The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Tricia Crimmins (Page 1 of 2)

Berger ’19 and French ’18 Make Seussical Their Own

Each year, during the fourth week of short term, yellow school buses arrive on campus to transport Lewiston preschoolers, kindergartners, and elementary school kids to see the Short Term musical. The Robinson Players, Bates’s student-run theatre group, puts on the show as a community engagement project, connecting the Bates and Lewiston communities through theatre.

Performing the Short Term musical is a unique highlight of the Bates experience for many. The energy of the schoolkids as an audience is always so full of wonder and enthusiasm. Singing, dancing, and creating a magical world for young audiences through the show is rewarding and fun.

This year, the magical world being created for the Lewiston schoolchildren is “Seussical,” a musical that is comprised of the works and stories of Dr. Seuss. The show follows Jojo, a young child, who thinks up an entire Seussian world, and then navigates it with the help of The Cat in the Hat. Along the way, Jojo encounters Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, Mayzie La Bird, The Sour Kangaroo, many other fascinating creatures.

The rehearsal process for the Short Term musical is like no other. Auditions are held before finals week in April, and the show is cast before April break. Students rehearse daily for three weeks and perform five weekday shows during the fourth week of Short Term.

In choosing to put on Seussical, co-directors Rebecca Berger ’19 and Hope French ’18 picked the show for the wonderful messages it sends young audiences. Berger explained that the show exemplifies that, “You don’t need to change yourself to be liked by other people.” “My life, and the lives of the women around me, have been affected by what society has told us that we need to change, in order to be liked or respected or noticed.” Seussical tells audiences, “You are who you are, and people will like you for who you are.”

French echoed that the show urges kids to accept themselves and tells them that, “Being yourself is the best way of being,” and that, “People matter, no matter who they are or what they are.” “I want the kids to come and have a learning experience,” and “take in the spectacle” of the Seussical, French explains. She hopes young audiences realize that learning about Seussical’s important messages “really can be done in a fun and exciting way.”

In creating a unique and vital learning experience for the young Lewiston audiences, Berger and French utilized some of the show’s messages when making casting decisions. “These magical characters can be genderless,” says Berger. “Gender/sexuality don’t need to really exist in the Seussian world.”

In Berger and French’s “Seussical,” characters traditionally played by females will be played by males, and vice versa. And, Justin Demers ’18 and Zach Collester ’19 were cast as the adorable Mr. Mayor and Mr. Mayor, instead of the show’s traditionally heterosexual mayoral couple. “What you see on the page or on the screen doesn’t have to necessarily be the way it is,” explains Berger.

Casting decisions such as these are incredibly important, especially when they are being imparted on such young minds. When watching the show, Berger hopes the kids see that “every person should be seen, heard, and respected: no matter their size, gender, sexuality, race; anything.” “They still exist and should be respected and have the same rights as everyone else.”

The Robinson Players’ production of “Seussical” will run from May 14 to 18. Though the performances are mainly for the Lewiston school children, there will be one Monday night performance for the Bates community.

Berger looks forward telling the kids to be whatever they want through the show. “This is a crazy world!” And French hopes audiences, young and old alike, “have fun.” “Seussical is so exciting.”

 

Gutterman’s Little Shop Delightfully Entertains

This semester, sophomore Julia Gutterman triumphantly directed Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s rock musical, Little Shop of Horrors. The show ran from Friday, March 30th to Sunday, April 1 in Gannett Theatre. The show follows Seymour, played by Justin Demers ’18, a young man working at Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists. Mr. Mushnik, the owner of the flower shop, is played by Xavier Hayden ’19. Audrey, another employee of Mr. Mushnik’s, is played by Caroline Carreras ’19.

On the stoop outside Mr. Mushnik’s, Chiffon, Crystal, and Ronnette, played by Sarah Curtis ’18, Margaret Trombley ’18, and Becca Kraft ’20 respectively, sit and interact with passerby and the stores’ employees.

