For our last meeting of the semester, we had a guest speaker, Judge Tracy Sorensen from Walker County Court at Law. In addition to presenting, Judge Sorensen also provided all of our graduating students with their stoles, and was our official lottery master for various prizes.
To start the conversation, Judge Sorensen spoke about the 10th court of appeals trials that were held here at Sam Houston last week. People were able to ask her questions about the cases and her thoughts on them, and she gave her honest, thoughtful opinion.
Judge Tracy went to South Texas College of Law, and she talked of when she began her practice. She knew she wanted to come back to Huntsville after law school. She was particularly interested in family law, so that is what she focused on. Her first contested hearing, which was in family law, made her pretty nervous, primarily because her opposing counsel was a veteran attorney who was about 6’6″, more than a foot taller than Judge Sorensen! That attorney, Don Kramer, however, ended up mentoring her and being a great friend and, later, a District Judge.
Professor Yawn served as moderator asked, “How do you have the conversation with your clients on how to dress in court?”
She tells her clients to wear their “Sunday Best,” but that does not always work… She told a story about how in a jury trial her client wore a Houston Rockets outfit and said that was what he wears to church. The court coordinator continued the case because he just could not be seen before the judge in shorts. She started telling her clients to bring what they are going to wear a week before the trial to combat this issue.
Professor Yawn then inquired, “Tell us about the times when your client has lied to you and how you dealt with it.”
This is a major problem for defense attorneys, and she has dealt with it on matters of child custody, divorce, as well as criminal matters. In some cases, you just have to have a backup plan to prepare for the worst in case they aren’t fully honest.
Richard Tran, following up on Judge Sorensen’s admission that she hadn’t been the best student, asked: “How did you move from ‘not the greatest student’ to a judge”?
Her response was a lesson in not digging a hole for yourself. She had a poor first semester, got some bad advising, and then spent the rest of her time in education digging herself out. Despite this rough start, she was offered a great job with an energy company when she graduated, but then the energy market collapsed (following the Enron debacle), and the job offer was withdrawn. And this, as it turns out, was what led her to law school.
Following her wonderful presentation, Judge Sorensen did something we’ve never done before: she “hooded” our graduates.
And this included our President, Heather Barodi, who very successfully led the organization her final year.
Another thing we haven’t done–at least not recently–is take a group photo. So, we did, and got our first photo since 2016!
On May 4th, Jessica and I went to a World Affairs Council (WAC) event at the Glade Gallery in The Woodlands to hear from retired Lieutenant Colonel Kyleanne Hunter and Senior Fellow and Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Katherine Kuzminski, speak about women in the military. Interestingly, we had previously met the CEO of CNAS, Richard Fontaine, at a previous WAC event.
The Glade Gallery, as usual, had stunning artwork adorning its walls and upon viewing them all we were able to determine our favorite art piece.
After a brief introduction by the sponsor of The Woodlands’ series, Champion X, one of our favorite moderators, Ray Cunningham, gave us a brief introduction of who Lt. Colonel Hunter and Mrs. Kuzminski are. Kyleanne Hunter served in the Marine Corps as a Lt. Colonel and has multiple combat deployments as an AH-1W “Super Cobra” attack pilot and is now a Military and Strategic Studies assistant professor at the United States Air Force Academy. Mrs. Kuzminski was a Political Scientist at RAND Corporation where she researched military personnel policy before joining the Center for a New American Security.
Mrs. Kuzminski and Lt. Colonel Hunter discussed how it was believed that women were formerly unable to perform “manly” tasks. To begin with, there weren’t many women in the military, and those that were had limited job opportunities within. Mainly because many of the equipment and uniforms were designed for men. Although, women have served in ever-increasing capacities in support of the US military in every war the country has faced whether it is as combat nurses or four-star generals and admirals. Making up approximately 3% of those serving in the military when the draft ended in 1973.
