Students mount drama despite budget, program cuts

By: Lindsey Medwin
Managing Editor

A shuttered major, slashed budget and challenging material did nothing to slow the drama students at County College of Morris as they mounted “The Elephant Man” to close out the semester in May.

The play, the true story of Joseph Merrick, an elephantiasis patient in the 19th Century, and his relentless devotion towards love and acceptance. Merrick’s story pushed the plotline of the drama through scenes that displayed significant moments in his life up until his death.

“The subject matter was hard to get through some nights,” said Liam Young, a former drama major who played the elephant man himself, describing the extensive preparation he went through to take on the role. Young went on to describe how he spent hours in the mirror, mastering the contortions and voice the part asked of him.

“That’s why I love the character so much because it’s a full body experience,” Young said, noting how much this differed from other CCM shows he’s acted in.

Also performing in prior dramas at CCM, Kira Gumbinger, who played Joseph’s friend Mrs. Kendal, expressed a sense of embodiment towards her role in this particular production.

“I think I grew as an actress to really be able to become that role,” Gumbinger said.

Gumbinger and Young not only showcased their talents on stage, but also took on additional responsibilities behind the scenes. Traditionally, actors’ jobs consist of delivering a performance while backstage positions are delegated to others.

Gumbinger not only played two parts on stage, but she also served as stage manager for the production. Young was extremely hands-on with technical work for “The Elephant Man” as well. Their willingness to fulfill these outside obligations allowed the show to thrive.

With a small cast and even smaller budget, the play enhanced the skills of the actors by performing the show ‘in the round,’ where the audience members are seated around the stage area, rather than in front. This use of setting allowed for a far more emotional and intimate experience and an even higher quality production.

“It was such an intense experience because you really felt part of the story,” said Dr. Robert Cioffi, professor of English and director of the show.

Throughout the performance, the simplistic execution of “The Elephant Man,” in terms of set and props, efficiently used the limited resources the drama receives to put up the show each semester.

Cioffi said that he’s had to teach numerous drama and English courses in a variety of settings, thus finding space in the Davidson Rooms at times.

“Many students have commented in the past several years that our facilities are inadequate,” Cioffi said.

In May of 2016, the Board of Trustees made the decision to remove the associates in fine arts as a major and only a concentration in drama under a liberal arts degree would be offered. This change became effective Friday, July 1 of that year.

“In the economic crunch, the college decided it was no longer economically feasible to stay with the program,” Cioffi said. “There are several other programs being looked at, but our’s was the first to go.”

Students already enrolled in the program who only needed a few short classes to earn their degree were given the opportunity to finish out their remaining courses.

“We worked to help them complete the degree before we stopped offering a number of the classes,” said Dr. Bruce Dutra, dean of the division of liberal arts on campus. Dutra said that the board and liberal arts department decided to continue the dramas themselves each semester.

“Obviously, we thought it was extremely important that we continued to offer at least some classes in drama and have the performances, the very high quality of performances,” Dutra said. “And fortunately, we’ve done that because Dr. Cioffi is an incredible leader and teacher.”

Young said that the program being cut has curbed his ability to learn.

“I want to study; I want to learn more,” Young said. “The whole program feels crippled.”

Costar Gumbinger echoed those sentiments.

“I think it’s really shameful of a community college,” Gumbinger said.

For his part, Cioffi said the program cuts are tragic.

“I think it’s a tragic thing what’s happened to the drama program,” Cioffi said.

Despite the challenges, members of the production have, in part, credited the show’s quality and success to the passion derived from these circumstances.

“One of the reasons our show was so good was because we were so furious that this was happening to our major,” Gumbinger said.

Figures regarding the program cut and budget itself were not stated in the meeting notes. When contacted about this, the department of business and finance on campus did not respond for comment.

Going forward, Cioffi aims to keep the dramas alive by encouraging new students to participate, as the shows are open to not only students across campus but anyone in the community. The “Elephant Man” alone illustrates the standard of theater students and faculty are willing to work for, in spite of any circumstance.

