Class Notes - February 24, 1999
Class notes features
Berlind gives millions for McCarter Theatre
Roger S. Berlind '52 is an angel, a backer of plays on Broadway, a role for which he gave up a lucrative career in stockbroking 23 years ago. And in December, McCarter Theatre and the university announced that Berlind had made an angelic gift: $3.5 million for an expansion that will include a new 350seat proscenium theater for intimate and experimental plays at McCarter.
McCarter's staff is ecstatic about the prospect of the small theater, which will be named for Berlind. Artistic Director Emily Mann said it was essential in order to stage daring productions of new plays and new twists on classics. The university's Program in Theater and Dance will also use the new theater. Total expansion costs, which include money for space for additional educational programs, will total $8 million. About half is now in hand.
The expansion will be designed by Hugh Hardy '54 *56, founder of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, a New York architectural firm. Hardy designed the renovation of the New Victory theater in New York.
Berlind, who likes to be involved with his Broadway productions, expects to be involved with the new theater, where he hopes new plays by young American writers will be staged. His decision to give the money developed out of conversations he had with undergraduates and with Michael Cadden, director of the program in theater and dance.
Berlind stays in touch with the university -- in 1986 he endowed the Roger S. Berlind '52 Professorship in the Humanities, now held by Joyce Carol Oates, he was a trustee for four years, and he's on the advisory councils of the English department and the Department of Art and Archaeology. His son, William, a television columnist for the New York Observer, graduated in 1995.
McCarter's 1,100seat theater was built in 1929 for Triangle performances, and 20 years later young Berlind was busy inside it. During his sophomore year, he acted and traveled in the Triangle production Come Across, and junior year he wrote a song, "One Touch of You," for the show, Too Hot for Toddy. He was also active at Theatre Intime, directing a group of studentwritten oneact plays and acting in The Importance of Being Ernest and Pirandello's Henry V. His senior thesis was about the plays of Yeats and Synge. In New York, he has produced more than 30 plays, some hits (Amadeus, City of Gods, and the revival of Guys and Dolls) as well as some misses (Precious Sons, Getting Away with Murder, and Elliott Loves). He is the winner of nine Tony awards.
-- Ann Waldron
Paint it, and they will come
More than 13,000 visitors have seen Richard Ferrugio's art, which he sells on the Internet
Richard Ferrugio '71 didn't exactly plan to be an artist. He didn't even take his first (and only) art class until 1987. And he wasn't exactly an artist until seven years ago, when he sold his catering company in New York City, moved to Toronto, and began pursuing art full-time.
In his career so far, he's created 85 canvases and sold 83 of them. Of those he's sold, 13 have been sold via the Internet in the two years since he established his Website, which can be found at www.arctophile.com/richard.html. He didn't actually plan to sell his work through his Website -- it was instead intended as a practice exercise for his life partner, Claude, to hone his Internet-language writing skills and a way for Ferrugio, an artist without an exclusive relationship with a gallery, to gain exposure.
But once the Website was posted, the buyers came. "It was a real surprise to me," Ferrugio says. "When we first set up the site, I said, 'I can't imagine people are going to buy this stuff without seeing it.' But that's exactly what happened." After the Website was up for about a month, he got a phone call from a potential buyer, asking him to send a photograph of one of his works. "The technology on the Web is really good, but it's still not as good as a photograph, which is still not as good as a painting," Ferrugio explains. So he sent a photograph to San Francisco. And, "Lo and behold, they said 'fine.' Someone paid over $2,000 for something they had never seen."
Even now, Ferrugio sounds astonished by this, although it seems that he should be accustomed to it. The week I interviewed him, he had sold two paintings via his Website. And the last time I visited the site, I was the 13,205th person to do so. His site is listed in several art-related search engines, and he has been profiled a few times in the online art journal Sabine, and both these factors have helped direct Internet surfers to his site. "I'm constantly having e-mails sent to me," he says.
