JustArts 2013-2014 Year in Review
Curtains went up on Sunday, Sept. 22 for the annual 24-Hour Musical, this year titled: Beauty and the Beast: Tale as Old as Torah. As is tradition, the directors released the show title to the public as well as to its cast at the same time—exactly a day before opening. During a period of 24 hours, costumes were made, scripts were rehearsed, songs and staging were practiced and sound was tested.
At 8 p.m. on that Sunday, students crowded the Shapiro Campus Center Theater as well as outside in the SCC Atrium in order to view the show on a projector.
As has become Brandeis 24-hour tradition, the show took on a Jewish cultural spin. The story’s traditional candelabra was replaced by a menorah, Belle made a kippah for her father and Belle’s rations for her first night in captivity turn out to be challah and water.
What really stood out, though, were the lively musical numbers, many of which included the entire cast—over 150 students. The musical part of the show had the crowd swaying in their seats as the cast sand and danced to classics such as “Gaston” and “Be Our Guest.”
Through very few fumbles and some skipped lines, the musical turned out to be an impressively polished performance, given that they only had only 24 hours to prepare. And in the spirit of the 24-Hour Musical, the audience laughed and cheered through slip-ups and successes alike.
During this year’s Fall Fest, students and guests had the opportunity to hear stand-up comedy from the self-titled “world champion” himself, Judah Friedlander. Topics ranged from potential Olympic sports to 30 Rock, the hit show where he played the goofy character of Frank, to his presidential platform for the 2016 election.
While the crowd was quite large, the show had a very intimate quality. The material was funny and off-the-cuff and showed a mix of improvisation, prepared jokes and monologues. Friedlander was casual and conversational and would call on members of the audience.
Perhaps what made the show so amazing was Friedlander’s charm. He seemed like an overgrown college student himself, with his unshaven face and ubiquitous trucker hat. Even though he is a veteran actor, he brought an unpretentious approach to his performance.
There were moments when he would make a mistake or fumble for a joke, and he and the audience would just laugh it off.
The location had poor acoustics, making it hard to hear the audience, but Friedlander was able to smoothly go with the flow.
With a mix of deadpan humor, casual attitude and eagerness to interact with everyone present, Friedlander had the crowd practically crying with laughter for most of his routine.
During the very last weekend of October and the beginning of November, the Undergraduate Theater Collective and Brandeis Ensemble Theater presented Almost, Maine: A New Romantic Comedy, a play that follows the relationships of eight different couples. Directed by Bethany Greenbaum ’14, Almost, Maine successfully embodied comedy and romance due to the witty script and balanced acting. The montage format of the play made the show fly by as the characters were introduced, with each actor playing three or four characters in different scenes. Each of the vignettes explored the relationship between the characters in the scene, progressively building the theme of the different aspects of love.
The small crew working behind the scenes proved slightly problematic when attempting quick set changes between scenes. However, the minimalist set designs matched perfectly with the performance. A plain wooden bench with “snow” below it stood out for its clean simplicity. As for the actors, the cast consisted of only six people: Ryan Millis ’15, Rachel Liff ’16, Joseph Tinianow ’17, Jamie Semel ’17, Yuval Yossefy ’17 and Emily Duggan ’15. Between their skilled acting and emotionally charged roles, the actors all delivered solid performances that captured Almost, Maine’s snapshots of love.
Editor’s Note: Rachel Liff is a staff writer at the Justice.
365 Days/365 Plays
365 Days/365 Plays was perhaps one of the most memorable pieces of theater to come to campus this year. Even though it was one of the more obscure plays of the year, it succeeded because of the ingenuity and originality of the project.
Written by Pulitzer-Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks and directed by visiting director Akiba Abaka, the audience development manager at Emerson College, 365/365 created a world without the boundaries of time and space. The production employed inventive blocking, impressive lighting design and an incredible use of projections.
A series of somewhat intra-connected scenes told the stories of different groups of people: families torn apart by war, prisoners, lovers and even the Lincoln family. All of the actors had to rely on their bodies to tell these stories. From fast-paced soliloquies that lasted a few minutes each, to indiscernible metaphors, the cast had the responsibility of communicating the abstract with the audience. Each actor was required to use physical movement, such as rolling on the floor, to express emotions including happiness, harm and disillusionment. It was clear that the actors had to push themselves—literally and figuratively—to meet the demands of Parks’ text.
