[Alumni News and Notes]

Alumni in Service to Oberlin College (ASOC)

Seven Obies Return to the Fold to Share Their
Own Ways of Making It in the Real World

by Midge Wood Brittingham '60

Julie Taymor '74 held two attentive audiences spellbound on her visit to the campus in early December. Showing clips of The Lion King which she directed, she spoke to a full house at King about her theatrical experiences and those who have influenced her career, following an earlier question-and-answer period led by Roger Copeland, professor of theater at Warner Center. Disney producers encouraged her to follow her own artistic inclinations, she said, so that she could "do what I do." The result is a play with some of the highest advance ticket sales in the history of Broadway--not surprising when a 1991 MacArthur "genius" is allowed to have her own unfettered way. A full report on Julie's visit to Oberlin, her life and work, and her views on breaking the bounds of conventional Broadway theater will be included in the Spring 1998 Oberlin Alumni Magazine.


Sharon Davis Gratto, president of the Class of 1966 and former chair of the Conservatory Committee, returned to Oberlin during Alumni Council Weekend in September to lead an introductory workshop in performance and audition anxiety for harp teacher Yolanda Kondanassis' studio. After graduating from the Conservatory with a degree in music education and flute performance, Sharon furthered those studies, adding voice, at the Catholic University of America where she earned a DMA. An assistant professor and chapel choir director at Gettysburg College, she sits on the editorial board of the PMEA Journal of Research in Music Education, and, as an experienced performer, conductor, and flute judge, she has taught music in grades K-12. Her presentation, "The Effectiveness of an Audition Anxiety Workshop in Reducing Stress," has been presented at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, and at the International Network of Performing and Visual Arts Schools Conference in Louisville. Sharon publishes frequently in music and education magazines, including the Pennsylvania Alliance for Arts Education and the Journal of Music Teacher Education. An article based on her concepts for stress reduction is pending publication in the Journal of the Performing Arts Medicine Association.


Oscar Riba '92, who starred at Center Stage in New York and off-Broadway in a solo performance of Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll, a play by Eric Bogosian '76, reprised his successful role on campus last September in an event sponsored by the Oberlin Theater and Dance Program, with ticket proceeds donated to the program's Alumni Newsletter. Working without props, costume changes, or makeup, Oscar credibly portrayed 11 characters on a stage bare except for a single chair. Among his many credits are frequent stand-up appearances at Manhattan's comedy clubs; commercials for ESPN/NFL and VISA; the voice of Fondue in the Nickelodeon cartoon "KABLAM!" and feature roles in the the television production New York Undercover. Oscar is admissions coordinator for the Friar's Club, and artistic director and founding member of the theater company, Sundays at Six.


Deborah Moore '94 has forged a career in percussion performance and education in related arts, the individual major she created while a student at the Conservatory. A member of Tales and Scales, an Evansville, Indiana, four-person ensemble, she brought her group to Oberlin September 23 for a two-hour workshop for educators and administrators on music and movement. The visit was sponsored by the Division of Music Education and the Department of Theater and Dance. In performance, Tales and Scales combines music and movement in an altered form for traditional storytelling, a technique Deborah calls "musictelling," combining a style and program designed for family audiences. The quartet gives more than 250 performances a year in schools, art centers, and with symphony orchestras. The program has also been featured on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, and Talk of the Nation. Deborah finds time to teach a course in percussion methods and is a private instructor at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, where she was a graduate assistant. She is a founding member of Soundings, a musical quartet. A former assistant director of admissions at the Conservatory, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and earned the Pi Kappa Lamda Prize for musicianship. Deborah was an instructor and coordinator for creative movement workshops at Oberlin, and, by focussing professionally on the major she created for herself at the Conservatory, she has made a career centered on her special interests.


Alison Bechdel '81 has been using artwork to make people smile since 1983. A successful cartoonist, her biweekly comic strip, "Dykes to Watch Out For," is syndicated in more than 50 gay, lesbian, and feminist publications, anthologies, and 'zines. Alison returned to the campus November 1 and 2 for a seminar, "A Tip o' the Nib," sponsored by the Multicultural Resource Center, to celebrate the works of gay and lesbian cartoonists. She was joined by three other distinguished cartoonists, Howard Cruse, Diane DiMassa, and Rupert Kinnard, for the weekend's lectures, workshops, and the dedication of a drawing to the Multicultural Resource Center. Working from her home in Vermont, she approaches cartooning as a form of activism and a vehicle for self-realization. Alison's seventh book, Hot & Throbbing Dykes to Watch Out For, was recently released by her publisher, Firebrand Books.


Journalist David Schlesinger '82 arrived on campus October 29 to share his work experience in politics, economics, and journalism. Employed by Reuters as financial editor for the Americas, he has served as bureau chief in China, and as editor-in-charge for the China Region. The visit, cosponsored by the politics department, the East Asian studies program, and Third World studies, brought David directly into those classrooms. Professor Marc Blecher's class, "Revolution, Socialism and Reform in China," heard first-hand about the 1989 event in Tianamen Square, which David covered for Reuters. David also spoke to Professor James Zinser's "Economic Development of Latin America" class about emerging markets in the Third World, and related differences in outside business interests in Latin America and Asia. In an open forum at the Center for Career Services, David offered a general presentation for students interested in careers in journalism.


Sponsored by the biology department as a seminar speaker, Philip Rutter '70, founder, owner, and director of Badgersett Research Farm in Canton, Minnesota, presented his lecture, "Reinventing Food Production: Woody Agriculture," to interested students. Philip uses his farm as a research and development enterprise, established for the domestication of woody perennial plants. By concentrating on the production of chestnuts and hazelnuts, Philip's goal is to use these woody plants for food production equal to traditional cereal crops, and simultaneously to produce wood to be used as fuel. The result would be the reduction of use of fossil fuels, fewer shortages of wood for fuel, and the development of a more stable ecosystem. The former biology major received the Good Steward Award from the National; Arbor Day Foundation "... for his efforts to advance woody agricultural systems as an alternative to current systems that require annual tillage." Philip is the founder of the American Chestnut Foundation.

Midge Wood Brittingham is executive director of the Oberlin College Alumni Association.