Ferrugio's success in selling his work has occurred in the real world as well as in the virtual one. His very first gallery showing, in the summer of 1989, was in a gallery on Martha's Vineyard. In a week he sold four pieces. The gallery owner "was sort of astounded -- as was I," he says. Since then, he has had work in about 30 shows in several galleries in cities including Toronto, Saugatuck, Michigan, the Twin Cities, and New York City.
Ferrugio feels that his work, which he terms "contemporary realist," attracts people for several reasons. His paintings, which are chiefly oil on canvas, are characterized by their vivid color, dramatic lighting, unusual perspective, and focus on psychological moments. "At first, people are drawn to the color," he says. "Then, that it's not a normal way of treating things." He cites among his influences Edward Hopper, Giorgio De Chirico, Gustave Caillebotte, Thomas Hart Benton, and the Canadian Group of Seven. The paintings on his Website display a wide variety of subject matter, from a close-up of drinks with paper umbrellas to dunes in moonlight to a view from above of a narrow room with a naked man sitting in front of a fire. The prices range from $1,000 to $2,500. In addition to paintings, he also sells note cards and photographic prints of his work.
The fact that Ferrugio, who lives in Denver, has not had an exclusive relationship with a gallery has allowed him to sell his work independently. Typically, artists depend on galleries to exhibit, publicize, and sell their work; without a gallery, the chances of an artist being known outside his or her circle of friends are very slim. However, despite its promise of global access, the Internet is not likely to put any gallery owners out of business. Gallery owners are not mere salespeople in a stark storefront; they have networks of connections and serve as the champions of their artists.
"I don't think that the relationships significant artists have with significant galleries will ever change," Ferrugio says. "The galleries are able to introduce the artist to the right people. On the Web you rely on someone with the proper pocketbook to stumble across you."
-- Andrea Gollin '88
Here's help for the jitters that come with public speaking
Many people would rather die than give a speech -- literally. Opinion polls have found that speaking in public, even more than death itself, is Americans' greatest fear. To the rescue comes Nicholas Morgan '75, who has made a career out of coaching business executives in effective communications, including those nerve-racking talks from the dais.
"To most people, it feels dangerous to reveal yourself in front of others," says Morgan, a New Hope, Pennsylvania, resident who got his start writing speeches for then-Virginia Governor Charles S. Robb in the mid-1980s. "When people stand up in front of an audience to speak, they often feel exposed. I think it's because they realize on some level that to be effective they need to reveal their emotions. Charisma, after all, equates with moving audiences with the expression of appropriate emotion. The challenge is finding that effective, appropriate level and being comfortable with it."
Morgan is on retainer with a Fortune 100 high-tech firm, coaching the CEO and other executives on their speeches and interpersonal communications. He is also editor of a newly launched Harvard Business School publication called Harvard Communications Update, which specializes in practical information on subjects from resolving conflicts to writing and preparing for presentations. Before becoming an independent consultant to private industry, he directed the Development Communications Office at Princeton from 1987 to 1994; on the side, he also taught undergraduate speech classes and English literature.
Speech-coaching has been around for centuries; Thomas Jefferson, notes Morgan, often helped George Washington with his speeches. Now, in the 1990s, more and more corporations are willing to pay outside talent to coach their executives in public speaking and other forms of communication. Research, meanwhile, has furnished new insight into ways that audiences process information -- research that Morgan draws from to help his clients design presentations that work best with their particular listeners.
No one does it right the first time
"Only to a very small percentage of people does public speaking come naturally," Morgan says. "Most people that we regard as 'naturals' have a basic enthusiasm, and they've taken that and honed it through practice. No one does it the first time out of the box."
