'Improv'ing One Last Time

- The Experience, Mark McPhillips '20

It’s hard to believe I am mere weeks away from being a rising senior at Conn. After a few more papers and classes, I will be entering my last year at this place I have called home for three years. One of the bittersweet parts of my transition from junior to senior is less about me and more about the people I spend my time with. I’m in a short-form improv group on campus called N20. We meet three times a week to practice our performances. Two members of the group are seniors and this month they will perform their last show at Conn. I will miss their energy and presence but am excited for them too.

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Getting Directions: A Series

- The Experience, Andre Thomas '20

Declan Rockett ‘20, Scarlett Diaz-Power ‘20, me, Morgan Grant ‘20, Mia Barbuto ‘22, Becca Collins ‘21, Carly Sponzo ‘21 and Sonia Joffe ‘19 pose in their costumes on the set of No Exit
Clockwise from L-R: Declan Rockett ‘20, Scarlett Diaz-Power ‘20, me, Morgan Grant ‘20, Mia Barbuto ‘22, Becca Collins ‘21, Carly Sponzo ‘21 and Sonia Joffe ‘19

It’s opening night. The show was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., while the team and I arrived in the theater at 6 p.m. The cast warmed up then changed into costume while Morgan, Declan and I placed furniture, decor and did checks for lights and sound. As the hour approached, people began to arrive and wait in the lobby. Around 7 p.m., Morgan and I started pacing, anxiously floating between the lobby, theater space and the “hobbit hole”, a room in which the actors stay before the show.

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Finding a home on campus

- The Experience, David Johnston '19

The rainbow logo of the LGBTQIA Center
Where I feel home

The LGBTQIA Center has always been a space at Conn where I feel comfortable and at home. As a first-year student, when I went to the Center’s annual ice cream social at the beginning of the fall semester, I walked in as a shy new student who knew no one and did not really know who he was yet. The Center’s orange walls made me feel warm inside and, while I met many new people that night, the thing I remember most was the community bond that came out of that orange space. I felt welcome. Even though I was not out at the time it did not matter. I still felt like a part of the community tightly gathered in the room. That feeling drove me to get involved with the Center more and more during my time at Conn. As a senior, I am still involved. I am in the peer mentorship program where first-years and sophomores are matched with juniors and seniors to help guide them through their college experience and answer questions. Being able to help other queer students through their college experience and being able to answer questions that I wish I could have asked someone has been rewarding, to say the least.

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Teaching Bengali

- The Experience, Samirah Jaigirdar '22

Red, purple, and blue poster with info on Samirah's Bengali course
I put up posters around campus to promote my class

Growing up bilingual, I don’t remember learning to speak either English or Bengali. I don’t know if I learned the alphabet first or how I knew to tell the difference between the words for a lamp and a lightbulb or how the two languages differed phonetically from one another. I don’t know how I learned and I could surely not advise someone trying to acquire a new language.

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Getting Directions: A Series

- The Experience, Andre Thomas '20

The graphic for the show features an eye with a keyhole in the middle surveying three figures in silhouette
The graphic for the show, designed by my friend Halley McArn (Brown University ’19)

This is the first of a collection of posts about my first time directing a play. I’ll take you through the pre-production process, rehearsals, and opening night.

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Playing with the Best

- The Experience, Saadya Chevan '19

A view of the orchestra playing on stage at Conn.
The orchestra playing a dramatic passage at last fall’s concert.

The end of the semester is always a busy time for me, and, as I’ve previously written, one of the highlights of this period are the various music department end-of-semester concerts and recitals that I participate in. No matter how intense it gets, the end of semester orchestra concert is still a great highlight and culmination of my hard work. This past semester’s performance was particularly special for me as it presented an impromptu opportunity to play with some of the best musicians in the country—three members of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Band’s trombone section led by Sean Nelson, who is the music department’s trombone professor, in addition to Connecticut College’s own Gary Buttery on tuba, who served as the Band’s principal tubist from 1976-1998. The group constituted our orchestra’s low brass section for our performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony.

