SILC student earns chance to bring love of Russian literature to Russia


April 13, 2017

Lexie Vanderveen, a junior at the School of International Letters and Cultures, will participate in the prestigious Critical Language Scholarship Program for Russian. After a day of orientation in Washington, D.C., Vanderveen will study in Vladimir, Russia, from June 18 to Aug. 19.

“I started taking Russian because my favorite authors are Russian,” Vanderveen said. “I just fell in love with it. ... Dostoyevsky was my first favorite author, and now I’ve started to read more Tolstoy and Chekhov and Pushkin.” Vladimir, Russia Vladimir, Russia. Download Full Image

These authors can be a challenge to read even when translated into English, but Vanderveen felt fulfilled experiencing the texts as they were written. She actually started as a literature major, before switching to Russian and English literature.

She has also studied Latin and Greek, working on translations of the Odyssey and Aeneid.

“You learn more about a language, but you also learn more about the culture, even just idioms and phrases — words that might not have as much importance in the English language,” Vanderveen said.

While studying in Vladimir over eight weeks, Vanderveen will take the equivalent of one academic year of Russian language studies, in addition to living with a host family and going to cultural excursions and lectures. This will be her first time out of the country.

The CLS website boasts Vladimir as “home to culturally important architecture, religious art and historic churches and kremlins. Excursions may include trips to see UNESCO World Heritage sites, museums and monasteries.”

The program also points out the professional benefits of studying Russian, including a “foray into careers as diverse as speech pathology, comparative literature and international trade.”

When Vanderveen came to ASU, she “didn’t know anything about the Russian language, didn’t know anyone else who knew about it.” SILC offered her a strong entry point. She has especially enjoyed the Russian electives, such as Russian media, and challenged herself through Russian for Heritage Speakers as a non-heritage speaker.

“We talked a lot more about the history, the literature, the culture,” Vanderveen said, “the culture of young people as opposed to old, the different emphasis on friendship in Russia, how it differs in America. A lot of comparisons.”

Vanderveen has also participated in a variety of SILC’s cultural events, volunteering at Night of the Open Door to represent the school’s Russian department. She appreciates that within the department, she can always get advice, recommendations and support for her ambitions.

Vanderveen is enrolled in a course through which she translates Chekhov short stories and interns at a literary magazine. This suits her.

“It would be just my dream to be able to have the proficiency to translate Russian poetry and literature into English, and get it published,” Vanderveen said. “I would love to become a translator for Russian literature and share that across different cultures.”

Gabriel Sandler

Lyric Opera Theatre’s new works reading series lands students at national festival


March 31, 2017

Several ASU School of Music students are slated to participate in the 2017 National Women’s Music Festival in Wisconsin this summer following the success of the ASU Lyric Opera Theatre’s new works reading of “BABE: An Olympian Musical,” a musical composed by an ASU alum and based on the first American female Olympic athlete Babe Didrikson.

The Lyric Opera Theatre’s presentation of “BABE” in November was its first installment of a new works reading series at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center. For the first reading of the new series, the Lyric Opera Theatre chose a work composed by an alum, Andrea Jill Higgins. Higgins and award-winning playwright Carolyn Gage, who wrote the book and lyrics for “BABE,” were in residence with the Lyric Opera Theatre for a one-week workshop of the piece, which has had previous workshops with Arizona Women's Theatre Company and Theatre Unbound in Minneapolis. ASU Lyric Opera Theatre new works reading The success of ASU Lyric Opera Theatre's new works reading of “BABE: An Olympian Musical” in November led to students participating the presentation of "BABE" at the 2017 National Women's Music Festival. Download Full Image

“BABE” will receive a full concert reading with orchestra at the 2017 National Women's Music Festival in Wisconsin this summer. During the reading in the fall, the composer and librettist selected two ASU students, Ali Wood, a senior in musical theatre, and Melanie Holm, second-year doctoral student in voice, to reprise their roles in the professional workshop at NWMF. 

The new works series continues at ASU Kerr this Sunday, April 2 with a reading of Ellen Reid's and Roxie Perkins' experimental opera “PRISM,” produced by Lyric Opera Theatre alum Beth Morrison, who was hailed by the Wall Street Journal as "a 21st century Diaghilev" and listed among Musical America's 30 Innovators in 2016. Morrison and the creative team for “PRISM” are in residence with the students for one week. The public reading will include a Creative Response Process with audience participants facilitated by Herberger Institute Professor Liz Lerman.

Following the success of its first reading, the ASU Lyric Opera Theatre in the Herberger Institute plans to continue its new works series at ASU Kerr Cultural Center for the 2017–2018 season.