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The University of Montana

UMT/UMontana Campus News

Retiring biology professor was tough but interactive
by Montana Kaimin News
Jan 01, 2010
“The black tape will come down this May, when the professor of what some call “the most challenging course a UM undergraduate can take” retires to spend more time with her family.
“It was a decision that took a lot of time, and I need a schedule with more latitude and flexibility,” she said. 
Westphal’s presence will be sorely missed, said the associate dean of the division of biological sciences, Charlie Janson.
“These are difficult shoes to fill,” he said. “Every student who commits themselves to the course looks back on it as one of the defining courses of their career at UM.”
Janson said he is actively engaged in a search for Westphal’s replacement. A temporary instructor will teach the course in the fall, during which the division can conduct a national search for a permanent hire.
The anatomy and physiology course, BIOL 313, is an in-depth study of bodily systems, including skeletal, muscular and skin systems. The course is intended to prepare students for a career in the health care professions.
The class is widely referred to as one of the most intense and challenging courses at UM.
“You have to be able to think on your feet. Not all answers come from a page of a textbook.” Westphal said. “Learning is not just about memorization and your grade. You really have to start learning at a higher level. And with that, we become uncomfortable, and this is when you really start learning.”
This idea rang clear and true for former student Jeremy Dunphy, who now works as Westphal’s teaching assistant and lab instructor.
“I wanted to cry a couple times in the middle of exams because I felt like I was seeing stuff I had never come across before,” Dunphy said.
Several students drop out of the two-semester lab and lecture course, Dunphy said, adding that during the second semester, he felt like the class shrank by almost half.
Dunphy said he appreciated Westphal’s teaching style – it forced him to understand all the material presented because she never went over what may or may not be on tests.
“Her teaching style is so interactive, animated and full of analogies,” Dunphy said.
Westphal said it’s hard for her to sign student drop slips when she knows that, for some, the class caused a large amount of stress and discomfort.
“Who likes to cause that?” Westphal said. “But that’s really part of the learning experience.”
Westphal said she doesn’t see her departure from UM as a retirement because she still plans to work in some way in the future.
Originally from Bozeman, with a bachelor’s degree from Montana State University and a doctorate degree from the University of Kentucky, she previously worked worldwide for the U.S. Army as a physical therapist. Her work experience led her to military hospitals in Denver, Colo.; Tacoma, Wash.; San Antonio, Texas; Massachusetts and Germany. 
Westphal said she always planned to come back to Montana and eventually retire. 
“I think a lot of people from Montana have that dream,” Westphal said. “I don’t know exactly what will come next for me workwise. For now, I’m going to be able to see more of my family.””

Opinion: March Madness can’t hold a candle to 40 Games in 40 Nights
by Montana Kaimin News
Jan 01, 2010
“Some will argue propensity for upsets is the main allure of the NCAA games. But upsets go by the wayside after the first or second round. Since 2001, only two teams (No. 5 Michigan State in 2005 and No. 11 George Mason in 2006) have made it to the Final Four without being a top-three seed.
When all is said and done, sports fans like to have a hard copy bracket they can wave in their fellow sports fans’ faces, proving that they “know” more about college basketball.
And the chance to take your friends’ and co-workers’ money is all gravy.
Sure, every year, a Cleveland State beats a Wake Forest. But is that the result of a well-executed game plan or simply luck? March Madness lovers may argue that upsets simply don’t happen in the NBA playoffs due to the seven-game series format.
But, if an underdog beats a top seed in the NBA playoffs in a best-of-seven, isn’t that truly an upset? Luck and cold shooting are diminished, if not eliminated, during a seven-game series, whereas upsets are not.
A 16-team playoff with four rounds means the eventual NBA champion can potentially play in 28 games, the equivalent of more than a quarter of an NBA regular season. This may seem to make the regular season irrelevant. But this format has many benefits.
First, a seven-game series makes for good drama. Storylines between teams build, intensity builds, game planning evolves and individual battles become highly competitive.
