A Toast to TOST
Since its founding, the Robert E. Cook Honors College has offered many great opportunities for students to grow academically, and for the past five years, it has also presented students with a creative outlet through TOST and Turned.
TOST and Turned is an independent student theater company that emerged from students’ love of acting, combined with their desire to perform community service. TOST stands for temperantia operis scholae theatrique (Latin for the perfect mix of work, school, and theater).
A student board of executives runs TOST, and all performances are directed, performed, and run entirely by students. Senior theater major Rachel Nelson from Placerville, Calif., serves as the current president of the organization, running the “business side of things.” She was also elected production manager, giving her the additional opportunity to lead the “theater side of things.”
“I make sure that the shows are going smoothly and that all casts and crews are doing their jobs,” Nelson said.
Shows are proposed each semester and voted on by all members of the organization. Generally, a wide variety of productions are suggested; TOST has performed both comedies and dramas. “We try to pick shows that will appeal to both the IUP and Indiana communities, but other than that, pretty much anything is fair game,” Nelson said.
TOST began in 2002 with a professionally written full-length play in the fall and student-written one-acts in the spring. “We’ve continued that tradition,” Nelson said, “and in the fall of 2004 added a special Halloween show as well.”
At the end of April, TOST will present three student-written, one-act plays at Indiana’s Philadelphia Street Playhouse.
Donations are accepted at the door of every performance to raise money for the Indiana Free Library. The suggested donation is two dollars, and patrons sometimes contribute up to $20. Every year TOST donates about $1,000 to the library. Each show is performed three times and usually generates around $300 in donations.
The organization’s long-term goals are to continue growing and drawing in larger audiences. Next fall, they plan to add an improvisational group to TOST and Turned. Many of their shows are performed on campus in Pratt Auditorium.
“I hope that TOST continues to grow and attract a wide variety of students,” Nelson said. “The organization has flourished because of the variety of majors and personalities that become involved.”
Robert E. Cook Honors College junior Natalie McCauley has found an unconventional calling in the world of Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky, among other legendary Russian authors. “When I was 15, I read [Tolstoy’s] Anna Karenina,” she said. Since then, I haven’t been able to read enough.”
During the summer of 2006, McCauley, who is from Allegheny County’s Moon Township, attended an eight-week language school program at the University of Pittsburgh for extensive language training. Each day, the students spent time in classes watching films, and once a week they had the opportunity to attend happy hour with authentic Russian food and drink.
“[There was] a lot of confusion,” McCauley remembers of her session at Pitt. “Russian is one of the hardest languages out there, and starting is the hardest part. Once I had the new alphabet, the seven cases, and the sentence structure–or complete lack thereof–down, it became a lot easier.”
Though apprehensive about her language skills, McCauley will be spending nine weeks this summer studying at the Middlebury Language Institute in Vermont. She received a $5,000 scholarship from the program and will put the time to good use, speaking only Russian for the duration of her Middlebury stay.
After her intensive learning in Vermont, McCauley will spend her fall semester in St. Petersburg, Russia. “I’m so excited,” she said. “I want to visit all of the sites that I know will inspire me, and, hopefully, I will draw some wisdom from them.”
McCauley is most anticipating the extra time she will have to sit back and learn in Russia. “I’m going to have much more time to read, write, and study there than I do here, since I won’t have a job or a thousand cocurriculars to hog my time,” she said. During her months in St. Petersburg, McCauley wants to “focus on academics and intellect and make full use of their libraries.”
With a double major in English and History, McCauley is president of Phi Eta Sigma honors fraternity and a member of the History Club and IUP Judicial Board.