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A Dark November Day

File:JFK Eternal Flame.JPG

The Eternal Flame burning in honor of President Kennedy at Arlington Cemetery.

Emy Martin Halpert, MBC alumna

The damp chill startled me as I rushed out of my dorm.  It was the Friday before Thanksgiving recess in my junior year at Mary Baldwin College, and I had a lot of work to finish before going home.  The walkways were empty as I raced down the steep steps — a sure sign that I was late for class.

Stepping into the Academic Building, I sensed an eerie quiet.  The first room was empty.  Maybe I wasn’t late after all.

Then down the hall I saw a group huddled in front of a doorway.  Coming closer, I realized the people were not in my class.  The students and teachers leaned in silence towards the classroom, listening to a man’s voice on a radio.

“What’s going on?”  I asked.

As soon as I spoke, a girl in front turned and walked towards me.  It was my friend Mary reaching for my hand and guiding me away.

“Let’s go to the lounge,” she said, looking at me with awkward concern.

“What’s going on?” I asked again, as we sat down.

“Emy,” she said, pausing…. “The President was shot,” she said.

“President Kennedy is dead.”

First I screamed.  Then I began to cry.

I had seen him up close, those blue eyes radiating excitement as he climbed into the convertible a few feet away, no phalanx of secret service hovering.  We had screamed, “Jack, Jack,” my sister and I, like teenage fans at a rock concert, thrilled to be so close to the star.  We had passed out flyers for his campaign.  We could not yet vote, but he was our hero.

I don’t remember how long we sat there.  I do remember the crushing weight of sadness as we walked in silence back up the stone stairs.

Assassinated.  The President.  Unthinkable.

We had not yet known the sting of quicksilver change.  Time was measured more slowly, long before the Internet brought a constant rant of public pain. The phone was in a booth, not a pocket.  Long distance calls were expensive.  We wrote letters, not emails.  We sat around.  We talked.

For the rest of the day we gathered in front of the TV in our dorm lounge, watching Walter Cronkite, his voice sober and solemn as he relayed the ongoing events, guiding us through the rainy day and into the dismal night, interviewing important people who spoke through tears, straining to comprehend the tragedy.

The country would go on, they said.  We would not let the voices of hatred win out, they said.  Mr. Johnson was president now, they said.  The iconic photograph on Air Force One had not yet been shown.  We could only imagine that scene.

Later the newsreels would show the motorcade when Jackie Kennedy was climbing onto the back of the car, the secret service agent reaching for her as she tried to escape the awful noise and explosion as the bullets ripped through the President’s head.  You could see it all happening in black and white over and over and over again.  When the news magazines came out, we discovered that her suit was pink and red splotches of blood covered her skirt.

When Lee Harvey Oswald was captured – they always said all three of his names – the first photos showed him with a pinched expression as two men escorted him out of a movie theater in downtown Dallas.  Then two days later we watched in horror as a fat man in a dark suit walked up to him as he was brought from jail and bang bang the noise of a gun and him collapsing dead right there in the hallway.  They said the man’s name was Jack Ruby.  We thought he was part of a plot.

Classes were cancelled, and the next day I took a train to Charlottesville to meet my boyfriend at the University of Virginia.  While we waited for our ride home to Baltimore, we talked with friends, trying to understand what was happening, what this would mean for us, how our lives would be changed.

Sheltered as I was in a white collegiate world, I had not noticed the prejudice and hatred that festered around me.  I should have, but I didn’t.  Five years later — ironically living in Dallas — I turned on my TV and screamed again at the news that Martin Luther King had been shot.  That cold November day was the beginning.

I don’t remember Thanksgiving dinner.  But I do remember driving in my car at night when the music was interrupted for President Johnson’s first address to the nation.

Mah Fella Amuricans,” he said in that deep Texas drawl.  I pulled the car over to the side of the road and wept as he spoke in earnest words and tried to reign in the terror that gripped us all so tightly.  He would do his best he said, he needed our help he said, we must all come together he said for the sake of our country and the world.  “God Bless Amurica.

