zoom_photo291753_3852295On October 15th, 2013, Ms. Vickery and Mr. Haggard took five Thacher dancers to Chongqing, China, to perform in front of ten thousand people. I caught up with three of the dancers – Grace Bingham ‘15, Wesley Liang ‘15, and Hayley Kong ‘15 – to get their view on the trip.

Arianna Finger: What were your feelings prior to your trip to China?

Grace Bingham: Before China I was really excited, but I don’t think I really understood, exactly, like what the trip would be like. A lot of us were really nervous about school work, but we also just didn’t understand how many people would be there. Going to China we thought we were going to perform in front of a little festival, but we were really excited.

Shopping for handbags! The girls explored the variety of shopping experiences China had to offer. Photo Credit Gallia Vickery
Handbags! The girls explored a variety of shopping experiences in China. Photo Credit Gallia Vickery

Hayley Kong: I had been there this past spring break when I was in Shanghai with my family for a trip. But nothing can compare to jumping into a world where they speak a language you can’t begin to comprehend and they all stare at you. Even though I had been before, I was very anxious at the prospect of flying solo with Grace and meeting a man there who we didn’t know and didn’t even know what he looked like or his name, and he would take us to the hotel.  Once we got there, it was mostly exciting, and really a thrill.  Grace and I looked at each other with a look that basically said, Whoa, we’re in China. And that basically set up the whole trip.  It was really a whirlwind trip and it was hard to let it sink in that we were in China in the middle of the school year to perform a dance, a dance that we spent tons of hours preparing and rehearsing.

AF: When you got to China, what did you do while not performing?

GB: The first day we got there, it was around 6 am and Hayley and I went straight to the hotel, and then we took a nap, and then went straight to the square. We toured around the square and the city for a little while, and because we were from America, people would stare at us and ask us for pictures. Carrie and I both had people take pictures of us with their children, so yeah that was cool. We also visited the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, it was awesome and crazy.

Posing with statues. The girls also had time to explore cultural treasures including the Forbidden City and The Great Wall. Photo Credit Gallia Vickery
The girls strike serious poses with ancient statues. The girls explored a variety of cultural treasures including the Forbidden City and The Great Wall. Photo Credit Gallia Vickery

HK: We explored temples and the Forbidden City and even just explored all the interesting shops and things happening on the streets. The culture of China is very different, and yet fascinating.

AF: Tell me about the performance.

Wesley Liang: First off, the sheer size of an audience as large as 10,000 was incredible, unreal in fact, when we first heard about it. Honestly, I felt like I was dreaming at first. When it got to the time of the actual performance, all of the excitement and nervousness that was bottled up inside me literally exploded. In addition to my excitement and anxiety, my adrenaline kicked in the moment I stepped onto the stage, giving me an elevated view of the audience.

View from the sound box of the show's stage. Approximately 10,000 fans were on hand to watch. Photo Credit Greg Haggard
View of approximately 10,000 fans from the sound box of the show’s stage.  Photo Credit Greg Haggard

GB: When we got there and saw where we were performing, and then found out that we were going to be performing in front of 10,000 people . . . that kind of made everything more real. Everyone was staring at us, and we were wearing our sweat pants so we probably looked really weird. But, we warmed up, and right before we went on stage, we were really nervous, and very scared, we actually thought they were all going to hate us. We gave each other pep talks, about how it doesn’t matter what they think, and then we got on stage and it was insane.

HK: Yeah, when we got on stage, it was immediately clear that all those hours were way worth it.  The crowd went crazy when we went on stage, and continually through our performance they cheered us on, which really powered us through the dance and fueled our best performance.

WL: When they were cheering, applauding, screaming, and waving glowsticks in the darkness, it made the scene even more unreal than it had already been. Thousands on thousands of glowsticks and faces were directed towards me, and I can’t describe how breathtaking of a sight it was and how hyped I was in that moment. I also felt the energy flowing from the four other dancers as we began to perform.

GB: It was awesome. For the first number, Steam Heat, there was this red light, and steam that was going off the stage. The Chinese are really conservative, but they actually ended up really liking us and yelling for us. Coming off stage it was just the most incredible feeling, it was honestly a once in a lifetime feeling.

Glow sticks galore! Photo Credit Greg Haggard
Glow sticks galore! Photo Credit Greg Haggard

WL: Everyone of us performed the best we ever performed and will ever perform in that four minutes of fame and glory. Even when the music stopped before the end of the piece because of technical difficulties, we carried on as if nothing had happened, and finished off the piece with bright smiles. The audience roared even louder after we finished the performance, bowed, and left the stage. The overwhelming support from the audience truly made it an extraordinary and unforgettable experience for me. This is an experience that I will forever cherish and remember for the rest of my life.

Afterwards, Ms. Gallia Vickery also commented:

Working with Greg Haggard and these five dancer/singers was one of the best experiences of my life. The opportunity to work with a small group of talented and passionate people creating the 20 minute piece was wonderful. The performance venue provided some challenges, but watching these young women performing like ‘rock stars’ in front of 10,000 people, and hearing the audiences reaction was amazing.

To read about the Dance Ensemble’s journey prior to arriving in China, read Ana Levy’s report here!

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His twitter bio reads, “Robot Mime. Surgeon. Caveman. Peruvian Emperor. Green Grapes. American Ex-Pat. Canadian Immigrant. Self-Verified.”

His license plate reads, “IMDB Me.”

He spent one year at school with the moniker “Man Lux” after the Ojai newspaper misnamed him in a photo caption of a Thacher soccer game.

Who is he?

J.P. Manoux.

