‘Macbeth’ on the steps: Trevor Murray ’16 independent study
Trevor Murray’s ’16 independent senior project culminates this weekend with two performances of Macbeth that will take place on the steps of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. No stranger to the theater, Murray serves as director and costume designer for the show.Murray, who has worked with the theater and dance department throughout his time at Bowdoin and studied Shakespeare while he was abroad, decided to revive a forgotten Bowdoin tradition of “Shakespeare on the Steps” after seeing old pictures of the performances dating back to the early 1900s.
While the production has received funding from Masque and Gown and support from Beyond the Proscenium, a student theater group on campus, most of the work has been within the production. The cast began rehearsals after Spring Break, and so far, weather has been one of the biggest challenges.
“We couldn’t be on the steps Monday, and it’s supposed to rain on Saturday as well, so we have some rain locations which would still be disappointing because it’s really cool to use the steps,” said Murray. “It’s definitely a lot of work to try and pull a show together without a full production team.”
Despite difficulties with the weather, the director and cast have enjoyed the perks an outdoor stage adds to the play. Nick Funnell ’17, who is playing Macduff, expressed his excitement about the setting.
“It’ll be really cool because there’s a long tradition of Shakespeare being outside with Shakespeare in the Park, or even Globe Theater originally,” he said.
“I think having it on the Museum steps does give it a very different vibe, somewhat more gothic,” added Jenna Scott ’19, who plays one of the witches.
With the help of his friend and fellow Shakespeare enthusiast Jamie Weisbach ’16, Murray was able to produce a shortened cut of the play tailored for the Bowdoin audience.
“I think Shakespeare’s really done best when it’s an hour and a half or under,” said Murray. “You’re going to get Shakespeare nerds who will sit down for a three-hour performance and love it, but I think it’s hard for Shakespeare to be that accessible for that long.”
With the cut script, Murray focused on bringing out the theme of time within his rendition.“So Macbeth is the shortest of the tragedies, and time is mentioned very extensively in the script,” said Murray. “You have mentions of when—now, tonight, tomorrow, yesterday—and it’s about Macbeth trying to seize the future [and] put it in the present, so I wanted to capture that aspect of the cut and really try to make it this relentless hour and 15 minutes.”
Some members of cast feel they have benefited greatly from the production being entirely student-run.
“I feel like I’ve become a better actor learning from other actors who will do a production and direct a production,” said Sydney Benjamin ’19. “It’s a lot easier to connect with the director and the other people working on the production because they’ve all been where I am right now.”Others who have worked with Murray before had equal appreciation for his work and dedication to the production.
“[Murray’s] an awesome director for an actor,” said Funnell. “He’s way more about focusing on individual acting, how you see your character and your impulses and what your attitude is behind it.”
“As a director, I think about what story I want to help these actors tell,” said Murray. “I have my own ideas about how certain characters are thinking, so I can try and give that to the actors, and they do with that what they will and tell their own story based on that.”
Student band & DJ to perform at Ivies
With the recent results of this year’s Battle of the Bands and DJ Contest, coupled with the addition of house music producer Baauer, has brought student excitement for Ivies to an extreme level. Student band Duck Blind and student DJ Nadim Elhage, who are set to open for Waka Flocka Flame and Baauer, respectively, noted their excitement to open for the two anticipated acts.
“Be ready to have fun,” said Nadim Elhage ‘16. “I’m going to play a lot of stuff that you’d want to dance to and then mix in music that you would want to have fun to. It’s engaging.”
Student bands Duck Blind, Pulse, Gotta Focus and Treefarm competed in the annual event to be the opening act for Ivies 2016. Pulse won second place and will play before Elhage’s set on Saturday. Duck Blind, featuring Harrison Carmichael ’17 on lead guitar, Kyle Losardo ’17 on rhythm guitar, vocals by Mike Paul ’17, Sam Azbel ’18 on bass and Stephen Melgar ’16 on drums, claimed victory and the opportunity to open for Waka Flocka Flame on Thursday night in Smith Union.
“It was cool opening for Logic last year, but I’m excited to be playing in Smith which I think will be a more fun environment to be playing in, especially with the hype around Waka,” said Carmichael.
Judged by Associate Professor of Music Vineet Shende, Senior Lecturer in Music Frank Mauceri and President Clayton Rose, Azbel described how different it was to appeal to the judges as opposed to playing just for students.