Before this year’s playoffs began, no one was looking to the first-round matchup between the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics as the first matchup to watch. But Tuesday night, the Celtics survived the third overtime game of the series to go up 3-2 as the series headed back to Chicago.
No one expected overtime drama. No one expected such a heated battle. No one expected the birth of a rivalry that fans could love for years to come, as both the Bulls’ Derrick Rose and the Celtics’ Rajon Rondo have had coming-out parties.
Aside from building suspense and individual battles within the war, how can anyone complain about more basketball? The NBA markets the playoffs as “40 games in 40 nights.”
Anyone who considers themselves a true basketball fan cannot find anything wrong with watching the greatest athletes in the world compete at the highest level of competition for six straight weeks.
Even if the NBA Finals almost never feature surprise teams, they almost never disappoint. Only twice in the past decade and only seven times in the 63-year history of the Finals has there been a sweep.
On the contrary, seven of the last 10 NCAA Finals have been affairs decided by double digits. North Carolina defeated Michigan State 89-72 earlier this month in the most anticlimactic championship ever played, regardless of sport.
Not only does drama within a series exist, drama surrounding potential matchups builds as well. NBA fans from coast to coast hoped for a Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers final in 2008. When the two storied franchises squared off, it was the official rejuvenation of the NBA, a league that has been searching for a solid identity since the retirement of Michael Jordan.
With a young, hungry, LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers team waiting to overthrow the defending champion Celtics in the East, the league is again relevant in the conversation of the dominant sport in the U.S., alongside the NFL.
When it comes down to it –gambling, brackets and upsets aside – only one question needs to be considered when determining the greater of the two men’s basketball tournaments.
Which would you rather watch? The ineloquence of Tyler Hansbrough leading the preseason favorite to an excruciatingly boring victory over a no-name Spartans squad?
Or Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers trying to cement the Black Mamba’s place in history against a man who may just be the heir apparent to his Airness in King James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a seven-game series?
Two words. Kobe-LeBron.”

Fennell and May day: Pair wins ASUM top spots
by Montana Kaimin News
Jan 01, 2010
“The soft-spoken future vice president left the loud celebration to Fennell who let out a yelp and pumped his fist in a fashion that was appropriate for his punk-rock drummer persona.
The pair pulled 985 votes, the largest number of votes by an ASUM executive team in at least two years, Fennell said. Their opponents Daniel Zolnikov and Tara Haupt received 859 votes.
“We stirred some shit up,” Fennell said, smiling confidently. “We’re going to bring the noise.”
May agreed, saying she was proud of the popularity of the campaign.
“People really wanted us to win real bad,” she said.
Fennell is a senior majoring in art and social work. May is a sophomore majoring in political science and environmental studies.
“I think our greatest success was telling students what ASUM already offered them and then building upon that,” Fennell said.
Zolnikov and Haupt received the news among friends at The Depot at 9:45 p.m. after an hour of monitoring their phones. The call eventually came to Zolnikov and the table grew quiet as he politely took the news, then stepped outside the restaurant for a moment, followed by Haupt.
ASUM senate candidates Marissa Brewer and Andrew Dusek, who were sitting with Zolnikov and Haupt, had already received calls telling them they’d won enough votes when they learned that Fennell and May had been elected.
“It’s kind of like a bittersweet feeling,” Brewer said.
Dusek, a senator this year, agreed.
“It’s always hard when a friend gets bad news, but it’s also great to be going back,” he said.
When Haupt came back into the restaurant, she was greeted by sympathetic looks from her friends.
“No one died, you guys,” she said.
She called Fennell to congratulate him for winning the election.
“I think Matt and Emily can do great things in office, and I wish them luck,” she said.
Zolnikov said this was the first election he’s lost, but managed to find a way to put a positive spin on the situation.
“I’m kind of excited to be able to join the fencing club,” he said.