Some keys? Keep it simple. One central message is about all an audience can digest, and too much detail will leave listeners cold, Morgan says. Don't over-prepare -- the smoothness of the presentation is not as important as the message and making a connection with the audience. Use the right body language; avoiding eye contact raises listeners' suspicions about a speaker, and standing with arms crossed -- tempting when one is fighting the jitters -- gives the impression of being standoffish. And don't start with a joke unless you're Jerry Seinfeld or his equal as a professional comedian. You're better advised to build the introduction around a "parable," Morgan says -- a story that illuminates the topic and that audience members can apply to their own lives.
Morgan's speech-coaching is informed by years of experience in theater. A playwright, director, and actor, he has been involved with the stage since his Princeton days, a background he finds enormously helpful in his work with business executives. "Presenters need to develop 'presence,' just like actors," Morgan says. "And speeches, like plays, need to be full of sharp, focused, conversational 'dialogue.' More generally, my sense of what constitutes a theatrical experience helps me coach speakers to make their presentations memorable, lively, and theatrical in the best sense of the word." Morgan's work as a scholar -- he has a Ph.D. in English literature and rhetoric from the University of Virginia, and has published a book on the work of Charles Dickens -- provides still more useful background for his executive speech-coaching.
"There have always been speech writers, but the notion of coaching really came with television," Morgan says. "Think of William Jennings Bryan, one of the greatest orators of the pre-television age. Since there was often poor or nonexistent amplification in past decades, the main thing was learning to project your voice, which is largely a muscular effort. The fine points of body language were lost on most of the audience, with many barely able to even see the speaker. With television, there's a completely different level of intimacy. In the famous televised debate of 1960, Nixon was probably better prepared than Kennedy in terms of content, but he looked so bad on screen, everyone came away thinking he'd been a disaster.
"Nixon, of course, was coached after that, but the jury's out on how successful it was."
-- Tom Krattenmaker
An orchestra is back on the air
Two years ago, Todd Strine '90, a media entrepreneur who owns a recording studio and is CEO of a video production company in suburban Philadelphia, decided to help out the Philadelphia Orchestra, which was involved in a prolonged and rancorous strike. One of the critical issues of the 90-day walkout by musicians involved the orchestra's media exposure. For years, the orchestra's fabled, lush sound had been heard on radio stations around the country. A major source of contention between the musicians and management was the latter's decision to stop doing broadcasts and recordings because of the costs involved.
"I'm a big advocate of the Philadelphia Orchestra. It's the city's crown jewel," Strine says. "I have friends in the orchestra, and I couldn't understand for the life of me why the orchestra wasn't putting more emphasis on recording and broadcasting."
To help out the musicians financially and to bring them needed national exposure, Strine, after extensive negotiations with the musicians and management, staged a concert in his hometown of Media, 30 miles from Philadelphia. The concert took place in the Media Theater, a 650-seat playhouse that had been restored a few years earlier by Strine's grandfather. The event was carried live on local TV and broadcast nationally on 40 radio stations. Ticket sales, plus a concert video and CD, yielded $65,000 for the musicians' fund.
After producing the concert, Strine found that marketing the resulting CD was a "major challenge." It brought him face to face with the realities of the classical music distribution business. "We made tons of mistakes before we got to first base," Strine admits. But he eventually succeeded in arranging for several taped broadcasts of the Philadelphia Orchestra's concerts to be played on radio stations around the country, raising the orchestra's profile considerably. Strine was able to show management, through the sales and publicity generated by the CD and video, "that radio is an important thing to do, vital to maintaining the orchestra's international stature." A month after the concert, the strike was settled. "It wasn't because of the concert that the strike ended. The musicians realized that they had to give, and management had to do something to save face. They came together pretty quickly after that."
This year, Strine, through Indre, the recording-studio company he cofounded, is putting together the orchestra's radio broadcasts. A former English major, Strine earned a law degree from UCLA and practiced corporate law for two years before forming Indre and a video production firm that has since become part of Telenium, a larger communications company headed by Strine.
