The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Riley Hopkins (Page 2 of 10)

Elizabeth Acevedo brings intense spoken word to Bates VCS

Elizabeth Acevedo performed several of her spoken word poems in the Benjamin E. Mays Center this past Thursday. Known for her discussion of social issues such as race, many students were excited to host her last week. Acevedo did not disappoint; performing poems dealing with race and gender relations, she discussed complex issues within her poems.

Sarah Keith ’18 reported, “She did a really good job of having serious poems while keeping the mood light in between poems. She tried to bring up big problems in the world – like race problems and BLM – without placing blame.” Performers and visitors like Acevedo are what make Bates so unique, and students look forward to more performances that present difficult topics and discussions in the future.

Elizabeth Acevedo performs her poems at VCS. DREW PERLMUTTER/THE BATES STUDENT

Elizabeth Acevedo performs her poems at VCS. DREW PERLMUTTER/THE BATES STUDENT

“Last Gas:” Liberation, desire, and ambitions in Northern Maine

It’s one of those days in which I seem to have been teleported back home. I see Nat Paradis, the main character of this unconventional love story, and I’m flown back home, to my village. I am not in Spain, though. The people I see through the theatre stage’s frame are not speaking Spanish and the scene I am watching is not set in Andalusia, but in Northern Maine. I am in the U.S. and yet I feel home. I look at Nat Paradis, interpreted in a somehow appropriate monotonous and heartbroken style by Augustus Kelley, and I see what has been the struggle of many people an ocean away. Premiered in Portland in 2010 and, in the past few weeks of October, brought to life again in Lewiston, this play seems to feel somewhat significant and maybe universal for the folks with ambitions raised in rural environments.

Moving rather slowly to convey the slow-paced lives of its characters, “Last Gas” starts off monotonous yet ludicrous, soon becoming troubled, and then bursting in the personal liberation of Nat towards its second act. This play, written by John Cariani and directed by Janet Mitchko in this year’s season of Lewiston’s Public Theatre productions, is set in “the Last Convenient Store before Canada” which is run by Nat Paradis and his father Dwight, wittily and actively played by Kurt Zischke.

As soon as the play starts, we are introduced to the character of Nat Paradis, lead role of a comedy that gets serious, who far from achieving his goals in life has been stuck for the 41 years of his existence in the remote northern area of Maine. Father to a teenager named Troy Paradis, playfully interpreted by Brandon Tyler Harris, and divorced from the forest ranger Cherry-Tracy Pulsifer, played by Katharine McLeod, Nat is nothing less than utterly unhappy.

The action does not kick in until, on his 41st birthday’s eve, Guy Gagnon­ (acted by Ben Loving) offers to take Nat to Boston for a Red Sox vs. Yankees game. Shortly after this, he finds out that his teenage girlfriend – Lureen Legasse (Mary Mossberg) – is back in town. This could be his chance to bring his happiness back, acting on his second chance to resolve what lingered in his mind since he finished high school some 20 years ago, when Lureen left to go to college and he did not follow her steps.

Trouble emerges out of Nat’s decision between trying on his second chances with Lureen the Sunday of his birthday and going with Guy to the game in Boston. We think Nat and Lureen will get back together and second chances will work on them; Nat is confused nonetheless and (like in real life) the decisions he makes change the course of his life. From then on, love is lost and found, in different forms, in an intertwined play where sexuality seems to tremble and will not unravel all the truth about the characters until the very end.

Generally simple in language, albeit witty and sparklingly funny in nature, this play is no common “romantic comedy.” There is no clear boy meets a girl, no clear prediction of what will happen next, but rather a certain sense of surprise for a “wait until the end so you see what’s actually going on in here.”

Through a group of somewhat ludicrous characters, we are introduced to the world of insecurities, fear, monotony and lack of ambition that sucks some people’s blood in certain rural communities all over the state. This hilarious yet serious account of life in Northern Maine may universally speak for people raised in rural places who struggled to get out and never made it or who actually made it yet left behind certain things.

Already known for writing about his home-state, Cariani brings up the somewhat universal message that being oneself, regardless of your location, renders essential to finding happiness; something that the cast of this production has managed to convey very neatly.