We watched the funeral as if it were a pageant from a distant time and saw Jackie standing erect in a long black veil reach down with a silent tap to John-John who gave his toy soldier salute to the horses and caisson passing by.  Those indelible images will forever recall a nation’s sorrow.

I met Caroline Kennedy once at a campaign event soon after she had given her support to Barack Obama.  I was planning to say thank you for coming to the party.  But when I reached out my hand and saw her father’s blue eyes, the words caught in my throat, and I could only smile.

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Extreme Casting: Extreme History and Tragedy

PictureRogue Shakespeare, the 2013-14 MFA company of Mary Baldwin College’s Shakespeare and  Performance graduate program, in association with the American Shakespeare Center, is proud  to announce two productions that will run in repertory in the first week of December: Richard II  by William Shakespeare and The Insatiate Countess by John Marston, et al.

These plays feature a unique style of performance dubbed “extreme casting” where five actors portray all the play’s characters. Performers use minimal costumes, props, and set to convey the shifting nature of identity, loyalty, and treason in these contrasting but complementary plays.

In Richard II, Shakespeare portrays the downfall of King Richard the Second and the rise of Henry Bolingbroke through a lens of ambiguity. Shakespeare never makes it completely clear whether Richard abdicates or is deposed, or whether Bolingbroke is a loyal subject or a usurper. Richard II backs the audience into a corner by forcing them to swap sympathies between the falling King Richard and the rising Bolingbroke. Director Charlene V. Smith and designer Rebecca Hodder explore the themes of identity, changing loyalties, and performance through the use of a five-actor, all-female cast. Playing multiple roles, cast members will change sympathies between Richard and Bolingbroke as quickly as the audience does.

In The Insatiate Countess, the actual text of the play defies the loyalty of authorship. This play was written and rewritten by four different authors, including John Marston, and the corruptions of the text add an extra layer of complication to an already complex play. In multiple parallel plots, the rich characters of The Insatiate Countess are willing to overthrow commitment and
loyalty in order to follow their lusts. Isabella, the eponymous Countess, remarries immediately after her first husband’s death only to abandon matrimony for lover after lover. Two young wives, Abigail and Thais, are wooed by each other’s husbands and hatch a plot to keep their erring spouses in check. Meanwhile, the lusty Mendoza pursues the prim widow Lady Lentulus.
Director Kelly Elliott and designer Melissa Huggins encourage the five actors to play within this colorful world through the use of overtly theatrical set and costume elements.

These two plays will run in repertory in theS.P.A.C.E. @ 107 E. Beverley and the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton from December 5th-9th. The performances for Richard II are December 5th and 7th at 8:00 p.m. and December 8th at 2pm in theS.P.A.C.E. @ 107 E. Beverley in Staunton. The Insatiate Countess will run on December 6th at 8pm and December 7th at 2pm in
theS.P.A.C.E. @ 107 E. Beverley in Staunton, and December 9th at 8pm in the Blackfriars Playhouse. These two productions are designed for mobility and are available for bookings in schools and theaters beginning in February.

Our other plays this season are William Shakespeare’s Macbeth which opened in October and is available for educational bookings, Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus which will open in January, and Lope de Vega’s Fuente Ovejuna in March. Make sure to also join us for our staged reading series throughout the year and our festival of plays in the first week in April. Visit rogueshakes.com for more information. Rogue Shakespeare is inspired by scholarship and stagecraft, fusing these fields in order to seek new perspectives on early modern drama. As an ensemble-based company, we believe in igniting a collaborative conversation between text, performers, and audience about issues that matter to us today.

Rogue Shakespeare’s members are:
Kelly Elliott, Mary Beth Geppert, Rebecca Hodder, Stephanie Howieson, Melissa Huggins, Cyndi Kimmel, Dane Leasure, Julia Nelson, Celi Oliveto, Jessica Schiermeister, Charlene V. Smith, Riley Steiner.
MFA Faculty:
Doreen Bechtol, Dr. Ralph Cohen, Dr. Matthew Davies
For more information:

Our Partners:

Mary Baldwin College, the American Shakespeare Center, theS.P.A.C.E

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BSA Lends Their Voice

Olivia Samerdyke, editor-in-chief

A participant in the event tells her story. "On Sept. 7, 2013 Lashawn Griffin went missing, and I'm here to speak for her since she can't speak for herself."