The entire cast and crew of the 365 Days/365 Plays excelled in creating a unique and experimental piece of theater that left me thinking about the production for days afterward.
For almost ten years, Brandeis has been honoring the memory of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through an annual performance. This year, MLK & Friends Club partnered with Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams and the African and Afro-American Studies department to present “For the Love of a Dream!” on Jan. 20. This memorial program was designed as a celebratory event that would facilitate dialogue on King’s work. The night was hosted by Prof. Chad Williams (AAAS), who commented on King’s legacy and introduced the series of performers. In addition, MLK & Friends Club also hosted a day-long service project working with middle and high school aged children.
The program began with a slam poem by Adams that discusses racism in society. Other performances included the Boston Tap Company, a company that seeks to spread peace through dance and has performed at previous memorials, and Brandeis Bridges Makalani Mack’s ’16 vocal rendition of “A Change is Gonna Come.” Keynote speaker civil rights activist Jane Sapp’s, piano and vocal performance, however, was one of the highlights of the night—she performed songs that were sung at King’s protests and rallies. The Brandeis Bridges Fellows delivered stories about their trip to Israel to promote interfaith dialogue between black and Jewish students. Once again, several groups at Brandeis honored the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Featuring the work of over a dozen performers, the Student Union Social Justice and Diversity Committee’s slam poetry night at Cholmondeley’s used slam poetry, song and comedy to address personal stories of social justice. Dean of Students Jamele Adams opened the night with yet another powerful and emotional slam poem that he has come to be known for, challenging students to open their minds. He also referenced role models in the world of social justice, such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and delivered powerful lines such as “Silence is violence and screaming is proverb.”
Original pieces were performed by students Sequan Spigner (TYP), Asisa Isack ’17, LaQuasia Cherry (TYP), Risa Dunbar ’17 and Shannon Simpson ’17. The poems all explored emotional experiences with diversity. “Love song to self when I forget the struggle is long and messy,” written and read by Alia Abdulahi ’17, illustrated her inner struggle to assimilate American culture with her family’s cultural heritage. During the song they performed, Joel Burt-Miller ’16 and Erica Barnett ’17 even interacted with the audience as they yelled back echoes in their original performance.
The performances, in their emotional power, raised questions of diversity and what social justice means—two issues that have a large presence on Brandeis’ campus.
Senior Thesis Festival
The Department of Theater Arts Senior Festival is always one of the most exciting theatrical events of the year, but not every group of students excels in creating such a polished collection of work as this year’s senior class did. The festival showcased the works of Lizzy Benway ’14, Jason Dick ’14, Justy Kosek ’14, Emma Lieberman ’14, Grace Fosler ’14 and Levi Squier ’14, and featured dozens of other student actors, directors and technical producers. Each senior’s creation was distinctive and tapped into his or her unique talents.
There was an impressive range of shows. Kosek, Lieberman and Fosler wrote and either starred in or directed original plays about issues they deeply care about. Benway directed Eve Ensler’s touching play about female Bosnian refugees, Necessary Targets.
Dick starred in the upbeat song cycle Make Me a Song. Squier devised MICHAEL BROKOWSKI, a hilarious play about childhood and change developed using the personal stories of his cast for inspiration.
Watching the senior theses, it was thrilling to see what years of hard work can produce, and just what Brandeis students are capable of. I was absolutely moved by the heart-felt collection of work that wrapped up a four-year journey for these six students.
This year’s Springfest concert on April 27 brought in some gloomy weather—ironically clashing with its theme: beach party. Despite cold temperatures, disk jockey RJD2, rapper Atmosphere, alternative band American Authors and duo Icona Pop took the stage on Chapels Field—filled with beach blankets and students sipping on smoothies.
Director of Concerts for Student Events, Stefani Godspinova ’14, commented on Icona Pop as a headliner in an interview with the Justice on April 1, when the names of the performers were first released. “We didn’t want a hip-hop artist because we’ve done that a lot in the past … and we knew we wanted a female headliner,” she said.
All performances were well attended, but Icona Pop got the luck of the day as the sky cleared just in time for their set list. Even in the damp and muddy grass, Brandeis students gathered in hoards—pushing their way to the front to see the two Swedish singers and DJs perform. As they ended their set with their hit “I Love It,” the crowd cheered and sang along, dancing and jumping to the beat.