Monthly Archives: June 2009

‘Opening the curtain’

Thesis tackles gender bias in American theater

 

Do female playwrights have more difficulty getting their work produced, compared to their male counterparts? Economics student Emily Glassberg Sands ’09 took on this controversial and complex question in her senior thesis and revealed some surprising results.

 

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Sands used an experimental survey to see if a script was better received when its author was a man. She sent identical scripts, written by prominent female playwrights, to artistic directors and theater managers, and labeled the works with different pen names — Mary Walker vs. Michael Walker, for instance. Each recipient was asked to rate the script that he or she received.

Male playwrights received more favorable reviews, and Sands’ data showed that women reviewers were responsible for the bias against women. Specifically, women reading plays by women assigned lower ratings on questions about whether the characters were likable and how likely it would be that the playwright would win a prize.

“It’s not clear that it’s pure, taste-based gender discrimination by the women,” Sands explained in an interview with PAW. “It seems to be that the women have a heightened awareness of the barriers [female playwrights] face.”

The relatively few women who are artistic directors and theater managers, Sands said, “are definitely the outsiders, and as outsiders, they are probably trying to make the safe bet. In general, the safe bet is usually a work by a man because historically, it’s been more widely accepted in the theater community. … Once I looked more into the literature, I realized that [the apparent bias is] not quite as much of an anomaly as it sounds.”

Sands presented her findings to about 200 theater practitioners and industry experts in New York City June 22. Her work also received attention from media outlets, including The New York Times, National Public Radio, and Bloomberg.

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‘Royal’ role

i-60fceea6bed43b37607dddef0fde41c3-feuerstein.jpg Tiger of the Week: Mark Feuerstein ’93

Actor Mark Feuerstein ’93 has a reputation for playing nice guys on TV shows like Good Morning, Miami and The West WingTV Guide called him “the menschiest mensch who ever mensched” — and his latest role on USA Network’s Royal Pains is no exception. As Hank Lawson, a doctor who makes house calls to the super-rich in the Hamptons, Feuerstein again shows off his friendly, caring side. “I could hold out for the scary-villain part on Heroes,” the New York City native told TV Guide, “but in the long run it might not be as interesting as being the lead on a show set in a world that I know and love from growing up in New York, written by incredible writers and with incredible castmates.”

The decision seems to be paying off: In addition to earning mostly favorable reviews, Royal Pains has been a ratings hit, ranking second among cable series in its first month and drawing more than 5.5 million viewers each week.

Feuerstein’s acting career began at Princeton when he went to his first audition as a freshman. He soon drifted away from his dream of going to law school, and he earned a Fulbright scholarship to study drama in London after graduation. Most kids “grow up wanting to be a movie star and become a lawyer,” he said in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers. “I grew up wanting to be a lawyer and became an actor.”

(Photo courtesy USA Network)

Bonus: See Mark Feuerstein ’93’s yearbook photo in PAW’s online feature “The envelope, please.”

Do you have a nominee for Tiger of the Week? Let us know. All alumni qualify. PAW’s Tiger of the Week is selected by our staff, with help from readers like you.

Dedicated to dads

i-251a7b6229078fabaddf6005f1fa3148-warren.jpg Tiger of the Week: Roland Warren ’83

Children without involved fathers are more at risk to become teen parents, fail in school, or end up in jail. Roland Warren ’83, whose father was absent for much of his childhood, avoided those pitfalls. He excelled in school, earned degrees from Princeton and Wharton, embarked on a successful career in business and finance, and with his wife, Yvette, became a parent of two sons.

Since 2001, as president of the Maryland-based National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), Warren has overseen a range of efforts designed to support fathers, including public education campaigns and curricula for building a dad’s parenting skills. He also writes a monthly column for The Washington Times called Pop’s Culture. With Fathers Day approaching, Warren is our Tiger of the Week.

The recent economic decline has put stress on parents who are trying to provide for their families, and Warren, in a recent column, preached resiliency. “[S]uccess in life and in fathering is less about how many times one falls,” he wrote, “but rather, about how many times one gets back up.”

Do you have a nominee for Tiger of the Week? Let us know. All alumni qualify. PAW’s Tiger of the Week is selected by our staff, with help from readers like you.

