February 12, 1998......Volume 27, Issue 20

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Sign of spring
University's proposed budget
University's budget on the Web
Commonwealth College
Actor a bridge for students
Subscription costs examined
Preparing the tools
Another bowl competition 
Lectures
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Courses
Higher education must adapt
CQI
Unique new ID card unveiled
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Penn State news bureau

Faculty profile

Successful actor a bridge for students

By Bill Campbell
Special to Intercom

Charles Dumas, associate professor of theatre arts, doesn't have any problem relating to his students.

And, his appearance this past summer in three Hollywood "blockbusters" didn't hurt his credibility with aspiring actors and actresses at Penn State.

"When I came here in 1995 as a visiting professor, I found young people hungry for information," he said. "They were interested in my background and experience. They wanted to be what I was -- an actor, writer, director. I was turned on. It was an important event that occurred at a point in my life when I was very productive in my career.

Dumas said he came here with the intent of sharing his successful experiences and simply returning to his career. But when he arrived, he was energized by the students and found himself working harder than he ever had in his life.

"When I accepted a full-time position the following year, I felt I could be a bridge for aspiring actors between New York and Los Angeles and Penn State. I'm not an academic, but I hope that I teach well. I consider myself primarily a professional who serves as a bridge," he said.

That bridge got an even more secure foundation last summer with his roles in "The Peacemaker," starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman and produced by Steven Speilberg's Dreamworks; "Copland," starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert DiNero; and "In and Out," starring Kevin Klein. He also played a policeman on an episode of the television series, "Dellaventura," starring Danny Aiello, and spent three weeks in Los Angeles working on another Dreamworks production, "Deep Impact," starring Vanessa Redgrave, which will be released this spring.

In films and on television, Dumas, who has played a cop, a doctor, a judge, a minister, the husband of a cop and an FBI agent, said that being typecast is fine with him.

"It's not a problem, because I've had a chance to do a wide range of other characters in my career. In the theatre, I've played kings and beggars. I have done it all in theatre, at least, if not in film. And, I believe my time will come in film.

"I am what is known as a character actor. One who comes in, does a competent job with a few lines and creates a presence. And I'm comfortable with that."

Before he joined the University faculty, he was what he describes as a full-time writer, director and actor who was involved in part-time teaching at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

"Now, at age 53, I don't have to identify myself. I do what is called for or demanded," he said. "At this point in my life, I consider myself primarily a teacher of young artists. I find that to be the central part of my 'job.'"

Dumas teaches undergraduate acting and African American drama; coordinates the Diverse Cultures Workshop; and is teaching African American film this semester.

Extensively involved in writing and directing, he directed Broadway actress Frances Foster in the University Resident Theatre Company's production of "Raisin in the Sun;" wrote and directed two Martin Luther King commemorative programs in Eisenhower Auditorium and created the original drama "We Are Not Quite Penn State" for Ebony and Ivory Week in 1996.

He currently is working with Barbara Bird in the College of Communications to develop a film course that "will enable our actors to get together with their film makers."

Last year Dumas received a combined grant from the Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies, Department of Theatre Arts and the Department of African and African American Studies for development of an off-Broadway show, "My Brother's Keeper," which he wrote and directed.

"Nine Penn Staters were involved in the show," he said. "As a result, five of the cast got their Equity cards. I'm really proud of the University's effort to help facilitate the process of getting our students into the professional world."

This past December, four Penn State MFA students -- Joy Hooper, Culley Johnson, Gabriel Grilli and Tanya Vujoshevich -- appeared in James Weldon Johnson's "Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man," a 1920s novel for which Dumas did the dramatization and directed, at the Schromburg Center for African-American Culture in New York City. The cast featured Jessye Norman, winner of the James Weldon Johnson Award, and Bobby Short, jazz pianist.

"The production was well received. In fact, we have been invited to do another adaptation of it next year at the Schromburg Center," Dumas said.

His own start in the business, he admits, was rather shaky. "I was not very successful and I needed to support my family, so I went back to college and to law school."

After graduating from Yale Law School, he practiced international law and corporate law with IBM and at the United Nations. From 1979 to 1981, he also served as president of Hudson Legal Services in upstate New York.

"I really liked working for IBM," he said, "but I wasn't pursuing that which made me happy. After my wife, Josephine, got her engineering degree, I started teaching at New Paltz which gave me more time for acting and writing. In the 1980s, I started to get more work as more parts were coming available for African American men in commercials, theatre and television.

"In fact, when I was offered the visiting faculty position here, I was very productive in my career. I had done a Broadway show, "Shadow Box;" was in a movie, "Die Hard with a Vengeance;" had a recurring role on the television series, "Law and Order," and three national commercials. My agent thought I was crazy, and told me that an actor should only teach when he was having a bad year. But, I thought it would be a disservice to teach the craft when you were not working at it."

Dumas currently has classes five days a week, so his acting is limited to what he can work around his academic schedule. But, he has been able to concentrate more on writing and directing.

"I've probably been more productive as a writer in two years at Penn State than at any time in my life," he said. "I've written five full-length plays and am now working on a sixth."

Despite his appearances on the screen with "big name" movie stars over the years, Dumas, a soft-spoken unassuming man, has not allowed himself to be overwhelmed by the Hollywood glamour syndrome.

"I learned my lesson early when I was invited to the premiere of the second movie in which I had a part. The producers of the independent film sent tickets for my wife and children. We sat through it, and I wasn't in it. My part had been left on the cutting room floor. It was heartbreaking.

