At Reunions, 12 alumni sat down with PAW to tell their stories in a series of oral history interviews. We’ll be sharing parts of those interviews on PAW Tracks in the coming months. We begin with Jennifer Daly Maienza ’80, whose Princeton experience was shaped by her time on the Triangle Club stage.
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At Reunions, 12 alumni sat down with PAW to tell their stories in a series of oral history interviews. We’ll be sharing parts of those interviews on PAW Tracks in the coming months. We begin with Jennifer Daly Maienza, a member of the Class of 1980, whose connection to Princeton was forged before she was born.
My dad was Class of ’50. My mom, although she couldn’t go here, she was head of the reserve reading room at Firestone Library — in fact she was one of the people who helped move it from Chancellor Green to Firestone. And my dad was one of her student assistants. He flipped a coin with the other student assistant to see who would ask her out, and he won, thank goodness.
I grew up in North Jersey, and so, we would come to Reunions every five years. And my grandparents didn’t live too far away from here, so we’d pop over. I grew up with Princeton. Now, of course, I was born in 1958, so I grew up saying ‘I’m going to go to Princeton,” and everyone looked at my dad and said we’re so sorry about your poor, [out of] touch daughter — she doesn’t understand. But I proved them wrong.
Princeton went co-ed when Maienza was in sixth grade, and when the time eventually came to choose a college, she had a handful of schools on her list.
My dad did not take me down to look at Princeton for a second time to make a decision — my mom did because my dad was afraid that he would influence me too much. So I went down. I remember I was walking through a courtyard and there was a girl playing the flute and the sun was shining and birds were tweeting. I was like, “This is it.” On the way home, my mom stopped, supposedly to get something at the gas station, and she called my dad. And I came home and the whole house, my room was festooned with orange and black. My dad had been holding it in for so long. He loved it.
Freshman year the first two things I got involved with were the fencing team and Triangle Club. In high school they had a one-week fencing thing, and I loved it so thought, well, you know, I’m not that athletic but I think I can poke somebody with a sword. And so I tried it. I ended up blowing out my knee at the end of freshman year, so my career was short-lived. But it was fun. I still scare my students sometimes by bringing in my fencing mask and saying watch out, I know how to use a sword.
Triangle I stayed with all four years. I sang and danced my way through high school and continued it on and loved it. It meant a lot to me. For a shy girl with a stutter, that’s where I could come alive, on stage. I did the Reunions shows, I did the “ding” shows, I did the tours, the whole kit and caboodle.
There was one show, I think it was my junior year. We were driving to Buffalo in the bus, and a girl who had the lead in the dance — the dance solo in the big 20-minute very serious and meaningful as only Triangle can be dance number, on, I think the poor in New York City, something ridiculous like that — she sprained her ankle. So I had to step in, because I can dance, and I learned the entire thing dancing up and down the center aisle on the bus. It was kind of weird — it was the only practice I had because we got there and got changed and did the show. But somehow we pulled it together and I pulled it off.
Another year we were in Rochester. (A lot of things happened in New York.) And we were doing a “ding” show, which is a shortened version. It’s not the full Triangle show. You do it for Reunions or something where the Triangle people get together and sing and they do old songs. So it’s minimal props, no sets, minimal costume. It’s basically just people singing the old songs. And we realized that we said we’d do an hour, and we were 15 minutes short. So the director pulled me over and said, “Jen, do something.”
So I said OK, I know “My Roommate’s a Girl,” which was one of the first songs that was sung by a girl in the Triangle show:
Not to be exaggerational,
College is sensational,
Coeducational for girls like me,
My parents, I convinced them,
That though I’d really miss them,
Princeton was the place for every girl to be...
(Still remember that. I could sing it, too.)
And she talks about how she was really upset because she got there, and she heard that there were three guys for every girl, and she found out her roommate’s a girl. It’s like, what’s the point? I always liked that song because although it wasn’t three-to-one, there were still many more boys than there were girls.
I got up, I sang that song, and he said “still short,” so I pulled out another one and I sang it. And Todd Beaney, who was the piano player at that point — he’s Class of ’80 also — he pulled out something else.
That was fun. That was Triangle.
I knew that I was from a public school, not a rich kid at all, a shy kid, a stutterer, that kind of thing — it was nice to see that I could achieve the same as all these other people. And it made me feel that I was as good as everyone else. That was kind of a cool thing.
I’ve been a teacher now for 35 years. I’m currently teaching art, music, and drama in an elementary school. It’s fun. Definitely the theater training comes in handy.