Alumni headlines

Names in the news

Hopewell Holdings managing director Thomas Wu ’94 may not be as outspoken as his famous father, Gordon Wu ’58, but a recent profile said he’s a “born entrepreneur.” [The Standard (Hong Kong)]

Physicist Edward Witten *76 gave Vatican officials a primer on particle physics at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. [Associated Press]

Columnist Tim Kurkjian talked with Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf ’05 about his Princeton thesis, which tracked the return on investment for baseball draft picks. [ESPN.com]

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi ’00‘s film I Bring What I Love, a documentary about Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour, opened in New York June 12. [New York Times]

F. Scott Fitzgerald ’17‘s onetime typist recalled that the writer was in the midst of a creative resurgence near the end of his life. [Los Angeles Times]

Summer reading

Good books, rain or shine

With the long days of summer ahead, PAW offers some summer reading ideas, culled from new books by alumni.

i-a1ee461b1a5081ac9c21264fe4689569-antipodes.jpg i-48a106aefff24c894cc67c3fb15e7c16-JaneAlison.jpgThe Sisters Antipodes: A Memoir — Jane Alison ’83 [aka Jane A. Shumate] (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). When the author was 4 and living in Australia with her mother, a teacher, and father, an Australian diplomat, her parents met an American couple and had affairs. Both couples had two girls about the same age. Soon the couples divorced and the fathers traded places. Alison moved with her mother, sister, and stepfather to the United States. It would be seven years before Alison saw her birth father again. Alison describes the implications of this shocking split and the competition between her and one of her stepsisters for their fathers’ love. Kirkus Reviews called the memoir “an incomparable personal story exquisitely, stunningly told.” Alison is the author of Natives and Exotics and The Love-Artist and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Miami.

Click here for a PAW story on Alison’s novel Natives and Exotics.

i-f44eb54bc10fcd8d7948005f68f06a9d-market-book.jpg i-2650bfd58a9123c09908f97e4978e1d8-JustinFox.jpgThe Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street — Justin Fox ’87 (Harper Business). The author tells the story of the rise and fall of the belief that financial markets are rational, reliable, and capable of regulating themselves. He traces the development of that idea and the thinkers who constructed economic theory and the financial landscape, from Irving Fisher to Milton Friedman and Robert Merton. Fox is the business and economics columnist for Time magazine.

(Photo by Allison Downing)

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Ethics in business

i-975cd2cc6a6a12523b77c40266b13b29-anderson.jpg Tiger of the Week: Max Anderson ’01

With a fresh diploma from Harvard Business School and a job at the money-management firm Bridgewater Associates, Max Anderson ’01 finds himself in an enviable position. But the new M.B.A. is not taking the responsibilities of the business world lightly. Last week, he and more than 400 other Harvard Business School graduates (about half of the Class of 2009) promised “to serve the greater good” and made pledges on eight specific points, including pursuing work “in an ethical manner” and presenting performance and risks “accurately and honestly.” Anderson, our Tiger of the Week, was the driving force behind this new M.B.A. Oath, a sort of Hippocratic Oath for business graduates.

The pledge is a response to unethical behavior in the business world, Anderson explained in a May 30 New York Times story. “We want to learn from those mistakes, do things differently, and accept our duty to lead responsibly,” he told the newspaper. “Realistically, we have tremendous potential to affect society for better or worse. Let’s humbly step up. We are looking out for our own interest, but also for the interest of our employees and the broader public.”

(Photo courtesy Max Anderson ’01)

Do you have a nominee for Tiger of the Week? Let us know. All alumni qualify. PAW’s Tiger of the Week is selected by our staff, with help from readers like you.

More advice for ’09

Michelle Obama ’85 talks about Sonia Sotomayor ’76

First Lady Michelle Obama ’85 delivered the commencement address at the Washington Math and Science Tech Public Charter High School June 3. Her remarks to the graduates included memories of her time at Princeton and a few comments about fellow Princeton alumna Sonia Sotomayor ’76, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. An excerpt from the speech, released by the Office of the First Lady, is included below.

First Lady Michelle Obama ’85 at the Washington Math and Science Tech Public Charter High School

… [W]hen I look out at you all, I get tears in my eyes because I think about sitting in your seats just a few years ago in my cap and gown. Whitney Young was a magnet public school, so I was a public school graduate, as well. And I was excited like you were because I had gotten into Princeton University. I was excited! I was fired up. I didn’t get the kind of money you all got — but I was excited.

But I was also worried. I was worried about whether or not I was ready, whether or not I would fit in. And I have realized since then that I probably wasn’t alone in my fears, in my worries.

And then I read this story of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. I don’t know if you know about this phenomenal woman, but the President — she’s the President’s nominee for the Supreme Court — and she’s the first Hispanic woman to be considered for the position. The first.

And she went to Princeton. And in this story she said that when she arrived at Princeton as a freshman — and this was nine years before I would even think about going — she said when she stepped on that campus, she said — and this is a quote — she said she felt like “a visitor landing in an alien country.” And she said she never raised her hand her first year because — and this is a quote — she “was too embarrassed and too intimidated to ask questions.”

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Advice for ’09

Quotes from the Class Day and Commencement speakers

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“We can finally burn the bumper sticker that says: ‘He who dies with the most toys wins.’ The truth is closer to the old Italian proverb that says: ‘At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.’ What really matters in the end is how you’ve played that game of life — that you’ve lived it with honor, integrity, and character, old-fashioned qualities that never go out of style whether you’re a fan of Ella Fitzgerald or Lady Gaga.”