In an effort to attract business, Seymour purchases a strange looking Venus Fly Trap to display in the window of the flower shop. As a show of his affection for Audrey, Seymour names the plant Audrey II. As the show progresses, it becomes evident that Audrey II, played by Elliot Chun ’18, is animate as it asks Seymour to feed it human flesh.

Audrey II’s first casualty is Audrey’s sadistic and abusive girlfriend, dentist Orin Scrivello. In addition to her gender-bending performance as Scrivello, Maddie Rozells ’20 plays various other ensemble roles.

Presented by the Bates College Robinson Players, the show is a joy to watch and experience. The cast is energized and enthusiastic; they genuinely convey their excitement about Little Shop to the audience. The talent and work of musical director Sam Findlen-Goldman ’20 and choreographers Shae Gwydyr ’20 and Ellie Madwed ’20 are particularly evident in the performances of Curtis, Trombly, and Kraft as they guide the audience through Seymour’s trials and tribulations through top-notch harmonies and sharp dance numbers.

Demers and Carreras excel in their duets and solo numbers. Carreras breaks the audience’s heart in her solo, “Somewhere That’s Green,” as her gorgeous voice and vibrato convey Audrey’s dream of raising a family. Demers’ Seymour is endearing and lovably goofy, and his vocal range is incredible. The chemistry between Carreras and Demers is adorable, and the two sound marvelous together. The fan-favorite “Suddenly Seymour,” delivers, the audience is hanging on each of Carreras and Demers’ well-sung notes.

Demers and Hayden also make a phenomenal father and son pair, after Mr. Mushnik adopts Seymour in their song and dance number, “Mushnik and Son.” Hayden’s performance as Mr. Mushnik is heartwarming, clever, and hilarious. It is so genuinely fun to watch him prance across the stage, grumbling about Seymour’s mistakes, celebrating the shop’s newfound success with Audrey II, or advising Audrey to leave her no-good girlfriend, Scrivello.

Gutterman refreshingly updates to the show with her choice to cast Rozells as Orin Scrivello, a traditionally male role. Gutterman’s casting plays well in the show, and, more importantly, dispels the show’s traditionally skewed gender dynamics by placing a female actress in a powerful, yet evil, role. Though Chiffon, Crystal, and Ronnette are take-no-BS types of characters, the majority of the show’s female energy is usually centered around Audrey, who is unfortunately submissive and controlled by her abusive significant other. Rozells shone in the spotlight she made for herself as a female Orin Scrivello. She was intimidating while undeniably feminine.

From within his enormous plant-like contraption of a costume, Chun also shone as Audrey II. His quips were well-delivered, his tone threatening and ominous, and his mannerisms gave Audrey II her appropriately quirky personality. He also bellowed fantastically disguised as a homeless person in the show’s first full-cast number, “Skid Row.”

Gutterman’s Little Shop was a feel-good experience that was definitely worth seeing. I was grinning from ear to ear as the cast sang the show’s finale ultimo, “Don’t Feed the Plants.” I was lucky to be able to see the show this past weekend, and everyone involved with the production did an amazing job.

 

Bates Community Discusses Stigma Surrounding Opioid Crisis

Initially used to treat headaches, menstrual cramps, and coughs in the late 1800’s, opioids are at the center of an epidemic that directly or indirectly involves all Americans. The national opioid crisis is racialized, stigmatized, and all-encompassing, and the reaction of the Bates community has a multitude of consequences and implications.

Livie Gilbert ’19 and Jon Sheehan ’19 hosted a forum on the subject on Wednesday, March 28. The forum, titled “The Opioid Crisis: How Stigma is Shaping Our Community’s Response,” functioned as a way to educate members of the Bates community and involve them in dialogue surrounding the epidemic. Many attendees expressed interest in learning more about the opioid crisis and its implications, while others identified themselves as personally affected by the crisis.

Sheehan explained that the goal of the forum was not to “come up with hardline policy ideas” or “a solution,” but stressed the importance of an open conversation about the topic. Gilbert and Sheehan expressed the harrowing reality that the opioid crisis is relevant to everyone. We are a part of the crisis, both as Americans and as inhabitants of Lewiston.

