URI Honors Colloquium concludes Dec. 9 with coastal cabaret

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 2, 2008 – The University of Rhode Island’s 2008 Honors Colloquium concludes on Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. with a coastal cabaret, “It’s a Shore Thing,” featuring a musical look at environmental change in coastal zones.

Free and open to the public, the event will be held in Edwards Auditorium on the Kingston campus.

The Honors Colloquium, “People and Planet: Global Environmental Change,” explores human-caused global change, its consequences and potential responses through a series of lectures, films, exhibits and book clubs.

The cabaret will feature original songs written by Judith Swift, URI professor of theatre and communications, and Charles Cofone, a former resident musical theater director at URI. Among the songs are Ice is Nice, a rap that examines the poles as air conditioners of the planet; Song of the Nile, an analysis of how politics and culture affect natural resources; Scientific Oops, a cautionary tale about global warming mitigation efforts; and Be Careful, which focuses on invasive species. Many of the songs are based on research conducted by URI faculty.

“When you communicate science, you are facing the problem of low scientific literacy,” explained Swift, the show’s director. “As with any learning, it is wise to tap into all learning styles. Art and theater open the door to emotional learning and by ending the colloquium with a cabaret, we hope to create ‘stickiness’ on the topics and issues discussed throughout the semester. Artists help us to form an emotional bond with ideas because they link them to feelings. We use humor quite a bit since this taps into other parts of the brain, but we also tap into those tried and true tools of guilt by association, sadness, melancholy and sentiment.”

The cabaret singers are Casey-Seymour Kim, Robb Barnard, Steve Kidd and Marilyn Corrigan, while the musicians are Cofone on keyboard, Mike Sartini, percussion, Zach Chadwick, reeds, and Erik MacPherson, bass. Costumes were designed by David Howard, URI associate professor of theatre, and scenic visuals were created by URI postdoctoral student Q. Kellogg.

Swift and Cofone have been producing musicals on scientific themes since 1980, when their first cabaret, Oceantics, explored the Big Bang Theory, manganese nodules and the phenomenon of schooling.

“The Graduate School of Oceanography loved it so much that we went on to do similar shows on the health sciences — with songs like the All Occupational Multivocational Ambulatory Quickstep March — computer science, higher education and death,” said Swift. “These were all heralded as very successful in communicating accurate science and associated policy or ethical issues, so we keep on doing them. Charles Cofone and I love the science and finding the right musical style to convey a concept. And then there’s the challenge of rhyming carbon dioxide. Who could pass on such an opportunity?”

The major sponsors of the 2008 Honors Colloquium are the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, the URI Office of the President, the URI Honors Program, the URI Graduate School of Oceanography and the College of Arts and Sciences. Additional support came from the Thomas Silvia and Shannon Chandley Honors Colloquium Endowment, the Mark and Donna Ross Honors Colloquium Humanities Endowment, the deans of the remaining URI colleges, the offices of the URI vice presidents, the EPA Atlantic Ecology Division and Rhode Island Sea Grant.

For further details about the colloquium, including an updated schedule and information on parking, go to www.uri.edu/hc or contact the URI Honors Center at 401-874-2381 or debg@uri.edu.