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02/01/08
News & Notes On All Things Trojan
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On the Rhodes Again

Scholar-athlete Reed Doucette scores academic fame, becoming USC’s ninth Rhodes Scholar.

A 6’5” engineering honors student who joined the Trojan men’s basketball team as a freshman walk-on and played small forward for the next four years has become USC’s ninth Rhodes Scholar – one of only 32 Americans to be awarded this prestigious scholarship for 2008.

Reed T. Doucette will join his fellow scholars in study at the University of Oxford in England next year, pursuing a master’s degree in engineering science.

Doucette, from Acampo, Calif., is majoring in aerospace and mechanical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and has a minor in business at the USC Marshall School of Business.

“Reed excels at everything he does and has been a joy to work with,” says USC Viterbi School dean Yannis C. Yortsos. “We are very proud of his accomplishments in engineering and on the basketball court.”

Michael Kassner, chair of the school’s aerospace and mechanical engineering department, calls Doucette “a truly remarkable individual” working in the area of nano-porous materials that have mechanical engineering applications.

“He’s got that team spirit and he’s intellectually gifted,” adds Andrea Hodge, a USC Viterbi School assistant professor who was Doucette’s mentor at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the summers of 2005 and 2006, working on methods to improve the efficiency of catalytic converters and the effectiveness of medical implants.

“I’ve always had great educational ambitions and am proud to accept such a prestigious scholarship,” says the 22-year-old Doucette. “It’s a great honor to represent USC and the basketball team in particular. Playing sports is something the Rhodes Scholarship committee values and my Trojan athletic career will serve me well at Oxford.”

In his studies at USC, Doucette has been a Presidential Scholar, achieving a grade point average of 3.97. He is currently conducting research involving chemistry, physics, engineering and biology to optimize the efficiency of solar cells.

As part of his USC Marshall School activities, he co-founded Los Angeles Community Impact, an organization that has provided consulting services to more than 30 community projects.

In late November, he and biomedical engineering major Althea Lyman were selected as “Mr. and Ms. USC” from the undergraduate student body’s highly selective Order of the Torch, recognizing accomplishment in academics, athletics, Trojan spirit and leadership.

As Mr. and Ms. USC, Doucette and Lyman will participate in a variety of activities throughout the year, including a community service project and service as counselors or facilitators at a newly created Emerging Leader Program and as coordinators of a senior class project.

Doucette is the son of Tom and Barbara Doucette; his sister, Lauren, is a junior majoring in business at USC. He says he chose USC not for athletics – “I wasn’t recruited and I had no definite way of knowing if I would make the team” – but for its blend of academics and extracurricular activities.

“I also really liked USC’s emphasis on pursuing several fields of study,” he says. “I don’t know if other schools would have been as willing to work with me on my academic goals.”

A fifth-year senior, he has never visited England; in fact, his first exposure to Europe was last summer, on a family trip to Italy and France.

He plans to pack his basketball shoes and tennis racquet in his bags for Oxford, as well as the banjo he recently acquired. Inspired by comedian Steve Martin, he’s teaching himself to play “as a fun way to relax.”

USC has done well in highly competitive scholarships in recent years. Five USC students have won Marshall Scholarships since 2000, and there have been 38 USC student Fulbright Scholars during that time, including a record nine last year.

The Rhodes Scholarships were established in 1903 by Cecil Rhodes, a British-born South African businessman, mining magnate and politician who founded the diamond company De Beers. Rhodes hoped that bringing students to study at Oxford would promote international understanding and peace. 

The California competition for a Rhodes Scholarship is considered to be one of the most difficult, due to the size of the state and the number of top universities here. California’s other Rhodes Scholar this year is Asya J. Passinsky from UC Berkeley.

A complete list of this year’s Rhodes Scholars is at www.rhodesscholar.org.

 

Besides hoops, Reed Doucette is interested in business, banjo-playing and the mechanical engineering applications of nano-porous materials.
 
Photo by Dietmar Quistorf

A Tutor in Philanthropy

A New Campus Center in Sight

A $30 million lead gift by trustee Ronald Tutor jumpstarts a long-awaited building project to transform USC life.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for USC,” says construction mogul Ronald Tutor ’63 – which explains in some small way why the USC trustee, having fallen in love with Trojan football at the age of 11 and continued his involvement ever since, recently pledged $30 million as the lead gift toward USC’s new campus center.

“I’m proud to be a part of USC,” Tutor elaborates, “and honored to contribute to this magnificent enterprise. It is a project that will make a real difference in the quality of student life, and it will transform the center of campus.” 

In recognition of his generosity, the new center will bear Tutor’s name.

Located at the heart of the University Park campus, the Ronald Tutor Campus Center will rise between the Gwynn Wilson Student Union and the Trojan Bookstore. The current Commons and Topping Student Center buildings are slated for demolition this spring. Replacing them will be a pair of four-story structures to house major new university centers, including a new Admission Center and an Alumni Center, along with student offices and work spaces, collaborative project and group-study areas, a ballroom for large events and gatherings, meeting and boardrooms for student organizations, study lounges, cafés, a full-service restaurant, a convenience store, technology resources and game and entertainment areas. Outside the complex, a central plaza will serve as a new hub for students, faculty, alumni and family members – all just a stone’s throw from Tommy Trojan.

Tutor is president and CEO of Tutor-Saliba Corp., one of the largest general contractors in the United States. He also serves as chairman and CEO of Perini Corp., a publicly traded construction firm based in Framingham, Mass. He earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from the USC Marshall School of Business in 1963 and has been a member of the USC Board of Trustees since 1998. A prior $10 million pledge was the lead gift for Ronald Tutor Hall – the six-story, state-of-the-art instructional and research complex for the USC Viterbi School of Engineering that opened its doors in 2005.

A campus center “has been a major missing component of USC’s student experience,”according to student affairs vice president Michael Jackson. “This new facility will provide work and meeting space for the 600 or so student organizations currently active on campus as well as informal spaces for students to read, meet friends or just relax.”

Ronald Tutor couldn’t be more pleased.

“I’ve been so proud of the progress the university has made in the past 15 years,” he says. “I graduated from USC, two of my children have graduated from here, and another is a current student. I’ve loved being a Trojan all my life. It’s a great feeling to be able to contribute toward helping future students enjoy the Trojan experience as I have.”

