Home » 2021 » January

ND brain researcher receives NFL grant

first_imgThe National Football League (NFL) will fund Notre Dame’s chemistry and biochemistry departments to research strokes and other brain injuries, professor Mayland Chang said. Chang, who has been working on the project for 15 years, studies gelatinase-based brain diseases. Funded in part by the National Institute of Health, the researched treatments are getting close to FDA trials, she said. Gelatinase is a type of enzyme that breaks down cell walls and can cause tumor metastasis in cancer, as well as problems in traumatic brain injury (TBI), strokes, aneurysms and diabetic wounds. Chang’s husband, professor Shahriar Mobashery, discovered a compound at Wayne State University called SB-3CT that could be a possible treatment for the brain diseases. Mobashery now teaches at Notre Dame. The SB-3CT compound is an inhibitor triggered by the enzyme’s reaction in the cell. Chang said a compound like SB-3CT could help stop brain damage similarly to how it helps stroke patients. The compound was synthesized more than 450 times to find a way to make it water soluble, so it can be put into an IV or given to a patient in the form of an injection, Chang said. If all goes well, the drug could be in use with stroke patients in seven to nine years, Chang said. “Would this be great to have as an injectable treatment?” she said. “It could be on the sidelines. If you get a concussion, you can get a shot. This is eventually our hope.” The current drug used to dissolve clots in ischemic, or clot-forming, stroke patients is tissue Plasminogen Activator, or tPA, Chang said. This drug dissolves the clot, but increases gelatinase enzymes, which causes hemorrhaging and brain swelling. When SB-3CT is given in tandem with this drug in experiments, it has reduced side affects. Researchers have developed an experimental model to test compounds. “We’re always looking for better ways to treat,” she said. Chang, whose son is a competitive snow boarder, witnessed the treatment for TBI when her son had a concussion last year. “If you have a concussion, they can do cognitive treatment,” she said. “They do simple things. For example, they ask you to list words that begin with the same letter. They also make you take a rest — no physical activity, nothing to rattle your brain. They don’t really do anything else.” The research team is currently searching for funding to have toxicology studies done, which will then put the drug into FDA clinical trials, Chang said. She said the team hopes the compound will improve emergency response to brain problems. “Given in an ambulance setting, it would work quickly,” she said.last_img read more

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A triumphant return

first_imgThe cold weather and early hour did not stop hundreds of Notre Dame fans from greeting the No. 1 Irish as they returned to campus from Los Angeles. Notre Dame, with a 22-13 win over USC on Saturday night, finished the regular season undefeated and punched its ticket to the BCS National Championship Game in Miami on Jan. 7. In frigid 25-degree weather, fans lined the sidewalks leading into the Guglielmino Athletics Complex as the team arrived at 6:13 a.m. Sunday morning. A procession of police vehicles escorted the team from South Bend Regional Airport back to campus. As the Irish approached, Notre Dame fans broke out into chants of “Here come the Irish” and “Let’s go Irish.” The crowd was mostly South Bend residents, since many Notre Dame students were away for Thanksgiving break. Sophomore Jeff Wilush was one of the students on hand and said the decision to come out early and in the cold was an easy one. “It’s definitely worth it,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s been 24 years since the last time we were undefeated so you never know when you’ll have this chance again. I’m a student so you have to take advantage of it and show support for the team.” Wilush said his father went to Notre Dame and believed the Irish would make the national championship game again. “Ever since I was born, I was destined to go here,” Wilush said. “I think he [expected Notre Dame to get to the championship] but I don’t think he knew when it would come so he’s just as excited as I am.” While the Irish began the season unranked and facing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, the team is undefeated for the first time since 1988, when Notre Dame took the title. Sophomore Joseph Abbamonte confessed he did not expect Notre Dame to have a perfect season initially. “Not at the beginning of the season, no,” he said. The Irish will face either No. 2 Alabama or No. 3 Georgia in the BCS National Championship Game. The two teams play Saturday in the SEC Championship Game. The Irish are 5-1 all-time against the Crimson Tide but have not played Alabama since 1987. Notre Dame lost its only meeting against the Bulldogs in 1980. Wilush said he would like to go Miami for the game but fears tickets may be too expensive. “I’m going to be on a family vacation in Orlando during the game so I’m hoping so,” he said. “But tickets are already like $1,400 for the worst seat in the house. We’ll see what happens.”last_img read more

