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The Statesman

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    Alan Alda- Just Icing on the Cake

    Several weeks ago, on one rainy Friday evening, individuals seeking to escape a torrential downpour could have found solace at only one location on campus. It was an evening when the avid moviegoer expressed no gripes sitting next to the everyday writing enthusiast, an evening for the union of film and the written word.

    ‘An Evening with Alan Alda,’ hosted by the Stony Brook Staller Center, fused two major summer events occurring simultaneously on campus, the Eleventh Annual Stony Brook Film Festival and the Stony Brook Southampton Writer’s Conference. The event featured a much anticipated appearance by Alan Alda, the seasoned writer, actor, and director. Alda is widely known, among his many other achievements, for being the winner of 5 Emmy Awards during his eleven years as star of the hit television series M*A*S*H.

    Alda spoke to a packed audience at the Staller Center regarding his new memoir Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and Other Things I’ve Learned. Published in 2005 and now a New York Times bestseller, Alda’s memoir is built around the story of how he was unable to come to terms with the death of his dog, Rhapsody. Describing the details of this traumatic experience, Alda recalled how distraught he was at the time. To quell his despair, Alda’s dad took the dog to a taxidermist and got it stuffed. Looking back on the event, Alda realized that it would have been better had the dog not been stuffed in the first place. Alda’s message: let go of the past, live life to the fullest.

    Julie Greene, a Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator for the Staller Center, was impressed with the frankness with which Alda spoke. Greene commented, ‘[It was] very good advice told in a sincere and simple way. Really a terrific talk.’

    A recent press release by the Stony Brook Staller Center reported, ‘The seasoned actor and writer charmed the audience and lived up to his role as one of the focal points of the Eleventh Annual Stony Brook Film Festival.’ One could hardly ask for more. However, the ‘Evening with Alan Alda’ did also feature the naming of the winners from this year’s Film Festival as a culmination of ten days worth of ‘movies, parties and activities.’ A full list of the recent winners can be found at the Staller Center website through the following URL: http://stonybrookfilmfestival.com/fest06/winners-06.html

    And although the ‘Evening with Alan Alda,’ itself, did receive quite a bit of hype in the weeks preceding the event, much of the hype surrounding this year’s Writer’s Conference and Film Festival has been directed at the new Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) program. Robert Reeves, Director of the Writer’s Conference, has previously spoken to The Statesman as the primary coordinator of the MFA program and does believe that it will serve as a good fit for the campus.

    In the July 2006 issue of Long Island Magazine, Reeves cites the aid of President Shirley Strum Kenny, Provost Bob McGrath, English Department Chair Peter Manning, and the Staller Center Director Alan Inkles ‘for efforts in facilitating’ the development of the new program. Reeves is seen in that July 2006 issue of Long Island Magazine in a picture sitting next to well known writers Billy Collins, Frank McCourt, and Roger Rosenblatt. All four writers will be faculty members of the MFA program at Stony Brook.

    With so much abuzz concerning Stony Brook and its efforts to raise standards in the humanities, even the most distant, gung-ho researchers on the east end of campus will have to raise an eyebrow or two. Alan Alda? On one stormy evening, he’s just icing on the cake.

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