“We were kind of focusing on what the judges wanted to hear as opposed to what the students wanted to hear,” said Azbel. “We’re usually not nervous for shows, but we were definitely a little bit nervous about Battle of the Bands because we were playing for definitely some really knowledgeable judges.”
“The feedback you get from the judges is also just great,” added Paul. “They tell you all about the technical things you’re doing right and wrong.”
Carmichael, Losardo, Paul and Melgar have played together for three years. Azbel filled in for the band’s bassist last year and has become a permanent member of the band this year.Having won second place at Battle of the Bands last year, Carmichael said the band was hoping to win first this year.
“We’ve just been making a lot of time for practicing this past year,” said Carmichael. “I think we’ve just been very conscious about our song choice and making sure we have songs down that we really enjoy playing.”
Elhage, who has been DJing since his first year at Bowdoin, said his style has progressed to include fewer mainstream artists and more unexpected samples.
“I shy away from mainstream music because I feel like it loses the artistic touch that the music I listen to has,” Elhage said. “I want to stick to the style that [Baauer] has. I don’t want to be too radically different but have some surprises in there.”
Similarly, Duck Band has shifted from playing country music and has been finding a slightly different sound.
“We’re exploring our differences musically,” said Paul. “I’d say we are all so different in the genres that we like, so we were kind of delving deeper into figuring out what we want to play.”
Laura Peterson Choreography performs for dance students
Taking a unique, formalist approach to dance and choreography, Visiting Artist in the Department of Theater and Dance Laura Peterson offered students an interesting look behind her own creative processes when she arranged a lecture demonstration by her company, Laura Peterson Choreography.
Peterson is teaching three classes this spring: “Choreography for Dancers: Improvisation and Invention,” “Modern III: Technique” and “Modern III: Repertory and Performance.” Open to current dance students, the Wednesday event in Wish Theater was a valuable supplement to the curriculum.
“The kind of trend right now is much more towards a nonlinear, earthbound sort of emotive form of dancing which has proliferated in the last 20 years or so,” explained Chair of the Theater and Dance Department Paul Sarvis. “Laura’s work is more linear, but it’s also more austere—that’s something that students just don’t have a chance to see that much anymore.”
According to Sarvis, Peterson’s work, which is influenced by the minimalist artists of the 1970s, expresses a unique style of old and new that is rare in the current dance world.
“I think [Peterson] would describe herself as a formalist—so someone who approaches dance making from a standpoint of disinterested curiosity about the material and the fact of the movement,” said Sarvis. “She deals with form, and she has a lot of elaborate—often mathematical—scores that she uses to make her dances.”
Alessandra Laurent ’18, a student in Peterson’s “Choreography for Dancers: Improvisation and Invention,” appreciated the opportunity to see excerpts from Peterson’s final choreographed work that reflect the improvisation techniques done in the class.
“In terms of set choreography, it was interesting just to see a lot of the stuff she’s talked about physicalized and to recognize a lot of the phrases we learned in class in the excerpts that they performed,” said Laurent. “Basically what we’ve been working on in our class, which is improvisation with a score.”
Three dancers from Peterson’s company performed a series of lectures and demonstrations of three works from the company’s repertory: “The Atomic Orbital,” “The Futurist,” and “Forever.”“[The dancers] gave a debrief of each dance right before they showed it, so we got to hear what goes on behind the curtain—how the dance is conceived and produced—before it is performed,” said Gina Fickera ’18, one of Peterson’s students. “When audiences come, they form their own opinion on it, but it’s nice to hear the dancers’ own perspective because they are the ones who are working hard up on the stage.”
Sarvis admires Peterson’s approach in constructing performances, from the meticulous research to the creation of a singular architectural space that has captivated audiences from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. to venues all over the world.“[Peterson’s] work values physical effort in a sense that taps almost a romantic strand of the artist that’s sort of sacrificing themselves for an audience,” he said. “She highlights the physicality and endurance aspects of dancing.”
Fickera thought that seeing the potential of simple movements generated in Peterson’s class to become a full show was an inspiring experience.
“She does a lot of site-specific work, so she takes the space and uses a part of that as a frame for the body,” said Fickera. “We use the architecture and the landscape and the texture of a space to inspire our movement, and we’ll take pieces from that generated improv and expand on that little piece into a full show.”
“The way that [Peterson] does it, there’s set choreography that tends to be very specific and very geometric and analytically thought-out,” added Laurent. “It was very interesting to see that embodied in an actual touring company.”
