Theater as the Integrated Performing Arts by Shannon McGovern

Have you heard about the School of the Arts and Communication’s new Integrated Performing Arts minor? Find out everything you need to know from Shannon McGovern in her latest blog post below! For more information about the minor, please visit

Shannon McGovern is a junior Music student, with minors in Integrated Performing Arts and Management. She is a member of All College Theatre, Alpha Psi Omega, the TCNJ Chorale, and The Mixed Signals Improv troupe. She is looking forward to baking soufflés and cookies with her younger siblings over Spring Break.

At the end of last semester, I changed my major and added on 2 minors. As a Junior at TCNJ, this was one of the scariest decisions I have ever made. I switched from the Bachelor of Music in Music Education degree to a Bachelor of Arts in Music with minors in Management and Integrated Performing Arts. Though it was a terrifying decision to make, I am so excited to be studying things that I’m really, truly interested in — the main subject of which is theater.

When I first found out there wasn’t a specific route for studying theater at TCNJ, I was a little disappointed. However, after becoming a part of the Integrated Performing Arts minor (henceforth known as IPA), I realize this interdisciplinary minor is more valuable than a theater minor would ever be.

The IPA minor resulted when the Theatre and Drama Interdisciplinary minor was updated and renamed in Spring 2012. The goal of the IPA program “is to offer students an expanded experience in performance techniques using the various disciplines in the School and in the College.” There are requirements for Theory/History/Literature, Applied Music, Visual Arts/Interactive Multimedia, and Applied Theatre, Dance, and Production. Within the IPA minor, I have taken voice lessons, studied a little bit of computer programming, learned about art history, made a fool of myself in my hip-hop dance class, and have had more fun than I ever thought possible. I have a new appreciation for all of these realms of art and performance, and have realized that I can do most of these things to a passable degree.

The amazing part, is that all of these “different” arts inform and grow off of each other. When I’m learning a new song for my voice studio, I find symbols in the text that are commonly discussed in art history. During my dance class, I find myself applying my knowledge of music history to that of the development of ballet. Everything is interrelated in the arts, and you can’t truly master one without the knowledge of the others.

When you think about it, theater is the ultimate product of all that knowledge — it combines all aspects of art into one cohesive experience. In that case, doesn’t it make sense that I study the visual arts, music, acting, literature, and dance if my final goal is to continue creating theater? I know that the knowledge I am discovering in the classroom is improving my skills as a performer/collaborator/audience member in the theater. I feel very at home studying the Integrated Performing Arts, and I bet that if you love art in any form, you will as well. So if you’re trying to figure out what to do for those elective classes, why not talk to your advisor and think about taking up the minor? I promise it’ll be a lot of fun.

If you’re interested in any of the TCNJ student-run theater organizations, theater, switching your major, or the IPA minor or have any questions, feel free to email me at Students may also contact any of the coordinators for the program: Terry Byrne (Associate Professor of Communication Studies,, James Day (Assistant Dean of The School of the Arts & Communication, or Robert McMahan (Professor of Music, for academic advisement regarding the minor.

For more information about the IPA minor, please visit


Improv(ing) Your Life by Shannon McGovern, Junior Music Education Major

We’d like to welcome new student blogger Shannon McGovern, a junior Music Education major with a Vocal Concentration. In her first blog post below, Shannon explains the LARCH rule and how it’s been “impov(ing)” her improvisation skills, and how you can use it to improve your daily life, too!

Shannon McGovern, Junior Music Education Major, Vocal Concentration

Shannon McGovern, Junior Music Education Major, Vocal Concentration

Hello everyone, and welcome to my first blog post for the School of the Arts & Communication blog! Glad you could make it. My name is Shannon McGovern, and I am a junior Music Education major with a Vocal concentration. I am currently involved with the TCNJ Chorale, All College Theatre, The Mixed Signals Improv troupe, and Alpha Psi Omega. In my spare time I enjoy yoga, riding my bike, photography, and peanut butter.

I feel obligated to excel in many areas, which seems to be a commonality amongst most people. But in trying to “have it all” I usually end up hurting myself the most. Why is it that I am willing to sacrifice my own happiness and well-being for things that I am less than passionate about? I’ve been asking myself this question more and more, and the only answer I come to is that I shouldn’t be. So this semester, I’ve been trying to change the way I approach day-to-day life so that I can be successful without derailing my sanity.

I am a member of the Mixed Signals Improv Comedy Troupe on campus. We practice twice a week and have shows once every month (you should definitely check out our November 2nd show!). My Dad is always very interested in how we “just know what to do,” and the truth is, we practice playing games a lot. It’s never the same scene, but you use “rules” in every game to help guide you to create a strong scene. One of the rules is called LARCH and it stands for “Location, Action, Relationship, Character, and History.”

