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Archive for June, 2010

Eben Young ’86 apologized for a delay in our e-mail correspondence. He was busy working on his Russian accent for an audition at the National Theatre in London.

Damn. I’ll confess to wishing I could offer such a cool reason for occasional lags in e-mail response time.

Eben is a longtime actor, going back to his days on the Royall Tyler Theatre stage. Stage, films, television—he’s done a variety of work.  Among his  most recent roles, Eben played an FBI agent across from Ewan McGregor in a short scene in The Ghost Writer, a film by Roman Polanski. Look for him clad in a white shirt, all FBI seriousness, near the end of the movie. Eben is among the alumni we touched base with for brief e-mail interviews in the on-line version of the summer issue of Vermont Quarterly. The interviews are one of a number of ways we’re bringing more content to the web version of the print publication.

It was a pleasure trading e-mails with Eben, even if that mode of communication didn’t give me an opportunity to hear how the Russian accent was coming along. Here’s a sample of what he had to share about working with Polanski and McGregor. See the link at the end of the post to read the complete interview.

VQ: Anything interesting to share about acting opposite Ewan McGregor?

EY: He was friendly, available, and always present. There was no starry attitude. We were all rather subdued due to the nature of the scene, but we did start to joke around a bit as the shoot wore on.

As a variety of different angles had been completed, it became time for my close-up. Now, I’d taken some time off in my career so this added a certain frisson to this experience. There is an acting tip that helps to keep one’s concentration from straying wildly to thoughts like, “My face is gonna be thirty feet wide… what should I do with my eyelids?” and that is to concentrate on one’s acting partner; in this case, it was Ewan.

It then became apparent that due to the particular camera angle that Polanski wanted for the shot, I was going to have to give my performance to the wall, about two feet to the left of Ewan. Polanski put a couple of pieces of tape on the wall for me to use as my eyeline and said something like “acting is a crazy business.” Kindly, Ewan said “Well it was nice acting with you” in reference to the fact that we were then going to have to play the scene without looking at each other at all. I first thought, “well, there goes that strategy” and then thought  “doing scenes to a bit of tape on the wall is just what we used to do for the Oral Interpretation class I’d taken with Jennifer Cover at UVM,” which was of some solace. And we got it in one take. So, thanks Jennifer!

http://alumni.uvm.edu/vq/summer2010/young.asp

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I spent a fun and interesting couple of hours last week with alumna Elise Guyette, a Vermont historian and author. Elise’s most recent work is Discovering Black Vermont: African American Farmers in Hinesburgh, 1790-1890, published by University Press of New England. In the introduction to the book, Elise writes that when she would tell someone she was writing a book about Vermont history with a focus on the African American experience, an inevitable response was “That’ll be short!”

When UPNE sent a review copy of Elise’s book to our office, I was interested to dip into it and find exactly where this community lived. On a purely geographic level, I was familiar from bike rides with some of the dirt roads that cross over the hills that divide Hinesburg and Huntington. For an article that will appear online in UVM Today later this summer and in the print VQ in the fall, I asked Elise if she could give me a tour of the area along Lincoln Hill road where Shubael and Violet Clark were the first black settlers to clear the wilderness and begin what would grow into a community of at least eight African American farming families living on the hill.

Elise, who is married to longtime UVM education professor David Shiman,  is very smart and funny and talkative, the sort of person you feel immediately comfortable around. I picked her up at her home in South Burlington for the drive out to Hinseburg. As we made the turn up onto Lincoln Hill Road, she looked out of the car into the woods and speculated that the Peters family cemetery must be out there somewhere. Not long after we crested the hill and started heading down toward Huntington, she told me where to pull over and park to see where the Clarks were buried. I never would have found it on my own. Some of the tombstones look like, well, just stones. Others that were more finished are broken shards, victims of a spate of vandalism that hit what locals knew as the “old negro burying ground” in the 1950s. Down the road, other remnants of the family remain — the likely site of the cellar hole for the original Clark homestead, the original bones of a nineteenth century house still distinguishable beneath years of architectural alterations and renovations. While the traces of the families remain on the hill, Elise found most of her story in the old records of town clerks offices in Huntington and Hinesburg, relying on a wide range of documents — tax and voting records, store ledgers, estate sales — to piece together a picture of these people’s lives.

No, Discovering Black Vermont actually is not a short book. It’s an eye-opening one, certain to recast the deeply entrenched sense most have of our state’s heritage.

