Gem cutting, scare acting and more: Explore the hidden talents of the CWRU community

Members of the Case Western Reserve University community are known for their innovative thinking across campus—and these creative mindsets can be seen in their countless unique and fascinating hobbies. National Hobby Month is celebrated annually in January, leaving no better time to spotlight some of the talents that inspire our faculty, staff and students. 

From the arts to the sciences, the adrenaline-filled to the serenely meditative, these interests are as diverse as the individuals who pursue them. 

Read on to learn about five university community members who shared their hobbies with us, and stay tuned to The Daily this month to meet five others. 

Answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Marc Rubin

Executive director of Environmental Health and Safety 

Hobbies: Astrophotography, gem cutting and more

One of my hobbies is astrophotography [taking pictures of astronomical objects]. Another is I cut gems for fun. I don’t cut diamonds because they are too hard and need special equipment, but I can and likely have cut most everything else. Another is laser art, like the displays you see at concerts and Disney. At one point a friend of mine set me up to play old video arcade games on the side of buildings. I have largely set this hobby aside but I still do it for fun at home. The other is I grow coffee. The rest of my hobbies involve ordinary stuff like reef aquariums, guitar, synthesizers, ham radio, weather, RC aircraft, 3D printing, and 3D animation and such.

Bhavya Bansal 

First-year pre-med student

Hobbies: Female wrestling, scare acting 

My first hobby would have to be female wrestling. I became the first female wrestler at my high school my sophomore year, rose to regional champion, and became captain of both the boys’ and newly formed girls’ team my senior year. I also got to mentor so many other girls who became interested in wrestling. 

My second hobby would be scare acting. I volunteered at a haunted trail for fun, setting up two to three elaborately planned haunted trails during Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Scare acting is an utterly unique experience that allowed me to tap into particularly creative and theatrical sides of me that I never even knew existed. This hobby allowed me to mash up face paint and makeup with character planning all the while allowing children of veteran families and hospital children to have a little fun too. During the experience, we scare actors would be able to design characters based on descriptions and drawings that children wrote on little cards similar to an angel tree. Planning the trails, incorporating their designed characters, and bringing the personas to life and then finally watching all the children get scared by their very own character (in a happy and enjoyable way of course) made the eight hours in shivering temperatures and the muscle and throat aches the next morning worthwhile.

Katya Wilkins

Assistant director of alumni relations, Weatherhead School of Management

Hobby: Indoor plants

My hobby is indoor plants! I have over 250 varieties in my home, ranging from common plants to ones worth over $100 (which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t even that expensive considering what some rare plants cost!) Growing up, my grandmother had quite the green thumb, and her passing in 2021 sparked my own interest in plants. I started off with a few more common varieties but now I am a collector of rare and uncommon plants, specifically philodendrons, scindapsus and monstera. Due to the quantity of plants I own, I had to get a few indoor greenhouses to contain them all but it’s only a matter of time until I start running out of space again! 

Scott Plumer 

Technician in [U]Tech

Hobby: Film photography 

I’m a film photographer. I do shoot digital, but I prefer film, 35 millimeter mostly, but occasionally medium format, and often with antique cameras. The last antique camera I (successfully) used was a box camera from the 1930s.

Samantha Cocco 

Assistant director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning

Hobby: Acting and playwriting 

I’m an actor and playwright outside of my work at CWRU. I did some modeling and acting in high school and college, but started performing professionally in 2017 and have completed more than 60 productions in seven years (37 unique plays—some were produced multiple times). Some highlights include an ongoing national tour of a production called To My White Friends Who Know Me and a 2019 production of Death of a Salesman at Playhouse Square. I have worked most often with convergence-continuum, which produces a lot of risk-taking queer theatre; Cleveland Public Theatre, which produces a lot of new work by local artists; and Karamu House, the oldest African-American producing theatre in the nation. 

On-screen work is hard to juggle with my work schedule, but I was on set for an episode of Netflix’s Mindhunter (my scene didn’t make it to the final cut!) and have done a number of independent films and commercials and training videos. In 2023, I started writing short plays, saw a first production of one of my short pieces, and am now looking forward to having my first full-length play, Temptation of Adam, produced at Cleveland Public Theatre in March. I will be on stage next in Ensemble Theatre’s production of Prospect of Equality, a world premiere new play about the life and work of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.