 

Matt Hires delivers songs of love and life at VCS

By the time I got to VCS this week – which was at 9:10, approximately – I was disappointed by an empty chai dispenser; however, Matt Hires’s music quickly refocused my attention to the main event on stage. Returning for his second year in a row, Hires wasted none of his time in the Mays Center. He played song after song, all of which were originals, and took the occasional break to connect with the audience. Needless to say, I forgot about the chai almost immediately.

The Nashville-based singer-songwriter was accompanied by three other band members, one of whom was a drummer – something we do not see very often at VCS. Unlike his last visit where he was an acoustic soloist, the band vibe was energetic, electronic, and passionate. Many of the songs they performed that night were from his new album “American Wilderness,” and addressed songs of personal contemplation and self-reflection. The messages he illustrated through his music lingered throughout the venue, creating an intimate atmosphere.

Hires said, “It’s the most cohesive body of work that I’ve put out, and I didn’t intend it to be that way – it just happened. One of the first songs I wrote for the album was the first track, ‘Fighting a Ghost.’ The second verse contains the line that the title of the album came from. A lot of the ideas behind a lot of the other songs came from that – feeling a little lost amidst all the noise and commotion of culture and society.”

One song entitled “A to B” urged the audience to live life to the fullest with the chorus lyric, “You can live your life walking in a straight line, but it’s more than just A to B.” The song had a relieving sense of uncertainty, following the theme of the album; the motions of each individual going through life is never set, but there is still comfort in that. Hires delivered this motto especially in “A to B” implying that as long as we take advantage of the journey, the rest will fall into place.

The oldest song he sang at VCS was written 10 years ago for his fiancee at the time (and now wife of eight years) entitled “Honey Let Me Sing You a Song.” Right before his sang this, he shared a story of when he was asked by a fan to sing this song as he was proposing to his girlfriend in a restaurant. After many unforeseen issues, Hires was interrupted mid-song by the restaurant manager telling him he cannot sing in the restaurant. This story certainly elicited a chuckle from the Bates students and the song itself was quite beautiful too. After that, he sang a song about two people who fall in love on an airplane as it starts to crash, entitled “Red Eye.”

Hires released two previous albums: “Take Us to the Start” in 2009 and “This World Won’t Last Forever, But Tonight We Can Pretend” in 2013. Hires brought quality music to VCS this year, and I can only hope Bates brings him back again.

Hires just released a new album, “American Wilderness.” ALL EYES MEDIA/COURTESY PHOTO

Hires just released a new album, “American Wilderness.” ALL EYES MEDIA/COURTESY PHOTO

Matt Hires brought several original songs to Bates for VCS. ALL EYES MEDIA/COURTESY PHOTO

Matt Hires brought several original songs to Bates for VCS. ALL EYES MEDIA/COURTESY PHOTO

When you least expect it, it will hit you. It is the Phantom Punch.

Last Friday, October 18, the Bates Museum of Art inaugurated its new exhibition: “Phantom Punch: Contemporary art from Saudi Arabia in Lewiston.” Words nearly fail to explain how powerful and intriguing this exhibition is.

Before attending the opening, I decided to gather everything I knew about Saudi Arabia. I can honestly say I did not know a lot – if anything at all. Of course I had heard of the big words: terrorism, censorship, absolutist monarchy, gender inequality and human rights. I was aware that I would be writing about this exhibition for The Bates Student, but what could I possibly know about Saudi Arabian Conceptual Art?

As I entered the exhibition, I was amazed to see that my stereotypes of Saudi Arabia were reflected in the artworks. I saw figures that resembled airplanes, mosques that resembled cages and depictions of the restrictions women endure. At first glance, conceptual art can look simple. I thought I had it. All of a sudden I was hit by the phantom punch: maybe things are not as simple as they seem.

“Paradise Has Many Gates,” by Ajlan Gharem, is the perfect example. In the museum, you will see photographs of a steel mosque that resembles, in my subjective opinion, a cage. The first interpretation comes easily: the cage symbolizes reprehension and censorship and the mosque represents Islam, which traps Muslims and restricts their freedom. I believe I was not the only person to have that interpretation. It seems intuitive.

All of a sudden, I was struck by the idea that the cage may symbolize protection. What if people are not locked in a cage, but rather secure from the dangers of the world? What if the cage is not inside, but rather outside? Who is trapped, is it the people in the mosque or everyone else? One symbol is changed and the entire interpretation of the artwork is changed with it. In “Paradise has Many Gates,” there is no way to say what is inside and outside: are Muslims trapped in a cage, or protected by their genuine beliefs?