In 2015, all combat positions were made available to females which allowed Lt. Colonel Hunter to be an AH-1W “Super Cobra” attack pilot. Prior to 2015, women in the military could not sign up to do any combat positions which is part of the reason why our “team Mom,” Ms. Stephanie, went into Linguistics despite her interest in a combat position. Both Mrs. Kuzminski and Lt. Colonel Hunter, believe that there are not enough women within the high ranks of the military.
There are multiple reasons for this such as (1) their want and desire to start a family of their own, (2) it is a male-dominated career, and (3) the occurring sexual assaults. All of these are factors that make it difficult to “recruit and retain” women in the military.
They often just serve their time and retire to start their family, which is why we are starting to see daycares available through the military for the children of those who serve.
As a male-dominated career, it used to be difficult and occasionally still is for women to move up the ranks due to the belief that a man is a better fit for those positions. However, this has started to shift with the implementation of tests that target the skills necessary for the specific ranks to help determine who is most qualified with both men and women having the same standards.
Sexual assaults in the military have been a “hot topic” on the news recently, not because there was suddenly an uprising but because women are now finding they can confide in higher-ups to follow through with a consequence for the accused. Part of this is because the most qualified are moving up and those tend to be the ones used to get overlooked but were the most trusted within their squadrons. However, there are efforts being taken to reduce the number of sexual assaults within the military like the committee that Lt. Colonel Hunter is on.
I found it most interesting when Lt. Colonel Hunter mentioned hygiene and protection as the two most important aspects of being a woman in the military. I am currently in ROTC and am considering my options within the Army, so I was curious in knowing how she dealt with these aspects. She revealed her personal choice of shaving prior to her deployment, including her hair, to be most hygienic.
Following the presentation, I had the opportunity to ask Lt. Colonel Hunter more about her experience in the military, including how she managed to withstand the long hours of field training, ruck marches, and other arduous tasks as a woman. We are grateful to the World Affairs Council for hosting Lt. Colonel Hunter and Mrs. Kuzminski, who flew down to Texas from DC!
With 86 billion neurons and 500 trillion connections passing through our brain, it is the most complex organ in our body! Dr. David Eagleman is a renowned Neuroscientist who teaches at Stanford University, author, and CEO of Neosensory, so he was the perfect person to help us learn more about the brain. Thus, we travelled to Congregation Emanu El, a Synagogue in Houston, which was a new setting and experience for all of us.
Entering the beautiful synagogue, the LEAP Ambassadors were introduced to Randall Morton, the President and founder of The Progressive Forum, who then began the introduction of Dr. Aziz Shabani, a Clinical Professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Shabani provided the program attendees with medical sciences and its revolutionary take on modern-day society.
Aziz Shabani energetically and proudly introduced the man of the evening, Dr. David Eagleman! In his presentation, Eagleman explained the functions of a normal brain and gave us a short lesson on each part of the brain cortexes. In addition, he explained that, “brain plasticity” is a term used to describe the expansion of the cortexes, although he prefers the term “liveware.”
The LEAP Ambassadors were fascinated by the study and research conducted by Dr. Eagleman and his team. Their studies specifically focused on people who have sensory loss, such as loss of hearing, blindness, and people with underdeveloped limbs. As a result, Dr. Eagleman expanded greatly on his brand Neosensory, promoting an affordable replacement of cochlear ear plants and a wristband that provides senses to those who have difficulty hearing, seeing, and even touching.
After Dr. Eagleman shared his insight on the human brain and its wonders, Randall Morton, Dr. Aziz Shabani, and Dr. Eagleman gathered for a short Q&A session. The questions exchanged between the three were, “What advice do you have for self-discovery?” Dr. Eagleman answered beautifully and said, “Always go with your gut feeling, and whatever makes you get up in the morning filled with excitement, do it.” Dr. Shabani corresponded with another question asking about how our own brains expand. He answered with, “to serve your brain, we must change our routine,” implying that daily challenges will only make our brain smarter and help our longevity. He began with simple suggestions, such as changing the hand you wear your watch on, and moved to more complex routine alterations.
