Writing Samples – Arts & Entertainment

Sample 1-The Rotunda

Taylor Swift ‘Speaks Now’ to Past Loves and Kanye West

By Michelle Moodhe

Whether you are her biggest fan or her harshest critic, there is no doubt that Taylor Swift has left her mark in music history. She has become the spokesperson for a generation of hopeless romantics, girls who have fallen faster than their feet can hit the ground, and the broken-hearted. She is nothing but true and honest with her lyrics, and only writes from personal experience. And for this reason she has earned the respect of fans all around the world. Ten million records and 30 million downloads later Taylor Swift debuts her junior album titled “Speak Now” on Oct. 25. This album features 14 new tracks each written by Swift herself, all acting as confessional narratives of her chances at love, heartache and life.

Taylor Swift’s previous sophomore album “Fearless” went 6X platinum in the United States, selling 592,000 copies its first release week. Some critics expect her latest album to sell one million copies its first, a difficult feat to achieve, last done by Lil’ Wayne with his album “Tha Carter III.” “Speak Now” is probably the most different out of her two other albums. The album “Fearless” is what some may say have the “classic Taylor Swift” feel to it, meaning, songs of fairytale love, and in contrast songs of boys who run, leave and cheat. Swift is known for pouring all her feeling out in song lyrics, and is not afraid to drop someone’s name. But in “Speak Now” Swift does not hold back whatsoever, singing about former love interests, ‘Twilight’s’ Taylor Lautner (“Back to December”), the heartbreak kid Joe Jonas (“Better than Revenge”), the suave John Mayer (“Dear John”), and of course the infamous Kanye West (“Innocent”).

Swift has released a new single off the album for the past three weeks. “Mine” was the first single release in August when an illegal version was leaked on the Internet. “Mine” became one of the “classic Taylor Swift” songs, with a tune similar to her previous hit “You Belong with Me.” This single is about star-crossed lovers who meet in a diner, one who is described as a “careless man’s careful daughter” and the other as a rebel. This song cracked through the number one slot on iTunes within six hours of its release, a great way to kick off the new album.

In this album Swift starts to expand her “sound” by mixing up things up a bit. If I had to describe the tone of this CD, it is a mix of rock, twang country, pop, folk, and soft rock. The second release and album title song “Speak Now” reminds me of a Colbie Caillat song mixed with jukebox backup singers. It’s a much higher pitched song than Swift is accustomed to, but it has a refreshing beat to it. Another song, one of my favorites, titled “Haunted,” begins with quick, jagged violin strokes, creating a darker atmosphere, sounding incredibly similar to a song the band Evanescence might record. I have never heard a Taylor Swift song like this before, but surprisingly I love it.

Even though some have labeled Taylor as the “All-American Girl,” this has not protected her when it comes to harsh criticism. Cue in her single “Mean.” This song is has an old Western, banjo-picking melody that will keep your foot tapping along with the beat. During an interview with E!, Swift said, “There’s constructive criticism, there’s professional criticism — and then there’s just being mean. And there’s a line that you cross when you just start to attack everything about a person.” The cover for this single has Swift tied up to train tracks like a damsel in distress out in the Wild West, with an anonymous mustachioed villain. Aside from the music, the artwork included in the album is nothing but eye-catching. Each single has a photo that tells a story, with her band mates taking on the roles of different characters. We see her lead guitarist playing the groom in the single cover for “Speak Now,” as her violinist sits in the crowd as a worried wedding guest.

The most brutally honest lyrics I have ever heard from Taylor come out in her Paramore-like song “Better than Revenge.” The opening line to this song is direct, unrestricted, and jaw-dropping which left me thinking, “Whoa, did she really just say that?” This song is commentary on Camilla Belle, the alleged “other woman” who stole Joe Jonas from Swift. The song begins “Now go stand in a corner and think about what you did.” This seems to be the hurt side of Taylor, one obviously seeking revenge.

Overall, I definitely recommend purchasing this album; it is filled with many stories behind the songs that make for an interesting experience. This album offers a variety of different sounds, and ties in several different genres. Country lovers, pop, and even soft rock fans can enjoy the music. Only time will tell if Taylor Swift has, yet again, proven her 20-year-old self to a world full of ruthless critics and devoted fans.

