Book artist Goodale speaks about Maine wildlife
Virtual exhibit looks back at African-American art history
V-Day’s ‘Vagina Monologues’ to raise awareness of diverse female experiences
Taiko beats to its own drum during rehearsal
Museum to feature place-inspired work by photographer Abelardo Morell ’71
English course examines climate change and social consciousness through comics
Continuing a project that began with the teach-in this October, students in Associate Professor of English Elizabeth Muther’s Of Comics and Culture class put up an installation around campus this week to highlight the power of comics as an artistic medium for examining issues of environmental and social justice.
Muther’s course explores the extent to which comics have agency in impacting and reflecting various cultures. According to Muther, comics are a subversive art. They provide a lens to deconstruct complex cultural issues.
“Comics catch us by surprise,” said Muther. “Comics can relocate our understanding of an issue in an instant. They can map out forms of hypocrisy.”
The class also focuses on satire as a tool for communicating with and engaging a broad audience. According to Muther, in destabilizing our prior assumptions, humor can provide a fresh take on an issue, exposing an irrationality or a fraudulent viewpoint.
“We laugh sometimes because you can literally see the fabric of a set of assumptions being torn,” said Muther. “Humor becomes an instrument for exposing social contradictions that can’t be resolved easily.”
For the week of the teach-in, the class zeroed in on narratives centered around the intersections between climate change, racism and social justice. Muther invited students to bring in graphic narratives that explored the relationships between these issues, from global warming to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Katherine Bryan ’17 was particularly interested in the topic and decided to take it further to create a “Teach In-tervention” around campus. The project aims to showcase comics as a lens for examining the same issues discussed in the teach-in. Seven other students in the class joined the project.
“Comics are not generally viewed as mediums to discuss culture,” said Alex Haregot ’17, one of the students involved in the project. “We’re trying to show that they can be and that they are.”
The students have posted one or two-panel comics around campus, including in Smith Union, Searles and many residential halls. In addition, they have completed an installation in Hawthorne-Longfellow Library with a computer display open to a webpage created by one of the students. The page features a rotating display of cross-cultural webcomics, ranging from post-Katrina stories to Ms. Marvel, a young Muslim superheroine. The display will be up this week and during finals period.
“Here are all these inviting visual narratives, and people can take a study break and sit down and read,” said Muther. “There’s a tremendous amount of very important work that’s been done in these narratives.”
According to Haregot, one of the main barriers in the issue of climate change is that some people have a greater understanding than others. Comics provide an artistic and satirical approach to these issues, engaging those who are less knowledgeable about the topic.
“We’re trying to encourage the wider Bowdoin community to see that the discussion of climate change isn’t only occurring on a verbal level but also on a visual level too,” said Haregot.
Office Hours to perform long-form improv comedy on campus
Mixing-up the comedy-group scene on campus, the new improv group Office Hours will make its debut performance this Friday at Quinby House. The group, led by James Jelin ’16, consists of Sophie de Bruijn ’18, Maggie Seymour ’16, Justin Weathers ’18, Collin Litts ’18 and Sam Chase ’16.
Unlike The Improvabilities, a group that performs mainly classic short-form improv (think “Whose Line is It Anyway?”), Office Hours strictly uses the long-form technique pioneered by Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), an improvisational comedy theater in New York City.“[Long-form improv] is a totally different beast,” said de Bruijn.
In long-form improv, the actors work together to develop a comedic scene centered around a single cue—a word suggestion, a monologue from an audience member or someone’s Facebook profile.
“We want to find comedy in real experiences and stories,” said Jelin.
Jelin hopes to create a distinct theme for each of the group’s future shows, such as “bad relationship night,” where audience members are prompted to share stories.
“When it works, it’s like magic,” said de Bruijn, who worked for and took classes at the UCB theater in New York City this summer.
“All of the comedy is being built from the ground up,” she added.
With this lack of a set structure, however, the group must be patient for the comedic component of the scene to emerge.
“There’s nothing inherently funny about [each scene],” de Bruijn said. “If it goes wrong, a scene can fall flat.”
Jelin started Office Hours this fall, eager to explore long-form improv after spending the summer perusing the UCB comedy manual. In the audition process, he looked for performers who were willing to support their scene partners, even if it meant not making themselves look good.
“If you go for the cheap, easy laugh versus working to build a credible scene with your partner, that makes [the scene] less funny over time,” said de Bruijn. A key part of effective long-form, according to Jelin and de Bruijn, is effective communication across the group.
“Your job as an improvisor is to get on the same page as everyone else about the one specific thing that is funny in a scene and then work together to explore that thing,” said Jelin.
Each group member is faced with the task of sending subtle cues to other members to agree upon the comedic kernel of the scene. Members have to trust their scene partners and actively support one another, and this strong sense of group identity quells the pressure that comes with performing improv.
“You’re just there to make your scene partner look good, and knowing that everybody is there with that mentality is really comforting,” said de Bruijn.
“One of the key tenets of UCB improv is that silence is okay,” she added.
As both a leader and member of the group, Jelin is faced with the challenge of offering his insights about the UCB style, while recognizing that the whole group is new to the form.“I want to get us into the public consciousness because I’m hoping to perform a lot next semester,” said Jelin.
Sam Chase is a Managing Editor of the Orient.
Orchestra to increase rehearsals to improve, refine overall quality
In an effort to fine-tune its overall quality, the Bowdoin Orchestra will undergo several structural changes next fall. Directed by Beckwith Artist-in-Residence George Lopez, the Orchestra will require a higher level of commitment, increasing its overall quality.While Lopez initially planned to implement the changes next semester, he has postponed this reform until the next academic year.
“Doing a fall restructuring is better because [the students] have more time to consider what that means for their schedule, and it also creates a new culture for incoming students,” said Lopez.
Lopez hopes to nearly double group rehearsal times to boost the quality of performances, a plan that has been met with mixed reactions from students.
Former orchestra member Emily Licholai ’18 argued that the orchestra will benefit from the additional hours of rehearsal.
“Because it’s going to take up more time, the people are more willing to spend their time on orchestra will stay and the people who are not as into it will drift off,” she said. “[The group] might be a little smaller, but I think the quality of music will be even better.”
Violinist Devlin Shea ’18 agreed that the added practice time will be an asset to the group.
“The problems we’ve had in the past is not having enough rehearsal time to prepare our ambitious repertoire to the level that we want to be at,” said Shea.
However, considering the many obligations of Bowdoin students, finding the time to both hone musicianship skills and rehearse as a group is difficult. For some members, the current time commitment—two hours every Sunday night—conflicts with their study schedules. As such, the group has seen some recent fluctuation in its members.
“Some of the people who aren’t in orchestra anymore came to the realization not that the orchestra wasn’t up to the caliber that they wanted, but more so that they felt academic work was important,” said current orchestra member Holly Rudel ’17.
While the added rehearsal time may improve the quality of music, those looking for a more relaxed music group may be turned away with these new changes.
In addition to increased rehearsal hours, Lopez plans to increase sectionals in order to hone the skills of each section of instruments individually, making for smoother and more fruitful group rehearsals.
“[The musicians] come with a lot of skill and a lot of training. What we need is a structure that supports more commitment and allows them to grow and increase their skills,” said Lopez.“Sectionals do a really good job at isolating the problems and allowing sections to iron out small things, so when we come together our rehearsal time is more focused and more meaningful,” said Shea.
Lopez also plans to invite more high-level musicians from out of town—particularly from Boston—to instruct the sectionals, which he hopes will raise the group’s caliber to a more professional level.
Lopez hopes the existing group will be enthusiastic about this shift toward more commitment. He has consulted current and previous members to narrow down what the changes will be and how he will implement them.
“The more value I bring to the program, the more they will be willing to commit the extra time,” said Lopez. “They’ll feel like there’s more in it for them as well.”
In the future, Lopez hopes these changes will smooth the way for the orchestra to become a touring ensemble.
“Eventually the excellence of the orchestra is going to speak to larger and larger communities, both within Bowdoin, and also further afield as we increase the talent of the orchestra,” said Lopez.
Musical theater hits high note across campus with increased interest
In recent years, there has been a crescendo in the number of musical theater groups on campus. Jae Yeon Yoo ’18, the musical director of “Spring Awakening” last semester, believes this increase may reflect broader trends in the theater industry.
“Recently, musicals have gone from being spectacles to being more focused on a revolutionary way of storytelling,” Yoo said.
For Yoo, musicals have the ability to connect to people on a deeper emotional level, which attracts an audience that extends beyond regular theater-goers.
“People are less intimidated [by musicals] because they are so permeated through our current culture,” said Yoo. “There’s so much potential for a musical to reach a lot of people.”
According to Professor of Theater Davis Robinson, musical theater hasn’t always been such a resounding force on campus. The theater department only stages a musical once every three years in an effort to showcase a full spectrum of theatrical styles. However, the addition of more student groups devoted to performing has opened the doors for singers, actors and musical-theater lovers alike.
“There are certainly more opportunities [for musicals] because there are more groups that are stable, that have formed, that are chartered, that are presenting opportunities,” said Robinson.Curtain Callers, which was founded in 2010, typically stages a full-length musical in the fall and a revue-type performance in the spring. This semester, leader Max Middleton ’16 will direct “Sweeney Todd.” Next semester, Yoo hopes to work with the group as well as Peer Health to produce rock musical “Next to Normal.”