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First Semester Reflections

- The Experience, Samirah Jaigirdar '22

11 members of the International Camels Association memebers pose for a photo together in Unity House
International Students at ISA’s winter get together

Sitting on the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport, I was frustrated, tired and jetlagged. I had been traveling for nearly 27 hours and plane food has never cheered me up. I was heading back to Conn after one month of winter break and my plane had been diverted to Philadelphia because of the winter storm. I was supposed to land at JFK by 8:30 a.m. and catch the Flying Camel (the College bus between JFK International Airport and Conn) at 1 p.m. It was now 11 a.m. Would I even make it?

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My Dinner With the President

- The Experience, Samirah Jaigirdar '22

Students assemble for a photo with President Bergeron in the president's living room
Muslim Student Association Members with President Bergeron, her husband, Butch Rovan, and Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion John McKnight at the president’s house.

This October, President Katherine Bergeron had members of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) over to her house for dinner. The MSA at Conn aims to build a warm and comforting environment for Muslim students and to educate the wider Conn community about the nuances of the culture. Established in 2015 by a Bangladeshi Conn alum (just like me!), the MSA has introduced me to new friends and given me a wider exposure to how Islam is practiced in different regions of the world.

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Sophomore Leadership Program

- The Experience, Lexi Pope ’21

Lexi poses with seven girl friends at the Sophomore Leadership Dinner
Part of the group at our graduation dinner!

One of my biggest fears going from a high school class of 45 students to a college of about 1,900 was how I would leave all of the clubs and activities I was involved in and somehow restart in a different, much larger place. It’s hard to imagine having to transition while also trying to find places, groups and clubs on campus that you want to get involved in. When I arrived at Conn for my first year it was important to me that I joined clubs and took on other responsibilities outside of academics because I wanted to meet new people that I had shared interests with.

 

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Finding My Light

- The Experience, Andre Thomas '20

A.T. acting as Orsino in his first Conn show, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will.
Me as Orsino in my first Conn show, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will. (Photo by Jack Beal ’18)

I came from a high school with a lot of amazing students. Among them were some extremely talented artists who, in my opinion, were ahead of their time. Many of these artists were actors from our theater department, a department I called home and which encouraged my passion for acting. However, I also found myself pulling away from its competitive nature. I’ve never been a competitive person, and have never cared to only audition for principal roles or pursued a show just to say I was a part of it. I’m also a person who likes to learn from other people, grow, and at some point be in a position to teach or mentor others. I felt there wasn’t much space for me or many others to do that, and I knew it wasn’t quite the place for me.  I’ll admit that one of the main reasons I didn’t think I would major in theater or be involved in the department in any way when I arrived at Conn was because of my assumption that all theater departments are competitive or unwelcoming. I was worried that I wouldn’t have a shot at being in a show and that those active in the department wouldn’t concern themselves with encouraging or recruiting others to join the department.

 

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Camels with Open Arms

- The Experience, Mark McPhillips '20

Students lay out on blankets in the Arboretum to listen to music at Arbofest
The perfect day for an outdoor concert.

When I graduated from high school in New York two years ago (yikes!), it never occurred to me just how far my closest friends would be traveling for their respective undergraduate educations. Some of my friends committed to schools as far as California, while others (like myself) decided to stay a bit more local to the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

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Dani and Julia Can Rap?

- The Experience, Daniella Maney ’20  - The Experience, Daniella Maney ’20

My heart stopped when I looked at my friend, Julia Horowitz, and realized it was our time. “Oh God, here we go,” her expression seemed to say. She grabbed my hands as we turned to face our audience, full of our friends and friends of friends, to explain our next game. “Jarvis Can’t Rap is a game where we do a scene based on your suggestions,” she said, mildly laughing. “We start to rap whenever a beat is dropped by Mark [McPhillips] until it stops and exposes our lack of musical talents.”

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Why I Like Spelling Bee

- The Experience, Saadya Chevan '19  - The Experience, Saadya Chevan '19

As I write this post, I’m sitting in my room, listening to the Broadway recording of the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” on YouTube. Just over 24 hours ago Connecticut College’s student theater community, Wig & Candle, closed their production of that play in Palmer 202, a black box theater and classroom space that is often used for student productions. The production was so popular that we had to add an additional late night performance. Although I have regularly attended Wig and Candle’s performances, this was my first time actually participating in one; I played clarinet in a reduced pit band of two.