After the event, the LEAP Ambassadors were able to meet Dr. Eagleman. He even signed our copies of his book, Livewire! Dr. Eagleman then spent a few moments with us, asking where we are in our story. We were also able to take a picture with Eagleman after our conversation!
We grew our neural plasticity by seeking new settings such as a synagogue and afterwards, an excellent restaurant called Star Pizza; a pizzeria in the heart of Houston that serves both Chicago deep-pan pizza and New York-style pizza.
Before we dove into the delicious assortments of pizzas, we had to start off with shareable appetizers. As we dug into the baked goat cheese served with olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, and French bread, we kept wanting more. The appetizers kept coming, and our eyes widened as the waiter brought garlic bread with cheese. Everything was perfectly cooked. Even the cheese had a golden-brown tint that you could feel oozing in your mouth.
At last, we ordered the Cowbell deep dish with slow-smoked BBQ beef brisket, topped with BBQ Sauce and cheddar, provolone, and mozzarella cheese. As well as the New York-style Margherita with pineapple. Having both pizzas to try provided the perfect combination of sweet and savory. The crust was toasty, and the heart of the pizza was warm with all the BBQ flavors coming together with the cheese and the Roma tomatoes, creating an excellent combination.
We not only left with a full stomach but were also able to develop our minds by trying new things and not consuming the chain food every college student eats.
Our in-class assignments often include researching a new topic, writing an essay, or possibly presenting our findings. However, on April 28th we made an out-of-class presentation to the Huntsville Chapter of the Lions Club. Heather, Jessica, Saara, and I were excited to share information about the organization that we love.
The Lions Club is an organization committed to the service of the community in which they reside. One of the service projects of the local chapter is the flag postings: for various days of remembrance or holidays, the Lions Club will line the streets with American and Texan flags, and this is something we have assisted with in the past.
Every Thursday at noon, the Lions meet at Grand Buffet for a hot meal, good company, and, of course, to take care of organizational business. We were able to enjoy nice conversations while we ate lunch with the Lions because of our past volunteerism and other connections. I learned more about the logistics behind the Flag project from Glen Schumacher. Glen has taken on the responsibility of driving the truck and trailer for those posting the flags.
After most of the Club had finished their meals and visited with fellow members, the meeting was called to order. We were introduced by Brian Blalock, who is a photographer for the university and who invited us to speak at this week’s meeting.
Because LEAP is an organization that reaches all different disciplines, we thought it best to walk the Lions through an actual week of a LEAP Ambassador.
This adventurous yet busy week began on Global Health Day, Thursday, April 7th, with our attendance at the World Affairs Council event: Global Health with Dr. Deborah Birx. Of which I elaborated on what I learned during our presentation to the Lions.
The following day, on Friday, April 8, Jessica, Saara, and I along with a few other students got to test out our modeling skills with Brian who was shooting fundraising photos for university advancement. It was an interesting experience for us since we are typically the ones taking the pictures. We even shared how most of us walked away knowing that we would not be successful in a modeling career.
Perhaps my favorite day in our week, Saturday, April 9th, was when we volunteered at the Annual Wynne Home Easter Egg Hunt. For Saara, this was her first time celebrating the Easter Holiday and she shared her experience with the Lions Club. We of course could not wait to mention our professor’s tactics for winning the Sack Races (which he denied of course), one of the many recreational activities there was for the children.
Jessica’s favorite day of this busy week was Sunday, April 10th. As we told the Lions more about LEAP, we let our personalities show as well. After we all identified Jessica as our shyest member (pre-Elvis) she told us more about her first time experiencing an Elvis impersonator. Jessica claims and defends (post-Elvis) her famous picture was just a high-five, but we are all convinced it is a hand-hug.
