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Performers gather to raise funds for AIDS

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 00:03

Brandeis Cares

Joshua Linton

Jason Dick ’14 serenades his musical partner with “All the Wasted Time.”

From burlesque cabaret and flashy show tunes to crass comedy and hip-hop dancers, Brandeis Cares encompassed a wide variety of popular Broadway music while engaging the audience on a personal level through the intimate seating arrangement.

This gala charity concert, organized by Tympanium Euphorium, was put on to raise money for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS, the nation’s top industry-based HIV/AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization. The event was co-sponsored by the Brandeis Pluralism Alliance, the Undergraduate Departmental Representative program and the Undergraduate Theater Collective.

Director Ellyn Getz ’13 said that aside from being an amazing performance with a huge turnout, the event raised about $950 through a raffle, ticket sales and a silent auction. Many professors and students attended, including University President Frederick Lawrence. The emcees of the event were Senior Vice President of Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel and student Deirdre Connelly ’13.

Getz first performed in the Brandeis Cares show two years ago. Raising money for AIDS research became especially important to her because, her character Mimi, in last year’s production of Rent, was HIV-positive. As a method actress, Getz tries to put herself in the situation her character is embodying to really experience and research it. For the role of Mimi, she gave up eating candy for two months to feel, on a smaller scale, the effects of deprivation and withdrawal. She also spoke to many people at Brandeis who have lost loved ones to the disease: “This showed me how [HIV/AIDS] really is such a far reaching illness and how important the cause was.”

“It was amazing to represent Brandeis in the Broadway world [through this musical and working with Broadway Cares].” One of the bigger numbers in the show was the In the Heights medley directed by Iyvon Edebiri ’13. In the Heights depicts three days in the lives of lower-class families living in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. The medley featured the hip-hop dance group Kaos Kids along with other featured dancers. Abby Armstrong ’13, who directed the music for the act, said, “It was an incredible experience working with so many different types of people—from those who proudly call themselves ‘musical theater people’ to those who have never sung in front of a live audience. It was amazing watching the eclectic cast bond over the course of our brief rehearsal process.” In the Heights brought amazing energy and had the audience dancing in their seats. In the Heights was choreographed by Stephanie Ramos ’14 and David Robles ’13, who are members of Kaos Kids.

Armstrong, who performed in the number, explains that this performance was different from what is usually done at Brandeis. “In The Heights is the kind of musical most people would say we would never be able to do at Brandeis because they say it is too dance heavy or it is too ethnicity-specific, but as a team, Iyvon, David, Stephanie, the incredibly talented cast and I proved those statements wrong,” Armstrong said.

They have been asked to perform the In The Heights medley for the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts later this semester.

From the heart-warming rendition of “Good Morning, Baltimore” from Hairspray by first-time performer Alison Uliss ’12, to an improvised musical by Zane Relethford ’13, Elly Kalfus ’13 and Caroline Grassi ’12, the show really showed the breadth of talent at Brandeis. The improvised musical featured a man who grew up in a cave, and his wife must explain to him how things work in the Western world. The improvised musical was quirky, but catchy, and included several songs.

Aside from performance groups, this event also included politically and socially minded clubs. FACE AIDS, a global youth movement allied with Partners in Health that is dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa and promoting global health, sold pins at the event to raise money to build a health center in Rwanda. This is the first year a FACE AIDS chapter has existed at Brandeis.

According to Rohan Narayanan ’15, who is on the executive board of the chapter, the club has plans to be involved in many more events in the future. “So far, we’ve sold lots of pins and we’re co-planning some great fundraising events in April,” Narayanan said. “We’ve also made partnerships with various clubs and organizations on campus like Triskelion and Colleges Against Cancer and with sorority [Kappa Beta Gamma].”

Getz hopes to try to make Brandeis Cares a bigger part of the Brandeis Community and stay involved in future years. She says Brandeis’s support for the cause, Broadway Cares, will also continue through other theater events. “I plan to set up a donation table at each of the shows that take place at Brandeis including Fuddy Meers and other performances that the undergrad theater collective are setting up in the next few weeks” Getz said. 

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