While these terms are applied a little differently in improv, I find the terms can also be applied for success in everyday life as well.

Location : Place yourself in an environment where you can succeed.  I am incapable of doing my homework around people I am friends with. I have tried many times, and have handed in incomplete or poorly done work because of it. So now, I go to the library by myself or work in my room with the door shut. And that’s okay. Finding/creating a place where you can excel is important.

Action : Work for yourself. When deciding what new projects I want to take on, I now reevaluate whether or not it is for something I like/care about/am interested in/will help me to grow. If the answer to those questions is no, I won’t do it. A low value (Value = Perceived Benefits / Cost) may not be worth it to my overall well-being. When you start looking out for your own interests, you become your own best advocate.

Relationship : Find people. Preferably ones who will support you, and laugh with you, and will share their experiences with you. TCNJ is full of exceptional humans who are high achievers in all different areas — don’t neglect them just because you’re involved with different activities. Friends can come from anywhere, so never forget to keep looking.

Character : Discover what you care about. Once you determine what is important to you as an individual, it is much easier to do everything else. Without a strong character in improv, it is much harder to make choices in your scene. The same goes for life. If you have strong ideas or passions, knowing what you need to do next is already laid out.

History : Learn from your past mistakes. The most cliché of all, but the most true. Knowledge comes from mistakes, and success can come from knowledge (and some luck). College is a great place to make mistakes — we are in a safe environment where everyone around us wants us to succeed. People will be there to dust you off and set you on the right path. Don’t be afraid to mess-up, so long as you’re willing to try and fix it.

The ideas behind LARCH are helping to keep me focused and well-aligned this semester, and I’m very grateful for it. The concepts are basic, but the constant repetition and reminders are keeping me sane, steady, and mostly stress-free.

If you often feel overworked/overwhelmed, I’d suggest trying to apply LARCH to your own life. But if you only jive with one of the LARCH ideas, run with-it and ignore the others. One of the greatest “rules” in improv is that the “rules” are meant to be broken, so don’t be afraid to change things up when you need to. What else is keeping you balanced?

If you have any questions about Improv Comedy, The Mixed Signals, or being busy, feel free to email me at

Blogging the Brown Bag Series: Round One by Katharine Callahan, Freshman Communication Studies Major

Please welcome one of our new student bloggers for the TCNJ School of the Arts & Communication blog, Katharine Callahan! She’s been busy attending the Brown Bag Series lectures and presentations. Read what Katharine has to say about the first four Fall 2013 Brown Bags!

My name is Katharine Callahan, I am a freshman this year at TCNJ, and am majoring in Communication Studies. My track is public and mass communications, with a minor in International Studies and Marketing. I work in Ewing and Trenton during the week between classes, and come spring semester hopefully I won’t have to work at so I can join some of the clubs on campus!

The presenters this fall semester for TCNJ’s Brown Bag Series are not just TCNJ Alumni who landed a job early after graduating, semi-professionals who got a lucky break in their endeavors, or unenthusiastic individuals repeating monotone lines they have used a dozen different times in presentations just like this. No, the Brown Bags thus far have only showed hard working individuals, regardless of if they are TCNJ alumni or not, who have worked and struggled to achieve the success they have today, and continue to work and struggle because of their enthusiasm for the arts.

Cheese Sandwich Days

Christy Ney, Asst. Stage Manager, “Wicked”

Christy Ney, TCNJ Alumni and Assistant Stage Manager of the Broadway Musical Wicked, presented the first Brown Bag, “A Life in the Wings,” and introduced the concept of “Cheese Sandwich Days,” days when you can’t afford to pay for your rent, your bills, or for your groceries, so you resort to eating bread and cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Christy was a communication studies major at TCNJ with a minor in theater (which is no longer offered at TCNJ), she opted to study the television and film production track during her time here, and was an active part of TCNJ’s Theater club and the TSC (Trenton State College) Update, which you might know now as Lions TV. Besides keeping up with school and extracurriculars her senior year, Christy also had an externship (essentially job shadowing at a company or corporation) in NYC working for Disney Theatrical on their Broadway production of The Lion King, which led to her receiving a job on the production of the play only ten days after graduation.

Christy worked with The Lion King for four years before she decided to leave and began working with Wicked; a dream job that she landed because of both her experience and connections in the field. Christy stressed that networking is not only essential to her job as Asst. Stage Manager, where she is the center point of communication during the show during every performance, but also to the field of communications. She has started her own company called “Broadway Basics” to teach upcoming individuals the fundamentals of working and networking on Broadway. “Learn as many names as you can,” Christy says, “because you never know when knowing a name will come in handy.”