A participant in the event tells her story. “On Sept. 7, 2013 Lashawn Griffin went missing, and I’m here to speak for her since she can’t speak for herself.”

Over Columbus Day weekend in Virginia, 77 children went missing.  Around the country as a whole, the numbers go up into the hundreds.  When a child goes missing, often some media coverage follows to find them.  However, children from minority groups often go without equitable attention, from the media or otherwise.  On Tuesday the 15th, the Black Students Alliance held their first major campaign of the year—Black and Missing—to help raise awareness of this fact.

In a truly all-day event beginning at 7 a.m. members of the club gathered in the nuthouse to paint faces.  Participants painted their faces combinations of white or brown, sometimes adding the names of a child they represented, and the date they went missing.

“The idea of the face paint is to get noticed,” Kourtney Parkey explained as she painted faces.  “People will see it, and be like, ‘why is your face like that?’  Then you can tell them, ‘Today I represent this child whose voice was taken away.’”

At 7 p.m. the B.S.A held the formal part of the event in Hunt, featuring speakers such as Dr. Edward Scott, who opened with a prayer.  MBC student Dimon Brody spoke next, sharing the tragic story of a childhood friend of hers, who disappeared at age 6.  She was later found murdered, after the police delayed the investigation 48 hours.

First Sgt. Scott Downs of the VA State Police followed Brody as speaker.  During his address, he talked about the history of the Amber Alert, a special way police forces and media communicate about missing children—specifically abducted children.  Named after Amber Hagerman, who disappeared and died in 1996, all 50 states and U.S. territories use it; it is also in cooperation with both Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia and many European countries.  Over the past year, according to Downs, there have been 84 successful recoveries thanks to the Amber Alert.

When asked about the disparity in media attention given to children of color, he admitted that the media gives more attention to cases the police pay more attention to.

“Dimon’s story broke my heart,” Downs continued, “I would have never waited 48 hours to investigate.  I call them all my children, and it’s my job to bring all my children home.”

After his speech, the Anointed Voices of Praise gospel choir closed the event with a song, which, in their words, “was literally thrown together at the Eleventh Hour.”  Still, they received enthusiastic applause and praise for their work, which matched the general mood of the Black Students Alliance, despite the somber stories and statistics.

The object of the event was to raise awareness, and throughout the day many people asked questions about the face paint.  Two local news stations also covered the event, opening up the campaign to the larger Staunton community.

For more information about missing children, go to the Black and Missing Foundation’s website: http://www.blackandmissinginc.com/cdad/

Amber Alert also works with Google, and a single search brings up the nearest alert.

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Photo Highlights

A foggy night on campus.

A foggy night on campus.


Holly Johnson stands on the smashable Apple Day car, decorated in the senior class' colors.

Holly Johnson stands on the smashable Apple Day car, decorated in the senior class’ colors.

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MBC Theatre Opens Season with “Blithe Spirit”

A novelist and his two wives, one alive, one a ghost.

A novelist and his two wives, one alive, one a ghost.

Mary Baldwin College Theatre opens its 2013–14 season with a production of Blithe Spirit, Noël Coward’s classic farce, directed by Terry Southerington, MBC professor of theatre.

Blithe Spirit is a comedy about a novelist with two wives — one alive and one dead — a delightfully eccentric psychic, and a séance gone awry. The London premier, which bolstered British morale at the height of World War II, ran for a record breaking 1,997 performances.

The Mary Baldwin cast includes undergraduate students Tiffany Waters as Elvira, Amy Verberg as Mrs. Bradman, Molly Chase as Edith, and graduate student Jordan Leigh Zwick as Ruth. Local veteran actors Ben Houseknecht and Mike Lafferty round out the production in the roles of Charles and Dr. Bradman.

Blithe Spirit runs Wednesday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. from October 2 to 6 in the Fletcher Collins Theatre, Deming Fine Arts Building.

