Page 1

The play’s the thing Spring 2012


h Vienna Kaylan ’15 (coincidentally, niece of Lorenzo Mariani ’73) and Sebastian LaPointe ’14 in the classic comedy Harvey on Bingham stage this winter. Sarah Nyquist ’12


in this issue

Spring 2012

18

The Logic of Nonsense

Chris Bayes ’80 teaches a love of comedy. By William Squier

22

Veni, Vidi, Verdi!

Lorenzo Mariani ’73 embraces his opera roots in Italy. By Brady Dennis

26

Britain Calling

Cast of The Elephant Man tours London and Edinburgh By Jennifer Zaccara

Departments 2 From the Editor 3 Letters 3 Taft Trivia 4 Alumni Spotlight 10 Around the Pond 15 Sport 30 Tales of a Taftie: Otis L. Guernsey, Jr. ’36 31 From the Archives: Mays Rink


from the EDITOR Anyone who knows me knows that I am a talker. I find silences more than awkward; I feel compelled to fill them. And so I see the annual Day of Silence (which will have passed when you read this) as a personal challenge as well as a way to “call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment” as its founders intended (www.dayofsilence.org). The day is a national grassroots event started by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, in which students (and faculty) take a vow of silence, for all or part of a day, to symbolically represent the silencing of LGBT students and their supporters. The event asks the question, “What will you do to end the silence?” At Taft, SHOUT (Students Homosexual and Otherwise Uniting Taft—see “Club Spotlight” summer 2011) tapped into the equity from our honor code, asking community members to “pledge” to do something to end the silence. Teachers were asked to take a minute at the start of each block to allow students to reflect silently about what they can do. Academic Dean Jon Willson ’82 reminded faculty that the day presented a unique opportunity not to be the “talking head” in the classroom, and to allow students to be more active learners. Also in April, theater teacher Rick Doyle (see page 26) was hard at work with the cast of Roomies, a new play—which he both wrote and directed—about the additional challenges many LGBTQ students face in a boardingschool environment (more on the play in the summer issue). The hope, said my friend, colleague and neighbor, Andi Orben, who runs the Community Health At Taft (CHAT) program, is for “an increased understanding of and sensitivity to the fact that LGBTQ students are just like straight ones in terms of having crushes, wanting companionship, feeling anxious about relationships and struggling to define themselves in a busy, dynamic and challenging environment.” So my apologies if you phoned me on April 20 and were directed to my email instead. I was upholding my pledge to support the wonderful students in our community who are not always comfortable speaking out. Please understand, I always want to hear your stories! —Julie Reiff

2 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012

On the Cover v Ben Johnson ’12 and Emily Nelson ’12 in The Elephant Man, which they took on tour to London and Edinburgh over March break.

The play’s the thing

Andre Li ’11

Spring 2012 Volume 82, Number 3 Bulletin Staff Director of Development: Chris Latham

Spring 2012

Editor: Julie Reiff Alumni Notes: Linda Beyus Design: Good Design, LLC www.gooddesignusa.com Please recycle this Bulletin.

Look up your classmates on the go! x

WWW

Taft on the Web Find a friend’s address or look up back issues of the Bulletin at www.taftalumni.com Visit us on your phone with our mobile-friendly site www.taftschool.org/m What happened at this afternoon’s game? Visit www.taftsports.com

Don’t forget you can shop online at www.taftstore.com 800-995-8238 or 860-945-7736

Correction

In our last issue, in the list of head coaches with more than 25 years, there are two corrections. Jim Logan coached basketball until 1967–68, and Larry Stone’s last season coaching football was 1991. My thanks to all who helped set the records straight.

Proofreader: Nina Maynard Mail letters to: Julie Reiff, Editor Taft Bulletin The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. juliereiff@taftschool.org Send alumni news to: Linda Beyus Alumni Office The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. taftbulletin@taftschool.org Deadlines for Alumni Notes: Summer–May 15 Fall–August 30 Winter–November 15 Spring–February 15 Send address corrections to: Sally Membrino Alumni Records The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. taftrhino@taftschool.org 1-860-945-7777 www.TaftAlumni.com The Taft Bulletin (ISSN 0148-0855) is published quarterly, in February, May, August and November, by The Taft School, 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100, and is distributed free of charge to alumni, parents, grandparents and friends of the school. All rights reserved.


Letters

Soup’s On

A few minor corrections and additions to your caption of the photograph of Daniel Fenton’s ladling soup (winter 2012, p. 37). The picture could not have been taken in 1955, as the students at the near table are mostly members of the Class of 1953; and those at the table behind, headed by Mr. Howard Farwell, are all members of the class of 1952. The two waiters are Dave Dotson ’52 and Sam Stewart ’52. The incident you refer to occurred in the late fall of 1951. The hapless waiter was my roommate, the late Colin Chase ’52. I will never forget his look of utter horror, after the tureen had slipped from his hands, done a somersault in mid-air and landed squarely on Mr. Fenton’s well-coiffed dome. He arched his back, covered his eyes with his hands and wailed “Oh, no!” loudly enough to be heard by the entire school. All eyes were immediately turned to Mr. Fenton, who with great dignity and an amazingly bright orange head, strode stone-faced out of the dining room. After a second of stunned silence the entire student body and faculty broke out in the loudest sustained peal of laughter I have ever heard. Mr. Cruikshank was laughing so loudly that his head drooped forward and nearly hit the table. It was the only time in four years that I had ever seen him laugh. The vegetable was steamed squash, not turnip. Colin had never wanted to go to Yale. What he actually said was, “Now I’ll never get into Harvard.” And he didn’t. He went to the University of Colorado for a year, then transferred to Harvard, where he and I renewed our friendship as fellow residents of Adams House. I don’t know whether Mr. Fenton was responsible for Colin’s year in the wilderness or not. None of us wanted to believe he could have been that vengeful, but we couldn’t account for the rejection otherwise. —Victor Altshul ’52 Congrats on another Bulletin, in which I’ve read every article—a good, diverse crosssection of Taft—past and present. It used to be that I’d read my class notes and then pitch it. NO LONGER. I had a great deal of respect for Daniel Fenton, for he brought a sense of dignity and class to us, the unwashed. I happened to have been in the dining room when (a table or two beyond where the picture was taken) the tureen of hot squash fell over the unsuspecting Fenton. We understood it to have been pre-planned. What is not said is that poor Mr. Fenton did walk out of the dining room,

but was out of commission for about a week due to second-degree burns. Chase’s claim to fame was that his mother wrote Harvey here in Denver. I remember speculating at the time about his college prospects after the incident. The waiter for Fenton’s table in the picture was Dave Dotson ’52, one of the best running backs on the football team. —Edward Connors ’53 By sheer coincidence, Harvey was the winter play this year. See page 13. Reid Williamson ’52 also wrote in to identify many of the boys in the photo.

Family Ties

Thanks on behalf of the Graham Fam, and I daresay the Becker/Truesdale crew for the wonderful class notes for 1995. The day Peter Becker ’95 was announced [as the next head of The Gunnery], I immediately thought of your recent article about the connections of Taft and heads of school everywhere [Spring 2011, p. 22]. Excellent dot connecting. And you were right about Lance Odden being behind the scenes, but also behind the scenes were Danny ’95 and Greg Oneglia ’65. Peter had some long conversations about the opportunity, and I think knowing Greg and Cathy and Christina ’98 as long as we have, helped give Peter a sense of our community. It also didn’t hurt that he heard [my wife] Susie speak at the 1998 Taft graduation. As Susie retires this year [as head of The Gunnery], we will miss this place, but know that Peter and A.J. will do just fine. —Jim Graham P’98,’01 The list of Taft headmasters continues to grow. We learned that Burton MacLean ’34 headed three schools: Iolani School, American School Paris and Pomfret School. You can see the updated list at www.taftschool.org/headsup.

Logan’s Run

I get excellent alumni magazines from great schools, and your Taft Bulletin is among the very best, most readable and entertaining. I of course saw the Taft Trivia box and inquiry about long-term coaches. It was Jim Logan’s face that drew me in. The generations (plural) of Taft boys whom Jim Logan taught and coached is passing away, but, as with so many others in our transitory lives, his and their influence are being passed along. I know our Nobel laureate, Alfred G. Gilman ’58, would hold Jim Logan in the same high regard as I do. Al was the manager of the 1958 varsity basketball team under Logan, and also one of Logi’s star pupils in physics.

As for me, I avoided his difficult class, quite purposefully and wisely I add, knowing where danger lay even at that tender age. It was on the playing fields of dear old Taft that I knew and respected Logan as a coach and on the third floor corridor, uppermid year 1956–57, where he ruled quietly with a firm hand. On that corridor, I learned from Logan the inexcusability of a charge of “dereliction of duty.” I didn’t appreciate where the term came from (probably his Navy service), but we felt the moral force of it in Logan’s Dante-esque world of human failings. Duty, thereafter, took on deeper meaning. We called him Gentleman Jim. We meant —continued on page 33

???

Taft Trivia From whom did Horace Taft rent the original school buildings in Pelham Manor, New York? (Hint: You can find the answer in the fall 2010 issue, or on our website.) We received no replies about Taft’s last New England football title, which was in 1992.