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Saint Mary’s alumnae return to campus to perform comedy showcase

first_imgFive comedians from Chicago will perform a stand-up comedy showcase at Saint Mary’s in Little Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.The showcase, “Belle-Y-Laughs,” will feature two Saint Mary’s alumnae: Colleen Brennan of the class of 1991 and Elyse Nylin of the class of 2010. Brennan is a pediatric speech language pathologist who graduated from the Conservatory Program at The Second City in 2001 then later received training in stand-up comedy at The Second City and Feminine Comique. Nylin is the host and producer of “You Joke Like a Girl,” a monthly all-women’s open-mic and showcase at Volumes Bookcafe in Chicago, and her sets usually contain material that is often women-focused and LGBT-friendly.Brennan said she and Nylin contacted the College to pitch the show. “After realizing that both Elyse and I were Saint Mary’s alums, we thought it would be great to produce a stand-up comedy show at our alma mater,” she said in an email. “Once we determined what we wanted to do, we contacted Saint Mary’s and pitched our show. The College thought our idea would work well with the fall calendar of events, so we were off and running.”Nylin said she was passionate about returning to Saint Mary’s to perform.“We both loved our experiences at Saint Mary’s and thought it would be an awesome way to combine our passion for comedy with the school that gave us confidence to do it,” she said in an email.   Richard Baxter, director of campus and community events, said the timing for the event could not be better, as many students are stressed at this point in the semester.“This falls around midterms, so it’s the perfect tension reliever,” he said. “[Students] can get a break from studying and also see what kind of paths are open to them after Saint Mary’s.”Students, professors, South Bend residents, parents and grandparents are all welcome at Belle-Y Laughs, Brennan said.“There is something for everyone in this show,” she said. “The age span and diverse backgrounds of the performers offer a wide comedic perspective.”Nylin said the comedians can set an example for the audience.“Each comic is unique in [his or her] perspective of the world and [his or her] struggles and triumphs in it,” she said. “Plus, it will be nice for the students to be able to see us as alums, and the other women succeeding in something we are passionate about.”Brennan is excited to return to campus, she said, because it will feel like coming home. “I always love coming back to Saint Mary’s,” she said. “Not only did I leave Saint Mary’s with an amazing educational experience, but also a bundle of great memories and a tight-knit group of friends who are like my sisters to this day. I come from a four-generation Notre Dame [and] Saint Mary’s family, so whenever I am back on campus, it feels like coming home.”Nylin formed many close relationships at Saint Mary’s, she said.“I loved the community that I formed [at the College] and the close relationships that I still hold dear today,” she said. “I’m actually bringing two of my best friends that are Saint Mary’s alums to the show, and meeting up with a few old professors while I’m on campus as well. Saint Mary’s was an amazing stepping stone into the world.” Brennan said she has always been involved in the arts, and this passion has transferred to her stand-up performances. “I have been involved in theater and music my whole life — I even sang with the Saint Mary’s Women’s Choir for two years,” she said. “Stand-up comedy allows me the unique opportunity to perform regularly while being a wife and working mother. Producing shows allows me to create opportunities for myself and other performers.”Nylin’s love of comedy began with her father’s love of comedy, she said, and grew as she started becoming involved in the arts and eventually began working in Chicago. “I was drawn [to] ‘Saturday Night Live’ at a young age, and my childhood was always filled with comedy,” she said. “As I got older, I was in performance arts my whole life, mostly in the forms of band [and] choir, including at Saint Mary’s. When I graduated from Saint Mary’s and moved to Chicago, I completed the improv program at Second City, and performed improv for a couple of years.”  Nylin said she took a series of improv classes as well as stand-up comedy courses with Kelsie Huff — who will also be performing at Belle-Y-Laughs. After the courses, Nylin said, she decided to host and produce her own show. “Stand-up comedy is much different than improv with a team,” she said. “In stand-up, it’s just you up there. It was fun playing other characters in the improv setting, but I found myself just wanting to be me. Since completion of those classes, I now host and produce my own monthly show called ‘You Joke Like a Girl.’ It’s an all-female-identifying open mic, followed by a comedy showcase. I host the show at Volumes Bookcafe which is owned and operated by two amazing sisters, Kimberly and Rebecca George. I love being able to give a space for women to say things that are important to them in a microphone, in a place owned by women.”Baxter said this event is important because everyone should take the time to laugh.“This is a really rough time in the country’s history, and we need to laugh,” he said.Life is too short not to laugh, Nylin said. “[Laughter] brings people together, it lets us process all the stuff in life, even the hard things,” she said. “I think everything needs to be laughed about. Life’s too short to be serious about everything.”Tickets are $4 and can be purchased at the Saint Mary’s box office. Tags: Alumnae, Comedy, stand-up comedylast_img read more

