The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Ashley Bryant (Page 1 of 7)

Bates theater portrays the dark side of humanity

What do you get when you combine punk rock, horror, sex, and memoir set in a New Jersey suburb amidst the backdrop of a toxic storm? The spine-tingling play, Hamilton Township, written by Jason Grote – that’s what.

From Thursday, April 3rd to Sunday, April 6th, four brave students shocked the Bates community with their performance in Gannett Theater. Directed by Andrew Overbye ’14 for his senior thesis, the play showcased the dark side of humanity and the power of theater.

IMG_1681“It was a complex production that explored a troubling situation in a really beautiful way through the use of physicality and a small, intimate setting,” states Allie Freed ’16.

Set in a New Jersey suburb known as Hamilton Township, the plays begins with Babydoll, a prostitute (played by Audrey Burns ’17), and Jason, a young, timid man (played by Colin McIntire ‘16), drinking wine coolers in a furnished family room while a toxic and mysterious storm rages outside and a comatose elderly woman (played by Katie Van Patten ’17), lays lifelessly still on the sofa. The night is allegedly Jason’s birthday and Babydoll, hired by a nameless character (played by Charlie McKitrick ’14) is paid to give Jason any sexual favors he desires which he continues to refuse. They then wait until McKitrick’s character, who remains nameless throughout the show, arrives with Jason’s birthday present: the supposed heart of his abusive stepfather.

The play then plummets into an utterly unnerving performance of crude sex, death, and blood – lots of blood. Glass is smashed, punk music is blasted, and punches are thrown all while the audience watches with wide eyes and gaping mouths.

All four actors embodied their characters effortlessly, making the show seem hauntingly realistic, like the audience was watching real sex and real murder unfold before them. McIntire developed well throughout the play, showing how taking a human life can leave a lasting, detrimental effect on a person. Burns was powerful and captivating in her performance, revealing the ugly side of sex and what happens when Sadism and Masochism goes too far. McKitrick was absolutely terrifying on stage, embodying his character so well that I was too afraid to congratulate him at the end of the show. And lastly, although Van Patten did not have a single line in the show, her ability to portray the fragility of human life was absolutely heart wrenching.

It’s safe to say that this was the most disturbing yet brilliant production ever performed at Bates. It was horrifyingly real, depicting the sinister side of humanity. And perhaps that’s what was so frightening about it. During the darkest of moments, some audience members did not know how to handle the scene before them, causing them to laugh and chuckle nervously. The play tapped into a side of humanity many people never think about and made the audience question what they would have done in a similar situation. It showed them how animalistic humans can be, how sex isn’t always romantic, and how death isn’t always peaceful.

“It was an extremely heavy production,” states Caroline Paikoff ’16, “but it was refreshing to see something at powerful and moving done well at Bates.”IMG_1696

Overall, Hamilton Township was totally unforgettable. It was funny, frightening, and violent, showing how powerful theater can be in capturing human emotion. The set was simple yet the demands of this show were not. It tested the actors emotionally along with the audience, revealing how, perhaps, there is darkness within all of us.

The Hunt broaches the stigmatic world of falsely accused child molestation

In the race for the best foreign film Oscar this year was The Hunt, a little know Danish film from director Thomas Vinterberg that aired in 2013. Although it was beat out in the end by The Great Beauty, The Hunt is certainly not a film to be swept under the rug. Beautiful, dark, haunting and incredibly uncomfortable at times, “The Hunt” is a movie that makes us examine a part of society no one particularly wants to.

The main character, Lucas, is a man who, despite losing both his job and his wife, seems to be making the best of things. As the story begins he has taken a job as a kindergarten teacher working with many of his friends’ children. The kids delight in his presence and adore him for his kindness and playfulness. One girl in particular, Klara, the daughter of his best friend, finds him intriguing and develops a crush on the much older man.

In the United States, we often marginalize the romantic and sexual notions of children. There is a taboo in American culture that dictates a child is not sexualized until after puberty. The reality however is that children, in their curiosity and learning about the world, inevitably touch on smaller and more specific intimate details that involve very mature and intimate sexuality. In Klara’s case she is “jokingly” show a pornographic picture by her brother and his friend who laughingly spirit themselves away. This minute detail, shown in a matter of 5-10 seconds in the film, is the cause of all the horrible things that follow.