Tickets for Blithe Spirit are available now at 540-887-7189 or www.mbc.edu/arts/theatre or in person at the Fletcher Collins Jr. Theatre box office, open 10 a.m. –5 p.m., Monday–Friday. Tickets are $7 for students, senior citizens, and MBC faculty and staff ($25 for full season tickets) and $12 for adults ($50 for full season tickets). The Fletcher Collins Theatre is located in Deming Hall, Mary Baldwin College, 301 Demming Drive, Staunton ,VA 24401.

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Games at Grafton

Olivia Samerdyke, Editor-in-Chief

Students test their flexibility with Twister at Fall '12's Game Night.

Students test their flexibility with Twister at Fall ’12’s Game Night.

Traditional student life involves many trips to the library to do homework, research, or study.  Mary Baldwin’s Grafton Library is no exception, but also offers a non-traditional way of getting students through the door, after normal hours.  Twice a year, Game Night at Grafton offers students the chance to play board and video games or win a raffle in the same space where they prep for classes the rest of the time.

“It’s so much fun,” said Randi Beil, ’14.  “I really like the Corn Hole, and the Ping Pong, but I know the dance games are popular, too.”

“I play Cards Against Humanity,” another senior, Kelleyann Gordon laughed.

A reasonably new event on campus, the tradition began in 2008, and became biannual in fall 2011.  Not just fun and games, all money earned during the evening (entry fee and bake sale) goes to the American Cancer Society.

“All of the staff had family or friends who had been affected by cancer and we thought this was a great charity to support,” Christina Daniel, student staff coordinator explained. “As the event continued, the Colleges Against Cancer club became more involved and active in the event.”

On average, the library earns about $200 for the cause, and other groups also contribute to Game Night.  The IT Department helps with the audio/visual side, and Gladys the Fighting Squirrel always makes an appearance to play and pose for pictures with her sister squirrels.  Part of the event is a bake sale, and the library staff contributes items to, while the Visulite  Theatres donate popcorn.  Student library workers and members of Colleges Against Cancer run the different game stations and have fun at the same time.

“It’s pretty cool to get together and play games,” student worker Sutton Hastman said.

This semester’s Game Night is Friday, Sept. 27th, 7-11 p.m.  Entry is $3.  All proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.

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Open Mic Talent Night Begins


Aspiring talent from throughout the region will meet at WTA’s Gateway on Thursday, October 3, 2013 for the first round of the Open Mic Talent Competition. The winner will walk away with a cash prize and an invitation to return for the June Finale.  The winner of the June competition will receive a cash prize, a gig at a WTA-produced event, and a professionally-made, promotional video.   Lorie Strother, AKA, The Dreaded Blues Lady, will the host of the evening which begins at 7:00 pm at 329 West Main in Downtown Waynesboro.

Open Mic Talent Night is open to the full range of performing arts: music, comedy, poetry, magic, etc. “We have a wealth of musical talent in the Valley and over the mountain, but we are also blessed with performers who have skills in other genres.  The Talent Night Competition is a place for them as well.” said Lorie.  “The Gateway is a great room to perform in and is an ideal venue for new talent to spread their wings. It’s also great for those who have been warming up for a long time.  All ages, all talent, all welcome.”

Performers are asked to arrive as close to 7 pm as possible and to register for a performance slot.  The line up is determined by a drawing.  Each act will have 10 minutes on the Gateway stage.

Open Mic Talent Night is sponsored by the Augusta Free Press.   “We were delighted to be involved last year,” said Chris Graham, publisher.  “The turnout of talent at the Open Mic Nights was impressive.  We are sure this year’s will again be a demonstration of the creative riches of our area.  The Open Mic Talent Night is a great way to expose those artistic resources to the general public.”

The winner of the Open Mic Talent Night is selected by the audience. Admission is free, but in order to vote, an audience member must make a donation of whatever amount.

The performance begins at 7 pm at WTA’s Gateway at 329 West Main in downtown Waynesboro.

For more information contact director@waynetheatre.org or call WTA at 540-943-9999.