The Museum catalog for the exhibition raises yet another interpretation. It calls the fences that build the cage “reminiscent of the fences built along the borders of Europe or the prison cells in Guantanamo Bay.” It raises the possibility that maybe it is not about how religion itself traps believers, but about how they are trapped by misconceptions (think of immigration, refugee “crisis” and other important issues). In some sense, it shows that “Paradise has Many Gates” extrapolates Saudi Arabia – it can be about cross-cultural global issues.

This was the phantom punch. When I least expected, I realized that the exhibition is not only about Saudi Arabia or about Saudi Arabian Conceptual Art. It is also about broader, more complex issues. Conceptual art has the value of being open ended and ambiguous, in many cases. It can be about humanity, religion, desire; you name it. “Paradise has Many Gates” is only a single example of an exhibition with dozens of works that challenges our ideas and personal identities.

As I said in the beginning, words fail to describe this exhibition. Even when using the first person singular, I cannot fully describe my subjective impressions of the artworks I saw. There is something inevitably missed in transcribing conceptual art in words. They use different mediums and different ambiances. My words will never be able to explain ambiguity, texture, social pressure, culture and identity in the same manner as the artworks did. The only way one can possibly experience the “Phantom Punch” in all its complexity is to attend the Bates Museum of Art. Enter the museum and embrace the phantom punch. Keep your minds as open as your eyes. There is a lot to see.

 

“Tomorrow in the Battle” questions the meaning of reality

There are days in which we wake up and life seems like something that happens to us rather than something we have under control. That is the world of “Tomorrow in the Battle,” a play directed by Visiting Assistant Professor Sally Wood. Three complex characters that form a love triangle show the audience their points of view regarding what is and what could have been. Anna, Simon and Jennifer – the characters, played by Christina Felonis ’17, Brennen Malone ’17 and Sukanya Shukla ’20 – are faced with the psychological threat that is living lives that do not correspond with their expectations. Each of them speaks to the public in monologues that occasionally overlap each other. No struggle is more real than the other and the overall feeling is powerlessness in face of chance and randomness. As audience, we feel the same. We are powerless in the face of a reality that is never fully our own.

In their monologues, the characters tell the story to the audience in the past tense. Each character tells what happened according to their subjectivity and the audience then can construct a storyline. All we know is that that the relationship between Anna and Simon is crumbling apart on multiple levels. We believe their words – no scene has actually happened. In real life we can look at each other, touch each other and talk to each other but we will never know what really goes on inside. Living a life in a monologue is oddly relatable, since many times we believe to be alone in the world.

This feeling of isolation that makes “Tomorrow in the Battle” so powerful. Existential threat permeates the play: there is nothing to hold onto. It is all a game of chance in which we can’t calculate the odds. Even the setting induces a vanishing state: one chair and three characters trapped in a white cube. “90% of nothing is better than nothing,” quoting from Anna, one of the central characters. As the parallel stories connect momentarily to each other, love changes, people change and characters feel under pressure at a multitude of situations. The very meaning of their personal realities is confronted with what they could have been under a slightly different situation. Had Simon stayed at home in the day he met Jennifer, “Tomorrow in the Battle” would be about another battle happening in another day.

The struggle of power in the play is very clear. Anna works for the Ministry of Defense and talks about missiles, Simon is a heart surgeon and Jennifer works for a finance company. The characters have missiles, money and someone’s heart on their hands. In their relationships too, they show what inhabits our unconscious minds: wanting to dominate or be dominated. There are days in which we want to conquer the world or to feel that someone’s life depends exclusively on us. There are other days when we just want to lean on and hear someone say that everything will be alright. “Tomorrow in the Battle” is as much about chance as it is about our society. At the same time that the characters are individualistic beings living inside their own monologues, they depend on each other’s approval.

After the audience leaves the doors of the Blackbox Theater, they lose the comfort of knowing what goes on inside someone else’s minds. Living, dying or loving goes back to being a game of chance in which all we can do is bet on how someone else thinks. Knowing that we are one step away from infinitely different lives is a source of tension. When one door opens, others close — and we never really know where we are going. We weep for what reality could have been and we cringe for how few steps we are from what we wished to be. All as soon as we leave the doors of Blackbox Theater. Had we not watched “Tomorrow in the Battle,” I can only imagine what could have happened.

