Questions of America’s Past and Future in Performing and Media Arts Presentation of “The Diary of an American Girl”

I watched The Diary of an American Girl, a play written by Cornell Performing and Media Arts student Aleksej Aarasether, on February 10th at the Schwartz Center. American Girl had been written for the Heermans-McCalmon Dramatic Writing Competition, and the PMA department showcased it as one of the winning screenplays. Two other performances, excerpts of a screenplay and a script, were also shown. The Diary of an American Girl depicts the story of Anna, a young Latinx girl born in America to with undocumented parents. The script flirts with the conceit of Anna’s diary, through which some of the story is told.

Michael Southworth as Orpheus and Priscilla Olympio as Eurydice

The Schwartz Center Plays with Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice

Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl, opening at the Schwartz Center this Friday and showing until November 19, reinvents the ancient Greek myth.  In the original story, first introduced by Virgil, Orpheus strives to bring his wife, Eurydice, an Oak nymph and daughter of Apollo, back from the dead with his beautiful music after Aristaeus, a minor Greek God, pursues and kills her.  The version showing in College town modernizes the myth.  It points to the holes in the original story and colors each character with a 21st century care for individuality and self empowerment.  Primarily, what if Eurydice doesn’t want to come back?

COURTESY OF THE COLLEGE OF HUMAN ECOLOGY

Listen In, but Hold Your Judgement

Racial dialogue is a sensitive topic in the United States. It seems as if a special blend of courage is required to participate in it. Such thinking is wrong, but it is inadvertently perpetuated when people eschew “race talk” rather than participate in it. A recent study by Pew Research identified “profound differences between black and white adults in their views on racial discrimination,” with 88% of African-Americans saying there is more work to be done to achieve racial equality, while only 53% of white respondents shared those views. The intensely polarized views and no less intense feelings that come with them create a “someone else can talk about it” mindset among people that are new to the idea and practice of interracial dialogue.

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Charismatic Commitment: Company at Ithaca College

Company (written by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth; director, Catherine Weidner; musical director, Christopher Zemliauskas) as a play itself doesn’t have a particularly dramatic plot the way a Greek tragedy or a Shakespearian comedy might — set up as a series of vignettes, the play focuses on exploring the topic of marriage through the eyes of Robert (Liam Snead), or “Bob/Bobby” as his friends affectionately call him, a 35-year-old man who just can’t seem to get married. Despite that Robert is well-liked, attractive and well-established, Robert’s friends are disheartened that is he still isn’t married by the time of his 35th birthday; on the other hand, he mostly works hard to deny that he is completely terrified of committing. In looking at the very different personalities and marriages of Robert’s friends, Company seeks to explore how marriage changes and affects people. In the eyes of ever-unmarried Robert, the premise leads to a fun look at the dynamics of a group which Robert is always third-wheeling his married friends. While the vignette set-up of the play itself might make some find the story stale or less dynamic, Ithaca College Theatre Arts’ Company does an excellent job in creating a colorful and engaging story through an incredibly distinctive cast.

Eric Brooks as RDC Carter and Lydia Gaston as Angelina Carter.

Perfectly Sensible: Precious Nonsense at the Kitchen Theatre

The aptly-named musical Precious Nonsense is advertised as a simple diversion from the stress of everyday life, and it delivers. Playwright and artistic director Rachel Lampert’s production is fun and lighthearted, serving as pure entertainment. The show is not new to the Kitchen Theatre; Lampert’s sister, Sara Lampert Hoover, directs as she did in the original production in 2004 and Eric Brooks reprises his role as RDC Carter. Lampert spoke to the audience before the show began on opening night and explained that the production was chosen to run at this time to distract theatre-goers from the stress of world events like the upcoming election, and it certainly does its job. The musical is set in the 1930s and follows the lives of members of a touring theatre company, the Carter Family Savoyards, dedicated to sharing songs from the comedic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan.

A 19th Century Japanese flat tray from the Korin school. Gift of Mrs. Howard S. Liddell.

Timeless Conquerers: American Sojourns and the Collecting of Japanese Art

History continuously shows that Western influences have played a dominant role in the shaping of many regions of the world. From hemisphere to hemisphere, nation to nation, Western forces have consistently proved their acquisitive nature in conquests of land, people, and resources. Japanese art and culture are no exception to this rule. Walking down the steps leading to American Sojourns and the Collecting of Japanese Art, I was met with a silence only broken by the occasional footsteps of security guards lightly pacing the interconnected rooms of the museum halls. The exhibit’s pieces, displayed in a comfortably small space, radiated an air of tranquility and sophistication.

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Contemporary Sensibilities and Progression: Blood Wedding at Ithaca College

Article updated. 

Even before the show begins, the set at the Clark Theatre in Dillingham Center of Ithaca College is striking — clean lines, neat delineations of space with blues and whites, and solid colors immediately give a modern tone to Blood Wedding, the famous tragedy of Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. Set in twentieth century rural Spain, Blood Wedding tells the story of an on-going curse of a family feud and deception as it explores the story and aftermath of a young woman who abandons her own wedding for her former lover. Though such a story could easily slip into the realm of cliché, the clean aesthetic and direction of Ithaca College’s “Blood Wedding” keeps the narrative fresh and enthralling. Director Norm Johnson’s Blood Wedding remains contemporary in great part due to the set and costumes. The creative team (Scenic design: Emily Weisbecker; Costume design: Victoria Pizappi; Lighting and projection design: Steve TenEyck, assisted by Teddy Kosciuszek; Sound design: Don Tindall) does an incredible job with a nod to Lorca’s surrealist links — the look is simple but timeless.

COURTESY OF FANTAGRAPHICS

In Garden of the Flesh, A Master Cartoonist Crafts A Blasphemous Delight

Gilbert Hernandez is an unparalleled figure in American comics. Working tirelessly since 1979, “Beto” is one of the key artists in the first wave of alternative comics, creating with his brother Jaime, a significant cartoonist in his own right, the legendary magazine Love and Rockets, a pioneering work of comics-as-literature. Gilbert’s stories in Love and Rockets, the Palomar cycle, form perhaps the greatest work of magical realism in the comics form; challenging, moving storytelling. However, the reaches of Gilbert Hernandez do not end here. The man’s output is simply insane, ranging from quiet childhood memoirs to exploitation-style pulp, all executed to maddening perfection.

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The Candid Man’s Guide to Humor, Evil and Theatre

“Il avait le jugement assez droit, avec l’esprit le plus simple ; c’est, je crois, pour cette raison qu’on le nommait Candide.”

Theodicy is the central problem for any incarnation or lyricized reworking of Voltaire’s novella Candide. The eponymous character runs the Weltanschauung-gamut in his pained, hopelessly naïve globe-trekking, alternatively stumbling into phenomenal luck and misfortune, being swindled out of everything he owns or plucking golden pebbles off the streets of Eldorado. It is equal parts absurd travelogue and philosophical disenchantment, what the tale of the Buddha would have been if written by a splenetic Frenchman. It is an irreverent parable with a moral, a Bildungsroman and, on a 21st century stage, a pastiche suprême. It lends itself, if one may be so bold, to musical theatre.

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Fumbling With History: American Spoila

American Spolia gashes itself out into space like an inverse wound. It spans an unbent and unwavering 140 feet across Libe Slope’s midsection, resting, at its highest, westernmost point, several feet above my head. At each end it terminates bluntly and abruptly. Its thin metal beams are sparse and rudimentary, almost purely utilitarian. Numbering about a dozen, they support, as if extollingly, an imbricated miscellany of wooden panels, each one of its own faded hue.