Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Recent Wooster production addresses racial masking

Sarah Caley

Staff Writer

 

Last weekend, the BIPOC Performing Arts Alliance and Alpha Psi Omega co-hosted the premiere of “The Grotowski Method,” which is the final production in the Theatre of Urgency series created by the Department of Theatre & Dance last fall. “The Grotowski Method” was created by award-winning Latina playwright Elaine Romero, directed by Professor of Theatre & Dance Jimmy Noriega and featured Hayden Lane-Davies ’21, Ivan Akiri ’22, Gabby Sullivan ’22, Pookar Chand ’23 and Owen Belfiore ’23.

“The Grotowski Method” opens with five actors chastising each other for not knowing their lines after being dismissed from rehearsal. They have all traveled together to a remote part of Poland to learn from a master of the Grotowski Method, an acting technique that requires a willingness to shed the emotional masks that people wear in their everyday lives. Although the actors have been sent into the woods by their teacher to work on their technique, they are instead bickering amongst themselves and questioning their decision to make this journey. Gradually, their conversation evolves into a pointed commentary on racial inequality in theater. Akiri, the only Black actor, quotes the opening of the Declaration of Independence and questions whether it “works” in this space. Belfiore dismissively responds that it “should work in all spaces” as a foundational document of the United States. Chand, the only other actor of color, responds, “It should. But does it?” As the three white actors grapple with the inequalities that are being revealed to them, Chand illustrates the connection between the masks that Grotowski wants actors to remove and the masks that marginalized individuals must maintain to fit in with society. The show ends with Akiri and Chand telling the group that making mistakes is necessary, but these mistakes must be acknowledged in order to move forward.

Following the screening, attendees participated in a discussion about racial issues in theater, particularly with regard to the College’s theater program. Victoria Silva ’23 and Teresa Ascencio ’23, the co-presidents of the BIPOC Performing Arts Alliance, spoke on how similar “The Grotowski Method” is to their own experiences at Wooster. Ascencio stated that she felt isolated when she joined the College’s theater program due to its majority-white student body. While both Ascencio and Silva expressed gratitude for being able to form the BIPOC Alliance, Silva also conveyed her frustration that the only two Latinx students in the department are bearing most of the burden of racial equality work. Jaz Nappier ’22 shared her experience searching the College’s library for plays by and for Black female artists to stage as part of her Independent Study next year — there were none to be found. The Theatre of Urgency series marks some progress for the Department of Theatre & Dance, but there is still plenty of work to be done. Silva and Ascencio want to hold more events where students can show up for their BIPOC peers and are hopeful that the department will begin to produce more BIPOC-centered shows. Their guiding philosophy is one that Pookar states in “The Grotowski Method”: “I want you to have space. And I want space too.”

Snyder’s “Justice League” outshines Whedon’s cut

Colin Tobin

Contributing Writer

 

 Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a four-hour director’s cut that expands upon the original, theatrically released version of the movie from 2017. Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher star in the film, just as they did in the first cut. The story follows Bruce Wayne as he assembles the iconic Justice League to protect the world from god-like, alien forces.

You can’t talk about this movie without talking about the behind-the-scenes theatrics during the original production in 2017. Zack Snyder, who had helmed two previous DC properties, asked for a delayed release so he could mourn the loss of his daughter, Autumn, after she tragically passed away. When Warner Brothers declined, they brought in Joss Whedon, who is known for his work on the first two Avengers movies, to replace Snyder. Whedon laid waste to Snyder’s vision, which outraged fans who then campaigned using “#ReleaseTheSnyderCut” to protest these changes. Entire backstories were removed, quippy dialogue that didn’t fit the established universe was implemented and even the color grading was drastically toned up. After almost four years of waiting, insatiable demand from fans and even the cast calling for its release, the studio caved and allowed for Snyder’s vision to be seen through. Now, several stories have emerged from Whedon’s set, including allegations of racism, sexism and unfair leverages of power.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Zack Snyder’s directorial style and how his films take themselves too seriously. It’s a bit too much style over substance for my liking, but he has one of the most dedicated legions of fans on the internet. The prospect of it seemed really interesting, so when it was announced, my curiosity was piqued. Snyder’s full creative control is palpable in this new cut. The ambition and scale of the story that he’s building is impressive. So much more depth has been added to new characters that weren’t there before, and I was surprised by how much I cared. The life of Ray Fischer’s Cyborg, being the most significant improvement, is explored along with his complicated relationship with his father. Ezra Miller’s Flash is one of the other new characters that are given more of a backstory. Another character that was given a surprising amount of development is the villain, Steppenwolf. 2017’s Justice League portrayed him as a stereotypical, world conquering, poorly rendered, CGI comic book villain, but with a completely different character design, we are actually given some form of motivation. His interactions with new arch-villain Darkseid made his motivations clearer and more compelling.