Briefel on artistry, race in Victorian Era
The latest book by Aviva Briefel, a professor of English and cinema studies, is entitled “The Racial Hand in the Victorian Imagination.” At a book release celebration on Thursday, she spoke about its topic: the racial significance of non-white hands in the Victorian period.
“Victorians believed that we could read somebody’s character through their hands, or the shape of their fingers or through the lines in their hands or through a whole range of different things,” said Briefel. “But one identity category that Victorians really struggled to find and couldn’t locate was race.”
As there was a general frustration at the inability of Victorian scientists to use the hand as evidence for racial difference, such as through fingerprinting, Briefel argues in her book that this frustration translated to literary writers who would in turn imagine different ways the hand could be racialized in their fiction.
“Hands of non-white individuals were used by literary texts as way of thinking about race and creating fantasies about racial identity,” said Briefel. “Victorians were very invested in the idea that identity could be read through the body.”
With her last book, “The Deceivers: Art Forgery and Identity in the Nineteenth Century,” Briefel researched the way art forgery completely obscures the work of the individual who forged it.
In the process of thinking about how artistry is concealed, Briefel began to think about the role of hands in artistic labor and the fascination of Victorian society with the hands of Indian craftsmen.
“As England was moving more toward an industrialized, machine-based economy, even in their production of art, there was almost this kind of fascination with hands that were still producing things,” explained Briefel. “That got me thinking about the fascination more generally with non-white hands during the period and non-white hands actually either making things or being scrutinized in some way.”
Due to the incredible amount of primary source material available about hands during the Victorian period, Briefel was met with the daunting task of narrowing down everything, from palmistry manuals to mummification, into her book.
“I ended up trying to limit in each chapter a certain topic that I would look at,” said Briefel. “So one is about Indian craftsmanship, one is about the Victorian fascination with mummy’s hands, one about fingerprinting and one about eastern punishments that involve the cutting off of hands as a result of theft or other kinds of crimes.”
While horror, especially in film, is another subject of interest to Briefel, she states she did not make any direct connections to horror film in her book. Instead, Briefel describes how her course offered this semester “Victorian Plots,” although not specifically focused on the topic, reflects a lot of the topics she has written about.
“There’s a lot of intersection between the material that we read in that class, which is often adventure fiction involving imperialism that finds a place in the book, obviously in a more focused on hands kind of way,” said Briefel. “Also the aspect of identity in in crime in Victorian fiction definitely comes in there.”
Multimedia artist DuBois shares interactive portrait of Mckesson
Black Lives Matter activist and Baltimore mayoral candidate DeRay Mckesson ’07 has been honored by the College with a portrait that will remain at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in its permanent collection. Unlike the typical oil painting portraits of other alums, Mckesson’s portrait is a hybrid of video footage and data drawn from Mckesson’s presence on social media.New York-based artist R. Luke DuBois was commissioned to create a portrait that would not only be a valuable addition to the college’s collection, but also one that portrays an alum with whom students can resonate. Co-Directors of the Museum Anne Collins Goodyear and Frank H. Goodyear commissioned the piece.
“It’s really something for you guys. I think it’s really relevant to have one of your alums, who’s doing such important work in such an important historical moment, in your museum,” said DuBois.
Having met DuBois through her former position at the National Portrait Gallery, Anne Collins Goodyear expressed her appreciation for how his approach to portraiture comes across in the Mckesson portrait.
“He’s bringing so many different disciplinary lenses to thinking about the world around us, reminding us that there are a myriad of different ways in which to interpret this unbelievable flow of information that is coming by us all the time,” said Goodyear.
The video-based portrait, titled “32 Questions for DeRay Mckesson,” is featured as a part of a solo exhibition titled “R. Luke DuBois—Now” at the Museum.
“He’s super connected to this place, and this place really changed his life, so I think I’m kind of just like the middleman in a process that’s sort of like DeRay imparting what he’s learned in the nine years since he graduated,” said DuBois.
Currently with more than 325,000 followers on Twitter, Mckesson has become one of the most recognizable figures of the Black Lives Matter movement. His involvement with the movement is both on the ground and with an extensive presence on social media.
“The way [the portrait] works is that as he talks, you see topics and keywords show up on the screen that are based on what he’s talking about. Those keywords are used as search terms for his Twitter feed,” DuBois said. “Then as he speaks, a real time feed of his Twitter in response to those topics appears. So if he’s talking in a clip about race, you’ll see a random sampling of his recent twitter activity talking about race.”
The interview questions that Mckesson answers in the digital portrait were crowd-sourced from Bowdoin students by Bowdoin Student Government and the African American Society (Af-Am).
