Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Tuesday, May 21, 2024 — Houston, TX

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All the world's a stage

(09/14/12 12:00am)

Department meetings are usually the same. They lure prospective students into the get-together with the promise of free food, but "free" food at Rice always comes with strings attached. In the case of these departmental welcome-back meetings, the price of admission is standing around awkwardly and trying to remember what class you took with which person. Sometimes, however, these strings can pay off. Jordan Jaffe (Baker '12) was at the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts' welcome back meeting in the fall of 2010 when one of his professors gave him the idea that would become his life's focus. "Offhandedly, one of my VADA professors says, 'There is this basement out in Hammond Hall. Why doesn't someone do a show there?'" Jaffe said. "I thought about it that night and came to Christina [Keefe] in the morning with a script I liked, and asked her to [perform] it in the basement." In short, that script became Jaffe's first production, and it laid the foundation for his company Black Lab Theatre. "From putting that one show together, I realized how much I liked it," Jaffe said. "I liked being able to pick projects as both an actor and a producer." Last year, as Jaffe entered his senior year at Rice, he formalized this fledgling theater company with the ambitious mission of "producing regional, local and world premieres that embody the values of theatrical ingenuity, integrity and sincerity." With the conviction that Jaffe talks about his project, it is easy to believe that theater has been his life's passion, but this enthusiasm actually developed during his freshman year at Rice. "What's great about coming to a school like Rice is that I had never done theater before, and I was able to walk down to the theater department and gain experience," Jaffe said. Still, his trajectory through Rice has been atypical to say the least. After his sophomore year, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting full-time. Aside from a brief cameo appearance in The CW's "Gossip Girl," it soon became obvious to Jaffe that his true passion was with theater. So, his journey continued as he moved from Los Angeles to New York City in order to train at the Atlantic Acting School. All the while he had a sense of lingering regret that he never quite finished his degree at Rice. So, after two years away from Houston, he returned to Rice to complete his degree and graduate. After all of his travels, he realized that what he really wanted was to develop the somewhat stagnant theater scene of Houston. "What I saw when I first came back [to Houston] from New York was a lot of revivals, and a lot of musicals," Jaffe said. "We are a city of millions, and there is no reason why a play that opens in New York or Chicago shouldn't open here as well." Jaffe saw a new market in Houston for cutting-edge drama that avoided the ostentation of outright experimental theater. Black Lab is his outlet for contemporary theater that other Houston institutions might have skipped over in lieu of larger-scale productions.After its opening season last year boasted the contemporary dramas "Farragut North" and "Dying City," Black Lab returns for its second theatrical season this Friday with the regional premiere of the dark comedy "Boom." The story surrounds two graduate students and their discovery of an inherent apocalypse through the classifieds website Craigslist. As a trained actor and a maturing director, Jaffe has learned what exactly he needs to put on a successful dramatic production. Running a business, on the other hand, was an entirely new challenge for Jaffe. "[Last season] I learned that while I had all this experience as an actor, I still needed to learn how to run a nonprofit business," Jaffe said. While the learning curve was steep, he is excited about fundraising and growing Black Lab Theatre as the center of a larger, Houstonbased movement. As such, Jaffe is always looking for excited volunteers to join the Black Lab team. "I'm always looking for people to help behind the scenes," Jaffe said. "Whether that is 'run-crew' or volunteering to work the box office one thing that I want to emphasize is that you are working directly with me. At [the larger Houston theaters] you might never meet the artistic directors. Here at Black Lab I work with everyone individually."Long term, Jaffe hopes to work on creating a longer-term and full-equity business model for Black Lab, and eventually he hopes to own a physical space in Houston. As for the near future, he is excited for "Boom" and starting off his second season with a successful opener. Black Lab Theatre developed from a very unlikely situation. Nonetheless, Jaffe embraced it and realized that it was his passion. Black Lab Theatre proves that life after Rice is not dependent upon handshakes and resumes on the floor of Tudor Fieldhouse.


Campus bike shop business growing

(09/07/12 12:00am)