Many of the stigmas discussed during the forum focused on how, and who, opioid users are stereotypically perceived to be. Put simply, it is widely believed that drugs are “bad,” and that doing drugs makes one a “bad” and “stupid” person. Attendees of the forum discussed the converse as well, that “good” and “smart” people cannot be addicted to drugs.

Both stigmas have lasting and detrimental consequences concerning the way we react to drug use in our community. When we believe that “smart” people cannot be addicted to drugs, we bypass the opportunity to monitor each other’s harmful drug use. The discussion in the forum revolved around the idea that, just because someone doesn’t seem like the type of person that would misuse drugs, does not mean they will not or, more immediately, are not.

Attendees of the forum also spoke about the assumption of normality when addressing opioid usage. Some health professionals and members of the Bates community immediately assume that students are not misusing opioids. However, the crisis could be better addressed by assuming that everyone either could or could not be. Assuming the latter acknowledges that we are all equally susceptible to drug and substance misuse. Forum attendees expressed that being cognizant of that reality incentivizes members of our community to pay attention to the behaviors of those around us.

Unfortunately, stigma runs rampant in discussions surrounding sobriety and rehabilitation from opioids as well. The forum also discussed debunking the myths that opioid users don’t want get better and that medication-assisted treatment does not correctly address the problem. Beliefs such as these lead our community further and further away from providing the help and resources individuals misusing opioids need to recover. Forum attendees discussed the expansion of Medicare as a policy-based solution to the crisis, as it could potentially offer more resources for a longer amount of time to those dependent on opioid use.

The forum discussion also stressed a change in the language we use to describe drug use and the opioid crisis. Using terms such as “substance use” and “substance misuse,” instead of “substance abuse” eliminates the blame placed on individuals who are dependent on opioids.

Additionally, the forum discussion clarified that substance use disorder is a mental illness and should be treated as such. Detrimentally, most hospitals will not provide safe spaces for those dependent on opioids during recovery. However, individuals can check themselves in to most hospitals by claiming that they are a potential danger to themselves due to mental illnesses. The obvious disconnect present was identified by many during the discussion.

The forum closed with a brief conversation surrounding Johann Hari’s idea that “the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety; it’s connection.” Forum attendees expressed that creating environments and safe spaces in which those dependent on opioids can connect with support networks is one of many preventative solutions. Dialogue surrounding this topic is paramount, because substance abuse can be caused by social isolation. It’s important to watch out for friends and pay attention to the drug use of those around us.

Mt. David Summit Showcases Student Work

Each spring, Bates students are given the opportunity to share their unique research projects with the rest of the Bates community at the Mount David Summit. This past Friday, March 23, Pettengill Hall was buzzing with academic energy as students presented their research projects in the atrium and more formal presentations in the classrooms below.

Beyond being a celebration of the impressive and important work that Bates students are doing, Mount David gives students a chance to interact with the research of their peers. Haoyu Sun ’19, who presented on the epigenetics of memory in her project, “Drug Discovery Research: TET1 Enzyme Inhibitor” in the atrium on Friday afternoon, enjoyed learning about the research her peers had been working on during the school year. “It allows us, different students working in the same lab, to communicate with each other. This is a really awesome opportunity because everyone is very busy, we get to get together and see what’s going on for each other.”

Raegine A. Clouden Mallett ’18 shared a similar sentiment. Clouden Mallett’s project, “Translational Efficiency of flaB from Borrelia burgdorferi: Effects of Change in Secondary Structure of mRNA Leader Region,” focused on Lyme Disease. Clouden Mallet explained that, in putting together her project for Mount David, she appreciated the opportunity to prepare and experience presenting her own research. “If I want to further my career as a researcher, as a scientist, I want to be able to present research.” In presenting on Lyme Disease specifically, she learned how prevalent the disease really is, even in the Bates Community. Lyme Disease is “a big thing for a lot of the students here at Bates.” Most students “know someone with it.” Clouden Mallet enjoyed doing research that felt personal to her own community. “It was cool in that aspect that I’m doing research to help further the understanding of it.”

