SWAN | A Genre Marginalized

The Mingus Big Band is one of several ensembles formed after the death of jazz titan Charles Mingus that dedicates itself to performing and interpreting the canon of the late composer’s music. Since 2008, the band has held a residency at mid-Manhattan’s Jazz Standard club, performing two sets of music every Monday night. The Mingus Big Band has been recording their iterations of Mingus’ music for nearly thirty years, and their album Live at Jazz Standard (2010) earned the group a Grammy award. During spring break, I was fortunate enough to see the group play one of their sets. On this specific night, the band performed “Haitian Fight Song,” one of Mingus’ more significant and revered compositions that appeared on his 1957 album The Clown.

SWAN | Where Rhetoric Falls Short

Musical composition and performance are perhaps two of the most effective vessels for the indication of political support or dissent by private citizens. Consider the late 1960s, when groups and musicians like Jefferson Airplane or Bob Dylan wrote music that challenged the Vietnam War and political establishment. As evidenced by the festivals, riots and protests of that decade, not only does music spread awareness about a particular cause, but it also forms immeasurable solidarity among its listeners. Yet, what happens when musical choice and expression extends itself to public officials? Politicians, by the nature of their existence, must find ways to connect with their constituents.

Risley Theatre’s Julius Caesar: A Unique and Compelling Adaptation

Like Hemingway’s profound narrative on the destructive perplexity of war, or like Kubrick’s cinematic interpretations of subconscious struggle, Shakespeare’s tragedies possess an infinite relevance that will always characterize some portion of the human condition. Indeed, so long as individuals experience the dismay of death or the anguish of stifled romance, Shakespeare’s verse will continue to find a presence among stages and English curricula around the world. Many contemporary performances of his plays, while retaining the same lines and structure, adapt the work to a more modern setting; one notable example of this practice is Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet, a splendid cross between sixteenth century and twentieth century 90’s culture. This is precisely the route that director Christian Brickhouse ’17 followed in Risley Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar. Rather than being left to unfold in the ancient and grand obscurity of the Roman Empire, this iteration of Julius Caesar is set in the United States during the year 1919.

Grey Gardens: Honest, Minimalist Cinema

It is perhaps the underlying ambition of any artist to depict a part of the human condition through his or her work. In doing so, the artist may choose to include complex, reflective, embellishing sentiments, thereby offering a number of personal interpretations of the subject under scrutiny. This is reminiscent of most 19th century Romantic composers, authors and painters who left much of themselves in their elaborate works. However, there also exist individuals who possess a much simpler approach to their creativity, preferring to portray a given theme with bleak and sometimes caustic honesty. It is this latter method that Albert and David Maysles took in creating their 1975 documentary Grey Gardens.

Peter and the Starcatcher: A Magical Experience

During the opening night of Peter and the Starcatcher, the Kitchen Theatre Company once again proved its ability to transcend the intimate confines of a performance stage and draw the imagination to the most distant and dazzling settings: faraway lands with vibrant, animate characters. On this particular evening, the audience was invited to imagine 19th-century British sailing ships containing noble statesmen, rugged sailors, sinister pirates and adventurous children, as well as a tropical island complete with its own boisterous inhabitants. Peter and the Starcatcher is based on the novel by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson, which tells the backstory of Peter Pan and serves as a prequel to Peter and Wendy. Lord Leonard Astor and his daughter, Molly, are starcatchers — a secret group appointed by the queen to protect “starstuff,” a magical, extraterrestrial substance that grants those who touch it their fondest dreams, whether good or evil. Starcatchers must destroy starstuff when it appears on Earth to avoid the havoc that could be created should the magical substance fall into the wrong hands.

Shakespeare, the Playwright with a License to Quill

Jacopo della Quercia’s recently released novel License to Quill places literary legends William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe in a narrative derived from contemporary spy thrillers such as the James Bond series. When William Shakespeare is approached by Guy Fawkes to help in the infamous Gunpowder Plot, the playwright is forced to work undercover with the group of conspirators, infiltrating their plans until the treasonous act ultimately fails. Christopher Marlowe deals with the foreign implications of the Gunpowder Plot in Italy. The story, outlandish to the novel’s 17th Century setting, serves to provide an interesting glimpse of the two writers’ personalities and eccentricities as understood through historical sources and their own works. The narrative begins on a stormy night in London around May 30, 1593 — the reported date of Christopher Marlowe’s untimely death.