Oberlin History on the Silver Screen | In the Ashley Zone | Celebrated Cartoonist Returns to Oberlin | Gridiron Heroes | Pancakes quell exam anxiety | Some thing Old, something new, something borrowed...

Oberlin History on the Silver Screen
A key character in Steven Spielberg's new epic, Amistad, is abolitionist Lewis Tappan, for whom, along with his brother, Arthur, Oberlin's Tappan Square is named. Tappan, who is portrayed by Stellan Skarsgård (Hunt for Red October, Breaking the Waves), helped vindicate the Africans being tried for seizing the slave ship Amistad and killing their captors.

Five years before the 1839 trial, the Tappan brothers had come to Oberlin's rescue. Cofounders of the credit agency that evolved into Dun & Bradstreet, they were known for bankrolling reform causes. They set fledgling Oberlin College, then only a year old, on firm financial footing when it agreed to admit students without regard for color.

A young captive aboard the Amistad, Margru, studied at Oberlin. Although not featured in the film, Margru, who later took the name Sarah Kinson, earned a major role Amistad the opera, by composer Anthony Davis and librettist Thulani Davis, which was premiered in November by the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

In the Ashley Zone
Obie-award winning actress Elizabeth Ashley pounced on Oberlin in November with all the coiled energy and sprung rhythms of the Tennessee Williams' character she made famous-Maggie, the Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

About 50 listeners attended a Q & A-format interview of Ashley conducted by visiting English professor Linda Dorff. The next day the actress gave a master class for theater students, cautioning them at the outset: "This is not an audition. Tell me the story, but please yourself. Do it for you, not for me."

Watching intently as students performed scenes, Ashley was generous with praise and with her experience. Theater and English major Greg Pierce '00 said he gained "a phenomenal amount" of respect for the craft of acting, and learned from Ashley to let go of fear, to get "into a zone where you can't be wrong."

Celebrated Cartoonist Returns to Oberlin
Alison Bechdel '81 joined fellow cartoonists Howard Cruse, Diane DiMassa, and Rupert Kinnard in a November conference, sponsored by the Multicultural Resource Center, celebrating the works of gay and lesbian cartoonists. Bechdel's strip, Dykes To Watch Out For, is syndicated in more than 50 gay-lesbian and alternative newspapers and has spawned seven published collections.

Joining her fellow cartoonists in presentations about the roots and inspirations of their work, Bechdel showed slides of her drawings dating back as far as age five. She recalled that she had been something of a loner while at Oberlin, and hadn't thought that her college years had made much of an impression on her professional career. But returning to campus for the first time in 16 years brought long-lost memories flooding back, she said, and she realized that Oberlin had indeed been a profound influence on her personal and professional life.

The cartoonists also conducted an informal advising session for aspiring student cartoonists, and they collaborated on a large drawing that they presented to the Multicultural Resource Center.

Gridiron Heroes
After leading Oberlin and the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) in receiving this fall, juniors Felix Brooks-Church and Anthony Johnson were named Second-Team All-Region by the Football Gazette. Brooks-Church led the NCAC and was ranked fourth in the NCAA with 8.5 receptions per game, while Johnson finished second in the conference and ninth nationally with 7.8. Johnson was also ranked 22nd in the nation with 98.6 receiving yards per game and 27th with 165 all-purpose yards per game. He broke two school records this season with 78 catches for 986 yards. Brooks-Church finished the year with 68 receptions for 698 yards and moved into first place on Oberlin's career receiving list with 170 catches for 1839 yards.

Pancakes Quell Exam Anxiety
The stroke of midnight on December 15 called more than 700 ravenous students from last minute preparations for final exams to Dascomb dining hall. It also sent 20 sleepy faculty and staff volunteers into action, grilling and serving pancakes and French toast with all the trimmings for two fast-moving hours.

Bright lights and loud music kept everyone wide awake as a seemingly endless line of patient diners kept the inexperienced staff dashing from the buffet line to the kitchen with anxious cries of "More pancakes! More French toast! More bacon!" Saundra and Donna, the professional cooks assigned to quell the mayhem, remained steady, calm, and somewhat amused by their volunteer crew's super-energetic participation.

Responding to the frequent bursts of spontaneous clapping and cheering from the appreciative crowd, organizer Bill Stackman, associate dean of students, suggested this late-night treat could become a regular event for the read 'n' feed needs of students fueling up for finals.

Something old, something new, something borrowed . . .
Among the maestros conducting Conservatory of Music performances during fall semester were two alumni who have been gaining international acclaim outside of Oberlin. Visiting professor of conducting Stephen Lord '71 has been making waves at the of Opera Theater of St. Louis and the Boston Lyric Opera, while the Conservatory's own associate professor of conducting Robert Spano '83 has been shining as Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra's music director.

Lord's recent engagements include Die Zauberflöte with Cleveland Opera, Falstaff with Boston Lyric, and regular engagements with Wolf Trap Opera. The rave reviews of the Conservatory's fall production of Carmen suggest he's still at home in Oberlin.

Spano has been headlined by The New York Times as "Loony, Brutal and Raw, Like a Suicidal Machine." The all-Bartok program he led last November at Oberlin will be long remembered by all present, those on stage as well as those on their feet, in ovation.