Both Allison Greene ’20 and Hope French ’18 were excited to explain their experiences in their formal presentations on behalf of the Bates Theatre Departments. Greene, who assistant directed Bates Theatre Department’s production of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, was “excited to share” her unique experience working backstage in the production through her presentation, “Assistant Directing and Dramaturgy for Angels in America.” In being given the opportunity to present, Greene was grateful to hear what the audience thought of her presentation and “share more about the theatre world.”

Similarly, French wanted to “invite the audience into [the theatre] world,” in presenting her work, “Portraying Harper Pitt in Angels in America: A Process” at Mount David.

Beyond presentations centered on STEM research and projects from the Bates Theatre Department, this year featured a multitude of diverse work from the Bates community. Presentations from many varied majors were featured, including work from the music, politics, classical and medieval studies, and European studies departments. And after experiencing only a fraction of the presentations on Friday, I found that the magic of the Mount David Summit is based in its academic diversity.

While each Bates student has their own passions and academic pursuits, the community is granted the opportunity to join together and experience each other’s work during the Mount David Summit. Clouden Mallett truly encapsulated the spirit of Mount David when she remarked that, due to “the friendly faces of Bates students and Bates faculty and staff,” there was “only good energy,” in the Pettengill Atrium on Friday. Regardless of the prior knowledge on subjects of projects by presenters, “people are genuinely interested in hearing what [presenters] have to say.”

Bates Students Demand Gun Control During Walkout

On Wednesday, March 14, the snow fell quietly onto Alumni Walk, quickly melting as it hit the pavement, or adhering together, creating frozen mounds. Amidst the storm, precisely at 10:00 a.m., members of the Bates community headed toward Commons to gather for the Bates College Walkout for Gun Control. The Walkout lasted seventeen minutes, “to represent one minute for each student that was killed at the Parkland shooting.”

Hosted by Bates Student Action and Bates Student Government, the event gave Bates students an opportunity to rally together and share their thoughts on the school shooting epidemic. Students held signs that stated “enough is enough,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “our movement is intersectional.”

As people arrived, Maddy Smith ’20 shared some opening remarks. “This is not the first time that people have rallied around gun violence in this country,” explained Smith, “this is an issue that Black Lives Matter has been fighting for so long.”

Most of the students that gave speeches highlighted the frequency of mass shootings in the United States. According to statistics provided by Everytown for Gun Safety, eighteen school shootings have already taken place during this year alone. “The point is to not constantly talk about the shootings after they happen, but to prevent the next one from occurring,” stated student body president Walter Washington ’19.

Additionally, speeches touched on the power that members of the Bates community have in resisting the NRA and Congressional silence concerning gun regulation laws. Washington urged attendees “to understand that, while we still cannot believe in the White House,” and members of Congress, we can “believe in each other.” “Keep resisting; do not stop talking about this moment; do not stop doing everything within your power to resist against the government.”

In the spirit of substantial resistance, the organizers of the Walkout passed around petitions demanding common sense gun control to be given to U.S. Senator Susan Collins. Students had the opportunity to sign both during the event and at tables outside Commons later that day. Beyond the petitions, Julia Panepinto ’20 asked students to “remember that you have the power to make this change happen, and that what you do today has to translate into the future.”

Both Eliza Roberts ’19 and Muskan Verma ’21 expressed their frustration concerning access to semi-automatic rifles in the United States. “It is ridiculous to me that guns are available here in Walmart where you go to buy candy and cola,” stated Verma. “We are not trying to take away all your guns,” clarified Roberts, “but… the only point to [semi-automatic rifles] is to cause mass harm.” Referencing the valiant efforts of the Parkland teens, Roberts explained “they just want some regulation, they just want to feel safe going back to Parkland… You want to feel safe in your school.”

Verma also spoke about the upcoming March for Our Lives in Portland, ME. In conjunction with the march in Washington D.C., marchers in Portland are demanding gun regulations, background checks, bans on assault rifles, and measures to increase school security. The event will take place on March 24, and begin in Congress Square Park in Portland. Verma urged all students to attend the March to the best of their abilities. “This is something that matters… and no matter how busy you are, lives really, really, really matter.”