Beyond the Proscenium, the newest addition to the cluster of theater groups on campus, was founded by Sarah Guilbault ’18 and Cordelia Orbach ’17 last year, with the intent of making theater more accessible on campus and in the community at large.
“We saw this vacuum that needed to be filled with theater groups on campus,” said Guilbault. “We wanted to create another space for more theater that was somewhat easier to partake in because of the time commitment that theater often imposes.”
According to Guilbault, for some people, there weren’t enough opportunities between the department show and other theater group productions. The group’s inaugural performance, “Spring Awakening” was designed to create more opportunities to fill that gap.
“People were interested in doing something that stretched them both theatrically and in a musical sense,” Guilbault said.
Musicals tend to attract performers from both musical and theatrical backgrounds—students involved with a capella or other music groups use musicals to explore their theatrical skills, whereas students from the theater department may use the production to hone their musical talent.
Robinson noted the ability of musical productions to mix many different disciplines, including music and theater but also dance and design.
“For me, it’s more interesting when there’s more crossover, so we try to keep these boundaries open,” said Robinson.
The main barrier to producing musicals is funding. According to Guilbault and Yoo, obtaining the necessary copyrighted materials can be expensive.
“It makes me angry because I think art should be accessible to everyone,” said Yoo. Guilbault hopes the increase in enthusiasm for musical theater on campus will encourage the Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC) to finance more musicals in the future.
“[The SAFC] has more faith now that students are really interested in going to see musicals,” Guilbault said.
Taiko beats to its own drum during rehearsal
A performance art that engages the entire body, Taiko (the Japanese word for “drum”) combines dance, percussion and vocals to create a visually and musically stimulating spectacle.
Bowdoin Taiko, now under the name “Shirokuma Taiko” after the Japanese word for “polar bear”, is a group devoted to learning, teaching and performing Taiko on campus and in the community at large.
Founded in 2002, the group plays Kumi Daiko, or “ensemble drumming”, which involves beating drums (taiko) with cylindrical drumsticks (bachi) while performing coordinated movements (taiko baka).
Unlike many other Taiko groups, Shirokuma Taiko is completely student-run. “Each leader and each member develops their own technique and their own individual style,” said club leader Tomas Donatelli Pitfield ’16.
“We’re very self-driven,” said club leader Steve McClelland ’16. According to Pitfield, most members come in with little to no drumming experience. Both Pitfield and McClelland were new to Taiko when they joined in their first year.
According to them, the welcoming environment of the group is conducive to hosting an eclectic mix of students.
In addition, this year, the group consists of more female members than it’s had in four years. “It’s very inclusive,” said club member Indre Altman ’18. “It was nice to join a group that used instruments without needing to have a background in music.”
Group practices are held twice a week and involve a combination of warm-ups, stretching and fundamentals followed by rehearsing pieces for upcoming performances.
Additional practices open to members of the Brunswick community are also held every Saturday morning.
The group has performed at various events both on and off campus, ranging from Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School to the Asian Students Association Fashion Show.
The group has also attended the East Coast Taiko Conference, a conference of professional and other collegiate Taiko groups, where the members gained insight and received feedback from expert Taiko performers as well as audiences.
“People who play Taiko or who have been around Taiko growing up know that the audience isn’t a passive observer,” said Pitfield.
Audience engagement is a crucial component to any Taiko performance; the energy on stage feeds off of the energy from the crowd. According to member Luis Rico ’17, the intense vocal element of a Taiko performance must be matched by crowd involvement.
“The important part about screaming is that it brings energy to the show and gets the crowd more involved,” said Rico.
“In the beginning, people are really afraid of screaming,” said Pitfield.
According to Pitfield, this shouting, often done in conjunction with a hit on the drum, makes Taiko not just a vocal practice, but also a form of catharsis.
“To me, it’s really grounding just to play a song,” Pitfield said. “You have to get into a stance, but you can still adapt as it’s happening.”
“For me, it’s been a practice in focusing,” said Altman. “A lot of good drummers very much zone in on the beat and only think about that.”
As a group performance, the coordination involved extends beyond a performer’s individual drum.
Members have the responsibility of constantly listening and watching out of their peripherals to make sure their form stays synchronized with the group’s movements.
“Part of the learning curve is being able to focus on what you’re doing but at the same time trying to make sure you’re matching up with people beside you,” said Pitfield.
Unlike in past years, this year’s group strives to provide a context for the songs it performs, emphasizing each song’s narrative and meaning and how it informs the physicality and aesthetic of the performance.
“Each song has some story it’s trying to tell and also a story behind how it came to be,” said Pitfield.
The leaders hope to leave a strong legacy this year, building up the future generation of Taiko drummers.
“There’s a pervasive and omnipresent goal of making sure that Taiko doesn’t die when we leave,” said Pitfield.
Shirokuma Taiko will perform during Common Hour on Friday at 12:30 p.m. and on Saturday evening in Morrell Gymnasium in celebration of Family Weekend.
The Batmobile's mechanic talks about film industry
Behind the glitz and glamour of the film industry, there are countless details that go into bringing any production from page to screen. Bill Wiggins, a set dresser who has worked in the film and television industry in New York since 1985, shared his insights on what goes on behind the scenes of these productions in MacMillan House on Monday evening.
Cinema Studies Professor Tricia Welsch led the discussion with Wiggins, guided by a list of questions generated by residents of the house. The talk was sponsored by Lectures and Concerts, the Kurtz Fund and the Cinema Studies program.
In his 32 years of experience, Wiggins has worked with all-star directors and filmmakers including Woody Allen, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese and has contributed to nearly every motion picture set in New York, including “Midnight in Paris,” “Batman” and “Spider-Man 3,” as well as many major TV productions such as “30 Rock” and “Gotham.” He currently works on the popular TV drama “The Affair,” picking up various other projects in between. In addition to spending 60 hours on set per week, Wiggins is the owner of Black Elk Images, in which he sells rental images for film and television.
The job of a set dresser consists of assembling physical components of sets down to the smallest detail. For a Cheerios commercial, for example, this might entail sorting through a box to pick out the most perfect pieces. To give the students a concrete taste of what goes into a single day on set, Wiggins passed around call sheets—a piece of paper delivered to the cast and crew the night before a day of shooting, specifying the minute details of every scene. “I think the students were surprised to learn how many people it takes to put together every single shot,” said Welsch.
For Wiggins, a career in the film industry was anything but preplanned. An anthropology major, Wiggins was partway through his dissertation on Ottoman historiography when he decided to move back to New York to seek work in TV production. After placing numerous phone calls to production companies, Wiggins landed his first job as a production assistant, and soon after joined the union. He built a network of contacts in the industry, and has since spent his time lining up one gig after another.
“It’s like waiting for the bus. When one bus drops you off, you wait for the next bus, then you get on that bus,” Wiggins explained to students.
According to Wiggins, the industry is a highly collaborative endeavor. Being cooperative and outgoing is crucial in getting along with other people on set.
“[The film industry] attracts a very creative, highly intelligent, very interesting bunch of people with great stories and great backstories,” he said.
In addition, the freelance nature of this type of work requires him to be be flexible in a variety of situations.
“One day you’re in a roach-infested apartment and the next day you’re in some $25 million loft in Soho,” said Wiggins.
Wiggins has worked on sets ranging from Donald Trump’s apartment (which, by the way, has a gold-plated front door) to a cruise ship in the Caribbean, and has been on the top of nearly every building in New York.
To student attendees, Wiggins offered a concrete take-away: his phone number. Emphasizing the importance of networking, Wiggins was sincere in extending an offer to help students aspiring to enter the film industry.
“[Wiggins] gave the inspiration that if there’s something you want to go for, to continue to pursue it and reach out to people because there are people that are willing to help you,” said Katherine Gracey ’16.
Documentary brings together three generations of Bowdoin alums
Though it may seem antiquated, the craft of wooden boatbuilding is timeless enough to unite three separate generations of Bowdoin students. For wooden boatbuilder Dick Pulsifer ’62, this technical art provides both a link to the past and and a way to connect with the current Bowdoin community.
Hull 111, a documentary produced by recent Bowdoin graduates Rita Liao ’15, Lucy Green ’15 and Eric Levenson ’15, follows the story of Pulsifer in his quest to build his 111th Pulsifer Hampton boat. The film aired on MPBN on October 8 and 10.
Fascinated by the renaissance of the wooden boatbuilding craft, Pulsifer built his first Hampton boat in 1973 shortly after graduating from Bowdoin. Since then, he has completed 111 Pulsifer Hampton boats in his Mere Point Road shop in Brunswick, continually adding details and improvements to his model.
“The main skill you learn is the ability to see what’s beyond where you are,” said Pulsifer. Pulsifer values maintaining a connection with the Bowdoin community through his craft, often mentoring Bowdoin students at his outpost.
