Year In Review 2015-2016
From musicals and plays to art installations and Springfest, JustArts looks back at the past year in Brandeis Arts.
‘Dog Sees God’
Weeks after the death of a student rocked the Brandeis campus in March, director Carly Chernomorets’ ’16 production of “Dog Sees God” faced the difficult task of creating art about teenagers struggling with depression, sexuality, social dynamics and even suicide. On top of that, “Dog Sees God” imagines the high school futures of the Peanuts gang from Charles Schulz’s comic strips, and while the play is anything but comedic, its humorous context required yet another level of nuance in handling its themes so close in time to such a difficult moment on campus.
Yet “Dog Sees God” was not only tasteful — it served as a moment of healing for many on campus. For that, one can thank the excellent ensemble, each of whom delivered thoughtful and frank performances, refusing to shy away from the play’s heavy themes but instead embracing them wholeheartedly. Chernomorets also drew special attention to Beethoven’s character arc, doing more to set up the play’s tragic ending than appears in the initial script, to great effect for the audience. What made “Dog Sees God” work so well was its direct embrace of each character’s human faults and secret anxieties, which helped depict the experience of being a teenager in an honest and heartfelt way. And the play’s roots in the “Peanuts” comic strips even worked to its advantage in stellar set design, contrasting the familiar locales with the heavy, adult themes in the story being played out within them.
With upbeat performances from opening acts The Internet, Foxtrax and Metro Boomin, this year’s Springfest was anything but dull — even with the early-May chill and slight rain. However, while all the acts were fantastic, headliner T-Pain stole the show by bringing incredible energy and stage presence to Chapels Field.
In his hotly anticipated performance, T-Pain proved himself to be a charismatic performer, dancing and skipping his way across the stage and whipping the audience into a frenzy with quips and jokes. He transitioned from song to song seamlessly — in fact, he hardly seemed to take a breath between songs at some points — and brought the middle-school nostalgia with crowd favorites like “Buy U a Drank” and “Can’t Believe It.” That’s not to say that T-Pain was resting on his laurels for the whole show. With some of his newer work from his upcoming album, “Stoicville: The Phoenix,” he also demonstrated that, 11 years after his first album, he is still a relevant musician and performer.
Even with the less-than-perfect weather — and though crowds of crazed and hungry college students devoured the free pizza within minutes — the performers made the day completely worth it. Screaming crowds, fantastic tunes and all-around high energy made sure that anyone attending had a huge smile. 10/10, would Springfest again.
‘Little Shop of Horrors’
One of the highlights of Brandeis theater this past fall was Tympanium Euphorium’s “Little Shop of Horrors,” directed by Tres Fimmano ’18. “Little Shop of Horrors” depicts a poor man named Seymour (Nathan Schneider ’18) who works in a flower shop.
He finds a rare, blood-sucking plant, which brings fame to the flower shop, but the plant — named Audrey II, after Seymour’s love interest, Audrey (Scarlett Huck ’18), progressively requires more to eat as it grows bigger.
Each of the cast members perfectly fulfilled the role of their respective classic character.
Their characterizations fit their characters beautifully, and they acted their roles to their fullest, making the most of their humor while also expressing genuine emotions. In addition, the costumes they wore complemented the personas of their characters extremely well.
The music from the show is composed by Alan Menken, who composed the scores from Disney films such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin,” and the lyrics are written by Howard Ashman. All of the cast had beautiful voices.
“Little Shop of Horrors” definitely made its mark in Brandeis theater, representing deep messages such as class struggles and dreams of success through amazing acting, fun music and the iconic Audrey II puppet.
‘Guys and Dolls’
The open-cast musical is one of the most-awaited events on the Brandeis campus each year.
It is one of the only opportunities for all students to be involved in a Brandeis theater production. This year, the production was “Guys and Dolls,” directed by Rafi Diamond ’18. The show revolves around two men, Nathan Detroit (Bryan McNamara ’19) and Sky Masterson (Gabe Walker ’19). Nathan is trying to gain back the interest of his fianceé of 14 years, Miss Adelaide (Leah Sherin ’19), while Sky, on a bet, is trying to win over Sergeant Sarah Brown (Jessie Eichinger ’17) from the Save-a-Soul mission. The story focuses on the two “guys” trying to win their respective “dolls.” The production was definitely one of the most memorable shows of the entire year. The whole cast was absolutely phenomenal, especially Sherin, who won over the audience with her beautiful singing voice and hilarious impression of a New Yorker. The cast was fairly small compared to those of most open cast musicals at Brandeis, but that did not affect the quality of the show in the least and, if anything at all, helped to shine more attention on each individual character and performance.
Almost everything about the production, from the music to the acting to the costumes, gave off the vibe of a real, live Broadway musical.
Tony Arnold, the soprano of International Contemporary Ensemble, received the 2015 Brandeis Creative Arts Award. The award was just renewed this past year. It was given until 1995, when it evolved into the “Poses Institute of the Arts” award, which awarded annual residencies to artists. This made Arnold the first recipient of the award in 20 years. In November, Arnold came to Brandeis to receive her award at the Rose Art Museum. She also performed a few of her musical pieces and took part in a conversation with department chair Professor Yu-Hui Chang (MUS).
Arnold wowed the audience with her impressive performances, many of which were related to pop art and comic strips. She took impressive advantage of the space in the Rose — for example, in one of her pieces, she actually performed while walking on the roof of the Lois Foster Gallery, with her voice echoing throughout the gallery and leaving a memorable performance. Arnold currently has a year-long residence at Brandeis, where she is leading a discussion about voice and identity, as well as singing and teaching as an artist-in-residence at the Boston Conservatory. Arnold’s form of art is unique and humorous — not the type of art one is normally used to seeing. It is very rewarding for Brandeis and the greater Boston community to experience this form of art through the inspiration of an artist such as Arnold.
How can the Pop Art world convey both social and political messages? On Feb. 11, the Rose Art Museum did just that as it opened a powerful exhibit entitled “Rosalyn Drexler: Who Does She Think She Is?” As one of the only women in the Pop world, Rosalyn Drexler focused on issues such as love and violence. Some of her works, such as “Self-Defense” (1963) and “Rape” (1962), show violence against women. The first features a woman fending off a gun-wielding man. The second portrays a man forcing himself on top of a woman. Drexler’s work also extends to the world of organized crime. In these works, she challenges the traditional narrative of the “good” guys and the “bad” guys. Notably, Drexler’s work “The Syndicate” features mirrored images of men sitting at two different tables who see themselves as gangsters, private eyes and law enforcement officials. The work seems to convey the same interests but goes about fulfilling these needs in different ways. Her use of bold colors and mixed media creates beautiful images to convey very political messages.
Drexler was a diverse individual in both the Pop world and the art world in general as she dabbled in the mediums of painting, writing and filmmaking. However, one of the most remarkable elements this artist brought to the Rose this spring was her activist spirit ― Drexler used her work to elevate issues regarding love, violence and crime frequently left unchallenged.