The Walkout ended with a moment of silence honoring the lives lost in the Parkland shooting and the lives of all Americans “killed by senseless gun violence,” notes Panepinto.

 

Recognizing the Power of B**tch

I’ve always grappled with the word “b**ch.”

When it is at the epicenter of my self-deprecating quips, the word is a celebration of who I am, unabashedly living my life and laughing at myself. “Guess which b**ch just spilled yogurt on her jeans?!” Me. I am that b**ch, indirectly empowering myself by acknowledging my daily wins and loses.

I’m also that b**ch when greeted by female friends on a regular basis. “Hey, b**ch!” is exclaimed with a smile. Within my haven of female best friends, b**ch is tossed around constantly. It rolls off the tongue slightly harsher and more hilariously than “girl.”

“Girl” is generic. “B**ch” seems personal.

Due to the somewhat confusing reclamation of the word by second wave feminism as an empowering term, “b**ch” is intensely personal because its meaning depends on  speaker and context. I accept b**ch from my female friends. I’ve accepted b**ch as hard-hitting constructive criticism from my mother. And I accept b**ch, sincerely and without hesitation, from my male best friend.

However, my comfort level with such a powerful word could not and should not dominate any exploration of “b**ch” and its implications. So, I asked some of my female friends how they felt about the word as well.

Most of the women I spoke with differentiated female usage of the word b**ch into two distinct categories: to empower and to undermine.

B**ch can be a term of endearment when context is “playful” says Lila Patinkin ’20.

“If I feel like it is in a humorous or affectionate way, it feels like an inside joke” remarks Charlotte Karlsen ’20.

Reflecting on my personal and liberal use of the word “b**ch,” Karlsen’s comment resonated with me. When there’s a level of trust and positive understanding between two people, usually women, throwing around “b**ch” signifies a bond. When I know exactly who it’s coming from and why they’re using it, “b**ch” feels like being a member of a club.

That’s why, conversely, some women have found difficulty in accepting b**ch as an insult from other women. It “feels like a violation of the ‘sisterhood,’ so to speak” notes Rebecca Havian ’19.

Personally, when a woman calls me a b**ch, it hits harder because she and I both know exactly what she is doing in using the word. The “sisterhood” can be manipulated because “women know the intensity of,” b**ch” says Hannah Golub ’21.

Succinctly put, “If it is in a cruel or accusatory way, it stings worse than a****le but is easier to take than c**t,” observes Karlsen.

Uniquely, “b**ch” is incredibly difficult to “take” from a man. I’ve questioned why I cringe when I hear men use the word in any context. Moreover, I haven’t felt secure enough to call out the men in my life when they use b**ch.

“The assertion of power that comes” from a man calling a woman a b**ch “makes me innately more afraid or shocked than to hear it out of a woman’s mouth” says Maddy Clark ’20.

There is something off-putting and “unsettling” Karlsen remarks in hearing men use “b**ch” because it is inexplicably linked to the patriarchal society in which we still live. No matter how well-intentioned the usage, b**ch’s patriarchal degradation lingers.

Unfortunately, this fact is lost on most. The word has been abandoned in a sort of linguistic purgatory. Does “b**ch” “mean [someone] is cold or uncaring or literally just a female?” asks Rebecca Berger ’19.

The way I see it, this sort of ambiguity grants us with an immense amount of responsibility. As with any word we use when interacting with others, we must be cognizant of the “implications and power dynamics at play” notes Patinkin.

Language is complex and nuanced, and any sort of rulebook concerning who should use “b**ch,” and how, is far out of our control. What we can control, however, is how we interact with the word in our own lives. Women, let nothing stop you from using “b**ch” in contexts in which you feel comfortable.

Let it be “endearing and playful” says Claire Sullivan ’19.

And, know that if “b**ch,” when used by a man, makes you uncomfortable, you are valid in alerting the men in your life of that aversion. Our words have the ability to break or reinforce societal hierarchies and trends, and “b**ch” holds an immense amount of power.