Jake Armstrong received the news that he’d been elected ASUM business manager while at his job at the Holiday Inn.
“I just let out such a whoop that I had to step outside,” he said.
Armstrong won with 922 votes. His opponent Mike Campbell received 619. Armstrong said he will work closely with student groups and try to be open and accessible, using channels of communication such as Twitter. He promised that he won’t let down those who voted for him.
“I am beyond stoked,” he said.
Fennell described the feeling of winning as a mix between excitement and pure calm.
“It’s like me watching my dog chase a squirrel,” he said. “It’s just Zen is what it is.”
Fennell looks like he could certainly hold his own in a mosh-pit or bang the drums to oblivion, but Thursday night was about celebrating his sense of relief with a bottle of wine to share among friends, with just one shot of Maker’s Mark for the winning team.
May admitted that they were willing to celebrate Thursday night before the work starts next year.
“I think any administration is going to hit roadblocks and have to go in prepared for them,” May said. “I think we’ve been realistic. It’s going to be a long haul, but we’re ready.”
Fennell said he agreed because the two prepared during the campaign to make sure their year goes as smoothly as possible.
“I’ve seen two administrations go through hard times, and they have done an amazing job,” Fennell said. “I think me and Emily have strength and ingenuity to push ASUM to new heights.”
Dusek, who received the most votes for ASUM senator with 667, said it’s hard to predict the issues that will face the senate next year, but that Fennell and May will probably take more of an “activist stance” and introduce some progressive issues.
“It’s always really dictated by the executives,” he said.
The major challenge Fennell said he and May have been preparing for is the constant demand for them to do the best job possible and to deal with pressure from students.
“The idea of student outreach, the principles we chose to act upon, are going to be ongoing,” Fennell said, but added after a shot of Maker’s Mark that, “we’re fearless.””

MontPIRG and Kaimin fees shot down; RELF passes
by Montana Kaimin News
Jan 01, 2010
““We were surprised. We did not see any vocal opposition,” Giem said. “Yet, it was a close race.”
And Giem said the result shows the group has a chance in the future. Overall it was a good night, he said.
The optional $4 fee the Revolving Energy Loan Fund passed 1,574–493
UM Climate Action Now member Sonny Kless said the fund wouldn’t have passed without support from ASUM.
“This was the result of a lot of people,” Kless said. “When students are presented an opportunity that makes sense to them, I think they are going to make the right choice.”
Trevor Hunter, outgoing ASUM president, said the RELF referendum was a great victory for students.
“It’s a wonderful fee and a wonderful program,” Hunter said. “It gives students a chance to have a hands-on experience with these types of projects.”
The ASUM Transportation fee increase of $3.50 to the current $23.50 passed 1,330–726.
Hunter said the fee will double bus service on the College of Technology route and eventually it will lead to the purchase of a new bus.
Hunter said he was not surprised that the MontPIRG fee didn’t pass since it didn’t pass in the senate, either.
“The students on this campus had similar concerns,” he said.
Giem said MontPIRG will push forward with the fee.
“We will continue to fight the good fight,” he said. “This is a small road bump. The movement will not die.”
The proposed increased Kaimin fee from $4 to $6 was voted down 1,083–975.
The ASUM Constitutional referenda passed 1,397–360.
Hunter said the referenda would clarify wording within the constitution.
Since the students approved the fees, they will go on to the Board of Regents for certification of approval.”

Shrine shenanigans, shocked schmuck, slashing shot
by Montana Kaimin News
Jan 01, 2010
“April 24, 5:41 p.m.
A woman called about a slashed tire that she had gotten in the parking lot near Jesse Hall two weeks ago.  It had seemed like a normal act of vandalism, but when she took it to the tire shop they found a .22 caliber bullet inside.
April 24, 9:45 p.m.
A spat between a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl ended in assault charges being filed after the older girl allegedly
repeatedly punched the younger one at the Shrine Circus.  The two girls apparently had a history of problems.