“We showed them the past two semesters that we don’t need their money,” Young said. “But it could just be so much better if we could have more backing.”

Members, however, did acknowledge their appreciation for allies of the program on campus.

“I know there’s some really great supporters of arts who saw the show,” said Gumbinger.

Cioffi said he wanted to thank Dutra and Dr. Janet Eber, professor of English and chairperson of the English and philosophy department specifically, saying without their support, “The drama department wouldn’t have lasted as long as it had.”

Students and faculty can look forward to another great performance in the fall, for they will be putting on “East Of Eden.

“It has family, it has a little bit of sex, it has some darker undertones…There’s some minority characters in it, which is awesome and it’s going to be great.” Gumbinger said.

Auditions will be held at the start of the fall semester.


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Students find meaning in out of country experience

Entertainment Editor

County College of Morris students embarked on a European excursion with associate history professor Craig Pilant for the seventh year in a row.

This year’s trip visited Paris, Barcelona and Madrid, from March 7-18, in conjunction with EF College Study Tours.. Students, alumni and families attended the trip.

Some trip-goers felt inspired to take the trek by others’ experiences before them.

“My mom would always tell me how she went to Europe in her 20s,” said Dorothy Scheines, a computer science major at CCM. “She’d go on and on about how it was the most amazing time of her life, so that definitely motivated me.”

The trajectory of the trip spanned 5000 miles on plane and train, beginning with a jet-lag inducing overnight flight into Paris. The first place travelers visited was the church of Notre Dame.

“Notre Dame was awesome,” said Zack Blackstone, a CCM alumnus who is a repeat traveler on Pilant’s trips. “The gothic stuff was very large and impressive. It’s amazing it’s been maintained so well, considering how old it is.”

The next night consisted of the obligatory Eiffel Tower trip, something that many of the students had been eagerly anticipating. However, reviews were mixed as some felt their hopes shot down.

“The Eiffel Tower was really disappointing for me,” said Blackstone. “It’s a really bland monument. We had to wait in a super long line… it was a rough night. It was a nice view from the top, however.”

In spite of the long line, some felt the destination was more important than the journey.

“It was totally worth it,” said Scheines. “It was like being in a cage at the top of the world.”

Multiple sites in the Barcelona portion of the trip itinerary highlighted the works of renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. The first such site was Park Guell, which was originally constructed to be a private community hub. Though it was never populated, the park still stands today and is subjected to hundreds of visitors daily.

“Park Guell was so artistically fulfilling and beautiful,” said Blackstone. “I was really surprised that none of the property ever sold, but at least it gets the recognition it deserves now.”

Next on the list was Sagrada Familia, an ambitiously massive cathedral considered to be Gaudi’s final masterpiece. The building, which is still being constructed to this day, is projected to finally be completed in 2026. Construction began in 1882 and has slowly but steadily progressed, with admission fees providing the budget.

“Sagrada Familia was the most impressive church I’ve ever seen,” said Blackstone. “It was interesting to see that even though we live in such a scientific age, that there’s still a huge emphasis on these religious structures. It was very moving and emotionally substantial for me.”

The Spanish art of flamenco comprises of multiple performance elements including classical guitar, dancing, and a capella. On day four of the Barcelona excursion, travelers were treated to an authentic flamenco presentation. The show began with solely vocals, and proceeded to introduce tap-dancing and fingerstyle classical guitars, culminating in a crescendo of all three components. Feedback was highly positive, with most trip-goers placing the performance at the top of their list.

“The flamenco was awesome. The whole vibe was really weird and powerful. It was very expressive and something I could connect to emotionally,” said Blackstone.

Scheines echoed his enjoyment.

“It was fantastic. I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Scheines. “When you hear everything together, it’s hard to believe that it’s only two guitars, feet, and voices. It sounds like a full band.”