 

The Strange Bedfellows amp up the

strange-bedfellows-pic-by-riley-hopkins

Dan Peeples ’17 and Will Koller ’17 epitomize the character of the Strange Bedfellows. DAN PEEPLES/COURTESY PHOTO

Whether they are re in the basement of 280, the Little Room in Chase Hall or the Ronj, the Strange Bedfellows, Bates’ improvisation comedy group, have certainly created an entertaining reputation for themselves. While the group is small in numbers, they never fail to bring their A-game and use their size to their advantage in their performances. Among these impressive qualities, the Strange Bedfellows are going above and beyond their humor to expand the presence of comedy on campus.

For a while, the Strange Bedfellows were the only group on campus whose sole focus was stand-up comedy. However, Dan Peeples ’17 believes there is so much room for growth and expansion among the performing arts to incorporate more stand-up comedy. One project they are working is called the “Bates Weekend Update.” Mirroring Saturday Night Live’s famous skit “Weekend Update,” this project will highlight relevant issues in the Bates community in a more comedic fashion by doing student interviews, stand-up bits and written sketches. Peeples said, “We are playing around with the idea of filming it in front of a live audience, and hope to release our first episode later this semester. The goal is to give students a way to view performance in small, digestible, ten minute bits without having to commit one or two hours to a single show. It also would allow us to have a live performance once every one or two weeks, that also can be watched after the fact by anyone who missed the show.”

The Strange Bedfellows are currently planning on hosting two events: a stand-up comedy night and a comedy musical revue, co-sponsored by the Robinson Players. According to Peeples, the performers in the musical revue “will take a Billboard Top 40 song and, without changing the words, manipulate the context in any way they like. For example, Taylor Swift’s subdued love song ‘You Belong With Me’ can be turned into a monstrous retelling of a satanic demon dragging its culprit to hell.”

The stand-up comedy night will take place early next semester and will feature Peeples alongside fellow Bedfellow Will Koller ’17. Peeples said, “This offers Will and I the opportunity to test out longer jokes that are more narrative based, and to experiment more with the form of stand-up as a medium.”

What’s worth mentioning about the Strange Bedfellows is that they have accepted a single new member into their small group of comedians to bolster the upcoming comedy events. Joseph Alp ’18 “was a stand-out mostly due to his confidence on stage and his willingness to engage with the guiding principles of improv, including character creation, relationship building and the establishment of an objective and location of a scene,” according to Koller. “These qualities stood out in his performance at the Parents’ Weekend show, where, for example, he played the character of Moby Dick with unprecedented confidence.”

Dan Peeples ’17 agrees that the Back to Bates Weekend show was a great way to introduce Alp to the Bates community. “We thought the crowd of parents and students was the perfect environment to perform in, and were pleased with how relaxed we all felt on stage.” Strange Bedfellow alum John Goodman ’15 was also in the audience and got called back to the stage to perform in a game called “Returns Counter.” Along with Alp, Peeples and Koller, the other group members include Ian Erickson ’18 and Whitney Lees ’17.

This year is the first year the group’s membership will remain constant. As any club or organization experiences, students are transferring, going abroad or leaving the group; the membership is never steady. However, this year’s group of Strange Bedfellows is looking forward to their first taste of consistency. Koller said, “This is especially important for a comedy form such as improv where group dynamic and group-mind are such important aspects of performance. The more time we spend together as a group, the better we get.”

Peeples said, “It’s great being able to work with such a small and tight knit group. The chemistry is what is important to building a strong improv team, and we think we have all the tools to be the best we can be this year.”

Their goal is to solidify their chemistry and start performing at regular venues, both of which will boost the presence of comedy on campus and hopefully provide the student body with a variety of entertainment opportunities.

 

An intimate evening with Kristin Chenoweth

We first treated ourselves to the chocolate chip cookies and breath mints in the lobby. Sitting in the back of the Terrace in Merrill Auditorium, we waited in anxious anticipation for her to walk out on stage. First came her pianist, Mary Mitchell, whose musical accompaniment amplified the atmosphere to a chilling threshold. We waited. The crowd was filled with the quintessential art and Broadway fanatics who went wild when Kristin popped out of the stage right wings in her sequined ivory full-length romper.