Speak wisely.

Actualizing Angels In America within the Bates Community

Angels In America: Millennium Approaches is an epic tour de force set in 1985s United States of America. Playwright Tony Kushner tackles the AIDS crisis, Reaganism, love, heartbreak, self-discovery, and a multitude of other themes via witty dialogue, magical realism, and complex and profoundly genuine characters. The show opens this Thursday, March 8, and runs until Monday, March 13 in Schaeffer Theatre.

Timothy Dugan, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre, is directing Bates’ production of the show. The Angels cast consists of thirteen student actors, including me. We are joined by Kirk Read, Professor of French and Francophone Studies, who plays Roy Cohn, a character based on the infamous attorney of the same name. Angels In America in full is two parts, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika. This month’s production at Bates only includes the former.

As an ensemble member, I’ve been rehearsing for Angels for the past two and a half months. I recently chatted with director Dugan, who has been with the show much longer.

When deciding whether or not to embark on the journey that is putting on this enormous show, Tim jokingly recalls asking friends, “Hey… am I crazy? Architecturally, there’s so many layers to this play… the canvas is enormous.”

In navigating the enormous canvas of the show, Tim worked to equip actors with “as many tools as possible to crack open the scene[s]” during the rehearsal process. Once actors understood “the complex and potentially emotional issues,” brought up by Angels, the cast was able to convey them onstage for an audience. Dugan prepares actors by ensuring daily warm ups and rehearsals are tailored to guide the cast into the particular scenes that they’ll be tackling each day. For scenes that require political context, Dugan has brought in Bates professors to discuss relevant historical information with the cast. For fast-paced, sporadic, and argumentative scenes, Dugan has us play a large and complex round of catch, keeping us alert and on our toes.

Many of the cast members encountered Angels In America: Millennium Approaches, and some of the issues it grapples with, for the first time upon auditioning. “To some students… what it would be like in the 80’s dealing with AIDS is, of course, not a part of their reality.”  For this reason, Dugan has tried to portray the timeless and relevant nature of the show in Bates’ production. “This is ’85, but its 2018.” Beyond the eternal and universal themes of pain, progress, change, love, and heartbreak, Angels includes countless political parallels, connecting the show’s reality to our current political climate.

Upon returning to Bates after February break, just two weeks away from our opening night, Dugan asked the cast to describe what we felt the play was about by writing a few sentences. The responses show that the modern poignancy of Angels certainly has not been lost on its cast members. We’ve been able to marvel in its immensity and authenticity throughout the entire rehearsal process. For the ensemble, this show has evoked a wide range of emotions and reactions both onstage and off.

Michael Driscal ’19 explains that Angels is “about the inevitably of change… the fright and freedom that comes with it.”

Patrick Reilly ’21 mentioned “the resiliency of the human condition.”

Ezra Clarke ’21 noted “how ordinary people endure extraordinary struggles.”

Commenting on Kushner’s unique and unparalleled assessment of the country as it was in 1985, Charlotte Karlsen ’20 described Angels as “a love letter to America in the fullest sense: an honest assessment of what it has been and a prayer for what it still could be.”

Dugan is both delighted and excited to bring Angels to the Bates community. “There’s a huge pay-off” in experiencing and attending the show as an audience member “with whoever is there that night… that’s the magic of it.” Even after seeing the show many times over, Dugan still “marvels” in the play’s ability to portray a story “wildly epic, hugely political, and so heartbreakingly personal.”

Through my personal involvement as member of the ensemble, this process has revealed that Angels is a dramatic, comedic and mystical interpretation of the fact that life must go on. Its authenticity and shamelessness offers a portrayal of the human experience that is unparalleled by any other show I’ve been involved in.

As John Dello Russo ’18 put it, Angels proves that “even in the darkest times, we can cling onto hope.”

Berger ’19 Directs the Charged Play Dry Land

When Rebecca Berger ’19 chose to direct Ruby Rae Spiegel’s Dry Land this semester, she was told she would need to include trigger warnings and a sensitive director’s note in both the program and posters for the show. She was even told she might receive hate mail. “Honestly, that made me want to do the show even more.”