Sample 2-The Rotunda

Lancer Productions: A New Year

By Michelle Moodhe

As a new semester begins students are acclimating to the college lifestyle when it comes to classes and social events.  Lancer Productions (LP) hosts a variety of events and activities throughout the school year that range from bands to comedians to bingo.  This wide selection of LP sponsored events gives students an opportunity to come together as a community.  Every semester LP hosts an event titled “Late Night at LU” where there is usually a performance element as well as interactive part as well.  The theme for this semester’s “Late Night” was karaoke driven as a live band named Maxxtone provided the music as students offered up their talent on stage.  This event that took place on Saturday, January 33, kicked off the new year as it was LP’s first event of the semester since classes have resumed.

“Late Night at LU: Rock Band Edition” offered students a chance to be creative with several activity choices.  These choices included a make-your-own guitar pick necklace station, as well as air brush tattoos and red carpet photos.  President of LP Missy Dillard described the overall goal of hosting such events, “It’s a time to relax chill out and it’s an alternative to going out to party, because some students aren’t into the party scene.” Food and drinks were also provided  as the night was cost free for all guests.

Each year LP attends the National Association of Campus Activities (NACA) South Regional Conference, where they come up with different ideas for future campus events and receive special rates for booking performers.  The NACA conference is where LP found Maxxtone the band that performs live karaoke. Maxxtone formed in 2003 as a three piece acoustic group who plays along the East Coast at various colleges and universities. The name behind the band derives from Simpson’s producer Ian Maxtone-Graham, as they take on a variation of said producer’s middle name.  The karaoke list offered a wide variety of different genres to choose from.  Drummer Jon Adams said “We’re fans of everything, and we can play everything on top of that.” The band is made up of four performers, Aaron Fay lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Pete Maserati lead guitar and backing vocals, Jesse Casinghino drums and backing vocals and Nate Fay bass guitarist.  As the night progressed some familiar songs filled the night from classic rock such as “Don’t Stop Believin’” to some country twang with “Before he Cheats.” The night closed with a raffle were a MTVU gift bag was given away that included a Frisbee, LP mug, air fresheners and a laundry bag.  The winner of the raffle was Sara Bell who also participated at karaoke that night.

LP’s upcoming events include a poetry slam which will be co-sponsored by the Black Student Association and B.A.S.I.C. Gospel Choir, in which they teamed up.  The poetry slam will also give students a chance to showcase their talents as well.  The Coffee House series will also return to Longwood with various artists singing in the Student Union. Two of the artists will be performing in the Dining Hall which will be a new venue for performers.   LP has also booked comedians and a contortionist show titled “Alakazam! The Human Knot” which will take place February 5.  Another classic event to look forward to is LP’s Welcome Back Bingo.  LP’s Director of Novelty Chloe Abshire said “This event was a huge success last semester with over 75 students in attendance.  We’re hoping to get even more students out for Welcome Back Bingo this semester.  Plus the prizes are bigger and better, with a new spin on the way we play the game.”   Another event to look out for is Live Monopoly which will take place on February 19, 2011.

This semester LP will be attending their NACA Conference in February in St. Louis, Missouri.  This semester is well booked with many types of entertainment for students to attend.  LP’s main goal is to create a fun safe environment for students. Abshire said “I am really proud of the events our organization is planning to bring to campus this semester.  Hopefully the students are just as excited for these events as we are.” For more information of any upcoming events, please visit http://lancerproductions.longwood.edu/.

Sample 4-The Rotunda

Upcoming Blockbusters to Shake up the Entertainment World

By Michelle Moodhe

As 2011’s year in the world of entertainment has come to an end many of film’s biggest fans gear up for what 2012 has to offer. With the closing of an epic series about a certain capped vigilante and the beginning of what could possibly be the next “Twilight” in regards to fandom, the movie industry has high hopes for the year’s blockbuster films.  It’s superheroes versus hobbits as epic action-adventures take over this year’s prominent theme.