When Klara decides to act on her crush on Lucas, by kissing him and giving him a toy heart, he rebuffs her in the way any mature adult would, by trying to explain the inappropriate nature of such actions. Klara becomes very unhappy and in her tribulation she meaninglessly describes a sexual detail of the picture her brother showed her, projecting in unto Lucas. She does so in the presence of the proprietor of the daycare, who begins to extrapolate much from this tiny lie. And without asking Lucas whether or not it even happened, brings in another man to question Klara, to determine the nature and extent of the claimed abuse. Although she denies having said so at first, Klara becomes caught up in her lie which spirals into an accusation so large that it spreads to other students at the kindergarten, who, when pushed by their parents, begin to remember the same details of Lucas’ sexual abuse. They even remember the same paintings, couch and space of Lucas’ basement where all these events happened.

Lucas is arrested and brought to trail, a proceeding we see little of as the film focuses not so much upon the legal aspects of the situation but on the social and societal ramifications for the accused child molester. Lucas loses everything: his new love interest, his son (whom has expressed the wish to live with him full-time), and the vast majority of his friends, excepting one.

The journey to the bottom for Lucas is not a happy one. As he loses everything he faces the atrocities of his furious and disgusted neighbors. His dog turns up dead with a rope around its neck and he faces physical violence even in trying to buy groceries from the local market.

The small, offhand lie from a jilted eight-year-old has completely and unequivocally ruined Lucas’ life. Despite Klara’s efforts to recant her momentary lapse in judgment, her parents convince her that she is suffering from shock and simply does not remember the events.

Vinterberg here has created a situation completed constructed by society and assumption where the ostracization and condemning of one man is built solely upon projections. Masterfully haunting, miserable and completely captivating, The Hunt examines how our society now treats both children and sexuality. Because the film takes an inside look at a hard and usually polarized objective topic it makes the viewer consider the ramifications of such polarity.

As critic Colin Covert said: “You leave The Hunt unsettled in the best sense. Its images and implications are likely to stay in your head a long time.”

The Wolf of Wall Street shows the truth behind the glamour

Released on Christmas Day, The Wolf of Wall Street marks director Martin Scorsese’s fifth collaboration with actor Leonardo DiCaprio.  The film is based on true events and is outlined in a memoir of the same name by former stockbroker Jordan Belfort.

Belfort, played by DiCaprio, sets off for Wall Street in New York City with dreams of becoming a successful stockbroker.  There, he is mentored by his boss, Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey).  Hanna advises Belfort to delve into drugs, including cocaine and quaaludes, and to engage in plenty of sex in order to cope with the stresses of the industry.

The Wolf of Wall Street challenged every boundary possible in the movie industry,” said Michael Rague of Emmanuel College. “It also showed the audience the excessive lives that people involved in stocks lived at the time. After watching a film, most people would hope that it was a true story; knowing that The Wolf of Wall Street was about a real person’s life made me love it even more.”

Eventually, Belfort joins forces with salesman Donnie Azoff, played bonah Hill, to create their own firm, Stratton Oakmont, which engages in less than reputable behavior.  The firm does well; Belfort’s wealth increases and his life spins out of control as he over-indulges in a life of hedonism.  His world is a constant blur of drugs, sex, and debauchery. (In other words, don’t see this one with your parents, or be prepared for some awkwardness.)  Ultimately, Belfort’s opulent lifestyle leads the FBI to take a closer look at just how Stratton Oakmont is accumulating so much wealth.

The movie has a knock-out cast, which also includes Jean Dujardin, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, and even a cameo by Spike Jonze. DiCaprio holds nothing back with his performance, fully embracing the repulsive characteristics of Belfort, who will do anything for a buck.  Hill’s portrayal is at times humorous, including two drug-filled scenes that generate laughs, while also being mildly disturbing; it is a black comedy, after all.  Robbie, who plays Belfort’s wife, Naomi LaPaglia, adds drama as she futilely attempts to bring her depraved and out-of-control husband back to reality.

