conversations.”

The tour of “Blood at the Root” has been supported by the Penn State School of Theatre, College of Arts and Architecture, Graduate School, Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, Office of the Vice President for Research, Office of the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses, Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity, Student Affairs, Africana Research Center, Commission for Women, Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity and LGBTA Student Resource Center. For more information on the tour, visit the “Blood at the Root” Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BloodAtTheRoot. Tickets are available for the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center performances by calling 1-800-ARTS-TIX.

Courses to be offered for Real Estate Licensing Exam

The Penn State Beaver Office of Continuing Education will offer two required courses for those planning to take the Real Estate Salesperson Licensing Exam.

Administrators strongly urge that these courses be taken concurrently. Real Estate Fundamentals provides a foundation for the study of real estate in Pennsylvania, covering language, principles and laws that govern the industry. It will be offered 6 to 8 p.m. Monday and Thursday, from April 24 through June 16. The course fee is $250. Real Estate Practice offers an introduction to all facets of the real estate industry and includes a survey of areas of specialization with emphasis on the role of a real estate agent in residential brokerage. Examination of a real estate transaction is designed and conducted to provide a working knowledge of actual forms and documents, including related mathematics. The course will be held from 8:15 to 10:15 p.m. Monday and Thursday, April 24 through June 16, for a fee of $250.

To register or obtain more information, contact the Continuing Education Office at beaverce@psu.edu or 724-773-3700.

Relicensure courses to be offered for salespersons, brokers

In April, the Penn State Beaver Office of Continuing Education will offer a series of real estate relicensure courses for salespersons and brokers.

The Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission requires that all real estate brokers and salespersons renew their current licenses by completing 14 hours of commission-approved continuing education.

Courses will be offered in the Student Union Building on campus and include the following:

-- Appraising Real Estate, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 5. Fee is $80.

-- Common Mysteries, Myths and Screw-Ups in Real Estate Today, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10. Fee is $40.

-- Mortgages and Deeds, 1 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10. Fee is $40.

-- Taxes and Assessment, 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, April 15 and 16. Fee is $80.

Dates, locations and methods used for license examinations may vary throughout Pennsylvania. For the most recent information about examination schedules and formats, visit http://www.parealtor.org. To register for a course(s) or for more information, contact the Beaver campus Office of Continuing Education at beaverce@psu.edu or 724-773-3700.

Penn State Beaver Sports Scoreboard: March 13 to 15

Thursday, March 13
Baseball – Penn State Beaver 8, Briarcliffe College 5

Friday, March 14
Baseball – West Virginia University Institute of Technology 7, Penn State Beaver 2
Softball – Roosevelt University 13, Penn State Beaver 4
Softball - Robert Morris University-Springfield, Ill. 15, Penn State Beaver 2

Saturday, March 15
Softball – St. Mary of the Woods College 10, Penn State Beaver 2
Softball – Lindenwood University 6, Penn State Beaver 0

For scores and play-by-play details or for information about Beaver intercollegiate or intramural athletics, visit www.psubeaverathletics.com or contact Andy Kirschner, athletic director, at ack121@psu.edu or 724-773-3826, or BJ Bertges, assistant athletic director, at bjb36@psu.edu or 724-773-3845.