When one experiences a foreign country for the first time, it drastically changes his or her perception of ethnocentrism. Americans sometimes have a tendency to view themselves as the center of the world, and it can be somewhat jarring when one is dropped into a far-off land with a substantially different cultural context.

“It’s helped me put in perspective what people coming here feel like,” said Scheines. “Even if you’ve learned the language of a foreign country, there’s so many other cultural cues and double meanings for words that you can’t really become acquainted with unless you live there and immerse yourself in the culture.”

For Blackstone, experiencing France’s much older history has influenced his overall awareness of his own.

“Paris especially had such a cultural history. It was readily apparent that centuries of stuff had gone on there, which was interesting coming from the US which is a relatively new place in comparison,” said Blackstone.

For info on next year’s trip to Germany and Italy, contact

Behind the scenes at CCM’s upcoming fashion show


        Students at County College of Morris are getting ready to show off their latest fashion creations at CCM’s annual student-run fashion show. The theme of this year’s show is wonderland, referencing Alice in Wonderland.

The show sold out in 2016, and students are hoping to achieve the same feat this year.

The show is 7 p.m. Thursday, May 4, in the Student Community Center Davidson Rooms. The event is open to the public and sponsored by CCM’s Fashion Club, led by president Kayley McCarthy and Professor Kelly Whalen. All items are hand-made by students.

McCarthy, a merchandising student at CCM, takes care of most of the work behind the scenes to make sure everything is ready when the show begins.

“I don’t sit down and make stuff,” McCarthy said. “I am in charge of marketing plans, floor plans, business plans and the merchandise display.”

The projects modeled on the runway are hand-made by students during class hours. The students learned how to put together clothing items and work at their own pace.

Lauren Gangone, a fashion design major at CCM, is currently working on one of her many pieces to be modeled in the fashion show.

“We have to come up with our own patterns, and we have to go buy our own material with our own money,” Gangone said. “Depending on how much product we make is usually how much material we have to buy for our clothes.”

Every student featured in the fashion show has their own models for their clothes. They are responsible to find people to walk the runway, usually family or friends.

Nicole Saranita, a fashion design major at CCM, said she has a lot of work to accomplish before the show is premiered but she said she feels good about it.

“I have all my fabric, and I finished draping everything so I’m excited for the show.” Saranita said.

Tickets for the show are $15 in advance and can be purchased at the Office of Campus Life in the Student Community Center. Multiple promotion of dates are also held when tickets can be purchased for $10. Tickets at the door are $20.

Students participate in biannual blood drive


County College of Morris students were given the opportunity to donate blood on campus as Phi Theta Kappa hosted semi-annual blood drives in conjunction with the Community Blood Council of New Jersey and CCM Health Services. This year’s blood drive took place Thursday, March 30.

“It’s the easiest possible donation that you can give that instantly can mean life to somebody,” said Daria Caldwell, a Donor Relations Representative for the Community Blood Council of New Jersey. “Each pint of blood that we draw can save up to three lives.”

The Community Blood Council of New Jersey has basic requirements for donating blood. A donor must weigh at least 120 pounds, have normal blood pressure and be between the ages of 16 and 75 years old. Each blood donation is approximately one pint of blood.

“We run these [blood drives] as a part of our service,” said Michelle Mardis, Phi Theta Kappa’s Vice President of Scholarship. “We want to give back to the community; that’s the main thing for us.”

The Community Blood Council of New Jersey is a unique organization, as blood donated through them remains in New Jersey hospitals, while other organizations often send blood all over the country.

According to Caldwell, people with an O negative blood type are considered universal donors, as every person can accept O negative blood in addition to their own blood type. Due to the versatility of O negative blood, donors are in high demand.

Billy Kohning, a business administration major at CCM, is one of those donors.

“This isn’t my first time [donating],” Kohning said. “I started in high school, and I did a blood test beforehand. They said I was O negative and some other thing that I don’t know yet; I’ve been looking. I know can give blood to unborn fetuses that need it.”