The soundtrack is memorable as well.  The Foo Fighters, The Lemonheads, and Billy Joel are just a few of the artists that contributed to the almost sixty songs that provide background music for the movie.  (Although the official soundtrack only features sixteen of them.)

Just a few months ago, DiCaprio gained acclaim as Jay Gatsby in the highly anticipated The Great Gatsby. Before that, he stunned in Django Unchained as 1800’s slave owner Calvin Candie.  Despite these noteworthy performances, DiCaprio has yet to win the much sought-after Academy Award.  Of the twenty-eight films he’s starred in over the past twenty-two years, he has only earned four Oscar nominations and, of course, has always come up empty-handed.  After watching The Wolf of Wall Street, it is obvious that DiCaprio wants that Oscar badly.  He did a stellar job, and earned an Oscar nomination, but once again failed to be recognized by the Academy. DiCaprio did, however, win a Best Actor Golden Globe for his portrayal of Belfort.

The Wolf of Wall Street is enjoyable, but its length – just about three hours – detracts from its appeal.  It does drag on, and at times gets a bit repetitive.

But, as Benjamin Pinette of Endicott College puts it, “Lives like Belfort’s that are full of extravagance can lead to a repetitive lifestyle of overindulgence in substance abuse and spending. The movie reflects that lifestyle.”

This movie is simultaneously funny, serious, and disturbing.  Although it takes a while to get there, the ending is ultimately worth the wait.  I give The Wolf of Wall Street 3.75 out of 5 stars.

Black Cat Lost, Mortality found

After leaving the Black Box Theater on Saturday afternoon, I was a little on edge as to how I felt. I felt uncomfortable about being confronted with the reality of my own mortality. I felt joy about being reminded of the small intricacies of a person’s life that can outweigh the greatest tragedy. I felt confused as to how this piece even connects in a narrative form. Most importantly, I felt this production has done what most pieces of theater could only dream of: it has inspired me to look inward and embrace everything that I feel. These were my feelings after viewing Black Cat Lost this weekend, directed by Max Pendergast ‘15.

Never in my time at Bates have I seen or heard of anything quite like this production, and it’s for that exact reason that I connected with the show so strongly. Coming from someone who is both a frequent performer in theater productions as well as an appreciator of all things theater, I can safely say that this experience was truly unique. Black Cat Lost, written by Erin Courtney, is an auto-biographical collection of literary pieces which reflect her experience with the loss of a loved one.

The play takes on a non-linear format, highlighting both the disarray in form and longing for form that grief brings to its victims. The play has three actors in total, without giving them any sort of name or indication of title. These three actors were Mara Woollard ‘16, Ciaran Walsh ‘15, and Christina Felonis ‘16, who each play a host of various characters as the “play” progresses. Black Cat Lost weaves a series of non-linear vignettes, in which the actors portray stages of accepting death, realizations of mortality, loss, and recognizing their own humanity in between.

The theater itself was also a character to be recognized. Set in the black box, the seats were organized around the perimeter of the room, making the production an “in the round” event. Though seats were very limited, it was this exact choice that made this show even more powerful as an audience member. The small space created an intimate connection each evening with not only the audience and the cast, but the audience in relation to one another as well. Meant to heighten the personal connection one associates with feelings of being, this transcendent piece invites its audience members to not only view the actors on stage, but to become part of the cast by way of its small performance space.

Impressed does not begin to elucidate my feelings about this production. Pendergast deserves the utmost praise for taking such a difficult piece – both in subject matter and in non-conventional form – and making it resonate with audiences all over campus.

Wollard, Walsh, and Felonis also command an exorbitant amount of respect for their performance of the taxing subject matter and difficulties in physically performing. From the vocally taxing screams they emit to provoke the audience, to the physical work they endure to create the scene, this ensemble truly shines in this piece.

Overall, Black Cat Lost was a piece that forced me to do something I don’t do on an everyday basis: it made me think about my own existence as well as the beauty of our collective.