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Kroc Institute helps Colombia implement milestone peace accord

first_imgNotre Dame prides itself on being a research institution and one of its research projects is having a direct, real-time impact on international peace affairs.The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies has been using its academic research on peace accords to work with the nation of Colombia to monitor and track the implementation of its peace accord throughout the country.The Colombia Final Agreement Peace Accord was approved and passed in November 2016 by the Colombian government under President Juan Manuel Santos. This followed a ceasefire signed earlier that year by the government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), the largest guerrilla rebel group in Colombia. The accord ended Latin America’s longest-running insurgency and was deemed worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.The Kroc Institute’s part in this historical event is outlined in section 6.3.2 of the Colombia Final Agreement Peace Accord itself, which states the institute is to “design the methodology for identifying the progress of the agreements” and “provide the technical support for the follow-up, verification and monitoring of the implementation of the agreements.” Playing such a direct role in the peace agreement puts the Kroc Institute’s researchers in a unique position — though they are neutral academics, they have a great responsibility toward an entire nation that uses their research to directly implement peace in a country torn apart by internal conflicts since the mid-1960s.“This is really historic, this project,” David Cortright, director of the Peace Accords Matrix (PAM) Project, said. “First time it’s ever been done, and it could be a model. If it works well, it could be a model for peace accords in the future with an objective academic monitoring system.”The current Kroc Institute PAM team is divided between seven members based at Notre Dame’s main campus and about 30 people based in Colombia who work with over 300 Colombian partners, including think tanks, government institutions and civil society groups. Both parts of the team work collaboratively to monitor the progress of peace implementation throughout the nation. Every month, findings are summarized in reports presented to the International Accompaniment, an NGO the PAM project is a part of and the Colombian government, including the offices of the presidency and vice presidency.Implementation progress is measured from a zero to three scale, with zero being no implementation and three being successful implementation. After a thorough reading of the 310 pages of the accord, the PAM team identified 578 measurable stipulations, or concrete, actionable items. Each of those items is ranked on a monthly basis using the scale and is included in the reports.The Kroc Institute’s research on peace accords predates its involvement with Colombia’s peace process. The earliest form of this research was the Peace Accords Matrix database, the brainchild of John Darby, a former professor at the Kroc Institute. Darby, who taught comparative ethnic conflict, wanted a systematic way to compare what provisions worked well in certain peace processes. He enlisted the help of his students to gather and organize data to be used in a possible database of comparative peace accords, and the effort eventually grew into a serious project he presented at a Kroc Institute research conference in 2003 under the formal name “Peace Accords Matrix database.”Following this formal launching of the PAM database, a researcher named Madhav Joshi joined the Kroc Institute in 2010 and restarted the PAM project by writing a codebook to identify provisions being negotiated in the peace accords being studied. Joshi hypothesized that the implementation of provisions, rather than the provisions themselves, were the driving force for peace-building success in the host country, and fundamentally changed the PAM project to focus on implementation.“The animal that we created is very different from the animal John Darby envisioned back then,” Joshi, who is now the current associate director of the PAM Project, said.Joined by Jason Quinn, PAM’s current principal researcher, in 2012, Joshi continued to produce research to empirically examine his hypothesis.“We are the only database that examines different provisions being negotiated in comparative peace accords, and to what extent those provisions were implemented within 10 years’ time,” Joshi said. “We are still the only database. And we have all this information available in qualitative and quantitative form on our website, so it is publicly accessible.”With a growing research presence, the two also began facilitating peace processes in Nepal, the Philippines, Myanmar, South Sudan, Yemen and Syria. Mediators and negotiators from around the world came across Joshi and Quinn’s work and began asking them about best practices for implementing peace accords as well as advice based on the comparative data they gathered.The PAM project’s partnership with Colombia, called the Colombia Barometer project, came about through two men whose work directly connected Colombia and Notre Dame. Years before the signing of the ceasefire in 2016, John Paul Lederach, Professor Emeritus of International Peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute, and Francisco Diez, PAM’s Latin American Representative whose former jobs included Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina and adviser to Argentinian President Raúl Alfonsín, had done extensive research and peace-related work in Colombia. The two were well-connected in Colombia and were able to bring the PAM team’s work to the attention of the mediators working on the development of the Colombian peace treaty, as well as many other people involved in the peace process.By the time the ceasefire was signed in 2016, the Kroc Institute had already been providing consistent, implementation-focused mediation support in Colombia for years. That involvement led to the Kroc Institute’s key role in the peace agreement.