Kohning, fresh off the blood donation bus with blue gauze wrapped around his left arm, also mentioned a family friend has received blood transfusions through a bout with cancer.

“People need our blood, and it’s 30 minutes of your time to save someone’s life,” Kohning said. “It’s worth it.”

Fifty-six days are needed for recovery between each blood donation, while only 12 days are needed between each platelet donation.

Precautions are taken by the donation organizations to ensure donors eat properly before and after blood donation, as well as verifying any recent abroad trips.

“We are going to make sure you’re okay before we ever put a needle in you” Caldwell said. “Nobody should ever feel guilted into something like this.”

While a chance to donate blood is available to CCM students on campus twice a year, the Community Blood Council of New Jersey accepts donations Monday through Saturday every week at their center in Trenton.

“A lot of students don’t realize that giving just a little bit of blood can save three lives,” Mardis said. “They don’t realize that little contribution can make such a big difference.”

Community comes together for storytelling, music


The Student Community Center was filled with storytellers and musicians Sunday, March 12 as County College of Morris hosted the 11th Annual Storytelling and World Music Festival.

The festival was separated into two sections – storytelling for children and storytelling for adults. All storytellers worked effortlessly to keep crowds engaged in their tale through the use of numerous props such as homemade instruments, finger puppets, and noisemakers. The SCC found itself crowded from wall to wall as numerous families gathered together to take part in the yearly communal event in hopes of creating new memories.

Faculty adviser for the festival and Campus Life associate director, Don Phelps considers the event to be a great success. It was wonderful to see so many community members getting to experience the campus for the first time, according to Phelps.

“My favorite part was when the tellers bring the kids on stage to play characters in their stories,” Phelps said.

Patty Donnell, mother of four, has attended the festival for the past four years since her eldest daughter, Emma began attending CCM in 2013. The festival is a perfect excuse to get the family together and have a little harmless fun, according to Donnell.

“We never miss the festival,” said Donnell. “My children love the stories that are shared – they’re funny, educational and the props they use tie everything together. It’s a great local outing to do with my kids on a Sunday afternoon.”

Following storytelling sessions, attendees were escorted to a small concert in the SCC lounge, as children cheered and danced, adults clapped in rejoicement. Rob Esposito’s daughter, Elizabeth was a crowd favorite – her dance moves kept the crowd entertained and the energy high. This year was the first attendance for the Esposito family.

“My dear friend, Cathy Burke used to attend the festival when it was originally held at Waterloo Village,” Esposito said. “None of my older children ever wanted to go, but I thought Elizabeth would enjoy herself and sure enough I was right. It’s been a wonderful day.”

While the festival was surrounded with families enjoying themselves, several CCM students were in attendance. Early childhood education major, Katie Phillips first learned of the festival through the school website, and thought the event would give her some insight into storytelling for small children.

“I really love reading,” said Phillips. “I really hope someday to become a grammar school English teacher, so I thought coming to the festival would help me gain a few pointers on how to grab and keep a child’s attention in the art of storytelling.”

Marines talk music with CCM choir members


A visit from the United States Marine Corps was repaid by a vocal performance from the County College of Morris Chamber Choir Thursday, Feb. 24.

The students shared their vocal talents with the Marines, and in turn the Marines presented them with options of career opportunities for their musical talents. The Marines also provided the students with other avenues to explore, such as instrument repair.

Michael Groschadl, an electronic music major and member of the Chamber Choir, said that the choir performed a piece that they were working on called “Connected.”

“We wanted to give them a piece back,” Groschadl said. He said that the presentation gave him information about possible careers that he didn’t even know existed.“It opened my eyes for some of my friends that may be interested in something like that.”

Ryan Taesler, a liberal arts music major, has been in the choir for two semesters and has seen the Marine Corps Band perform at the Drum Corps International shows.

“It was something I’ve been seriously considering,” Teasler said. “I really like all that they have to offer in their music program, it’s really extensive.”