One of the first anticipated films to hit the theaters this February has actually already basked in the glow of box office history.  Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is being re-released in 3D for a limited time. George Lucas, writer and former director of the saga plans to release all six films in 3D, annually.  Continuing with the futuristic theme, the book to film series “The Hunger Games” gives young fantasy readers a chance to live in this fiction world.  Jennifer Lawrence stars in the film, she is best known for her recent role in X-Men First Class.  The film portrays a post-apocalyptic type society where the known world has fallen and been rebuilt and organized with a powerful government at the helm.  Two people are chosen from each of the 12 districts that remain and are forced to fight one another to the death.  The book series has felt a similar reception to that of the “Twilight” novels, the film hopes to see the same box office numbers as its vampire predecessor.

The summer kicks off the whorl-wind of superhero films which have found their own place in the movie industry as a profitable genre.   “The Avengers” is the first film to showcase it’s star studded cast of superheroes that combines a variety personalities of the world’s greatest crime fighters.  Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans are just a few of the experienced actors whose unforgettable characters carry this movie.  After years of back-story feature films on the main heroes’, fans will finally be able to see this collection of characters join together in the fight of their lives.  “The Avengers” is set to hit theaters May 4.  Soon after, July brings us a “re-do” or “remake” of the Spiderman films, in The Amazing Spiderman, which follows more closely the comic-book it was based off.  “The Social Network’s” Andrew Garfield stars as the web shooting hero.  This film swings into theaters on July 4.

One of the movie industry’s most successful remake series will come to an end this summer for the masked vigilante, we know as Batman.  “The Dark Knight Rises” will conclude the three part series July 20, as Bruce Wayne is matched with his toughest foe yet, Bane.  The final film will test Wayne as Gotham falls into the hands of the feared mastermind.

Wrapping up the later half of the year has 007 questioning his long time friend, M, in “Skyfall.” This film will be released Nov. 9, just in time for the holidays.   The remakes don’t stop at the superheroe films, but one of America’s classic novels turn to the silver screen as it ambitiously attempts to live up “The Great Gatsby” this winter.  The remake will star Leonardo DiCaprio and Toby Mcguire to name a few.  The film will be released December 25.   And last but not least Lord of the Rings fan’s prayers will be answered as the book that started it all has been made into a motion picture.  “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” tells the story of Bilbo Baggins and his first encounter with the “one ring to rule them all.”  This film will serve as a Part I of two to complete the story.  “The Hobbit” hits theaters on Dec. 14.

Sample 5-The Rotunda

Taking the Mainstage-Theater opens in new Communication Studies and Theatre Building

By Michelle Moodhe

This fall, yet another project at Longwood University has been completed; the Communication Studies and Theatre Building is now open. The building has many new exciting features from drafting labs to computer labs. There is art work displayed inside that gives the building character and a fresh look.  Chair of the Department of Communication Studies and Theatre Dr. Rao said that there is roughly 197 pieces of art work donated by former chairman of the LCVA Advisory Board, Jack Blanton.  The building caters to the needs of Longwood’s Theater Department with an array of different facilities, from costume rooms, sewing rooms to the much anticipated Mainstage Theatre.

The new black box theatre will host this year’s theatre productions.  The Mainstage Theatre seats 125 people to make for a more intimate performance according to Associate Professor of Scenic and Lighting Design Eric Koger.  There is also a smaller studio that seats 75 people.  Along with the theaters are a costume shop, dressing rooms, costume/wardrobe space, as well as technical storage.  The new scene shop is twice the size of the shop in Jarman Auditorium and there is also a new green room where actors can congregate before the shows. All of these new features that are essential things that the actors need to prep, all of which provide a smoother performance.  With all of the advanced equipment, and space that is needed, the department expects a high quality production.

Even though the Mainstage Theatre is new, and equipment is advanced, there is the question of how the smaller seating capacity might affect box office sales. According to Koger, “It’s going to affect the success; it’s going to make it better”.  The thoughts behind the smaller seating arrangement are that it will provide a closer knit performance that truly grabs the audience. Koger’s view of the seating capacity is that psychologically people will think that the smaller the theater is the fuller it looks and shows sell out faster. Thus providing the idea of the production being a must see performance.  The first theatre department’s production of “Venus and Adonis” went smoothly with no problems to mention, and a great ticket sales turn out.