Love it? Hate it? Read it? Tell us! We’d love to hear what you think about the stories in this Bulletin. We may edit your letters for length, clarity and content, but please write! Julie Reiff, editor Taft Bulletin 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-2100 or juliereiff@taftschool.org

Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012 3


alumni Spotlight

By Julie Reiff

Mistress of Spices Imagine an Indian meal and thoughts of spices immediately start to tickle the senses. Flame-hued chilies, glowing yellow tumeric powder, brick-red mustard seeds and feathery green coriander leaves all add color and aroma to the cornucopia of curries, soups, dals, pickles and chutneys found across the subcontinent. In 2005, Erika Shantz ’81 left her career as a logistics consultant and relocated to Goa, India, to build and operate a seaside resort. Avalon Inn, her bed & breakfast, is just 350 meters from the majestic Indian Ocean and offers rejuvenation holidays in charming Indo-Portuguese stone cottages and 4 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012

rustic bamboo bungalows set in a lush tropical garden. Courses in yoga, tai chi, Reiki and Ayurvedic treatment abound in the neighborhood, but calls for cooking courses had long gone unanswered… until now. Shantz has introduced a series of food-preparation seminars entitled Culinary Cultural Exchange held at the nearby Olive House. The course consists of 60 hour-long units, given over the span of 15 days. Olive House is a uniquely picturesque alfresco restaurant just a five-minute stroll from Avalon Inn, and the colorful thoroughfare meanders through the

village behind Mandrem Beach. There are seven tables in this peaceful, cordial setting where guests can savor a delicious meal, relax with a fine bottle of wine and find inspiration in nature. It was the allure of “black gold,” of pungent sun-dried pepper berries that drew Portuguese renaissance merchants to the Malabar Coast and kept them captivated by Goa and the spice trade for almost half a century. Today, the cultivation of spices continues throughout the hinterland of the tiny Indian state. Goa offers food enthusiasts an ideal setting in which to learn more about the significance of spices in the different cuisines of India and practice cooking with them.


Marathon Memories When Charlotte Miller McCarthy ’75 decided to start a company in 2007 she had no prior experience in running a sales-based business. With a background in marketing and PR, McCarthy, who had taken up marathon running, discovered there were very few ways to mark her 26.2-mile accomplishments, other than through finish-line photos. She saw a business opportunity and discovered what it is like to take an “aha” moment and make it a reality—Marathon Gifts. “It was like running a marathon,” she says. “I had to persevere and work very hard to get to the ‘finish’ line. I have come to realize how many great businesses started in a similar way. The biggest challenge has been to grow the business in tough economic times and because of limited resources to not be

able to advertise or promote my products in a manner that would help me increase sales.” Finding the right manufacturers for her products and the right web company to help launch a site have been challenging. It took her years to get the business up and running. Her company is a licensee of the Boston Athletic Association that runs the Boston Marathon as well as an official sponsor of the Marine Corps Marathon. The Boston Athletic Association recently renewed her license for three more years—a nice validation for her, as Marathon Gifts is by far their smallest licensee. Runners from 46 states and 16 foreign countries have purchased her products. For more information, visit www.marathongiftcollection.com.

Corporate Sustainability

So why is Coleman Bigelow ’93 on the Neutrogena Naturals website explaining the impact of the company’s “green server”? As global sustainability marketing director for Johnson & Johnson’s family of consumer companies, Bigelow’s main focus is on the development of brand strategies that build credibility, maximize community impact and minimize product footprint. Recent brand work includes the development and launch of Neutrogena Naturals.

“I think the big issue here,” he says, “is the massive amounts of energy that data servers require. The idea was simple, let’s build our own web server, powered by the sun and wind.” Moving from a traditional energypowered server to one powered by renewable energy uses one-third less energy, he explains. It’s an example of how the Neutrogena brand is looking to minimize its footprint. The ripple effect can have a huge impact, he says. “When you’re working on big brands it’s rare that you can completely revolutionize their offering, but with every product improvement made from sourcing to ingredient selection to packaging to partnerships, it gets magnified on a much larger scale. If it’s a billion-dollar brand, small changes and investments can have a big impact.” Bigelow believes that sustainability

in business—and especially in product marketing is going to become the “cost of entry.” “It’s in the best interest of business to select materials and produce products that come from sustainable sources, and I think consumers are going to expect this. They’re still going to be looking for quality, affordability and convenience, but greener product attributes are going to become the tiebreaker. I think most product businesses are going to see a trend of offering fewer, better options.” With global population expected to hit 9 billion by 2050, Bigelow, who recently achieved LEED Green Associate certification, believes this growth will present huge challenges and opportunities in how we serve and support all these people. “Hopefully we’ll be a pioneer that sets an example for the industry,” he says.

Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012 5


alumni Spotlight

A Fortune in Cookies? In the fall of 2010 in a tiny kitchen in Shanghai, Alexandra A. Comstock ’06 concocted a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Although she baked them to satisfy a personal craving, the batch marked the launch of an unexpected business enterprise in the blossoming market for home-baked goods in China. Selling old-time favorites like classic chocolate chip, sweet sugar, and hearty oatmeal raisin cookies, Comstock has built a loyal customer base of Chinese natives and foreigners alike. Her company, Strictly Cookies, might evoke memories of homemade baked goods for many Americans, but it is a novel business venture in Shanghai. In August 2010, Comstock landed in Shanghai, where she had lined up a job in marketing. At the time, cookies were the last thing on her mind, she says. Two months into her stay, the absence of quality cookies from the shelves of Chinese stores left Comstock with an empty stomach and a sweet tooth.

According to Comstock, the traditional Chinese mooncake is the dessert that bears the closest resemblance to cookies in China. “I couldn’t find a cookie that I was excited about, basically,” Comstock says. Her hankering for home-style cookies led her to start whipping up batches in her apartment to distribute to friends and bring to parties. “I started doing some research. China has thin, crisp, somewhat flavorless biscuits, but I couldn’t find hearty cookies. That’s when I thought maybe this idea has legs.” Initially, Strictly Cookies was run out of Comstock’s apartment. Her business was a one-woman show, with Comstock

taking orders, baking cookies, and running deliveries. “She started by almost going door-todoor and asking people, ‘Do you want to try my product,’” says friend Charlotte B. Winthrop. “She built Cookies at the grassroots level.” Soon after, Comstock quit her job and devoted herself full-time to filling the cookie void in the Chinese market. An East Asian studies concentrator at Harvard, Comstock used her passion for China to define her academic path in college. Now, she devotes her time to delivering the highest quality cookies to an international set of customers and to running her burgeoning business abroad. —Sabrina A. Mohamed, Harvard Crimson

Join Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 and Pam MacMullen P’14,’16 on August 8, 2012, for a Taft reception for alumni, parents and friends on Nantucket this summer. For more information, visit www.taftschool.org/events or email ledliepastor@taftschool.org.

6 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012


Hong Kong n Five generations of Tafties gathered in Hong Kong in February, at a reception hosted by Sir Gordon and Lady Ivy Wu. “The visit to Hong Kong was a huge success,” said Headmaster Willy MacMullen, “and I felt so deeply welcomed. No school has such deep roots. And the reception was wonderful, the best event I can ever recall.” Pat Chow P’93,’95,’00

Texas Teacher Kindergarten teacher Rachel Brodie Baldwin ’98 recently won the Texas Association for the Educators of Young Children (TAEYC) Teacher of the Year award. “I was so surprised,” says Baldwin, “and incredibly honored to receive the award. What an amazing feeling! Most of all I feel extremely fortunate to have worked at Greenhill School among so many fantastic educators for the past eight years. I could not imagine a more perfect place to grow and develop as a teacher and as a person.” Baldwin has been recommended and

supported by countless parents of her students. “In my opinion, Rachel has everything a teacher of young children needs,” says parent Karen McClard. “She is patient and nurturing, but she is also able to set limits and maintain control of her classroom. She lets the children develop at their own pace, encouraging when appropriate, without pushing too hard. I feel she has perfected the art of teaching the kids a lesson, when they think they are just playing a game and having fun!” Baldwin has also served as a mentor to other teachers. “I spent every day

with Rachel working side by side and I can say without a doubt that she had a tremendous impact on me as well as her students,” says Kristen Muñoz. “She brings a sense of calm and encouragement to her busy classroom. Rachel sees the special qualities of every child she encounters and is vigilant in her effort to reach each and every child.” Founded in 1966, TAEYC is a state affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children— the nation’s largest organization of early childhood educators and others dedicated to improving the quality of programs for children from birth through third grade.

Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012 7


In Print Columbus: The Four Voyages Laurence R. Bergreen ’68 In the first major biography of the iconic explorer in more than 60 years, Bergreen shows us the madness and genius that only those who traveled with Columbus could have seen. Covering his four epic voyages, it’s the man you didn’t learn about in school. Welcome to the voyages of a lifetime. Christopher Columbus’s 1492 voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a trading route to China, and his unexpected landfall in the Americas, is a watershed event in world history. Yet Columbus made three more voyages within the span of a decade, each designed to demonstrate that he could sail to China within a matter of weeks and convert those he found there to Christianity. These later voyages were even more adventurous, violent and ambiguous, but they revealed Columbus’s uncanny sense of the sea, his mingled brilliance and delusion, and his superb navigational skills. In all these exploits he almost never lost a sailor. By their conclusion, however, Columbus was broken in body and spirit. If the first voyage illustrates the rewards of exploration, the latter voyages illustrate the tragic costs—political, moral and economic. In rich detail Bergreen recreates each of these adventures as well as the historical background of Columbus’s celebrated, controversial career. Written from the participants’ vivid perspectives, this breathtakingly dramatic account will be embraced by readers of Bergreen’s previous biographies of Marco Polo and Magellan.

Supposing “Bleak House" John O. Jordan ’59 Supposing “Bleak House” is an extended meditation on what many consider to be Dickens’s and 19th-century England’s greatest work of narrative fiction. Focusing on the novel’s retrospective narrator, John Jordan offers provocative new readings of the novel’s narrative structure, its illustrations, its multiple and indeterminate endings, the role of its famous detective, Inspector Bucket, its many ghosts, and its relation to key events in Dickens’s life between 1850 and 1853. “Jordan is the most readable of readers,” writes 8 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012

Robert L. Patten of Rice University. “He never cuts a work down to size, but rather leaves it a more magically rich habitation for us to enjoy. This is now the gold standard of criticism for Dickens.” Jordan draws on insights from narratology and psychoanalysis in order to explore multiple dimensions of Esther’s complex subjectivity and fractured narrative voice. His conclusion considers Bleak House as a national allegory, situating it in the context of the troubled decade of the 1840s and in relation to Dickens’s seldom-studied A Child’s History of England and to Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx. Supposing “Bleak House” claims Dickens as a powerful investigator of the unconscious mind and as a popular novelist deeply committed to social justice and a politics of inclusiveness. Jordan is a professor of literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he’s taught since 1968. He is also director of the Dickens Project and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Charles Dickens.