“We were the only project in the world that measured implementation,” Quinn said. “So when they got ready to sign their agreement, we were in the perfect spot. We were the only ones that did implementation, they already knew us and they already liked us. So we proposed the idea of monitoring the whole agreement, which [was] something that [had] never been done before.”For Colombia, the partnership promised an innovative peace agreement that could use regularly updated academic research to actively assess efficiency and even make improvements to the implementation process based on the updated analysis provided. For the Kroc Institute, it offered the first-ever chance to monitor a peace agreement’s implementation in real time, on a monthly basis from start to finish, Elise Ditta, a research associate for the PAM project, said. It also afforded the unprecedented opportunity for the PAM project to have a team in the country of study with direct access to everyone in charge of implementing the accord, including chief policy-makers in Colombia.One important contribution made by the PAM team happened just a few months after the ceasefire was signed. In October 2016, an initial version of the accord was voted down by less than a one percent margin in a public referendum. Without an alternative plan, Santos turned to the PAM team for advice on how to proceed with the accord, Joshi said. The team, in response, crafted a research brief outlining how other peace accords that had been voted down went through an effective re-negotiation process.“We examined different peace processes around the world and how parties found a way to reconcile their differences when there was significant opposition to the negotiated peace accord,” Joshi said. “So they went back to that negotiation table in Havana, [Cuba], the FARC and the government and some of the key opposing actors. … They identified key issues … and instead of going to the referendum again, [in keeping with] our advice, they went to Congress.”The final version of the accord was passed by the Colombian government a few months later in November.Another contribution the PAM team made was a list of stipulations that would be easier to implement. To do this, they chose a number of items from the list of stipulations ranked “0,” and gave this list to the government. As a result, the government has started working on those items at a higher rate.“I think having somebody who knocks on your door every month and asks, ‘How are you doing on these 10 commitments?’ probably motivates people to act,” Ditta said.The most recent major development in the PAM project occurred two weeks ago, when the PAM team based in South Bend made a group trip to Bogotá, Colombia from Sept. 4 to Sept. 9. A major objective for the trip was meeting with members of the government under Iván Duque Márquez, the new Colombian president who was elected in the summer and took office in August.“Since our role is so related to interacting with the government and other actors in Colombia, a large part of the trip was to talk and strategize about, ‘What’s our project going to look like with the new presidential administration?’” Ditta said. “[It was] strategic planning at both the political level and the operational level.”Having this conversation was important because Márquez had been part of the opposition that voted against the initial version of the peace accord in October 2016, Carolina Serrano Idrovo, a research associate on the PAM team, said.The strategic planning involves figuring out what types of reports the new administration wants, what other products they might need and who is willing to support their mission.“We need to know, ‘Who are our current allies in government?’” Joshi said. “We need to nurture our relations to suggest the relevance of this project.”In addition to those conversations, Joshi, Quinn and Diez met with Rodrigo Rivera Salazar, the new High Commissioner for Peace to discuss ongoing negotiations with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), another rebel group still at war with the government.“That fact [that the new administration] is still interested in having people from the Kroc Institute come, give advice and understanding to the situation is, I think, very positive,” Serrano said.The successful implementation of the peace treaty would be a huge milestone for Colombia, Quinn said, but it is also an exciting academic prospect for the Kroc Institute.“The singer of the Colombia Barometer project is the dataset,” Quinn said. “Once the Colombia process is over in a few years … the data set will live on. Right now, there is no detailed data set on the implementation of everything in a peace agreement. … In the future, students and academics can use the data to help negotiate and implement successful peace agreements.”Tags: Colombia Final Agreement Peace Accord, Colombia peace accord, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, peacelast_img read more