Mr. Manoux, CdeP 1987 is back on campus while on break from a whirlwind career in film and television. Manoux is best known for his roles in the Emperor’s New School, Phil of the Future – in which he acted and directed – and Community. He credits his first acting experience and capabilities to “silly assembly announcements that led to a career in comedy.”

His path to the silver screen was not easy. After studying theater at Northwestern and learning from the best improv and sketch comedians in downtown Chicago, Manoux moved to Los Angeles.

“It was four years before I made a penny acting. Slowly small parts on sitcoms led to tiny parts in big movies and then bigger parts in smaller movies.”

JP Manoux rests in one of the Adirondak chairs at the Anacapa Scholars cabin. Photo Credit Lexie Kirkwood '14
JP Manoux rests in one of the Adirondak chairs at the Anacapa Scholars cabin. Photo Credit Lexie Kirkwood ’14

His first real jobs acting were in commercials for Fruit of the Loom and then he picked up a job with Disney Channel.

After getting his start, Mr. Manoux continued acting and eventually directing in Los Angeles until he later became a permanent resident of Toronto, Canada, where he worked on the show Spun Out. He is currently waiting for the show to air, and in the mean time has decided to escape the Northern weather for a taste of Ojai’s sunshine.

Mr. Manoux will be directing the winter musical, Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, as well as teaching drama classes and working with the soccer teams.

Mr. Cal Jensen CdeP 2006, Thacher’s new technical director, enjoys having Mr. Manoux on campus.

“In the brief time that I have known him, he seems like a cool guy, and an excellent choice to direct the winter musical. It’s a cool experience for him to come back and direct as well as have the students have an interaction with someone who understands their experience on the Thacher stage.”

The haze of summer has passed, the newest snow has fallen on the mountains, and a new year is in full swing.

And with a new year, inevitably, comes new rules. Or at least, an attempt to enforce rules that have previously been allowed to slide. This year though, the enforcement of the “classrooms should be used for academic purposes only” rule has produced a shockingly negative reaction from the student body. The administration has decided to officially declare classrooms to be off-limits and most students are not happy with this change.

Raul Soto demonstrates appropriate (left) and inappropriate (right) classroom use. The enforcement of the not-new policy has drawn the ire of many students. Photo Credit Colly Smith '16
Raul Soto demonstrates appropriate (left) and inappropriate (right) classroom use. The enforcement of the not-new policy has drawn the ire of many students. Photo Credit Colly Smith ’16

Sabina McMahon, Dean of Students, talks about why the school decided to enforce these rules more strictly this year.

“We’ve always been very clear about our policies around intimate spaces.  We talk every year about appropriate spaces and we’re asking students to use [classrooms] for [academic] purposes.”

Last year, students engaged in a school-wide survey that was also given to the parents. Both parents and students expressed concern regarding intimate sexual activity.

Michael Mulligan, the current headmaster at the Thacher School, also connects the stronger enforcement to the survey. “The research revealed most of it,” he says. “It’s all about a balance of freedom and responsibility.”

The student body, however, believes otherwise.

According to a recent survey by the editorial staff, 56.58% of 151 students responding believe that banning classrooms is unnecessary. 60% of students felt that simply banning classrooms doesn’t address the issue at hand. Around 30% of students were unclear as to what issue the administration was trying to fix or felt that the necessity of the enforcement of these rules were dependent on the situation.

One of the main issues that students bring up is the question of “Where do we go now?”

McMahon tried to answer this question: “That’s often the question: where are we supposed to go? It’s not the school’s responsibility to provide a space for intimate behavior. Thacher is like a home. At home, parents don’t provide a space for intimate behavior.”

This sentiment is echoed by Mulligan as well. “It’s a legitimate but not appropriate concern to have private space with your significant other,” Mulligan says. “It is the responsibility of the school to offer a safe and appropriate setting.”

Students believe that the deeming of classrooms to be off-limits will soon raise problems.

“The changes make sense regarding the intimate behavior happening within classrooms,” Ben Yih ‘15 states. “But the problem with this is that it just causes kids to ‘explore,’ which in many ways could cause more issues. This exploration just causes kids to go into more places they shouldn’t, i.e. beyond Perimeter Road.”

When asked about concerns of students wandering further, Mulligan smiled, “You didn’t come to Thacher to break rules. It’s all about exercising restraint.”

Another important question to ask, exactly what is the administration trying to fix or prevent?

“The goal of the school,” remarks McMahon, “is to have good and open conversations. The most important thing is that the school is very invested in the fact that this campus should be a very comfortable place for people.”

This comfort also has to extend to the faculty as well, who have raised some concerns over the use of their classrooms at night. “[The faculty] would like to be able to access classrooms at any time,” McMahon notes. “They’ve been supportive, mostly because we’ve been very transparent. And this transparency feels good to people.”

In regard to the negative student reaction received from the the student body, McMahon says this. “It’s typical to have discussion and questions and concerns when you’re trying to shift the focus or culture of a school. You can have a private conversation with the doors closed…and the lights on!”

“I think that like anything, there will be some people who agree with and some people won’t agree with them. It’ll always be the case. We’ll continue to have good discussions. We all live here together and if we’re not talking about this thing, it’ll create tension. I understand students not saying ‘This is the best thing that’s ever happened,’ but I also know students who feel better and more comfortable on campus now,” remarks McMahon.

It doesn’t look like this rule is going away anytime soon. Whether or not this will diminish the amount of intimate activity that happens around campus…well that’s a question that’s still up for grabs. But for now, don’t expect to be returning to the classrooms at night.