For Monday, April 11th, we all shared a bit about our experiences with the citizenship course. We were intrigued to learn that some of the Lions Club members had firsthand experience with the naturalization exam or knew someone who took our course.
Nearing the end of our busy week, Heather told everyone about our biweekly LEAP meetings and the office hours we are responsible for. Much like professional organizations like the Lions Club, we practice Robert’s Rules of Order and learn more about professionalism.
On the last day of the preview of a typical week for a LEAP Ambassador, Wednesday, April 13th, Heather shared more about the 10th Court of Appeals that heard three cases at the University. She even mentioned that we, SHSU, are one of only two colleges that the Court travels to and how the Court allows for student interaction.
We then took questions, as we approached the end of the meeting and were even able to give interviews for the Huntsville item!
On behalf of the LEAP Center, thank you to the Huntsville Lions Club for hosting our group. We hope that we can honor your Club motto, “We Serve” as your members do!
Although we had spent a day in the nation’s capital, this was our first day of the conference, and we were a bit unsure of what would follow. But we were greeted by friendly Colonial figures, putting us in a light mood.
NLC Opening General Session
The National League of Cities Conference (NLC) exists to educate and inform the public about the work of cities, but it also serves as an in-house informational resource for the cities across the country. And no gathering is larger than the Congressional City Conference in Washington, DC, where hundreds of local officials gather to learn, educate, and cooperate. A theme of this conference is the Biden Administration’s “American Rescue Plan” (ARP) and how cities can use it to make their localities better.
We were greeted by numerous officials from some of the largest cities in the United States. Mayor Victoria Woodards of Takoma, Washington, as NLC’s first vice president, set the stage by emphasizing the importance of local officials–which, as interns for the City of Huntsville, we were aware of!
The introductory speakers, many from the Executive Branch, described how hard the White House had worked to ensure ARP funds made it to the cities directly. Julia Chavez Rodriguez, for example, went even further, noting that rescue acts under the previous administration didn’t go as far as ARP, but with the distribution of ARP funds, more cities would be benefitting.
Gene Sperling, Senior Advisor to the President, also extolled the virtues of ARP, noting that unemployment had declined to 3.8%, but he took a more assertive tone with some in the media and to states giving tax breaks–“which were only possible because of the funds coming in from ARP”.
The conference did a good job of making one and half-hour time slots go quickly–different panels were moved quickly in and out to provide diversity in topics, intro and outro music greeted each speaker, and the sessions were punchy and direct, sometimes reverting to soundbites.
The caliber of speakers, however, was top notch. One brief panel, for example, included Andy Berke (US Department of Commerce; former Mayor of Chattanooga), Carlton Waterhouse (Deputy Administrator of the EPA), Samantha Silverberg (Deputy of Infrastructure Implementation with the White House), and Victoria Woodards (Mayor of Tacoma, WA and VP of NLC). In fact, we enjoyed being in one of the world’s largest selfies with Mayor Woodards!
Homelessness in Focus: Local Government Roles in Intervention and Prevention
Some of the ambassadors chose to attend a session led by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Senior Advisor Richard Cho, Case Manager Jeff Olivet, and the National Alliance to End Homelessness CEO Nan Roman. They spoke on homelessness and the roles of local government following the opening session.
Homelessness has always been an issue, but the amount of homeless people has increased greatly following COVID. Cities such as Boston that had little to no homelessness cases are now seeing alarming rates of them and are currently grappling with this issue.
The funding in a city’s budget to address homelessness is limited and some are struggling with providing them the help and resources needed. Many organizations, programs, and funds have been created during the pandemic and this may help. The intention of newly established programs are designed to help fill in the gap of the missing funds, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
These resources have allowed the community to work together to provide aid and shelters. Also, many governments enacted temporary moratoria on evictions, and governments may also have alleviated pressure through child tax credits.
All three of these insightful speakers came to agree that the key element in reducing homelessness is housing. And once housing is available, cities, according to the speakers, should focus on providing the newly-housed with the resources they need, such as health care, to aid them in being able to sustain their new home.