“It’s a real experience with physical accomplishment,” Pulsifer said. For Pulsifer, the value of manual learning is a complement to the learning that takes place in a Bowdoin classroom. Liao and Green were first introduced to documentary filmmaking last fall in Seashore Digital Diaries, a course taught by award-winning documentary filmmaker and 2014-15 Coastal Studies Scholar David Conover ’83. Inspired by the power of documentary film, Liao and Green approached Levenson, a then-apprentice to Pulsifer, with the idea of documenting Pulsifer’s craft as an independent project. Conover served as the project advisor and encouraged the three students to learn from each other’s skillsets.
“Digital production is often a very collaborative endeavor,” said Conover.
Initially, the group set out to create a profile of Puslifer and the process of his boatbuilding. With no clear narrative, the film was fragmented for the first several weeks.“It was very messy in the beginning,” said Liao.
Conover encouraged the students to allow the story to unfold naturally, using the camera as a tool of inquiry.
“For my part, it involved asking questions at certain times, more as a way for them to get clarity here and there, and also [encouraging them] to figure out how their perspective fit into the story,” said Conover.
He pushed the students to keep a diary to consider why each was drawn to the craft of wooden boatbuilding. In this sense, each student became part of the film’s narrative, according to Conover.
“I always look at filmmaking as a process where you spend some time out on the dance floor and some other time on a balcony looking down on the dance floor,” Conover said. For Conover, shifting between these two perspectives is an essential component in documentary production and was crucial in telling Pulsifer’s story.
The three recent alums each brought their own interests and questions to the project. For Green, a visual arts major, the step-by-step process of building a boat was analogous to the meticulous process of painting. Levenson was curious as to young people’s involvement in boatbuilding in the digital age. Liao, passionate about meditation, was captivated by the connection between spirituality and boat-building.
“In the end, it turned out to be a self-reflection,” Liao said.
While initially averse to being on the other side of the camera, Liao began to view her relationship to Pulsifer’s story as a significant aspect of the film.
“It’s inevitable to have the filmmaker’s point of view because whenever you choose to show something, you’re choosing what to tell,” said Liao.
With three generations of Bowdoin students involved in creating the documentary, the project provided a unique opportunity for reciprocal learning.
“The effect of having the [multiple generations] and multiple connections with the College community I think was huge,” said Conover.
In addition, Pulsifer was not only an excellent craftsman and boatbuilder, but a remarkable teacher as well, according to Conover.
“The learning environment [Pulsifer] has at his shop is a great complement to the College community learning environment,” said Conover.
Museum to feature place-inspired work by photographer Abelardo Morell ’71
Celebrated contemporary photographer Abelardo Morell ’71 will showcase his latest photography project, “A Mind Of Winter,” at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art beginning Tuesday. In conjunction with the opening, Morell will deliver a talk in Kresge Auditorium followed by an open house and further discussion at the Museum.
Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the exhibition explores the theme of winter and climate change through a series of photographs taken at various sites in Maine during this past winter. The one-gallery installation includes 12 photographs focusing on unique aspects of a Maine winter. The title for the exhibit was inspired by a line in Wallace Stevens’ poem “The Snow Man,” which alludes to a metaphorical mindset of winter.
Morell’s artwork takes on myriad forms and techniques ranging from photographic illustration to camera obscura. “A Mind of Winter” represents Morell’s first extended visit to Maine since his graduation from Bowdoin in 1977.
“It’s been exciting to come back to Bowdoin for this project as there are so many of my early experiences rooted here,” Morell wrote in an email to the Orient.
Anne and Frank Goodyear, the co-directors of the Museum, worked closely with Morell to creatively document a Maine winter in all its complexity.
“We thought that Abe, who is very interested in the tradition of landscape representation, might be up for the challenge of creating a new body of photographs that would relate to the theme of winter,” said Frank Goodyear.
A member of Bowdoin’s Class of 1971, Morell received an MFA from the Yale University School of Art in 1981 and received an honorary degree from Bowdoin in 1997. Morell was the subject of a 2013 career retrospective organized by the Art Institute of Chicago, which traveled to museums across the nation, including the Getty in Los Angeles. His work has also won numerous awards, including the Infinity Award in Art given by the International Center of Photography in 2011.
Morell collaborated with Nevan Swanson ’18, who scouted locations and accompanied Morell during his series of visits to Maine, beginning in January. Though winter can be a picturesque time, Frank Goodyear explained, the challenge is capturing the nuances that wouldn’t appear on a calendar.
“Winter is hard to photograph. It has such a minimal graphic beauty that the temptation is to make simplistic pictures rather than eloquent ones,” Morell wrote. “I hope that I succeeded in avoiding the trap of clichés.”
Owing to his passion for art history, Morell’s photographs are filled with homages to American-European and Asian artistic traditions. Morell said he drew inspiration from Pieter Bruegel’s painting “Hunters in the Snow” when setting up his landscape photographs.
Several of Morell’s photographs are done using cliché verre—a technique in which a sheet of glass is inked over before the photograph is developed onto the same surface. The balance between positive and negative space takes on new form in this technique, Anne Goodyear explained.
“One of the things that is so exciting for us about [Morell] is that he is somebody who loves playing with the essential elements of photography as a medium itself,” she said. Some of Morell’s photographs manipulate the viewer’s perception of the scenery, creating a virtual play between the figurative and the abstract.
“He’s always doing these creative interventions in the landscape,” said Frank Goodyear. “Oftentimes he’s creating new landscapes by inserting mirrors into the landscapes.”
“There’s a wonderful way in which [Morell] asks the viewer to step up to the plate and to become an active participant in the process of...playing intellectually with the question of what’s going on [in the picture],” added Anne Goodyear. “There is a metaphorical dialogue with the nature of the winter season itself, and what’s covered and what’s uncovered.”
“A Mind of Winter” will be exhibited from May 5 through September 27 in the Shaw Ruddock Gallery at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
20-somethings take the stage and belt it out in Curtain Callers’ musical revue
The songs ranged from desperate ballads to quirky and satirical group numbers at “Twenty-Somethings: A Musical Revue,” but they all addressed the often tumultuous transitions between high school, college, and post-grad life. The performance, staged by the musical theater group Curtain Callers, took place in Kresge Auditorium last weekend.
Directors Adi White ’15, Erin Fitzpatrick ’15 and Max Middleton ’16 compiled musical theater songs about the so-called “best years of our lives,” highlighting the hilarious, terrifying and exciting experiences of being a 20-something. The revue featured numbers from musicals including “Tales From The Bad Years,” “Avenue Q” and “Little Women.”
“A lot of the songs we chose are from musicals that aren’t as commonly done or commonly known,” said Fitzpatrick. “So we wanted to bring some of that beautiful, meaningful, newer music to light.”
Both Fitzpatrick and White became involved in Curtain Callers as first years and took over leadership of the organization in the fall of 2012. The group, which was founded in 2010, typically stages a full-length musical in the fall and opts for a smaller-scale cabaret performance as its spring production.
Inspiration for “Twenty-Somethings: A Musical Revue” came from the directors’ reflection on their position as graduating seniors.
“It was a really nice group of songs that address this particular time we’re at in our lives, where there’s a lot of weird transition happening, a lot of weird sexual experiences, the need for a job, the search for meaning,” said Fitzpatrick. “There are a lot of things that are going on that we wanted to address through [music].”
Cast members auditioned in early February and were all given a part in the show. Fitzpatrick and White had the theme in mind but did not select specific songs until after auditions in order to cater to the strengths and persona of each performer.
“We picked songs that fit their personalities or fit what they were thinking they liked or disliked about their college career so far,” said White.
“We did a lot of work trying to match song energy to the person’s energy,” Fitzpatrick added. “The process was about animating Bowdoin students through song.”
Performers drew from their experiences as Bowdoin students—and as 20-somethings—to bring their songs to life.
“I think that’s the beauty of musical theater—it’s a really interesting way to animate a person’s inner thoughts that is more lively and more vulnerable than a monologue,” Fitzpatrick added.The revue was comprised of individual songs, small group numbers and ensemble pieces.
“[The show] mixed satirical with more serious material, and did that in a really cool way,” said audience member Sarah Nelson ’17.
The performance occurred during Admitted Students Weekend, providing prospective students and their parents with the opportunity to both witness Bowdoin musical theater and relate to the show’s themes.
“I hope that the songs and the personability of the people singing them stripped away the fear of this life transition for the prospies coming in,” said Fitzpatrick.
“A lot of people at Bowdoin are very different, but I think everyone at Bowdoin and certainly parents and even [prospective students] can relate to something they shared,” said Emma Hamilton ’17, who attended the show.
Fitzpatrick and White are leaving the leadership of Curtain Callers in the hands of Middleton, whom they are confident will lead the club in a positive direction.
“Our group is founded on the premise of bringing more musical theater to campus and getting more people involved,” said White. “I hope that legacy of the group continues to flourish after we graduate.”
Bowdoin Night Live prepares for show during Ivies
Live from Brunswick, it’s Wednesday night! Continuing the legacy of Simon Brooks ’14, a cast and crew of six will take the stage next Wednesday to perform the second annual Bowdoin Night Live (BNL), a sketch comedy show parodying life on Bowdoin’s campus.
The show, borne out of Brooks’ independent study project, premiered last year to a sold-out audience in Kresge Auditorium. This year’s cast and writing staff includes Clare DeSantis ’16, John Swords ’15, Maggie Seymour ’16, Rickey Larke ’15, Alex Cheston ’16 and Tom Capone ’17. Swords and DeSantis are the only returning members from last years’ group. They recruited the rest of this year’s cast.