 


Ronald Tutor
 
 

CapitalCONNECTIONS

›› DIZZY DIPLOMACY The USC Center on Public Diplomacy co-sponsored “Duke, Dizzy and Diplomacy,” a fall event at George Washington University exploring the U.S. State Department’s use of jazz musicians as diplomats. Organized by former Dizzy Gillespie band manager Charlie Fishman and moderated by USC Annenberg’s Nick Cull, the day featured a panel discussion followed by a jazz concert at Voice of America headquarters.

›› CANCER CONFAB Keck School chief of surgical pathology and cytopathology Juan Felix spoke at the First Annual Cervical Cancer/Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Conference in Washington, D.C. Nearly 100 cervical cancer survivors met for the three-day conference in September to learn more about their disease – the second leading cause of cancer in women under the age of 45. Felix, an expert in diagnostic ob-gyn pathology, spoke on preventative HPV vaccines and therapies for cervical cancer.

›› HIGH WATER MARKS Doctoral students David Ginsburg and August Vogel of USC College were among 43 Knauss Marine Policy Fellows for 2007 selected to spend a year in Washington, D.C., through the National Sea Grant program of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Ginsburg, a student of USC bioscientist Donal Manahan, went to the oceanographic administration’s office of education. Vogel, who studied in the marine population genetics lab of Suzanne Edmands, worked on international fisheries issues with the Oceanographer of the Navy.

›› CLASSTIME FOR CONGRESS Karen Symms Gallagher, dean of the USC Rossier School of Education, joined her peers in the Learning and Education Academic Research Network for a Congressional briefing this fall on innovative research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics underway at leading universities. A coalition of 17 education deans from top research universities, the network informs policymakers about new research and the importance of graduate programs. “Telling our story to Congress – as a school of education dedicated to urban education – can make a difference in legislation,” Gallagher said.

For more Capital Connections, visit www.usc.edu/uscnews/features/capital_connections

 


 
 
 
 

America’s Most International

Polyglotter Than Thou

The university welcomes 7,115 scholars from 108 lands – the nation’s largest foreign student body.

New report finds that USC continues to be a magnet for international students at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels.

For the sixth year, USC has the highest number of international students of any university in the United States, according to the annual survey of the New York-based Institute of International Education. In all, USC hosts students from 108 nations.

The Open Doors report found that USC enrolled 7,115 international students. Columbia University remained in second place in the survey, with 5,937; and New York University moved up to third place this year with 5,827. Rounding out the top five host institutions were the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University.

“Enrolling international students is one of the most important things that USC can do to contribute to the education of our students, to encourage mutual understanding and respect among students and scholars, and to foster positive economic and political relations for the country,” says Jerome A. Lucido, vice provost for enrollment policy and management.

“We are proud to lead the nation in this critical aspect of higher education.”

USC’s 7,115 international students include 1,299 optional practical training students and 179 intensive English language students.

Other findings of the study, based on 2006-07 enrollment figures:

• India, with 83,833 students, is the leading place of origin for international students in the United States. Others in the top 10 are China (67,723), South Korea (62,392), Japan (35,282), Taiwan (29,094), Canada (28,280), Mexico (13,826), Turkey (11,506), Thailand (8,886) and Germany (8,656).

• The most popular fields of study for international students in the United States are business and management (18 percent), and engineering (15 percent).

• California remains the leading host state for international students (77,987), followed by New York (65,884), Texas (49,081), Massachusetts (28,680) and Florida (26,875).

The Institute of International Education is the leading not-for-profit educational and cultural exchange organization in the United States. The Open Doors report is online at www.opendoors.iienetwork.org.

– James Grant

Running the Numbers

USC International Enrollment on a Roll
1995
4,048
1998
4,278
2000
4,813
2002
5,272
2004
5,533
2006
7,115

 


[SIS, BOOM, BAH] Hail the Marching Engineers

One-quarter of USC’s renowned 300-strong marching band, the Spirit of Troy, consists of USC Viterbi School of Engineering students, the largest single contingent from any school in the university. It may seem incongruous, but Arthur Bartner, the longtime director of the band, says it makes a lot of sense. Music is very mathematical, Bartner notes, and the diagrams for the complex maneuvers that members must master for each performance resemble an engineering schematic. “Engineers pick up the moves faster because they understand this stuff,” he says. Matt Warren, a senior mechanical engineering major, adds that “the people who march well and hit their spots – the visual stuff – they’re engineers.” “Creativity goes hand in hand with science,” says Tony Fox, the band’s associate director and arranger. “The reality is, all engineers, all scientists are creative people.” Candace House, the engineering school’s director of career services, who was a business major and a clarinet section leader in the band as an undergraduate, says the marching band gives students a ready-made group with common interests and a similar schedule – which also can help their grades. The discipline needed to keep up in classes while attending band practices and games requires shrewd time-management skills. And it looks great on a résumé. “It’s a huge selling point; companies like to see life outside the classroom,” House says. “They know you know how to multitask.” USC Viterbi students often rise to leadership positions in their sections. A quarter of the 12 section leaders in 2007, including Warren (trumpets), Chris Norton (trombones) and Kristen Mineck (percussion) – was in the school. “They tend to become the leaders,” Bartner says. “Their intellectual prowess seems to correlate with musicianship.” His conclusion: “Engineering majors make great bandsmen. Send me more.” 

 – Benjamin Murray

For more information, visit www.usc.edu/uscnews/stories/14501.html

 


Illustration by Tim Bower
 
 


A Department to Remember

Civil Engineering’s Sonny Future

The $17 million gift from developer Sonny Astani will nurture a vision of sustainable ‘megacities.’

Sonny Astani MA ’78, whose soaring high-rises and philanthropy are remaking downtown Los Angeles, has given $17 million to name the USC department of civil and environmental engineering. This is the fourth department naming gift for the USC Viterbi School of Engineering since it began its $300 million fund-raising initiative in 2001.

USC President Steven B. Sample hailed the gift by Astani, who holds a master’s degree in industrial and systems engineering.

“Sonny Astani is a remarkable Trojan who is transforming Los Angeles,” Sample said. “He understands the crucial role civil and environmental engineers must play as more and more people live in cities.”

According to USC Viterbi dean Yannis C. Yortsos, the department has been renamed   the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“Thirty years ago, by mere good fortune, I ended up in the best university, in the best city, in the best country in the world,” said Astani, who came to USC as a foreign student from Iran. His gift, he noted, is both to USC and Los Angeles. “It is my hope that it will allow a new generation of civil and environmental engineers to rise to the increasingly complex challenges created by the urbanization of Los Angeles and the changes to the global environment we are now facing.”

The oldest engineering discipline, civil engineering remains the branch closest to the lives of people, particularly in cities.