President of Af-Am Ashley Bomboka ’16 expressed her excitement at what the portrait will provide for the student body.
“I think our generation grew up knowing technology was very much going to be a part of our life and it’s not a matter of choice anymore,” said Bomboka. “In order to fully participate in our society, we have to be hooked in—even if we don’t necessarily have these larger devices—to at least know what they are, to know what the capabilities are.”
While the video and the questions remain the same, the portrait will continually change. New data will be added to the portrait as Mckesson updates his online presence.
“To see him in real-time in this is awesome because he very much functions in real time, and everything about his life is dependent on where he is in social media, where he is right now on the ground, whether he’s protesting, or organizing, or teaching other people how to advocate for issues they care about,” said Bomboka.
In addition to the video-based portrait of Mckesson, DuBois’ exhibition explores the human experience in a data heavy world of unlimited information. In addition to being an artist, DuBois is also a professor at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering with a Ph.D. in musical composition from Columbia. His exhibition at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art features a variety of film, sound works and video installations, incorporating computer programming and works on paper.
Other works include a video installation titled “Acceptance,” which features an edited synchronization of President Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s acceptance speeches at their party conventions in 2012. The piece reveals how a majority of the speakers’ words overlap, highlighting the similar rhetoric between two opposing parties, as much of his work focuses on the media of American identity.
“He’s creating this really very new hybrid way of working and thinking that reminds me that there’s no one way to see things in perfect focus,” said Anne Goodyear. “There’s always this desirable interplay that we want to be engaged with as flexible citizens who are engaging in the world around us.”
Poet Carlos Andres Gómez’s performance resonates with students
Laughter, tears and snaps filled the living room of Quinby House as students listened to world-renowned spoken word poet Carlos Andrés Gómez on Tuesday. For almost two hours, students were captivated by Gómez’s performance, which explored topics ranging from cultural identities to genocide to gender roles.
Often speaking from personal experience as a social worker in Harlem and the Bronx and a public school teacher in Philadelphia, Gómez delivered a performance that not only brought attention to social issues but also demanded change. The reading was preceded by a poetry workshop.
The idea of a complex, multifaceted identity is a major theme in Gómez’s performances. The workshop he led focused on creating dialogue across different identities.
“You can’t argue with someone’s story. You can’t have a political opinion about a story,” said Gómez. “It’s a subversive way of having people engage and experience to build meaningful empathy and understanding and complicate people’s notions of things in a way that’s not intellectualized and detached.”
Having both first heard Gómez in high school, Latin American Student Organization (LASO) board member Sergio Gomez ’16 and Quinby House Programming Director Osakhare Omoregie ’18 contacted Gómez through Facebook, hoping he would come speak at Bowdoin about Latinx identity.
“One thing about his poetry that I felt Bowdoin as a campus really needed is the focus on humanity,” said Omoregie. “His poems—while from first glance might seem to be targeting certain kinds of people—in actual truth, he’s bringing up that everyone has their faults but the first step to recovery is to admit that there’s a problem.”
Sensing a lack of discussion regarding Latinx identity on campus, Gomez hoped this event would shed some light on the Latinx experience.
“Issues such as immigration are really hot topics nationally, but not really on our campus, [which] kind of gave me this sense of invisibility amongst us,” said Gomez. “I think it’s now more than ever that we could really use someone who can talk about the Latinx experience and bring a sense of presence that we are here. We are a part of this community.”
Bowdoin’s own Slam Poets’ Society kicked the performance off with a ten-minute opening set. Co-leader Violet Ranson ’16 felt that Gómez’s performance provided a new and empathetic perspective to the issues currently pervading campus, a welcome validation to many of the members of LASO and Slam Poets’ Society.
John Medina ’18 similarly conveyed the importance of Gómez’s performance to many students on campus.
“I feel that yesterday’s event with Carlos Andrés Gómez was necessary to remind us during this difficult time, although we’re being told that we don’t matter or people want our voices to be shut down, we’re reminded that we are beautiful people and we do deserve to be here,” said Medina.
Throughout the performance, Gómez invited audience members to share their thoughts and feelings about their identity, empowering listeners to be their most authentic selves in a difficult time.
“I want, in my performances, people to feel seen and affirmed and challenged, and if they leave with one thing, I hope that everyone leaves feeling like they’re enough,” said Gómez. “ I hope that people laughed and cried and got upset and got inspired and felt a range of emotions.”Gómez related to the audience humorous anecdotes from his performances in various cities in the United States that reveal serious social insensitivities and cultural unawareness.