Gala 2014: A night at the circus

This past Saturday night was Bates’ annual All-College Gala, a night of delicious food, classy attire, endless dancing, and tremendous aerial performances.

gala 3Walking into the Gray Cage Athletic Center was a magical experience, with plentiful decorations to fit its “Cirque de Bates” theme. The garden arrangement by the entrance was that of circus animal figurines amongst a trickling pool of water. White string lights were draped across the ceiling to give Batesies the feeling of being “under the stars” while they sat in round tables snacking on candy and Cracker Jacks. Between the carnival-style food – hamburgers, fries, mini corndogs, and cotton candy – to the ice sculptures of elephants and seals – this year’s Gala went above and beyond in embodying its circus theme. Some staff members even dressed as clowns and ringleaders, showing their true dedication to Bates’ annual tradition.

Aside from the food and decorations, the most impressive aspect of “Cirque de Bates” was undoubtedly the aerial performance. With performers from both the Bates Circus Arts Club and the Circus Conservatory of America from Portland, the half hour show left attendants wanting more. Ali Haymes, sophomore President of the Circus Club, began with a phenomenal hoop routine that showcased her grace and flexibility. Vice President Kelsey Schober ‘16 demonstrated her extraordinary skills in a fantastic silk display of beauty and intensity. The two then continued with a mind-blowing duet on the silks, working off each other’s strength and experience to deliver a wondrous spectacle of talent. Treasurer Hannah Otten ‘16 also gave a stellar performance on the silks while members of the Circus Conservatory of America continued with awe-inspiring routines of immaculate beauty and exquisiteness.

“It was really great to interact with the Circus Conservatory performers and see what it’s like to have circus as your profession,” stated Haymes. “I think the crowd really enjoyed it and the energy was amazing while we were performing. I had so much fun doing it, and I think the other performers did as well.”

Haymes, Schober, and Otten were thrilled to be spotlighted in Gala and hope both their and the conservatory’s performances inspired more Bates students to join their club.

The Bates Ballroom Dance Team also took center stage during the evening, showcasing their talent of quick feet along with some fabulous costumes. The fun and impeccable performance made many onlookers wish they knew how to dance to their level, myself included.

gala 7The evening continued with a fantastic display of music, with the Phil Rich Swing Band delivering jazzy tunes in Gray Cage while Darlingside, a popular and well-loved band from the Village Club Series, brought pop and rock tunes to Alumni Gym.

“I really liked the swing dancing,” stated Kallie Nixon ’14. “It’s always a fun change of pace to listen to a different type of music at Gala.”

Shannon Griffin ’16 echoed Nixon’s sentiments, by stating, “Gala was a refresher from the regular weekend routine. One of the best parts is having your friends enthusiastically sing off-key in your face or swing you around the dance floor. It’s a wonderful night where classy and goofy create a wonderful atmosphere.”

Overall, this year’s Gala was spectacular, bringing together students, professors, and even circus performers all under one roof. With aerial stunts, big band music, and endless delicacies, it’s safe to say that this event will continue to be a fond tradition for the entire Bates community.

The final act: Theatrical constructions in The Act of Killing

In 1965, the communist government of Indonesia was overthrown and then-president Sukarno was deposed. The new regime, a military dictatorship, began the mass killing of all its political opponents. These included communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals – including basically anyone who wore glasses. The genocide, as it has a right to be called, took place over the course of a year and left anywhere from 500,000 to 2.5 million people dead. 40 years later, the perpetrators of these vicious war crimes are not only at large, but are still commemorated as national heroes who saved the national identity of Indonesia.

In 2005 Joshua Oppenheimer began shooting The Act of Killing, a documentary released in 2012 that examines not only the sadistic nature these brutal killers in close intimacy, but also the social and imagined constructs which enabled them to see themselves as righteous liberators.

The subject of the film is a man named Anwar Congo. Anwar is a proud grandfather. He dances well and laughs frequently. Anwar admits to having killed hundreds of people during the extermination of the communists. He and his friends bask in the glow of nationalistic pride and think of themselves as ‘gangsters.’

When the genocide began in 1965, the military mostly stayed out of it; they hired paramilitary troops, such as members of the infamous Pancasila Youth as well “movie theater gangsters” who sold movie tickets—among other things—on the black market. Anwar and his friends fall under this second and less organized category. They used their love of American cinematic action thrillers to inflict distorted means of torture and death on the alleged communists they were encouraged to dispose of. In doing so, they built up an alternative identity, one tied intimately with the effects and characters of the Hollywood films they loved so dearly.