“It provides homes, water, sanitation, bridges, tunnels, roads and civil infrastructure, and environmental engineering expertise is critical to solving problems of pollution and micro-climates,” Yortsos said. “By 2030 almost five billion people, or 60 percent of the entire world, will live in cities. This raises huge challenges for civil and environmental engineers – challenges now known in the profession as those of ‘megacities.’”

Astani is chairman of Astani Enterprises, a Beverly Hills-based development concern that owns or operates approximately 4,000 apartment units throughout Southern California. The company is currently developing 2,000 units of condominiums and lofts in downtown Los Angeles with a total value in excess of $1 billion.

Last year, Astani Enterprises made a $1.5 million donation to the Skid Row Housing Trust, completing funding for the Abbey Apartments, a downtown complex that will house 115 of Los Angeles’ mentally ill homeless when it opens next year.

Winner of a Distinguished Alumnus Award from USC Viterbi, Astani serves on the engineering school’s Board of Councilors and also on the Leadership Council for USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate Development. He is a board member of the Pacific Council for International Affairs and serves on the executive committee of the Central City Association.

– Eric Mankin

 


Photo by Gary Leonard
 
 


[Global Conference] Trojans in Tokyo

The USC Global Conference, held in Tokyo last October, brought together more than 500 USC alumni, friends and faculty from the United States, Europe and Asia. USC trustees also were present in force, including Toshiaki Ogasawara of Japan, Yang-Ho Cho of Korea, Ronnie Chan of Hong Kong and Michele Dedeaux Engemann, president of the USC Alumni Association. USC Provost C. L. Max Nikias opened the proceedings, introducing alumnus Bobby Valentine, manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese baseball league. Then the serious conference business began. A session led by Jim Clifton, CEO of the Gallup Organization, looked at growing opportunities in Asia. Joichi Ito, chairman of Creative Commons and a USC Annenberg Fellow, spoke of new computer and mobile phone technologies; and Julian Lai-Hung, executive director of digital distribution at Warner Entertainment in Japan, gave an overview of the movie industry in the region. A panel on trends in higher education, moderated by USC executive vice provost Barry Glassner, featured deans Marilyn Flynn (Social Work) and Karen Symms Gallagher (Rossier School of Education), and Chang Young Jung, president of Yonsei University in Seoul. At the closing festivities, Nikias announced that Taipei, Taiwan, would host the 2009 USC Global Conference. Previous USC global conferences were held in Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

 – Jon Weiner

For more information, visit www.usc.edu/uscnews/stories/14509.html

 



Provost C. L. Max Nikias and trustee Toshiaki Ogasawara break open a sake barrel.

 
 

People Watch

A Presidential Laurel for Lauridsen

The NEA honors USC Thornton faculty composer Morten Lauridsen with its prestigious National Medal of Arts.

In a special ceremony at the White House on Nov. 14, President George Bush and first lady Laura Bush presented USC Thornton School of Music faculty composer Morten Lauridsen with the National Medal of Arts – the highest recognition given by the National Endowment for the Arts to artists and patrons in the fields of visual, performing and literary arts.

The lifetime achievement award recognizes Lauridsen’s preeminent place in the choral music of the 20th century. According to the official citation, he was honored for “his composition of radiant choral works combining musical power, beauty and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide.”

 A professor of composition at USC for more than 30 years and a three-time alumnus (BM ’66, MA ’68, DMA ’74), Lauridsen is one of only eight classical composers – including Aaron Copland and Elliott Carter – to receive the award. Last year the NEA named him an “American choral master.”

Lauridsen is one of the nation’s most performed composers. His seven vocal cycles and his series of sacred a cappella motets are featured regularly in concert by distinguished ensembles throughout the world.

He has received nearly 300 commission requests and is a frequent guest lecturer and artist/composer-in-residence.

Writing about Lauridsen’s sacred works in his 2002 book Choral Music in the Twentieth Century, musicologist, conductor and  USC faculty colleague Nick Strimple describes Lauridsen as “the only American composer in history who can be called a mystic, [whose] probing, serene work contains an elusive and indefinable ingredient which leaves the impression that all the questions have been answered.”

Lauridsen’s works have been recorded on more than 100 CDs, three of which received Grammy nominations: O Magnum Mysterium by the New York-based ensemble Tiffany Consort, Lux Aeterna by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Polyphony with the Britten Sinfonia.

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Lauridsen worked as a firefighter and lookout on Mount St. Helens before traveling south to study composition with Halsey Stevens, Ingolf Dahl, Robert Linn and Harold Owen at USC. Two of Lauridsen’s five choral cycles, Mid-Winter Songs (commissioned by USC to celebrate its centennial in 1980) and Madrigali: Six “FireSongs” on Renaissance Italian Poems (1987), had their premieres at USC. Both of his song cycles – A Winter Come (poems by Howard Moss for voice and piano, 1967) and Cuatro Canciones (poems by Federico Garcia Lorca for voice, clarinet, cello and piano, 1983) also premiered at USC.

A recipient of numerous grants, prizes and commissions, Lauridsen chaired the composition department at the USC Thornton School of Music from 1990 to 2002 and founded the school’s advanced studies program in film scoring.

Speaking about the NEA recognition, Lauridsen said, “To be included among those distinguished individuals who have contributed so greatly to American culture is an enormous honor, for which I am immensely grateful.”

Other 2007 recipients of the National Medal of Arts are: author N. Scott Momaday, director R. Craig Noel, arts patron Roy R. Neuberger, guitar pioneer Les Paul, arts patron Henry Steinway, painter George Tooker, painter Andrew Wyeth, conductor Erich Kunzel and the University of Idaho Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival, whose artistic director is USC Thornton’s own jazz professor John Clayton.

– Ljiljana Grubisic

 


Photo by Michael Stewart/NEA
 
 

Milestones


›› PRESIDENT Steven B. Sample was given one of engineering’s most prestigious honors – the 2008 IEEE Founders Medal. In making the award, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers cited Sample’s “leadership in higher education and the engineering profession” as well as his “pioneering contributions to consumer electronics.” The driving force behind USC’s rapid climb in academic stature, Sample is also the inventor of a digital electronic control system found behind the touch panels of some 500 million microwave ovens and appliances.

 

 

 

›› PROVOST C. L. Max Nikias was awarded another of IEEE’s most prestigious honors – the 2008 Simon Ramo Medal. He was cited for his “outstanding leadership in engineering systems research and education” and his “pioneering contributions to integrated media systems for the entertainment industry.” The medal’s namesake is the co-founder of aerospace corporation TRW and a longtime USC benefactor.