“I think about things in an intersectional way, grappling with all of us being human beings that carry multiple identities simultaneously and thinking about the implications in terms of power dynamics and access that that has for all of us,” said Gómez. “I talk about race and sexuality and gender, a wide range of identities, and I hope that people think about themselves in more complicated ways.”
Masque & Gown emulate Shakespearean comedies
This weekend, the Masque and Gown production of “Leading Ladies” will bring laughter to the intimate Wish Theater with a tale of double identities and romantic entanglements.In this comedic farce, two desperate English Shakespearean actors find themselves traveling to the Amish country of York, PA to impersonate two long lost relatives of an ailing woman for an inheritance. Even when it becomes clear that “Max” and “Steve” are nicknames for Maxine and Stephanie, the two determined actors remain undaunted, slapping on some lipstick and putting on a dress—giving way to a hilarious series of events.
With cross-dressing and humor created through an absurd yet oddly coherent series of events, “Leading Ladies” was the much needed comedy that Masque and Gown director Alexandra Belmore ’18 was looking for.
“I saw the play performed about five years ago, and it was a riot,” said Belmore. “I thought it would be a really fun show to do just because Masque and Gown hasn’t done a straight on comedy in a few years.”
President of Masque and Gown Madeleine Livingston ’16 agreed that it would be refreshing for a change in the group’s repertoire.
“We had done some much darker stuff with Masque and Gown in the last couple of years and some really modern plays, things that people didn’t really know very well. So for the winter production, we really wanted to do light-hearted, straight comedy,” said Livingston.
“There’s a lot of play within a play kind of stuff—very Shakespearean, very meta,” said Luke Scheuer ’17, one of the leads in the show. “It’s about fifty-fifty of the time on stage that the two leads have to cross-dress. It’s split very evenly between the two characters.”
With an extremely short rehearsal period—only three weeks to block the entire play—Belmore recalls the chaos not only within the plot but also behind the curtain.
“The costumes have actually proven to be one of the more technically challenging things for this show just because everybody has several different outfits,” said Belmore. “The two boys, who are the leads, have to switch back and forth between being men and women in costume, and they have a lot of quick changes.”
“Leading Ladies” will be the first Masque and Gown production in Wish Theater since fall of 2013. Livingston and Belmore hope the 150-seat setting of Wish will create a fuller crowd and make for an up-close-and-personal experience.
“There’s a different energy to having a show where there’s a really full audience,” said Livingston. “I think that will lend itself kind of uniquely to a true comedy in Wish because you’re going to be surrounded by people who are all laughing together at the same jokes.”
With the shorter rehearsal period, the tech team and actors have worked twice as hard to bring the play alive, and production manager Miriam Fraga ’18 hopes it will give the Bowdoin community a chance to sit down and laugh.
“We basically have been working over Winter Break to design the set and working with the department to get building plans approved,” said Fraga. “Wish Theater gives shows a completely different feel, bringing you in and letting you be bought into the story because you’re so close to the actors.”
“I think that this play is just outrageously silly and ridiculous,” said Belmore. “I hope that it brings some laughter to people’s weekends.”
Art Dept. displays student work in culminating exhibit
Tonight, students from all of this semester’s visual art classes will exhibit their best work from the semester at an open house at the Edwards Center for Art and Dance. The exhibit will include works of art from drawing to sculpture to digital media. The open house provides a space for students to discuss and share their work with the Bowdoin community.
Chair of the Arts Department Michael Kolster hopes the open house will be an opportunity for students from all areas of campus as well as the community to come in and see what the classes have been working on all semester.
“Those students have been working on their final projects for the past couple weeks, so it’s really a chance for them to put up what they think represents the culmination of works they did all semester,” he said.
For Tess Hamilton ’16, a student in Painting II, the open house is an opportunity to exhibit the personalities of herself and her peers.
“There’s a lot of academic spaces on this campus, and it’s of particular note to me that when you walk into a space in Edwards, you very much are not asked to leave your personality at the door and that comes through in a lot of artistic representations,” said Hamilton.
In Sculpture I, Assistant Professor of Art Jackie Brown decided to let students show a mixture of different projects they’ve been working on throughout the semester that they wanted to highlight.
“The students worked really hard and made really compelling work,” said Brown. “It’s really exciting to be able to show it and share it and have people from the community get a glimpse and know what we’ve been doing and hopefully a sense of why we’ve been doing it.”