Fighting Gravity Peggy Rambach ’76 Called “an astonishing work” by the Boston Globe, Rambach’s autobiographical novel, Fighting Gravity, depicts the journey of an optimistic, 19-year-old Jewish coed, who succumbs to the fascination of a respected 41-year-old Southern author—a mercurial, hard-drinking Catholic who is twice divorced and the father of four children. Set in New England and Alabama, Fighting Gravity begins as an exploration of the complexities of love and ultimately raises larger questions of human connection, commitment, faith, marital and parental responsibility and the nature of fate—as well as the importance of shaping one’s own destiny. “Rambach’s prose is wiry, deft and piercingly descriptive,” wrote the New York Times. “She gets well inside emotional events while keeping her detached regard unruffled.” The Baltimore Sun called the book “a tragic tale, bravely and cleanly told. It is deeply human— memorable and artful.” Twice awarded the Massachusetts Cultural Council Individual Artist Grant in Fiction, Rambach also received the St. Botolph Foundation Grant in


Literature, a fellowship at the MacDowell and Yaddo art colonies, and was named a literacy champion by the Massachusetts Literacy Foundation. Rambach also wrote When the Animals Leave, a short story collection, and edited two anthologies that emerged from her work teaching creative writing in the health-care and social service sectors: All That Matters: Memoir From the Wellness Community of Greater Boston and Seeds of Lotus: Cambodian and Vietnamese Voices in America. She teaches creative writing at the Suffolk County House of Correction in Boston, Massachusetts, and is on the faculty of Chatham University’s Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing.

Stewardship: Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street John G. Taft ’72 From the man who made the decision to reimburse clients affected by the collapse of a money market mutual fund comes a compelling look at why financial service companies should start doing what’s right for their customers. As the leader of a major full-service wealth management firm and former chairman of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, John Taft is uniquely qualified to offer an insider’s perspective on the 2008–09 crisis. In his book, Taft includes a detailed analysis of the stewardship failure of certain Wall Street firms that caused one of the most difficult periods in our financial lives. Stewardship is the journey of financial insider John Taft toward understanding and affirming the importance of stewardship—which he has come to define as “serving others”—as a core principle for the financial services industry, the global financial system and society at large. Taft is CEO of RBC Wealth Management–U.S. Through his family legacy of public service (he is the great-grandson of President William Howard Taft), he believes that staying true to core principles—like integrity and trust—plays a critical role in investor confidence, healthy functioning of markets and economic growth. Since service to others is an essential stewardship concept, all proceeds from the book will be donated to charity.

Kid Moses Mark Thornton ’91 Nine-year-old Moses wanders through the remote Tanzanian wilderness lost, hungry and about to die. A homeless street kid from the port city of Dar es Salaam, he has just buried his best friend. Kid Moses is the sparsely written, but powerful story of a boy who escapes the hustle and violence of the capital city to chase his father’s dream of returning to the farmlands of Tanzania. His need to be free takes him on a journey through the wilderness—a lonely, harsh and unnervingly quiet place. Accompanied by his friend Kioso and plagued by hunger, Moses accepts a lift from a disturbed stranger, before seeking out the uncertain safety and shelter of the bush once more. Kid Moses evokes the despair and loneliness of JM Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K; Wilma Stockenstrom’s The Expedition to the Baobab and Aher Arop Bol’s The Lost Boy. Despite the awful cruelty of his world, Kid Moses reveals the fundamental compassion that resides within most of us. Mark Thornton has a home in Cape Town and has worked since 1994 in Tanzania. He holds a master’s degree in environmental management from the University of Cape Town. He has spent the past 15 years as an internationally respected wilderness safari guide and conservationist, a job that has taken him into Tanzania’s most remote places and into the lives of diverse people. He has written for Africa Geographic magazine and UNESCO. In his writing, Mark seeks to explore the relationship between humans and their environment, particularly in the Tanzanian context. He is fluent in Swahili.

If you would like a copy of your work added to the Hulbert Taft Library’s Alumni Authors Collection and listed in this column, please send a copy to: Taft Bulletin The Taft School 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-2100


For the latest news on campus events, please visit www.taftschool.org.

around the Pond

By Debra Meyers

, Dr. Scott Mori gives

a talk on rainforests in Laube Auditorium.

Sarah Nyquist ’12

n Laura Monti ’89 and her biology students spend a day at the New York Botanical Garden. Sarah Nyquist ’12

New Partnership in Bloom The Taft community is enjoying the benefits of a new and strong partnership between Taft School and the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). Built largely on the inspiration of former NYBG and current Taft development officer Paul Parvis, the synergistic relationship brings NYBG scientists to Taft, and finds our own students and teachers studying behind the scenes at the garden. “Because of our relationship with NYBG, I was able to tour their facilities a few months ago with two other members of the Taft faculty,” explained science teacher Laura Monti ’89. “When I began working with a small group of motivated science students this spring, I thought they would also appreciate 10 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012

seeing a modern lab doing cutting-edge research—especially from a different perspective than the biomedical angle they more commonly see.” Eight students enrolled in an independent tutorial in biological research methods recently visited the herbarium, the molecular genetics lab facility and the tropical lowlands section of the conservatory. Their trip was a precursor to a much-anticipated and well-attended lecture on campus featuring NYBG botanist Dr. Scott A. Mori. Mori’s lecture, “The Role of the Rainforest in Maintaining Life on Earth,” was rooted in his expansive study of the relationships that exist among plants and animals in tropical forests. It also drew

from his newest book, Tropical Plant Collecting: From the Field to the Internet. Dr. Mori was the first of six to lecture at Taft in a series funded in part by a grant from the Yerkes Family Botanical Art and Science Speakers Fund; lectures resume this fall. In September, the Mark W. Potter ’48 Gallery will mount a complementary show featuring paintings from the tropics by artist Michael Rothman; Rothman worked closely with scientists from the New York Botanical Garden. In addition to the ongoing lecture series, the Taft School/NYBG partnership is expected to produce research opportunities for interested students, expanded and comprehensive courses of study, and perhaps even internships and ecotours.


Filmmaker Curtis Chin Visits Taft In 1982, Detroit was reeling from desperation and anger as job layoffs and high unemployment took over a community dominated for decades by the auto industry. As an entire city blamed its plight on foreign automobile manufacturers, anti-Asian sentiments ran especially high. That is when a Chinese-American named Vincent Chin was murdered by two white autoworkers. Chin’s killers got off with a $3,000 fine and three years probation, but no jail time. Filmmaker Curtis Chin tells the story of hate and social injustice in his documentary, Vincent Who? Curtis Chin came to Taft recently to talk about the impact the case has had on his life, and to share his film with the Taft community. “The case made a big impression on me growing up. Years later

From Ballet to Bollywood

Annual Winter Dance Concert Keeps Students on Their Toes

Original choreography and an eclectic mix of dance styles graced Bingham stage during the annual winter dance concert. The event featured six original pieces performed by members of Taft’s Dance Ensemble, including a modern dance number choreographed by Patti Buchanan, Director of Dance at Westover, as part of the Taft/Westover dance exchange. Taft Dance Director Kate Seethaler created new jazz and ballet pieces for the ensemble, and reworked a contemporary piece that originally premiered at Springfield College. She also worked with Taft seniors Sarah Kaufman and Lexi Rogers to create a duet set to the music of Florence and the Machine. One of the highlights of the concert was the closing piece, a rousing three-part Bollywood production crafted by this year’s guest choreographer Priti Ghatlia. Ghatlia is a traditional Indian folk dancer and Bollywood dance teacher at Westover School. “There was an overarching sense of playfulness to the show, featuring accessible and familiar music, brightly colored costumes, and, at times, an intentionally approachable stage presence,” said Seethaler. “My hope is that the audience left the theater with the same joy that I have the pleasure of witnessing daily in the dance studio, as students go bounding through space with freedom and exuberance.”

h Senior Lexi Rogers performs an Indian folk dance in this year’s dance concert. Yee-Fun Yin

I thought back and wondered why people weren’t talking about it,” Chin told Taft students. Many see the Chin case as the heart and start of the Asian-American civil rights movement. In fact, law professor and author Dr. Frank Wu notes in the film that the case marked the first time “the country united across ethnic and socioeconomic lines to form a pan-Asian identity and civil rights movement.” As a community activist, Curtis Chin co-founded the Asian American Writers Workshop and Asian Pacific Americans for Progress. In 2008, he served on Barack Obama’s Asian American Leadership Council. He has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, NPR, in Newsweek and other media outlets. Chin came to Taft as part of the Paduano Lecture Series in Philosophy and Ethics.


around the POND

Future Business Leaders of America Club

Tae Young Woo ’12 embraces the spirit Spotlight of entrepreneurship. His first enterprise? Bringing an FBLA chapter to the Taft School campus. “Coming to Taft, I was very interested in business—my dad had started his own company in Korea, social networking was blooming and the IT industry in Silicon Valley fascinated me,” Tae Young explained. “Although I was more interested in entrepreneurship and IT, I thought I needed a basic knowledge of business to pursue my passion. FBLA is a national organization with over 250,000 high school students active in clubs throughout the country, and I thought that was the best organization to follow.” Tae Young founded Taft’s FBLA chapter in October 2010. In just over a year’s time, Taft FBLA members have attended national leadership conferences in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, have twice earned Connecticut’s top ranking in the FBLA Virtual Business Challenge and have hosted a series of business workshops at Taft featuring industry

giants, including Apple’s Phil Schiller. “Hosting the senior VP of worldwide marketing at Apple at our first business workshop series is the achievement I am most proud of,” said Tae Young. “I was very honored to introduce one of the best business leaders in the world to students, parents and faculty who wanted to learn more about the business industry. Mr. Schiller captivated all of us with his humor and wit and delivered insightful tips to the students who, one day, aspire to become business leaders themselves.” The goal of the business workshop series is to connect Taft with the outside world, and to allow Taft students to talk with current and former business leaders. Tae Young hopes that faculty, staff, alumni and parents will join outside guests in coming to campus to speak to students about their experiences in business. “The closest thing Taft offers to business learning opportunities is AP Economics, though the course does not teach about the business industry. Our workshops help with that,” says Tae Young. English teacher John Magee, a former bond broker, has

n Tae Young Woo ’12 and Apple VP Phil Schiller, who spoke at the inaugural FBLA workshop. Brad Joblin ’73

agreed to speak at a business workshop soon, and Bill Taylor ’77, cofounder of Fast Company magazine, will speak at a business workshop on May 18. Taft’s FBLA chapter currently has 35 registered members. FBLA activities are open to the entire school community. Business professionals interested in coming to campus as guest speakers in the business workshop series should contact Jeremy Clifford, FBLA advisor, jclifford@taftschool.org.