“We have a lot of fresh faces, which will be exciting,” said DeSantis.
Though the team is smaller than last year, members said that finding time to meet amidst the stress of spring semester is challenging. The team has been working in a “secret writer’s room” to bounce ideas off one another and workshop scripts. Unlike an improv show, BNL’s sketches are almost entirely scripted, while still leaving room for spontaneous humor.“Whatever we were passionate about, we decided we would take charge of that project,” Capone said of the writing process.
This year’s performance will maintain the structure and thematic content of last year’s show, emulating the format of a Saturday Night Live episode. The group ensured that the writing process mirror that of the classic late-night comedy show.
“We are trying to mimic how [Saturday Night Live] actually works and do it all in a microwave time,” said Swords.
There is a strong component of teamwork in the writing process.
“One person will write the main script for a sketch, then we all come in and punch it up together,” DeSantis added.
While specific themes are being kept under wraps until the performance, the show will be entirely Bowdoin-centric, focusing on aspects of campus life that the student body can reevaluate in a silly or satirical context, said DeSantis.
“I think it’s really healthy to satirize elements of our Bowdoin life,” she continued. “There are things to make fun of around here, but we’re not looking to target specific people,” Swords added.
While not official Ivies programming, BNL’s timing fuels the lighthearted spirit of Ivies week.The show will take place next Wednesday evening, serving as a fun way to energize students prior to the weekend’s festivities.
“It’s a good way to kick off Ivies week,” said Capone. “It’s a different perspective on Bowdoin.”
Situated at a time when many students are focused on their studies, the night is a way to step back and look at Bowdoin from a different angle, Capone continued.
“Even though it’s not an official Ivies event, it should work with anyone’s Ivies whether you’re going to library after or if you’ve been drinking all day,” said Cheston.
The group hopes to eventually get the event chartered and hopes to hold two shows next year. This year’s show promises to stay aligned with the tone of last year’s inaugural performance, while adding a splash of variety.
“It’s becoming its own entity,” DeSantis said. “Last year it was an offshoot of improv in a lot of ways, and this year its its own operating thing.”
Free tickets will be at the Smith Union Info Desk. The performance will take place in Kresge Auditorium.
Weisbach’s one-man show brings 20 characters to life in Hubbard
The tall arches of the Pickering Room in Hubbard Hall transform into the walls of a German antique museum and secret homosexual meeting group as senior Evan Horwitz performs more than 20 different characters in “I Am My Own Wife.” The play follows the history of a German transgender woman who, against all odds, survived the Nazi and Stasi regimes.
Based on a true story, “I Am My Own Wife” tells the remarkable tale of Charlotte (pronounced Shar-lotta) von Mahlsdorf, born Lothar Berfelde, who lived in Berlin throughout both the Nazi invasion and the East German Communist regime. The play premiered on Broadway in 2004, two years after von Mahlsdorf’s death, winning numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for best play.
Playwright Doug Wright draws on von Mahlsdorf’s compelling and controversial story through his conversations with her, which began not long after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Encompassing themes of gender identity, complicity under evil regimes and the act of storytelling, this metadrama reveals the ambiguity of von Mahlsdorf’s history.
Director Jamie Weisbach ’16, who has been involved with dramaturgy, directing and tech, chose “I Am My Own Wife” to embark upon as an independent study project. Weisbach and Horwitz have been working on the production since last May, and began rehearsing in January.
For Weisbach, directing a one-man-show comes with its challenges and its benefits.
“It’s just you, the actor, the script and that’s it,” said Weisbach. “I like that simplicity but it’s also a really big challenge.”
Examining the complexity of narrative, the show’s thematic content is complemented by the one-man-show format. With only one person performing, the audience is constantly reminded that they are watching a storyteller tell a story.
“You’re not really working in the mode of realism,” Weisbach added. “You have to find really clear ways of telling the story physically that are not realistic.”
Bringing to life dozens of characters from the voice and body of a single actor is no small theatrical feat. As the only actor on the stage, Horwitz was faced with the challenge of making interactions between characters feel genuine.
“It has been interesting to find ways to find authenticity and something that feels real, even when I’m the only one there,” said Horwitz.
“For me, character in life and on stage is how we respond to the world around us,” he continued. “Character doesn’t exist in a vacuum because we don’t.”
Horwitz exploited the presence of an intimate live audience, feeding off their reactions to gain further insight into his characters.
Switching instantaneously from the mannerisms, tone and posture of a middle-aged American man to those of an elderly German woman, Horwitz embodied a range of characters, including the playwright himself.
Having the playwright be a character in the script highlights for the audience how the perspective of the storyteller influences the ways in which we see a history, Weisbach said. Horwitz worked extensively with Associate Professor of German Jill Smith to refine his dialect, and credited her indispensable insights into German language and historical context.
Both voice and physicality provided Horwitz with a portal to understanding and differentiating the facets of the show’s various characters.
“This is a play about heroes, and the stories we tell about heroes, and the things we want to tell about heroes,” said Weisbach. “It’s about rejecting the urge to make people either big flawless heroes or to reject them entirely.”
“This play tells a phenomenal story that needs to be told,” Horwitz added.
Performances take place tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Editor’s Note: Horwitz is the author of the Features column “348 and Maine.”
Conover ’83 shares film created for Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum
Coastal Studies Scholar and documentary filmmaker David Conover ’83 screened his eight-minute film created for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum on Wednesday in Kresge Auditorium. The event was followed by a conversation with Conover and Professor of English and Cinema Studies Aviva Briefel.
A stark contrast to his typical ocean and outdoor-focused works, Conover’s film provides Auschwitz visitors with a portal to witness the horrors of the camp prior to their entry into the primary gateway. With the exception of Wednesday’s audience of Bowdoin students and community members, the film will be shown exclusively on-site in the newly-renovated cinema room at the visitors’ center, starting in four or five months.
Conover has spent the last 25 years producing films that explore human relationships with the earth, often focusing on the ocean. Since 1992, he has been executive producer and director of the Camden, Maine-based production company Compass Light, which has received over 250 commissions from various publishers and broadcasters, including PBS Nova and the Discovery Channel. Conover has also taught two Bowdoin courses in documentary film: Seashore Digital Diaries in the fall and Science to Story: Digital and Beyond this semester.
Conover’s Auschwitz Gateway Film serves as a preamble to the visitor experience and aims to prepare the museum’s annual 1.5 million visitors, who come from a variety of geographical and cultural backgrounds, to experience the camp. “The challenge was how to position people for what really is the most important experience, which is just being there and being in this authentic place,” said Conover.
The film included archival images and video clips superimposed with contemporary shots of the camp. Conover and his production team shot and framed exact picture-frame matches, filming in locations that have been photographed in the archives.
The aerial drone shots, revealing the magnitude of the camp through picturesque grassy landscapes, were juxtaposed against the harshness of black and white photographs of people in the camp.
“There is something very beautiful about the way [the film] establishes and constructs the shots initially, and then recreates a history of what this place actually is through the superimposition of color and black and white,” said Briefel.
Though documentation of the camp is scarce, the film employed photographs from the Lili Jacob collection, an archive of 180 photos taken by Nazi photographers. Several video clips were taken by Ukrainians who came to the camp in January of 1945 while it was closed but still occupied.
Many photos in that collection were taken with the agenda of dehumanizing Jews and other people in the camp, depicting them almost exclusively in crowds. The bias of the camera informed the way the images were contextualized in the film. Using research conducted by the museum, the film superimposed nametags onto the families portrayed in the photographs to restore their individuality.
Briefel and Conover discussed the poignancy of seeing photographs from Auschwitz camps for the first time, and our tendency to resist looking at the harsh and often disturbing images.
“There’s this paradox that it is really an unknowable experience and yet you’re compelled to convey it,” said Conover.
Conover didn’t see a necessity for dramatizing the film in any way. His decision to make the film dispassionate was guided by knowing that people would be there experiencing Auschwitz for themselves.
“Although we were displaced in the sense that we’re here in America and not actually at the camp, we still get a sense of being there,” said Emiley Charley ’17. “It lets [visitors] remember history for themselves,” she added.
By providing an entry point to experience the legacy of such a significant landmark with a devastating history, Conover’s film makes no claims to make sense of the events that took place in Auschwitz during the Holocaust.
“This is really an atrocity; it’s not a tragedy,” said Conover. “There’s no real counterweight; it’s just horrible, and that’s it.”
Behind the Name tag: Dowd finds inspiration in art he protects
For Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) security guard Dan Dowd, guarding the museum’s collection is more than just a nine-to-five job; it’s brain food for his own creative aspirations.
A Mass. native, Dowd moved to Maine in 2001 to pursue art. In 2007, he joined Bowdoin’s new security staff after the BCMA reopened following its renovation.
After taking studio art and art history courses during his undergraduate years at Framingham State University and immersing himself in a project to renovate a 19th century home, Dowd discovered his passion for found materials and objects since moving to Maine.
“I’m really interested in objects—why they were made, how they were used, how long they were used, and ultimately why they were discarded,” said Dowd.
Dowd draws inspiration from his local transfer station—where waste is deposited—collecting materials, fibers and random objects to use as fodder for his work.