April 25, 10:34 a.m.
A female transient who has been around campus all winter long was found sleeping in the basement of the Gallagher Business Building.  Though it is a public building, the transient was asked to leave, which she did.
April 26, 4:30 p.m.
A report came in of a female “talking to a water bottle and jumping in front of traffic.” The woman had approached the caller and said “that their baby was missing its face.” This woman matched the description of the transient who had been sleeping in the Gallagher Business Building the day before.  “This woman has some issues she needs help with,” Lemcke said. “But so far (she) is not a danger.”
April 26, 10:03 p.m.
When four males exited a brand-new Acura GL and headed to the bike racks, picking up a bike, a passerby thought it suspicious enough to report to Public Safety.  Lemcke said it is good that people are now reporting this sort of thing because officers were able to identify the four, and the caller may have prevented a theft.
April 27, 8:34 p.m.
A male described as a transient tried to pick up somebody’s backpack and walk off with it, but gave it back when confronted and walked into the library.  The description of the man fits that of the man who was arrested hours later in the library and caused a huge stir fighting Public Safety and Missoula Police Officers.
April 28, 2:45 p.m.
A woman called to report that the previous night at her house just off campus she had been changing for bed when she heard a click that sounded like that of a camera.  She then looked out the window and saw somebody’s hands.  She ran outside and saw a dark car speed away.  Lemcke warned that if folks live on the first floor, they should make sure to close their curtains.
Citations: Drew Woolsey, 20, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, MIP”

Graduate students discuss gun control issue at panel
by Montana Kaimin News
Jan 01, 2010
“Kostelnik usually carried a gun around with him for protection, but left all three of the guns he’d brought to the shooting range that day stowed away in his vehicle in accordance with the Montana law that makes it illegal to bring a gun into a place that serves alcohol.
Kostelnik said most of the time the mere presence of a gun would be enough to prevent a crime like this.
“And if that didn’t stop him, I could’ve shot him,” Kostelnik said, “and left with a black eye, instead of being disabled and missing work for the next four months.”
That experience strengthened Kostelnik’s stance against gun control laws. He bought two more handguns and took the concealed-carry course.
“I realized that I must be ready at any time,” he said.
Kostelnik teamed up with Mike McVicker, a graduate student in Intercultural Youth and Family Development, to defend their Second Amendment right to bear arms in the debate, sponsored by the Multicultural Alliance. About 20 people showed up to watch the four panelists debate.
Mitch Guerette and Aram Rosenberg volunteered to argue in favor of increasing gun control measures.
Guerette and Rosenberg argued that the right to bear arms wasn’t the civil liberty they should be concerned with.
“What about the civil liberty to be able to walk into a mall or a school without having to worry about being gunned down?” Guerette pointed out.
Guerette said measures need to be taken to prevent mass shooting incidents of gun violence in America.
“The United States is the most violent high-income industrialized nation in the world,” Guerette said.
Kaimin editor Bill Oram, who moderated the forum, said two panelists joined the discussion on short notice and offered valuable insights.
“Just because some of our panelists were last-minute doesn’t mean their opinions are any less valid,” Oram said.
Oram called the forum an “outstanding expression of the main themes on both sides of the issue…Hopefully it gave those in attendance some things to think about.””

Going after the white picket fence
by Montana Kaimin News
Apr 30, 2009
“Mick Murray pulls the car into the Missoula County Detention Center parking lot. He pushes the golf ball-sized shifting knob into park and walks to the back of the car. While Murray pulls a stroller from the Prius’s rear hatch, the woman takes her girls out of the car and unbuckles the car seats she brought with her. She places her youngest girl in the stroller on the sidewalk. The older girl then walks to her mother’s side on the sun-bleached concrete, and both face the building. As Murray drives off, the mother grabs a car seat in one hand and the stroller’s handle in the other. The other empty car seat sits on the pavement, waiting for the third hand that she doesn’t have.