Music for a While

n Period vocal ensemble Exsultemus performed at Woodward Chapel in January. www.Exsultemus.org

12 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012

Taft’s monthly performance series brought the acclaimed period vocal ensemble Exsultemus to campus in January. Declared “unquestionably in the top-tier of Renaissance vocal ensembles in the Northeast” by Boston Musical Intelligencer, the group is hailed for its “stunningly unified ensemble sound.” The Boston-based ensemble reflects the use of the most recent research into historically informed performance. Taking its name from the Latin for “let us rejoice,” Exsultemus is modeled after small estate and chapel choirs, working

as a chamber ensemble rather than a traditional choir. The ensemble took listeners on a musical journey for voices and brass from Italy over the mountains to Germany and Eastern Europe. The 2011–12 Music for a While Performance Series concluded an extraordinary season of unique programming with the perennial favorite Art from the Heart and a classical choral performance of Mozart’s Solemn Vespers with the new Taft Camerata Singers. For more information and a look back at the season, visit www.taftschool.org/arts.


Imagination Takes Center Stage Exceptional acting and imaginative sets made Harvey, the classic story of Elwood P. Dowd and his six-foot-tall invisible rabbit, a highlight of the winter Parents’ Weekend. Elwood, played by Taft senior Tommy Rowe, introduces everyone he knows to Harvey, including his exasperated sister Veta and frustrated niece Myrtle, played memorably by lowermiddler Vienna Kaylan and uppermid Liz

n Outlwile Matome ’12 helps friends and classmates learn more about her home country of Botswana. Jason Zhao ’13

Worldfest The diversity of the Taft community was the object of pride and celebration during WORLDfest 2012. With a student body that hails from 30 countries around the world, the event offered an inside look at who we truly are. It was time to reflect on the rich cultures and perspectives alive in our community and celebrate what is unique about each. WORLDfest 2012, held in February, featured ethnic cuisine, film screenings and interactive workshops filled with games, dances and exhibitions. International film screenings continued through April.

Demmon. Veta and Myrtle begin to wonder whether Harvey is a product of Elwood’s drinking, or if it is a true mental illness. A comedy of errors ensues when Veta tries to have Elwood committed to a sanatorium. “At face value, this is a tried and true, feel-good comedy,” said director Helena Fifer. “People know the story from the Jimmy Stewart movie or from Broadway, where he originated the role of Elwood. At its core, it is more than a comedy. It shows us that kindness really does go far, though it sometimes can be misinterpreted.” In preparing students for the play, Fifer thought it would be important for them to understand the culture surrounding mental illness and institutionalization in the 1940s. School counselor and psychology teacher Rachel Russell helped the cast bring both sensitivity and authenticity to their performances without losing the play’s comedic edge.

“The kids are very astute,” notes Fifer, “and are able to hold on to the reality while embracing the play’s basic message.” Harvey was written by American playwright Mary Chase in 1944 (whose two sons came to Taft); it debuted on Broadway the same year. Chase received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work in 1945. Costumes on loan from Torrington’s Warner Theater effectively transported the cast to the period, as did designer David Kievit’s “clever and imaginative” sets, which were truly one of the stars of the show. “The play is set in two locations,” said Kievet, “the Dowd family mansion and the reception area of the sanatorium. The cleverness is in changing from one to the other without the benefit of ‘Broadway’ tracks, motors and budgets.” Peter Linn ’12, Ben Garfinkel ’12, Blake Joblin ’13 and Natasha Batten ’15 dressed as sanatorium orderlies and doctors as they transformed the set in full view of the audience. h Tommy Rowe as Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey. Sarah Nyquist ’12 (see additional photo, inside front cover)


around the POND

In the Gallery The extraordinary talents of Taft’s visual arts faculty welcomed students back to campus after March break. Paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture and ceramics brought vibrant energy to the Mark W. Potter ’48 Gallery. The featured photography was a dialogue created by Yee-Fun Yin with four original paintings by Mark W. Potter ’48. The dialogue reflects Yin’s photographic response to each of the Potter works. “We thought it would be fun to have Potter in the gallery with us,” said art teacher Loueta Chickadaunce, whose paintings were also featured in the show, with additional works by Claudia Black, Rick Doyle and Jo-Ann Schieffelin. x “Weekeepeemee River Farm” from the series called Dialogue with Mark Potter. Yee-Fun Yin.

in brief Moorhead Wing Wins

Test Makers, Test Graders

Taft’s HDT dining hall project received awards for design and construction, and is in contention for additional awards for lighting. O&G Construction received the Association of General Contractors Build CT award in the Large Renovation category. With 25,000 square feet of new construction and 12,000 square feet of renovation, the project won for its attention to detail, its exemplary energy savings and its use of the building as an educational tool.

Science teacher Christopher Ritacco and math teacher Jeremy Clifford recently traveled to Sarasota, Florida, to help develop questions for the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT). The Secondary School Admission Test Board (SSATB), the creator and administrator of the test, issued a nationwide call for exemplary teachers to work on test development; Ritacco and Clifford were part of a team of 74 educational experts and professionals selected for the task. Taft faculty who play key roles in the College Board’s Advanced Placement program:

Hail to the Chef Congratulations to food service director and chef Jerry Reveron for achieving Pro Chef 2 certification at the Culinary Institute of America. Pro Chef 2 is an intensive written and practical exam that assesses culinary, leadership and financial skills. Chef Jerry is now one of only five Aramark chefs in the country who have earned the Culinary Institute’s Pro Chef 2 certification.

14 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012

Greg Hawes ’85-------------------------------- U.S. History reader David Hostage---------------------------- Chemistry table leader Jim Lehner----------------- Environmental Science table leader Laura Monti ’89------------------------------------- Biology reader Al Reiff ’80-------------------------------Statistics question leader Rachel Ryan------ American Government and Politics reader Pilar Santos------------------------------Spanish Language reader TJ Thompson------------------------------- Music Theory reader, test development committee


For more on the winter season, please visit www.taftsports.com.

winter SPORT wrap-up By steve Palmer

h Senior Lindsay

Karcher goes up strong in a dramatic 45–37 win over Miss Porter’s to take the Founders League title. Phil Dutton/ Photo Trophies

Girls’ Basketball 16–7

Founders League Champions New England Quarterfinalists

Taft won its second consecutive Founders League title, going undefeated in league play and earning a #4 seed for the Class A New England tournament. Convincing wins against league rivals Choate (56–32), Hotchkiss (59–38) and Loomis (58–34) came in the middle of a powerful 11–0 run for Taft, but the home win against Porter’s (45–37) sealed the title. After leading at halftime, Taft dropped a hard-fought first round tournament game against NMH. Taft was led by All-New England player Morgan Manz ’13 (9.1ppg, 5.7rpg) and Founders League All-Star Taylor Peucker ’12 (8.65ppg, 7.6rpg). Captain and Founders League All-Star Lindsay Karcher ’12 (6.3rpg), Maggie O’Neil ’13 and Katie Harpin ’13 were central to the solid defense and offense all season, while Ashley Petrarca ’12 provided danger from outside the arc. Alex Pite ’12 and Lexi Dwyer ’12 gave the team excellent ball pressure defense every game.

Boys’ Basketball 15–10 New England Quarterfinalists

The Rhinos won six of their last seven games to earn a #7 seed in the New England Class A tournament. Taft could not get past eventual-champion Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012 15


spring SPORT Salisbury in that game, but they did knock off some very strong teams to get there. Highlights of the season included defeating league rival Avon three times, but Taft’s best game was its one-point win over a deep Kent team (47–46), avenging a 30-point loss earlier in the season. Captain and high-flying forward Kevin Trotman ’12 led the team in scoring (16.7ppg), shot blocking and overall defense. Trotman was named to the AllNew England second team and finished a great career as Taft’s second all-time leading scorer with 968 pts. The speed and versatility of Kade Kager ’13 and Anthony Gaffney ’12 (11.2ppg) made a big difference at both ends of the floor and earned both Honorable Mentions as All-New England players. Forward Matt Daley ’12 averaged more than seven rebounds per game.

Wrestling 5–11 It was a challenging year for Taft grapplers as injuries devastated the team right from the start. All four seniors (Charlie Rudkin, Quinn Gorman and co-captains Mark Hawkins and Matt Padilla) suffered season-ending injuries well before the Western New England league tournament, making Taft’s 9thplace finish out of 20 teams all the more impressive. At the tournament, Adam Parker ’13 took home 2nd place at 220

pounds while Carl Sangree ’14 earned 3rd place at 182 pounds. Will Pope ’13 and Jeff Kratky ’13 each earned 5th place at 195 and 170 pounds respectively. This strong, young core of wrestlers and four straight wins to end the regular season bode well for next year.