The end result is certainly not perfect. At four hours and two minutes, the runtime is pretty unnecessary. What likely happened is that Snyder wanted to give fans just about everything that was shot in return for their years of waiting, which I totally understand. The film literally slows down rather frequently with 10% (or about 25 minutes) taking place in slow motion. The last of the seven parts feels like a series of end credits scenes that pad the runtime while showing off a few cameos and setting up future films. 30 to 45 minutes could be cut out, and it would still be the same movie. It also falls into the problem that I have with his other films with over-seriousness and action that devolves to CGI people repeatedly punching each other.

Warner Brothers recently released a statement saying that they have no plans to continue with Snyder’s story. However, if they are convinced otherwise, there’s no one I’d rather see carry it out than Zack Snyder. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is not only a drastic improvement over the theatrical cut, but a win for creative freedom and a testament to the power that fans have.

 

Modern comics do not com- pare to these classiscs

Angad Singh

Sports Editor

 

In all honesty, modern-day comic strips are not what they used to be. Invoking the pretentious highbrow within, modern comics consist of dry physical laughs encapsulated within an abundance of toilet humor. As a child, I was lucky to be introduced to comics that actually consisted of subtle humor which gave avenue to genuine curious thought. 

I remember reading my first “Asterix” adventure; it reminds me of a time that gave way to my fascination with history and dead languages. Written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo, the comic strip was first introduced in 1959 in the Franco-Belgian magazine Pilote. The plots revolve around the aftermath of the Gallic wars and Julius Caesar’s campaign in Gaul (modern-day France). The protagonist, Asterix, a small, cunning Gaulish warrior who gains superhuman strength when he drinks a magic potion, is a member of a small village that holds out against the Roman invaders. The stories consist of his adventures with his best friend Obelix, who fell into a cauldron of magic potion when he was a child, which had a permanent effect on him. The stories consist of their adventures, from helping Cleopatra’s architect build a beautiful palace for Caesar to protecting Ptolemy XV Caesar, Cleopatra and Julius Caesar’s love child, from the clutches of Brutus. The stories are kaleidoscopic, with historical references in the plots, which span from how the Sphinx in Egypt lost its nose to Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon with the famous words “Alea Iacta est.” Uderzo and Goscinny’s masterpiece is surely a suggestion that must be taken as it gives you an introduction to the wonderful world of history along with a twist of humor. 

 

Modern economics is a subject that has the distinct advantage of being simple for the confines of a dining table conversation while also having the common disadvantage of being as complicated as rocket science. Cartoonist Dik Browne amalgamated society’s disdain for tax collectors in his creation, “Hägar the Horrible.” Depicted as a viking warrior, Hägar was Browne’s answer to what he felt people abhorred the most about government overreach, and rightly so. Hägar is a Viking warrior who is afraid of only two things: his wife Helga and the King’s tax collectors. Interestingly, Browne characterizes these tax collectors as Grim Reapers, all dressed in the black with hoods and axes. The strip can be summarized as a representation of American socio-economic values loosely interpreted as a Viking-age Scadanivian life. My favourite storyline is when Hägar journeys far and wide to the cave of a wise monk to whom he asks, “Oh wise sage, why do you choose to live in a cave devoid of worldly possessions,” to which the monk cheekily replies, “It’s a tax dodge.”