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Farley Hall celebrates women empowerment through signature event

first_imgIn a relaxing afternoon complete with canvas painting, puppies, berries, cookies and lemonade, the women of Farley Hall celebrated the importance of self-acceptance while empowering women through friendship with their signature event “Be Fine Day” on Friday afternoon.Junior Megan Texido, who coordinated the event, said the organizers decided to alter the event from past years in order to be more inclusive.“Be Fine Day is all about [women’s] empowerment, and this year I added on to the slogan ‘Be fine, be you,’” Texido said. “We wanted to add that ‘be you’ part because empowerment applies to all women. You don’t need a certain image, you don’t have to have certain characteristics — we want to just celebrate women for who they are.”The Be Fine Day celebrations kicked off Thursday night with a coffeehouse event in the Farley basement where students performed a variety of musical acts, sophomore Cate Sport, president of Farley Hall, said.The main event took place on South Quad on Friday afternoon where Farley women gathered to paint canvases, enjoy snacks and spend time together. The funds raised selling the canvases and snacks will benefit the YWCA women’s shelter in South Bend, which aims to eliminate racism and empower women while promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people. The YWCA was initially established as a voice for women’s issues but grew over time to provide programs and advocate for women’s rights and civil rights.Texido said she hoped the event would raise awareness regarding the YWCA’s mission.In past years, the hall organized a no-makeup day and a high heel race for Be Fine Day, but Texido said they did not believe those events represented the purpose of the day.“The high heel race didn’t allow a lot of campus participation, so we wanted a more inclusive event this year, and the concept of a high heel race was to ‘walk in her shoes’ and literally put yourself in a woman shoes, but I think the concept was misconstrued over the years,” Texido said. “Whether you wear high heels or whether you wear sneakers, everyone is welcome.Texido said they choose the activities for the afternoon thoughtfully in order to keep the focus of the event on community.“I think this year we had to be very careful with painting this image of ‘being fine,’ and I think this year we have done it best by not trying to associate specific feminine characteristics or constricting gender roles, so we’ll send a very inclusive message and empowerment among all women,” she said.Sport echoed this sentiment, and said while the event celebrates individuality, it is also meant to celebrate bonds between women.“It’s just about having fun together, treating yourself and encouraging that community between girls and empowering each other through making friendships,” she said.Sophomore Brianna Drummond, the social media representative for the event, said she hoped students were able to see the Farley community and understand the concept behind Be Fine Day, which is its okay to be yourself.“While doing so, though, we should strive to be our sweetest and finest self,” Drummond said.Tags: Farley Be Fine Day, Feminism, Women Empowerment, YWCAlast_img read more