"We're trying to create a little Hollywood here in Philadelphia," he says. "I spend about 90 percent of my time with Telenium, where I manage three different groups. One group does soundstage production, another does postproduction and special effects. The third is a mobile broadcast unit. We own two trucks, which we take to events and do the video feed for television stations. In fact, tomorrow night, we're doing a Princeton basketball game."
-- Jamie Spencer '66
Fighter pilot "Poison" Parham
Her unit heads to Iraq's no-fly zone later this year
In Tally Parham '92's first practice dogfight as a jet fighter pilot, her instructor posed as a "bandit" and flew a separate airplane in front of her. Suddenly he pulled his plane straight up in a steep climb, catching her unaware.
"God, what do I do now?" she thought. Knowing she had only a split second to act, she acted: "I pulled my plane up, too, came down behind him and shot him." (In these mock battles actual weapons aren't fired; "kills" are recorded by video cameras mounted on the planes.)
Parham smiles at the memory, her blue eyes locked on those of her visitor. While many of her University of Virginia Law School classmates have been learning courtroom tactics since their graduation more than two years ago, Parham has been training as an F-16 pilot for the South Carolina Air National Guard.
One evening last August, Parham stood by a runway at Luke Air Force Base, outside Phoenix, Arizona, where all new fighter pilots go for advanced training and where she had been since June. Behind her, two dozen F-16s stood at attention in perfect parallel rows, their noses, hooded like falcons, pointed toward mountains darkened by storm clouds.
Parham spent the first month at Luke learning the basics of the F-16: how to take off and land, and how to refuel in mid-air. "Figuring out the control system," says the former classics major, "was like translating Greek. The flight system has seven backup power systems. The stick and the throttle each have six or seven switches. With the throttle I can image and shoot a missile and a gun, and I can move a cursor around like a mouse on a computer to operate the radar and lock up targets."
"Poison" is her call name, a teasing reference to her Ivy League background and also to the squadron nickname, the Vipers. Her job as a wingman is to shoot aircraft identified by the flight leader as hostile. She is always looking: behind her to make sure there are no bandits, and -- since the planes may fly with just three feet between wingtips -- at the flight leader, ready to make tiny corrections to her plane's position.
"In shooting down a bandit," she says, "you have to learn how to predict the geometry of the engagement: a dogfight involves turning, and turn radius is affected by airspeed and G's -- how hard you pull back on the stick. For example, flying at 400 knots creates a much larger turn circle than at 200 knots. The jet with the smaller turn circle or faster rate of turn has a maneuverability advantage."
As she learned in her law-school course in trial advocacy, there's no substitute for preparation. Before she climbs into an airplane, she tries to think through her opponents' potential moves. "I've heard that the best air-to-air pilots are right-brained," she says. "It's an art form, a ballet. It's also problem-solving, and it gets a lot more complicated for multiple bogey engagements."
Her dad, James "Poss" Parham '52, a Greenville, South Carolina, attorney and a former Air Force fighter pilot, taught her to fly in 12th grade. She loved flying and considered going to the Air Force Academy, but women weren't allowed to fly in combat at the time.
At Princeton she sang with the Tiger Lilies, rowed crew, and earned a black belt in karate. After a year working in New York City for a legal-action center for homeless people, she went to law school, where she graduated in 1996. The summer before her final year, Congress rescinded the law prohibiting women in combat. That same day, Parham called the National Guard in South Carolina and asked for an application. Two weeks after passing the bar, she started flight school in Texas.
A year ago, after fighter certification, she attended Air Force survival school in Washington State for three weeks. To deal with the G-forces inherent in flying fighters, she is also required to maintain excellent body strength and conditioning, and her muscular arms attest to her thrice-weekly weightlifting regimen.
Parham completed her training in January and is now on active duty at McIntire Air National Guard Base, near Columbia, South Carolina. Later this year her unit will be deployed to patrol the no-fly zone over Iraq.
"I'm never afraid when I'm flying," she says. "My training takes care of that. What's exciting is the thrill of going fast, flying upside down, the total involvement of self. I never felt so alive until I started flying. My family worries constantly -- they gave me a cross made from a nickel which I wear around my neck for good luck. I told them if anything happens to me while I'm flying, there's nothing I'd rather be doing."
-- Dan White '65
A trip to Juneau
Adventure in admissions interviewing
The man seated behind us shouted above the drone of the commuter plane's engines: "You girls better watch out, that big city up there'll make you stray!" We smiled back at him, then turned to look out the window again. Below us, the waters of the Inside Passage were dark and cold and undisturbed by ships.
I was accompanying my sister, Jane, on her interview for admission to Princeton. We made the trip during holiday break last December. Because we live in Alaska, there were complications. Our hometown of Petersburg is on Mitkof Island, about 200 miles southeast of Juneau, our destination. Even if a bridge connected Mitkof to the mainland (which it doesn't), driving there would have been out of the question: the land around Juneau is completely covered by icefields, and the only access is by ship or plane.
Water is the cheapest and most reliable way to get from Petersburg to Juneau, but the ferry we had planned to take broke down somewhere short of Wrangell, 40 miles south of us. Unfazed, we moved to Plan B, splurging on tickets to fly on Alaska Airlines. Near-perpetual fog in Southeast Alaska can make air travel problematic, but on the morning we were scheduled to fly conditions were perfect. Unfortunately, a mechanical problem grounded the jetliner several islands south of Petersburg, so Plan C went into effect: Air One.
Air One had been around for barely a year, and the sign on its plywood office door was just magic marker on computer paper. But the plane, a Jetstream with room for 19 passengers, looked safe enough. By the time we took off, the sun had already slunk below the horizon, but the sky remained icy pale. The fjords slipped by in chilly relief, and before long we were in Juneau.
We stayed downtown at the Alaskan Hotel and Bar, a dark, cramped, turn-of-the-century structure built into a hillside. A narrow staircase with dizzying floral carpet ran up and up like a long escalator out of a train station. Our 10-by-12-foot cell had two little beds and almost no floor space. The single chair collapsed when I sat in it. The ancient radiator had turned the room into an oven, and the knob to adjust it had fallen off. "I bet there's a corpse in the wardrobe," said Jane. We dumped our stuff and went wandering along the waterfront, searching for Mexican food.
By morning, our room had turned bitterly cold. We had breakfast at McDonald's, and our wet hair froze on the way to the Federal Building. Fred Norbury *68, an officer of the U.S. Forest Service with a degree from the Woodrow Wilson School, interviewed Jane. Fred, as we called him right from the start, was of medium height, with a shock of blond hair and a boyishly appealing face. He joked about being transferred from Washington, D.C., to Alaska after requesting a job in the "West": "You have to be careful what you ask for!" But he seemed sincere when he said he liked Juneau. Just before he and Jane disappeared into his office, I blurted something about my independent work on Southeast Alaskan wetlands, and he sent me off in the direction of a soil scientist who could answer all my bog and forest questions.
Fred and Jane talked for 90 minutes. The interview completed, we joked for a while with Fred, then took a taxi to the airport, with a detour to the Nugget Mall for Chinese food. Our cabdriver, a chunky woman with dyed-red hair, offered to take us through Chilly Willy's Car Wash. Since neither Jane nor I had ever been through a car wash, we accepted. The three of us could not stop giggling as the cab went through what seemed like the attack of the giant invertebrates.
We both dozed off at the gate of Alaska Airlines, which we'd booked for the homeward leg of our trip. The sun, peeking out from behind the mountain for a few last minutes, warmed our bones. We woke up surrounded by Petersburg friends returning from college for the holidays. The jet landed and took off without incident. From the air we saw miles of ice, rock, rainforest, and ocean through a sleepy haze of clouds. I had left Princeton four days earlier, but the stone buildings and bare trees already seemed like a dream. Southeast Alaska had swallowed me up again.
-- Lil Wood '00
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