This has been implemented in cities of which have been or bought motels and hotels to remove the homeless of the streets. By offering them a safe space, these cities have seen a reduction in the number of homeless. Of course, this costs a lot of money, which goes back to resources…
Closing the Digital Divide
Professor Yawn and I chose to attend Closing the Digital Divide: Leveraging Federal Resources for Broadband, Digital Equity. The topic was heavily based on the importance of providing broadband for the underserved and underdeveloped.
The panel included five experts who are making great strides within this area: Julia Pulidindi, Kirk Burgee, Van Johnson, Christopher Mitchell, and Olivia Wein.
The first to speak was Julia Pulidindi from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Pulidindi presented an overview of the Infrastructure Act that allowed $65 billion for broadband funding intended to be administered in four different avenues: Bead, Digital Equity, Tribal, and the Middle Mile.
The Chief of Staff for The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Kirk Burgee, split his speech into two parts: digital mapping and data flow. The update on the progress of broadband and how it has developed was very insightful for my understanding of the topic. The data flow is split into groups, for instance, the FCC receives data from providers, tribal data, and local data which is beneficial because of the specificity involved.
Christopher Mitchell is a Director at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and much like his company’s name suggests, his primary goal is for everyone to have reliable and affordable internet. Mitchell spoke on the importance of the use of partnerships particularly for small cities.
The last panelist to speak was Olivia Wein, a Staff Attorney with National Consumer Law Center (NCLC).
Wein emphasized on the importance of broadband, why it is a necessity, and went into more detail regarding the Eligibility Criteria for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). There are a few of different benefits that households can receive through ACP, but they are limited to one of each kind. One ACP service, one ACP connected device and one lifeline benefit.
The topic got pretty detailed, but the key message was clear: in a rapidly advancing technological society, the gap between the digital haves and digital have nots grows, and it grows fast. Implementing programs, especially in rural areas for those who don’t have, is key to reducing inequality in the nation.
President Joe Biden
One speaker during the day wasn’t like other speakers. When President Biden was scheduled to speak, things changed considerably. Everyone was ordered out of the Marquis Salon, the room was swept, and then all the attendees lined up to go through security, allowing them to re-enter the room.
The conference hall was electric with excitement as the crowd was anxious to see President Biden. He entered the room to a standing ovation and a loud chorus of cheering as he took the podium to address the audience.
He touched on current ongoing issues, such as the rising cost of gasoline, as well as some of his goals for the United States including a $35-per-month health-care plan for all Americans, and reducing–or even eliminating–taxes for those who make less than $400,000 a year. The President indicated he had reduced the budget by 360 billion, while also overseeing a dramatic reduction in the unemployment rate.
President Biden left on inspirational notes, calling on the city leaders to assist him, and specifically noting that the young are key to his administration’s–and the country’s–success.
It was an absolute honor to have “met” and been within a few feet of President Biden!
Moving Forward with Affordable Housing
Later in the evening, I attended Moving Forward with Affordable Housing: Strategies for Developing and Preservation. The session was led by three panelist who all had slightly different approaches, but all great ideas on ways to combat the issue.
Tony Pickett, the CEO of Grounded Solutions Network, introduced a couple of different ways to help homeowners maintain equity in their property. The first of which was a Community Land Trust. This nonprofit organization is governed by community residents and public representatives to help maintain equity opportunities and community assets. The main idea was centered around offering more mobility opportunities when buying and reselling houses.
Jason Jordan is the Policy & Public Affairs Director for the American Planning Association for Transport, (APA). Jordan presented many different examples on zoning reform that included feedback from the public. With very new statistics from March 2022, Jordan advised to take the newness into account, but also to understand how citizens and the public view zoning reforms.