After seeing on her on Glee years ago and fawning over YouTube videos of her performances as Glinda in Wicked, we were so excited to finally see her in the flesh. As the name of the show “An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth” implies, she brilliantly used personal stories, a humble, down-to-earth tone in her voice and the occasional try at humor to transform this concert hall into an environment similar to that of a hipster coffee shop performance. It is because of this intimacy that we will be referring to her by her first name throughout this review. Before every song, she spoke to the audience like she was talking a best friend, asking us questions every once in a while, truly making us an important part of the experience for her, the performer. She used this time to talk about why the next song was significant to her, one of which defined the relationship between she and her father. She also took advantage of our undying attention to advertise her new album, The Art of Elegance, from which most of her set list came from. She was classy throughout the entire night.

The quality of Kristin’s voice is nothing other than that of an angel. It has a full and bell like sound that sent chills down the backs of every audience member. Kristin sang a variety of both jazz and Broadway songs throughout the night. Her impressive range allowed her to flawlessly transition from singing a low jazzy song to a high musical theater song. As expected, her voice blew audience members away, each song seeming even better than the one before.

To start the night off, she began by grabbing the hearts of her Maine fans by expressing her love for Portland, with this being her first time visiting the state. She had with her on stage a stuffed lobster (despite her distaste for seafood) and a Moxie water cup – two icons of the Maine culture. To explain how much she loves the lifestyle here, she talked about her experience at Becky’s Diner in Portland. She was amazed not only by the food, but by the way she was treated. Just her telling the audience this story immediately broke down any impersonal barriers and developed a trusting relationship with us.

Beyond that, Kristin is more than just a performer; she is an entertainer. Her lightheartedness and sense of humor made the show flow, one song after the next. Although the songs she sang were not her original songs, she still nonetheless made them her own and connected with them in her own profound way. She gave a brief discourse before each song, providing some context to connect with and include the audience. Music has a way of touching people so deeply and this was especially revealed when Kristin used her songs to supplement her social commentary; not only is she exceptionally talented, but also socially aware. She brought up the current state of our country with the many shootings that have made their way into national news. Kristin beautifully sang the tear jerking song “Bring Him Home” from the acclaimed musical Les Miserables after she addressed the death and involvement of children in a recent shooting.

On a more positive note, Kristin lightened the mood with the hilariously adorable song, “Popular” from Wicked where she starred as Glinda, a cheerful, bubbly type who attempts to turn her outcast roommate Elphaba into someone a little more popular. In this performance, Kristin took a creative turn and instead started by telling the audience that Donald Trump had called her recently and asked her for advice on how to make people like him. Her advice to him was through the song “Popular” which was a brilliant and relevant placement of the song she is the most well known for.

One of the most memorable parts of the night was when Kristin called out eight singers from the University of Southern Maine to join her on stage. When they first came out, Kristin went up to each singer asking them to introduce themselves to the audience which was a heart warming moment of sincerity on her part. They got to sing alongside her for the final two songs of the set. It was an unforgettable moment those singers will remember for the rest of their lives.

Kristin has a way of wooing the audience in any context. That night in Portland was unforgettable for any Broadway enthusiast.

 

Playwright John Cariani leads workshop on campus

Playwright John Cariani brings his knowledge and experience to Bates College. JOHN CARIANI/COURTESY PHOTO

Playwright John Cariani brings his knowledge and experience to Bates College. JOHN CARIANI/COURTESY PHOTO

John Cariani’s first lesson came in the very first seconds of his workshop: “I don’t like writing, but I love creating content for actors.” As liberal arts students, many of us can already relate to Cariani, the famous actor and playwright. Not all students love writing, but most of us acknowledge the importance writing has in our daily lives as college students. Writing is more than a way to unwind – words change people! The workshop, held September 27, was created to help those students who want to write but struggle with the so called “writer’s block,” especially in creative endeavors and playwriting.

Cariani told us he is very lazy and that he simply hates writing most of the time. This is why he forces himself to write for only two minutes each day. Sometimes two minutes turns into eight hours of hard work, but sometimes two minutes is enough time to realize it is not a good day for writing. But, how do you get started effectively in your daily two minutes of writing?

He taught many exercises. The first one is to collect stories as you walk by. Listen to others speak and steal interesting pieces of conversation that you hear on the streets or on the bus. Write the conversations down and put them in a shoebox. If by the end of the week you still think those ideas are interesting, you have a topic for writing.