Staff Sergeant Mykel Stanley conducted the presentation, along with Staff Sergeant Kieran Grogan, both Marine Recruiters out of Rockaway. Stanley said that the choir sounded awesome.

“It was like being immersed in a Pitch Perfect,” he said. “Everything was a cappella.”

The Marine Corps Band was established on July 8, 1798. Training for the band is extensive; as a musician for the band, a Marine learns four years’ worth of musical knowledge in the timespan of six months.

College tuition is 100 percent covered in the program and musicians perform over 350 times a year; they are never required to set foot in combat. In addition, students in the Marine Corps Band receive college credits after participating, so, if they are striving for a musical degree, this makes it beneficial for their college career.

There are different sections in the band as well, which are open to musicians, such as the choir.

“To make entry into the program itself you have to play in instrument,” said Stanley.  “You can be in the pit orchestra, you can be in the marching band, and you can be in the choir.”

The Chamber Choir meets every Monday and Thursday from 11:00-12:15p.m. in the Music Hall in the Edward J. Yaw Music Technology Building.

‘Diverse’ dancing focus of showcase

By: Lindsey Medwin 
Staff Writer 

Incorporating both variety and collaboration into this year’s annual main stage production, the Department of Music, Dance and Performing Arts hosted a performance unlike any other at CCM.

The Dance Theatre Showcase, held Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4, was one of three dance concerts the program puts on throughout the academic year. It is the only one, though, which takes place on the Dragonetti Auditorium stage. That means it requires a lot of time and effort for preparing the 15 different dances featured this year.

“Some of the pieces we actually started rehearsing over winter break,” said Noelle Cappuzzo, a double major in dance and musical theatre major and one of the leading performers in the showcase, noting that some pieces took up to 46 hours to finalize.

The extensive preparation for this event, though, is not just to perfect the pieces, but also to create them. Professor Terence Duncan, director of the event, noted that all of the dances were formulated from, “all original and self produced work”.

One dance in particular that left an outstanding mark on the production was entitled, “Departed Dearly”, choreographed by Christina Paolucci. This 16 minute duet conveyed a dark, yet humbling story of two sisters journey together up until their deaths through the beauty of dance. This complex number and the story behind it was all inspired by Paolucci’s vision of door, which was used throughout the piece. Cappuzzo and Sabrina Olivieri, dance major’s at CCM, played the sisters in the duet.

“Christina did a really nice job of crafting a work that was both challenging and intricate,” Duncan said.

Paolucci said that choreographing dances is not always easy, and that’s the point.

“The whole point of what we do as choreographers and choreographers of students is that we want them to succeed and have a positive experience, even if that means we have to struggle to get there,” Paolucci said.

The initial development of some dances featured in the showcase stemmed from a collaboration the department had with the Garden State Dance Project, a New York dance school. The co-founder and artistic director of the project, and CCM alumnus, Eli  Kababa, personally trained with the students for several performances in New York, choreographing numbers featured at the concert.

Duncan said that working with the project was, “an opportunity to have a performance series in New York in January and present the work to New York city public school children.”

This experience enabled the students involved to expand their abilities and talents, to then present those skills to a local audience at CCM.

“It really helped me keep my technique balanced in all genres of dance,” Cappuzzo said.

The Dance Theatre Showcased extended this trend of collaboration by featuring some CCM musical theatre majors in a student choreographed piece entitled, “The Cellblock Tango.”

This was the first dance concert where different majors in the department were featured. This not only gave some variety to the concert, but also allowed everyone involved to work together and create a fantastic opening number to the second act of the concert.

Gabe Weiss, one of the actors featured, noted that it was great working with, “people that really care about the program,” and by bringing different walks of life together, it made the Department of Music, Dance and Performing arts a far more, “well rounded program’

“I have to say, this has to be one of the best showcases we had because there was so much diversity in dance and do so many different things,” Cappuzzo said.