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Tickets on Sale Now for The Belle of Amherst Off-Broadway

first_img In The Belle of Amherst, Emily Dickinson’s poems, diaries and letters are woven into an illuminating portrait of the prolific wordsmith. Dickinson’s encounters with close friends and family and her often-amusing observations come to life on stage. The play originally premiered on Broadway in 1976. Tickets are now on sale for the off-Broadway revival of The Belle of Amherst, William Luce’s one-woman-play that captures the revered career and private life of poet Emily Dickinson. The production, starring stage and screen star Joely Richardson and directed by Steve Cosson, will begin on October 7 at the Westside Theatre. View Commentscenter_img The limited engagement will open officially on October 19 and run through January 25, 2015.last_img read more

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John Hawkes & Tracie Thoms Start Previews in Lost Lake Off-Broadway

first_img Related Shows Lost Lake Show Closed This production ended its run on Dec. 21, 2014 Oscar nominee John Hawkes and Broadway vet Tracie Thoms will begin previews in the world premiere of Lost Lake by Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner David Auburn on October 21. Directed by Daniel Sullivan, the show will officially open at Manhattan Theatre Club’s New York City Center—Stage 1 on November 11 and play a limited engagement through December 21. View Comments The production features scenic design by J. Michael Griggs, costume design by Jess Goldstein, lighting design by Robert Perry and original music and sound design by Fitz Patton. In Lost Lake, the lakeside rental Veronica (Thoms) has managed to afford is a far cry from the idyllic getaway she and her children so desperately need. And the disheveled property owner, Hogan (Hawkes), has problems of his own—problems that Veronica is inevitably and irrevocably—pulled into. A portrait of two strangers bound together by circumstance, Lost Lake is about the struggle for connection in an imperfect world.last_img read more

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Lessons of the Week! Jake Gyllenhaal, Allison Williams & More