In the future the theatre department plans on hosting all its productions in Mainstage Theatre, it will be unlikely that they will be going back to Jarman Auditorium, unless it is a big production where the space is needed.  In the spring, when the upcoming musical will take place, it will run for two weekends rather than one.  “The two weekends would be better training for the students.” said Koger.  The new facility provides excellent preparation for students when it comes to jobs after graduating, because there is so much available at Longwood it doesn’t get much bigger when it comes to what is available elsewhere.

The future is bright for the theatre department in regards to the sudden interest in changing majors to theatre and prospective students.  The department is seeing more high school students coming to look at the new facilities that are offered, which would not have occurred often in the past.  Just in the first three to four weeks of the semester there have been at least 12 prospective students taking these tours.  Rao also believes the new building will be attracting communication studies majors and theatre majors mainly because of the new space and facilities it has to offer. The reactions of current students now are a great amount of enthusiasm, according to Koger, who also explained the new direction theatre is headed to.  Theatre is becoming more interactive and the audience wants this new up close way of being entertained.  Longwood’s new Mainstage Theatre can provide this type of performance and the future for the theatre department, as a whole, looks promising.

Sample 6-The Rotunda

24 Jack is Back

By Michelle Moodhe

The phrase “having a bad”, hands down, belongs to Government Agent Jack Bauer of the hit drama series 24.  The anticipated drama began on January 17, with a two day four hour premier.  The Emmy Award Winning series is going into its eighth season, and Jack Bauer is getting a little tired of the whole “saving the world thing”.  As we find out in Season 8 Jack has lived to see another day, surviving from the radiation he was exposed to last season and is finally ready to settle down.  But when an assassination attempt of President Omar Hassan, of the Islamic Republic of Kamistan; America finds itself in need of Jack Bauer.

In Season 8 we are introduced to many new faces and a few old ones.  One of the most talked about new additions to the cast is CTU Head of Field Ops, Cole Ortiz, played by Freddie Prinze, Jr.  He seems to be a straight shooting agent who follows the rules most of the time, but when push comes to shove he doesn’t seem hesitant to break a few.  With the Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) up and running again there is a new Director Brian Hastings.  In CTU we see the return of fan favorite Chloe O’Brian, Jack’s right-hand “wo-man.”  Chloe, a once Senior Analyst, has found herself struggling to keep up at CTU.  And Madame President Taylor also returns to serve one more term as the first woman president.

The premise of Day 8 is the United States signing a peace treaty with the Islamic Republic of Kamistan.  This season takes place in New York City, where the peace conference and CTU are now located.  President Hassan and President Taylor are in the midst of reaching a peace agreement that would benefit both countries when a bomb threat sends everyone scrambling.  As procedure, secrete service and FBI escort top officials out of the UN headquarters.  It turns out President Hassan’s brother and lead advisor is a part of this assassination plot.  Jack, who was on his way to the airport, gets roped in to helping CTU find the assassin.

Agent Ortiz ends up stopping the assassination with Jack’s help and the plot continues to unfold.  The secrets go deeper when we find out the origin of the assassination attempt stems from the Russian Mob. Apparently the Russians have been smuggling uranium into the country which could be used as a weapon of mass destruction.  Once CTU acquired this information they needed someone who has been on the inside of the Russian Mob.   CTU calls in former FBI Agent Renee Walker.

Agent Walker was last seen interrogating a witness, “Jack Bauer” style.  And those of you familiar with Jack’s tactics know that he has no mercy when it comes to the protection of American lives.  When Renee is called in to CTU for help we see her in a much darker state of mind.  She has become Jack Bauer in a woman form, but a little more mentally unstable.  When Renee and Jack are asked to go on a sting operation together, Renee’s dark side comes out when she takes a hand saw to a former Russian mobster’s hand.  Clearly this season will be filled with action, explosions, gore and secrets. Hopefully this will not be the last day Jack Bauer is called upon to save the world.

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