Amy King is the founder and CEO of Pallet which provides rapid response shelter villages to reduce the number of homeless people on the streets. King’s company acts as a pathway for homeless people to establish a physical address, and after three to six months helps relocate them to permeant housing. This solution has made a major impact along the west coast, but as King stressed, it still has a lot more work to do.
The issue of the lack of affordable housing is not one that has an easy answer. However the work being done by these individuals and their companies and agencies are great strides towards helping resolve this issue.
Once the last session of the day was finalized, the ambassadors took to the streets of Washington D.C. to a nearby restaurant, Pi Pizzeria. Upon entering we noticed it was a nice, cute little restaurant.
We began with an order of Garlic Knots with marinara sauce as an appetizer and had their delicious Delmar Deep Dish and their thin crust Pi’Napple Pizza, basically Hawaiian with jalapenos.
Today was also their 14th birthday and Pi Day (3.14)!
As we walked back to our hotel, we went through a mini shopping mall area and wandered into Dolcezza Gelato and Coffee for Dessert.
They offered many kinds of Gelato and Sorbet flavors that we had difficulty choosing. After sampling a few flavors, we collectively ordered their Coffee and Cookies, Dark Chocolate, Champagne Mango, Pineapple Honey Lime Sorbet, and Lemon Ricotta Cardamom.
We enjoyed our delightful and flavorful gelato and sorbets that satisfied our sweet tooth as we made our way back to our hotel.
Sam Houston State University is one of the top law-school feeders in North American. Indeed, it ranks in the top 200 nationally (out of almost 3,000 four-year Universities/Colleges) in sending students to law school. The LEAP Center helps with this, offering dedicated pre-law advising, numerous pre-law activities, and also providing students the opportunity to take a Mock LSAT every semester.
This semester, we had 20 students sign up–and 19 students show up–for a Saturday morning test.
While many may think this is an activity for juniors or seniors, we actually encourage freshmen and sophomores to take the test. One of our goals is to get an idea for how close they are to getting the score they want, so that we can help them develop a study plan to get into an acceptable school or, even better, the school of their choice.
Such tests are supplemented by summer workshops we offer and occasional scholarships we offer so that students might pursue additional help for getting the score they want. This process, in fact, is one of the ways that PLS member, Kaylea King got into Washington University in St. Louis!
The LEAP Ambassadors took an evening trip to the Woodlands to attend yet another fantastic WAC event on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the Glades Art Gallery. Walking in, the gallery was stunning to witness as the WAC staff welcomed us. It was a wonderful combination: looking at paintings from local artists while preparing to become more educated on a global issue was a terrific opportunity.
The art on display ranged from portraits and landscapes to statues. A favorite of ours was the Cherry Blossom tree that spread across six canvases by Victor Tapu. Throughout the exhibit, we connected the artwork in the Glade to similar works by renowned Masters; for example, we compared the miniature statue of a ballerina to Edgar Degas.
Moving from the art to learning about the current crisis in another part of the world, we heard from Richard Fontaine, the CEO of the Center for a New American Security, one of the world’s leading defense and geopolitical think tanks. Mr. Fontaine was also a top foreign policy adviser to Senator John McCain.
Dr. Fontaine discussed the horrific battle in Ukraine and how it could signal the start of a new post-Cold War era. Putin’s motive to overtake Ukraine was to prevent their affiliation with NATO, among many other things. The war has affected numerous countries. Poland, for example, was one Ukraine’s most significant trading partners, a relationship that will much limited until the end of the war and perhaps beyond. The war has also increased inflation in the US, while also affecting the oil supply and even food staples such as corn. China, too, is watching the war closely, seeing how it will shift the balance of power in the world and change their massive trade relationships.
One interesting fact we learned is that Ukraine has shattered the Russian government-built encrypted phone lines, compelling the Russian military to use unencrypted lines of communication. Who knew?
Hearing an update on the Ukraine-Russia war from Dr. Fontaine was eye-opening. Seeing how these impacts bordering countries of Ukraine and our homeland is heartbreaking, but this will bring us together and prepare us for future moves that may involve a more significant threat.
