4 (in) One Acts!

They’re here! The Robinson Players presented Spring one-acts last night for the first of three performances. What a great success! After a pretty stressful techweek, I’m glad that we’re performing and things are going well.

Five directors worked hard to put on 4 plays, in the thick of the terrible stressful March.

KNOCK THREE TIMES Directed by Elizabeth Castellano ’12 & Jennifer Lindelof  ’12, BOTTICELLI Directed by Glynnis Nadel ’10, TODAY’S SPECIAL Directed by Gavin Segal-Abrahms ’11, and STILL ALARM Directed by Thomas Koshy ’13.

The best part about these one-acts is that a bunch of new people have gotten involved. At the Robinson Players, the student theater organization at Bates, we love when people decide on a whim to try out theater! It’s been great to have a lot of first-years involved as well.

I did a lot of organizing when we were choosing the plays and directors, but since then I’d been pretty hands-off. While I was credited in the program as “producer” (ISN’T THAT INCREDIBLY COOL/OFFICIAL??), the real shining star in the production of these polished one-acts was Michelle Schloss ’12, our tech director. Michelle somehow coordinated a thousand things like painting and music and stage preparation and scene changes and even a fog machine– things that I literally have no concept how to do. She was so wonderful–thank goodness we have her!

There is another performance tonight at 7:30 and then Saturday at 2– we had to make it early in preparation for the All College Gala !!!!! You can be certain that I will be posting a blog where I gush about how beautiful it all was ASAP. Happy Weekend!

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Talk talk talk

I caught the bug. I’ve finally come to my senses after being at Bates for almost three whole semesters now, barely noticing the programs that countless clubs, departments, and grants bring multiple nights each week. I’ve finally started attending lectures. And it’s a wonderful thing.

As I’m sure has been evident from my blogs so far this semester, I’ve been making more of an effort lately. At first, it was because my own professors or clubs had organized the talks– a digital poet, an alum who skied the North Pole, etc. However, as I became aware, as I began to read emails announcing things and keep my ears open for opportunities, I realized that even if I wasn’t bound by academic obligations, these talks were very interesting and very good opportunities to enrich my understanding of a variety of subjects, both familiar and unfamiliar.

Take, for example, “American Horror Cinema in the ‘Age of Terror’: Reading the Politics of Eli Roth’s ‘Hostel,'” a lecture sponsored by the college. This lecture was about torture porn. WAIT! I know what you’re thinking. It’s what I was thinking too- because I had NO idea what any of it was about. So I looked it up. Try checking out this article, from New York Magazine, which gives a bit of context to the trend, and seems to have been the birthplace of the term. It refers to a style of incredibly popular horror film with excessive torture, gore, pain, and violence. Okay, I’m first to admit, I’m not a brave soul when it comes to watching movies. You can ask my father, who will attest that when “The Ring” first came out on DVD however many years ago it was, I made him watch it with me at 7:00 am on a Saturday to make sure that a) he could protect me from anything scary and b) I would have enough daylight to try to get over the intense fear that the movie had  lodged in my head. But, in preparation for this talk, I watched ‘Hostel.’ I went home after class, got in my bed, and spent my afternoon watching Eli Roth’s story depicting American tourists captured and brutally tortured. First of all, I was concerned that my neighbors would all think I was crazy from all the my-eyeball-is-hanging-out-of-my-face and you’re-sawing-my-heel-in-half screams. I opted for headphones. But here’s the funny thing: I really got into it. I really liked the movie. So I was even more thrilled to go to hear University of Rochester’s Professor Jason Middleton’s lecture.

I had done my best to publicize the lecture, and the Keck classroom was very full- the crowd was a mix between students, faculty, staff and the like. Professor Middleton jumped right in.

He began with a simple answer to a question he anticipated. “Do I like Hostel?” he asked himself. “The answer is not simple.”

Now I have about 4 pages of notes from the lecture but half of them are half sentences that I thought made a lot of sense, but out of context of the whole talk say merely “torture porn is the intersection of most culturally desectioned film genres– slasher horror/porn” and “constructs scenes of torture as musical #s or set pieces– story is flimsy pretext drawing brutality together.” Maybe one-third of them are my silly musings that, while slightly embarrassing, are worth noting. My favorites being: “I could be listening to NPR right now, my mom will be so jealous” and “Avatar = Dances with Wolves… IN SPACE!” Whatever percentage is left were the political points.