This week, I interviewed Berger, a theater major with a focus in directing, about her experiences choosing and directing Dry Land. Berger is directing the show as an independent study this semester. It opens in the Black Box Theater on March 16 and plays until March 18. The play is about “abortion, female friendship, and resiliency.” When choosing the show, Berger focused on plays by female playwrights about strong female characters. “I think it’s really important to have a show written by a woman because she… lends her own personal views, ideas, and life experience to the show and to the characters.”

On the subject matter itself, Berger chose to put Dry Land onstage at Bates because she felt it was “really important in this political climate.” While, in public arenas, “women’s reproductive health and just health in general… gets constantly pushed aside,” Berger wants to talk about it.

Set in a high school girls’ swim team locker room, the play follows the story of a young girl who is seeking an abortion in Florida, a state in which she cannot get a safe abortion without the consent of a parent or guardian. To avoid having to tell her parents, she tries to figure out a “back-alley” abortion method.

Spiegel includes the actual abortion in the show and wrote a note to directors insisting that the “abortion should be seen, and should not be covered by any sort of set piece or a costume item.” Berger explained that if the procedure is “covered, that tells the audience that [abortion] is something that should be disguised, not talked about, or pushed aside because it’s taboo.” When directing the scene itself, Berger intends to “stay true to… the experience of the character” and show “how scared she would be, rather than make it a spectacle with all this blood.”

The central conflict of Dry Land is abortion, but it covers a host of other topics as well. The show touches on mental health, bisexuality, queerness, and “how the characters deal with all these other problems and… the isolation that goes along with figuring out who you are in high school.” Due to its focus on female friendship, Berger proudly explained that the show passes the Bechdel test, which asks if, in a work of fiction, two women talk about something other than men. “It’s about a women’s issue… and how women feel in society.”

Through a story about abortion, Spiegel is able to make a profound commentary on the expectations of young girls in society. Berger discussed that as women, we are told to “look a certain way and… act a certain way.” “Once you hit a certain age, you become a sex object. But, if you act on that… that’s a horrible thing. Suddenly, you’re considered a slut and a whore.” Directing this show is a sign of resistance against societal expectations for Berger. “I want to show that friendship is messy, high school is hard, love is messy. There shouldn’t be any hard and fast lines.”

Concerning the show’s subject matter itself, Berger encourages those unsure or conflicted about abortion to see Dry Land so that they are able to “expose themselves to things that they’re scared of.” Berger explained that exposing these sorts of topics in the theater space is particularly valuable. Theatre, as a medium, is unique in the sense that audience members can “absorb” and “connect” to shows, and then continue to process and think about what they’ve just experienced once they’ve left the theater. “It’s going to be a funny show, because it has to be, because it’s so dark. And I hope people will come and see the light as well as the dark.”

 

Club Spotlight: The Strange Bedfellows

The Strange Bedfellows is Bates’ oldest and only improvisational comedy group. I am a member of the Bedfellows, and we practice and perform improv comedy through short and long form games. Some of the games we play are structured, some involve a large dose of audience participation, and others are loosely based off a random word or suggestion and devoid of any form at all.

This year’s Strange Bedfellows are Ian Erickson ’18, Joseph Alp ’18, Eden Rickolt ’20, Hannah Golub ’21, Katherine Towle ’21, and me, Tricia Crimmins ’19.

The term “Strange Bedfellows” itself usually refers to “unlikely allies or companions.” I’ve always had an affinity for the name, because it perfectly encapsulates the power of improv: allying people and their spontaneous ideas and reactions to produce laughter, surprises, and, within the group, a very sincere and unique form of companionship.

Friendships are built by doing improv together are very particular in that they revolve around trust, self-knowledge, and comradery with fellow performers. Walking onstage without a script or any idea of what you’re about to do is nerve-wracking, and we all get nervous. But the nerves and jitters before shows and scenes are alleviated by the trust that the group members have in one and other. We all have the same goal, which Golub posits as the “immediate reward of getting laughs.” As Alp put it, shows are fun because “we are free to do as we please while also engaging the audience…we are simply ourselves.”