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Watching John Stewart on “The Daily Show” last night when he introduced his guest, author James Tabor. The name, then the face — “Hey, I know that guy!”  Jim, a Class of 1970 alumnus, was on the show to talk about his latest book, Blind Descent, the story of spelunkers who explore the deepest caves on Earth.
I first met Jim when we wrote about his previous book, Forever on the Mountain,  the story of a tragic, fatal mountaineering expedition on Mount McKinley. Jim, an experienced outdoors editor/journalist, and experienced mountaineer himself,  later wrote a story for us about a number of alumni with the spirit for adventure. Sam Meacham ’90, who has led efforts to explore the extensive caves and aquifers of the Yucatan Peninsula, was among those in the story. I’m eager to read Jim’s new book and see if Sam is part of the story.

Watch Jim Tabor’s “Daily Show” appearance: http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/tue-june-15-2010-james-tabor

Read Jim’s article on UVM’s adventuresome alumni: http://alumni.uvm.edu/vq/fall2008/adventure.asp

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As an assist man for the Boston Celtics, Jeff Twiss, UVM Class of 1977, isn’t going to rival Rajon Rondo. But when Coach Doc Rivers needed an envelope to make a statement to his team last February, Twiss, head of PR for the Celtics, was there with the dish.

If you’re a pro basketball fan, you’ve no doubt heard the story. After a February game against the LA Lakers, their last trip to Los Angeles during the regular season, Rivers called together the team and the whole Celtics traveling contingent. He challenged them to show their commitment to putting their season on track and making the NBA Finals. Rivers correctly figured that the road to a second championship in three years would go through Los Angeles. So he asked everyone in the room, Twiss included, to give him $100. Once all had anted up, he tucked the $2,600 in an envelope and hid it behind a ceiling tile. The only way to get the money back was to earn a return to the Staples Center in the championships.

While it’s a little hard to picture Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen wringing their hands over the potential loss of $100, there’s a magic to motivating professional athletes. And it’s clearly a magic that Doc Rivers possesses. The Celtics have made an unexpected run to the championship series and upon return to the Staples Center found their money safe and sound.

As for Twiss, he’s been with the Celtics organization for nearly three decades, doing a lot more than handing the coach an envelope when he needs one. He got his early training in sports media work as a UVM student, writing a hockey column for the Cynic, calling play-by-play on WRUV, and manning the PA during basketball and hockey games. Graduate work in sports management at UMass led to an internship with the Celtics, an internship that led to his dream job when no less than Red Auerbach offered him work in 1981.

When Jeff Wakefield profiled Twiss in the spring 2003 issue of VQ, Auerbach told him, “People in Jeff’s job tend to bug the players. They feel they’re going to be made to do something—an interview or a promotional appearance. But in all the years he’s been here, and all the players he’s been associated with, not one has had a bad word to say about him.”

So, if Doc Rivers is a player’s coach, let’s call Jeff Twiss a player’s PR guy.

Read the VQ profile of  Twiss here: http://www.uvm.edu/%7Euvmpr/vq/VQSPRING03/celtics.html

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Melissa d'Arabian

Melissa d’Arabian, UVM Class of 1990,  knows what she’s talking about when it comes to making career shifts. She’s gone from the corporate world to being a stay-at-home mom with four pre-schoolers to landing her own cooking show after winning the 2009 “The Next Food Network Star” competition. d’Arabian recently completed shooting the third season of her “Ten Dollar Dinners” program. A talk by d’Arabian on making bold career moves promises to be a highlight of the UVM Reunion weekend. In an interview in today’s Burlington Free Press, she told reporter Melissa Pasanen that knowing—and celebrating—your strengths is a key to success.

“A lot of people are so afraid of celebrating who they are. They try to be what other people want them to be. And you’re not going to win that way. An example was my knife skills when I was on “The Next Food Network Star.” I couldn’t compete with all those professionals on knife skills, so I didn’t even try. I mean I worked on them, but I wasn’t going to get to their level. But nobody on Food Network knows how to put dinner on the table with four screaming kids better than I do. I’m the best one to do that. I need to celebrate those strengths, and that’s a game I can win. We all have 20, 30, 40 games we can win based on our strengths—but it has to be something people are looking for.”

Melissa d’Arabian’s talk at UVM is free and open to the public. 11 a.m., Saturday, June 5, Livak Ballroom, Davis Center.

Read the full interview in the Burlington Free Press: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20100604/LIVING06/100603030/1004/LIVING/Food-Network-star-to-share-secrets-at-20th-UVM-reunion

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