Dean John Laughton, Joan Myers Brown, Risa Kaplowitz, and Karen Calloway-Williams

Dean John Laughton, Ms. Joan Myers Brown, Ms. Risa Gary Kaplowitz, and Ms. Karen Calloway Williams

One name worth knowing in the arts field is Joan Meyers Brown, founder and Executive Artistic Director of PHILANDANCO, the world-renowned Philadelphia based African American dance company. Ms. Brown, Karen Calloway Williams, who was the first African American tap dancer to appear in Riverdance, Risa Gary Kaplowitz, a predominant figure in the ballet world, and our very own Dean of the School of the Arts and Communication, Dr. John Laughton, were all a part of TCNJ’s second Brown Bag event, “By Way of the Funk.” The premise of their conversation was of the bias many African Americans face in the world of dance, especially ballet. Ms. Brown told of how when she was growing up, during segregation in the 1960s, she was the only African American girl in her ballet class, and how difficult it was to become a professional in her field because of her race. This is why, in 1970, she founded the Philadelphia Dance Company known as PHILANDANCO, a dance company that tries to equalize the representation African Americans have in the dance community. Karen Williams explained the prejudices she faced, and still continues to face, in her successful career as a tap dancer. Risa Kaplowitz, who herself is not African American, explained the lack of African American dancers she sees in professional ballet, noting that Misty Copeland is one of very, very few African Americans to “make it” in ballet. The conclusion of their lecture examined segregation in the past to bias in dance now, with Dean Laughton referencing a conversation he once had with Rosa Parks, and the audience applauding Ms. Brown’s winning of the National Medal of the Arts from the President in 2012.

Filmmaker Luis Salas, Dr. Susan Ryan, and Professor Lorna Johnson-Frizell

Filmmaker Luis Salas, Dr. Susan Ryan, and Professor Lorna Johnson-Frizell

Luis Salas, a 2002 alumni of TCNJ, spoke of his latest work, a  “mockumentary” entitled Dead Man Working, about the dead rising as a cheap workforce that results in a loss of jobs for the living. Salas says that the inspiration for his work came from the zombie pop culture craze in 2008 along with the year’s economic downfall in the United States. Prior to Dead Man Working, Salas had worked on documentaries such as 2006’s Far From the Island, which focused on Cuban Immigrants to the United States. Salas says that he got his start in film by doing a lot of unpaid work, and at one point helped to film in the adult film industry, where Salas says many filmmakers begin their work but try to hide it because they do not want to be known for that kind of work. However, Salas leaves us with the understanding that where you begin your work does not define your future work, and states that getting your foot in the door is the most important factor in beginning a career in film.

Dr. Benjamin Gross gave the fourth Brown Bag lecture, and went in to detail about David Sarnoff, the founder of NBC and main proponent of RCA Laboratories’ success as the “center of America’s consumer electronic industry.” Sarnoff only attended school until eighth grade, when he then moved to the United States and worked full-time to help support his family. RCA Labs, located in Princeton, was created in 1919, and it is because of RCA labs that we today have such inventions as the color television, liquid crystal displays, and semiconductor devices. However, none of this would have been possible without David Sarnoff, who believed in investing immensely in the lab’s research development department. Dr. Gross ended his lecture with a quote from Sarnoff that describes the pursuit of knowledge many TCNJ students embody, “There is no security in standing still. Those who rest on the rock of stabilization sooner or later find that that rock becomes their tombstone. There is no security for the future in the mere knowledge of today. There is hope and opportunity in what we can learn tomorrow.”

TCNJ Sarnoff Collection, Roscoe West Hall, 2nd Floor

TCNJ Sarnoff Collection, Roscoe West Hall, 2nd Floor

Allison Gibbons gives advice on how to prepare for an audition…and how to handle a busy semester, too!

Allison Gibbons is a pro at juggling a hectic schedule. As she gets ready for graduation and graduate school auditions, Allison gives some advice on how to prepare yourself for an upcoming audition. Her helpful tips also apply to anyone trying to handle a busy semester! (Hey, that’s all of us!)

EDIT: The Lyric Theatre opera scenes performance will be on April 24th at 7 P.M. in the concert hall.