Boys’ Squash 16–4 Taft completed a highly successful 15–2 regular season, culminating with a 6th place finish at the U.S. National Championship and 4th place in New England. After losing five seniors from last year (#2 in the nation), this year’s squad was in search of an identity. Four JV players moved up, and with the addition of Noah Browne ’12, a strong #2 all season, Taft was back in the hunt with the best squash teams in the country. Led by returning captains Zeyad Elshorafy ’12 and Andrew Cadienhead ’13, the team started the winter with an 8–0 record before running into Brunswick, ranked #2 in the country. That first loss, a 4–3 battle, may have been the best match of the season. At the US National Championships, the Rhinos had a sensational four-hour win against Lawrenceville to move into the quarterfinals. Senior Yuga Koda was the hero as he won the deciding match 12–10 in the 5th game. At the New Englands, Taft played some of its best squash of

ATHLETIC AWARD WINNERS 1978 Girls’ Varsity Basketball Cup----------------------------Lindsay E. Karcher ’12 1986 Girls’ Squash Award------------------------------------- Katherine C. Carroll ’12 Angier Hockey Trophy------------------------------------------------ Brett F. Curran ’12 Boys’ Ski Racing Award------------------------------------------------ Eli H. Cooper ’15 Boys’ Squash Award---------------------------------------- Andrew O. Cadienhead ’13 Coach’s Hockey Award---------------------------------------------Albert B. Nejmeh ’13 Girls’ Ski Racing Award------------------------------------------ Karlea D. Peterson ’14 Harry F. Hitch Wrestling Award---------------------------------- Matthew Padilla ’12 James Paynter Logan Memorial Basketball Trophy--------Kevin O. Trotman Jr. ’12 John L. Wynne Wrestling Award--------------------------------Mark D. Hawkins ’12 Patsy Odden Hockey Award--------- Erin J. McCarthy ’12, Taylor M. McGee ’12

16 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012

h Sue Ann Yong ’14 defeats her Greenwich opponent 3–0 and finishes a stellar season undefeated (18–0) and New England Champion at #1. She also upset the #1 and #2 seeds at the U.S. Open in December to be crowned U-17 Champion. Peter Frew ’75

the season with Elshorafy (2nd place at #1), Browne (1st at #2, Taft’s individual NE champ), Cadienhead (2nd at #3) and Koda (3rd at #4) all winning awards. The team loses four seniors and will be ably led by captains-elect Cadienhead and Mark Sperry ’13 next year.

Girls’ Squash 10–5

Founders League Champions 3rd in New England After graduating half of the team from last year, a group of strong seniors and talented middlers brought Taft roaring back this year. In the regular season, Taft won the Founders League title for the fourth year in a row with wins over Hotchkiss (7–0), Loomis (7–0) and two 4–3 decisions over rival Choate. At the National Team Championship, the Rhinos competed without #2 Sachika Balvani ’12 and had to accept a disappointing 12th-place out of the 150 participating schools. Yet, the team played its best squash at the New England tournament to earn 3rd place behind dominant teams from Greenwich and Deerfield. Taft’s top player all year, Sue Ann Yong, won the individual title at #1, finishing undefeated


h Boys’ varsity hockey wins the Lawrenceville Tournament, where they played—and won—four games in five days. Phil Schiller

for the entire season. But, Taft’s 3rd place finish came on the strength of all seven players: Balvani placed 2nd at #2, Maggie O’Neill ’14 5th at #3, Katherine Carroll ’12 4th at #4, Courtney Jones 6th at #5, Isabel Stack ’14 6th at #6, and Celina Schreiber ’12 4th at #7. Perhaps the best reward of the tournament came when Taft was chosen by the other teams and coaches as the recipient of the 2011–12 Sportsmanship Award.

Boys’ Hockey 10–13–1 This year’s team was a well-balanced group that played hard at both ends of the ice and was led by captains Mitchell Wagner ’12 and Al Nejmeh ’13. The Rhinos enjoyed arguably their best week of the season in December when they beat an undefeated Gunnery team (3–1), and then won the 64th Annual Lawrenceville School Ice Hockey Tournament by defeating Lawrenceville (4–2), Nichols (2–0) and an undefeated Belmont Hill School (1–0) in the championship game. Goaltender Marc Schiller ’13 led the way with stellar play between the pipes throughout that stretch. The other highlight of the season

was a 5–4 home victory over Choate Rosemary Hall on Parents’ Day. After losing captain Wagner to a concussion, the team never skated more than four seniors in the line-up, indicating the young strength of this team. Andrew Gaus ’14 led the team in scoring with 20 goals and 11 assists to earn an All-Founders League distinction with fellow linemate Rob Kiska ’13 (7g,17a).

Girls’ Hockey 6–15–1 This was a tough season for this solid team that skated competitively against many of the best teams in New England but struggled to score goals. Key wins came against league rivals Loomis (3–2), Deerfield (2–0) and Choate (4–3)—all three teams ranked in New England at the end of the season. Additionally, Taft lost five one-goal games. Tri-captain Katie McLaughlin ’13 and forward Katherine Roznik ’14 led the team in scoring, while tri-captain Taylor McGee ’12 and Lynndy Smith ’13 were solid defensively all season. For the second year, Colleen Marcik ’13 was fantastic in goal for Taft, often facing over 30 shots per game and finishing the year with a

save percentage above 90. The line of Alanna Fogarty ’12, Anne Tewksbury ’12 and tri-captain Jordan McCarthy ’12 provided a much-needed spark and proved influential in coming back from a two-goal deficit against Choate, capped off with McCarthy’s game winning goal with seven seconds left.

Skiing Taft finished 3rd out of the 11 teams in the Berkshire League, led by lowermid Eli Cooper’s first-place finish in both the Giant Slalom (88 racers) and Slalom. Cooper is the first Taft skier to win both individual titles in the same season. The strong skiing of Kramer Petersen ’13 (10th GS, 11th SL) and Andrew Trevenen ’13 (12th GS, 12th SL) ensured the 3rd-place team finish. On the girls’ side, Karlea Peterson ’14 led the way with 16th place in the GS and 24th in the SL, followed by Becky Frank ’15 in both. At the Class B New England Championships, Taft boys and girls finished 5th out of 13 teams behind Cooper’s 3rd-place slalom, Karlea’s 10thplace and middler Natalie Whiting’s 14th-place slalom out of 61 racers. Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012 17


The

Photography by Robert Falcetti

of Logic

Nonsense Chris Bayes ’80 teaches a love of comedy. By William Squier


x It’s “noses on” for students in Chris Bayes’ acting class at the Yale School of Drama.

“It was a turning point for me in the sense that I was becoming a different kind of artist.. I wanted to create in a different way. I wanted to be teaching more than I wanted to be acting.”

F

or many people Samuel Beckett’s absurdist work Waiting for Godot is a real headscratcher. But, for Christopher Bayes ’80 the play was an eye-opener. In fact, Chris says that a brush with Godot when he was a young student at the Foote School in New Haven is when he fell in love with the stage. “There’s something about Godot that is so theatrical,” Chris explains. “It demands virtuosity from a performer. So, when we put the scene together, we’d rehearse it in really weird places to see what we could discover. We did the scene on the bus. Or we’d go and do it standing in the rain. Or on the beach. Crazy things! I don’t know if I’d be doing theater today if it hadn’t been for that.” Since then, Chris, a professor at the Yale School of Drama, has not only been acting but directing, writing and, at times, even designing and composing for the stage. His is a career that has followed a logic of its own, often dictated by an intense interest in clowning and commedia dell’arte, a form of improvisational comedy, born in 16th-century Italy that is often extravagantly physical. Over the years, he has belonged to the resident acting companies of two of America’s most celebrated regional theaters. As a director, he has gained a reputation for injecting his own brand of inspired nonsense into classic works of comedy. He was even asked to join the creative team that brought the London hit The 39 Steps to Broadway in a production that Ben Brantley at the New York Times praised as a “committedly silly…absurdly enjoyable, gleefully theatrical…fast, frothy exercise in legerdemain.” And somehow Chris has also managed to teach at a roster of the most prestigious theater schools in the U.S., including serving as the head of physical acting at the Yale since 2007. A native of Miami, Florida, Chris moved with his family to the Northeast when his mother was hired to work at Yale. So, the university’s campus has been a part of his life for a long time. “The first class that I ever taught is where the Iseman Theater is today,” he points out. “It used to be the Jewish Community Center. I taught a magic class there when I was 12.” Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012 19


“It’s a huge act of courage to go so far with something that may be too much or may be inappropriate. But, it also may be brilliant!”

20 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012

Chris continued to explore his interest in the theater with the encouragement of his teachers at Taft and then at Macalester College in Minnesota. “It was an interesting time,” he says of his college years. “I needed to get out of the East Coast to figure some things out and live a slightly different way.” Chris stayed in Minnesota after college to begin his acting career with stints at the Minneapolis-based Guthrie Theater and Theatre de la Jeune Lune (each of which has been honored with a Regional Theatre Tony Award). It was at Jeune Lune that Chris began to branch out as an artist. “When I was accepted into that acting company, it was a dream come true,” Chris recalls. “It was six years where you did everything. We were in the office every morning doing administration; working on the sets on our day off—a full home invasion of this-is-how-you-make-theater. And it was where I had my first introduction to clown work and commedia. I learned so much.” At Jeune Lune he discovered a particular affinity for commedia dell’arte. “It’s so modern, and yet it has a legacy that’s hundreds of years old,” he says. “It puts the actor at the center—rather than the playwright, the director or the designer—on the high wire. It was always where I felt like I wanted the performance to go.” Next, Chris spent seven seasons at the nearby Guthrie Theater, a company famous for its repertory stagings of the classics. Although the roles that he tackled there were often quite dramatic, like playing Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest or The Herald in Marat/Sade, Chris found himself thinking more and more about what he came to believe was missing from American theater: the element of playfulness. “As an actor I felt that it was important to find the pleasure again,” he recalls. “Sometimes we take ourselves so seriously that we forget what we love about the work–what keeps bringing us back to it. We drown a bit in our own seriousness.” Which isn’t to say that Chris didn’t take full advantage of opportunities that were offered to him by the shows that he was cast in at the Guthrie. “There can be great pleasure in the tragic,” he acknowledges. “I had a wonderful time when I played Edgar in King Lear. I got to carry an axe, lacerate this dude and reach in to grab his heart. That’s great fun!” Much of what Chris had been ruminating about at the Guthrie came together in 1993 when the theater commissioned him to create a one-man adaptation of Heinrich Böll’s The Clown. “It’s a beautiful, tragic German novel, very much in the world of Samuel Beckett,” he says. “It was a turning point for me in the sense that I was becoming a different kind of artist. I wanted to create in a different way. I wanted to be teaching more than I wanted to be acting. And I wanted to be directing more. So, I began to investigate the muscles that it takes to do that.” Chris’s desire to teach landed him on the faculty of the Juilliard School in New York City. “I was really lucky,” he admits. “I ended up there just at the time that schools were having more clown and commedia based work in their programs. I had this specialty—this niche—that people were suddenly interested in.” “The thing about teaching is that you’re forced to articulate some things that you think are important about the art form,” he says. “I was trying to do something very particular as an actor that I think I was achieving in a small way. But, as a teacher I could do something bigger. I could send out these little armies of young artists with a sense of what the world of the clown and commedia is about.” “One of the things I talk about in class is going over the top,” he continues. “The term comes from World War I about coming out of the trenches. You’re not going to win if you stay down there. You can sit in the mud with the rats and your dead buddy or you can go up and over in pursuit of triumph or disaster. It’s a huge act of courage to go so far with something that may be too much or may be inappropriate. But, it also may be brilliant!” From Juilliard, he went on to teach at NYU’s graduate and undergraduate acting programs, Brown University/Trinity Consortium, the Academy of Classical Acting at the Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C., and, of course, Yale, among many others. He even taught a class or two at the Big Apple Circus and Cirque du Soleil.