“Documentation of items, events, people and places is the driving force behind my found object and installation work,” Dowd writes in his artist statement.
His work aims to highlight parallels between the lives of humans and the lives of objects.
Dowd analogized the “patinas that objects develop and [the] wrinkles that humans develop and how people change through their lives.”
According to Dowd, patinas—the thin layer, such as rust oxidization, that materials acquire over time—may convey a variety of emotions, from comedy to tragedy to drama. His goal in rescuing these forgotten items and giving them a “second chance” is to depict and show the beauty and history of items that wouldn’t normally be praised for their aesthetic value.
In addition to his current Gallery Framing exhibition on Pleasant Street, Dowd has been showcasing his artwork predominantly across the Northeast for over 10 years. Past solo exhibitions of his include "Anna Hepler's Head" at the Coleman Burke Gallery in Brunswick and "Born Again" at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. He has also been featured in several group exhibitions.
As a museum security guard, Dowd is constantly exposed to new artwork, which continuously gives him new ideas.
“I’m certainly influenced by the works on the walls,” Dowd said. “As soon as new work goes on the walls, I can’t wait to eat it up and find out about it.”
Dowd said he is particularly excited to see new pieces from the museum’s upcoming exhibit: “PAST FUTURES: Science Fiction, Space Travel, and Postwar Art of the Americas.” According to Dowd, the best part of his job is meeting people and learning about new artists. As far as aspirations for the future, Dowd hopes to continue showcasing his work in the community.
Dowd’s work will be included in Art in the Park in Worcester, MA, this summer, in addition to a solo installation at the Masonic Temple in Portland this July.
“I would love to eventually be affiliated with and be represented by a gallery,” Dowd said. “My ultimate goal is to be a working artist that survives solely through my artwork.”
Dowd’s work is on display through Saturday at the Gallery Framing in Brunswick as part of the “Paired Devices” exhibition—a gathering of the work of five mid-coast Maine artists surrounding tools, hardware and everyday objects.
V-Day’s ‘Vagina Monologues’ to raise awareness of diverse female experiences
Bowdoin V-Day will bring together a record number of 50 women in its 18th annual production of the “Vagina Monologues” today and Saturday in Kresge Auditorium. With stories spanning from birth to body image to rape, the “Vagina Monologues” focuses on representing the vagina as a tool of female empowerment and creating dialogue around women’s experiences. The show has added a new monologue to represent trans women this year.
This year’s performance is directed by Callie Ferguson ’15, Xanthe Demas ’15 and Amanda Spiller ’17 with the support of Bowdoin V-Day co-leaders Kaylee Wolfe ’15 and Leah Alper ’17.
With such a high number of participants this year, adjustments were made to accommodate a part for every woman who auditioned. For this reason, “Speak!,” a compilation of Bowdoin women’s experiences produced by Bowdoin V-Day, was appended to the show.
Another modification in this year’s production responds to recent critiques that the show essentializes women around their anatomy to the exclusion of trans women. The script now includes a monologue based on interviews with a diverse group of trans women titled, “They Beat the Girl out of My Boy...Or So They Tried.”
“We’re really happy that we finally have that voice being filled,” said Ferguson.
For cast members, the show provides both a means of confronting women’s issues on campus and interacting with a community of proactive and engaged people.
“I think we’re all working together towards something that both helps us express ourselves and creates a space for the audience to express themselves,” said Abby Motycka ’17, a first-time participant.
“Women gain a lot of confidence from being in the show. It’s a climate of support over some sensitive issues,” added Ferguson.
The show also aims to increase dialogue surrounding a variety of women’s experiences, both positive and negative. According to Ferguson, cast members become ambassadors for spreading the message of the show.
“The fact that other women are comfortable with sharing their stories helps foster an environment in which other people can share in the same way,” said Motycka.
“The impact of the show extends beyond the production itself,” added Ferguson.
In the same way the show covers a wide range of stories and experiences, the fifty-member cast spans from first years to seniors.
“It’s a really awesome way to see a lot of different demographics on campus combined,” said Demas.
While participants received the script in the fall, Ferguson and Demas organized the hour-long production within the past two weeks.
“This compression means that each night is really dense with getting at these issues,” said Ferguson. “When you’re in it, you’re in it. It’s an immersive experience.”
For Alper, broadening the impact of the V-Day mission is the most rewarding part about being involved in the Vagina Monologues.
“I hope it sparks discussion,” said Alper. “The fact that there are so many people up there saying the word ‘vagina’...maybe people will leave feeling more comfortable talking about vaginas or things they wouldn’t normally talk about.”
V-Day is a global movement born out of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” a show that takes place on Valentine’s Day each year and works to end violence against women and girls. Bowdoin’s V-Day chapter sponsors the “Vagina Monologues” and other events throughout the year to raise awareness with the same goals.
The performances are tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased at the Smith Union Information Desk for $5. All proceeds from the production, including the annual Vagina Bake Sale which precedes the show, benefit Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine (SASSMM).
Smith Union art show celebrates historical black arts and culture
To commence the celebration of Black History Month on campus, the Student Activities Office and the African-American Society hosted an art exhibition in David Saul Smith Union featuring slam poetry by Esther Nunoo ’17 Tuesday evening.
The show—on display in the Smith Union Blue Gallery—features artwork, posters and advertisements that showcase Bowdoin’s involvement in Black History Month events dating back to the 1970s.
The posters highlight Bowdoin’s historical Black Arts Festival, a month-long celebration of Black History Month that occurred from the 1970s through early 2000s. Programs include a series of past events such as film screenings, lectures, dance, music and theater performances hosted by the Afro-American Society and Student Activities.A 1981 poster advertised “A Day Against Racism in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”, while one from 1978 promoted an event called “Soul Experience in Black America.” Other past events included day-long music and commentary on WBOR to complement the festival.
The retrospective exhibition also features a poster revealing this year’s Black History Month events, although Bowdoin no longer holds the same Black Arts Festival.
“It’s unfortunate that we don’t have [the festival] anymore,” said Olivia Paone ’15, one of the chief organizers of the Smith Union exhibition.Paone and Kelsey Gallagher ’17 were both hired by Student Activities as student curators for Smith Union to co-lead the organization of the art exhibition and the accompanying event.
“For this whole month we want to dedicate the entire Union to Black History Month,” said Gallagher.
In addition to the Black Arts Festival posters, other exhibitions on display in Smith include the AIDS Memorial Quilt in the Lamarche Gallery and the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” exposition on the first floor.
According to Paone, the exhibition was created in the hopes of inspiring a revival of student involvement in the celebration of Black History Month.
“We want to showcase that Bowdoin cares about Black History Month,” said Gallagher. “We want to get a lot of students involved because it’s super important.”
Nunoo’s performance of two original slam-poetry pieces was aimed at bolstering the discussion of Bowdoin’s prior and current involvement in Black History Month.
“Talking About Talking,” Nunoo’s first piece, illuminated her personal insights into how race and discussions around race play out at Bowdoin.Her poetry resonated deeply with the audience of students and community members.
“She says things that I would never be able to say out loud,” said Kelsey Scarlett ’17. “It’s so nice to hear somebody feel the same way as you do even if you can’t say it.”
“The Bowdoin bubble is real,” added Amanda Spiller ’17. “Even when we talk about these [issues], we don’t go to the deep extent that they deserve.”
Nunoo’s second piece, “The Worth of a King,” a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., featured live vocal accompaniment by Eliza Huber-Weiss ’17.
With the backdrop of Black History Month and an examination of its historical place in the Bowdoin community, the exhibition hopes to continue inspiring dialogue about how race is perceived and discussed on campus.
“You walk away with feelings and whether or not you talk about them, you have to confront them within yourself,” added Spiller.
Genre-bending Inuk throat-singer Tagaq performs to sold-out crowd
Internationally-acclaimed Canadian Inuk vocalist and musical artist Tanya Tagaq performed alongside Robert Flaherty’s controversial 1922 movie, “Nanook of the North,” in Pickard Theater on Sunday, adding completely improvised sound and voice inspired by her own experiences to the film’s Arctic landscapes.
The original ethnographic work depicts the everyday experiences of an Inuk man named Nanook and his family in early 20th-century Northern Quebec. It has long been criticized for exaggerating scenes of the group’s ignorance toward modern ideas and practices in order to make Inuit peoples appear to be confined to premodernity.
Tagaq is known for combining traditional Inuit throat-singing with jazz, electronic and other contemporary influences. Her most recent album, “Animism,” won the 2014 Polaris Music Prize.
Tagaq draws on her time growing up in Nunavut’s Victoria Island in the Canadian Arctic as a counterpoint to these misrepresentations of Inuit life. She feels that the struggles the Inuit had to undergo in such a harsh environment were brushed aside in Flaherty’s film and replaced with the image of a “happy Eskimo.”
“I love breaking that down,” she said. “I love being able to perform the soundtrack for the film as a modern day Inuk person.”
“Part of our mission is to educate people about the Arctic,” said curator of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum Genevieve LeMoine. “To have a renowned, Inuit contemporary performer come to campus is an excellent way to do that.”