 

 

›› USC TRUSTEE Michele Dedeaux Engemann ‘68 was installed as president of the USC Alumni Association for the 2007-08 term. An actress and businesswoman, she was a founding member of the USC School of Theatre Board of Councilors. Engemann is the daughter of legendary USC baseball coach Rod Dedeaux.

 

 

›› ATTORNEY Scott Mory is USC’s associate vice president for alumni relations. As chief operating officer for the USC Alumni Association, he works closely with its Board of Governors. He held a similar post at George Washington University, where he earned bachelor’s and law degrees. Previously, he clerked for the Hon. John Garrett Penn of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., and was an associate at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP in New York.

 

For a complete list of USC trustees, senior officers and deans, visit www.usc.edu/about/administration

 

 

Conversation with Kathi Inman Berens

Digital Prose Pusher

A new-media promoter rhapsodizes about online journals – and explains why women have trouble being funny.

She may have grown up in Boring, Oregon, but Kathi Inman Berens is anything but. Five years ago she, along with Norah Ashe-McNalley, a fellow senior lecturer in the Writing Program at USC College, created an interdisciplinary online journal for arts and humanities, AngeLingo, that now has readers on five continents. The journal showcases the best student writing at USC, along with daily blogs. Berens, a zealot for good writing, also organizes the popular Undergraduate Writers’ Conference each year, where students present their work and win significant cash prizes. She spoke with USC Trojan Family Magazine’s Allison Engel.

What’s in your current issue? There are illustrated articles on how to unclog L.A.’s overcrowded freeways, international game culture, gender expectations that impede male nurses and an analysis of the abiding debate about the existence of God. We publish creative works, too. Everything’s written, edited, illustrated and coded by USC College students.

How did AngeLingo get its name? It’s a riff on “L.A.” We’re the mirror image, “A.L.” AngeLingo invokes the many languages we speak in Los Angeles and at USC – the academic and professional, the educated lay public and the street-savvy. One of our editors a couple of years ago, David Radcliff, came up with our motto: “Adding depth to the Pacific.”

What have you learned from the online engineering journal Illumin, started earlier at the USC Viterbi School? Steve Bucher of the Engineering Writing Program, who started Illumin, was and is our inspiration. Steve told us about USC’s Fund for Innovative Undergraduate Teaching, where we received a grant in 2003. The College has funded us ever since.

Illumin is read in 80 countries. Do you have any idea of AngeLingo’s reach? We get about 3,500 unique visitors every month. We’re in Africa, Asia, South America, Europe and North America. Students from around the world email us asking to cite our research essays in their own work. Our content is picked up in all kinds of places I wouldn’t have anticipated.

Do you have an example? Well, you know you’ve made it when you’ve been plagiarized. A piece called “Serial Egg Donation” about a woman who donated eggs in 12 separate rounds – you can imagine the hormones coursing through her body – got picked up by a popular Internet news site, reworded and attributed to a different author.

Why did you think students would respond to AngeLingo? Everyone at the university has to take a writing course. So we had this idea of demonstrating to students that this isn’t just killing time, that you can have a rich exploration and produce something that goes beyond the campus walls. And we had read so many great student essays that had been produced and then just went the way of the dodo – never to see the readership they deserve.

Tell me about the Undergraduate Writers’ Conference. The message is that writing skills get people good jobs across all disciplines. Last year’s keynoter was Peter Horan, who is the CEO of media and advertising for IAC/InterActiveCorp and does huge deals. He wrote the very first manual for the very first video game, which was Pong. He thinks having been an English major is what equipped him to do stuff that hadn’t existed before.

What’s the top prize for the writing competition at the conference? $1,000. Isn’t that incredible? I have some faculty friends who want to submit! The provost kindly added to our coffers and made the writing prizes much more substantial than they were before.

Your Ph.D. dissertation was on women wits. Why are there so few? It actually was on one wit, Laetitia Pilkington, a protégé of Jonathan Swift. Women and comedy is a really rich topic. When you think about how humor works, there’s always some kind of cruelty and embarrassment involved. In the 18th century, it was bad manners to laugh out loud, which is why people tittered, because when you laugh, you expose. You open your mouth and you expose your insides. Funny women have to struggle with prescriptions of modesty in a way that men don’t. And that helps to explain why they are so few female standup comics.

To read the arts and humanities online journal AngeLingo, visit http://angelingo.usc.edu

 


Photo by Philip Channing
 
 

TalkingPOINTS

›› SOUNDS KOSHER USC Annenberg’s Joshua Kun, co-founder of the Jewish music label Reboot Stereophonic, was quoted in The Washington Post about a new Jewish music boom. “I worry sometimes when things get trendy, and when artists start making art to fit hipster expectations, that it can be reduced to more Jewish jokes, good fodder for a party,” he says. “But I think the majority of stuff is earnest.”

›› RANDOM FIGURES “That things in our society run in very predictable ways, on the dot, on time, is being used against us,” says USC Viterbi’s Milind Tambe in the Los Angeles Times. To reclaim the element of surprise, LAX security is now using algorithms for random timing of its police patrols – adapted from the dissertation research of Tambe’s doctoral student, Praveen Paruchuri. “The research is not only academically wonderful but also very useful, a combination that researchers dream of,” Tambe says.

›› RETAIL THERAPY U.S. manufacturers can stay ahead of foreign competitors by heeding customers, USC Marshall’s Thomas O’Malia believes. “The customer will save you,” he tells the Los Angeles Times. “The customer will tell you what they’ll spend money on. If you talk to your customer every day, you’ll know the changes they are going to make.”

›› BEST BUDS Recent discoveries of tongue receptors for vanilla, water and fatty acids will be used by food companies “to elicit this wonderful thing we call pleasure,” says Roger Clemens of the USC School of Pharmacy in the Salt Lake Tribune. “We now understand that we have many, many more taste sensations than we originally thought.” The discovery of the receptors for fatty acids may also give insight into obesity, he says. Clemens is the spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists.

›› HYPER REALISM Advances in film-editing software account for the proliferation of rapid-fire cuts in today’s movies, Eric Furie of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts recently explained to The Wall Street Journal. “You can easily recut your movie 10 times a day,” Furie says. “Some students go off the deep end and cut, cut, cut. We tell them they need to discipline themselves, to push away from the desk, drop the mouse and just think.”