Chris has an intense interest in clowning and commedia dell’arte, a form of improvisational comedy from 16thcentury Italy that is extravagantly physical.

At that same time, Chris began to do a lot more directing, often for the same places where he was teaching. And off campus, he also staged work at some of New York City’s most experimental theaters, like P.S. 122, Dixon Place and HERE Arts Center, as well as respected regionals like Seattle’s Intiman Theater and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. Chris became known fairly quickly for his wildly inventive productions of 17th- and 18thcentury works by Molière and Goldoni. “I’m drawn to those plays because of the poetry of the language,” he feels. “But, also because of the theatricality of the world.” His recent production of Molière’s A Doctor in Spite of Himself is typical of the irreverent approach that Chris takes to mounting commedia-based comedies. His version of the play, which he adapted with longtime collaborator Steven Epp, mixes traditional commedia characters and slapstick antics with anachronistic elements like topical gags and contemporary pop songs. “You have to update it to honor the work that Molière was doing at the time,” says Chris. “He wasn’t writing classical theater. He was writing about what happened at the bar last night. So, you have a certain obligation to make it alive in the world.” By the time Broadway came calling in 2008, Chris had a trunk full of theatrical tricks to take with him to The 39 Steps. He was asked to join the creative team by director Maria Aiken, a former colleague from his days at Juilliard. His task was to build on the movement developed in England by Toby Sedgwick, who was busy with the original production of the play War Horse. “In The 39 Steps the actors were allowed to be virtuosic,” Chris says. “There was a lot of magic to that.” What’s the next “logical” step for Christopher Bayes? A Doctor in Spite of Himself and his staging of the equally riotous comedy The Servant of Two Masters have been traveling to theaters across the country. So, he’ll be busy remounting Servant at the Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C., in May. Chris and Steven Epp have also begun work on a new adaptation of plays by Venetian playwright Angelo Beolco that center on rural peasant life in the 16th century. “People want the wocka-wocka that we’re known for now,” Chris admits. “But, I’d like to try something that’s a little darker, a little more violent, with a different kind of poetry to it.” A risky move? Perhaps. But, as Christopher Bayes is fond of reminding his students: “It’s the risk that you take to be brilliant.” j

William Squier is a freelance writer who has written for Newsweek and Woman’s Day. He is also an Emmy Award winner, and his stage musicals have been seen at regional theater and off-Broadway. Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012 21


Lorenzo Mariani ’73

embraces his opera roots in Italy

by Brady Dennis

A

sti, on East 12th Street, is to opera buffs what Scotland is to golf fanatics…. Everybody sings at Asti: the waiters, the bartenders, the customers, the coat-check girl, and the current owner, Augusto Mariani.”

The small opera house that stood for generations at 13 East 12th St. in New York’s Greenwich Village wasn’t really an opera house at all, although on some nights it rivaled the great stages of Europe. An Italian immigrant named Adolph Mariani opened Asti in 1925. He had come to America from a picturesque village perched on the Mediterranean that once had been a popular haunt for English poets such as Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. Mariani was an opera buff and a voice coach and a man of great passions, and his cozy, raucous restaurant in Lower Manhattan became a shrine to his native land and to his avocation. Framed pictures of opera greats and other legendary customers covered nearly every square inch of the walls—everyone from Babe Ruth to Luciano Pavarotti. Gray-haired waiters in red jackets, black bow ties and crisp white shirts weaved around tables with platefuls of pasta and Chianti. A fat cat lounged in the kitchen, awaiting leftovers. A piano player sat at his perch in the back of the room. And then there was the singing. Baritones and sopranos and tenors. Arias and duets and choruses. Men in tuxedos and women in evening gowns would step atop the small wooden stage and belt out Puccini and Verdi. Augusto Mariani, the founder’s oldest son, would clang the wine bottles with silverware and slam the cash register drawer in time with the music. “Asti, on East 12th Street, is to opera buffs what Scotland is to golf fanatics,” the New York Times once observed. “Everybody sings at Asti: the waiters, the bartenders, the customers, the coat-check girl, and the current owner, Augusto Mariani. Hundreds of framed photographs testify to Asti’s popularity among the international opera world.”

veni, vidi, 22 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012


Illustration by Chris Lyons

Verdi


On the wall at Asti: Mariani with the Italian director Franco Zeffirelli and renown tenor Placido Domingo. Angela Mariani

I

didn’t come out of college thinking that’s what I wanted to do. But when it happened, it felt so right, and I loved it.”

24 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012

That was the universe into which Lorenzo Mariani ’73, the youngest son of Adolph Mariani, was born and raised. Given those beginnings, it seems almost preordained that he would go on to become a renowned director on the international opera scene. “We all grew up inside the family business,” Mariani recalled recently in an interview from Palermo, Italy, where since 2005 he has served as artistic director of the Teatro Massimo, one of Europe’s most enchanting opera houses. “It was hectic, chaotic, rambunctious, noisy—but extremely pleasant.” After spending his first dozen years in Manhattan, the elder Mariani moved his family to Long Island and continued to commute each day to his restaurant. Lorenzo Mariani attended Buckley Country Day School in Roslyn. He graduated from Taft in 1973 and headed to Harvard University, where through his studies of history and literature, he said, “I fell in love with Italian culture…I fell in love with my roots.” Even then, he already showed a keen eye both for his ancestral homeland and for opera. In opinion pieces for the Harvard Crimson, he wrote both about the intricacies of the Italian political system and about how the famous tenor Pavarotti was overrated. “I do recognize that Pavarotti has done a lot for opera’s popularity, if little for its standards of excellence,” he wrote in 1977. “For all its ease, the voice simply does not have the sheer beauty of a Gigli or a Caruso or a Tagliavini. These were ‘golden voices’; the sound was not light and thin, but light and full, with richness and texture to the sounds they produced; they soothed and caressed your ears.” Mariani’s sister, Angela, recalled that when her brother got to Harvard, their father proudly stated that his son would become a lawyer. “‘None of this starving artist stuff for my son,’ he would declare. ‘I fed enough of those in my day,’” Angela recalled. “And against my father’s wishes, Lorenzo stayed true to his dream, and he has been an inspiration for me ever since.” Mariani won a Fulbright fellowship to study literature and theater in Italy after graduation. He soon found himself drawn to the opera, which felt like a homecoming of sorts. “It may have just been in my genes, in my subconscious,” he said. “I didn’t come out of college thinking that’s what I wanted to do. But when it happened, it felt so right, and I loved it.” He had the good fortune, he says, to work with well-known, talented directors who became mentors to him early on. “I was exposed to the best of the best,” he said. “I learned a lot—eyes wide open, ears wide open, absorbing, absorbing, absorbing.” Mariani married at 25 and had a daughter. He landed a job as an assistant director at the Florence Opera House and began to build a career—and a reputation—that would take him to nearly every corner of the world and allow him to work with some of opera’s biggest names. In Italy, his work has appeared regularly at the larger opera houses and most prominent festivals. He has staged Candide in Naples, La Bohème in Bologna, La Traviata in Torino. He recently inaugurated the Festival Verdi in Parma with Il Trovatore. His productions have graced stages in Shanghai and Tokyo, in Chicago and Boston and San Francisco. Mariani has even strayed at times away from opera. He has directed plays by Shaw, Shakespeare and Brecht, in addition to numerous works by contemporary Italian playwrights. His adaptation of Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener was performed at a festival north of


