The Orchard

Blog post taken from

gabriellaWhile in China, I am completing a project on the organic and local food movement in Beijing (you may have gathered as much). I am keeping a blog as a resource for other study abroad students and foreigners! Check it out!

My first find of this trip! I maybe started a little late because it took me 2 hours to find it and it was dark before I got there… it was also in quite a rural place. But I returned to the house safely!

- anxinbeijing

The Orchard

An actual orchard with associated restaurant and store. Very nice, almost formal, although there is no need to dress up. All food is organic, and most comes from the surrounding farm! Very scenic, although a little tough to get to. Prices are reasonable for the quality. Mostly European dishes.

Address: 北京市顺义区崔各庄乡何各庄村

the orchard

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Life is Good in Byron Bay

Taken from Ariana’s blog “Spirit and Earth: A performance project”

Hello from the other side of the world!

I am currently in Byron Bay, which is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been in my life. It sort of reminds me of Big Sur in California, except I can see even more of the ocean in one view! The water here is beautiful and clear and there’s no litter on the beach! That makes me SO happy. Whenever I visit the beach in Santa Monica I am picking up plastic and garbage left behind. That alone goes to show the cultural difference in perspective on environment.

That actually seems to be a big theme on my trip already — that the environment and the humans living in it tell an interconnected story. Today my professor said, “You can’t look at the landscape without looking at the people living on it for the last 50,000 years.” He was explaining how you can’t just learn about Australian landscape without learning about Aboriginal Australians. What is happening in the environment tells a story about the people living in it and how the people live tells a story about what is happening to the environment.

Speaking of which, today I realized the story of earth’s evolution and the life on it is literally that — a STORY. It’s OUR story. I love looking at earth’s history from this perspective because I am a storyteller myself and I now I feel really inspired and excited to dive fully into science’s story about human and earth’s history.

One of the most impacting things I’ve realized in the two days I’ve been here is that “Aboriginals” does not refer to one group of people, but rather to about 300 nations that existed before England invaded. Each group of people had their own language and way of living (because of difference in environment), but the concept of Dreamtime was similar across the different tribes. (I’ll introduce Dreamtime in a later post, because it deserves detailed attention.)

The day before I left I met with Evan Maurer, previous director of Minneapolis Institute of the Arts and expert in indigenous art from around the world. He shared a lot of useful info with me and even showed me some beautiful Aboriginal objects he has in his home. He also emphasized that the objects are important because they tell a story about the people and the individual who created it. What was going on at the time is reflected in the objects.

It’s interesting… Evan said, “The bush gives up it’s treasures rather slowly.” And my professor said, “It does not yield it’s treasures easily.” Australia is limited in some resources, particularly water in certain areas.

Before I spoke with Evan I looked at Indigenous culture’s commercial tourist attraction as sad, invasive, and offensive. For example, that’s how I felt driving through New Mexico and seeing tipped and rain sticks sold as souvenirs for visitors. After  speaking with Evan I have adopted a different perspective, the perspective that the indigenous artwork is being tailored for for the understanding of outsiders and shared with those who come to visit. It’s a more positive outlook and equally true. I will write more in detail about my wonderful meeting with Evan in a later post and it will include pictures of several objects Evan so graciously shared with me!

This is only the top of the iceberg. I wish I could share EVERYTHING with you! I am still jetlagged, but I want to stay as updates as possible!

I am SO grateful to be here. I am loving hostel life! My skin is already sun kissed and my hair is filled with salt and sand. I can’t help but think, “this is how I am supposed to live.”

1 more day here and then I’m off to Brisbane!


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Get Your Feet Wet

If you please recall my first post, the Great Trinity Forest is a bottomland hardwood forest. That’s a fancy term for river swamp. But I didn’t really know what it meant until I experienced it for myself.

On May 13, I went to do field work with Shannon and graduate student Tom Green. It had rained almost an inch the day before, and we were lucky it wasn’t raining that morning. As we took the path into the forest, our shoes were soon heavy with mud. The GPS unit led us to the first sample plot of the day, and we passed puddles that kept getting larger and larger until they were unavoidable. In fact, the puddle was larger than the sample plot. We hadn’t seen the forest like this before, so we weren’t wearing rain boots. “For science!” we exclaimed while water soaked through our shoes and socks to our feet.

It was really interesting to be in the flooded forest. The flooding is a distinctive characteristic of the Great Trinity Forest, it’s what makes it unique. Because of this flooding, the forest has an impact on water quality and stream recharge - which are important things to consider in a city concerned with drought.

Water is a big issue right now. Protecting forests could be a way to keep it clean and available. That’s just one way a bottomland forest is great. It’s also fun to get your feet wet :)


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First Show in Moscow: Шут Балакирев (Jester Balakirev)

Adapted from

My show breakdowns will vary slightly for this project, since I am discovering connections between the shows and my sociopolitical observations in Russia. As follows:

Who did the show? When, where? 

I saw the performance on Monday, May 26th 2014 at Theatre Lenkom. Built in 1907, Theatre Lenkom became the “Theatre for the Working Youth” in 1927 and has been a leader in new and experimental theatre ever since*.

Some pictures from the outside of the theatre:



And from the inside (every theatre has a cool chandelier, I’m going to try to document them all!)


What stuck out to you about this production artistically/technically (what did you admire/learn about as a student theatre artist)? 

In depth ensemble work. There was an ensemble of male soldiers and women of the court and every member of the ensemble  had a fully developed individual character and action- all together enriching the life on stage. And though every member was unique, they worked together like a machine- seamlessly transforming the stage in between scenes while singing, working off one another during the action- but still listening the entire time. (Ensemble work was also strikingly strong in Мёртвые ду́ши – or “Dead Souls” which I saw at the Gogol center.)