first_img View Comments We know you’re busy putting the finishing touches on your Flamin’ Hot Cheeto costume, but it’s time to take a break and read the Lessons of the Week! Broadway.com is catching up on all of the weird stuff that happened over the last seven days—and man, things sure were crazy around here. Tony Danza, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Neil Patrick Harris, and more stars taught us some really important things. Check out what we learned!Tony Danza Makes a Mean Pot of SoupIs there anything Honeymoon in Vegas star Tony Danza can’t do? He can play the ukulele, tap dance, and apparently would juggle chainsaws if you asked him to. When Danza and his co-star Rob McClure were roomies at Paper Mill, he’d even cook them both a big pot of delicious soup for dinner. Alan Cumming, you better step up your game—Club Danza sounds awesome!Maggie Gyllenhaal Can Smell Her BrotherThe Real Thing star forbade her brother Jake Gyllenhaal from coming to see her first Broadway show before it opened—so he did like any annoying younger brother would do and went anyway. He tried to go incognito, but Maggie could smell that he was there. Thanks for the heads up! When we see Jake in Constellations, we’ll bring clothespins.Broadway Villains Hate Candy CornIn our super-spooky Halloween photo shoot, we asked Broadway’s scariest villains to name the grossest candy of all time. The results are in, folks: 2 out of 4 of Broadway villains hate candy corn. Both Christopher Sieber from Matilda and Keala Settle from Les Miz can’t stand the stuff. Please redirect their candy corn shipments to Broadway.com, 729 7th Avenue, New York, NY, 10019.NPH & David Burtka Are Super FreaksTony winner Neil Patrick Harris and his husband, It Shoulda Been You star David Burtka, are becoming a double act! After working together on a 54 Below concert this fall, the twosome will hit the small screen in American Horror Story: Freak Show. (Hopefully wearing their matching Met Gala tuxes—those are really freaky.)Allison Williams Is a Pirate ThiefRehearsals are underway for NBC’s Peter Pan Live!, but they’re not exactly smooth sailing. While running through a scene she wasn’t even in, Allison Williams hijacked the stage, stole Christopher Walken’s hook and commandeered the ship! We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Do NOT mess with Allison Williams.Clowns, Stoplights & Santas Get CandyWHAT?! You still don’t have an idea for a Halloween costume? We’ll cut you some slack, because we have three great ideas for you that have been tested by our favorite Broadway stars: Going as a clown, a stoplight (ask your dad for help) or Santa is a sure-bet. Now go get those peanut butter cups!Hey Kid Is the Vlog That Never EndsThis is the vlog that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend, James Snyder started vlogging it because we asked him to, and he’ll continue vlogging it forever just for you, this is the vlog that doesn’t end, yes it goes on and on my friend, James Snyder started vlogging it because we asked him to, and he’ll continue vlogging it forever just for you, this is the vlog that never ends…Alysha Umphress Got a $72 TipOn the Town star Alysha Umphress was a very lucky lady this week! She hit the jackpot in the musical’s Dollar Friday drawing and took home 72 bucks. Wow, Alysha, that kind of cash could buy you 72 slices of pizza at 2 Bros, 19 cookies at Schmackary’s, nine burritos at Chipotle or one drink at a Broadway show!The Newsies Aren’t Done SingingWe loved our adorable newsboys on Broadway, but there was always something missing—a song that Crutchie could call his very own! Never fear, fansies, Alan Menken and Jack Feldman have come to the rescue with the new song “Letter From the Refuge,” which has been added to the national touring production. Side note—when is the tour hitting Santa Fe?There’s Always a Part For Idina MenzelAfter their mega-hit Frozen, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are hard at work on a new musical, Up There? When we asked if there was a part for Idina Menzel, they assured us there “always” would be a part for her in their musicals. Great, we can’t wait to see Elder Idina in The Book of Mormon, followed by Idina as Trekkie Monster in Avenue Q.last_img read more

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Blank! The Musical Begins Performances Off-Broadway

first_img At each performance Katie Dufrense, TJ Mannix, Nicole C. Hastings, Andrew Knox, Tessa Hersh, Matthew Van Colton and Douglas Widick will hit the stage without scripts or rehearsals to perform a brand new musical that audiences help create. Those in attendance will use their smartphones to choose a title, write lyrics and compose a score. Related Shows Blank! is co-created by Michael Girts, Mike Descoteaux and T.J. Shanoff. The production is a collaboration between Uprights Citizens Brigade and Livecube, a mobile technology app that will be utilized by theatergoers during the show. The show can’t go on without you! Blank! The Musical begins performances off-Broadway at New World Stages on November 1. Opening night is set for November 17. View Comments Blank! The Musical Show Closed This production ended its run on Nov. 30, 2014last_img read more

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Beautiful’s Katie Brayben on Emailing Jessie Mueller & Being Surprised by Carole King