Welcome to Spring 2013, TCNJ! This semester is an exciting one for me; I am now several weeks into student teaching, which I am absolutely loving! It definitely keeps me busy, but if you have read anything I blogged last semester, youʼve probably figured out that no matter how busy I am, there are certain activities I just canʼt stay away from. Thus, this semester youʼll still find me at the TCNJ Chorale concerts (the most important being our Hand in Hand concert at Lincoln Center on March 22) as well as Lyric Theatreʼs opera scenes performance, which is EDIT: scheduled for April 24 at 7:00 PM in the concert hall). Before I know it, May will be upon us and Iʼll be donning my cap and gown (but shhh–donʼt say “the g word;” I might cry)! But before any of this happens, I do have something else to worry about, something that will ultimately decide the outcome of my post-collegiate life: graduate school auditions.

Preparing for auditions can be overwhelming; every school wants different materials prepared and has different policies regarding accompanists and placement tests; itʼs definitely stressful, but there are ways to make the experience less stressful than it has the potential to be. Here are just several actions that Iʼve been taking to make sure I donʼt lose my mind in the final days leading up to my four auditions:

1. Prioritize. If you have a lot of different repertoire to prepare, make yourself a list or chart of everything you need to practice; keep a record of the pieces youʼve worked on every day. Obviously some pieces may need more attention than others, but this will help you ensure that none of your rep is being neglected!

2. Stay organized. I applied to five schools and am auditioning at four of them, so it was important that I made sure to request different audition dates for each school whenever possible, especially when more than one school had dates that overlapped. Additionally, my planner is my saving grace; I know that writing things on my calendar keeps me in check and helps me make sure Iʼm getting things done efficiently and on time. Iʼm also the queen of to-do lists, which are a major source of stress relief for me. I find that writing down everything that I have to get done helps me to organize my thoughts so I can focus on one task at a time instead of getting flustered thinking about everything I need to accomplish.

3. Set aside time to relax. Itʼs easy to be super stressed when you are going crazy trying to balance a zillion different things (school, work, clubs, your personal life, etc.) in conjunction with practicing and audition preparation. One way to prevent yourself from having a complete breakdown (besides staying physically healthy, which is another blog topic for another day) is to designate some downtime each day. Do something you enjoy before you go to bed each night; try reading a book or watching television for thirty minutes (I personally enjoy number puzzles such as KenKen). Calm down and give  yourself some time to relax before your next day of insanity and chaos.

These are just a few of the things Iʼm doing to protect what little sanity I have left during my last semester here at The College. Many of these are things I do all the time (for example, I did all of these things last semester when I was preparing for Orfeo and my recital simultaneously), not just when auditions are approaching! Best of luck to everyone, whether youʼre preparing for an upcoming audition or just trying to make the best of a busy semester.

BLOGGER BONUS! We also asked our bloggers the following question. Check out Alli’s response below!

What was the best or most exciting part of your winter break?

Over winter break, I enjoyed spending time with my family and friends and relaxing after a hectic semester. It was also exciting to receive notification about passing prescreening at MSM, Mannes, and Peabody!

Stephanie Schoppe: “ACT was kind of a place I could go and not worry about grades”

In her second blog post, Stephanie Schoppe recounts overcoming academic struggles by finding support through the All College Theatre (ACT).
Be sure to mark your calendars for ACT’s fall show, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, running October 3rd to October 5th at 8p.m. and
October 6th at 2p.m. and 8p.m.

So we’re about a month into the school year (seems a lot longer though, right?) Maybe by the time this is posted you’ve found a place to call home here. Maybe you’re on a sports team. Maybe you’ve met people in a fraternity or sorority who may very well become brothers and sisters to you. Maybe you and your floormates are besties and you go to Eickhoff at 6:00 every night for dinner. Whatever floats your boat, TCNJ has something for everyone; somewhere on campus there’s a group of people who may just become your best friends. They may even become-dare I say it-your family.

I’d like to share my story of finding that one particular group. During spring semester of my freshman year, someone I became friends with in my music theory class the prior semester mentioned the theater group he was in was in need of people to come in and help build the set for their spring production. He got me to show up one night. I didn’t do much – helped hold screws for people who were drilling, put up glow tape so the actors could see where they were going during a show when it got dark in the theater.  But even though I didn’t do much, something made me come back every night for the rest of the week to help. That group was All College Theatre, TCNJ’s only student-run straight theater group, and I’ve been coming back to them ever since.

The whole “not doing much” thing that I did that one week has since turned into being involved in every production since I joined, doing everything from sound design and build crew to costume design and stage managing. But aside from the opportunities to work on plays, something I apparently love doing and didn’t know that until I joined, ACT has given me something I needed: a place to belong. I was a music major my freshman year, and I was struggling with low grades, a lower GPA than I knew I was capable of having, and a possible dismissal from the department if I didn’t do better. I saw other people in my department excelling, and I felt worthless, stupid; a failure, if you will. ACT was kind of a place I could go and not worry about grades. Everyone was so welcoming and so happy that I joined. It was nice to be somewhere where I felt like I was wanted.