The use of the floor planks. Altering the stage floor discombobulates the perception of the stage- and lends to creating a surrealistic experience for the audience. (An irregular stage floor was used in Мёртвые ду́ши as well.)


At the top of the show.

When we find Balakirev hiding from the army.


At intermission, before entering into the dream world.

What were you able to connect between this show and the current sociopolitical situations in Russia? 

The Jester Balakirev is yanked along from ruler to ruler until he is eventually left stranded. He watches the deterioration of each beloved power figure- deterioration brought about by exhaustion, insecurity, mania, and too much power. Russia’s history is populated with leaders who brought deterioration to themselves and others because of too much power; Ivan the Terrible, Lenin, and Stalin to name some obvious –  though I wonder if there is any statement Theatre Lenkom is making about the present in choosing to revive this play. Russia’s current president is Putin and he has been in office- either as prime minister or president- since 1999. Is it at all a comment on his long reign in power, “It’s impossible become a clever king and be not crazy”? Grigori is famous for reflecting Russian sentiment after the fall of the Soviet Union- the Soviet Union tried to be good- it was a good idea- but was it possible for Soviet Union leaders to amass so much power and still do good for their country? Is deterioration of a human power figure inevitable? Can a human being with a lot of power still be just and fair without getting corrupted? I still have a lot of research to do on current Russian sentiment about Putin, about what he has done that is popular and what he has done that is not popular – and also, what he has done that has bettered life in Russia for the majority and worsened life for the majority (and whether these are synonymous with what is and isn’t popular).



***This summary is based off my experience as beginner in Russian language with my friend who speaks more Russian helping me and some research. There may be some variations in details.

More show breakdowns and sociopolitical research to come soon!

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Final Thoughts

Jacob Nice, SMU ‘15, is exploring the customs and practices of an international touring theatre company. (Major: THEA; Mentor: Dr. Gretchen Smith)

Blog post taken from

NP 5

Final performance at Nottingham Playhouse

Tuesday, May 13th

I had lunch with Johnny and Michael at Carluccio’s in Dublin. We had a really nice time reflecting on the tour and talking about the company’s plans for the year to come. They thanked me for my work; I thanked them for letting me come along on such an incredible tour. We sat, ate and talked for nearly 3 hours before we parted ways and I headed home.

Things I learned on tour:

-How to communicate effectively when working with crews who are new to your production

-How many of the dancers act in the pieces, they allow the dances to take them on an “emotional journey”

-Crumpets must be eaten with excessive amounts of melted butter and jam

-Fish and chips should be enjoyed wrapped in newspaper, seasoned with salt and vinegar, and consumed via wooden fork

-How a Deputy Stage Manager can act as a translator between choreographer/dancer, score, and crew

-To be gentle when using your finger to open LX tape (Chris and Gemma, that’s for you if you’re reading this)

-How yoga can make one feel physically and mentally grounded, stable and quiet

-The Cornish sea is really, really cold and should probably be entered only in wet suits

-How exhausting a split-week tour can be after 5 weeks

-How annoying shredded trash bags (our “snow”) can be for a crew, yet how stunning they can look for an audience

-How pleasant working for a company of considerate, dedicated, authentic artists can be

-Much, much more… I still need time to mentally digest!

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Adapted from

Ally Van DeurenMy name is Ally Van Deuren and I am pursuing a BFA in theatre and a BA in journalism from SMU in Dallas, Texas. I am originally from Southern California, where I caught the “stage bug” at age three when I performed in my first dance recital. From that point on, I knew performance would always be a part of my life. As I got older, my interests slightly shifted and I got into writing and serving on my school newspaper’s staff. Ultimately, I would like to work in a job that will combine my passions in both fields.

Through my blog site, my goal is to promote the interests of artists at Southern Methodist University and in the greater Dallas area. By keeping up-to-date listings, advances and reviews of local performances, I hope to provide a place Dallas audiences will feel comfortable spending time before and after seeing a show or other arts-related, performance-oriented content. I also hope to offer valuable and thoughtful criticism of the performances in the area, as I see them.

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Tree Detectives

Jewel records observations about the sample plot

Jewel records observations about the sample plot

Shannon measuring DBH of the tree

Shannon measuring DBH of the tree


Left: Ash leaf (Fraxinus) Middle: Winged elm (Ulmus alata) Right: Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra)

Left: Ash leaf (Fraxinus)
Middle: Winged elm leaf (Ulmus alata)
Right: Slippery elm leaf (Ulmus rubra

The month of May felt like a whirlwind! During the last two weeks of school, including finals week, I spent about twenty hours in the forest. I now have data for 26 plots, which covers 2600 square meters of forest.




Besides measuring the size of the tree, an invaluable part of the data is the species identification. This turned out to be a little more difficult than I originally expected; trees can be surprisingly tricky. Some species have very similar leaves, and sometimes the leaves were too high up on the tree to get a good look. I would feel the leaf to compare its roughness, memorize the bark pattern, or examine the patter that the leaves grew off the branches. It felt like detective work.



Sometimes a tree would simply stump me. In these cases, I saved leaves in a plant press for later, so I could ask a botanist or detailed botany books. The video shares what it was like to use a plant press in the field.





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Wildflower Season

Jewel with wildflowersLately it seems like my entire life is about trees. I have been going to the Trinity River Audubon Center (TRAC) two to three times each week since Spring Break. When I’m not there, I spend a lot of time reading about them or googling them. The tree icon is even one of my most used emojis.Tree emoji
I wanted to take a quick break to say that I also love springtime for the wildflowers. They are quite lovely and it’s been fun to watch the flower species change over the past month. Just goes to show that you don’t have to delve deep into the forest or brave poison ivy to find beauty at TRAC.




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