Author: wke2102

Photo Courtesy of davemalloy.com

Fresh off starring in his other musical, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy, Brittain Ashford, and Gelsey Bell are currently performing in Malloy’s show Ghost Quartet. Performing with them is  Brent Arnold, who was not part of the Great Comet cast, but is just as talented.

The show, currently being performed at Next Door at NYTW is in an intimate space that brings all of the audience close to the chilling performance. In the performance I attended, Ben Stiller was sitting right behind me, reminding me once again of the wide range of people you will see while exploring New York City. The show is centered around a “haunted song cycle about love, death and whisky.” Indeed, during one of the songs, everyone in the audience is handed an actual shot of whisky to drink with the cast. As a result, many of the performances are 21+ (a few shows have specifically been allocated to be for all ages). Throughout the performance, the audience is transported across multiple centuries and characters and, at times, plunged into complete darkness as Malloy’s gorgeous, yet eery songs emanate throughout the small theater.  

As the show rushes towards an unknown ending, the audience is asked to participate by directly supplying the music for the show. While there are multiple articles online that go into much more depth about the plot, I definitely recommend going into the show having not listened to the songs or knowing the plot. With such an intimate setting, the experience when seen fresh is absolutely one not to miss.

While tickets to Ghost Quartet’s initial run are sold out, the run is being extended today, October 11, to include more showings, as announced by the NYTW via twitter yesterday.

As stated in their tweet, tickets will go on sale at noon here. For more information about the show, you can also check out the NYTW website here.

Graphic made by Laura Elizabeth Hand, CC’19

“I’m just too busy.”

“Can’t; got to go to Butler.”

“Just because you want me to come doesn’t mean I will.”

For most Columbia students, keeping track of the number of times their friends and classmates have “flaked” on them or turned down their offers to hang out because of their “busyness” is an impossible task. This can easily be seen in both conversations with peers and the stark difference between the number of people who sign up for events at Columbia versus the number of people who actually show up. As a student body, we are each obsessed with the idea that we do not have downtime. You always need to be working and getting ahead while also espousing the idea that you’re failing all your classes and cannot find enough hours in the day to sleep, let alone let loose and fun. Despite the constant Spec op-eds and Facebook rants bemoaning Columbia’s stress culture and lacking mental health resources, when it comes to us individually doing our parts to remedy the problems we continue to critique, we don’t because we value our own reasons for being stressed above others’ reasons.

“I need to get into medical school.”

“I care about my education.”

“I have to get a 4.0; I’m trying to get into a good law school.”

In each one of these sentiments, we create a metaphorical barrier, an us versus them mentality. We perpetuate the idea that there is a goal we need to constantly struggle to capture and that to a certain extent, those around us are trying to distract us from it.

But what does it mean to be busy? How can we both enjoy the benefits of being students living and learning in America’s busiest city while also capturing these goals? In many ways, we should look to the message encapsulated in Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical, “Sunday in the Park with George.”

For those who have not heard of the show before, it follows the artistic process of famous artist Georges Seurat as he creates and develops the painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” Throughout the first act, Seurat is completely fixated on drawing sketches of the people who are ultimately portrayed in his famous painting. As he works on the piece and obsesses over “Finishing the Hat”, he fails to consider the lives and feelings of those around him.

“Finishing the Hat” performed by Jake Gyllenhaal

 

In particular, the audience is exposed to the romantic relationship between Seurat and Dot, the latter being the role played by Ashford. Gyllenhaal who plays his role perfectly as he time and time again dismisses and chides Dot as she complains about having to stand still under the hot sun while Seurat sketches her. Seurat’s goal is to develop a work of art completely like no other. He has had the idea and now is steadfast in achieving its completion. Despite listening to complaints from his love Dot, Seurat does not truly hear and process them as they conflict with his direct desires. Dot even tells him:

Yes, George, run to your work.
Hide behind your painting.
I have come to tell you I am leaving because I thought you might
care to know-foolish of me, because you care about nothing-

In being so passionate about his goal, he forgets the people in his own life. As the plot develops and Dot eventually moves on, after realizing she cannot stay with Seurat, he still fails to address it, instead retreating further into his work.

Like a Columbia student dedicating so much time to their specific craft, they lean on it as their excuse and crutch. Just as Seurat in the production cannot escape his work, we too cannot see beyond our work: our looming deadlines, upcoming exams, next club/board/committee/council meetings, impending fellowship and scholarship applications, and imminent job and internship interviews. The list of work we each have goes on and on, adding to our lists of reasons to skip that food truck fair in Brooklyn we talked with our friends about for months, or miss seeing that old friend who is visiting NYC over break, or cancel plans to go to that free (or extremely cheap) event that we RSVP’d to as going on Facebook. We look at the world and people around us in the same manner that Dot describes as being characteristic of George:

As if he sees you and he doesn’t all at once.