— Katie Couric, CBS Evening News anchor and Class Day speaker

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“One of the great supporters of international students at Princeton, Shelby M.C. Davis [’58], likes to say that life is lived in thirds: learn, earn, and return. I agree with Mr. Davis, but I hope, I hope that the thirds of your life are not mutually exclusive. … [L]earning is a lifelong pursuit, an endeavor that will guide us as we earn, in all respects, and give back to our broader society and to Old Nassau.”

— Holger Staude ’09, valedictorian

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Summer enrichment

i-db6762a7b282612865292718052dc56d-snaith.jpg Tiger of the Week: Cameron Snaith ’00

This summer, 50 disadvantaged middle-school students from New York and Boston will attend art and music camp, thanks to our Tiger of the Week, Cameron Snaith ’00, and a group of young Princeton alumni who raised funds to provide scholarships to the children through the all-volunteer organization Giving Opportunities to Others (GOTO).

Since Snaith founded GOTO in 2001, the nonprofit has raised about $1 million and sent some 120 students to four-week, sleep-away art camps — Appel Farm Arts and Music Center in Elmer, N.J., and Camp Med-O-Lark in Washington, Maine — where they stretch their creative muscles, gain confidence, and share their interests with other students and counselors, all in rustic settings.

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Campus safety

Toy gun causes campus lockdown

An unidentified man was spotted with what appeared to be a handgun near Dod Hall Wednesday morning, June 3, causing a brief lockdown of the Princeton campus. The situation was resolved within an hour after an investigation found that the gun was actually a toy, according to the University’s Office of Communications.

Public Safety received its first report of a gun on campus at 10:36 a.m. At approximately 10:50 a.m., staff, faculty, and students began receiving messages from the University’s automated emergency alert system. “There is a gunman on Princeton’s campus,” the message said. “This is a real emergency. Public Safety will issue more instructions as information becomes available.” The location of the incident was revealed in a message on the homepage of the University Web site.

Four juveniles who are not Princeton students were taken into custody near campus, according to police. “The suspected handgun was a dark green plastic toy that could be confused with an actual weapon,” the Office of Communications reported. “The toy was retrieved near the Wawa on University Place.”

At 11:34 a.m., the University issued an all-clear message, telling people to “resume normal activities.” “Everything has been resolved,” University spokeswoman Emily Aronson told the Star-Ledger. “It was a toy gun.”

A similar incident caused a lockdown at Princeton March 6. Borough police said that an undergraduate ran through campus carrying an imitation assault rifle, sparking calls to Public Safety. The University sent out an alert at 12:42 the next morning, urging students to remain inside and to lock all windows and doors. According to The Daily Princetonian, the student received the alert and called Public Safety to say that he thought he might have caused the incident; he was taken into custody and later released. At 1:24 a.m., Public Safety notified students that there was no threat.

Class Day 2009

Couric addresses the Class of 2009

CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric delivered the Class Day address at Princeton June 1, becoming the first woman to headline the event since seniors began inviting outside speakers in 2001.

Couric’s lively and at times irreverent speech was peppered with Princeton slang and pop-culture references. Of her morning routine, she said, “I was pregaming in the slums when there was a noise complaint. P-Safe busted me and took my prox. Luckily, though — very relieved — I wasn’t McCoshed. I headed to the Street where I tried to complete a Prospect 10, but I was sidetracked playing robo at T.I. Very savage.” (After the speech, she confessed that two students, Jonathan Shifke ’10 and Caroline Shifke ’12, had provided a primer on campus life.)

Coming to speak at Princeton was a no-brainer, Couric said: “I can see New Jersey from my house.” But she was a bit miffed to find out that before inviting a woman to speak at Class Day, earlier classes had selected a fake newsman (Stephen Colbert in 2008) and a fake White House adviser (West Wing star Bradley Whitford in 2007).

Not all of Couric’s jokes were hits, but the veteran television journalist seemed unfazed. When a line about Eliot Spitzer ’81 drew more groans than laughs, she quipped, “They told me I could be racy here — work with me, people!”

Couric completed her address with some sober advice for the Class of 2009, which starts life after college in a less-than-hospitable job market. “Maybe the silver lining of these tough economic times is that it’s a wake-up call that can help us recalibrate our values,” she said. “What really matters in the end is how you played that game of life, that you’ve lived it with honor, integrity, and character — old-fashioned qualities that never go out of style.”

Couric called on the graduates to work hard in their chosen professions, serve their communities, thank their parents, and take chances. “Make some noise, be a rabble-rouser,” she said. “We’ve seen such extraordinary change in this country in the last 10 years. Now it’s your responsibility to build on that change.”