In this way The Act of Killing gives itself a new meaning. The mass killings they executed became a theatrical performance to them. Anwar and his friends thought of themselves as movie stars and justified their horrid actions with a mixture of pseudo-nationalism and theatrical egotism. As Oppenheimer stated on an interview with The Daily Show “they use their love of cinema to distance themselves from the reality of what they were doing.” For Anwar, if not the others, this façade begins to crumble as the movie progresses.

Oppenheimer—who is intimately involved with the film and its characters—challenges Anwar to make a movie, recreating his murders although this time as the victim. The film that Anwar creates is a combination of completely horrifying scenes of gory carnage and unintelligible yelling which leave many of the actors thoroughly unsettled, and ridiculous interspersing’s of Indonesian film comedy that serves only to escalate the feeling of unease and horror to the foreign eye.

One of the final scenes of Anwar’s movie shows him dancing under a waterfall. Two of his communist victims rise from the dead and present him with a gold medal for having killed them and sent them to heaven. The absurd nature of the scene coheres with the propagandist message the makers intend to send but it is so false and contrived that it shows the weak rationalization that the perpetrators use to make themselves feel better.

Much of the documentary is about this notion of justification. The mass murderers smile at the camera and say that they did the country a service and no they don’t have trouble sleeping at night and yes, they would do it over again. As one of Anwar’s friends says, “‘War Crimes’ are defined by the winner. I’m the winner so I can make my own definition.”

Every breath brought out of a ‘gangster’ in this documentary is a justification, a haunting plea to his own conscience. Every man filmed for this movie has built his reasons over the last forty years, stacked them and used them as a barrier against the terrible realization of wrongdoing. He admits to trying to drown out those visions with alcohol, marijuana, and ecstasy but is still troubled as he watches clips of himself describing to Oppenheimer the ways in which he killed his victims.

The last scene in the documentary finds Anwar up on another rooftop where he reportedly killed hundreds. But this time there is no smiling, no laughing, and no pride. He finally says “I know it was wrong—but I had to do it.” This is by far the first time anyone in the film has admitted to wrongdoing and the anguish on his face is palpable as he finally admits to his horrible actions. Immediately after Anwar is attacked by a visceral fit of tormented coughing unlike any human noise I have ever heard. It subsides and he tries to continue his story sorrowfully until he is overcome again. In this isolated and focused scene, with no exterior influence we see the precise moment Anwar falls out of his constructed imagination and into the reality and gravity of his actions. The film ends as he walks away.

Lewiston’s own brings a savory and affordable dining alternative to Batesies

One of the best parts of the Bates College campus is inarguably Commons. Full of an endless array of scrumptious food and hours of good times amongst friends, Commons leaves smiles on Bates students’ faces and their stomachs satisfied. However, when this Bates hotspot does not satisfy your food cravings, look no further than the metropolitan area of Lewiston-Auburn, well loved for its wide array of delicious restaurant choices.

A hidden gem is none other than Fish Bones American Grill, located on Lincoln Street in downtown Lewiston. Fish Bones is located in an antiquated mill, with large windows, distressed brick walls, colorful artwork, and pipes running along the ceiling. Its rustic architecture and refined atmosphere makes the setting, as first-year and Maine native, Laura Pietropaoli, describes as “laid back but not too informal.” Though the atmosphere is certainly trendy, there is no need to dress up.   It is typically packed with both students and locals, ranging in age and dress. 

Aspects of Fish Bones that set it apart from many other restaurants in the area is the comfortable lounge area and 22-person dining room that can be rented out for special events. These accommodations, along with the full-service bar and creative menu that Pietropaoli notes as having “really interesting flavors,” keeps many coming back.

