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Image Courtesy of NOMADS

Not sure what to do next weekend? Check out NOMADS’s latest production!

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Image Courtesy of NOMADS

On November 16, NOMADS will be debuting Cold Whole Milk, an original new play by Sarah Billings. Come to the Glicker-Milstein Theatre in the Diana Center to see the story of Margaret and Jack, a young married couple living in a quiet mid-20th century neighborhood. As they struggle to honestly communicate with each other about their desires and identities, their lives run parallel to the lives of the milkman and the mailman who come by every morning. They all seem set in their ways until visit from a door-to-door hairbrush salesgirl inspires Margaret and Jack to reexamine what they really want from the world and each other. At the same time, the milkman and the mailman begin to see each other in a new light. Cold Whole Milk is a vibrant, unashamed affirmation of the beauty of queer love that celebrates the bravery of all individuals courageous enough to live as their truest selves.

Tickets are on sale through the TIC and are available both online and in person for $5 (with a Columbia or Barnard student ID), or $7 (without an ID). The show will be running November 16-18, and you can RSVP to the Facebook event here. From the cast and crew: we hope to see you there!

 

Want to feature your club’s updates here? Email submissions@columbialion.com

Photo courtesy of Roberta Kirosingh

 

I may not have been a Rocky Horror virgin when I entered the Diana Event Oval on Friday, October 27th, but I was still inexperienced: this was only my second time seeing The Rocky Horror Picture Show live with a shadow cast. The difference between these two times for me was like the difference between the first time you have sex and every time after that: a vast improvement and learning experience.

Surprisingly enough, CMTS’s production of Rocky Horror was the latter in this analogy. My first experience was over the summer at a theater in Chelsea, and the uncomfortable, awkward feeling I had during the entirety of this production due to its lackluster quality definitely made me feel like the virgin I was labeled as. In fact, I’m hesitant to even count it as experience because it didn’t really teach me how to engage with a live Rocky Horror.

CMTS’s Rocky Horror, on the other hand, was the first time of my dreams.

Packed to capacity, the vibrant energy one associates with Rocky Horror was present in the space before the directors and hosts Maggie Vlietstra and Madeline Ducharme even walked on stage. And when the two did finally speak, it was in the same wacky manner as the characters of the movie. Every sentence was a joke, and mindful of their audience, Vlietstra and Ducharme catered these jokes to the Barnumbia community, mentioning how our limited free time was fleeting as per the CSA time management sheet and how alluring Lincoln Center could be, especially if your initials are D.S.

The fun didn’t stop when the movie started and the hosts left the stage. Instead, it was continued by Nick Hermesman, Carina Gobelbecker, and Liz Sobolik as they danced and stripped to complement the infamous introductory red lips of Rocky Horror. To my amazement–and I think it’s safe to say the amazement of everyone present–this choreography even included flips and splits in high heels. Mouths opened in awe, and soon after in laughter as the plot of the film began.

I find it hard to even begin to describe how wonderful the cast was because they made the show into a one-of-a-kind experience. Each member accomplished the difficult task of both interacting with and ignoring the audience. Dr. Scott gave high-fives while rolling through the audience, and Frank N. Furter, played by Juan Esteban Guerrero, threw Furter’s wig into the audience area. But the cast never missed a beat, even when the enthusiastic call-outs from the chorus and audience and sound of the movie blurred into a distracting and intelligible blob of noise, even when they were running up and down the aisles of the Event Oval.

Brad and Janet during rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Roberta Kirosingh.