Emily Jaques ’17, a student in Brown’s class, chose her piece because it incorporated the entire semester’s studies.
“I chose one that I felt like was involved in all of what we had done in the class, not just conceptually but technically,” she said.
Students will be displaying everything from their entire portfolio to final projects—any piece they feel is representative of what they’ve learned from their course.
“It’s very open-ended. They’re all self-designed projects,” said Hamilton. “It’s cool to see how all of our work, our own personal work and also the work of our peers, have evolved.”
“It was a chance for them to take things they learned in class and apply it to something they were interested in,” said Visiting Professor of Art Mary Hart, who teaches both Drawing I and Painting I.
“This open house offers students the chance to display the work that they’ve been passionate about this semester,” said Nevan Swanson ’18. “It’s also a chance to see stuff that’s going on in classes outside my own.”
Clowning takes center stage in Shakespeare honors project show
For the past year, Maggie Seymour ’16 and Olivia Atwood ’17 have been working on their two-woman show, “15 Villainous Fools,” as part of Seymour’s honors project. This weekend, the duo will fill Memorial Hall with laughter as they take on fifteen different characters in their own rendition of William Shakespeare’s classic “Comedy of Errors.”
“Basically we took the script and cut bits, added bits, rearranged bits, fooled with it, messed with it, played with it and created our own show that involves two women,” said Seymour. “Devising a piece in the way that we did is hard; it’s challenging, it’s time consuming, more so than just picking a play and doing it straight.”
After watching the Shakespearean classic during her fall semester abroad, Seymour fell in love with clowning. Already a fan of Shakespeare, Seymour knew that she wanted to combine her two interests into this project.
Knowing she wanted to work with a partner, Seymour sought out Atwood, who she met in an improvisation class they both took last spring.
“[Seymour] has great energy, and so I decided I definitely wanted to be a part of whatever she was cooking up,” said Atwood. “We were both nervous when we realized the full extent of what we were going to be doing, but I think we took it on well and really tackled it.”
Seymour works both on the stage and backstage in this project.
“Our set is very bare. Our costumes are what worked best for us,” said Seymour. “Our lighting is just that the lights are on. It’s very simple. It’s very barebones. That was kind of, not the objective, but always the plan because the play itself is so big that everything else didn’t need to be.”
For an hour and fifteen minutes, Seymour and Atwood take a minimalist approach and let their clowning take center stage.
“Having fun, playing with the audience, making eye contact and breaking the fourth wall is sort of what clowning is, and being able to add that to Shakespeare I think changes it completely,” said Atwood. “Clowning really allows you to make a connection to the audience, which you might not be able to make through other forms of theater.”
Aware of most people’s reactions to Shakespeare and even clowning, Seymour and Atwood worked particularly hard to make both accessible for everyone.
“We created it for an audience, very much so. I’m really excited for an audience to see it because it’s for them,” said Seymour. “I’m really excited to play and have fun and relish in the joy and play of clowning, Shakespeare and the project and for people to have a chance to connect with Shakespeare in a new way.”
“15 Villainous Fools” will run tonight through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial 601.Olivia Atwood is an Associate Editor of the Orient.
New professor to blend theater, media
This spring, the Department of Theater and Dance will welcome internationally renowned theater and dance artist Sarah Bay-Cheng, now Professor of Theater and Dance will teach courses about the intersections between live performance, digital media and performance scholarship.
Bay-Cheng is currently at Utrecht University in the Netherlands as a Fulbright Senior Professor in American Studies.
“She’s at the top of her field; she has an international profile, and she has terrific experience as the acting head of the theater program at Colgate,” Chair of the Department of Theater and Dance Paul Sarvis said.
Amongst talk of integration of digital media and new technologies into the department and course registration for next semester, Bay-Cheng comes at a perfect time to offer classes that look at the intersection among theater, performance and media.
In the upcoming semester, she will teach two classes, “Theater as Social Media” and “Performing America: Identities on Stage,” the latter of which is co-listed with the English Department.
“Basically one of the ways we can understand society is by the representations that it makes of itself. And theater is an interesting and unique example of this,” said Bay-Cheng. “This idea of an American identity is one that had to be performed into being because it was made up of people who had largely come from other places. So a lot of the class is looking at this intersection of performance and identity and how that helps us understand the history of a culture.”
Bay-Cheng’s other class, “Theater as Social Media,” will be looking at the use of social media as a theatrical art form.