For the latest USC faculty research updates, visit www.usc.edu/research

 


 
 
 
 

Rethinking the Naturalist’s Art

Picturing the Past

Smithsonian magazine labels art historian Daniela Bleichmar one of America’s top young innovators.

When Smithsonian magazine editors came across Daniela Bleichmar, they knew immediately that they had found one of their “37 Under 36.”

The 34-year-old USC College art historian and scholar of Spanish and Portuguese is one of 37 “young innovators in the arts and sciences” under the age of 36 featured in a special issue of the national magazine that hit newsstands in October.

Scholars, singers, writers, scientists, musicians, painters and activists – what sets these 37 thinkers apart is outstanding innovation. Smithsonian singled out Bleichmar for her unique, multidisciplinary research method.

It started back in graduate school at Princeton, where Bleichmar earned her Ph.D. in 2005. Deciding  to write her dissertation on natural sciences in the Spanish Americas, she stumbled upon a treasure trove of untapped historical sources that had been right under scholars’ noses all along.

Concentrating on Spanish scientific expeditions of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries,   she came across a staggering abundance of illustrations. In that age, expeditions always employed artists whose job it was to capture  in minutest detail the specimens that would not survive the return trip.

“I saw images everywhere,” Bleichmar says of her research. “But historians usually base their studies on textual evidence – books and manuscripts.” Not visual materials. She queried her then-advisers at Princeton: “Can I do this? Can I study natural history as a visual discipline?”

It turns out she could. Her dissertation explored the connections between images, visual culture, the history of science and the history of colonialism in the Spanish Empire.

“It’s not traditional history of science, and it’s not traditional art history,” Bleichmar says. “I consider images not only as aesthetic objects but also as documents, studying them for the information they contain and the work they did for those who made and used them. This is above all a study of visual epistemology – the production and circulation of knowledge through visual means.”

Bleichmar is currently completing a book on the subject. For a slide show narrated by the author, visit www.usc.edu/uscnews/stories/14389.html

– Pamela J. Johnson

 


Photo by Don Milici
 
 

Lab Work

Knocking on Internet Doors

ISI researchers conduct a census of all addresses on the Internet, some 2.8 billion and counting.

Researchers at USC’s renowned Information Sciences Institute (ISI) have completed and plotted a census of all the 2.8 billion allocated addresses on the Internet – the first comprehensive effort of its kind in more than two decades, they believe.

“An Internet census,” says USC Viterbi School of Engineering computer scientist John Heidemann, an ISI project leader, “is just that: every single assigned address in the entire Internet was sent a probe.”

The technical name for an Internet probe, more commonly called a “ping,” is an “Internet Control Message Protocol echo request packet.” It took some 62 days to send almost 3 billion of these from four machines, an effort carried out by Heidemann’s collaborator Yuri Pradkin.

Many (61 percent) of the pings received no response. Many others got a “do not disturb” or “no information available” response that many network administrators program into their routers and firewalls. Some of the non-replies probably also were due to firewalls intentionally blocking the pings. Still, as the census progressed, millions of sites did respond, positively and negatively, and a unique Internet atlas took shape.

The atlas is not geographic, though geographic areas (North America and Europe, for example) appear on it. Instead, it is numerical, building on the mathematical structure of the Internet address system.

Each individual Internet address is a number between 0 and 2 to the 32nd power (4,294,967,295), usually written in “dotted-decimal notation” as four base-10 numbers separated by periods – 128.150.4.107, for example. Each number represents one eight-bit part of the whole address.

These addresses appear in the chart as a grid of squares, each square representing all the addresses beginning with the same first number (“128” in the example above). The map is arranged in a looping pattern called a Hilbert curve, which keeps adjacent addresses physically near each other and also makes it possible to zoom in seamlessly to show greater detail.

The smallest feature the map shows is a single pixel: each one records averaged responses from some 65,536 addresses. The averaging is conveyed by color coding, with all-positive responses showing up as brilliant green, all-negative as brilliant red and equal numbers as brilliant yellow. Brilliance decreases to dim shades in areas where fewer addresses responded.

The map presents a novel census view of the visible Internet.

“To our knowledge,” Heidemann said, “the only other census of the Internet was in 1982.” At the time, the fledgling Internet consisted of just 315 allocated addresses.

Heidemann and Pradkin have plotted a second rendering in which each pixel represents a single address. Printed out at laser-printer resolution, this map (showing every address in the Internet) takes up a 9 x 9-foot wall in a corridor at ISI’s Marina del Rey campus.

Heidemann hopes to continue taking censuses to create a dynamic movie of Internet evolution, which can help computer scientists detect and monitor trends.

While the new census is the first one ever visualized, the Information Sciences Institute has been taking censuses since 2003, when Pradkin, Joseph Bannister and Ramesh Govindan (chair of computer science at USC Viterbi) started collecting data.

One practical application of the census: better Internet security. The Department of Homeland Security, says Heidemann, “supported our work with the goal of improving network security.” He points to the work of ISI researcher Jelena Mirkovic, who is using the ISI census data to study how worms spread in the Internet. Other researchers have plotted maps of where cyber-attacks originate.

“There’s also a sense of discovery in these maps,” Heidemann says. “We’ve built a huge Internet and use it every day. Like the far side of the moon, wouldn’t you like to know what it looks like?”

– Eric Mankin

 


Illustration by Michael Klein
 
 

[Temp Work] Ice Age Clues

Carbon dioxide did not end the last ice age, a new USC study published in Science suggests, even though atmospheric levels of the gas were rising at the time. Lead author Lowell Stott, a professor of earth sciences at USC College, discovered this thanks to fossilized organisms from the western Pacific. Since these fossils recorded when and by how much temperatures rose – in both deep and near-surface water – Stott was able to conclude that deep-sea temperatures rose 1,300 years before those at the surface. If CO2 drove the change, warmth would have spread top-down, not bottom-up. Instead, variations in Earth’s orbit, which caused increased sunlight over Antarctica, appear to be the culprit. After entering the ocean, solar energy would have spread northward via deep-sea currents. And as the warmth neared the surface, CO2 would have been released into the air. Stott said that the study does not deny the importance of carbon dioxide, but it does illuminate the complexity of Earth’s climate.  

– Terah U. DeJong

For more information, visit www.usc.edu/uscnews/stories/14288.html

 



InquiringMINDS

›› SWITCHING OFF CANCER A biological “switch” for key genes in cancer cells has been identified by USC researchers. In an article for Cancer Cell, lead author Peter Jones, director of the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, describes how genes are silenced in cancer cells through changes in the density of nucleosomes within the cells. The finding will allow researchers to explore therapies for switching the genes back on, which may lead to novel treatments for human cancers.

