On Thursday night, the VIDA Guitar Quartet made its Ithaca debut at Cornell’s Barnes Hall. Since 2007, the British ensemble has been impressing a conscientious sonic footprint on listeners. Seeing them live, however, the interlocking nature of their artistry is apparent not only in their craft, but also in their choice and assembly of programming. There is, of course, plenty of savvy over which to marvel regarding each player’s technical wheelhouse. Mark Eden’s highs, Mark Ashford’s harmonizing and melodic leads, Amanda Cook’s unbreakable ground lines and Chris Stell’s rhythmic backbone (enhanced by tapping of the guitar body) make for a kindred fit that is rare among quartets of any constitution.
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.
The Kitchen Theatre’s premiere of Birds of East Africa, a new play written by Wendy Dann and directed by Rachel Lampert, is incredibly quirky and starts out slow but becomes more meaningful as it progresses. The play feels disjointed at times but is saved by strong acting and its realistic portrayal of damaged relationships. As the play begins, two men dressed in colorful clothing meant to look like birds dance around the stage, and an ornithologist named Marion (Lena Kaminsky) appears soon after. The dancers often perform between scenes and sometimes interact with Marion. The birds she has studied have a constant presence in her life, even when she moves in with a college friend Stephen (Daniel Pettrow) and his husband Nick (Gabriel Marin) in Las Vegas, far from any hornbills, her professed favorite species.
I’ve been listening to a lot of late ’70s – early ’80s electronic music lately, mostly European stuff but not exclusively. There’s a quality to this music that I’m very fond of, a particular sort of richness. The sounds are very basic, yet there’s a sense throughout that these are sounds that haven’t been made before, and everything you’re hearing is an all-new discovery for the musician. There’s no codified sense of what the music “should” be yet, and the excitement of discovering these new sounds with the listener translates into warmth and texture which transcends the cliché many (but not all) of these compositions tend to fall into. There’s a sequence in the final pages of Prophet: Earth War, the concluding storyline of the now long running space opera series, in which we are presented a series of panels depicting, out of sequence, events in the distant and near past and future beyond the scope of the narrative, finally landing on an image of a starscape captioned with the locations of various fantastic planets and celestial phenomena both familiar and unknown to the reader.
Murder Ballad (directed by Cameron Krane ’17) is just what you want out of a Friday night as Risley Theater. It’s fun and exciting, a little bit messed up, well executed and small-scale. The musical has four main characters — a woman, her two love interests and a narrator. It’s a fairly typical New York City love triangle. Sara (Ana Carpenter ’19) is stuck between the respectable NYU poet and the sketchy downtown bartender.
On the evenings of November 10, 11 and 12, an all-student cast took to the stage in the Schwartz Center’s Black Box Theatre to share the well-known but often misunderstood story of Oedipus Rex. Prof. Frederick Ahl directed the play, which he translated himself from a relatively early version of Sophocles’ tale. Thanks to Ahl and the Department of Classics, the production found a place for all who wished to participate, and some had no prior acting experience. While this “obviously has its perils,” as Ahl explained before the show’s beginning, the play was very well acted all the same. The very name of the title character makes most people cringe, but this production emphasized that the play is about far more than the accidental incest it is known for.
There’s a man and a woman lying frozen on the floor. Despite looking too old to do so, the man is clutching a stuffed rabbit. I am sitting at one of the six tables lined up on the edge of each side of the stage. The tables, covered in stark white tablecloths, are home to pink napkins, white plates with silver lining and empty wine glasses. Foreboding and original orchestral music by Patrick Braga ’17 is playing in the background, as we wait in near darkness for several minutes unsure of what to expect.
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?
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.
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.