Tagaq’s visceral performance added depth not just to the the images, but also to the racial, environmental, postcolonial and cultural implications of the film. Preceding the performance, Tagaq spoke about her own personal narrative and how it relates to the issues that are important to her.
“I feel very fortunate to have been born and raised there because I got to live very close to the land,” said Tagaq. “Because of where I grew up I have a different outlook on humanity and its impact on the Earth.”
She advocated for the need to rethink the relationship between humans and the environment, reminding the audience of the importance of respecting the land.
“I want to make sure that people understand that our lives mean something,” she added.Tying the performance into Bowdoin’s academic sphere, Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies Sarah Childress incorporated the event into her class, “Film as a Subversive Art.” She feels it is important for her students to see Tagaq “reclaim” the film and work against its reductive nature.
“I wanted the students to have that opportunity to have the representations within the film critiqued, and seeing someone actually talking back to a work of art that attempts to represent their cultural group,” said Childress. “That seemed particularly subversive to me.”
“The music added a first-person experience to the video,” said Jacqueline Colao ’17. “Her interpretation of [the film] really gave you an insight into what these people were actually going through.”
Childress’ film class also engaged in a discussion with Tagaq following the event.
“Through her music, [Tagaq] has a platform for sharing not only her first-personal experiences, but also the experiences of her community,” said Childress.
The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center, The Blythe Bickel Edwards Fund, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Student Activities, the Department of Music, the Department of Cinema Studies and the President’s Office Wabanaki Initiative all sponsored the event.
Portrait of an artist: Carly Berlin '18
For Carly Berlin ’18, writing is not just an academic interest or a frivolous pastime. An aspiring creative writer, Berlin uses her words as a medium to better understand herself and the world.
Berlin, a native of Atlanta, Ga., keeps a drawer of past journals and diaries by her bed which hold the history of her love for writing. Ever since she can remember, she has been writing and illustrating stories.
“I’ve been writing my whole life,” she said. During high school, Berlin developed a more serious commitment to her craft. A month-long creative writing program the summer before her senior year crystallized her dedication to creating works of fiction.
About a year ago, Berlin started her blog, “Endless Foolery,” where, she posts entries ranging from short stories to daily thoughts and streams-of-consciousness.
Berlin’s inspiration for starting a blog came from a high school creative writing workshopping class.
“I was really happy with the things I was coming out with and I felt like I just wanted other people to see them,” she said.
Several months ago Berlin committed to writing in a journal each night before she goes to bed.
“When I write something I like, I type it up and put it on the blog,” she said. “That’s usually about once a week.”
The front page of the blog includes a Shakespeare quote: “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” After coming across this quote in a Shakespeare quote book, Berlin was struck by the word “fool” and found it expressive as a title for the blog.
“I think no matter how seriously we want to take ourselves sometimes, we are all a little foolish,” she said.
For Berlin, the blog is as much for personal fulfillment as it is for sharing her work with a broader audience.
“When I’m writing, I’m writing for myself. But I am hoping that other people feel something from it,” she said.
As a first year, Berlin is in the midst of the transition from living at home to college life, and she has grappled with the transition in many recent blog posts. She hopes other students sharing this sentiment feel consoled when they read her posts and realize that someone else is feeling the same way.
Berlin draws stylistic inspiration from Virginia Woolf. After reading a book by Woolf, she says she subconsciously adopted Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness style, particularly in her blog entries.
As for her Bowdoin career, Berlin is on the staff of The Quill, where she will have work published later this semester. She is currently taking Visiting Assistant Professor of English’s Sarah Braunstein’s Advanced Fiction Workshop. Beyond Bowdoin, Berlin expressed her dreams of becoming a published fiction writer. “I see myself writing for my whole life, and I would love to think I could be this aspiring novelist,” she said.
Berlin’s greatest satisfaction comes from hearing that people are reading and appreciating her blog, and she hopes to get more readers interested in the blog in the future. Yet her writing also serves a personal purpose, forming a framework for how she navigates the world.
“I know that for me it’s such a therapeutic thing to write; it helps me stay sane and self-aware,” she said.
Visit Berlin's blog here.
To suggest an artist for Portrait of an Artist, email Arts & Entertainment editor Emily Weyrauch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Sleep Dealer’ uses sci-fi to talk immigration
Filmmaker and digital media artist Alex Rivera screened his film “Sleep Dealer” on Wednesday in Kresge Auditorium, followed by a discussion on the issues of technology, immigration and globalization highlighted in the film.
“Sleep Dealer,” released in 2008, imagines a dystopian future in which poor workers on the Mexican side of the border with the United States digitally control robot factories that have replaced the need for their labor. The film raises questions about the injustices of border control and economic globalization through the story of Memo Cruz (Luis Fernando Peña), who flees his family’s home after a deadly drone attack and ends up connecting his body from a digital factory in Mexico to a robot laborer in the U.S.
In addition to his 2008 feature film “Sleep Dealer,” Rivera’s works include two music videos, including one for popular R&B artist Aloe Blacc, as well as various short films, websites, and other projects. His films have been screened at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art, The Getty and Lincoln Center. “Sleep Dealer” won multiple awards at the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival.
“Using sci-fi as a way to talk about issues in the contemporary moment provides a way to think about how far we can push immigration,” said Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Marcos Lopez, who helped bring Rivera to campus.
Rivera’s film made its way onto several syllabi at Bowdoin before the director’s visit this week. Three upper-level Spanish classes, a labor course taught by Lopez and a film course taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies Sarah Childress use “Sleep Dealer” as a source on issues of labor, immigration and place.
While fictional, the reality of the film anticipated legal and cultural questions that have attended more widespread use of technology in the developing world.
“This idea that was at first political satire is now becoming reality in so many ways,” said Rivera.
“Sleep Dealer” critiques the digitization of the modern world and the U.S.’s exploitation of migrant workers for cheap labor and reflects on the human cost of quickening globalization.
“The accelerated cross-border migration that we’ve seen in the past 20 or 30 years is a different side of the extraordinary explosions in technology that have also occurred,” said Rivera. “It’s all one process of globalization and of disintegration of space.”
In the film, Rivera draws a parallel between the sense of alienation that comes with life in the digital world and that which comes from living on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The film questions the purpose of incremental changes in technology, who they serve, and how to reconcile the personal disconnections created in the digital age.
“It’s a chance to ask these questions through a multicultural point of view, and that’s how technology, which is an international matrix, needs to be seen,” Rivera said.
Immigration, Rivera added, is the only part of globalization that is criminalized. Though migrant workers are a necessary element of the American economy, he wanted to highlight the barriers to entry that remain prevalent.
“There’s this xenophobic, nativist rhetoric that [people use to refer to] undocumented people and treat them as these precarious laborers,” said Lopez.
“We, in this capitalistic society, exploit those who don’t really have a voice and who we deem as lesser than us,” said Michelle Kruk ’16, one of the leaders of the Latin American Student Organization (LASO). “But at the same time we rely on their labor to function.”
Kruk said that LASO had hoped to bring the issue of immigration to the surface, and the group played a major role in bringing Rivera and his film to campus. She noted the film’s relevance to the student body.
“There are a lot of Latino students who either were undocumented or have family members who are or were undocumented and it’s a really difficult discussion to have,” Kruk said.
The event was sponsored by the Blythe Bickel Fund, Sociology and Anthropology, Romance Languages, Latin American Studies, Cinema Studies, the Office of the Dean of Multicultural Student Affairs, the McKeen Center for the Common Good and LASO.
Virtual exhibit looks back at African-American art history
The virtual exhibition, “Fifty Years Later: The Portrayal of the Negro in American Painting,” launched last Tuesday, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the seminal 1964 exhibition at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. The innovative website brings a 21st-century lens to the historical exhibit, furthering its discussion on the role African Americans in the history of American Art.
The digital initiative is the result of a collaboration between students, faculty and staff in the Museum, Department of Art History, Digital and Computational Studies Initiative (DCSI) and Special Collections and Archives. Students from Professor Dana Byrd’s spring 2014 class, Race and Visual Representation in American Art, investigated topics and works related to the original exhibition. Cody Stack ’16 designed the website.
The website presents a complete interactive gallery of the original works, as well as current research on the show’s content and context. By digitizing the entire exhibition, the works and their contemporary analysis are free and widely accessible.
“Something that the digital exhibition provides is a democratic audience,” said Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow Sarah Montross, a principal organizer for the project.
“There’s a political intention behind making it digital,” Montross said.
Originally curated by Museum curator Marvin Sadik, the 1964 exhibition boasted 80 paintings from over 50 museums and private collections across the country, and featured works by artists including Winslow Homer, William Sidney Mount and John Singer Sargent. Sadik went on to become director of the Museum and later became the director of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. from 1969 to 1981.
At the time, the exhibit generated national acclaim and attracted nearly 20,000 visitors, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller. Organized at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the works merged art history with a political commentary that was radical for the time and place. Considering that Bowdoin was all-male and predominantly white at the time, the exhibit was pioneering in both subject and scope.
“The idea that this small institution in rural Maine would put together this show with a topic that was really resonant with the Civil Rights Movement was remarkable,” said Montross.
The digital exhibition both hopes to spark new conversations on the depiction of and works by African Americans in art and adds contemporary analysis to the historical exhibit.
