Tag: columbia college

Meet Brandon Victor Dixon. Dixon, a Columbia College Class of 2007 graduate, is a two-time Tony Award Nominee. During his career, he has performed in various Broadway shows (including Columbia’s very own Varsity Show). Starting in August 2016, Dixon will assume the role of Aaron Burr in Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway show, Hamilton: An American Musical. As he prepares for his role, I sat down with him to talk about his career in the performing arts and his insights on pursuing your dreams and excelling in your career.

What did you study while at Columbia, and do you have any favorite memories from your time there? 

I was an Economics major initially. I left after my first semester senior year, but when I came back and I finished, I was a theater major. My favorite memories from school were of working on the Varsity Show V107 and V108.

What first sparked your interest in theater, and how did you explore that field as a student? Was it mostly through the Varsity Show?

I came to Columbia because I knew what I wanted to do, and I just wanted to go to school in New York so that I could audition and build my career. That’s why I came to Columbia, and I appreciated that Columbia had a campus, and a vibrant curriculum that I could delve into and expand my information base in general. But no, I didn’t go to Columbia to train, or help my career, though a lot of the work I did and the classes I took were of great help and education to me in the theater department at large. I came to Columbia so that I could be in New York.

What were some of the shows you’ve performed in prior to Shuffle Along, and now, Hamilton starting next month?

The Lion King, The Color Purple, Rent, Far from Heaven, The Scottsboro Boys.

With your recent casting as Aaron Burr in Hamilton, how are you preparing for the role? Are you nervous about anything about it?

Nope. It will be a good time. I’m working on a lot of the movement. The movement style is a little different for me so I’m focusing on the movement, but I’m approaching it like anything else. I’m doing my research. I’m learning the material. It’ll be interesting replacing someone in such a big and involved show. I’m going to be learning it even as I’m performing it.

What’s the most surprising or interesting that’s happened to you while performing and go like backstage?

While performing I fell in the orchestra pit one time. That’s one of the more interesting things. I can’t really think of anything that stands out about anything that’s happened backstage but definitely falling in the orchestra pit, that was an interesting one.

 What has been your favorite role to perform so far and why?

Eubie Blake in Shuffle Along. I’ve learned more about myself as a human being in this show and about all of us as human beings in the show. Also, it’s a culmination of everything that has come before it, so you know, it embodies all of the things that you see.

What general advice would you give to students interested in pursuing their career in theater and the performing arts?

The thing I’d say to anybody interested in pursuing anything: there are no rules, your power and ability are limitless, and keep going.

With Hamilton, did you know that you wanted to play Burr, or did they offer that role to you?

I didn’t want to be Burr … I wasn’t interested in doing the show because it’d been done. I don’t tend to replace. My goal is almost always to create something new but this is a unique show, and a unique opportunity and it came on at kind of the right time. The more they talked to me about it, and the more I thought about it, the more excited I did get about the process of joining the show. I am happy; it’s going to be a new experience.

What keeps you excited about being in theater? Is it that the audience has you perform? Is it just the idea of taking on the role of a new character? What motivates you or drives you?

Creating. Creation is what drives me. The reason we are here on this planet is to connect more deeply with ourselves and with each other, and art, and performance, and theater I think is a tool that I’ve come here with to make use of. Creating stories in this way, particularly … In art in general, particularly in live theater, it is a highly communicative, community experience. We get to share something special in that moment of time and that room with one another … And we leave transformed, and that is the important to evolve, to transform, to emote, and to connect with one another.

Since a lot of the people who will be reading this are incoming students, like this is their first time in New York, some have never seen a Broadway show. Do you have any advice for them like for shows they should, or general ideas and tips about what the magic behind Broadway is, in a sense?

The magic behind Broadway is that the people on stage create something from nothing. It’s creating magic, and it helps inspire you to create something from what you have. New York is a cultural bastion unlike any other. So see everything you can, do everything you can. Big, small, do it all.

 As you prepare for Hamilton, what’s your favorite song so far, whether it’s one you’ll be singing, or one some other character will be singing?

My favorite track in Hamilton is Guns and Ships but my favorite song to sing in that obviously is Wait for It.

Can I ask why Wait for It is going to be your favorite one to sing?

I think because I’m exploring the detail of the song but the thing that it sticks out for me is the chorus. Not a love, nor death, nor life, you know. It says,

Life doesn’t discriminate

between the sinners and the saints

it takes and it takes and it takes

and we keep loving anyway

we laugh and we cry and we break and we make our mistakes

And if there’s a reason I’m still alive

While everyone who loves me has died

and I’m willing to wait for it.

So minus the coda at the end, it’s that element of that’s true. Life is that, as is love, as is death, and they are all phases of the same thing, and they do not discriminate according to who you are.

Whether you are good or bad, it’s going to take something but you have to keep giving to it. It’s kind of a mini-encapsulated message about the circle of life, and what living is about. It’s a song with no resolution. He doesn’t figure anything out by the e`d of it. He starts affirming something, and then he starts questioning it, but then he finds himself left with a question in the end of it. It’s interesting piece but it’s one that’s resonated with me.