“We start by looking at Facebook and how theatricalized Facebook is, how the construction of identity in social media is in some ways everybody’s little mini performance of themselves. So the lens of performance studies can be a really interesting way to look at what makes something effective on social media, what makes social media compelling,” said Bay-Cheng.
As a graduate of Wellesley College, another small liberal arts school, Bay-Cheng is excited to come to Bowdoin because of the atmosphere of the student body.
“I loved the environment on campus. I loved the vibrancy among the faculty and staff in the department,” said Bay-Cheng. “When I taught a class here, the students were really quite remarkable, so the atmosphere around theater and dance was really exciting.”Bay-Cheng is also a strong advocate for the study of theater and dance as part of a complete liberal arts education.
“I think the challenge here and in most places is to continually make the case for why theater is relevant and why we should study theater and dance. And I really believe it is of significant value regardless of what you want to do with the rest of your life,” said Bay-Cheng. “I think it is a fundamental part of who we are as human beings and that understanding and appreciating that whether you like to attend certain forms of theater or dance or not.”
Art Society presents activism themed exhibit
This Family Weekend, the Bowdoin Art Society (BAS) and Ladd House are co-hosting their 3rd annual art exhibit “340 Miles North.” While the two previous years had themes loosely based on a centered image, this year’s theme is activism.
“Especially with the teach-in happening so recently, it’s a very relevant theme,” said Emily Stewart ’16, co-founder of the BAS and part of the Curatorial Team. “There’s been more activism on the scene, different groups speaking out, diverse opinions, diverse groups, so we’re trying to create a space for conversation between those groups for people who might not be exposed to those opinions otherwise to really listen and experience them in new ways.”
A number of students who are involved in activist groups on campus are going to be part of the exhibition, which Stewart found to be “really cool because they’re going to be responding to the art as well as being part of the art.”
The BAS worked with Visiting Artist Erin Johnson and her digital media class to create a digital installation in the basement that encapsulates the theme of activism.
The mahogany room of Ladd House has been transformed into a recording studio in which live recordings of students will be screened in the interactive digital installation on Thursday night. Stewart described it as living activist statement.
“We wanted to reflect on what it means to be an activist on a college campus and what it means to just be an activist in general, to look at the things you’re passionate about and translating that into how individual student voices have impacted Bowdoin,” said June Lei ’18, curatorial director of the BAS.
Thomas Rosenblatt ’16, a president of the BAS, conveyed his gratitude to the variety of departments on campus such as the SAFC, Office of Residential Life, the President’s Office, the Dean’s Office and Ladd House, which have helped fund the art show.
“It’s collaboration between departments, professors, students in all four years, student activities, and a college house,” said Rosenblatt.
Both Rosenblatt and Lei expressed that holding the show at a college house and during Family Weekend have positive impacts on the Bowdoin community.
“Many seemingly disjointed parts of campus come together at the show for the greater Bowdoin community,” said Lei. “As the funding reflects it is different parts of Bowdoin, but we can pool them all together and collaborate to create this show.”
As co-hosts of “340 Miles North,” residents of Ladd House have welcomed the exhibit into their home.
“It’s showing a different side to the houses than people might see on a daily basis,” said Jack Hughes ’17. “And it’s also just nice to have that in your living room.”
Residents of Ladd House have helped the BAS in putting up the artwork and opening up their home for the Family Weekend.
“I’m very excited. Especially excited because it’s during [Family Weekend], and I’m going to be really proud of what Bowdoin students have done and being able to display that to my parents,” said Isel Fitzgerald ’18. “There are some really interesting, provocative pieces that I’ve never seen before, a lot of pieces that have a punch to them, a wow factor.”
With over 200 submissions from 80 different artists, the BAS has, in just three years, created a fostering environment on Bowdoin’s campus for the art community.
“This year especially, we’ve gotten really diverse kinds of art, so lots of different media. We have some original compositions, a lot more video work this year, as well as really awesome sculptures and photographs,” said Stewart. “I think every year we see more and more art that’s sort of breaking the boundaries of what you would think traditional academic college art is. The basement exhibition is the capstone for that.”
‘Star Wars’ to ‘West Side Story’: Orchestra plays new tune
In his fourth year as conductor and director for the orchestra, Artist-in-Residence George Lopez decided to put a new spin on the group’s repertoire. After years of the standard high classical European composers, Lopez decided it was time to showcase some of the American greats.
“At first I wanted to do a series of light classical, what they call pops-style repertoire. And little by little it began to dawn on me that there were some great American composers that wrote pieces at the right level for the orchestra,” Lopez said.