Janet, played by Grace Hargis, and Brad, played by Lulu Cerone, were equally charming in the way they effortlessly adapted to their roles and embodied their characters, becoming the perfect shadows to the on-screen characters they were mirroring on stage. Rowan Hepps Keeney’s Rocky was comical and goofy, which balanced out the swagger of Guerrero’s Frank N. Furter, whose enormous presence demanded every ounce of attention from the audience, even when Furter was killing Rachel Barkowitz’s equally cocky Eddie off-stage. Charlotte Force and Rachel Miga also put on fantastic performances as Riff Raff and Magenta respectively, and their surprisingly well-rendered costumes, with their metallic and shimmering materials, literally dazzled the audience at times. The dynamic between the entirety of the cast — chorus and shadow cast alike — brought all of this together into what was truly a hilarious, fun-filled experience. I don’t know when else I’d ever get to put on a party hat and throw toilet paper at a movie screen while watching people run around stage half-naked and energetically mirror a movie except at Rocky Horror, and I especially don’t know where else I’d get to do it for only $2.50.

People often talk about how much they love doing things in the city, but can’t because it can be expensive. CMTS’s Rocky Horror reminded me that we don’t have to look past the Barnumbia gates to get a stellar theater experience: we’ve got plenty of talent right here on campus that you can see for cheap (and, if you live on campus, without taking public transit!). So, if you missed out on CMTS’s Rocky Horror this year, don’t worry — it’s an annual affair, and there’s plenty of other upcoming student productions you can check out on the Arts Initiative’s website. Or, if this article has made you really wish you went to this year’s Rocky Horror, try doing the timewarp again and maybe, just maybe, you’ll end up there.

Here at Columbia, students commonly refer to how flaky students can be. As defined by Urban Dictionary, flaky means:

An unreliable person. A procrastinator. A careless or lazy person. Dishonest and doesn’t keep to their word. They’ll tell you they’re going to do one thing, and never do it. They’ll tell you that they’ll meet you somewhere, and show up an hour late or don’t show up at all. Also spelled “flakey“, or “flake” in the noun form.

Now while this is a topic that comes up on campus often, we decided to ask students to share their thoughts. To do so, we messaged random Columbia students on Facebook and sent them the following:

Hi!

I’m currently working on a piece about community at Columbia and I’m trying to gather a few thoughts about this (fairly open-ended) question: Do you think Columbia students are ‘flaky’ (adj: Unreliable, characterized by not following through on agreed plans)? If so, why?

Your response would be anonymous unless you want it to be visible.

Here are the responses we got back:

“I don’t know if they’re flaky as much as they do the absolute most. I feel like Columbia students don’t see value in something if they cannot put it on their resume. like why must you be in 5 organizations, have an internship, and a “good” gpa. especially if you don’t really give a shit about 2/3 of those things”  – CC ‘18

“Hey! Not so sure if I’m in a position to generalize, but in some of my past experiences, yes. The “let’s hang out next time” is a phrase I hear all the time. Columbia students tend to sign up for more than they can actually take on, whether that be going to events or joining clubs. I think it’s mostly due to the fact that we always seem to need to be busy or at least appear busy and doing something productive” – SEAS ’19

“I think Columbia students are flaky because they have so many options and frequently a pretty strong hierarchy of importance. I don’t think we can fault us for this, except if we held the belief that reliability (in terms of following through with plans) should be higher on the priorities list.” –  CC ’20

“People here do the most usually” – CC ’18

“I don’t think any more so than anywhere else” – GS ’19

What do you think? Are Columbia students more flaky than average? Let us know in the comments below or by emailing us at team@columbialion.com

Photo by Jenny Anderson

 

For students with disabilities (invisible or not), feeling out of place or unrepresented in narratives is not uncommon. One place in particular where this happens is in theater. Because there is a lack of shows that speak to the experiences of people with disabilities and include in their casts people with disabilities, the theater world can at times feel exclusionary.

Gardiner Comfort, an actor based in New York, is changing that with his new one-man show “The Elephant in Every Room I Enter.” We sat down with Comfort, an actor with Tourette Syndrome, to talk about his experience bringing this new show about his experience during a trip to Washington, D.C. for a National Conference for people with Tourette’s to Off-Broadway.

 

How did you get inspired to want to become an actor?

When I was in ninth grade, I went to a new high school that fit my precise learning disabled mind. I was doing characters at the dinner table, and my mom suggested I try out for the school play, All My Sons by Arthur Miller. I got hooked from the experiences of doing play.

In your TED Talk, you talk a lot about being hesitant to, in a sense, “come out” as a person with Tourette’s Syndrome. What factors led you to decide to be more public about it?

I was diagnosed when I was 7, and it’s been hard. There have been times while acting where my tics have been a problem. Directors have difficulty working with me. When I’m on stage, though, it completely goes away. Coming out was nerve wracking: if I’m known as an actor that makes these noises, I might not get hired. People said, “If you have this, why not be more open about it and this unique difference? Why not use it?” I realized I had nothing to lose, and eventually I listened, and now I’ve been writing my whole life.

What are your goals with your upcoming opening of “The Elephant in Every Room I Enter” at Next Door at NYTW?

Honestly, it’s been a labor of love. It’s exhausting because you have to do everything. I could talk for hours about how I and my collaborator Kel have put this show together. It’s incredibly rewarding to be up there doing it and to get the attention of NYTW: it just feels gratifying. We have the best opportunity to attract the attention of major producers from regional theaters. . Hopefully, it gives us more notoriety. It’s a very beautiful, unique show. It can change lives. Our main goal is to make a beautiful piece of art, but it’s such a personal story about something most people really don’t understand. I really think it spreads awareness in a unique way.

What made you decide to make “The Elephant in Every Room I enter” a one-man show?

I think I thought about doing a one man show more than doing a show about Tourette’s. My mother is a choreographer, so I was around dance and theater growing up and saw a lot of individual one-man shows. People like David Hawk inspired me. Even in high school, I was writing short pieces and performing them through college and beyond. Doing one about my life with Tourette’s just followed from that. There’s no one who can better tell my story than me. My collaborator has considered making a screenplay about this. I really enjoy the autonomy of doing a one-man show; I love the physicalness and telling the story and breaking out into side stories. As someone whose mind is always bouncing around the place, it’s useful and great to expand on the story. I enjoy the challenge of being myself.

What should people expect from the show?

I’m very close to the Tourette’s community. To hear people in the audience ticking while I’m doing my show and getting quite close–it’s a profound, moving experience. It can bring me to tears when I hear a young person affected by the show.

I want audiences to prepare for something that is very moving. There’s personal details in it that can be painful memories, but it’s also comedic. There’s the coin of trauma and tragedy. It’s funny. I hope, but quite moving. On top of that, I think the information is rare to see, and we also put these crazy projections on the wall that are a nod to the experience of Tourette’s. It’s like offering a view into my mind. It’s a show that’s really not like anything else. There’s nothing else out there like this.

What was the process of creating this show with co-creator Kel Haney?

It took a really long time. We were in a theater residency here in NY, and we thought we’d write a story about me growing up in NY, but we didn’t have big ideas. In Spring 2014, I went down to this conference in DC (the Tourette National Conference), and my mind was blown seeing hundreds of people ticking. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and telling people about it, and Kel realized that was the subject we could write about. We weren’t sure how to really write it at first; everything kept sounding like an essay. Then, we realized that we could use the method of me telling short stories. Kel would record me and take notes, and then she had an intern transcribe the recording. Over a year long period, we ended up with this story about my week in DC. It was something neither of us have ever done before — reforming these stories to fit this narrative of a week in DC with all of these details about me.

How do you see Broadway/the theater world in general becoming more open to showcasing characters with disabilities and highlighting issues related to feeling like an outsider?

I think things are finally starting to change. I know that there have been a number of shows that highlight disabilities like Curiosity of Dog in Night Time and theaters focusing on characters with hearing disabilities like Deaf West. It’s certainly changing. There’s a lot of argument with people advocating for the disenfranchised. There’s the Apothetae theater company which performs shows with disabled actors and supports helping them perform. How do we make it possible for people to have the same chance to be in roles, especially with theaters that aren’t wheelchair accessible? I’ve definitely felt that I could lose a job because  of it.

What advice do you have for people with disabilities (invisible or not) who may feel isolated in their current communities?

It’s hard. It’s definitely a challenge. I think everyone faces their own challenge and everyone needs to meet that challenge on their own, and I think it’s important for people with disabilities to do what they love and excel at. As someone whose neurology is different, I know acting is something I can do. I know I was easily distractible, the class clown, but I’m lucky I had parents who took the time to let me find my creativity. I really believe that for people like me who think differently, you need to find what it is that you’re good at — even if doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I used to use an Etch A Sketch a lot. I wasn’t good, but I realized over time I could better “see inside” the device. It was a very meticulous, meditative experience. I got a better understanding of the machine, and it allowed my mind to work in a way that it intuitively wanted to.

When I meet young people with Tourette’s, I tell them: Don’t let the world make you think the way you think and interact is unacceptable. You don’t have to conform to every asset of the normal world — be yourself.

 

“The Elephant in Every Room I Enter” runs from November 9th to November 25th. Tickets to Gardiner’s show can be purchased here. He will be hosting talkbacks after matinee shows featuring different members from the Tourette’s community.

During my Crisis, before watching Güeros, I watched Parks and Recreation…Like, all of it. All seven seasons. Before that, I watched the first five seasons of Futurama. Before that, Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black, Love, and every Best Picture winner since 1939 (minus a few bad eggs, not the least of which includes 2005’s Crash—c’mon, give me some credit!).

For all my talk of the “primordial power of cinema” in my last column, I would be remiss—and indeed, quite hypocritical—in failing to acknowledge cinema’s second primary function, borne out of its alluring spectacle quality: cinema as a medium for entertainment.

Indeed, cinema has always possessed a two-fold functionality—as emotional therapy and as spectacle—which was made apparent immediately following film’s inception in the late 1890s. This dichotomy is most obvious among the two towering French pioneers of this early era: Auguste and Louis Lumière (the “Lumière” brothers) and Georges Méliès. Today, these two are widely considered to be the “founding fathers” of cinema, though their bodies of work could not be more antithetical.

For Siegfried Kracauer, one of the most prominent figures in film theory, this opposition highlights what he famously coined as the two “tendencies” of the cinema: the realistic and formative tendencies.

The realistic tendency was first exemplified through the Lumière brothers’ archival films. Their most famous work, titled Workers Leaving The Lumière Factory in Lyon, takes footage of exactly what the title suggests—within the span of a then-whopping forty-six seconds. The Lumière brothers were interested in, above all, capturing “everyday life after the manner of photographs.” In other words, the realistic tendency strives to capture (or replicate, through staging) the “nakedness” of life, in the style of, say, a documentary.

By contrast, the formative tendency aims to go beyond the replication of physical reality, which, to accomplish, requires emphasis on cinema-specific techniques (special effects). Méliès employed these techniques more adventurously and innovatively than any other filmmaker of his time. The popularization of universally known modern editing strategies such as “time-lapse photography,” “dissolves,” and “hand-painting,” among others, can all be attributed to Méliès. His legacy as the founder of cinema as a “fantastical art” continues today, where he is most recognizably referenced in allusion to his iconic, anthropomorphic moon from A Trip to the Moon.

Although it is clear that most of cinema displays an overlap between these two tendencies, Kracauer’s teachings have nevertheless continued to serve as a useful starting point for many a timid freshman entering the daunting realm of film theory for the first time. All subsequent cases for a “purpose of cinema” tend to exist within Kracauer’s rough outline of these two core functions: cinema as verisimilitude, and cinema as spectacle.