"Since then, I've been wary of the glamour and celebrity stuff. But, I realize it has an effect on my students who look at me as a New York actor and someone in the movies. They see you talking to Robert DiNero and Bruce Willis on the screen and they view you not as an ordinary person, but as someone special. They see you as being a pathway for them; that the movies and Hollywood are not so far removed from them.

Dumas said he downplays the notion of glamour and stardom. Instead, he wants his students to know that acting is hard work, but fun and "it pays well."

While he takes his own acting success in stride and doesn't boast about it, he is quick to point out his students' accomplishments and talks enthusiastically about their successes.

Among the students who appeared in "My Brother's Keeper," Dumas noted that Carla Hargrove currently is enrolled in a workshop that will lead to a role in "The Lion King" on Broadway; Cynthia Henderson already has appeared in an HBO movie and several commercials; Mitch Little, an undergraduate, has been playing the lead in "Othello," a graduate project in the theatre arts department.

In addition, Dan Kaplan, who did the sound for the production, has had two other jobs in New York City and is well on his way; Virginia Queen is back from Europe on a tour with Sam Shepherd's "A Fool for Love;" and Nedra Gallegos has appeared in Genet's "The Balcony."

"They're off and running in their careers which is wonderful. That's what it's all about."


About Charles Dumas


Photo: Greg Grieco

In his film and television roles, Charles Dumas describes himself as a character actor -- "one who comes in and does a competent job with a few lines and creates a presence." His recent roles have included:

Films

"The Peacemaker" -- head of the FBI.

"Copland" -- a minister.

"In and Out" -- a lieutenant colonel at a court martial.

"Deep Impact" (to be released this spring) -- an anchorman on a television news team.

"Die Hard with a Vengeance" -- an FBI agent.

Television

"Dellaventura" -- a cop.

"Law and Order" -- the husband of a cop.

"Loving" (a soap opera) -- a doctor.

Happy cast

Members of the cast of James Weldon Johnson's "Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man,"
directed by Charles Dumas, are, from left, Gabriel Grilli, Joy Hooper, Jessye Norman,
Dumas, Tanya Vujoshevich and Culley Johnson.
Photo: Courtesy of Charles Dumas

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Spanier looks to
rein in subscription costs

By Alan Janesch
Public Information

U.S. colleges and universities are paying unbelievable subscription rates for some academic journals, and it's time to say "We're not going to take it any more," President Graham B. Spanier told the University Faculty Senate on Feb. 3.

Some journals cost more than $10,000 for a single annual subscription, Spanier said, and much of the money is going to a handful of publishing houses, some of them owned by commercial enterprises in Europe.

In one year alone, the 117 libraries belonging to the Association of Research Libraries -- libraries of the nation's top research universities, including Penn State -- paid a total of $75 million to Reed Elsevier, an international publisher located in the Netherlands.

"We (in higher education) create most of the intellectual property in the country -- it's extremely valuable -- and what do we do as soon as we create it? We give it away," Spanier said.

The dilemma, Spanier said, is that faculty members publish their findings in journals which college and university libraries then have to subscribe to "at rates you wouldn't believe."

In 1997, Penn State spent $4.3 million for journals at University Park, compared to $3.7 million in 1992. Costs for some journals are increasing astronomically. Over the past three years, the annual subscription rate for Brain Research went up 47 percent, to $14,919; Neuroscience went up 30 percent, to $4,543; and Gene went up 57 percent to $6,144.

While the journals provide a "credentialing" function for faculty members and an archival function for libraries, Spanier said, most papers are available on the Internet or through other sources months or years before they see publication in print.

Colleges and universities will have to change their own cultures to remedy the problem, Spanier said. His remarks preceded a report on the same issue from the Senate Committee on Libraries. While electronic publishing may help the situation, Bonnie MacEwan, collections officer for the University Libraries, said the costs of providing electronic resources are high and rising.

In other business, the Senate adopted an advisory/consultative report on computer-aided instruction and learning and heard informational reports on student financial aid.

The Senate's next meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. March 3 in Room 112, Kern Building.

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Preparing the tools

Thompson Buchan and Shawn Zimmerman of the Royer Center for Learning and Academic
Technologies are busy configuring laptop computers for Commonwealth College faculty starting
Project Empower this semester. Over the past two years, 267 Commonwealth College faculty
have participated in the project, incorporating techniques and technologies for active, cooperative
and collaborative learning into their classes.
Photo: Greg Grieco

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Another bowl competition
on the schedule for Penn State

Forget the fleeting drama of the Citrus Bowl. A different type of high-pressure bout will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on the University Park campus: The regional competition of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.

To get an idea of what this experience is like, close your eyes and go back to your high school days. Just imagine spending hours after school studying every possible aspect of the ocean -- science, economics, history and culture. Then, at the daylong competition, your sweaty hand slams on the buzzer when the moderator asks a question like:

A tsunami is an example of a...

(A) deep-water wave

(B) shallow-water wave

(C) forced wave

(D) capillary wave

After a while, you would feel like a shallow-water wave (the correct answer) just hit you.

At February's regional tourney, seven Pennsylvania teams will answer questions even more difficult than the above example. The winning team will enter the final rounds held April 25­27 at Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C.

This regional competition is sponsored by Penn State's Applied Research Laboratory (ARL), a Navy-oriented research facility at the University for more than 50 years, and the Earth System Science Center, which studies links between Earth's physical processes and future global change. The National Ocean Sciences Bowl serves to increase knowledge of the oceans on the part of high school students, teachers and parents and to raise understanding of the national investment in ocean-related research. The round-robin format, modeled after the National Science Bowl, involves a timed competition of multiple-choice or short-answer questions drawn from the broad category of the oceans.

This event is free to the public.

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