Believe me, it’s a stressful activity to be in. Being at every rehearsal, making sure the actors’ costumes fit, making sure the set is built and is stable. It can wear you out. You get no sleep, especially if say, you’re a stage manager or in the cast and you have to be at every rehearsal. When it gets closer to show time, you’re at rehearsal nearly every night until the wee hours of the night. There’s little to no time to do stuff like read for class or do laundry or eat. Tension is high, everyone’s stressed, and you can sometimes lash out at your best friends for even the most trivial of things. So why do I do it?

Because they’ve been there for me at my worst. When I was eventually dismissed from the music department, they comforted me and told me it was okay, and that I would bounce back from this and do something great. Whenever I’m going through a rough time, I know that they will listen to me and cheer me up. They’re there to calm me down and to hug me when I have a panic attack about whatever happens to be worrying me at the time.  And I’ll always return that kindness and support when they need it. It’s the least I can do.

We’re a family, and I know that sounds super cliché to say, but we are. And I needed that at a time when I felt like I was a failure. Sometimes I still do feel that way, but I know who I can turn to when I need cheering up. That’s what a family is: they’re there for each other, in the best and worst of times. When I look back on my time at TCNJ, when my kids and grandkids ask what college was like for me, I’ll say it was wonderful. Because of ACT, it was wonderful.

ACT’s fall show, “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot”, is a dark comedy that tells the story of the final days and trial of Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus Christ. Our show runs from October 3rd to October 5th at 8 p.m., and October 6th at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. I and the rest of the production staff and cast have worked so hard in the past month to put on a great show for our friends and families, and we would love it if you would come to one of our performances.  Come to a show and see why we exhaust ourselves over an entire month to put on a show for you. Come to a show and see why I’ve found my home here. Come to a show and see why I consider these people my family.

Some “Tough Love” from Stephanie Schoppe, Senior Communication Studies Major at TCNJ

Need some “tough love” to keep motivated as the fall semester gets started? Read what Stephanie Schoppe, a senior Communication Studies major at The College of New Jersey, has to say about getting involved in the TCNJ community and keeping up with classes!

Stephanie Schoppe

Stephanie Schoppe

Hey there everyone! My name is Stephanie, and I’m a senior communications major. I hope you all had wonderful, lazy summers, unless you were like me, who had a wonderful summer but not a lazy one because you worked almost every day for the past three months (gotta make some green, am I right?) If you’re like me and a returning student to the communications department, welcome back! If you’re new to the major (a freshman or maybe a transfer student), welcome! You picked a great school and a great department to be in, trust me.

I don’t know about any of you guys, but I’m incredibly excited for next school year. I actually just recently switched over to the communications major; this past school year was my first full year in the department. I’ve enjoyed every second of it: the classes, the professors, and my fellow classmates. I’m probably most excited about the two health communications classes I’m taking. This past semester I heard so much about the courses and how much others enjoyed them that I thought I should see what they’re all about. I’m also taking a course about American political communication, which will no doubt be very interesting what with the upcoming presidential election. What classes are you most excited about taking this fall semester?

For those who are new to the major and may be wondering, did I chose the right major? well, let me tell you something: you did. I’ve felt so welcomed by my professors in the department, and they’re always willing to help you when you need it. Our professors are some of the best; they’ve written books and papers, been published in communications journals, and have produced and directed films that have been presented in numerous film festivals. Also, did you know that the students in the communications major have been recognized as the best in the nation? It’s true! I didn’t make that up! See for yourself:

If you’re looking into getting involved with any clubs/organizations in the fall related to the communications major, there are tons to choose from! You could maybe be a DJ or write a music review for the campus radio station WTSR. We also have our own completely student run TV station, LTV, and the major even offers classes about TV production too. If you like to watch and talk about movies with others, we have our own student film union. But of course, you’re not limited to just these clubs in the department. TCNJ has something for everyone, whether it be a club or a fraternity. What groups are you involved with/want to be involved with on campus? Me? I’m kind of partial to the theater groups on campus (hint hint, come check us out, you won’t be disappointed because we’re a lot of fun!)

And with that, I leave you with these words of wisdom for the upcoming school year. Don’t slack off, do your work (sorry to sound blunt, just some tough love for you). Find that perfect balance between working hard and playing hard, and you’ll have the best experience you can possibly have. Whoever came up with the cliché that high school is the best four years of your life was a liar. This is your time and your moment to shine and become what you’ve always wanted to be. Now go out there, kick some butt, and do work.