Modern audiences would tend to agree that the best works of cinema employ a harmonious balance between these two. Films on either end of the spectrum do not hold the attention of mass audiences for very long. If anything, a quick look at any recent “highest-grossing films” list within the last few years will show the People’s obvious predilection for spectacle. Films like Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story all feature fantastical worlds narratively rooted and motivated by traditional, realist plots—realist insofar as they thematically mirror the plights of our own modern world, whether at the level of the individual, community, or, as in Civil War’s case, nations. Such films succeed in achieving both awe-inspiring and emotional satisfaction. On the flip-side, this clear predilection for spectacle means studios will blatantly abandon substance by backing up projects that rely on the spectacle element alone (Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, The Legend of Tarzan, etc.).

(Note: the ongoing success of this era’s Golden Age of Television indicates an audience leaning towards verisimilitude, seemingly contradicting my observations thus far. However, one must take into account the different nature of the TV show, which is fundamentally distinct from that which be accurately deemed “cinematic”—but all this for a later time.)

Although it’s safe to say that the average Columbian is more cultured than the average person, outside of film majors and cinephiles, it’s also probably safe to say that the average Columbian isn’t as well-versed in film as they are in, say, literature, art, or music. The reason for this is obvious: much of the Columbian’s expansive cultural lore can be attributed to our beloved Core Curriculum, which sadly does not include a “Film Humanities” course.

Attempting to coin a term like “Film Humanities” might seem preposterous and naïve on the outset, but such a negative reaction is unwarranted as it is probably based on one of two (or both) fallacious assumptions:

  1. Film is predominantly a “spectacle-based” art, unqualified for the kind of rich and complex analyses other arts tend to incite.
  2. Film is too young an art form and lacks the historical breadth necessary for making any substantial claims about the human condition that are worth investigating in a scholarly fashion.

To the first, we have already discussed film’s two-fold capacity for realism and spectacle, which implies that there exists a whole canon of films predominantly concerned with verisimilitude, with dealing with subject-matters relevant to the human experience. The “spectacle-based” argument illustrates a biased account of cinematic history, whereby at the turn of the millennium the Digital Age pretty much ensured that film as a “fantastical art” would be the way of the future, rendering all previous cinematic periods obsolete in the public eye.

I would also add that to reject “spectacle” point-blank as an element abolishing any degree of humanities-based discourse in an absolute sense is also erroneous, for it fails to take into account the vast and rich spectrum of variations of genre within the real and fantastical (i.e. Ontological Realism, Psychological Realism, Aesthetic Realism; see Bazin’s “The Evolution of the Language of Cinema”)—a spectrum evident in literature as well. Consider, for example, the tremendous difference, from a genre standpoint, between Homer’s The Iliad and Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, both of which are required readings for Literature Humanities.

I will counter the second point in a later column, it being deserving of its own thorough investigation.

For now, I encourage all Columbians—especially those for whom “cinema” is tantamount to “that which is relevant to the current cultural zeitgeist”—to voluntarily explore the history of cinema with the same level of seriousness with which the Core bestows the other, more “noble” arts.

To begin with, this will require a “survey of the greats,” for which I urge you to temporarily put your beloved Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Video TV show on hold and direct yourself to filmstruck.com, where you can subscribe for a two-week trial. This should be enough time to at least begin exploring the following list I have curated for you below. (And if it’s not, you can use this website to see what other platforms offer these films.) All of the following works share a “crossover” (to “artsy” films) appeal that I hope to instill in all you soon-to-be-cinephiles.

  1. The Red Balloon (1956), Albert Lamorisse.
  2. Y Tu Mamá También (2001), Alfonso Cuarón.
  3. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013), Abdellatif Kechiche.
  4. In the Mood for Love (2000), Wong Kar-wai.
  5. A Woman Under the Influence (1974), John Cassavetes.
  6. Aguirre, the Wrath of God, (1972), Werner Herzog.
  7. Three Colors: Red (1994), Krzysztof Kieślowski.
  8. The Great Beauty (2013), Paolo Sorrentino.
  9. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973),Víctor Erice.
  10. Seven Samurai (1954), Akira Kurosawa.

Enjoy.

P.S. Here is my favorite reference to Méliès, from Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011).