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Creativity within a faculty can be a finicky thing, especially when the program is not typically associated with the arts. The stresses of other activities, mostly related to the horror stories of academics and the real possibility of an eight-year undergrad, can sap the mental and physical capacity to put something legitimately good onto a stage. This year's engineering musical shattered this notion. The expectation has been redefined and a new bar set for years to come. Clocking in at more than three hours long on closing night, its 15-minute intermission felt longer than each of the halves it separated.
Herc, despite not fitting in with most of his peers, set out to become a “True Engineer” with help from his friend Peggy and a bitter upper-year student named Sheldon. Midterms, parties, TAs and the temptations of artsies stood in the way, and the sinister plan of the Dean of Arts, Togo Salmon, for engineering to fall and arts to reign supreme at McMaster was ever persistent. With Disney's Hercules as the obvious inspiration it is a rather campy story overall, and its narrative focus succeeds in providing just enough nostalgia and variation to work.
Humour was dispersed in off-beat intervals as the constant mix of one-liners and longer setups throughout made an unpredictable and varied experience without the loss of comedic timing. The story scenes of the play had a phenomenal rhythm to them. Not knowing if or when a joke was about to come, even with setups already in place, was astounding for an amateur production to pull off successfully. The variety of jokes presented were not at all limited to just engineering or generic satire as you would expect. It was this constantly changed tempo, diversity and execution that brought new life to an otherwise predictable plot-line.
The Silhouette, The Hamilton Speculator, Spotted at Mac and The Plumbline as characters were less varied than the typical script, but still effective. The novelty and lighthearted jabs were entertaining without becoming overbearing. Disguised exposition dumps as interactions between their message to the audience and each other were fine enough. The parodies of Queens, Waterloo and the Deans of McMaster's non-engineering faculties unfortunately fell flatter than the previously mentioned papers and media as the straight-forward nature and stale material were odd low-points of the otherwise crisp writing, though these were rather short.
The musical scenes followed a similar pattern to the writing. At peaks, these numbers were absolutely phenomenal by any measure you could judge a musical by. Confident pieces, particularly in the second half, that consisted of solo or duet parts were exquisite. Each member that was asked to step up to the plate delivered with exceptional performances in these goose-bump inducing situations where cast, band and crew combined perfectly. Moments from these are still firmly ingrained in memory days later, and almost every member involved contributed to at least one of these.
It is when the number grew that I was left wanting more. When the knowledge is there that the entire cast and production is capable of these peaks, it felt like a waste and less than the sum of its parts when songs required more members participating. While there is only so much one could do in the pieces selected, mostly songs from Hercules and pop music from the years since its release, the want was almost always for one of the characters or band members, any of them, to have a segment with the mics up high to themselves. The weird mid-range, an odd but consistent low-point of the sound mixing, of these group pieces had infrequent individual parts to break it up. It is just that inclusion of more of these parts would have benefited. The talent was there for it to be brought to the front, not hidden away in a wall of sound.
Despite these minor issues, the overall experience was a positive one. As long as you were not overly critical, it is safe to say that you would have a good time no matter what faculty you were a part of with some solid laughs and songs to talk about afterwards. The next step up of reaching these highlights more often is a bit more love and a few more tweaks away. You should eagerly await what the engineering musical has in store for years to come.
Senior News Editor
The Engineering Technology Building (ETB) came as a new addition to the McMaster campus last year, and as the Faculty of Engineering continues to grow, it is now spearheading another campus construction project – the ExCEL building.
The new building aims to exhibit sustainable technologies and provide space for numerous student groups and projects through the Faculty of Engineering, while maintaining a net-zero energy rating, a concept relatively new to building design.
The McMaster Engineering Society will be holding a related referendum in March along with the Society’s presidential elections. The vote will gauge student support of a levy to fund the construction of the building.
The annual levy will be $50 for undergraduate Engineering students and $30 for graduate students in the Faculty, explained Kelton Friedrich, a current Masters in Engineering student and ExCEL Project Coordinator. The impact and use of the building will be more concentrated at the undergraduate than graduate level, he explained.
Significant government funding has been allocated to the ETB project, “so government funding will support the green initiatives implemented in the [ExCEL] building, but not the construction,” said Friedrich.
And to guarantee benefit to all students contributing to the building, the levy, if approved, will not be implemented until all of the funding is secured and construction is set to begin, he explained.
The levy will be implemented for a period of ten years, and while students will contribute financially to the project, consultations on the design and planning for the building are to be conducted by undergraduate Engineering students, and student involvement is expected to continue once the building is completed as well.
The funds raised by the student levy are expected to provide approximately 30 per cent of the total capital required, while additional funding will be sought from external sources, such as alumni donations and government funding.
The building is estimated to cost between $7 million and $8 million.
If all things follow the expected timeline, McMaster University may see the new “living laboratory” by 2015. The new building is expected to be a branch of the John Hodgins Engineering Building, facing the Psychology Building.
When ETB was built, the intention was to include the student space needed by the Faculty and Engineering student clubs.
Due to funding limitations in the Faculty of Engineering, the remaining funds needed to complete the construction of ETB came from the Bachelor of Technology program, which now houses its activities in the building.
The issue of inadequate student space for engineering student groups remains an unresolved issue.
The new building, estimated to be approximately 20,000 sq. ft. – much smaller than ETB – will, by virtue of its size and sustainable technologies, be much less expensive, explained Friedrich.
The need for student space for Engineering projects and clubs was recognized by the Dean of Engineering, David Wilkinson, who proposed the construction of another space, while asserting a belief in the need to engage students in the process.
After proposing the idea to students in 2010, several approached him in support, and momentum on the project began.
As part of the capstone project completed by all senior Engineering students, the opportunity to contribute ideas and a sustainable plan of action was presented.
Numerous considerations were addressed by students in the Engineering and Management program, Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering.
The planning for the building has employed an Integrated Design, which describes the use of student input to design a student space.
“Often, following construction of a building, many changes need to be made, as the space does not work for the people using it,” said Friedrich, explaining that the approach implemented in the constrcution of the ExCEL building bypasses that possibility entirely.
While student input has already begun with respect to the planning of the building, it is expected to continue after the building has been constructed through the Sustainable Building Operations Club, which will monitor the building’s energy usage and analyze the data.