Brandon will begin performances as Aaron Burr in Hamilton: An American Musical starting in August 2016. For tickets to the show’s New York production, visit the show’s Broadway site.

Interested in interviewing students and alumni about how their time at Columbia has shaped their experiences and outlook? Join The Lion Profiles team by sending an email to team@columbialion.com.

Photo Courtesy CU Now Show

Have you seen the newest CU Now video? The video, released last night, features Shreyas Manohar (CC ’18) covering a gamut of issues alongside the Dean of Columbia College, James Valentini.

To better understand student reactions to the video, our team went out and polled students from a variety of academic years and backgrounds about their reactions to the new video. Check out what students said below.

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Photo Courtesy Blake Mueller

As part of our elections coverage, The Lion is sharing responses from candidates about the following questions:

  1. What motivated you to run for this position?
  2. If elected, what would your goals be
  3. What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it
  4. Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

Below, you can find the candidate(s)’s unfiltered responses to help in deciding who you choose to vote for.  The Lion has yet to endorse any candidate at this time and the views below do not necessarily represent the views of our team. For more information, email submissions@columbialion.com.

Blake Mueller (CC ’18) – University Senate

  1. What motivated you to run for this position?

Unsolved problems.  I love to think of ways to improve how things are done, so each time I thought “Yikes, that could be better” or “Why is this not in-place already?” I encouraged myself to run. I decided that my input of time and thought necessary for these reforms were worthwhile, because I care about these issues and my fellow Columbians. I felt compelled to run so that I could be in a position to reform policies to make life here better.

II. If elected, what would your goals be?

Ultimately, to streamline Columbia’s bureaucracy and increase quality of student-life. Specifically, to name a few in no particular order, I know that my priorities would be: reforming UEM so that we have access to more space (by adding Uris and Manhattanville’s Lenfest theatre and lowering costs of Miller Theatre), reimplementing our ability to petition the Core Office, raising Dining’s health standards, relieving the Securities & Facilities Fund, rewarding CAVA volunteers with academic credit, raising lectures to 4 credit-points, reinforcing transparency in the Diversity Fund, and of course figuring out how to make Bacchanal great again.

III. What is something that you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?

How Columbia handles the Securities and Facilities Fund (SFF). It is more important than how obscure it sounds. The Class Student Councils divvy up this money for the recognized clubs on campus. The recognized clubs register their events via UEM in order to host them, and if CUPSD deems that an event merits more security then clubs draw on the SFF. This process harbors two huge problems, because it often proves cost-prohibitive which empowers CUPSD to effectively stifle both our Freedom of Speech and our Freedom of Fun by limitation of clubs’ ability to host events. Since this process is less-than-clear, CUPSD can choose to restrict any event on whatever basis because we don’t know their justification for regulation.

For example, look at two events just this year: “After Charlie Hebdo: French Laïcité [secularism] and Islam: Can the “Republican” Model [of government] hold?” and Bacchanal. The latter event faces increasing bills for “security measures” to an extent that threatens event’s existence, since their budget can only live if it has a cheaper lineup, or if it increases income (student life fees) which would in-turn cost the Student Body more. This obviously is outrageous. What are they protecting us from? How do stringent crowd-control measures contribute to our safety? The former event was scheduled to take place in early November 2015 but it was canceled in response to Da’esh’s attacks on Paris. While this would’ve been a wonderful event, costs for security due to its “controversial” nature proved prohibitive. The would-be hosts (Maison Française and a few Institutes—European, Middle Eastern, Religion/Culture/Public Life and some others) did not see why they should dedicate so much money to a single event, as they have other programming, scholarships, fellowships, etc. that need funding. It is a shame that the very events that we so deeply need for debate and fun are the ones that face proscription. It is essentially a pricing-model for censorship, since these added-costs are inherently penalizing, they act as a controversy-tax and it has an arbitrary basis.

I refuse to let Columbia’s Public Safety ruin our campus environment for the sake of “security” like Robespierre’s Public Safety ruined the French Revolution. Security is doubtlessly important, but we did not come to the greatest university in the greatest city in the greatest nation in the world to be regulated; we came to be educated and invigorated.

Luckily, I have come up with a simple yet powerful reform to protect our Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Fun. I propose that if any club faces a security-bill from CUPSD for more than $600 (what it costs to host an event in Roone w/ 2 guards) then CUPSD ought to pony-up the additional costs, as well as attach their reasoning for the added-security. This does several things: it protects our Freedom of Speech since no event would face prohibitive costs, it forces CUPSD to be more cost-effective (they’d be less likely to demand more security-measures unless it’s absolutely necessary since they’ll pay for it) which saves money, and it enables our Freedom of Fun since we’ll have more events, and it keeps CUPSD accountable since they could no longer hide behind unpublished rationales.

IV. Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

I earnestly hope that they would tell me their questions or suggestions about my policy-positions, and that they would give me their votes if they think that I would be a good advocate for them.