What exactly are the implications of something that is undeniably of fiction, yet that is frighteningly familiar? Is it the fiction that approaches the reality or perhaps is it a truth that has become divorced from itself?
Inhabiting the World We Made offers a space of navigation for these types of conversations.
More often than not, when the words “religion” and “gender identity” appear together, conflict ensues. But that’s not what happens in the Kitchen Theatre Company’s production of Brahman/i: A One Hijra Comedy Show. Written by the award winning playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil as the first part of her Displaced Hindu Gods Trilogy, Brahman/i takes the form of a standup comedy show performed by the intersex main character “B,” and sheds light on the often overlooked experience of the I in LGBTQIA+. Through personal anecdotes, some hilarious and some deeply moving, B narrates a unique journey of self-discovery as an Indian-American navigating the rocky landscape of growing up as a Hijra, an individual born with traits of both sexes. Through B’s monologues, other characters come to life; An unpredictable but wise aunt, loving parents, annoying cousins and classmates, and the Hindu creator god Brahma, in a way audiences have not seen before.
If, for the past couple of weeks, you’ve been following either the art world’s murmurings or the Most Popular Petition category on change.org, you would be well aware of the Guggenheim’s recent Animal Rights-related quagmire, a tiff with PETA advocates which resulted, on Sept. 25, in the removal of three pieces from its fall blockbuster exhibition. Whether or not you’ve been keeping close tabs on both, you likely missed the fact that the show in question, Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World, opened to the public this past Friday, Oct. 6. What reviews it has received have been, for the most part, somewhere between tepid and enthusiastically restrained (or else just petty), colored by and large by the Guggenheim’s milquetoast reaction and concession to those accusing it of complicity in animal rights violations. The 70 artist, 140 work-strong exhibition, which was supposed to be a milestone for U.S. reception and awareness of contemporary art from Chinese artists (Holland Cotter, in his review for the New York Times, calls it a show capable of reminding us that the country of 1.4 billion has given the world more than Ai Weiwei), has, it seems, been too profoundly marred by the museum’s willingness to nix some art at a cry of “Wolf!” This cry began in the form of a change.org petition — written by Stephanie Lewis, directed at the Guggenheim’s curators, administrators and corporate sponsors and subsequently backed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — which garnered nearly 800,000 signatures.
When Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes premiered in 1991, it won a smattering of awards for its intense exploration of pressing, contemporary topics. A bit more than a quarter century later, the social issues and themes explored in the play are ever-relevant, and as the first show in their 2017-18 season, Ithaca College presents the first part of the play, Millennium Approaches, directed by Robert Moss. Angels in America is set in late 1985 in Manhattan, and follows a large cast—a gay couple, Prior Walter (Will Thames) and Louis Ironson (Josh Wilde); a Mormon couple, Joe (Ryan Ballard) and Harper Pitt (Steph Seiden); and Joe’s mentor Roy Cohn (Keenan Buckley), a lawyer with extremely questionable ethics (based on the real-life Roy Cohn). Their stories and lives overlap and intersect in weird and sometimes fantastical ways as the story moves through experiences of the AIDS crisis, homophobia, racism, and political tension and corruption. As revelations of illness and secrets come about, relationships deteriorate and an overwhelming fear of the future seems to cripple the characters.
Opera Ithaca flaunted a raw and striking sold out performance of Pagliacci Saturday night. The site-specific production housed in Ithaca’s very own Circus School remained authentic to the Ithacan aesthetic — small and impactful. The show, directed by Zachary James, tells the story of an ensemble of circus performers trapped in a dramatic love triangle. The company, already embraced and well loved by the Ithaca community, is entering its fourth season. Though Ithaca Opera has finished its final performance of Pagliacci, the company has five remaining shows lined up for their 2017/18 season including The Mystery of the Magic Flute, Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, and Carmen.
Convergence, Rebecca Rutstein’s exhibit on view at the John Hartell Gallery in Sibley Dome, is full of visual paradoxes that play with the eye, mind and soul. One glance into the gallery space draws the viewer into a state of total optical stimulation, complete with an experience that includes captivatingly rhythmic patterns and whirlwinds of unexpected colors. A deeper look at the collection prompts a realization of the true genius of visual contradiction, all skillfully created by Rutstein. Rutstein, a Cornell alumna (M.F.A. class of 1993) has participated in ocean mapping expeditions that spanned from the Galapagos Islands to California and from Vietnam to Guam. Convergence is fundamentally inspired by the ocean maps, geography, geology and water of these trips.
“Maybe it’s a fact we all should face / everyone makes judgments based on race”. This lyric, from the musical Avenue Q, was one of the first things that popped into my mind as I walked out of Smart People at the Kitchen Theatre — a play that delves unreservedly into the difficult, yet ever so relevant conversation of race, prejudice and, most importantly, our fear of that conversation itself. Written by the award-winning playwright Lydia R. Diamond and directed by the talented Summer L. Williams from Company One Theatre in Boston, Smart People is wildly funny, gripping and remarkably thought-provoking at its core. It dares us into the daunting task of thoroughly reevaluating ourselves and the world around us. With an innovative opening sequence involving projections of various news headlines and the voice recording of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign announcement, the play unfolds around four main characters: Brian, a white neuroscience professor at Harvard who has dedicated himself to finding a neurological explanation for racism and prejudice; Ginny, Brian’s fellow psychology professor at Harvard who studies and counsels Asian American women suffering from anxiety and depression; Jackson, Brian’s best friend, a black surgeon in residency; And Valerie, a young black actress who participates in Brian’s study and later works for him as a research assistant.
Richenburg’s works, once exhibited in the Ninth Street Show of 1951, along with canvases of Pollock, Krasner and the de Koonings, have since become neglected. The Johnson’s exhibit finds it necessary to remind spectators, frequently, not to confuse Richenburg with his better-known soundalike, Rauschenberg — who, ironically, was one of the first artists to break from abstract expressionism. Once part of the avant-garde New York School, Richenburg moved away from the city and its art scene in 1964, when he felt that his experimental teaching practices were being restricted by the Pratt Institute. He moved north. In 1964, he became a professor at Cornell University.
Over the past summer, I met a kid who is born and bred in Ithaca in my lab. Ah well, I guess making fun of one’s hometown isn’t exactly the best way to start a conversation. He spent half an hour trying to convince me how incredible the art scene in this tiny little town is, and I finally paid my first visit to the Hangar Theatre last week. It was more than impressive — I cried, just saying. Alas, I wonder how many awesome productions I missed my freshmen year.
“Usually, when I tell people that I make music, I don’t reference Primary Colors,” says the polite, affable sophomore. “Instead I say, ‘Check me out on Soundcloud.’” Sitting in front of me with his work neatly put aside to accommodate this impromptu interview is Paul Russell, who is an opinion columnist for The Sun and is otherwise known by the name ‘Paulitics’ under which he raps, sings and writes music. We’re sitting at a table in Temple of Zeus on Friday afternoon, the last day of class before Spring Break. Over the course of this winter break, I grew familiar with Paul’s work, after he granted me permission to use some of his songs in a feature-length film I was co-directing. Naturally, this level of familiarity with his work made me want to learn more about the artist behind the music I was so generously given access to; Hence this interview.