Instead of fully valuing those around us and the opportunities we have, we simply ignore them — out of sight out of mind — and obsess over our work. And while we did come here to learn, we need to really understand that there is more to a Columbia education than just mentally locking ourselves into libraries and priding ourselves in unhealthy sleep habits.

As students, we need to break out of using our work and goals as an excuse. Dedicate more time to trying something new, leaving Butler and going off-campus, finding the color and lights that can brighten our days rather than groveling. As much as having dreams and passions is great, so is being able to explore new topics and brighten the day of others by just listening to them and putting in the effort to get to know more about them and their passions.

Tickets to “Sunday in the Park with George” can be purchased here. Performances run until April 23rd, 2017.

Photo Courtesy of Joan Marcus.

The demon barber of Fleet Street has arrived in New York, and he’s come with a vengeance. With performances starting on February 14th, the Tooting Arts Club Production of Sweeney Todd has opened off-Broadway after previously playing in London. In following the style of the London production, which was hosted inside of Harrington’s Pie shop, the team has completely redecorated the Barrow Street Theatre in a similar fashion.

Indeed, upon entering the small theatre, one goes from a standard entrance into what looks and feels like an actual pie shop. This experience is intensified with a special addition: the option to purchase a pre-show pie and mash. Best of all, the pie and mash is created by none other than owner of The Perfect Pie company and former White House pastry chef, Bill Yosses. The pies come out hot and fresh and were a fantastic experience as audience members get ready for the show.

“Whatever pie you like, he will make it, and it will be the best pie you have ever eaten.” – President Barack Obama. Photo courtesy of Sweeney Todd NYC.

“Whatever pie you like, he will make it, and it will be the best pie you have ever eaten.” – President Barack Obama. Photo courtesy of Sweeney Todd NYC.

As quick as Yosses dishes out his signature pies, the pie shop quickly switches into performance mode as the actors begin mingling with the audience and preparing to take over the kitchen.

After clearing customer dishes, the lights dim and the actors get ready to start the show. For this production, the orchestra is pared down to the bare necessities: a piano, a violin, and a clarinet. Even though they were small in number, the orchestra performed beautifully, adding the perfect musical flair that helped to convey the tones of any given scenes.

The show’s interactive format worked fantastically with this Sondheim classic: actors walk along pie shop tables and are entering the theatre from numerous entrances. From the start, the viewer feels as if they themselves have been thrust into the lives of these character struggling to seek revenge and find love in an unforgiving world. In this musical thriller, Sweeney Todd (formerly Benjamin Barker) is a loving husband and father and professional barber until a Judge Turpin, enamored with his wife, sends him off to Australia. Upon his return several years later, he learns his daughter, Johanna, is a ward of the Judge and, after finding his old shaving razors, enacts a plan with nearby pie show owner, Mrs. Nellie Lovett, to kill many of his customers and turn them into pies as he waits to seek revenge on the Judge that ruined his life. Indeed, the show represents many of these horrific scenes with a stunning combination of music and lighting in order to showcase the power of the characters and add significance to the scenes in which these people–who have their own lives and experiences–are turned into cheap pies sold to anyone.

Within the show, the actors themselves phenomenally portray the characters they play. In particular, Siobhán McCarthy plays her character Mrs. Lovett astonishingly well as she effortlessly develops the character from a optimistic pie shop owner to a woman clearly gone mad, clinging at anything she can to keep her devious plan with Todd alive. 

Jeremy Secomb and Siobhan McCarthy star as Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett respectively in the production of Sweeney Todd at the Barrow Street Theatre. (© Joan Marcus)

Jeremy Secomb and Siobhán McCarthy star as Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett respectively in this New York City production of Sweeney Todd. Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus.

Her performance is equally matched by Jeremy Secomb, who drives fear into even the audience in his chilling take on Todd. Within every scene he appears, Secomb quite easily asserts his character’s dominance in the theatre while also beautifully revealing the complex layers of Todd, a man heartbroken over the loss of his family yet driven by anger and blood hungry revenge.

With its intimate environment, phenomenal casting, and great pie to boot, this show is one that every person should run and see.

Tickets to Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street can be purchased at sweeneytoddnyc.com with tickets currently being sold through August 13th.

In the past year as editor-in-chief of The Lion, I have had the chance to hear different voices from the student body and cover some of the events and issues impacting the Columbia community every single day. But with this, I also was exposed to a lot of the frustration and anger expressed towards the current campus publications.

Currently, there are four main publications that serve the community:

Columbia Spectator: “Offers news, arts, commentary, sports coverage, and photos from around campus and New York City, in conjunction with our blog, Spectrum, and our weekly arts and features magazine, The Eye.”

Bwog: “We post what you should have heard about as a member of the Columbia community, packaged with bad puns and coarse jokes.”

The Tab Columbia: “News Columbia students care about, in a style you actually want to read.”

The Lion: “The Lion’s goal is to create a platform to widen the circle of accepted discourse within the Columbia community.”

As publications, we have a clear goal: to help spread news to the community and to showcase the various ideas manifested by members of the Columbia community. Yet, at the same time, several publications have faced challenges doing that: either via the University or by how they’re run. As a result of unclear rules from the Activities Board at Columbia, the group tasked with approving new publications, and the desire to ensure that a publication is not forced to change content at the whim of the University, many of Columbia’s publications have chosen to stay independent.

Consequently, in order to maintain their sites and stay afloat, they resort to using a combination of clickbait titles and selectively choosing the content they choose to share — effectively shutting out voices and ideas in our community that deserve to be heard. A recent example of this was when Keenan Smith’s (CC ’18) A Seat At The Table, a piece about the experiences of Black women and Black queer folk at Columbia, was rejected by the Columbia Daily Spectator’s editorial staff for failing to be accessible to a “wider audience.” At a school where roughly 13% of student body identifies as Black/African-American, it’s concerning when publications do not deem even parts of this subgroup as wide enough to share a piece based on their experiences.

 

As a result of publications focusing on driving web traffic and getting advertisements, the entire experience is sub-par. This fixation on “What will get the most clicks?” or “What’s content that we can easily monetize?” causes many of the pieces you read from the main publications here to feel familiar — most likely because they are. And recently, some have become quite odd (looking at you, “Which Columbia Halal Cart Are You?” quiz and “My week eating just Koronet Pizza”)

And when it comes to news, publications have rushed to publish pieces in hopes of getting the web traffic for breaking news or failing to write in the correct tone for the gravity of the situation. Recently, The Lion experienced this when we initially published a report of a student death/incident in Broadway Hall and then refrained from updating the post with more information, leaving students and family members alike deeply concerned about their loved ones. While The Lion eventually rescinded the post after a board vote, we could and should have been more transparent with our readers. While we had an obligation and verified information about the incident, we should have waited until we were fully cleared to release all the details and names at once rather than leaving readers to search for information on their own.

Moreover, rather than scouting new voices, a lot of the writers we see published in Columbia’s publications are normally part of the same cohort of student writers and in many cases cover the same topic — mainly because those are the areas they have the most experience in. Case in point, in 2012, past Lion Writer, Stephen Snowder, went and compiled more than nine Spectator articles related to discourse and division. Expanding from these topics, by scrolling through past opinion pieces on all the publications, one will time and time again see posts relating to “fostering community at Columbia,” our love for the Columbia Dining and Public Safety staff (which I love and hope continues), leaked GroupMe screenshots from almost every group on campus, misquoting MLK and other leaders, and embracing change. And I will admit, these are all repeated articles that I still read and at times are good to see again. But where are the articles discussing the experiences of being a low-income student at Columbia, navigating life at this school while also working and having a family, adjusting from being a veteran to being a student, or ideas and experiences that you and I could not even begin to imagine?

But for all the flak Columbia’s publications get, they do a lot of great work. In particular, Spectator Staff Writer Larson Holt wrote an incredible piece detailing the tunnel system used by students with disabilities and many of the problems and dangers within them. Few of us think of the tunnels in our day-to-day lives let alone think of what it would be like to have to actually need to use them.

Likewise, Bwog has to be commended for its coverage on the Wrestling Team scandal that forced Columbia’s administration to hold students on the team accountable for the hateful, misogynistic speech that they shared. It also reminded us that even in our community, we need to still remind each other about being kind and respectful to one another.

The Tab during the past semester did an incredible job discussing some of the impressive students within the School of General Studies, a school that rarely is fairly represented within Columbia’s student publications. In particular, I was fascinated by writer Eugene Aiken’s interview with Leyla Martinez that discussed her life after incarceration and how she’s using her past experiences to improve the treatment of others after serving their time.

 

This semester, The Lion began a new columnist initiative. When we first started the project, we pushed for people to make their columns unique — something that mattered to them that would leave others thinking. The results were fascinating. We had columnists doing everything from analyzing Columbia’s architecture to finding parallels between life at Columbia and neuroscience  to even juxtaposing love and relationships with international relations . Each of these columnists took topics important to them and made them accessible to everyone. And each week, I loved seeing these interactions as people became enamored with topics they never even imagined they would be interested in reading. It was cool to see that happening and to see the role publications play in fostering community here at Columbia.

