Norwich celebrates two anniversaries © Nov. 20, 2007 Norwich University Office of Communications
Milestones are pretty common at a university with a history spanning nearly 200 years. And 2007 is no exception as two of Norwich’s campus organizations mark their 80th and 40th anniversaries of educating and entertaining the community.
Norwich University’s theater troupe, the Pegasus Players, and its radio station, WNUB will both mark the year with anniversaries as the former turns 80 while the latter boasts its 40th year of continuous broadcasting from the hills of Northfield. Although these two entities aren’t related to one another, both make life in the Norwich community a little bit more fun, and their anniversaries are certainly reason to celebrate.
Behind the stage curtain, the beginnings of the Pegasus Players are a bit cloudy. Author and chair of the English Department, Patricia Ferreira, wrote in her Pegasus Players in Retrospect: The First Eighty Years, “…some University sources mark its first dramatic production…on September 10, 1826.” However, Ferreira contends that the troupe’s formal creation took place nearly a century later, when in 1927 Cadet Richard Husband worked with others to begin the club. Three years later the 25-member Pegasus Players performed their first three-act play, Three Live Ghosts.
Things have changed since the early days when the all-male campus only allowed for all-male casts. Today, both women and men wait in the wings for their chance in front of the stage lights, and the student population is well represented in the troupe.
“It is definitely a mix of students, that is one of the strengths of the group,” said English Prof. Helen Caudill, Director of the Pegasus Players. Students from all majors have participated in the productions, she said, including architecture majors building sets, geology students taking on lead roles and the Corps showing strong participation. “Students need a creative outlet, and some find that in Pegasus.”
Tatiana Lucas is a part of that mix. A freshman nursing major from Pottsdam, Penn., she has been involved in theater since she was four and has participated in Pegasus Players' last two plays. A member of the ROTC program, Lucas said she wasn’t sure what to expect for theater opportunities when she enrolled at Norwich. Fortunately, she said, she’s been pleasantly surprised.
“When I came to Norwich, I didn’t know they had a theater program,“ Lucas said. “I wasn’t sure what it would be like when I found out there was one, but it turned out to be awesome.”
Caudill likens the environment born of such diverse student participation to that found in a family or sports team, replete with all of the highs and lows.
“Pegasus has become an extended family both for my students and for myself,” Caudill said. “It’s like being on a sports team – you go through intense experiences together.” Despite the intensity, she said, the all volunteer cast and crew members “…usually stay with it all four years.”
And Lucas is sure to be one of those family members who sticks around throughout her time at Norwich.
“If I didn’t have drama, it wouldn’t be the same,” Lucas said. “Military and drama are the two most important things to me, they help keep me grounded and focused. We all have a Pegasus bond, we’re so loyal to each other, I love it.”
Basically, everybody can get their voice heard through this station, even if it's through their friend who works there or just coming on as a guest.
~Sanela Siric ’ 08
Funded by a combination of student activity and School of Humanities’ funds, the troupe performs one play each semester. Caudill said that while she works to choose plays that give the audience something to think about, ultimately productions are planned with the students in mind. In the past few years productions have dealt with topics such as torture and sexual harassment, appropriate topics for both audience and students.
“I do what I think the students need,” Caudill said regarding the choice of plays. “In academic theater, the philosophy is that you always consider the students first, and then I try to think about what the audience might like. It’s primarily entertainment, but if we can start discussions, it’s good.”
Entertainment that promotes thinking and learning isn’t just the domain of the Pegasus Players though. Transmitting from Jackman Hall and found at 88.3 on the FM dial, WNUB has been offering the Norwich community entertainment since its beginnings in 1967.
Communications professor and station advisor Doug Smith says the primary purpose of WNUB is as a “…training lab for communications majors.” Each semester, he said, students in his Broadcasting Techniques and Radio Production classes serve as disc jockeys (DJs) and production crews for the station.
Bosnian native Sanela Siric can testify to the station's role as both entertainment and education, though. The senior communications major hosts a weekly two-hour show and records six, one-minute voice tracks per week for automated programming. All of that work, she said, is both fun and educational.
“Working at the station gives me something new to try and something new to learn,” she said. “Not only do I get to let my voice be heard, but it also lets listeners enjoy the music with me, which was chosen by me.”
Students realize how unique participation in WNUB’s operation is. Alyssa Nicoloro, a junior communications major from Arlington, Mass., said she values her time at the station because of the professional and personal opportunities it will afford her in the future.
“Before I took any of these classes, radio wasn't at all something that I had thought about considering after graduation,” Nicoloro said. “Whether it is something I decide to go into for a job later on or not, I think that this class has been great experience. Maybe it's me, but not many people get to host their own show, and that's something that will just be a great kind of story to tell my kids when I'm older.”
Every evening, Monday through Thursday, the Norwich community is treated to a different student DJ playing music or talking about topics of interest to them. And that, Siric says, is a valuable contribution to the community. Moreover, she said the station offers opportunities for all community members to join in the fun.
“I think the station serves the Norwich population very well,” Siric said. “Most people complain there is nothing to do on campus, and this is a great way to get out of your room. If you're not a member of the station you can be a guest and come on with a member to talk about some situations or any other issues. Basically, everybody can get their voice heard through this station, even if it's through their friend who works there or just coming on as a guest.”
As for the future of WNUB, Smith said for the upcoming decades the station will be getting a much needed facelift.
“We are in the process of building a new main broadcast studio with new equipment that will be quite attractive and more spacious than our current studio,” Smith said. Located on the second floor of the communications building, the current studio will become a second production studio, he said. The station will also be able to broadcast live from remote locations by early 2008, and as Smith said, “…webcasting is a possibility, but no timetable has been set.”
Both groups are planning a celebration of their longevity, and Smith and Caudill realize that they are not only celebrating years of entertainment and education for the Norwich community, but also generations of students’ hard work.
“The students work really hard,” said Caudill. “I like to see them recognized for their hard work.”