 

Philosophy is often considered a subject that surely cannot be understood within the confines of comic illustrations, but fortunately, this was a train of thought proven wrong by Bill Waterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes.” Undoubtedly the most famous of these recommendations, Calvin’s antics captured a generation. The cartoon is a masterpiece capturing adolescent expressionism along with a mature undertone reflecting society’s fractured structure. Hobbes, Calvin’s stuffed tiger who only comes to life when the little protagonist is in the room, plays second fiddle to his friend’s antics. From polling his father’s weekly parenting skills to imagining colorful odysseys whilst in the classroom, the strip deals with a lot of issues pertaining towards life, faith and education — specifically how they judge a fish by its tree climbing abilities. The strip provides a refreshing outlook into environmentalism and philosophical quandaries through the innocence of a child’s eyes along with a maturity of difference which is brought to life by Calvin’s outlook of modern society. 

 

Friends jam virtually at Nostalgia Covers

Holly Engel

A&E Editor

 

Looking for a way to unwind, listen to music and jam with your friends? Covers a monthly event hosted by the College’s student-run literary magazine, the “Goliard” has you … well … covered. The event allows students of all backgrounds to get together as they listen to and perform covers of their favorite songs, which they choose based on a monthly theme.

This past Friday, April 2, the “Goliard” hosted their second-to-last Covers of the semester, with “nostalgia” as their theme of choice. “Goliard” music editor Clare Griffith ’22 chose the theme in collaboration with “Goliard” president Lillie Soukup ’21. “Lillie will usually text me with like three different themes,” she says. “This time, ‘nostalgia’ kind of stuck out. It’s pretty open to interpretation.” Griffith also orchestrated and hosted the event. 

Though there were only three performers at Nostalgia Covers, their diverse song choices really demonstrated the theme’s open-endedness. Student performers covered songs from Katy Perry and George Harrison, and Gunnar Holmberg ’21 jammed out to “My Shiny Teeth and Me,” which fans of Chip Skylark, from the early 2000s show The Fairly OddParents, would probably recognize. “I chose this song because it’s an entire bop,” Holmberg says. “It also reminds me of watching The Fairly OddParents with my siblings and watching my parents go progressively more bonkers from listening to the high-pitched voices.”

During COVID-19, Covers has moved online, something that both Griffith and Holmberg have mixed feelings about. Griffith recalls, “At the beginning of the year, that was one of the biggest things we had to figure out: Can we do Covers? Are people going to want to do Covers? We’ve done two Covers on Teams so far.” She mentions that she looks forward to returning to an in-person atmosphere, but there are also perks to going virtual. “I think that it’s been a good challenge to figure out how to do it virtually, and we’ve had alumni show up to virtual events as well, which is really fun. It’s a way to keep alums who really love Covers involved.” 

“The virtual environment for Covers is something that I’m still getting used to,” Holmberg admits, “but it was refreshing to feed off of everyone else’s energy, especially during the dance party.” The dance party, which occurred after the three main performances, was headed by Griffith, who created a nostalgia-themed playlist and fed the music through Teams, allowing attendees to hang out and dance while staying socially distanced.

Holmberg stresses that Covers has played an integral role in his time at Wooster because it channels community and creativity. “To me, it’s one of the most important events at Wooster,” he comments. “I think it gives students an outlet to create something expressive. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be fun … and it’s something we share together.”

Covers will occur one more time this semester, though the official date and theme is to be decided. Stay updated by checking out the “Goliard’s” Instagram, @jean_luc1989.

I.S Project offers more inclusive look at popular genres

Artemis Swanson

Staff Writer

 

As the pandemic rages around the world, many have turned to a common place of refuge: the world of fiction. However, many classic novels in two extremely popular genres, science fiction and fantasy, reflect prejudices which are very much grounded in the exclusionary notions of the writers. It is with this in mind that Jim Shanahan ’21 put forward their project, a two-part critical and creative I.S. which sought to diagnose the sheer degree to which classics like Frank Herbert’s “Dune” and J.R.R Tolkien’s “Lord of The Rings” echo the many patriarchal and cisnormative notions of both their authors and society at large. 