Rome. In addition, he once staged Three Penny Opera with the Italian rock star Elio. He has taught his craft at schools in Italy, Sweden and India. “His work is well known and highly regarded in Europe,” said Laurie Feldman, a veteran stage director who worked with Mariani recently in France. She said Mariani has a special knack for translating the music and text of an opera into compelling visual images. Feldman described an example from the recent production of Il Trovatore, in which there is a short prelude of string instruments before the entrance of the young Leonora, an emotional character full of youthful dreams and romantic longing. To evoke those feelings in the audience, Mariani had the actress arrive atop a moon, drifting down from the heavens in a dreamy, ethereal way—“A great example of interpreting the music,” Feldman said. But she said that is merely one of several skills that make Mariani a “special” director. On working with the singers themselves: “He is very precise with the singers, working with them with kindness and warmth to discuss what each moment of the opera is about, analyzing each scene and bringing out the best in each of them to interpret the opera.” On molding the disparate personalities of an opera into a cohesive group with a singular goal: “He builds a team of set designer, costume designer, lighting designer, and prepares in a detailed manner so that all of the visual aspects are unified.” The reviews of Mariani’s work over the years, as with any director, have included both praise and criticism. “[His] direction had natural wit on its side,” one reviewer wrote of a comic opera by Rossini. A British critic complained that a production of the Italian opera Iris was “staged with an overacted winsomeness and tiresomely self-conscious theatricality by Lorenzo Mariani.” The Jerusalem Post once referred to him as “the cocky, talented director.” Mariani undoubtedly is confident in his abilities—“It was rather bold and innovative, I think,” he says of his most recent production. But far from seeking accolades, he seems most interested in seeking out new ways to keep centuries-old operas fresh and interesting. “I love anything that can be a challenge to describe on stage. That’s what excites me,” he said. “There are so many different elements that come into play. It’s got music, it’s got images, dance. There are great stories. It’s very passionate.” Mariani himself has long been a man in perpetual motion. In the past four months alone, he has put on a Puccini production in Sweden, a Verdi production in Venice, a Candide opera in Rome and then to Nice, France, for Verdi again, before returning to Palermo to organize the theater’s upcoming season. The rollicking opera house his father built in Lower Manhattan closed its doors on December 31, 1999, after 75 years in business. “As the century comes to an end,” the New York Daily News observed, “so does the song- and sauce-filled life of Asti—one of New York’s most beloved and treasured restaurants.” But the passions of the father live on in the son, who says he remains determined to keep spreading the gospel of opera to every corner of the globe. “I wouldn’t mind going to a place where people don’t know what opera is, where it would be something completely new,” Mariani said. Maybe Mozambique, he thinks. Or Istanbul. Or New Delhi. Or China. “It’s something I kind of dream about,” he said. “We have to be brave about what we do with our lives.” j Brady Dennis is a staff writer for the Washington Post.

© Walter Bibikow/JAI/Corbis

H

e is very precise with the singers, working with them with kindness and warmth to discuss what each moment of the opera is about, analyzing each scene and bringing out the best in each of them to interpret the opera.”

Teatro Massimo in Palermo, where Mariani is artistic director, is the largest opera house in Italy and is renowned for its acoustics.


Britain Calling

Cast of The Elephant Man tours London and Edinburgh By Jennifer Zaccara


March 8—London

The sun is out, and it’s about 50 degrees (Fahrenheit). We have checked into a simple, bay-window-adorned brownstone near Kensington and Knightsbridge. The students are having croissants and coffee in the breakfast room before we head to the American School of London…

Later that day…

We had a very successful performance tonight, and I am so proud of our students. When Rick came out of rehearsal he told me things looked spectacular, and he was right. St. John’s Wood, where the school is located, is a very upbeat, artistic region, and the homes here are classic brick with white pillars, lovely gardens and shrubbery all in neat little rows. We met 1 2

3

1 “Why did we take this play on

tour?” asks Doyle. “Because the show, this ensemble was that good, that astounding.”

2 “Johnson is remarkable in what he can do almost unconsciously,” says Doyle. “What he does, his body language and facial expressions—even when no one is focused on him, his—his walk... just uncanny the way he takes on this role. And Robertshaw is astounding. In his last scene, he’s as good as any professional you’ve seen.” 3 “There is never an attempt to use makeup on the Merrick character,” explains Doyle, for “this would only get in the way of bringing his inner soul out for us to see and embrace.”

Roberto d’Erizans, dean of curriculum here and former language department head at Taft, who took the rest of us on tour while the actors settled in to the theater. After our tour, Maggie, Lily, Jackie, Eugene and I went to Abbey Road and took some pictures and saw the recording studio. We all signed our names on the commemorative wall, and made sure to sign in the actors as well with Sharpies. I took a photo of the girls with one person taking off her shoes to go barefoot and to mimic the album cover. The theater was nearly full with ninth and tenth graders, faculty and friends. The atmosphere was very intimate, and the show had a special magic tonight. The theater is a very cool space with cushioned-bench seating in an amphitheater and a sunken stage. Blake did a terrific job setting up the lighting and helping with the stage. Browner made the transition into the play for us, busily working at his desk on stage while all of the students filed in. Their students had read the play so they were eager to see how we would portray the characters. You could feel their knowledge of the play as they anticipated some moments and laughed at just the right times. The emotional moments worked so well, and Ben, Emily and Robertshaw captured the hearts of the audience. Caroline outdid herself with a tremendous English accent, and Jenny, who is the most jet-lagged of us, lit up when she was on stage.

Blake Joblin ’13 checks out Abbey Road

Roberto threw a great reception for us. When Ben walked in, he got rushed by admiring female students who “just had to hug him because he was so wonderful.” Robertshaw found his way into the mix as well, and then all of a sudden the London and Taft students were sharing their reactions to the play, as well as talk about life in their school worlds.

March 9—London

We arrived at the Globe for a tour and workshop with Phil Cumbus of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The theater was amazing. Our students impressed Phil with their questions about things like Indigo Jones as a set designer (O’Meara’s question), and when Phil asked what the first line of Hamlet was, Browner blurted out “Who’s there?” Later, we went to the Tower of London, saw the dungeons, the beefeaters, but missed the crown jewels by a half hour. While we had dinner at La Strada, across from St. Paul’s, Browner attended a performance of Dvorak’s Rusalka at the Royal Opera.

March 10—London

Today we focused on the Westminster area, seeing Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. Some went back to see the Tate Modern art gallery. We decided to buy half price theater tickets at Covent Garden for tonight, going to four shows with our large group breaking into smaller ones. Sebastian and Robertshaw landed tickets for the 19th row on opening night of Sweeney Todd.

March 11—London

Today, we started by walking to the Royal Albert Hall and getting on the Hop on Hop Off tour. We went everywhere: Trafalgar Square, Marble Arch, Piccadilly, the Strand, and over Tower Bridge, where we left the bus and got on the cruise down the Thames, which everyone enjoyed. After a snack on the boat, we arrived at the London Eye, a Ferris wheellooking structure that provides panoramic views of the city. Some people went to Harrods and others went to Soho, but we shopped, Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012 27


Seeing the sights from the London Eye

shopped, shopped. The Soho crowd loved the record shops and musical instrument shops, along with the clothes. Returning back to our hotel, we walked up Cromwell Road to have dinner at a fabulous Indian restaurant. Several students knew so much about Indian food that they sounded like veterans. We leave for Scotland tomorrow!

March 12— Edinburgh

We arrived in style by highspeed train, where we had first class seats! (Some deal the travel agent struck.) It took only 4.5 hours from London, during which time Jenny read two books. There is no “Tube” in Edinburgh so we take the bus everywhere. We went into the city for dinner last night and began our night of storytelling. We laughed more than I have laughed in a long time. It was that side-splitting, painful laughter with tears, and we all came down with it. Browner and Doyle entered a competition, from my perspective, as they told and retold stories that had everyone laughing. Apparently, Robertshaw 28 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012

had trouble keeping his Tube tickets uncrumpled, so could not pass through the turnstile in Soho, London, and went through with Doyle instead. Right afterward, a man nearby started yelling (probably drunk, but very loud). Doyle made him think the police were after him and said, “Run, Robertshaw, run!” Tommy bolted down the long escalator, scurrying fast in his sockless loafers. Everyone was laughing, and Tommy loved the story most of all. We kept laughing all the way back to the number 26 bus and back to our hotel— especially when Doyle stuck his arm through the crowd, pointing at the street while we were waiting for the bus: “This,” he declared with emphasis, “is a one-way street!” Silence ensued as we all watched the cars going in two directions, back and forth, and then burst into laughter. How did he see it that way? Inexplicable. Today, everyone is a bit tired. Some will go see Edinburgh Castle and walk from there to the palace. The performance is at 7 p.m. In two days, we get up early for a jaunt to the Trossachs and Stirling Castle.

On a ghost tour in Edinburgh

March 13— Edinburgh Hello from the land of kilts, haggis, lochs, glens and highlands! We had our final performance tonight, and it was the best of all the shows they have done. As Doyle said to me, “They have matured into their roles even more.” We had a bit of scare this morning when Robertshaw and Eugene woke up feeling sick, so I stayed with them at the hotel while the others did the Royal Mile. I am claustrophobic so did not mind missing out on the very narrow Walter Scott Tower and its 287 steps! Doyle took the actors to the Edinburgh Academy after

the walk, and I took the others shopping on St. George and Prince streets. As we did in London, we brought baguettes, Brie, grapes, raspberries and plums to the actors for a brief snack before the performance (our standard fare). The theater was packed with students from the academy, along with Peter Tweedley ’11, who came down from St. Andrew’s to see us. He looked terrific and St. Andrew's suits him well. The performance was riveting tonight. The fade-outs worked on an emotional level. We got the most response when Mrs. Kendal (Emily) and Merrick (Ben) share a private moment and she

Jackie Tyson and Maggie Blatz with a new friend at Stirling Castle.


disrobes behind the scenes. The audience went wild with amazement. They were such good kids—a lot like ours but in kilts and hacking jackets! Sebastian did a fine job tonight. Rowe brought his character out tonight, reciting the Bible verses that resonated through the rest of the play. Ben and Robertshaw connected in a tour de force performance that really captured me more than any I

have seen yet. Doyle said the same thing. They dug into the emotional marrow of their characters and the philosophical issues that the play raises. Really, the stage glowed. The students got many compliments on their English accents. That made them feel good indeed! They poured themselves into this final night, and everything clicked. But there was a sadness too, for all of us, because we knew

that we would not see this group perform the show again. We stepped out of the theater to a big reception held for us in the main building, and I got the Edinburgh students to mingle with the Tafties. They just needed the ice broken…. Tomorrow we wake early for a trip to Stirling Castle and Loch Katrine, and then end with a ghost tour around the city at night, featuring the underground vaults. j

CAST

Frederick Treves, a surgeon and teacher . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tommy Robertshaw Carr Gomm, administrator of the London Hospital. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chris Browner Ross, Manager of the Elephant Man. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Will O’Meara (stage manager) John Merrick, The Elephant Man. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ben Johnson Nurse Sandwich, Pinhead, & Princess Alexandra. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rebecca Karabus Bishop Walsham How & Pinhead. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tommy Rowe Mrs. Kendal, an actress. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Emily Nelson

ENSEMBLE

Policemen, Cellist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rob Daigle Conductor, Pinhead Manager . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sebastian LaPointe Wilma, Pinhead, Countess . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Caroline Blatz Lord John, Reporter. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chris Hylwa Snork, Nun, Duchess . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jenny Walker

TECHNICAL STAFF & CREW. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Blake Joblin Fellow Travelers . . . . . . . . . . Maggie Blatz, Eugene Lee, Lily Tyson, Jackie Tyson

Original stage manager Wallis Kinney ’12 had to cancel due to illness.