To complement the exhibition, art historian Bridget Cooks, Ph.D. gave a lecture in Kresge last Tuesday.
Cooks is an associate professor of African American studies and art history at the University of California at Irvine. Her research includes the history of African American art and culture, museum criticism and postcolonial theory. She is the author of many texts, including “Exhibiting Blackness: African Americans and the American Art Museum,” and has served as museum educator for the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Cooks’ lecture revisited “The Portrayal of the Negro in American Painting” in the context of her research on the history of the struggle for racial equality through visual culture and museum exhibitions.
Cooks highlighted the unique impact of the works of the 1964 exhibition and she drew attention to an iconic image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. examining the works in the Museum.
“Looking at King’s face as he looks, speaks and listens forces us to imagine what that moment in 1964 was like,” said Cooks.
She later shared a quotation from King which described the exhibition as an “invaluable aid to understanding between the races.”
Elisabeth Strayer ’15, who was also involved in research for the exhibition, hopes the audience immerses itself in the cultural context of 1964.
“I view the online exhibition as a glimpse into Bowdoin’s past and its involvement in the Civil Rights Movement,” said Strayer.
Jess Holley ’15 was also in Professor Byrd’s art history seminar and interned with Sarah Montross at the Museum over the summer.
“I hope that [the audience] gains another understanding of the presence of African Americans in American art history. Not just as artists, but also how they were being portrayed throughout history,” said Holley.
The modern revisiting of the exhibit forces the audience to consider the concepts of race and representation and their evolution over the past 50 years.
“Through the digital exhibition, we want people to start asking with the distanced lens how things have changed or how things maybe haven’t changed in terms of visual representations of race,” said Montross.
The virtual exhibition is accessible at http://bcma.bowdoinimg.net/index.html.
'Swamplandia' author talks Florida gators, dystopias
Karen Russell, prize-winning fiction writer and author of the novel “Swamplandia!,” gave a lecture sponsored by the Santagata Memorial Lecture Fund in Kresge Auditorium on Monday evening.
Russell charmed the audience with her wit, eloquence and humility as she read an excerpt from her novel and discussed the geographical and imaginal landscapes that inspire her.Russell received a B.A. from Northwestern University and an MFA from Columbia University. A young creative writer, Russell has been featured in The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” list, and was also named a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” writer in 2009. In 2013, she received a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant and was the youngest of the year’s winners.
Russell’s debut novel “Swamplandia!” was chosen as one of The New York Times’ “Best Books of 2011.”
Set in her native South Florida Everglades, “Swamplandia!” depicts the story of a family of alligator wrestlers living in a shabby amusement park. The novel tackles themes of loss and grief through a story filled with vibrant descriptions and whimsical characters.
The geographical landscape for the novel was motivated by Russell’s connection to the setting of her adolescence and by her desire to imaginatively return to Florida.
“It’s when you leave your home that you can see it most clearly,” said Russell.
She suggested that many Bowdoin students likely share this sentiment.
In “Swamplandia!, ” Russell juxtaposes the reality of the historical Everglades with fantastical elements that thrive in Florida. The setting comes to life like a character in the plot.
“There’s a fluidity in South Florida. There is such a heterogeneous culture, and there really is a magical way where things are constantly in flux,” said Russell. “I can’t imagine a more magical realist state.”
“Swamplandia!” was a continuation of her short story entitled “Ava Wrestles The Alligator,” which stuck in her mind after it was published in Zoetrope, a short fiction magazine.
Russell is also the author of several short stories and one novella, Sleep Donation, which describes a dystopian scenario in which healthy dreamers donate their dreams to an insomniac.
For Russell, the transition from the realm of short stories to novel territory was not linear.
“I was trying to juggle multiple worlds to keep narrative momentum going,” said Russell.
She drew the analogy that a short story is a sprint, while a novel is a marathon, requiring more endurance.
The ability to metamorphose into another world inspired Russell’s hunger for books as a child and informed her desire to become a writer.
“I so enjoyed traveling to these fictional universes and wanted to make the same imaginal landscapes for readers,” said Russell.
Russell emphasized the importance of allowing truth to arise naturally. Writers should give their unconscious thought permission to roam, she suggests, rather than forcing conscious meaning too early on.
Realism in a work of fiction, she proposed, only exists as language on a page. Anything claiming to be realism is actually a compression—a distortion of reality. Yet this distortion is at the heart of truth; it gives insight about the human experience.
“Why not give yourself access to an expanded vocabulary to talk about how strange it is to be alive?” said Russell.
Russell’s discussion of the idea that “everybody is talking, but nobody is listening” resonated for Emily Simon ’17.
“It is very inspiring that there are so many people dedicated to the project of writing the human condition,” said Simon.
But on the other hand, Simon added, it can feel like an unworthy cause if it is for their own benefit. She would like to read more of Russell’s works after attending the talk.
On writers’ block, Russell advocated enduring and pushing through periods in which writing feels stifled or “bad.”
“You have to get over the hurdle of your own self-consciousness,” she said.
To aspiring fiction writers, Russell recommended reading like an omnivore: reading poetry, memoirs, essays and biographies in addition to novels. Using poetry as a medium for learning how to pay attention to the “music” of language was central to her development as a creative writer.
Book artist Goodale speaks about Maine wildlife
Combining contemporary art and the history of endangered Maine species, book artist Rebecca Goodale gave an illustrated lecture on her most recent project, “Threatened and Endangered: Flora and Fauna of Maine,” on Tuesday evening in Kresge Auditorium.
Goodale’s accompanying works are currently on display as part of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives at Bowdoin’s Hawthorne-Longfellow Library.
Goodale spoke to a full audience of students, faculty and community members while showcasing images of pieces from the project.
The exhibition of Goodale’s works runs alongside “Envisioning Extinctions: Art as a Witness and Conscience,” by Associate Professor of Art Susan Wegner. The latter exhibit offers a historical, text-based look at the extinction of the passenger pigeon in the early 20th century. Goodale’s exhibit looks at the topic of preserving flora and fauna through the lens of contemporary art. Both exhibits have been on display in the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library since September 1.
“It occurred to me that we could complement the historical exhibit with one that reflected the same themes but through [Goodale’s] contemporary art,” said Richard Lindemann, director of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives.
Lindemann and his staff acquire and make accessible texts and materials that are too rare, expensive or fragile to appear in the general collection. Just recently, the department expanded its collections to include more artists’ books. Book art is a medium through which artists realize art through the form of a book. Special Collections has acquired one copy of each of Goodale’s artists’ books.
This relationship provides Goodale with a means of storing and sharing her work, while allowing the library to use her materials for teaching and exhibition purposes. Special Collections first presented Goodale’s work in an exhibition in 2004. Goodale has been working on her present project on endangered and threatened species of Maine since 2000. She is also the director for the Center of Book Arts at the University of Southern Maine.
Goodale’s books fuse together reading and art and range in style from pop-up to fanning to wedding cake. She employs printmaking techniques including silkscreen, block print and collagraph.
Students of Carrie Scanga’s printmaking classes were required to attend the event, and will be working with Goodale in class next week. The class members will make their own artist books later in the semester.
From the Hairstreak Butterfly to wild ginger to the Clematis flower, Goodale’s books involve colorful depictions of various endangered species native to Maine. Color is central to all pieces and many take on three-dimensional form, from strings of water lilies to an accordion-style flag book of silkscreened willows.
Capturing a sense of place is central to Goodale’s work. She travels around Maine seeking inspiration from the state’s most precious flora and fauna, often carrying just a drawing pad and disposable camera.
The books of Goodale’s endangered species project inspire an attentiveness to environmentalism, science and ethics. While her works endorse an important ecological cause, garnering activist support isn’t her main objective. Goodale hopes her books engender an awareness of humankind’s impact on species endangerment among her audience, simply through the beauty of her art.
“I am a big believer of beauty, of good design, of good use of color,” said Goodale.Maddy Livaudais ’16 found Goodale’s artistic process relevant to the curriculum of her Printmaking I class.
“I liked that she tries to be representative of the plants or animals that she’s drawing, but not precise to the point that it has to be exact,” said Livaudais.
Goodale emphasized that her works are focused more on color, form and movement than on scientific precision. While most of her books solely consist of artwork, several also incorporate brief segments of poetry.
“I like to write because it gets me somewhere I can’t get to in the studio,” said Goodale.
Cheryl Lewis and Norine Kotts, friends of Goodale’s and admirers of her work, attended the event, eager to learn more about her art.
“It was great to spend this amount of time learning about what informs her decisions, around color and size in particular,” said Kotts.
“It’s always nice to look at the process,” Lewis added.
Linemann hopes that the audience—students in particular—gain not just an appreciation for Goodale’s current project, but also for the Department of Special Collections and Archives.
“We have a vested interest in having our collections be better known,” Lindemann said. “So my hope would be that [the audience] appreciate the fact that the library has an eclectic and wide-ranging collection of materials that might be of use to their interests.”
Minimalist Salon at Art Museum plays host to music, art
Beckwith Artist-in-Residence George Lopez performed an evening of minimalist music, including works by Philip Glass, Avro Part and John Adams, for the Thursday Night Salon at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art last week. Students, faculty and community members attended the event, which was put on in conjunction with the current museum exhibition, “Richard Tuttle: A Print Retrospective.”