“If people are calling a cab, things aren’t going well for them,” said Murray, cab driver and owner of Green Taxi, a Missoula County taxi service that uses hybrid cars. “You see people at their weakest and their worst. Not just intoxicated, but in some sort of crisis. Last year, I took a woman to the hospital who thought she was having a heart attack. It was super scary.”
Taxis are an expensive way to get around town. Riders shell out $5 just to get in the Green Taxi and $2.50 per mile after that. After 25 miles, it drops to $1.50 per mile. It’s a luxury, admits Murray, but he’s learned that most riders simply have no other options. And it’s true now more than ever. People have been watching their wallets very closely these last eight months.
“People aren’t going to dinner, having a few bottles of wine and calling me,” Murray said. “The type of use has changed. People call only when absolutely necessary, whether they’re drunk or stranded.”
Economic conditions have made it hard for Murray and his wife to build a business based on their dream for a hybrid-vehicle taxi service. But the hurting economy is only the latest roadblock for this year-old company that spent the previous two and a half years and thousands of dollars convincing the state it deserved a license. The Murrays had to persuade the Montana Public Service Commission that a new taxi company wouldn’t hurt the existing one, Yellow Cab. The hurdle was created to ensure that a town has a healthy public transportation system and not two struggling cab companies. Robert Gray, Yellow Cab’s owner at the time, thought the competition from Green Taxi would initiate his downfall and fought Green Taxi the entire way.
The chances for Green Taxi didn’t look good, but the Murrays got their license in December 2007 on the evidence that Yellow Cab’s service, according to a dozen testimonies, wasn’t meeting Missoula’s needs. The Murrays insisted that competition would give Missoula two consumer-conscientious cab companies instead of one taking its customers for granted.
Since hitting the road with one Prius in late February 2008, the Murrays had a spurt of success in May and June, but little else has given them great confidence, according to Jessica Murray, bookkeeper for the business.
“When I did the books those months and looked at what we were taking in, we were making more than ever before,” she said. “It wasn’t thousands of dollars more, but we could pay the bills.”
For extra money, Jessica also works in Missoula as an adjunct professor of social work and sociology at Walla Walla University’s branch graduate school. But she spends most of her time at home with her two children, she said.
Since August, Green Taxi’s numbers have waned due to the recession and fewer tourists. Winter was especially tough because people just stayed at home, Mick said.
He admits a ride in his cab “is by no means cheap.” To attract repeat customers, he looked into offering frequent-riders cards and senior discounts, but the Public Service Commission denied his request, saying it’s discrimination, Murray said.
As of now, Green Taxi is breaking even, but it’s a struggle.
“For a new business in a deep recession, we’re doing good,” Murray said.
The extra money the company pulled in last summer has become critical in the current slump, Jessica said.
Yellow Cab also started feeling the pinch, but not until a few weeks ago, said co-owner Victor Hill. This past year was marked with great success for the company despite the new kid in town encroaching on their territory.
A green chalkboard hanging in the office marks the “New High Day” for Yellow Cab. Scribbled on the board is “12/31/2008. 687 passengers. 442 calls. $4,298.50.” The cab company broke its high mark on six different days last year. Kristine Baker, office manager, has worked 18 years for Yellow Cab and said she’s never seen anything like it.
The record breakers were due to improvements made over the last year, Hill said. Yellow Cab spent $36,000 overhauling its eight taxis. About $10,000 more was spent to equip each taxi with a GPS unit and upgrade dispatch with a state-of-the-art computer system.
In the office, Baker stands on a raised platform behind a tall desk. Three computer screens and two keyboards cover the desktop. The right and left screens are regular size, but the middle one is a long rectangle about 3 feet high and 1 foot wide. A map of Missoula on the right screen is marked by moving dots, each one depicting the live-time position of all eight taxis.