first_img View Comments Star Files The West End has a, well, beautiful new star in Katie Brayben, the English actress who won an Olivier Award in April for her performance as Carole King in the London production of Beautiful at the Aldwych Theatre. Having gone to this show directly from appearing as Princess Diana in Mike Bartlett’s Olivier Award-winning (and Broadway-bound) King Charles III, the immediately charming Brayben chatted with Broadway.com about her “whirlwind” year, getting flowers from Jessie Mueller and which legend she might find herself playing on stage next.You’ve had an amazing life of late, landing this sought-after role, meeting Carole King on opening night and winning the Olivier!It’s been such a series of massive events and things that have happened that I almost can’t have a view on it all; it feels so sort of alien for all this to have happened. What’s great now is that we’re running the show eight times a week, which is wonderful. The show feels like it’s really in our hands.What was it like seeing Carole take to the Aldwych stage on opening night?Yes, and I didn’t know she was there! I said very early on that I didn’t want to know when anyone is in, especially Carole, because that would just blow my mind. I thought it would be great if Barry [Mann] and Cynthia [Weil] were there because that wouldn’t be as much stress but with Carole, I couldn’t imagine having to do the show knowing she was in the audience.You had no clue beforehand?My friend Lorna [Want, who plays Cynthia Weil] asked me if I was going to look at Twitter before the show and I said no and she said, “That’s good, don’t do that.” And at the time, I didn’t think anything of it, when in fact Twitter was going off like mad.What did you think when Carole walked onstage?I had the shock of my life! We all know she’s a genius but she’s also an incredible woman.Did she give you any pointers?She did come up with a couple of things and give me some tips but I don’t want to give them away because I use them in the show! [Laughs.] What’s interesting is that there was so much research we were all able to do beforehand just from reading her book and other people’s books, and I found that there was a lot to mine from researching the internet. But it was so great to be able to chat with her about the show. She really loved it, which was wonderful.What was the Olivier ceremony like?Again, a whirlwind. Last year, I was watching it on the telly thinking, “I know that person sitting in the audience,” so to be there the next year having been nominated and then to win was just so far from my compass. And to be in that category with those people being honored in that way was extraordinary.Did you catch the Broadway production before starting work on the show here?In fact, I didn’t. I was doing a show [King Charles III] at the time and it overlapped with our rehearsals so there was no way I could have gone to see it. I did listen to the cast recording while I was doing the auditions but then put it to one side. I thought it was important with a show like this to work from the script on the page and think, “What are we going to do with this? How are we going to own it?” Otherwise, you just end up copying something.Was it tempting to reach out to your Tony-winning predecessor, Jessie Mueller?I had a lovely bunch of flowers from Jessie and we emailed a couple of times. She was very, very sweet. I know that if I had emailed her and said, “I’m having trouble with this,” that she would have emailed me back and given me some great advice. We did have Rebecca [LaChance, Mueller’s former understudy who is now in the UK to do Mack and Mabel] in on Monday of this week and she was so lovely: it really is like a Beautiful family.You have the challenge not just of Jessie’s imprint on the role but of being a Brit playing an American.Well, yes, but you know we’re so influenced by American culture over here and probably vice-versa that I actually don’t think we’re worlds apart. I grew up with the Tapestry album and Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell and I still listen to those artists: they’ve informed the make-up of who I am as a musician as well, because I write my own music.The casting people must have had a jolt when they saw you as Princess Diana in King Charles III: she couldn’t be further removed from Carole King.[Laughs.] Thank heavens they saw me after they’d cast me in Beautiful because I think they were a little confused. But that’s the great thing about what I hope for and I think most actors hope for which is variety in their work. It’s great to be able to say, “I do this but I also do that.”After those two women, who could possibly be next?Hmm, I wonder. [Imitating Margaret Thatcher]: “Well, the pearls are non-negotiable.”You’ve got her down pat, as well!I just love working on voices and physicality. It’s great when you have a real person and can get into the nitty-gritty of who they are. I hope I’ll get to play some other interesting characters from the wonderful world we live in.What about your own career as a singer-songwriter at present?I’d absolutely love to do another album, and at this point I probably haven’t done a live gig in a year or so. But at the moment, everything really is for the show. I’m singing 17 songs a night—twice that on matinee days—so I don’t have the time it takes to sit down and write. My days just now are all about gearing me up for the evening.Maybe at some point you could send some of your original work to Carole?I think I might be a little embarrassed to do that given that she is a genius and I just do my own thing. But you never know, if the opportunity comes up, maybe I will.center_img Jessie Muellerlast_img read more

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