“As is quintessential of [Lopez], he not only brings together music and art, but also brings together members of the community,” said Anne Goodyear, co-director of the Museum.
Lopez performed prototypes of minimalist music, ranging from pieces composed with a 12-tone system to those with small recurring repetitions. According to Lopez, minimalist music involves the “emancipation of dissonance,” and a “movement away from tonality,” using fewer elements to create form in sound. The repetitions in the music help keep the audience oriented as they listen to this non-traditional musical form.
The concept of stripping away the non-essential elements in music is mirrored in Tuttle’s minimalist and conceptual art.
“There’s power in the small,” said Lopez, getting up from his piano to point to Tuttle’s prints.Lopez sprinkled discussion of the pieces he performed throughout the evening, relating them to the art in the gallery and how both drew on minimalist ideals. The minimalist movement, both in art and music, he explained, was about artistic endeavors at the fringe of society. The notion of drawing meaning from the barest art forms defied the ideals of mainstream postwar art.
Minimalism, Lopez continued, fosters the idea that art can and should be experienced directly, without mediation. It encourages people to experience art, whether it be visual art or music, at its surface.
And just as the works of Satie, Glass and other minimalist artists reframe the standard musical landscape, the artwork in the Tuttle exhibit takes things out of their ordinary contexts, forcing audiences to view them in their immediacy.
“It’s the idea of a thing unto itself,” said Lopez. “The artwork itself is making you do something.”
The concept of tuning into “the small” resonated for Claire Day ’18.
“I liked the concept that the ‘big picture’ is important, and that’s what we train ourselves to think about. But recognizing the small is important too,” said Day.
Lopez suggested that our perspective often tends to overgeneralize. According to him, minimalism is about “waking up to the detail” that gets clouded by the human desire to categorize. The gathering of people at an event like the Thursday Night Salon is all part of experiencing art.
Lopez also raised awareness to the custom of applauding at the end of a piece. Clapping is a way to expel the energy with which the music filled us, he said. Lopez then asked the audience to question whether or not applause felt like a natural response to the the works performed, which tended to create more of an “experiential balance.”
Along with piano music by Lopez, the event featured special performances from violinist Hannah Renedo ’18 and Assistant Professor of Dance Charlotte Griffin.
Jude Marx ’18 was impressed with the overall tone of the event.
“I was surprised by how emotionally moved I was,” said Marx. “I expected it to be more of an intellectual engagement.”
DJ of the Week: Andrew Daniels '15 and Greg Stasiw '15
What prompted you to create the show “No Dad Rock”?Andrew Daniels: We had a show for two years called “Escalator Music.”Greg Stasiw: The reasoning behind that name was that we played progressive rock and metal exclusively. We said, “This sure as hell isn't elevator music, so it must be escalator music!”AD: But it was pretty defined.There was a lot of stuff we wanted to play that we thought didn’t really fit in that range so we wanted to expand our horizons this year.
Where did the name for your show come from?GS: If you can picture a middle-aged dude wearing a “Life is Good” t-shirt, flipping burgers and listening to a song, that’s “Dad Rock.” You know, Aerosmith, Steve Miller Band, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd. There’s nothing wrong with those, but of all music, I mind those the most.
Who do you think makes up your audience? Who do you hope listens to your show?AD: Parents and close friends, I guess. We hope anyone who is in their car driving and happens to turn the radio to WBOR says, “Hey, this is kind of cool!”GS: Our dads. To be honest, they’re the only ones who probably ever listen to the show. With the name and the theme this semester, we’re kind of risking alienating about 50% of our listener base.AD: But we like to emphasize: we have nothing against dads.
What’s the best part about having a radio show?AD: It really gives you a chance to explore new music. GS: You’re forced to find new music, in a way. Our listeners would get very bored if we were always playing the same stuff over and over. And we would get bored too. Having a show every week forces us to explore music more.
Are there any artists you've discovered through having the show?AD: You’re more interested in trying to find new stuff to listen to because you know you’ll have to find stuff to play on the radio show.GS: In terms of style, we’re both starting to get into more postrock and electronic music, which is fun. Both of us have always been explorers of music. Last year and the year before, on the radio show we’d play metal and prog rock but in our room we’d be blasting anything from Saint Pepsi to Stravinsky. But we had this task of sticking to this theme, so this year we’re just saying, “To heck with the theme.” You’re more creative when you have some kind of constraint, so that’s why we have the “No Dad Rock” thing.
Who is your favorite musical artist?AD: It would have to be Deafheaven, within the last year or so.GS: The Antlers, just going by play count on my iTunes.
What is your guilty pleasure song?AD: “Nights on Broadway” by the Bee Gees. GS: I guess we could share that one. There would be a lot of Bee Gees happening in our room last year.
What has been your favorite concert experience?AD: A concert we both went to: Voyager and Rhapsody of Fire. GS: Probably Explosions in the Sky. Instrumental post-rock, no lyrics, you just kind of stand there. It’s this weird trance experience. You have to make up your own story for the song, so I just decided to go through all my memories while they were playing—my whole life was the theme of music.What is your least favorite band or genre?AD: Country. If it comes up on Spotify on an advertisement, I’m like “I never listen to this stuff any way, why would they target me for a country advertisement?”GS: If I have to be truthful about a least favorite band, it would fall under “Dad Rock”: Aerosmith. Something about Aerosmith just really turns me off.
What music do you like to study to?AD. Post-rock.GS: My Chemical Romance.
What are your majors?AD: Math and Computer Science double major.GS: Anthropology major with a Japanese minor.
If you could hang out with one famous musician, who would it be?AD: I’d probably say Frank Zappa. He definitely seems like a character. GS: David Bowie. Just ’cause he’s amazing. He just seems like a character I want to know.
Tune in to “No Dad Rock” with Daniels and Stasiw every Wednesday from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. on WBOR 91.1 FM or stream online at wbor.org.
Editor’s Note: Daniels is the Web Developer for the Orient.
Many singing hopefuls audition for campus a cappella groups
Whether ringing throughout the Chapel or a College House living room, the voices of Bowdoin a cappella are a pervasive force in the community.
Earlier this week, prospective singers competed for coveted spots in Bowdoin’s six a cappella groups—the Longfellows, the Meddiebempsters, BOKA, Ursus Verses, Miscellania and Bellamafia.
The nearly 80 students involved in a cappella make up a sizeable portion of Bowdoin’s student population. Students and community members flock to concerts, which often have a line out the door. The groups—two all-male, two all-female and two co-ed—span a range of sounds, styles and personalities.
“My gut feeling is that there are a lot more kids auditioning this year than there were last year,” said Max Middleton ’16, member of the Meddiebempsters and president of the A Cappella Council.
Though the A Cappella Council has no involvement in the decision-making process, Middleton acts as a mediator for discussion between the groups, coordinating various a cappella events as well as the audition process.Auditions took place on Monday and Tuesday evenings, while callbacks took place on Wednesday. The six groups captured the attention of first years and other students during their recruitment concert last Friday, caroling through first-year bricks and placing posters around campus.
This marketing got many students excited about the prospect of being a part of Bowdoin’s a cappella culture.
“I love the group that comes along with [a capella]; it seems so exciting and awesome here,” said Hannah Berman ’18, who added that the a cappella community would offer an opportunity to meet new people and find a niche on campus. There are few spots available for the nearly 50 singers who audition for each group. The audition process was consistent across groups. Singers were asked to perform both a short solo piece and various exercises to test range, musicality and musical technique.
Even for the most experienced performers, singing in front of a small group of classmates and peers can be terrifying. Many groups made it a high priority to create a welcoming or even silly ambiance to quell such anxieties.
“You walk in and they’re all cheering you on and so excited you’re there,” said Berman.
The non-musical component of the auditions varied across groups.
Those auditioning for BOKA, one of Bowdoin’s co-ed groups, were asked to prepare a pickup line to deliver to a current member of their choice.“We try to let that break the ice and make people less nervous when they start singing,” said Caroline Montag ’17, a member of BOKA and Bellamafia.
BOKA and other groups try to engage the auditioning singers in conversation to create a more familiar environment.
One of the all-male groups, the Meddiebempsters employed a “jokingly intimidating” style that made it the most fun group to audition for, according to several singers. Singers were required to tell a joke to members, bringing levity to the audition and helping gauge the group for a personality fit.
“We’re looking for people who will blend into the group, both personality-wise and vocally,” said Meddiebempster Simon Close ’17.
While musical ability was the chief criterion in the decision-making process, personality and group chemistry also played an important role.“You spend upwards of four or five hours together a week during rehearsals, so it’s really important that everyone in the group gets along as well,” said Montag.
Most groups were looking to replace seniors who graduated last May and encouraged prospective members to audition for multiple groups who may be looking to fill different parts.
In the event that multiple groups want the same singer, singer decides which group to join.
With two days of auditions, then callbacks and deliberations into the “wee hours of the night,” this week has taken a toll on both current members and auditioning students.
According to Middleton, each auditioning student is evaluated in terms of “how his sound is going to affect the group and what he’s going to bring to the table.”
But for current a cappella members, this hectic time is still quite enjoyable.
“It’s like the most fun thing in the world,” said Middleton.