The new system has allowed Baker to handle 30 calls at a time if needed and cut the average response time in half (from 27 minutes to 15 minutes) since it’s easy to see which cab can get to the passenger the quickest. Yellow Cab has been planning for the computer upgrade since 1998, but only recently did the price come down enough to make it affordable for the small cab company, Hill said. They’re in a similar situation with hybrid cars. Yellow Cab just has to wait for hybrid car prices to come down and the technology to improve. But they haven’t yet, he said.
The biggest change in Yellow Cab this past year has been driver courtesy, Hill said. This was an overriding issue during Green Taxi’s licensing struggle, since many customers and former drivers testified to the Commission that Yellow Cab drivers were rude, late to pickups and unreasonable. In the last year, Yellow Cab has made its drivers take sensitivity training and defensive driving courses, Hill said.
Jessica claims that Yellow Cab has stepped up its service because another player has stepped onto the stage, and it now has to compete for attention. The Murrays argued this would happen when fighting for their license two years ago, trying to prove another cab company would benefit Missoula. During the hearings, Yellow Cab took the opposite stance, saying a small town such as Missoula couldn’t feed two cab companies. Hill still takes that stance.
Missoula doesn’t have two cab companies fighting for customers, he said. Yellow Cab still controls 99 percent of Missoula’s taxi service. That’s not competition. Green Taxi runs one cab to Yellow Cab’s eight. And that will increase to 10 by next year.
“(Mick) could disappear tomorrow and no one would notice,” Hill said. “If we disappeared, he couldn’t do anything to keep up with the demand.”
And if Green Taxi was bigger, Missoula would have two dying cab companies, Hill said.
But Jessica Murray still argues that competition from Green Taxi is a benefit to Missoula and even to Yellow Cab.
“(Yellow Cab’s) quality of service has gone up because of Green Taxi,” she said. “We need to step up cab service in general. By creating competition, we’re going to do that.””

Otter Creek should not be out of mind
by Montana Kaimin News
Oct 01, 2009
“With Montana’s history of getting shafted by mining companies, state leaders should be wary of any new mining proposals, which may be why the State Land Board took no action last week on an Otter Creek coal mining proposal.
That’s a good thing. The proposed area contains petroglyphs and burial sites sacred to the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. It is environmentally fragile, making reclamation questionable. For these and other reasons, the state should reject coal mining when it meets again in November and find other ways to profit from Otter Creek.
The Otter Creek area of southeast Montana is in the Custer National Forest east of the Tongue River, which winds its way north to the Yellowstone River. It is remote and sparsely populated, which always plays to the mining interests – few are there to complain. 
Except for the inhabitants of the nearby Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.
Otto Braided Hair came all the way from Lame Deer, Mont., to help the University of Montana student group Climate Action Now! lead a UM rally protesting an Otter Creek mine on Tuesday. He desperately hoped to add more voices to the tribe’s minority. If Otter Creek were in Missoula’s Pattee Canyon, incensed locals would have filled the Oval. But Braided Hair’s pleas fell mostly on deaf ears; fewer than 30 students stopped to listen.
The Northern Cheyenne Tribe tried to make a stand in 2002 when it sued to keep the federal coal tracts from going to the state. Tribal leaders dropped the suit after reaching an agreement addressing cultural, environmental and hiring issues. But Braided Hair said the trade forced the compromise of his people’s traditional values for economic gain.
Unfortunately, the Land Board may put Montanans in a similar compromise, trading higher values for economic gain. Especially since one member, Gov. Brian Schweitzer, is a self-proclaimed coal proponent.
The Otter Creek tracts are trust land, meaning the land board decides how to get the state’s best buck for the land’s bang. But the bang shouldn’t be from mine blasting. Strip-mining Otter Creek’s coal is not the best way to generate money for several reasons.
The biggest reason is environmental. All the plants, animals and pristine places – the collateral damage of strip-mining – will be scraped aside to dig for what’s far below. It will never be the same, but the steep terrain and fragile geology has scientists questioning whether the site can even be reclaimed to a more natural state.