The menu is creative, delicious, and ideal for all occasions. It is certainly upscale, but prices remain moderate. Diners can enjoy high quality, healthy, diverse food at reasonable prices. The menu focuses on a seafood grill, but there are plenty of vegetarian and non-seafood items goers can choose from. Personally, I dislike seafood, but I have no problem ordering a great meal. My personal favorite is the Angus Steak and Cheddar Flatbread, one of their many flatbreads on their lunchtime menu. They also offer a great selection of salads and burgers. The Apple Wood B.L.T. Sandwich is always great.  Friends of mine who enjoy seafood rave about the Mussels Margherita on the dinnertime menu.

The hours of Fish Bones make it easy to enjoy a meal at any time throughout the day. Lunch hours are from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm, Monday thru Thursday, and dinner is from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm, and Friday and Saturday from 4:00 pm to 9:30 p.m. Reservations are also not necessary and parking is plentiful.  There is no excuse to not pay a visit to Fish Bones. With its reasonably priced and quality menu, along with its trendy and rustic atmosphere, it is a perfect spot for an afternoon or night out.

Danú delivers mystical, magical, and melodic merriment to Olin Concert Hall

This past Thursday, students, professors, and members of the surrounding community packed into Olin Concert Hall to await the Danú concert. With its roots in Ireland, the band gave an awe-inspiring, fun-filled performance of traditional Irish music and storytelling. From the moment the band members walked on stage to their last song of the evening, Danú exceeded its high expectations with bursting colors and melodic tunes.

In November 1994, four band members (Benny McCarthy, Dónal Clancy, Daire Bracken, and Donnchadh Gough) met at the Oirachtas Festival in Waterford, Ireland and later formed Danú after another Irish musical festival in 1995. Since then, the band has added a few members to its Irish musical family, including Tom Doorley (flute and band spokesman), Eamon Doorley (bouzouki and fiddle), Oisín McAuley (fiddle), and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (lead singer, flute, and whistle). They have performed around the globe and recorded numerous critically acclaimed albums. The band was named Danú after the Celtic Goddess, and after last night’s magical and mystical performance, they definitely live up to their name.

The six band members present at the performance had a wide variety of instruments, everything from the whistle to the bodhrán (an Irish frame drum), creating a unique, but distinctly Irish sound that filled every square inch of Olin with musical wonders. Danú’s members had a charming sense of humor along with captivating stories that effortlessly linked each song together.

“If the accents didn’t give it away, the dry wit and foot-tapping jigs were unmistakably Irish,” said junior Mike Creedon.

Their first song of the evening was a chillingly beautiful tune. The combination of the accordion (McCarthy) and low strings on the guitar created a haunting sound that seamlessly transitioned to an upbeat tempo of fast moving fingers and a dueling duet between the violinist (McAuley) and flutist (Amhlaoibh), never missing a note or beat.

The second tune was called Peggy’s Nettles about a lazy boy whose mother put nettles in his bed to get him up in the morning. The band made some humorous comments about Maine’s unfortunate weather and how the next stop on their tour was to the tropical islands of Hawaii – a sigh of jealously fell over the audience. Amhlaoibh made mention to Lewiston’s French population and the importance of maintaining a dying language. She then went on to sing a love song sung in her own native Irish language about a girl’s arranged marriage to a crotchety, old man and her plot to end their holy matrimony early. The song was breathtaking in conjunction with harmony from the fiddle. Amhlaoibh’s vocals were effortlessly graceful, leaving the audience with a chilling sense of amazement.

Dónal Clancy, the band’s guitarist, told the story of his homestay experience in Brittany, France and how despite the language barrier, he became friends with the father of the family through music… and the help of some Ricard’s licorice liquor. The tune was titled “Clancy’s Farewell to Whiskey” which swelled with the use of guitar and violin.

Amhlaoibh followed Clancy’s song with a folkloric ballad sung in English called “County Down.” It made reference to the 25% of Ireland’s 20-year-olds who have emigrated to the United States, Australia, and other countries in search of jobs, pleading them to come back home where their Irish roots are.

Danú finished up their first set with a fast tune. Amhlaoibh’s high-pitched whistle resonated throughout Olin Concert Hall, really hitting those Irish roots in combination with the fiddle and accordion.