As always, the WAC event was enlightening and enjoyable, and we look forward to our next event!
Lama Mediterranean Restaurant
After filling our heads with new knowledge about the war in Ukraine, we stopped at Lama to expand on our understanding from outsides our country’s borders at a Mediterranean restaurant located in the Woodlands!
Our appetizers were classic Mediterranean dishes, homemade falafel, and hummus with warm pita bread. Overall, all the food was terrific, but the hummus appetizer we got was the biggest hit among the ambassadors. The entrees ranged from chicken shawarma and gyro sandwiches with sides of rice and french fries. At the end of the meal, our plates were empty from devouring each of our entrees. We had some hot tea and baklava to end our meal, which was a sweet touch to our full stomachs.
The Old Town Theatre brings numerous acts to town, but few stir as much excitement as, “The King.” Of course, Elvis Presley passed away more than 40 years ago, but there are numerous “Elvis Tribute Artists” around to keep him fresh in audience’s minds, and Travis Powell is one of the best, offering a full command of the Elvis songbook, uncanny mannerisms reminiscent of “The King,” and a genuine enthusiasm for fan interaction.
And so the LEAP Ambassadors spent a Sunday afternoon assisting the Old Town Theatre with a matinee performance. With a surfeit of volunteers, we helped early on with seating the balcony section, but once the full-house was seated, we moved quickly to photography.
With low lighting and an energetic performer, photography can be a challenge. But with three photographers, multiple lenses, and a curious group of photographers-volunteers, we were able to get some good shots–and it helped that Elvis himself not only yielded to photos, but occasionally even posed!
The evening began with “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” a wonderful quartet of four women, whose jokes, music, and personalities–not to mention bling–set the tone for the rest of the evening.
But it was Elvis who took the audience to another level, beginning with a medley of some familiar hits, followed by more than two hours of favorites.
Jessica, our shyest member, began by photographing near the stage, but that changed when “Elvis” approached her and offered her his hand. Quaking, she extended it, and also managed to get a great shot of the performer, who certainly looked the part.
But this was a bit much attention for Jessica, so she retreated to the back of the auditorium to work the stationary camera. Heather took her place on the side of the stage, where she also received attention, and also got great shots of Elvis.
He began in black leather, evoking his 1968 comeback tour.
After intermission, he switched to his white, sequined jumpsuit. He was a hit in both outfits.
Speaking of intermission, the Old Town Theatre’s Director, Lauren Edwards, took this time announce the winners of the raffle, and she was joined by an audience member, “Kid Elvis.”
Powell performed the great Elvis tunes, “Don’t be Cruel,” “Love me Tender,” “Hound Dog…”
…”Jailhouse Rock,” and, probably the crowd favorite, “Suspicious Minds.”
What we didn’t know is that we didn’t have to go to the stage to get a great shot, because Elvis soon ventured into the audience, taking photographs, holding hands, and a bit of dancing with the audience. It was a hit, and he worked the entire lower auditorium.
When he returned to the stage, some women decided that they would approach him, leading to a protracted segment in which he sang while allowing women to take the scarf from his neck, which was then replaced by a stagehand. Our estimate is that Powell may have gone through 35-40 scarves in this manner.
We were somewhat surprised when Jessica, our formerly shyest member, sauntered to the stage to get in on the action, reaching for Elvis’s hand, grabbing a scarf, and more or less acting like a smitten fan-girl. This behavior continued for at least a day.
Powell wrapped up the extended set with requests from the audience, the American Trilogy, and closed with “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.”
But Travis Powell was not done! He moved quickly to the lobby, posed with fans and gave autographs, and then invited people to Seven Leguas to share in dinner.
Of the thirty or forty events, we’ve done this semester, we were in general agreement that this was the most entertaining. Travis Powell put on a great show as “Elvis,” the crowd was very appreciative, and we always enjoy working with the Old Town Theatre.