His second set of techniques, of which we spent most of the time developing, involved free association and limitations in writing. Writing with certain limitations can help creativity. For one of his assignments, Cariani gave us a name, place, time, color and action. Then he gave us 10 minutes to create a story that would include all of the elements he mentioned. Working with these limitations helps creativity to develop. Another example was to create a dialogue in which every passing sentence has exactly one word less than the previous one. So, for example, let’s say your first sentence has 10 words; the subsequent sentence must have nine words, and so on. With all those limitations, it seems simple to draw a path that connects all the facts, maybe even easier than starting with a blank page.

Perhaps the most important thing Cariani emphasized is that writing can be goal directed. If you know your ending you can build your story around it, but if you don’t have an objective your writing may seem aimless and hard to write. For example if you are writing a story in which John and Sara are characters that fight and never see each other again, you can base your story around that outcome. You can construct their personalities and develop the way they will interact. This can be a great technique: your whole text will culminate in a wonderful ending! Cariani gave the perfect example: the end is always the memorable part; you never say, “that was a great movie, did you see that beginning?” The ending is what will remain of the plot, so it has to be well written.

Just as important as the workshop itself, Cariani taught patience and humility at the dinner that followed. It is not easy to act on Broadway or to be a well-established writer. He told us of how long it took for him to realize how to guide his life. It is not easy to find the path through college and even Cariani had a hard time. He took math courses because he felt it was right and the only took a theater class in his senior year. It was even more recently that he discovered the great challenge of comedy: one of the hardest, if not the hardest, genre of writing.

“Evil seems more complex than goodness!” Even though it is sometimes easy to forget, Cariani reminded the workshop attendees that words and acting can change people – it has a political dimension to it. It can make you think and feel in many different ways. Beyond great techniques in to improve our writing, he shared with us intense enthusiasm and passion for theater.

 

Alpacas, wine tasting and free food: The 2016 common ground fair

Fresh produce is a staple of the fair. EMILY PINETTE/THE BATES STUDENT

Fresh produce is a staple of the fair. EMILY PINETTE/THE BATES STUDENT

Katie Stevenson ’17 samples cheese from Fredrikson Farmstead. EMILY PINETTE/THE BATES STUDENT

Katie Stevenson ’17 samples cheese from Fredrikson Farmstead. EMILY PINETTE/THE BATES STUDENT

The Common Ground Fair features a vairety of farm animals. EMILY PINETTE/THE BATES STUDENT

The Common Ground Fair features a vairety of farm animals. EMILY PINETTE/THE BATES STUDENT

This weekend marked the 40th annual Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine, a must-see fall attraction for those in the 207 area. Every year the fair pulls out all the stops to provide a fun and educational experience for visitors and vendors alike.

Unity is a little over an hour drive from Bates’ campus. The ride itself is lovely; you get to see beautiful Maine landscapes, including the changing fall foliage. The fair has free parking but charges $15 for admission, which is waived for members of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

You’ll definitely get your money’s worth at Common Ground. I was there for three hours, up until 6 o’clock when the fair closed and everyone was herded out. Even with all that time, I still didn’t get to see everything there. I would definitely recommend going earlier in the day so you have more time to explore.

Another recommendation: bring cash and an empty stomach. There are free samples everywhere, from homegrown cheese to maple syrup to hot chocolate. Then there are the actual food tents. This isn’t your typical fair food. You can choose from crab rolls, ravioli, tofu fries, tacos and so much more, all for pretty reasonable prices. Having money on hand is also helpful when perusing the various art stands and craft tents. Jewelry, paintings and of course, alpaca wool – in the form of hats, blankets, scarves and pillows – are just a few of the items offered by vendors. Some take credit cards, some don’t, so play it safe and bring a couple bucks.

There are also farm stands throughout the fair, manned by actual workers who love to talk about their produce. You’ll see blueberries, apple cider, potpourri, flower crowns, raw honey, pumpkins, fresh milk, organic veggies and so much more. Want to give gardening a try? There’s a pick your own veggies tent.

For a more hands-on approach, check out the folk art tent. There, you can get lessons on building shelters in woods, making fire from sticks, chopping wood and identifying animal tracks just to name a few. These vendors know a lot about what they do, and will gladly answer any and all questions you have.

The social justice action tent is especially awesome. With tables from Planned Parenthood, gun control lobbyists and even several promoting the legalization of reefer, you are bound to find a cause that is up your alley. This gives you an opportunity to volunteer for organizations you are passionate about.