When campus files into Sid Richardson College this Saturday for its annual '80s Party, students will wait impatiently for their escort along the xylem and phloem that is Sid's elevator. On this night, few students will venture down to roots below ground where one of Rice's lesser-known student businesses resides. This "underground" student business is Rice's only on-campus bicycle repair shop. Very recently founded, the shop first became operational in the spring of 2011. "Back when I was a freshman, there was a program called 'The Color Cycle,' where they took the old, abandoned bikes from RUPD and spray-painted them and put them around campus in a rainbow array," Sid Rich senior Michael Fuad said. "A few of us ended up taking a few of those bikes and repaired them and starting using them. That's where the idea [for the shop] started." Since that time in early 2009, the idea of opening a fully functional bicycle service and repair shop slowly became a reality for Fuad. "We began applying for grants my sophomore year, and through Envision and Wiess' Bill Wilson, we were able to officially open for Beer Bike in 2011," Fuad said. Last year marked the shop's first complete year as a business, but it has already become financially self-sustaining. At first, Fuad and fellow Sid Rich senior Ben Stark-Sachs donated their labor to get the business started, but they have since developed a business model that both pays the employees and keeps their small shop impressively stocked with parts and repair tools. With the help of Hanszen College junior Shepherd "Shep" Patterson and Duncan College sophomore Fernando Ramirez, the shop has been working to standardize hours of operation for the semester. While the shop is open every weekend afternoon from 12-5 p.m., during all other times of the week, the employees recommend making an appointment by emailing ricebikeshop@gmail.com. Even though the hours appear limited, the shop is usually very accommodating in scheduling appointments during the week. In addition to standard servicing and repairs, the shop also sells bike locks, helmets, lights, tubes and saddles at some of the most affordable prices in Houston. "We are set up with a bike supplier, like any shop would use, and we order all of our parts through them," Patterson said. "We pay wholesale prices and have an incredibly small markup." With little overhead, the Rice Bike Shop is able to pass on their wholesale savings to Rice students. For this exact reason, it also does not currently have plans to move out of its location in Sid's basement, a space that became available when Sid Rich permanently moved its weight room after the Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center remodel."It's adequate," Fuad said. "It helps keep our prices low and keeps our stuff secure." Even in this small space, the Rice Bike Shop community is excited for its second full year in business and has some big ideas for the coming years. It plans to accept credit cards soon, and eventually, it wants to offer mobile tire fixes and various repair workshops inside the shop. "Ben [Stark-Sachs] and I have even been talking about creating a college course," Patterson said. "The 'final' would be a complete bicycle reassembly." So far, this semester has been the shop's busiest yet. The staff has been working repairs almost continuously since school began three weeks ago and is just now starting to settle back down into a more normal routine. This routine includes taking unclaimed and abandoned bicycles that RUPD collects around campus and returning them to proper working order. These restored bicycles are then sold back to community. Right now, demand for these refurbished bicycles is extremely high, and the shop has been forced implement a waitlist. These bicycles typically cost around $60. Fall semester at the shop sees mostly back- to-school repairs and basic maintenance on standard bikes, but during the spring, the shop takes a decisive turn toward performance. "We work on Beer Bike bicycles," Fuad said. "Those are obviously really high-quality, top-of-the-line bikes." While the shop mostly caters to the undergraduate population at Rice, it still offers its services to graduate students, faculty members, and Housing and Dining staff. "We even had a student from the University of Houston who was taking a class here bring his bike by the shop," Patterson said. Even though the Rice Bike Shop has not yet achieved the status of other student businesses, it plans to continue along its current path of slow and steady growth. It simply refuses to sacrifice on affordability and quality for the sake of expansion, and the management is comfortable with the shop's current steady revenue streams for the foreseeable future. The Rice Bike Shop is an excellent example of how entrepreneurial motivation can turn a good idea into an actuality.



Gym Rats: The Recreation Center's Most Frequent Visitors

(04/13/12 12:00am)

While almost everyone has been to Rice's Recreation and Wellness Center, few of us call it home. Unnoticed by most, a small group of dedicated Rice students commit to a highly rigorous training and physical fitness schedule without the motivation of an NCAA Division I scholarship. While these "student-athletes" do not report to Tudor Fieldhouse, they return to the Rec Center almost daily with a similarly passionate dedication.



Servery Creation: Everyday Fish Tacos

(02/22/12 12:00am)

Just a few more days. In a few days, the Rice Diaspora will occur and the serveries will all close down. Students will search idly for food in far reaches of the country, and one week will remind us all of the food we left back at school. That sentiment inspires this week's servery creation. It's a cosmopolitan favorite that I fully intend to bring to the Rice palette. This multicultural import dish is the fish taco.


Auntie Chang's offers more than dumplings

(02/09/12 12:00am)

When walking into Auntie Chang's Dumpling House, we were immediately confronted with a challenging dilemma: How many orders of dumplings are we going to need? The engineer in our group, Baker College sophomore Wyatt Doop, immediately turned to his computational pad and began analyzing the situation. We settled on five orders of the pan-fried pork dumplings, which left us with around 10 each. To supplement this modest order, we asked our server for his personal preference between the sesame chicken and the sweet and sour pork. Without even a slight hesitation, he directed us to the sesame chicken. Finally, we concluded our marathon order with Auntie Chang's fried rice and the tea crispy duck.


Servery Creations: Hot and Heavy: The Panini

(01/18/12 12:00am)

The word "panini" literally means "bread roll" in Italian, but colloquially it has come to mean any sandwich that has been toasted in a weighted press. So those are our rules: We must craft a sandwich that through the process of toasting and pressing magically transforms the common cold-cut into the dense, delectable edible that we know as the panini. The most important idea to keep in mind when crafting your panini is that the sandwich section is only the beginning. The real secret is learning how to effectively use the rest of the servery to incorporate new flavors into the sandwich.


What's their Secret

(01/18/12 12:00am)

Few words instill more dread in the average Rice student than "8 a.m." It's a time slot reserved for the most popular teachers and the most popular subjects. The result: armies of sullen students that perform a near-lifeless trudge to the servery every morning looking for something that will get them through the next 50 minutes.



College caregiver coordinators reflect on the success of programs as alcohol probation ends change w

(12/01/11 12:00am)

Very few events draw large groups of Rice students together. In fact, such a feat is nearly impossible without the promise of a free T-shirt or free food of some sort. However, the creation of college caregiver programs around campus is defiantly moving against that trend.



Reed's Gourmet Servery Recipes

(11/10/11 12:00am)

"Hunger is good discipline and you learn from it." So ponders a young Ernest Hemingway in his lesser read, yet still fascinating novel A Moveable Feast. When I read that line back in high school I appreciated the profoundness in which it was written, but only when I matriculated at Rice University some months ago did I really begin to feel its truth. In fact, if that line was translated into Latin, I'm fairly certain that Rice would have a new unofficial motto.