The area’s geology helped form springs and an extensive groundwater labyrinth not far below the forest floor. So strip mining into this area will pollute and change the flows, reducing the amount of water that people depend on all the way to the Yellowstone.
Ranchersunfortunate enough to be in the wrong place will have to sacrifice their land for the construction of an otherwise useless 130-mile railroad to haul the coal to Gillette, Wyo.
From a broader prospective, coal-burning is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases. At a time when world leaders are struggling to reduce human contributions to climate change and even China is going green, fostering new coal production makes Montanans look like selfish troglodytes.
The mining supporters’ only altruistic argument is that the money paid for trust land leases will support schools, according to the 1889 Federal Enabling Act. But state school superintendent Linda McCullough, who sits on the land board, clarified that “land trust activity doesn’t automatically mean more money for schools.” This leaves little justification for an ill-conceived mine that a former Montana Coal Council director claimed “would have already been developed if it were economical to do so.”
If that coal wasn’t there burning a hole in the state’s pocket, what else would the board do with the land? It could produce revenue in ways that are less destructive. It could be leased for cabin sites, grazing or green energy production, among other things. All these options could be pursued immediately.
The Otter Creek tracts remain undefiled after seven years, and the board has no need to open it to coal now. The state still has a budget surplus. It should err on the side of caution to uphold the Montana constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment, even for the few. Otto Braided Hair would appreciate that, as would anyone facing the threat of a strip mine in his backyard. Keep the coal in the ground. Let sleeping dinosaurs lie.”

Neil Simon play to kick off fall theater season
by Montana Kaimin News
Oct 02, 2009
“The University of Montana School of Theater and Dance starts its fall play series next week with the “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”
Opening next Tuesday, the play follows Eugene Jerome, a 14-year-old living in 1930s Brooklyn, N.Y. Eugene is living in a home crowded with his extended family and discovers his passions for writing, baseball and girls.
“It’s kind of a coming-of-age story,” director Jere Hodgin said.
Written by Neil Simon, the play is semi-biographical, Hodgin said. Simon implemented elements of his own young life into the piece, Hodgin said. Simon had primarily written purely comedic plays, but “Brighton Beach Memoirs” was his first successful combination of comedy and more serious elements.
“It’s humorous, but it’s also a Jewish family living in New York pre-war, with family in Europe,” said musical theater graduate student Alicia Bullock-Muth, who plays Eugene’s mother Kate. “So it’s also poignant.”
The two-floor stage, encompassing the entire house the family lives in, is completely visible to the audience. Beyond Eugene, the story focuses on the family dynamics, Hodgin said. Even when the actors are “off stage,” they’re still visible to the audience, creating multilayered action.
“One of the most interesting parts of the play is Eugene speaks directly to the audience,” Hodgin said. This personal interaction helps to engage the audience and the play forward, he said.
Sam Williamson, playing Eugene in the title role, is new to the stage and in his first play, Hodgin said.
“He has really strong instincts and has been really strong” in the role, Hodgin said.
The play is the first in a trilogy of similar plays starring Eugene. The Montana Repertory Theatre performed one of the plays, “Broadway Bound,” and UM Productions has done the other, “Biloxi Blues,” in the past.
“Neil Simon is a great writer and one of the most prolific writers of the American stage,” Hodgin said.
The show runs Oct. 6-10 and 13-17 at the Montana Theatre. Tickets are $18 for adults, $8 for children 12 and under, and $14 for students and seniors. They can be purchased online at or at all GrizTix locations.”

Smoke free: A look at bars after the ban
by Montana Kaimin News
Oct 02, 2009
“I could not for the life of me imagine this place smelling like a freshly wiped countertop.
Pine-Sol. Windex. The Union Hall somehow reeked of all these cleansers that are usually employed to wipe down such a joint but that I had never smelled there before. As I sat down at the bar with my good friend Will for a couple rounds of draft PBR, it seemed the cleared-out smoke revealed a terrifying elephant in the room.
