New Kensington plans cultural programs, special events

With seven weeks remaining in the semester after the annual spring break, Penn State New Kensington has put together a variety of events in March and April for the campus and local communities.

The Cultural and Special Event Series, is a blend of eight afternoon and evening programs. The series features guest speakers, a Holocaust survivor, a spoken word artist, musical performers and a chef, as well as a murder-mystery dinner and a student stage production. All events are free to the public, except for the murder-mystery dinner and student stage production, which charge an admission fee.

-- The post-break schedule opens at 7 p.m. March 14, with “Poverty Dinner Games” in Café 780. Guest speaker Scott McMannis, director of Circles Initiative for Westmoreland Community Action, will lead a discussion on poverty and hunger through an interactive dining experience. Through a random lottery, audience members will be served meals based on national and local statistics of poverty levels. Entrees will range from eating a full course meal at a table served by wait staff to chowing down on ramen noodles while sitting on a blanket. Circles is a national campaign that supports families who want to move from poverty to self-sufficiency. To RSVP, call 724-334-6064.

-- The campus Student Jazz Ensemble makes its spring debut at noon March 18, in Café 780. Under the direction of Doug Starr, adjunct instructor in music, the group will perform jazz standards. The show is a practical application of Starr's Jazz Ensemble class that teaches the fundamentals of jazz playing, rhythm, articulation and harmony. A public performance is a major component of the course work. Since there isn't a major in music at the New Kensington campus, the group comprises students from a variety of academic disciplines. For more information, call 724-334-6062.

-- A celebration of Irish culture continues with “Cooking with Chef Mike,” at 5 p.m March 20, in Café 780. Mike Tokarek, head chef and resident director of campus food services, will provide tips for making Guinness stew and a cream dessert. Guests can slake their thirsts with a pint of root beer. Throughout the fall and spring semesters, the campus has honored Ireland and Great Britain with its Countries of Focus program, a year-long, campus celebration of international cultures. For the past six years, the campus has embarked on the promotion of greater awareness and understanding of world issues, international trends and global policy debates. Each year, the campus adopts a country or region of the world to inspire teaching and scholarship. Students, faculty and staff explore and reflect on various aspects of Ireland's and Great Britain's history, culture and economic, social and political reality. During spring break, the campus sponsored a weeklong trip that featured visits to the cities of Dublin, Killarney, Cork and Kilkenney in the Republic of Ireland, and Belfast in Northern Ireland. For more information, call 724-334-6062.

-- A look into the world of business and communications takes place at noon March 25, with a talk by James Busch, training coordinator for Trib Total Media. As a sales/leadership trainer, Busch mentors young professional sales people. Trib Total Media is a multimedia network of daily and weekly newspapers, weekly shoppers, niche magazines and websites that reach more than 1.2 million readers across western Pennsylvania every week. The Valley News Dispatch, the local daily newspaper for the Alle-Kiski Valley community, is a part of the corporation that publishes the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. For more information, call 724-334-6062.

-- Katie Wirsing, a spoken word artist and poet, brings her brand of storytelling to the campus at 2 p.m. March 26, in Café 780. Wirsing has toured college campuses across the country speaking on issues from gender, love, sexuality and spirituality to Jello wrestling and her grandmother’s love of hot dogs. She was the 2007 Denver Poetry Slam champion and competed in the Women of the World Poetry Slam. For more information, call 724-334-6062. For video clips of Wirsing’s poetry, visit

-- The “Merry Men” not as blithesome as advertised? The “Men in Tights” more Alphonse Capone than Alfred Noble? Say it aint so, Mel Brooks. Audience sleuths will have to sift through the flora and fauna of Sherwood Forest to figure out at the interactive murder mystery dinner theater, "Robin Hood Aint That Good," at 6 p.m. April 4, in the campus' Cafe 780. The cast, Mystery's Most Wanted, a Pittsburgh-based troupe, will help the guest gumshoes solve the murder. Tickets are $5 for students with ID, $15 for faculty and staff, and $20 for the general public. Price includes dinner and the theater production. To reserve your seat, contact Lauren Blum, student life coordinator, at 724- 334-6063 or

-- The cultural series takes on a more somber visage at noon April 17, with the annual “Holocaust, In Remembrance.” The guest speaker is Moshe Baran, a survivor of the Horodok ghetto in Poland, his hometown, and Krasny forced labor camp in Byelorussia, a satellite republic of Russia (now the independent Republic of Balarus). Baran, who escaped Kransy and joined the resistance movement, gives a firsthand account of the atrocities of the Holocaust. The Remembrance program is sponsored by Lois Rubin, associate professor of English, and the Office of Student Affairs. For information, call 724-334-6062.

-- The curtain comes down on with the student stage production of "Bat Boy: The Musical." The off-Broadway cult classic will run for three days, at 8 p.m. April 18 to 20, in the campus' Forum Theatre. The comedy/horror musical is based on a 1992 story in the tabloid Weekly World News about a human-like creature, half-boy, half-vampire bat, found living in a cave. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students. For more information, call 724-334-6032.

-- After the final curtain call, there is one week left in the semester before finals begin April 29. Commencement is set for 10 a.m. May 4, in the Forum Theatre.

-- Summer classes come right on the heels of the graduation exercises. The first two summer sessions, intersession and the 12-week session, begin May 6. For more information, contact the admissions office at 724-334-LION

Last Updated March 06, 2013