That feeling of freedom and uninhibited expression of self is supported by the trust we have in one another. There’s a sense of responsibility to the scene you build and the people you interact with in improv. When performing, the goal isn’t to “chime in when you have something funny to say,” Rickolt states. Scenes “really work… because of a genuine connection” between “scene partners,” remarks Towle.

To Golub, this is because improv is not about “personal success, it’s all about the success of the group.” She continued, “If I’m not the one getting laughs in the scene, I’m here to be in the scene and keep it going.” Getting laughs and positive reactions from the audience comes naturally when one cooperates with others and the imaginary world within the scene that they’ve created together.

“When I started improv, I was so focused on just making the audience laugh. But, as I’ve gone on, I’ve realized that it becomes so much easier to do that when you build… a scene with rich characters,” notes Erickson.

The reactions and feelings we gauge from the audience are vital contributions to our performances as a whole. “Dating Game” is a short form game that involves a Bedfellow bachelor(ette) on a game show, guessing the mysterious identities of three contestants by asking them a series of questions. The identities of the contestants are known by the audience, allowing them to feel “a part of the process,” explains Alp. Audience members are excited for the answers the bachelor(ette) will receive, because they are in on the joke. “Improv fosters an intimacy with the audience that other forms of performance don’t do as easily,” says Erickson. Both the Bedfellows and the audience are unsure what’s next, as performers “get into situations and scenes that could’ve never been planned,” says Rickolt. “It feels good to make people that you’ve never met laugh,” admits Erickson.

Foreign Language Spotlight: Katrin Laschober

This past Thursday, I chatted with Katrin Laschober, the visiting TA in the German Department at Bates. Laschober is teaching German 102: Introduction to German Language and Culture II this semester. She is from Austria and speaks both German and English, and this is her first time teaching in America. When she was about ten years old, Laschober started learning English in school and eventually went on to study abroad in high school for a semester in Kansas. In addition to German and English, Laschober studied French in high school and can speak a little Italian after studying abroad for a semester in Italy.

In her studies, Laschober focuses on language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and speech pathology. Laschober initially started studying linguistics because she had “always wanted to study German language and couldn’t decide between the two subject areas.” She described her studies as exploring how children acquire, or learn new languages. She is amazed at how children can learn so quickly, some in only a few years. “How can they say sentences that they have never ever heard before in their lives? How are they able to produce those kinds of grammatical structures?”

While it seems to be a well-known fact that children seem to absorb new languages much faster than adults, Laschober clarified that this can be attributed in part to one of the  differences between children and adults: a level “consciousness” when learning a new language. Children tend to be relatively unaware of the large amount of information they are learning. Therefore, they are “unconscious of the processes” involved in learning a new language. This can contribute to their ability to take in new grammatical structures and vocabulary words with ease.

In Austria, Laschober taught German in an after-school program for students raised in Vienna who learn German as a second language. Although the students are younger and have an easier time learning German, unfortunately, their motivation to learn the new language can potentially suffer.  In a way, they do not have a choice in learning this new language because they are leaving their home countries due to war or other destabilizing circumstances. Laschober explained that the kids “come to Austria, and then are surrounded by German. Their first language is anything else, like Arabic or Turkish. But now they live in Austria and they have to learn German,” to keep up in school.

Laschober’s students in Austria are usually in a minority and are “surrounded by people who speak German very well,” which can remind them constantly “that they have to improve in certain areas of the language.” Because of this, Laschober tries to combat the “otherness” they might feel. She respects her Austrian students and the effort they are able to make in learning German and tries to convey that learning a new language is a “positive” and “useful” experience.

Laschober is teaching at Bates this year on a Fulbright scholarship and would love to stay here longer. She raved that her students at Bates are “motivated and doing such a great job.” In her classes, she tries to convey the fun of learning a new language, and all that can be discovered in doing so. “I just really hope I can show them the whole new world and opportunities that can come along with learning German.”

 

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén