Austen lives in Northanger Abbey


On Thursday, October 25, Northanger Abbey opens at Strosacker Theatre. The production incorporates a cast of over 20 students, costumes in 1800s style and sets mimicking the era of Jane Austen, all of which help the novel come to life.

Scott Mackenzie, director of Northanger Abbey, also adapted the original Austen novel into the play. “[Austen] has sort of this ‘I’ve got the whole world figured out’ attitude and she’s a little snarky about things. If you read it, it makes you laugh out loud,” said Mackenzie.

The play itself centers around the life of 17-year-old Catherine Morland as she navigates the social realm of Bath, England. “It’s the story of a young woman who is coming into the world and leaving behind some of the childhood innocence as she negotiates the social world in Bath,” said Mackenzie. “[Catherine] finds out who her friends are, who seemed to be friends, who truly are friends [and] who are not friends at all.”

“It has a little something for everybody in it. It’s a romance, it’s a comedy, it’s got its dramatic moments, it’s got its spots of horror, and with that combination, you can find something you like for anyone,” said Elizabeth Pechota (‘22).

Catherine is portrayed by Pechota, who has participated in theatre from a young age. “I have been dreaming of a lead role,” said Pechota. “I’m very, very, very happy and I feel like my hard work has paid off.”

The cast, crew and tech members have spent the past two months preparing for the show. “We have a very short schedule and too much to do,” said props master Hannah Gibbs (‘21). “Normally I am in the shop for six hours a week, but the closer we get to tech [week], the longer I’m in the shop.”

To aid the cast with embodying people from the 1800s, Mackenzie brought in a woman from the Jane Austen Society. “She came and talked to us about the etiquette and the mannerisms of the time and it was just really fascinating to learn about how different everything is from the way it is now,” said Pechota.

A large part of the first act are ballroom dance scenes, which Rachel Blome (‘20) particularly enjoys. “It kind of gets us in the mood, I think, for the time period,” said Blome. “I haven’t done a show in this time period before, so it’s been interesting to learn the mannerisms and just see how they lived because it’s very different than how we are today.”

Difficulties with the play included learning the dialect and behavioral cues. “The play is written in kind of a Jane Austen-type language, and most of the words directly come from the novel itself,” said Pechota.

“So it’s more so learning how to speak in a different way and how you would interact with characters in a Jane Austen setting.”

After Northanger Abbey, Pechota plans to audition for future productions. She encouraged other students to also try acting. “A lot of people consider acting as playing pretend, but it’s a little bit more than that. It’s more stepping into someone else’s reality and really trying to see things through their eyes,” said Pechota.

Mackenzie asserted that theatre is not only about acting. “If you have any interest at all in an artistic outlet, there’s a place of theatre for you. Not just actors, not just technicians, but it’s all of us together.”

Blome was enthusiastic about opening the play. “I’m just really excited to put on this show. It’s a great period piece, we’ve all worked really hard on it, and everyone’s really excited to share our hard work.”

Tickets for Northanger Abbey are available at the Box Office.

A letter to the editor: Handicap access


As a handicapped student, I know exactly how difficult it can be to navigate campus, whether it’s about stairs in places stairs should not have to be or railroad tracks I can’t cross. I’ve spent my whole life dealing with these types of challenges all because of a virus that decided to leave me with permanent side effects.

I contracted poliovirus when I was less than one year old, and now I’m one of the 0.1-0.5% of polio cases that resulted in paralytic poliomyelitis. As a result of this, I use a mobility scooter (most have probably seen me around campus) because I am unable to walk for long distances or stand for long periods of time.

I probably visited 8-10 small colleges across Michigan and Ohio back when I was choosing which school to attend for the next four years of my life. Out of all of them, I felt like Alma fit the best. I chose Alma partially due to its size– larger campuses, even those with public transportation, were simply not going to work. I also thought the disability center really would work with me, unlike some other places that seemed to only pretend to care. Alma was also definitely not the most inaccessible campus of the ones I visited.

Now that I’ve been here for a year, I’m not going to say that sometimes getting around hasn’t been difficult. Even living in the newly-updated Gelston didn’t avert problems like the ramp that never seemed to be salted or walkways that weren’t shoveled before I had to leave for class.

However, I worked closely with Rhonda Linn, the Assistant Director of the CSO for Academic Support and Disability Services, and we figured out ways to make it work. Facilities was extra-vigilant about shoveling and salting when it was snowing. I made alternate arrangements with my professors for when I couldn’t make it to class because of the weather.

Getting around when it’s not winter (though winter takes up about half of the months we’re here every year) is also challenging. Most buildings only have one or two handicap buttons, and some don’t work sometimes. However, I would like to point out that I am lucky enough to live somewhere that even has those accommodations. Try visiting Chicago when you’re wheelchair-bound; you’ll become very aware of just how many small revolving doors that city has.

Installing handicap buttons and elevators is also extremely expensive. Although door-openers range from the cheap $50 to more sophisticated ones at $1,500, installing them on every outside door on campus is unreasonable. Even ADA, which admittedly needs work, does not require that.

Commercial elevators cost between $75,000 to $175,000, and that’s assuming that the building itself can house an elevator without changing the building design. Installing elevators in the dorms would more or less require Alma to knock them down and rebuild them from the ground up.

If you‘re physically handicapped, most dorms are relatively accessible on North Campus. I began talking to Rhonda and housing about the renovations and possible living areas last February in preparation for this year, and I thought everyone did their very best to accomodate me; because of that, I currently live in Mitchell, on the first floor, in a room I hand-picked before the housing portal even opened.

Most, if not all, handicapped people I know are well-aware of their capabilities and limits. I’m not going to go somewhere if I know I can’t physically handle it. I’m not going to try out for the track team, and I won’t be joining a hiking trip any time soon. If I was unable to walk at all, I doubt I would have even gone to a physical college and likely would have enrolled in online classes to get my degree.

The biggest thing about being handicapped here at Alma is that you need to ask for assistance if you need it. The CSO has been an invaluable resource for me, and I highly encourage anyone who needs aid to seek it out. No one can read your mind, so reach out. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help if it makes you more able to succeed.

I want to be independent, yes. Sometimes I need things other people don’t to achieve that. I also believe that part of being an adult is acknowledging that being independent is largely what you’re doing to make yourself independent.

For instance, I’ve taught myself to open doors without buttons while on my scooter. I’ve also learned exactly which entrances in buildings lead up to stairs. These are things I can do to make my experience better because I don’t have to rely on anyone else.

Throughout my time at Alma, I’ve never felt like my disability prevented me from being successful. My peers and professors have always accommodated me, and I’ve never thought that they felt burdened because of it. I see myself as independent because I am; I’m no longer a child who can’t advocate for herself. If I need something, then I need to do the research and find out who can help and how. If anything, being handicapped has helped me learn how to be independent and how to be successful regardless of any obstacles in my way.

Seniors celebrate final Masterworks concert

By Kelsey Taylor

Staff Writer

This past weekend was the annual performance of the Masterworks Concert, which sees the union of the Alma Choirs and the Alma Symphony Orchestra to showcase a musical masterpiece.  

This year, the chosen piece was Franz Joseph Hadyn’s The Creation, composed in the late eighteenth century. The concert is performed in three parts meant to be sung by five soloists, but was modified to allow for 23 students – five of whom were seniors -  and voice professor Vicki Walker to feature as many singers as possible.  

Students enjoy the Masterworks Concert as a chance to sing and play classical music.  

“I enjoy Masterworks; it’s always a really great change of pace to sing one of the major works with the force of all the choirs and the orchestra. It is a unique form of prayer that we cannot get elsewhere,” said soprano soloist Cecelia Brady (‘18),  

“The fact that [this was] my last one has not quite sunk in yet.” 

However, for the 28 seniors in the concert, this moment was bittersweet.  

“I am bringing to realize that Sunday night [was] the last concert I [sang] at Alma College. Although I’m confident I will sing in another choir, performing tonight is something I will cherish forever,” said Seth Davis (‘18). 

As the seniors move forward from Alma, many look back on their time in the music programs positively.  

“I think the greatest contribution the orchestra has made to my growth are when we have the few rehearsals before the concerts. Those are the rehearsals when the hired professionals come in and it really motivates me to play better. I hear what they’re doing and I think it pushes me in a positive direction,” said viola player Ishijah Johnson (‘18). 

“My experience in the Alma Choirs has allowed me to become a better leader, and a better musician. A college choir has maturity both in personality and in its voices. Listening to others in the choir makes me push myself to sing the best I can,” said Krista Botting (‘18). 

The seniors are not the only ones who feel nostalgic this time of year.  

“One of the really nice things about my life as the conductor of the Alma Choirs is that I get to work with my students for three and four years.  During this time we get to know each other very well and, of course, I rely on the seniors to become student leaders within the choirs.  They do this by setting a positive example for younger students,” said  Will Nichols, professor of music and conductor of the Alma College choirs.  

Nichols also encourages his students to continually pursue music even after graduation.  

“Keep singing! Wherever life takes you there will be a choir that needs you. Find it, and join in! And come back to Homecoming as often as you can and sing with me again!” 

Taking Nichols’ advice to heart, the seniors plan to join new choirs and ensembles, wherever the future leads them.  

“While I may not perform professionally, I will definitely keep my knowledge and passion for music as a hobby, working within the community wherever I end up settling down,” said Botting.  

At Alma, it is easy to become involved with one or more of our many musical programs.  

Alma Choirs and the Alma Symphony Orchestra are just two of the creative options.  

Johnson believes that the ensembles are a great experience to have. Nichols has a similar opinion, saying:  

“Singing brings art into our daily lives — and every one of us has a deep desire to be creative…I wish everyone would be brave enough to join a choir and discover for themselves the joy of singing.” 

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Somerville hired as director of spiritual life

By Kelsey Taylor

Staff Writer

On March 16, Alma welcomed its new Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Life, Rev. Andrew Pomerville. He comes to Alma from the Peoples Church of East Lansing after serving as its senior pastor for seven years, having also served as a chaplain for Denali National Park in Alaska, the Police Department of East Lansing and hospice.   

An Alma College alumnus himself, Pomerville is excited to come back to the community to serve as chaplain. “I’m excited about [chapel services], but I’m also looking forward to being the chaplain to athletics, to all the liberal arts programs, alumni, current students and prospective students and really be someone to help be a resource to everyone for their own spiritual growth.” 

Pomerville is also enthusiastic to introduce some more ways the chapel can be involved within the campus community, expressing interest in having all spiritual activities come under the chapel and interact with one another. He invites organizations to also reach out to him to have him speak or just to introduce himself.  

Pomerville hopes to work with students to create an environment where students of any belief can be safe to grow together in their spiritual journey. “My dream is that people would see that chapel as the kind of spiritual center, and the basement as a safe, hospitable, fun place to be,” said Pomerville. 

By connecting with the students here and implementing new programs, Pomerville aspires to make Alma a model for other colleges and universities to be inspired by. “I love the idea of following the lead of the students and seeing what they think our priorities need to be to create something the rest of the world can model. I think Alma should be leading, especially in the way we do chapel. We shouldn’t be looking at another college or university; we should be the ones setting the tone and having others be inspired by what we do.” 

Students are also eager to get to know Pomerville after the resignation of Rev. Noel Snyder last year. “I’m super excited to have a new chaplain. It will be good to bring a new face onto campus,” said Madelyn Winnie (‘19). She also expressed interest in some of Pomerville’s ideas for how to expand faith activities on campus, and encourages Pomerville to reach out to students around campus. 

There are many ways to connect with others of a similar or different faith. Not only is there a multi-denomination service at the chapel at 7 p.m. on Sunday evenings, there are numerous faith-based clubs around campus that meet throughout the week.  

Pomerville also hopes to begin hosting more services during the week in beginning in the fall semester to make them more accessible to everyone, and he plans to hold office hours at different places around campus to more easily interact with students. “Generally, I’m in the chapel basement, but I’ll also try to publicize office hours. I’m going to try to use our social media a little bit more effectively to say where I’ll be throughout the week as well.” 

“I know Alma gave me the opportunity to lead and grow certainly in my faith but also in a million other ways,” said Pomerville.  

“I think a liberal arts education is different from just a career path; we’re training you to become a good global citizen, to understand [your] own faith tradition but also to have respect and knowledge of those who believe differently without condemning them.” 

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