Lopez began the process of transitioning the orchestra into an American composer-based repertoire this year when he found an arrangement of “West Side Story” by composer Leonard Bernstein. From there, he added a “Star Wars” arrangement composed by John Williams, who also composed the soundtracks for other iconic American films such as “Jaws,” “E.T.” and “Indiana Jones.”
In addition to Bernstein and Williams, this year’s line up includes two other American composers, Pulitzer Prize for Music winner Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland, who was well-known for composing ballets.
Lopez said he tried to build a portfolio of contrasting pieces that would fit well into a single program. Both Williams’ arrangement and Barber’s adagio lean toward a more classical style. Barber’s adagio in particular, Lopez notes, is considered a serious and tragic work. He hopes these pieces will offset the light-hearted jazziness of Bernstein and the old Americana style of Copland.
“I thought it would add some gravitas to the program as well,” Lopez said. The orchestra faces a challenge in learning a new style of music that differs from its typical classical pieces.
“‘West Side Story’ has everything from waltz to ballad to swing to Latin. So there are a lot of different styles that the orchestra has to learn,” said Lopez.
Even with such a drastic change in the orchestra’s repertoire, Lopez said the reactions from students have all been generally positive.
Jehwoo Ahn ’16, who has been a member of the Orchestra since his first year, said he was surprised by Lopez’s picks for this semester’s.
“We’ve definitely played a lot of classical music,” he said. “That’s all I’ve been playing so far, so it’s really refreshing to play like ‘Star Wars’ and a little of ‘West Side Story.’ It’s still music that everyone knows and loves but it’s not just your same old Mozart or Beethoven.”
August Posch ’18 echoed Ahn, also professing enthusiasm for a balancedprogram with a fun repertoire.
“Playing these familiar songs is good because people can connect with them more easily, and really what we want with the orchestra is for everyone to play as musically as possible,” Posch said.
While the orchestra will not hold a concert until December 4, they will play one movement of an Aaron Copland piece as the recessional for the inauguration of President Clayton Rose on October 17.
“It’s a real honor for the orchestra to have gotten to the point where they’ve been asked to perform for such an important event,” said Lopez. “The orchestra’s very excited to be a part of such an important moment in the history of the College.”
Arctic Museum acquires 193 photos from Cold War Greenland
Bath resident Harold Grundy donated 193 photos to the Peary MacMillan Arctic Museum, which chronicle his time at the United States Air Force Base in Thule, Greenland during the 1960s. Last Saturday, the collection “Cold War in a Cold Climate” opened, which depicts Grundy’s tenure overseas where he supervised the construction and maintenance of a massive radar installation during the Cold War.
“Whenever we accept something for the Museum, we make sure it matches our mission,” Assistant Curator Anne Witty said. “In this case, we really didn’t have anything much that represented this time in Greenland, the American presence, the military presence and particularly the Cold War defense system that was such a big deal there.”
“We were interested in this because this is the same area where Peary and MacMillan worked. It ties in extremely well to our collection,” Curator Genevieve LeMoine said.
According to Witty, the establishment of the American air base in Thule was a valuable resource to the United States defense plan as the northernmost outpost.
At the height of the Cold War, Grundy worked for the RCA Service Corporation, which contributed to the building of the Ballistic Missile Early System, which was designed to give advanced warning of missile launches from the Soviet Union. During his tenure in Greenland, Grundy photographed workings of the United States military during a time when there were great strains in relations with the Soviet Union.
His photographs include depictions of the radar installations, as well as the indigenous Inuit people and their relationships with the airbase.
“[In] this picture of the parabolic antennae, he would have been in charge of the crew that was actually constructing that, engineering it and putting it together,” Witty said. “I think he said that he had 800 or 850 men that he was directly responsible for their work.”The Thule Air Base, however, also caused the forced relocation of a community of indigenous Inuit people to more than 60 miles north. Grundy’s photographs of the Inuits supplement the Museum’s current collection of Inuit photos taken by Robert Peary, Donald MacMillan and LeMoine, who all studied in northwest Greenland.
LeMoine plans to send the portraits of the Inuit people taken by Grundy to the Inuit community still in Greenland to identify the subjects.
Witty has already selected a favorite photo in the collection: a photo of an Inuit man with his sled dogs.
“He’s just standing by watching these big air transports,” Witty said. “It seems like a really interesting contrast that he’s looking on and then there are these massive military airlift command planes, and everyone’s got their backs turned to him.”