›› RECOGNIZE ME? Neuroscientists at USC say they can predict with near-perfect accuracy whether two faces resemble each other enough to fool a human observer. Their study provides rare insight into the hard rules guiding one of the most subjective of processes: how the brain recognizes a face. USC College neuroscientist Irving Biederman and other researchers presented their findings at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. They used a face recognition computer model previously developed by USC computer scientist Christoph von der Malsburg.

›› ORAL FIXATIONS Cultural habits may explain a strong relationship between the incidence of oral cancer and race and ethnicity. The high rate of cancer of the palate for Filipino women, for example, might be related to their cultural practice of reverse smoking – concealing a lit cigarette inside the mouth. Chewing tobacco or areca nuts, common habits in South Asian cultures, may account for increased cancers in the inner cheek. Satish Kumar and Parish Sedghizadeh, of the USC School of Dentistry, and Lihua Liu from the Keck School, pored over 20 years of cancer records to create the first epidemiologic study of oral cancer in ethnic California subpopulations.

›› VITAMIN D DISCOVERY Increased levels of vitamin D in the body from exposure to sunlight may decrease the risk of advanced breast cancer, new research suggests. The Keck School’s Sue Ingles and Wei Wang were part of a team of researchers from USC, the Northern California Cancer Center and Wake Forest University that found increasing vitamin D intake from diet and supplements may be useful. They do not recommend sunbathing due to the risk of sun-induced skin cancer.

For the latest USC faculty research updates, visit www.usc.edu/research

 


 
 
 
 

Young At Mind

Older and Sharper

Today’s 74-year-olds are like yesterday’s 59-year-olds when it comes to mental acuity.

A new study from the USC Davis School of Gerontology suggests that senior citizens today are staying sharper than in previous generations. Published in Psychology and Aging, it found that folks now in their 70s out-performed septuagenarians of 16 years ago on cognitive tests.

In a test of word recall comparing contemporary 74-year-olds with a group the same age in the early 1990s, the present-day group performed as well as the older generation did when they were 59. On a measure of reasoning skills using letter and word sequences, contemporary 74-year-olds performed at the level of 62-year-olds of the previous generation.

“Our research indicates that more recent generations may have a leg up on cognitive aging processes,” says Elizabeth Zelinski, the study’s lead author and holder of the Rita and Edward Polusky Chair in Education and Aging at USC. “We think things will be even better for the baby boomers, who are even more educated than the pre-World War II generation,” she adds. “Older adults now and in the future will be better mentally equipped to stay employed and engaged in our information-sensitive culture.”

The data came from the Long Beach Longitudinal Study, currently in its 29th year of data collection. Zelinski has been the principal investigator since 1994 and this fall received a five-year, $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue funding for the study.

The study examines changes in cognitive processes beginning at age 30 and extending through the lifespan. In recent years, Zelinski’s team has recruited a large sample of Americans over the age of 80 – the fastest-growing segment of the population – to explore mental abilities in the ninth and 10th decades of life. Participants – volunteers drawn from the Long Beach and Orange  County communities – are tested every three years on memory, intelligence and vocabulary. Results also track demographic differences, personality types, self-reported activities and general health. Data in this study were matched with two groups of participants at the same age but tested 16 years apart. Robert Kennison of Cal State Los Angeles co-authored the article with Zelinski.

– Athan Bezaitis

 


Photo by S. Peter Lopez
 
 


Shelf Life

Taking No Prisoners

Percival Everett reflects on the death of innocence through a grieving father’s quest for revenge.

The Water Cure
By Percival Everett
GRAYWOLF PRESS, $22

Percival Everett never set out to tell the tale of a lunatic who repeatedly tortures a man. His 20th book just turned out that way.

In Everett’s The Water Cure, the narrator binds a man with silver duct tape, locks him in his trunk and drives from downtown Los Angeles to his isolated second home in the mountains of New Mexico.

Ishmael Kidder keeps his hostage in the basement and continually “waterboards” him – a technique once referred to as “the water cure,” in which the victim is strapped to a board while water is poured over his face to simulate the sensation of drowning.

“It’s not a place I planned to go,” says Everett, a Distinguished Professor of English at USC College. “It was mostly a reaction to the sadness and state of our country and our culture and what we seem to be capable of.”

Alluding to the controversial interrogation technique used in prosecuting the War on Terror, the novel’s protagonist explains that his country has “taught me to torture.”

But Kidder has other causes for lunacy.  A divorced and broken romance novelist, he is anguished over the rape and murder of his only child, 11-year-old Lane. Some of the book’s most stirring passages center on the father’s bond with his daughter, whose favorite color was blue and who had “a head full of wild dark hair.”

In one reflection, a sharp-minded, 5-year-old Lane becomes concerned about the fate of her goldfish, Goldie, and asks her father whether people eat goldfish. He tells her no.

“So, he’s going to die?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Why?”
“All animals die. Some live longer than others, but all of them die,” I told her.
“No, I mean why are you afraid?”

When police lack enough evidence to hold the prime suspect, Kidder assumes the mantle of vigilante. Inside his damp basement, he ponders his hostage’s protestations of innocence:

... And I consider what makes any statement true, taking into account the factors of meaning and fact, taking into account lies and fictions, taking into account that no one gives a rat’s ass anyway ....

At times, the book reads like the diary of a deranged, highly intelligent, introspective man – one so paranoid he brings his own food (elk stew he hunted and prepared himself) to a restaurant and pays $30 for a plate.

Deciding his hostage is lying, Kidder embarks on a torture regimen. He gives his victim a series of nicknames: first W, then Art and later Frenhofer.

Woven through the grisly plot is an unmistakable “death of innocence” theme. The innocent child’s tragic death echoes the reported abuses in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere – and the death of America’s innocence as a nation.

Everett acknowledges the connection but says: “The reader is going to make whatever meaning she or he wants to make. Or they may not make any meaning of it at all…. It’s exciting to find at some point along the way what it does mean to someone else. And it could mean something that I never intended. That’s the beauty of art.”

Speaking of art, it too plays a central role in the novel. At times, Kidder’s abstract Picasso-esque self-portraits and stick-figure sketches appear on pages. Elsewhere Kidder’s childlike scrawl delivers cryptic messages, such as: “Each child is innocent,” with some of the letters backward.

The simple drawings and hand-scrawled messages are juxtaposed against pages of ancient philosophical arguments Kidder has with himself, as he evokes the voices of Aristotle, Socrates and Plato. Peppered throughout the prose are word puzzles, jokes, poems, limericks and linguistic theory.