As publications, we need to work harder to bring new ideas into view, to expose new ideas to the Columbia community and bring ideas we have never thought of or had to consider to center stage. When I joined The Lion, these were some of the ideas I wanted to pursue. As a computer science major, I realized that while I might not be a writer by trade, it was important to understand and expose different ideas in the community. And as editor-in-chief over the last year, I tried my hardest to get those voices out. From interviewing students anonymously who were too afraid to share their views publicly to trying to bring in members new to writing, I enjoyed getting to hear those views. Moreover, through The Lion’s open-submissions policy, I got to see people email asking us to cover a topic and eventually watching them go on to write passionate articles and op-eds on their own. They got to tell their story — and it was so inspiring and beautiful to get to interact with multiple pieces like that every single week.

But even with The Lion’s open-submission policy, I know that we still did not make it possible for every voice to be heard. From the lack of funding and being unable to reserve rooms due to lack of official ABC recognition, there were many cases where students not from Columbia College and Columbia Engineering were unable to attend our meetings because they did not have swipe access to the open meetings managing board members held in their own rooms. Likewise, as a newer publication, many people had not heard about our policies and thus never knew they could submit to The Lion. Or after being turned down by another campus publication, they thought their views weren’t worthy of being published. In the future, I hope that we will see this change and that student publications focus even more on bringing in new perspectives and that the administration works with the club boards to further increase funding to support and recognize publications engaging in these endeavors.

While I have loved my time leading The Lion as its editor-in-chief over the last year, it is time for someone else to lead and work on bringing in these new ideas. Even as publications work to keep web traffic, developing new spaces and forms to allow people to express themselves to the community is something that should be considered and explored. With that, I leave The Lion with an even better board now taking the wheel lead by Arlena McClenton (BC ’19) as editor-in-chief and Veronica Roach (CC ’20) serving as the new managing editor. These two women have shown a strong dedication to bringing new ideas into the spotlight and ensuring The Lion does its part in making sure every voice in this community is heard.

With a lot of concerns from various parts of our community after the recent U.S. Elections, I know there will be a plethora of voices and perspectives to be heard and shared in the coming months. I wish best of luck to the new managing board of The Columbia Lion. Parts of our community may feel hurt and excluded, but when we come together in solidarity, I know that there will be incredible things in our future —we just have to wait for it.

Signing off,

William Essilfie

Editor Emeritus, The Columbia Lion

In an email sent to students earlier today, Provost John Coatsworth notified students and teaching assistants behind the University’s rationale in challenging the vote to decide whether Teaching Assistants should unionize that was overwhelmingly supported by eligible voters based on its results.

The full email can be found below:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

Last month, after an election to determine whether Columbia’s research and teaching assistants will be represented by the United Auto Workers, the University formally asked the National Labor Relations Board to examine whether certain actions by union representatives and Board agents responsible for supervising the election improperly affected the election outcome. I am writing to explain why we did so.

All of us have chosen to be part of this community because we value different viewpoints and believe that individual rights matter. Actions that could intimidate voters or create the impression of surveillance, such as installing a camera operated by union supporters just steps from the polling place in Earl Hall, are inconsistent with these basic values and violate NLRB election rules. In addition, the NLRB Regional Office’s reversal regarding the presentation of identification at the polls (first requiring, then encouraging, then ultimately not even allowing poll watchers to request IDs), not only created confusion but had the likely effect of allowing ineligible voters to vote, while forcing eligible voters to cast challenged ballots. Students arrived at Earl Hall only to be told that their names already had been checked off as having voted there.

If there were a means to protect voters’ rights and compliance with NLRB rules without filing objections with the NLRB, or, for that matter, if students troubled by these violations and others during the election were able to raise their concerns directly with the NLRB, we could have considered a different course. However, those alternatives do not exist: Under the National Labor Relations Act, our filing of objections is the sole available recourse for ensuring compliance with rules governing the election and to speak on behalf of student voters who have no independent voice in the process. The NLRB has responded to our filing by recognizing that the objections we raised, “if true, could have affected the outcome of the election and would, therefore, warrant setting aside the election.” The Board has scheduled a hearing in this matter later in the month.

I want to be clear that the University has taken this action mindful of concerns that extend beyond the outcome of last month’s election and the manner in which it was conducted. Our academic community may be operating within a new and very different framework for engaging with research and teaching assistants and for preparing them to have careers as scholars, the latter being one of our core functions as a university. That new framework would be governed by federal law and by the National Labor Relations Board.

In this setting, the prevailing rules must be scrupulously observed by all parties if we are to reach fair outcomes and effectively support all of our teaching and research assistants. As I said on many occasions before and after last month’s election, we will continue to strive so that Columbia remains a place where every student can achieve the highest levels of intellectual accomplishment and personal fulfillment. The actions taken by the University since the election should be understood as consistent with, and essential to that commitment.

Sincerely,

John H. Coatsworth

Provost