Johnson ’12, Joblin ’13, O’Meara ’12, LaPointe ’14, Hylwa ’14, Rowe ’12, Nelson ’12, Daigle ’12, Robertshaw ’14, Jacqueline Tyson ’15, Eugene Lee ’15 , Caroline Blatz ’13, Lily Tyson ’13, Jenny Walker ’14, Maggie Blatz ’15 and Browner ’12 after their performance at the American School of London.

DOYLE’S DIRECTOR’S NOTES I am most proud of this production, to say the least. It has been a marvelous experience. The cast has recognized the challenge of doing a show like this. It is not easy at all, to find these characters and to bring them out onto the stage. They have been asked to find the soul of the person they are portraying. They have to understand what their character is going through. Imagine trying to understand what John Merrick, being so horrifically deformed, was going through; the constant hell, which was his world. It is always good, as a director, to take on good complicated characters where you have to try and see their world as they see it and then get the student actors to see the same world. This has been a wonderful group that has relished the experience. —Richard Doyle Jennifer Zaccara is an English teacher and associate dean of faculty at Taft. Both had a wonderful time with the JazzChamber-Dance Ensemble’s trip to Europe last year, so Jen jumped at the chance to take Elephant Man on the road when Rick first mentioned the idea. Taft Bulletin SPRING 2012 29


tales of a TAFTIE

By Debra Meyers

Otis L. Guernsey, Jr., Class of 1936 American Theater Hall of Fame

Sources: www.lettersofnote.com articles.latimes.com www.nytimes.com www.ingecenter.org www.bestplays.org library.ohio-state.edu

PHOTO: Leslie D. Manning Archives

“Dear Hitch, A few years ago I suggested to you an idea for a movie, vaguely based on something which actually happened in the Middle East during World War II. At that time, a couple of secretaries in a British embassy invented— for the fun of it and to relieve the boredom of an inactive post—a fake master spy. They gave him a name, and a record and planted information around to lure the Nazis onto his trail…” —Cordially Yours, Otis L Guernsey, Jr.

What successful Taftie, no longer living, would you like to see profiled in this space? Send your suggestions to juliereiff@taftschool.org

The Otis L. Guernsey Collection fills 89 boxes in the Thompson Library on the Columbus campus of Ohio State University. Compiled and archived by the staff of the Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute, the collection includes playbills, press releases, theater reviews and photographs—tools and trophies of the man heralded as “the most prolific theater editor in United States history.”1 Born half a block from Carnegie Hall in 1918, Otis Love Guernsey, Jr., may have been destined for a life built around rich storytelling and remarkable casts. His parents’ own wartime wedding announcement in the New York Times featured both: “Ten Lieutenants and two Captains of the army took brides yesterday... Lilies and palms decorated the chantry… the bride wore a girlish frock of white chiffon…”2 Story, stage and costume in review and in print. Guernsey came to Taft in the 1930s, a time when names like George and Ira Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart were defying Depression-era odds by mounting Broadway hits. After graduation, Guernsey followed his passion for the theater to Yale, where he wrote a number of plays; fellow students produced three of his original pieces. In 1941, Guernsey joined the now-defunct New York Herald Tribune, a daily publication with a reputation as a “newspaperman’s newspaper” and celebrated for its literary writing. For the next 19 years, Guernsey honed his craft there, first as a copy boy and reporter, then—and most notably—as an arts editor and film and theater critic. His instincts for identifying and celebrating talent extended beyond the stage: while at the Herald Tribune, Guernsey hired and mentored Pulitzer Prize-winning author and theater critic Walter Kerr. It was the next act of Guernsey’s long career that brought him the most acclaim, and perhaps the most satisfaction. For nearly 40 years, Guernsey edited The Best Plays Theatre Yearbook, the annual tribute to the best new American plays. In comparing his work at Best Plays to that at the Herald Tribune, Guernsey said he preferred the “celebratory criticism” of the annual review

to “hurling thunderbolts at people I admire.”3 Best Plays includes cast listings, synopses and reviews. In it, Guernsey, the publication’s longest serving editor, profiled his picks for the top ten plays of each theater season, and offered commentary on the previous season in his opening essays. During his tenure, Guernsey expanded the purview of Best Plays beyond the New York stage to include reviews of productions being mounted across the country. Otis Guernsey edited 36 consecutive volumes before retiring in 2000. Beyond Best Plays, Guernsey was widely recognized as an author, editor and idea man. In 1957 he wrote to Alfred Hitchcock (at left) offering the director rights to a movie concept the two once discussed. Hitchcock later bought the treatment from Guernsey for $10,000 and turned it into the Oscar-nominated classic, North by Northwest.4 His literary contributions include the Directory of the American Theater, 1894–1971; Playwrights, Lyricists and Composers on Theater and Broadway Song and Story; Curtain Times, a history of the New York theatre, 1964–1987; Broadway Song and Story. Guernsey was a member and chairman of the New York Film Critics and the New York Drama Critics Circle and was a founding member of the American Theatre Critics Association. During his lifetime, he was awarded the Margo Jones Citizen of the Theatre Medal, the New England Theater Conference award for lifetime achievement and the Founders Award of the Theater Hall of Fame. Shortly before his passing in 2001, Otis L. Guernsey, Jr., was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in New York City. Two awards have been named in Guernsey’s honor. The Otis Guernsey New Voices in the American Theatre Award recognizes outstanding early and midcareer playwrights, whose talent promises to positively impact the future of the theater. Newly renamed this year, Taft’s Otis L. Guernsey Theater Award is given to that actor or actress who, through enthusiasm, cooperation and competence, has contributed most to the theater at Taft. j

http://www.bestplays.org/guernsey.html Published: August 17, 1917, Copyright © The New York Times 3 http://articles.latimes.com/2001/may/05/local/me-59710 4 http://www.lettersofnote.com/2009/10/birth-of-roger-thornhill.html 1 2


from the ARCHIVES

v During construction, boys spread sand over the freezing grid of Mays Rink. In all, students put in 3,000 hours of labor.

, The inaugural hockey game against Westminster, January 10, 1951, making Mays the first artificial ice rink in prep school circles.

Mays Rink: Taft’s D-I-Y Project Imagine Taft’s ice hockey season this past winter without Mays or Odden rinks. There simply wouldn’t have been one. But, for its first 50 years, Taft, like most other New England prep schools, fielded teams and played hockey—dependent of course—on natural ice. As you may recall, Taft’s ice hockey record by mid-century was mediocre. But Len Sargent, teacher of math and rising head hockey coach at the time, loved the game. In the spring of 1949, Sargent approached Headmaster Paul Cruikshank with an idea that would seem extraordinary—indeed impossible—to us now: to build a modern, artificial ice rink largely with student volunteer time and labor. With money that he and the students would raise themselves. Such a facility would provide ice from Thanksgiving to March, effectively tripling the teams’ practice time from 20 to 60 days. Mr. Cruikshank and the Board of Trustees gave the go-ahead, and that summer Sargent hit the road in his Airstream trailer on a fundraising tour of the West. Meanwhile, students formed a committee to solicit money from each other and family and friends. By the

following spring, Sargent and his boys had raised nearly $25,000, and the project was under way, with Taft boys digging holes to test drainage and helping clear the Guernseytown Road site of small trees and brush. Students staying for the 1950 summer session dug drainage and foundation ditches, and holes for fencing and lighting. They spread an 18-inch layer of gravel over the 190 x 86-foot site. Then the Mollenberg-Betz Machinery Company of Buffalo, New York, laid the 9.3 miles of steel refrigeration pipes. The boys painted these with aluminum paint. They built the four-foot plywood rink boards. They dug eight, seven-foot holes for the 40-foot-high light posts, and assembled and put up a tall, 650-foot steel fence to surround the rink. This would contain the cold air to help preserve the ice. Then, in two December afternoons, racing an oncoming snowstorm, the student crew frantically spread the 440 cubic yards of sand that would underlie the pipes. Meanwhile, Sargent had recruited a group of faculty to build Angier House, which would contain the refrigeration equipment and a skate room (complete with a fireplace).

Students shingled the roof and painted the structure. Inside were the newly installed Frick compressors, condensers, motors, brine cooler, brine tank and pumps, all from the Buffalo company. The rink was named for Edmund A. Mays, Jr. ’27, and the equipment house was named for Donald Angier ’18. In total, students put in 3,000 hours of labor. According to former faculty member Toby Baker, Phillips Andover was also building an artificial rink that winter—and was neckand-neck with Taft—until their nine miles of piping was accidentally shipped to Andover, California! The delay put Mays ahead by a few weeks. On January 10, 1951, Taft played Westminster for the inaugural game on the brand-new ice. In its next full season Taft hockey took off, and in 1953 won its first of six Housatonic League Championships. In 1956–57 a roof was built and a Zamboni procured, thanks to the Weyerhaeuser and duPont families. For the next 13 years Taft dominated western New England prep school hockey. —Alison Gilchrist, Leslie D. Manning Archives

Did you work on the rink or help raise funds for it? Let us have your stories! Housatonic League Champs:1953–54, 1954–55, 1961–62, 1965–66, 1967–68, 1969–70


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