In one of several conversations Kidder has with dead people, he exchanges barbs with the cantankerous ghost of Thomas Jefferson, who has joined him on his reckless ride to New Mexico.

“Tell me friend, what do you think cruel and unusual punishment is?”

“I suppose I’d have to know first what is not cruel and what is usual. If not cruel is kind, then is it in fact punishment? And it seems to me that kind punishment sounds a bit unusual.”

Everett plays with structure. Equally important to him is “the talk of meaning and how words come to make meaning and how they can be meaningless.” He says, “To me, it becomes more important on a rudimentary level about logic and connections that my mind makes.”

Such interruptions shift the reader’s awareness from the emotional to the logical, moving the subject of torture from the heart to the head – establishing a kind of detachment. Kidder’s own cool detachment somehow begins to make sense.

But don’t kid yourself if you think you have the book figured out. Just ask the author what it all means.

“If I tried, I would be pretending,” Everett says. “I can’t tell you what it’s all about, either.”

– Pamela J. Johnson



Photo by Philip Channing
 
 

[IN PRINT] He Slept Around in L.A.

Taking a page from detective Philip Marlowe, faculty author Judith Freeman investigates deep into the private life of crime novelist Raymond Chandler, using clues from his letters to track down each of the 35 places he called home in Southern California. The result is this richly illustrated, highly personal book, The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved (Pantheon Books, $25.95). Freeman, who teaches English at USC College, uncovers the details of Chandler’s unconventional marriage to the wild Cissy Pascal – much older, twice-divorced and a major inspiration. As much an exploration of Los Angeles as of Chandler’s life, the book reveals details of a 30-year marriage, from early romance to tragic final years. 

 – Lauren Walser

For more books by USC faculty, visit www.usc.edu/uscnews/features/in_print.html

 




NewRELEASES

The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution
By Deborah E. Harkness
YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, $40

Historian Deborah E. Harkness of USC College roams the streets, shops, alleys and gardens of Elizabethan London, where a hodgepodge of men and women, connected by a common interest in the study of nature, set the stage for the Scientific Revolution. Her book reveals how modern science got its start in the communal city streets where merchants, gardeners, midwives and alchemists swapped information and conducted their experiments.

 

 


 

Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls
By Warren G. Bennis and Noel M. Tichy
PENGUIN GROUP, $26.95

What is judgment? Is it a product of luck or smarts? Is there a process involved? Leadership expert Warren Bennis, a University Professor based at USC’s Marshall School of Business, and his co-author answer these questions, showing how judgment is the essence of leadership. They offer a framework for making judgment calls and knowing when a call is necessary, when action is essential and how to execute the decision.

 

 

Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1: Opus 15 in D-Minor
CD by Norman Krieger, JoAnn Falletta, Virginia Symphony Orchestra
ARTSIE 4 RECORDINGS, $15

Met with scorn when it debuted in 1859, Johannes Brahms’ first concerto (his first orchestral piece) eventually became one of his most famous compositions. In a live performance with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, USC Thornton faculty pianist Norman Krieger interprets this major work. The disc also includes studio recordings of three other pieces performed by Krieger. The CD is available at www.normankrieger.com.

Faculty books can be purchased at Trojan Bookstore. Call 213-740-9030 or visit www.uscbookstore.com

 

 

R.U.R., R.I.P

Mama’s Little Metal Helpers

Here’s the lowdown on the super-bots that are blinking and whirring into our daily lives.

The Robotics Primer
By Maja J. Mataric´
THE MIT PRESS, $30

Maja J. Mataric´ has good news: the time has finally come when robots can do our housework. They can also perform surgery, help rehabilitate stroke victims, assemble cars and teach mathematics to schoolchildren.

But this is hardly a science fiction novel. In a fun, conversational tone, Mataric´, senior associate dean for research and professor of computer science in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and professor of neuroscience at USC College, takes us into the world of robotics, teaching readers of all ages what robots can do and how they do it.

Mataric´ began posting her class notes on the Internet for her students years ago. It wasn’t long before educators around the world were contacting her, asking for more.

“I had a deceptively simple thought,” she says. “Why not turn all those course notes into a book?”

Five years later, her project was complete, and Mataric´ managed to make her otherwise complex field not only accessible, but fun. Breaking it down into 22 sections, she teaches budding roboticists about everything from the history of robots and their various components to how to make them move and behave.

This book comes at the right moment. The 21st century is a particularly interesting time in the field of robotics. “Now robots are starting to enter our daily lives, and that is going to change everything,” she writes in the final chapter, which looks at the future of robotics and its ethical implications.

Founding director of the USC Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems and co-director of the USC Robotics Research Lab, Mataric´ developed her interest in robotics during her graduate work at MIT. Through her book, she aims to catch students while they’re young, using robotics as a way to lay a foundation for understanding science, technology, engineering and math – subjects deemed uncool by so many youngsters.

For those thirsty for more or eager to get their feet wet, Mataric´, along with iRobot and the Microsoft Robotics Studio, created a robot programming workbook that’s available as a free download at http://roboticsprimer.sourceforge.net/workbook.

 – Lauren Walser

 


Photo by Mark Tanner
 
 

Arts & Culture

Robert Graham: Body of Work

USC Fisher Gallery’s latest show offers a startling view of a major sculptor in the throes of stylistic transition.

Though she had closely followed Robert Graham’s career for decades, art historian Peggy Fogelman was not prepared for what met her eyes when she visited the world-famous sculptor’s workshop in 2006.

Thrusting, assertive, protean forms – some tiny, some huge – all bursting with a seminal creative spark.

Was this the same Robert Graham who, for 40 years, has been a byword in the art world for close observation and virtuosic rendering of anatomical precision?

To be sure, the forms were still nudes, still female, still striking in their athleticism. But late in his career, the Mexican-born artist who has been a major force on the Los Angeles art scene since the 1960s, is executing a sharp stylistic turnabout.

That turnabout was manifestly on display this winter at USC Fisher Gallery in what was the public’s first glimpse of Graham’s new direction.

“The abstracted, torqued figures,” writes Fogelman in the exhibition catalogue for “Robert Graham: Body of Work,” the show she guest-curated at the Fisher, “... record not an established pose, but the transition from one taut, muscular thrust to the next, so that movement evolves within the figures as if in slow-motion video.”

This from the artist responsible for such civic monuments as the Great Bronze Doors to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Graham is perhaps best-known to Trojans for the arresting headless and footless Olympians who grace the gateway to the Coliseum.)