 

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Finding my Center, and Rosh Hashanah Core

- The Experience, Julia Kaback '18  - The Experience, Julia Kaback '18

As I sat with my feet shoulder-width apart, Rabbi Susan Schein led our Hillel group in meditation. As Jews, we are in the midst the month of Elul. Elul is the month leading up to the High Holy Days, of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is also during this time that I am drawn to exploring meditations and thinking about the year ahead of me even as I reflect on the past year. At our most recent home-cooked Shabbat dinner, I took a liking to a unique part of the Shabbat service. After all, the Shabbat meal is the beginning of the day of rest and I wanted to explore my spirituality within Judaism. This meditative exercise came from Psalm 27 in which, the kingdom of G-d is proposed and challenged.

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I Must be Funny

- The Experience, Mark McPhillips '20  - The Experience, Mark McPhillips '20

I wasn’t even going to audition.

It was yet another bright and sunny Friday afternoon at Conn, and the annual club fair was in full force on Library Green. I was running the Ski Club booth given my new position as president for this academic year. Along with the other club members, I had been recruiting new members for about an hour before I took a break to say hi to my friends at other booths. My friend and fellow blogger, Dani Maney ‘20, was running a booth at the fair for her improv group N20. 

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Hearing Overtones

- The Experience, Saadya Chevan '19  - The Experience, Saadya Chevan '19

One Thursday morning this semester, the stars finally aligned for us to hold a sectional rehearsal for the orchestra’s clarinetists. No other wind instruments and definitely no strings present! It was just Scott, the other clarinetist, our professor, Kelli O’Connor, and me running through orchestral music together. One of the pieces we played in orchestra this semester is the impressionist composer Maurice Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite.” As is typical of his works, it features complex, mystifying and beautiful harmonies. Part of our job in a sectional is to learn to get these harmonies in tune, which helps the orchestra sound better.

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Hearing Overtones

- The Experience, Saadya Chevan '19  - The Experience, Saadya Chevan '19

One recent Thursday morning, the stars finally aligned for us to hold a sectional rehearsal for the orchestra’s clarinetists. No other wind instruments and definitely no strings present! It was just Scott, the other clarinetist, our professor, Kelli O’Connor, and me running through orchestral music together. One of the pieces we’re playing in orchestra this semester is the impressionist composer Maurice Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite.” As is typical of his works, it features complex, mystifying and beautiful harmonies. Part of our job in a sectional is to learn to get these harmonies in tune, which helps the orchestra sound better.

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Melanin

- The Experience, AJ Boyce '17

Shameesha Pryor posing with a poster listing the focus of this year’s conference and a schedule of the many events.

This past month, one of the most driven members of our student body, Shameesha Pryor ’17, organized the second Black Women’s Conference hosted at Conn with the assistance of the Africana Studies Student Advisory Board. Although the first conference was held in 1969, the need for this event has not diminished, just as the injustices and double standards black women face daily certainly have not. It goes without saying that the Earth is fortunate to be graced with the melanin of black women, but this is also a group often pushed into archetypal roles not representative of their humanity and actual experiences. Instead, they are viewed as the angry, strong, or sassy black woman. This conference shattered those narrow perceptions and stereotypes of black womanhood, and provided a space for people to discuss the complexities that come with being a black woman in today's world.

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A Cappella After Dark

- The Experience, AJ Boyce '17

Vox Cameli smiling with the spoils of war after dominating in a sing-off

Despite my enthusiastic participation in it, I will never hesitate to say that a cappella is probably the weirdest extracurricular I have done in my life, excluding my scarring musical theater days. The universal love of singing attracts unlikely groups of people, and although it’s not quite as dramatic as the movie “Pitch Perfect,” a cappella culture is fascinating. I got an in-depth look at this phenomenon during spring break when I visited Williams College and Brown University with my group, Vox Cameli, during our “Premiere Tour.” While we graced these campuses with our lovely voices, I realized my favorite part of a cappella occurs once the performances are over; a cappella after dark. I’ve found that the only thing that can be expected to occur after a performance is a sing-off, the result of two singing groups realizing they’re too awkward to socialize.

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Ultimate Spring Break

- The Experience, Daniella Maney ’20  - The Experience, Daniella Maney ’20

Practicing my throws

In the beginning of my first semester at Conn, I joined the club Ultimate Frisbee team, and even though the spring tournaments Riptide and High Tide were months away, returning team members talked constantly about how great spring break was going to be. So I knew I was in for a fun time when I set out to spend my spring break with 40 of my friends.

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