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VA Absentee Voting Begins


RICHMOND, VA – Absentee voting has started for the November 5, 2013 general election in all of Virginia’s 133 localities.  The State Board of Elections (SBE) reports that all of Virginia’s localities have met the deadlines to send absentee ballots to overseas and military voters within 45 days of the general election.  Virginia’s election officials have now met the 45-day absentee ballot mailing deadline for overseas and military voters for the past six primary and November general elections.

Forty-five localities are taking advantage of a new service offering by SBE for military and overseas voters.  The system is known as LiveBallot, and was developed by Democracy Live in partnership with Microsoft.  These localities can direct their overseas and military voters to the LiveBallot site, where the voter can access and mark his or her ballot.  The voter then prints off the completed ballot and returns it via mail to the appropriate locality for counting.  The service offering has been made available as part of a grant from the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP).

Friday, September 20, 2013 marked the beginning of the absentee voting process for Virginia voters.  In order to vote absentee, voters must be registered to vote in Virginia and meet one of the eligibility requirements listed on the Virginia absentee ballot application.  The absentee application and additional information about absentee voting is available on the State Board of Elections website at www.sbe.virginia.gov.

Eligible voters may cast their absentee ballot by mail or in-person at their local registrar’s office.  Applicants must list a qualifying reason for voting absentee.  Absentee applications being mailed or faxed to the general registrar’s office must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 29th.  Absentee applications may be completed in person at the general registrar’s office no later than Saturday, November 2nd.

You must be registered to vote in Virginia in order to apply to vote absentee.  The deadline to apply to register to vote in Virginia for the November 5, 2013 election is October 15th.  Virginia residents are encouraged to check their registration status and polling place on the State Board of Elections website at www.sbe.virginia.gov, by calling their local registrar’s office, or by calling the State Board of Elections toll free at 1-800-552-9745.  Individuals may also update their registration or apply to register to vote online at SBE’s website.

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Run with CASA


Join us for the 2nd Annual 5K and Family Fun Run — Superhero Costumes optional but create a lot of fun for everyone!

October 26, 2013

Gypsy Hill Park – Certified Race Route

9:00 AM

Register online at www.casa4children.com

Support the Cause of Advocating for Abused and Neglected children in your community and help ensure a safe and loving home for them!!!

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for Children, nonprofit organization serving Harrisonburg/Rockingham; Lexington, Buena Vista, Rockbridge and Staunton, Augusta, Waynesboro, Covington, Allegany

Offices located in Harrisonburg, Staunton and Lexington.  Phone 540.213.2272

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2013 Brings More Changes to Hunt

Laura Wise

Students' breakfast in Hunt Dining Hall.

Students’ breakfast in Hunt Dining Hall.

One of the biggest things students like to complain about when they’re stressed, hungry, tired, or homesick is the dining hall. Fair or not, it’s an easy target to pick on, because it’s just never going to be like food back home. But over the past year, Hunt Dining Hall has been making big steps in a good direction in terms of service, food and atmosphere.

Last year, the school replaced rickety old chairs and tables in Hunt East with newer models. They also added tall tables and seats by the windows, and replaced the counters for a more modern, updated look. Different cereal options and a grilled cheese station also improved the dining atmosphere.

2013 brought more changes—small ones, but sometimes the smallest changes make a big difference. Hunt replaced the water dispensers with new, more efficient machines, started using a new brand of coffee, and began serving flavored water.

Unlike the flavored water in a bottle, the flavored water Hunt serves isn’t sweet and sugary and comes in a variety of unique flavors. They include cherry, prickly pear, pineapple, and lychee, but the best has been pomegranate. The flavors are mild, not meant to be overwhelming. It might even get students to drink more water and stay hydrated on the Mary Baldwin hills.

With the onset of cooler temperatures, hot coffee may be more desired.  Having undergone a major overhaul, with new dispensers, makers, and a brand, it provides a welcome way to chase away cold.  Unless hot chocolate is an alternative—students look forward to its return as a drink option.

Renovation of Hunt Dining Hall has been planned for years, but for now, it’s moving forward with small changes that still make a big difference to the fighting squirrels.