So. You’re in Ithaca. You’re in college. What to do now?
When prelims, lab reports and snow aren’t getting you down (read: seldom), there’s a lively arts scene right outside your doorstep to keep you sane. From barn-burning bashes in Barton to art appreciation in the Johnson, there’s something for every taste. Cornell may be known for its cows and gorges, but it’s no slouch when it comes to music, theater, film and fine art.
In order to portray a hope-filled celebration of faith that doesn’t seem hopeless naïve, Bernstein’s Mass confronts the social upheavals and secular pluralism that have torn apart established beliefs. Now playing at the Schwartz Center through April 26, it is a deliberately unwieldy hybrid, intermingling diverse musical and theater traditions to interrogate each other. Originally commissioned for the inauguration of the Kennedy Center in 1971, the demands of its massive cast — which includes a chorus of over a hundred student singers as well as a children’s choir, dance troupe, pit orchestra and several soloists — have prevented it from being widely staged as it was conceived, as a “theater piece for singers, players, and dancers.”
Running on little to no sleep is unfortunately a general fact of life at Cornell, but not one that students embrace happily. A notable exception to this is a group of 15 dedicated students who took part in the 24 Hour Playfest, performed in Schwartz’s Black Box Theater on Saturday. The playfest has become a Schwartz Center tradition conducted every semester, starting in the spring of last year.
The following is a guest column written in response to “Dancing the Diaspora,” a review by Will Cordeiro published on Mar. 12.
I admire The Sun for many reasons and especially for its reviews of dance, music, painting, theater and the many other performances and exhibitions at Cornell. The Sun’s reviewers are serving the purposes of art in addressing the deep forces within our social and historical moment.
Duna, the title of the dance concert presented on Tuesday night at the Schwartz Center by Kongo Ba Teria and Barker & Tarpanga Dance Project, means “foreigner” in one of the native languages of Burkina Faso, where all four of the male dancer/musicians in the troupe originally hail from. The group’s dance style is a deliberately hybridized form that appropriates traditional West African dance movements into the decidedly Western context of modern dance.
In the world of Glory and Rue: Street Dances, an imaginary bus rolls across the landscape. Dancers take their places in it: some reading, others texting. The girl at the end of the bus makes her way to the front, followed in sequence by others, who in turn are followed by others. Thus carried forward by the breathtaking, concentrated energy of its passengers, this bus sweeps across the stage like a wave. From the opposite direction, another bus approaches and passes it. It is a brief but serendipitous encounter. Prosaic, but extraordinary.
Staged at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts last weekend by the Department of Theater, Film and Dance, Glory and Rue was an exploration of that chance moment when strangers on the street collide and come together.
The social interaction between total strangers will differ slightly from that of lovers or even close friends, but how will it differ? In what ways do people look at each other or react to movement in different situations? Does the architecture of a specific area affect how people interact within its streets? The upcoming dance concert at the Schwartz Center will explore these questions as 14 student performers team up with two alumni dancers and four community members to express the movement of people in urban spaces. The performers will expose their sensitivity to physical distance and the presence or absence of touch in everyday encounters during this episodic narrative centered around the similarities and differences of interactions among people on the street.
Playwriting is simultaneously one of the most visible and neglected roles in the theatre. On the one hand, all the effort of directors, actors and designers traditionally starts with a vision they have uncovered in a script; on the other hand, playwrights frequently get shuffled off to the margins of theatre departments that concentrate on producing well-established plays or they get outsourced to English departments where they don’t quite fit. Moreover, new plays require so many resources to mount that even “successful” playwrights have trouble getting their work beyond the developmental process of workshops and staged readings, and only a small fraction of theatres have a playwright in residence.
The Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts premiered Alan Bennett’s The History Boys in its Flex Theatre yesterday. The play debuted at the Lyttelton Theatre in London in 2004, and has since become a Broadway show, a Tony Award-winner and a movie. At Cornell, it is directed by Melanie Dryer-Lude and put on by eight students and four professional actors associated with the Actors’ Equity Association.
Directed by Emily Ranii ’07, the play is inspired by a book by Prof. Emeritus Joan Jacobs Brumberg, human development, of the same name. With humor and incredible poignancy, The Body Project initiates a much needed dialogue on body image issues by exploring how contemporary women’s negative views of their bodies can have an increasingly toxic effect on their relationships with other people.