In particular, Shanahan points to the books’ adherence to a binary view of gender, with an example being gender-based systems of magic, as well as the deficit of female representation. Books like “The Lord of The Rings,” despite having a relatively large main cast of adventurers, still relegate women to the sidelines. Then, having diagnosed the problem, Shanahan practices what he preaches, having written a draft of a fiction novel which not only stars a nonbinary main character, but one which is heavily focused on identity and the struggle of finding oneself. This new work is dedicated to specifically challenging common gender assumptions, as well as genre tropes. 

One interesting point is that unlike many novels in these genres, Shanahan’s book takes place in a single town, and rather than being a grand journey to some far off land, is instead a focus on the internal battles many face while trapped in both their bodies and their small home towns. Shanahan cites as inspiration their own struggle with identity, as well as his noticing of the sheer dominance of many of these exclusionary tropes. 

Many issues in the genre are especially concerning to them, especially the worrying portrayals of women and tailoring towards the male gaze, both of which are very much artifacts of an even more misogynistic time period than the modern era. One thing Shanahan made very clear when interviewed is that they “didn’t mean to be inspiring” and that their intention was to essentially add to what will hopefully be a growing canon of more inclusive media. In their mind, the work serves as a way for those struggling with identity to reflect off of and potentially see themselves in. 

In the process of creating this new work, Shanahan found some parts more enjoyable than others. One major thing they emphasized is the sheer sense of achievement and perspective that writing a book brings, that a seemingly insurmountable challenge can actually be completed. As Shanahan discovered, the challenge of writing a book was in finding the right stylistic choices, a point which they experienced in trying to find the right perspective to use, finding pros and cons in using both first and third person narration. 

Shanahan argues that we are in a time when people are increasingly questioning their own identities and preconceptions, and that to read his project is to both understand why the previous mainstream is harmful and to see what an inclusive work can look like.

Wooster alum writes inspirational reads

Annie Ketler

Contributing Writer

 

All of the Above is a Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award-nominated novel by Shelley Pearsall ’89. The book, taught nationwide, teaches strength, unity and awareness of the differences between social classes and of how people are treated based on their appearances. It has made ripples in the world, and many students I know have fond memories of this novel changing their perspective on life. 

Pearsall, the brilliant mind behind this retelling of the true story about four Cleveland kids, is a woman born and raised in Ohio and an alum from The College of Wooster. You can find some of her other books, including the fun All Shook Up, the award-winning Trouble Don’t Last and the thrilling Jump into the Sky all in the Wilson Bookstore, hiding on the ever-growing and ever-stunning “published alumni” shelf. 

Pearsall, in her own words, was the type of creative child who was always getting into trouble in elementary school. She even wrote her own fanfiction of Little House on the Prairie when she was little.

I had the pleasure of meeting Pearsall at the Rodman Public Library a few years back, and she is the most creative, most kind and most fun person you will ever meet. She is bursting with life, excitement and ideas for new books, and it shines in every word she speaks.

Pearsall was often discouraged from and chastised for writing instead of paying attention during her school years, but eventually it paid off when she finished the work she would publish.  Pearsall published her first book, Trouble Don’t Last, in 2001, and it won the Scott O’ Dell Award for Historical Fiction just two years later. She also has had many TV offers for the novel, but as far as I know, she’ll never sell the rights to her book. 

Since her first publication, she has married a man with the thickest British accent I have ever heard (he’s such a wonderful person), published Jump into the Sky, Shake it Up, All of the Above, The Seventh Most Important Thing and last year released Things Seen from Above. She often spends her days researching and adventuring for new material for her books, or making concoctions to put into her books. A famous one is the Rainbow BBQ Sauce she featured in All of the Above, which she says took a very long time to put together!

Pearsall’s reads are always refreshing, heart wrenching and worth any time put into them. She is a fantastic author, a fantastic human and she is incredibly encouraging. When I

told her about my dreams of writing all those years ago, she told me to “follow my writing dreams.” The signed bookmark still hangs on my wall, and she has inspired me to go further with my own writing than I ever could have dreamed possible. Pearsall writes some serious magic, and you have to check it out.