Around the Big Ten

Around the Big Ten

News from the home cities and states of the Big Ten universities:

MINNESOTA: Theater troupe breaks down perceptions of disabilities

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — An orange-haired woman wearing a laurel wreath and a Grecian tunic sits on a man's knee at center stage, pretending to be his ventriloquist's dummy as he performs a song. With perfect timing and expressions, she mimes to his words, flinging her arms and legs.

As the play unfolds, the woman's Down syndrome seems to melt away at Interact Theater, a troupe that for 18 years has sprinkled its casts with nonprofessional actors who may be blind, have a traumatic brain injury or use a wheelchair. The Minneapolis group aims to break down audience perceptions of people with disabilities.

"That's a big part of the vision," said Interact founder and artistic director Jeanne Calvit. "It's not disability theater per se. It's theater that includes actors with and without disabilities."

Interact's current production, "Madame Majesta's Miracle Medicine Show," tells the backstage stories of the performers, freaks and snake-oil salesmen of an Old West traveling tent show. About two-thirds of the cast have some disability.

Lhea Jaeger, 27, of Andover, Minn., another Interact cast member with Down syndrome, plays a medicine maker and acts as a shill in "Madame Majesta." Her six years on stage with the troupe have been "a dream come true," she said.

"I feel like a star, I guess," Jaeger said.

"Madame Majesta" aims for humor in some scenes, with one featuring a man named Blubber Boy squaring off against his rotund Spanish rival in a gut-slapping competition. Both actors have Down syndrome. Calvit says it's a way for actors with disabilities to show off their comedic chops — not to humiliate them.

"We wouldn't have put them in theater if they didn't have an awareness of what they are doing," Calvit said.

After graduating from the International Theatre School Jacques Lecoq in Paris, Calvit landed 30 years ago in northern Minnesota, where she helped a camp for the disabled put on a show. She went on to found Interact in 1992 and later expanded it to also show visual artwork by artists with disabilities.

The Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts has a staff of 26. Its shows are written by the cast and developed through improvisation. The company has produced more than two dozen original plays and does two shows a year.

Dozens of theater companies use disabled actors, including troupes in Cincinnati, Washington and New York. But there still are too few roles for them, said Ike Schambelan, founder and artistic director of New York's off-Broadway Theater Breaking Through Barriers.

Casting directors are "perfectly willing to put an able-bodied person in a disabled role when I cannot believe they could not find a person for the role who uses a wheelchair," he said.

Interact's creative partners have included Kevin Kling, a Minnesota storyteller, playwright and public radio essayist who overcame his own disability to establish a successful career. Kling was born with a shortened left arm due to a genetic disorder, then survived a 2001 motorcycle crash that paralyzed his right arm.

"This looks like America," Kling said of Interact.

In this photo taken on May 19, 2010 in Minneapolis, Damon Hollingsworth, center in sweater, and other actors rehearse for "Madame Majesta's Miracle Medicine Show". The Minneapolis group, Interact Theater aims to break down audience perceptions of people with disabilities. The production tells the backstage stories of the performers, freaks and snake-oil salesmen of an Old West traveling tent show. About two-thirds of the cast have some disability. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

In this photo taken on May 19, 2010 in Minneapolis, Jeanne Calvit, right, founder and artistic director of Interact Theater, rehearses with Aimee Bryant for "Madame Majesta's Miracle Medicine Show". The Minneapolis group, Interact Theater aims to break down audience perceptions of people with disabilities. The production tells the backstage stories of the performers, freaks and snake-oil salesmen of an Old West traveling tent show. About two-thirds of the cast have some disability. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

INDIANA: Kayakers rescued from White River

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Divers have rescued a man and woman who were stranded on the White Rover in Monroe County for nearly three hours after their kayak overturned and they couldn't make it to shore.

Chief Deputy Mike Pershing of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office says 23-year-old Zachary Robinson and 19-year-old Alicia Casquet sat on tree branches and held limbs to stay afloat after the vessel struck a log Saturday on the river in the northwestern corner of the county.

Pershing says high water from heavy rains Friday likely made the current tougher for the pair.

No one was injured.

MINNESOTAOrchards sue over SweeTango apple deal

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — More than a dozen apple growers are suing the University of Minnesota over its exclusive licensing agreement with the Pepin Heights Orchard for the new SweeTango apple.

The growers complain they've been cut out of a sweet deal for rights to a variety that could take a big bite out of the apple market. They're allowed to grow the apples, but can sell them only at their orchards and farmers markets or directly to stores, not to wholesalers.

