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Feb. 11, 2009

Vol. 109, No. 8

On the campus
Students go unplugged; updating Ulysses’ tale

Students go unplugged; updating Ulysses’ tale

By Chip McCorkle ’09


Just before winter break, students in Rockefeller and Mathey colleges participated in a new intramural competition that was provocatively dubbed “Do It in the Dark.” The real name of the game, though, was abstention — from leaving lights on, doing laundry in hot water, and a host of other energy-consuming tasks.

Organized by Students United for a Responsible Global Environment (SURGE), “Do It in the Dark” pitted the neighbor colleges against one another to see which could cut its per-capita energy consumption by the greatest amount over the last week before break.

“The project is an entirely student-led initiative to reduce energy consumption on campus, educate students on concrete actions to reduce energy consumption, and promote energy conservation,” said project creator and SURGE member Thomas Chen ’09.

The campus-based group has encouraged students to unplug appliances over winter break for the past three years through its “Pull the Plug” campaign, and Chen said this led to the idea for “Do It in the Dark.”  

With “Pull the Plug,” Chen said, “there was never accountability in terms of actual student involvement.” Students could choose to leave appliances plugged in or not and never hear from SURGE about it again.

“Do It in the Dark” relied on engineers in the facilities department to produce energy-use data from real-time monitors recently installed in the two up-campus colleges.

Students in the winning dorms, Joline and Campbell, received T-shirts and shared a trophy made of discarded light bulbs.

“These sorts of activities tap in to students’ natural enthusiasm or creativity rather than forcing them,” graduate student adviser Andrew Eil said.  

A number of students took to rather ascetic means, according to Mathey resident Alexandra Landon ’12.

“Some people in Rocky have their thermostats at 50 degrees,” Landon said a couple of days into the competition. Others, she said, were “limiting which rooms on floors can be studied in, so all the kids from that floor are studying around one lamp.”

Energy-usage results showed a distinctive pattern, Chen said, with a drop in energy use early in the week. That was followed by a spike on Thursday and Friday nights — “when students are all partying in their dorms or washing clothes to prepare for taking off for the break,” he noted.

AuthorChip McCorkle '09, a history major from Durham, N.C., is an On the Campus writer for a second year. He's a member of the University Press Club and serves as a peer adviser in Whitman College.

By Paavana Kumar ’10


Claudio Monteverdi’s opera, The Return of Ulysses, is a musical retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, a poignant epic of longing, pain, tested fidelity, and new hope. On Jan. 9 and 10 in Richardson Audi-
torium, students in the course “Projects in Vocal Performance” presented a new production set in the Roaring ’20s.

Thirteen student performers, Princeton voice teacher David Kellett, and professional opera singer Kim Scown made up the cast, supported by two harpsichords, a lute, and the baroque instrument theorbo as well as a small orchestra. The five-act opera drew an opening-night audience of about 150, and Town Topics reviewer Nancy Plum wrote that the performance “easily demonstrated the depth of vocal talent in the student body.”

Students rehearsed during scheduled classes and personal practice time. Brad Baron ’11, who played the role of Neptune, said he found his first on-stage operatic role to be “vastly intimidating.” Maya Srinivasan ’10, who performed the role of Melanto, said the Roaring ’20s staging helped to make the opera more accessible, describing the music as more challenging to an audience than “your more popular Mozarts and Puccinis.”

Michael Pratt, director of the Pro-gram in Musical Performance, was music director, while lecturer Andrew Eggert was stage director. Previous music department productions include The Marriage of Figaro last year and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience in 2006.  

For some students, the opera provided a chance to solidify their musical and academic ambitions. Harpsichordist Taotao Liu ’09, who plans a career as a vocal coach and/or a choral accompanist, said she finds “nothing more exciting” than the “unspoken conversation between musicians, responding to them and having them respond to me.”

Robert Olson ’11, who played Antinous, one of Penelope’s suitors, had another view. “I simply love [music], and whether or not I choose to pursue it as my primary career, I know it will always play a significant role in my life.”  


(Illustration: J.D. King, Photos: Zachary Ruchman ’10)

AuthorPaavana Kumar ’10, a comparative literature major from London, has sung with the Glee Club, Chamber Choir, and Princeton Katzenjammers, and plays piano in various solo and chamber music collaborations. She plans to stage-manage a senior thesis production, Angels in America. She is also a contributor to The Daily Princetonian and a member of the Princeton Tower Club.
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