My favorite part was definitely the animals who attended common ground. Llamas, alpacas, sheep, goats and bunnies were the true stars of the show.

Throughout the day, live music is playing in various venues including the amphitheater and stages in tents. Muddy Ruckus made an appearance on Friday, while The Oshima Brothers played on Saturday.

Here is a brief rundown of what not to miss next year.

Best Tent: Herbal Revolution Farm & Apothecary, which offered herbal tonics and elixirs, including a “sensually invigorating” potion called “Chocolate Love.” (Note: I sampled Chocolate Love and did not feel sensually invigorated. Perhaps I did not try enough of it.) Herbal Revolution was the winner of this year’s Best Display Award.

Softest Animal: Aztec the llama, who was an impressive 21 years old, and definitely posed in our selfie together.

Most WTF Moment: In the Blacksmith Tent, one of the vendors asked me what’s the first thing you should do when dropped off in the wilderness if you are on the show Naked and Afraid. My answer: I would not go on that show. The correct answer: Make shoes. The more you know…

Coolest Artwork: The giant fold-out posters by the Beehive Design Collective. Their art is all inspired by anti-globalization and global justice movements. The Mesoamerica Resiste piece stretched 34″ by 68″, and it was breathtaking.

Mandatory fall activities at Bates includes apple-picking, pumpkin-carving and eating lots of candy. Be sure to add attending the Common Ground Fair to future excursions.

 

Comedy Club Night takes unexpectedly offensive turn

The Strange Bedfellows performed at Comedy Club Night. THE STRANGE BEDFELLOWS/COURTESY PHOTO

The Strange Bedfellows performed at Comedy Club Night.
THE STRANGE BEDFELLOWS/COURTESY PHOTO

Last Saturday, Memorial Commons was host to Comedy Club Night with Monroe Martin and Jessi Campbell. The two accomplished guest comedians followed up the Strange Bedfellows with stand up acts, entertaining an audience of students and local community members alike. While the Bedfellows consistently delighted the crowd with their improvisation games, the two professionals received mixed feedback.

Although the audience seemed willing to forgive and forget the comedians’ missteps, there is no denying that some of the jokes made during both acts fell flat on the politically conscious ears of the Bates community. Among others, some of the more offensive jokes spoke directly of sexual violence and pregnancy scares, and alluded to cancer, violence within the NFL, and the association of “Indians” with “dum-dums.” With clear negative reaction from the audience members, Campbell seemed to draw back from the line of offense, noting the community’s tendency towards political correctness. Martin, on the other hand did not get the hint and pressed on, insisting that his calling pregnancy scars “bitch-marks” was indeed funny.

Ian Erickson ’18, Vice President of the Strange Bedfellows, commented on the propriety of these jokes, saying that he does “regret that Jessie and Monroe chose to perform (or even write) some of the material they had. . . While it is extremely problematic and unfortunate that Jessie and Monroe’s sets contained offensive material, it’s important that the relationship between comedy and politics be discussed more and the comics provided a useful lens for us to consider this issue through”. Although the audience may have had negative feelings towards the content, it can ultimately be chalked up to what Erickson optimistically calls a “learning moment”. However, knowing that this material which is sensitive by nature can be not only triggering but can also easily “continue dangerous stereotypes and perpetuate oppressive systems”, the Strange Bedfellows tend to avoid treading into its risky territory. The student group has high standards for itself, and “expect[s] the same of anyone who wishes to perform genuine and effective comedy”.

The political/social nature of their material is not the only performative aspect to which the group applies a high standard. Having the level of success that the Bedfellows find themselves with does not come haphazardly, and is not accounted for solely by the talent found within the group. Being able to know one another personally, Erickson observes, has lent itself to a positive dynamic where they are able to work together more cohesively. In order to maintain and improve their comedic talents, the group meets once or twice a week, using their time together to play the improv games that they might perform.

In starting to prepare for saying goodbye to three seniors after this year, the Bedfellows held auditions last week. They are proud to announce that they have accepted one new member, Joseph Alp ’18. Erickson says of Alp that he “brings a unique style of humor that the group can really benefit from, and we are excited to start performing with him!” Those hoping to see the Strange Bedfellows with their new member can look forward to their annual Parents’ Weekend Show on Saturday, October 8th at 3 P.M. in Schaeffer Theater. Like the Bedfellows on Facebook to get updates on their events and to show support for the always-hilarious improv group.

 

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