University officials say they're reviewing the lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday notes that university funds were used to help develop the SweeTango, which sold out quickly in its first public release last year.

The university says the licensing deal is meant to maintain quality standards and generate a stream of revenue to support further horticultural research.

IOWAPolice say woman stabs man in leg during argument

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A 21-year-old Iowa City woman faces charges for allegedly stabbing her boyfriend in the leg during an argument.

Nina S. Munson was charged with domestic abuse after she allegedly stabbed a man during an argument on Thursday.

Police allege Munson took a kitchen knife and stabbed him twice in the leg and once in the hand.

Authorities say Munson and man had been in a relationship for five years.

Munson was in custody at Johnson County Jail on Friday awaiting a hearing.

She could face up to two years in prison.

NEBRASKAState's unemployment rate improves to 4.9 percent

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska's unemployment rate improved to 4.9 percent in May even though more people are looking for jobs now than there were a year ago, according to estimates released Friday.

The state unemployment rate was 5 percent in March and April.

The rate is two-tenths of a percentage point higher than in May 2009.

Nebraska continues to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, well below the national rate of 9.7 percent in May. The national rate is down slightly from April's 9.9 percent.

At 4.9 percent, Nebraska again had the third-lowest rate in the nation, trailing North Dakota's 3.6 percent and South Dakota's 4.6 percent.

Nebraska's seasonally adjusted labor force included 988,839 people in May. The total labor force is 4,816 bigger than in May 2009 but 1,650 smaller than in April 2010.

The total number of people employed in the state hit 940,142 in May. That's 2,702 higher than in May 2009 but 580 smaller than in April 2010.

Labor Commissioner Catherine Lang said job growth was reported throughout the state in both metropolitan and rural areas in May.

The Nebraska report said three sectors of the Nebraska economy again added jobs last month. Trade, transportation and utilities was up 2,438 jobs; mining, logging and construction was up 1,540 jobs; and professional and business services utilities was up 1,235 jobs.

The unemployment rate for the state's largest city, Omaha, improved to 5.1, from April's 5.5 percent. The rate was 4.9 percent last May.

The estimated unemployment rate in the capital city of Lincoln also dropped, to 4.2 percent from April's 4.5 percent. In May 2009, the Lincoln rate was 4.4 percent.

Unemployment rates for Omaha and Lincoln are not seasonally adjusted and cannot be compared with the state unemployment rate.

WISCONSINReport says college enrollment shows slow growth

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A new report says enrollment in Wisconsin colleges isn't growing as fast as it is in other states.

The Pew Research Center says Wisconsin colleges and universities had 50,000 first-time, full-time freshman in 2008. That was about a 1 percent increase over the previous year.

Wisconsin Public Radio says the entire nation had a 6 percent increase over the same period.

Pew researcher Richard Fry says the national spike was driven by high enrollment of minorities, especially Hispanics. He says Wisconsin's growth was probably low because it's not as diverse as some other states.

For example, California saw an increase of 20 percent in its freshman class from 2007 to 2008. California has growing number of Latinos and Asian Americans.

MICHIGAN: University approves 1.5 percent tuition increase

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The University of Michigan plans to raise its undergraduate tuition by 1.5 percent at its Ann Arbor campus next fall, its smallest increase in 26 years.

University regents approved the 2010-11 budget Thursday afternoon. Annual tuition for a full-time, instate freshman at the university's main campus will be $11,837 next academic year, up $178.

University officials say cost-cutting helped limit the increase with no large-scale layoffs. They say donations also have increased for financial aid and scholarships.

The Ann Arbor campus raised tuition 5.6 percent last year.

"We achieved cost savings faster than we anticipated we would be able to," Provost Teresa Sullivan said in a conference call with reporters before the board meeting.

The school also announced $126 million in financial aid — the most ever — and a $500 economic hardship grant for instate students who qualify to reduce the financial strain of student loans.

The university said the budget is based on the $315.1 million state appropriation recommended by the state Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. University President Mary Sue Coleman said in a statement the budget depends on that commitment and it might be necessary to recommend a tuition increase in the event of a midyear cut.

The school also set a 3 percent increase for out-of-state undergraduate students and 2.8 percent for most graduate programs.

Tuition will rise 3.9 percent for undergraduates at University of Michigan-Dearborn and University of Michigan-Flint.

Michigan Technological University and Saginaw Valley State University both increased tuition for the upcoming year by 5.9 percent for instate undergraduates.

Eastern Michigan was the state's first public university to set its rates for next school year, freezing them at this year's level. 

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