“I can breathe. This is … weird,” Will noticed as he drew in his first gulp and eyed the room suspiciously. “It smells funny in here.”
This was once the place I always imagined I would have my first bar drink, which it was years ago when an older Kaiman kid snuck me in through the back door. A couple years ago, this was a dingy, toxic joint of cigarette smoke, too much whiskey and bad country dancing. A real dive.
A brown-haired woman in a black sweatshirt was already waiting on a glass of whiskey in the chair next to mine.
“I’m not a smoker, but I miss the smoke,” she said.
As I tried to block out a hopeful Queen jam playing in the background, she tried to properly characterize the place the Union Hall was yesterday. She brought up images of the old sketchy jazz halls of the twenties. A place where nobodies hid themselves in a cloud of smoke and bonded with one another in secret, confident that the rest of the perky positive nonsense outside would get choked out if it ever tried to creep in.
“Now it’s all bright and 1951 bullshit,” she said.
It was a bit brighter. So much that I could notice the row of cheery girls sitting at a long table behind us in their Griz hoodies, musing over a pitcher that looked way too full for them to be so gleeful. It was only 10:15 p.m.
“I almost, I feel so different,” Will stammered. “I just wanna leave.”
Maybe he realized, in the long pause he took afterward, that there was nowhere else to go.
“I dunno what to do.”
As I debated in my tired mind what to say next, I got glued to a commercial on the flat screen above the bar for some pleasant-sounding antidepressant. A plastic doll with a mechanical dial in its back was slouched over in a pose of an American woman’s body devoid of feeling or ambition. Then came the plug for their drug of choice as the doll perked right up and continued to march along, fueled by one of the few substances that was still considered safe. Essential. Legal.
And now that smoking has been banned in this place and any other establishment in Missoula, I feel like the only reason I picked up on this is that I was no longer focusing on that smoke balanced between my fingers and my glass.
I finished my glass quickly and stepped outside for that cig that still felt so essential. The missing compliment to my still socially accepted crutch of alcoholism. Will and I borrowed a lighter from one of the handful of stragglers outside and moved on.
As we crossed Pattee Street on the way to Higgins Avenue, I could hear a shriek of laughter from the sidewalk outside the Elks Lodge. There had to have been at least fifty people hanging in front of the door, shielded in a canopy of smoke. Another bar that had just packed up its ashtrays and left this culture of yesterday.
We make it too the Oxford and passed a mere two smokers on the way in. We sat down at the bar for the next round and took in the smell of the burger patties and cheap bread cooking in the back that had never seemed so present as it did that night.
Though this at least marked a new chapter in its 100 plus-year history as a safe haven for the great unwanted of this town, hospitality remained as the bartender kindly asked us to relocate to the back so one of the regulars could return to his seat and the pint he left behind.
Looking up from our table, I could see three crusty-looking gentleman dolling out cigarettes amongst one another from a cheap pack before they headed through the casino and out the back door.
Breaking another moment of silence, Will seemed to realize the two TVs hovering over us. The smug-toothed plastic face of Nancy Grace on one, some cooking show on another.
“Because now that I can see more than three feet in front me I know what TV channels are on and I’m pissed,” he said.
We regarded a hypothetical scenario in which it just so happened that a Montana-based ashtray company held stock on Wall Street and that CNBC was on one of those flat screens, in which case we might be able to see a red line on a chart taking a nose-dive.
“Well, it’s been a good run guys,” Will boasted as he improvised that imaginary company’s going-out-of-business party, full of good beer and Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” blaring from a stereo as eager investors waited in line to jump out the window.
As we headed out toward an unknown the night had left to give us, we stopped to borrow a match from a part-time Oxford employee hunched over on a stoop, minding a rolled cigarette in his fingers. I asked him if it seemed different now.
He just raised his shoulders in a “What do I know?” shrug.
“It’s not like we haven’t seen this coming for a while,” he said.”

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