After a long intermission of snowball fights and cups of tea, the band returned to play a song about missing home while on their tour in the United States. Gough’s Scottish roots were struck in the next tune that stirred some audience members to begin dancing in the aisle. The humor of made-up song titles, such as “Mary will you cut your toenails, you’re cutting the sheets” and “Bridget, will you hold the candle stick steady while I shave the chicken’s upper lip?” were woven amongst the set list of jigs, hornpipes, and reels.

Clancy sang a Scottish love song about a boy who fell in love with the farmer’s daughter that consisted of three part harmonies and soothing vocals. Amhlaoibh then sang a mystical song about a heartbreaker named Molly and how to the Irish, love is a disease that causes men to dream of fairies. “The love of women, love of drink, and fairies makes for a very good Irish song,” stated Amhlaoibh.

Danú ended their phenomenal show with a vibrant, foot-stomping, hand-clapping tune. Gough gave an incredible – what seemed like – five-minute bodhrán solo that completely blew the audience away in terms of both length and immense talent of the Scottish drummer.

“Having studied abroad in Ireland last year, I was very much a part of the traditional music scene there,” said Catherine Strauch ’14. “Hearing such authentic Irish music was so familiar and refreshing for me. Each musician was a master of their own instrument and really engaged the audience with their explanations of each song. It was definitely one of the best concerts I have ever seen at Bates.”

The audience left Olin feeling refreshed and full of merriment, humming some of their favorite tunes and step dancing outside in the lobby. It was an incredible performance for Olin’s Arts Alive concert series. Danú brought a healthy balance of haunting beauty and charming humor. They left their audience with messages of home, family, love, laughter, and most importantly, the art of having fun with the help of some Irish drinking.

The Spelling Bee was a W-i-n-n-e-r

When attending The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in Gannett Theater, I initially did not know what to expect. I knew very little about a show that would turn out to be one of the most entertaining productions I’ve seen at Bates. Not only did this show keep the audience doubling over with laughter, but it was completely student-run – directed by Bates junior, Gunnar Manchester ’15. I cannot begin to imagine the amount of love, sweat, and tears put into this show, and it certainly paid off.

This talented cast included Julia Ofman ’15 as Rona Lisa Peretti, Divyamaan Sahoo ’17 as Chip Tolentino, Amanda San Roman ’17 as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere, Ryen Martinez ’17 as Leaf Coneybear, Alex Moskovitz ’16 as William Barfee, Rebeccah Bassell ’16 as Marcy Park, Liza Danello ’14 as Olive Ostrovsky, Henry Baird ’17 as Vice Principal Douglas Panch, Brennen Malone ’17 as Mitch Mahoney, and last, but certainly not least, Audrey Burns ’17 as Logainne’s biological mother, Olive’s mom, and the Understudy.

Julia Ofman, the host of the Bee and a former champion, along with Henry Baird, the co-host of the Bee who was on leave for 5 years for undisclosed reasons, had the audience in stitches due to their wit and quick thinking, as multiple audience members were selected to participate in the Bee. For instance, when Amelia Green ’17 was called up to spell, Ofman announced her as an individual who “thinks that horizontal stripes are flattering” as she was wearing a blue and white striped shirt. Clearly, these two knew their roles well enough that they could not only play their character, but improvise well enough that it appeared to be part of the script.

Another notable aspect of this show was the marvelous singing. Sahoo often stole the show with his impressive pipes as well as Danello who belted out her solos with confidence and conviction. However, all of the solos would not have made for a good show if the entire cast could not hold their own. Between San Roman’s character’s adorable lisp and Martinez’s idiotic, yet charming persona, the audience almost forgot that the spellers on stage were in fact their fellow Bates peers and not the real-life characters themselves.

I was shocked and delighted by the choreography, as well as the excellence in its execution. The cast made use of their small space in the block-box style theater immensely well. Bassell absolutely dominated her solo entitled, “I Speak Six Languages,” doing impressive splits and ballet moves, along with flipping Moskovitz’s character over her back and breaking a wooden board with her bare hands. Surely, these talents are worth seeing.

To add to this astounding performance, Moskovitz’s and Danello’s duet about their budding friendship was amazing to view as Moskovitz even picked her up in an elaborate, ice skating-like form. Burn’s ballad to Danello’s character was passionate, beautiful, and full of messages of love and family. Ciaran Walsh ’14 even made a surprise appearance as Jesus, which left the audience in fits of hysterics.