“For an artist so long into a very successful and established career to break with what the critics and collectors have come to expect – I find that brave and potent,” says Fogelman in awe. “It restores faith in the whole creative process, that it never ceases to be open-ended,” adds the former J. Paul Getty Museum curator of European sculpture, now director of education and interpretation at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.

The new work reminds Fogelman of the artist’s sketch model (think Degas’ wax ballerinas). This is the stage at which the sculptor begins to roughly render movement and form in three dimensions. “It’s the artist’s pure response, unmitigated by further refinement,” she explains.

USC Fisher Gallery director Selma Holo, writing in the foreword to the exhibition catalogue, delights in finding the artist’s “fingerprints intact, tactility celebrated ... each piece transports us back to that clay, proudly revealing initial touch and first inspiration.” The catalogue also includes an essay by Fogelman and an extended Q&A with the artist in which he reveals, among other tidbits, a lifelong study of tai chi, a loathing for the term “classical” as applied to his art and a mutual sense of “nervousness” shared by model and artist in the studio. In December, Graham revealed even more about himself when he participated in a remarkable USC panel discussion on “Late Style” with three old friends – architect and USC alum Frank Gehry, abstract painter Ed Moses and metal collage artist Tony Berlant.

– Diane Krieger

 


Photo Courtesy of the Artist
 
 

NowPLAYING

›› EXPLOSIVE DRAMA Two royal sisters. The power of words. The ultimate price of violence. The Love of the Nightingale, a drama based on the Greek myth of Philomele and Procne, comes to campus, along with its author, British playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker. Considered one of the most provocative voices in contemporary theatre, Wertenbaker will discuss her work with the audience after two evening performances. February 21 -24, Bing Theatre.

›› VOICES OF AFRICA Ladysmith Black Mambazo wows audiences with its distinctive South African vocal style known as mbube and isicathamiya. Many Westerners first heard its infectious rhythms on Paul Simon’s 1986 album Graceland, but Joseph Shabalala’s group has been singing since 1960. Grammy wins aside, Ladysmith is revered for keeping alive traditions that were once suppressed. February 26, Bovard Auditorium.

›› BILLY AND JULIE When it comes to enduring classics, the musical score of Rogers & Hammerstein’s Carousel twirls at the top. “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “If I Loved You” and “June Is Busting Out All Over” are among its timeless songs. The USC School of Theatre presents the love, loss and redemption story of carnival barker Billy Bigelow and mill worker Julie Jordan in 10 performances over two weeks. April 3-13, Bing Theatre.

›› DEAR DIARY Sex-ed films – those often hilarious and embarrassing educational movies shown to impressionable teens – are the subject of an affectionate (but not too affectionate) retrospective screening. A panel discussion exploring their social implications features Rick Prelinger, owner of the largest archive of sex-ed films in the United States. April 4, Norris Cinema Theatre.

›› PERPETUAL LIGHT Hear a choral masterpiece by USC Thornton’s newly-minted National Medal of the Arts recipient. The USC Thornton Symphony and Choral Artists present Morten Lauridsen’s monumental Lux Aeterna. Visiting choral director Paul Salamunovich, who led the Los Angeles Master Chorale in its 1998 recording of the work, conducts. April 10, Bovard Auditorium.

For up-to-date event listings, visit USC’s Arts and Events Calendar at www.usc.edu/calendar

 


 
 
 

I CAPULETI E I MONTECCHI

Romeo and Juliet, Updated

Bellini’s gorgeous bel canto comes to the Bing with plenty of bang-bang and bling-bling.

What happens when you mix the melodic morbidezza of Lucenzo Bellini with the handguns of modern-day Veronese mobsters? A production of I Capuleti e i Montecchi that audiences won’t soon forget, that’s what.

In mid-November, USC Thornton Opera’s boundary-busting directing team of Ken Cazan (stage) and Brent McMunn (music) revived this 1830 bel canto spin on the Romeo and Juliet story with contemporary Italian flair.

Based not on Shakespeare’s tragedy but its original source, the opera starts with our “star-crossed lovers” already married; Romeo has been gone for months, exiled for killing Giulietta’s brother.

It is her wedding day – to another man. There she stands, in her bridal finery, singing “O quante volte” – perhaps the most famous soprano aria in the bel canto repertoire: “Look at me, all dressed up like a sacrificial offering.”

And what a dress! A Vera Wang original. The men are equally smart in their black suits – suntanned, sporting shades and slicked-back hair. No stadium jackets for these Euro-mafiosi. They bluster and swagger across a stylized landscape of sleek, metal platforming and thrust balcony, draped in bunched white fabric that flows blood-red into the orchestra pit.

As befits this intensely macho culture, the voices are mostly male. The only women heard are the lovers. (Bellini had scored the role of Romeo for a high, virtuosic mezzo.)

“The role is huge, outrageous, with major arias, duets and ensembles,” says Cazan.  “Romeo is all over the map.” Giulietta is no shrinking violet either. Cazan describes her as “plucky” – prone to scream an angry high-C when pushed to the limit by her revenge-crazed father and fiery-tempered spouse.

Which isn’t to say the opera is short on romance. Both Bellini’s music and Felice Romani’s libretto call for sensuality. “This is a married couple,” says Cazan. “They’re very much in love. They touch each other intimately and lovingly, they kiss each other very deeply at times. It’s a wonderful acting exercise for the students.”

– Diane Krieger

 


Giulietta (Amanda Hall) revives after Romeo (Janelle DeStefano) has already taken poison.

Photo by by Damien Elwood

 
 

[Pentecost] Balkan Mind Meld

In a neglected country church somewhere in the Balkans, an ancient fresco has come to light – one that seemingly predates Giotto’s earliest experiments in perspective. That’s the starting point of David Edgar’s award-winning 1995 play Pentecost, which held audiences spellbound at the Bing in early November. Considered a modern masterpiece, this political drama has been likened to Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. The USC School of Theatre staged this dialectically diabolical work – it calls for a half-dozen foreign languages – with the author in attendance. Edgar appeared at the Friday and Saturday night performances of Pentecost – offering introductory remarks and joining a post-performance audience talkback. Earlier in the week, he had attended a dress rehearsal, met with an undergraduate playwriting class and led an advanced workshop for MFA students. He also gave a public lecture on theatrical self-censorship in the post-9/11 era. 

 – Diane Krieger

For information on past and future USC School of Theatre productions, visit http://theatre.usc.edu

 


Photo by Take One Productions