Professor Middleton’s lecture suggests that the trend of torture porn films “tightly aligns” with the timeline of the Bush administration. The whole concept of how social otherness = monstrosity; these American tourists go out into the scary, “other” world and meddle with those missing teeth and speaking jumbled words and are captured and killed. They should have known. We also discussed the genre of horror film and its usual rules and restrictions — and how ‘Hostel’ ignores many of them. 

I was totally engaged, sitting on the edge of my (obviously front-row) seat until the very end. Now I’m hooked. Now I’m watching lots of movies. Now I’m looking at them from a political standpoint and seeing how closely they stick to the typical plot line of a horror film. But I’m going at it kind of blindly– it’s a real pity that Professor Middleton can’t come work at Bates so I could take his class on horror cinema and feed this sudden thirst for film knowledge!

Oh, this blog is called “talk-talk-talk” implying more than just one. Well the other two talks I’ve been to recently were equally as interesting: one, the most prolific Franco-American author, Normand Beaupre who spent an hour and a half slipping in and out of French in such a way that both challenged and delighted me; two, Jessica Anthony, a Bates grad and current professor who published a very successful novel “The Convalescent.”

I guess it’s incorrect for me to say “go see talks”- it just sounds incredibly incorrect. So, instead I say this; go listen!

Language Arts Live Reading

On March 4, I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful prose reading of James Hannaham’s novel “God Says No” in another installment of the Language Arts Live series. I found Hannaham incredibly entertaining and engaging. Although this was my first prose reading, I could certainly imagine why they would prove difficult. The length of novels obviously restricts a reading, and then there’s choosing which part you want to read– what part you really like, what part you think doesn’t require too much background info, what part exemplifies the novel to you… Anyways, I was fully enthralled the entire time, and I can’t wait until I find the time to read the whole book.

Hannaham, who teaches creative writing at Pratt, has had many stories and pieces of criticism published in all sorts of impressive journals and collections. He was incredibly funny and very personable, and he read for about a half hour, then moved to questions.

I was sitting there truly enjoying myself; I didn’t have any particular questions but I wish people just kept coming up with more– I wanted to hear him answering them forever! His answers were so great, a perfect mixture of wit, real advice, and honest remarks. He loves to create, loves to get inside of his characters’ heads. I found his most helpful piece of advice to be that writers need to be okay with cutting down their writing. He explained how proud he felt when he finally learned to get rid of tangents in his work, and see how much better it could become.

He also talked about how he used to separate all writers into two categories: those who helped, and those who hurt. With an unknowing laugh, an audience member asked him to explain this statement. To him, literature seemed to either distract him or influence him in a totally positive way.

In any case, the reading was a great Thursday night activity. Hannaham was the first of three prose readings in the Language Arts Live series, and I’m looking forward to the other two. The series is being co-curated by one of my current professors, Eden Osucha. She made it an assignment to attend at least one of the three– but I’m certainly planning to go to all of them!

First Concert as WRBC board member

This past Wednesday I had a big learning experience– my first concert where, as a WRBC board member, I was actually responsible! The concert was Hey Mama, a great band that’s currently touring up a storm in New England. Because most of the senior board are busy with their senior theses, this concert was entirely put to the newly elected board, all sophomores. We were all excited to learn, but I know that I was nervous. As the publicity director, I felt very responsible for the turn out. It was a Wednesday night and I know many people had midterms. I’d been sending out emails, plastering up posters, and sitting at the entrance of commons every meal to get the word out about the show. By some miracle, more than 85 people showed up! It was such a great show, I stomped my feet so hard they hurt the next morning! Lead singer Celia Woodsmith’s voice was divine– once she started singing (and sometimes playing the washboard!!) no one could stop dancing.

It was tough though, especially considering that after the concert ended all I wanted to do in preparation of my 8 am the next morning was go to bed. We had to take down all of the equipment, and bring it across campus to put it away. I was basically sleepwalking by the end. But it was a good experience!

Now comes the real test! Tonight, WRBC presents Toro Y Moi, Washed Out, and Small Black. This concert is bigger– three bands, a professional sound guy, lots of student interest… It’s going to be a lot of work, but definitely a lot of fun.