Overall, the Robinson Player’s full-length musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was a tremendous success. It was incredibly well cast, bringing laughter, and some free juice boxes (courtesy of Malone’s character as the ex-felon comfort counselor), to the audience.

2014 Oscars: Ellen for president?

The 86th Academy Awards, honoring achievements in film, aired live last Sunday from Hollywood, California.  In contrast to the somewhat stuffy broadcasts of the past, this year’s Oscars were refreshingly lively.  After a seven-year hiatus, comedian Ellen DeGeneres returned to host the show for a second time, and she did not disappoint.  Says first-year Katie Stevenson, “Can we give Ellen an Oscar for best performance by a host in an awards show?”  The Oscars were a memorable evening of sensational red carpet fashion and moving acceptance speeches.

DeGeneres began the festivities by calling out Jennifer Lawrence, whom she referred to as “America’s other sweetheart,” and reminded us of Lawrence’s tumble at last year’s show.  (Recap:  when walking to the stage to accept the Best Actress award, JLaw tripped and did a faceplant on the stairs.)  Perhaps Lawrence has an Oscar curse:  this year, cameras caught the actress tripping once again, this time over a traffic cone on the red carpet.

Partway through the show, DeGeneres inquired as to whether the crowd was hungry, and suggested that perhaps she should order pizza.  To the surprise of those in attendance, a delivery man appeared a short time later with slices for the crowd, while DeGeneres used Pharrell’s infamous Grammy’s hat to collect money from the audience.  You read that correctly:  Ellen DeGeneres orchestrated a pizza party at the Academy Awards.  Later, she gathered her A-list friends – Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Channing Tatum, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong’o, her brother Peter Nyong’o, and Angelina Jolie – in an Oscar selfie that effectively broke Twitter as the most retweeted tweet of all time.  The selfie was taken with a Samsung phone; due to the over three million retweets of the photo, Samsung is donating three million dollars to DeGeneres’s charities of choice.

The night’s red carpet fashion was breathtaking.  Among my favorites were presenters Anne Hathaway, Emma Watson, and Portland, Maine’s own Anna Kendrick, all of whom opted for sleeveless black dresses.  Much attention has been paid to Hollywood’s latest fashion icon, 12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o, who has wowed with her previous dresses at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards.  For the Academy Awards, Nyong’o donned a flowy, pleated Prada gown that had been made especially for her. This dress marked a departure from the more form-fitting dresses Nyong’o has worn in earlier awards shows this season.  The actress explained that she chose the light blue color because it reminded her of her home, Nairobi, Kenya.

Nyong’o was recognized for her acting achievements with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  She concluded her acceptance speech with this inspirational message:  “No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”  First-year Tessa Holtzman was “impressed by Lupita Nyong’s eloquence. Her dress and speech were amazing, especially for someone so new to the Hollywood scene.”  Jared Leto picked up the Best Supporting Actor award for his portrayal of an HIV-positive transgender woman in Dallas Buyers Club.  Leto delivered a tearful speech, thanking his older brother/30 Seconds to Mars bandmate, Shannon, as well as his mother, to whom he said, “I love you, Mom; thank you for teaching me to dream.”  Best Actress went to Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine.  The Best Actor award went to . . . not DiCaprio.  Despite starring in widely acclaimed roles in twenty-eight films over the past twenty years, Leo has never won an Oscar – what gives, Academy?!  Instead, Matthew McConaughey won for Dallas Buyers Club.

Gravity picked up seven awards, including Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, and Best Director.  Fan favorite Frozen won Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song for “Let It Go,” performed by Idina Menzel.  (Or, if you’re John Travolta, Adele Dazeem.)  The biggest award of the night, Best Picture, went to the historical drama 12 Years a Slave, which also took home Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay.

With that, the 2013-2014 awards season has come to an end.  The big winners this year were American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, and Gravity.  Thanks to Ellen DeGeneres, this year’s Academy Awards caused a social media eruption and reached a fourteen-year ratings high.  (Oh, and that pizza delivery guy?  He ended up with a $1,000 tip. #EllenForPrez)

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