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September Book Review: Power of Three

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From http://helenlowe.info/blog/2012/08/22/risking-delight-the-awesomeness-of-diana-wynne-jones-the-power-of-three/

By Kate Hawthorne, Staff Writer

If you like Harry PotterHowl’s Moving Castle, The Wee Free Men or British Mythology in General, then this is the book for you!

From http://helenlowe.info/blog/2012/08/22/risking-delight-the-awesomeness-of-diana-wynne-jones-the-power-of-three/
From http://helenlowe.info/blog/2012/08/22/risking-delight-the-awesomeness-of-diana-wynne-jones-the-power-of-three/

Diana Wynne Jones’ Power of Three was originally published in 1976 but reprinted in 2001. Why revisit such an old book? To put it simply, Diana Wynne Jones is an incredible British author. Most students probably know of the Miyazaki movie Howl’s Moving Castle, which was roughly based on her book (though any fan of hers knows that they are very different and should probably be considered separately). However, she also wrote the Chrestomanci Chronicles, Hexwood, A Sudden Wild Magic and Fire and Hemlock. She is known for creating complex characters with enticing plots and vivid landscapes.

In just 40 years, from 1970 to her death in 2011, she wrote around 60 books, with three published posthumously. Included in this count are six short story collections, four separate short stories, five picture books, three non-fiction books, one poem and five series. In Britain, she has been compared to such greats as J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, and Robin McKinley. And to think: all of this because she started writing as a thirty-year-old mother of three in order to “keep her sanity.”

Although the novel Power of Three is not one of her more well-known works, it is still a wonderful and fun read. The book tells the coming of age story of a character named Gair, a child with two Gifted siblings who has yet to display any special powers. While Gifts are not common among Gair’s people, being the only child of three to have no powers is, as one might expect, a bit demoralizing. The story spans from a short flashback of Gair and his siblings’ uncle and mother’s childhoods to the children’s twelfth birthday. While the fantastical element does make the book less relevant to college students, it is a worthwhile escape. The story includes several surprising twists and turns, as well as the maturing of the characters expected in a coming of age story.

Although the book may not be new, its age does not detract from the wonderful plot and multi-dimensional characters—two things that are hard to find together in young adult books today.

Much Ado About Prohibition: Shakespeare Performance Troupe Puts a 20’s Spin on a Classic

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Image courtesy of Facebook: SPT
Image courtesy of Facebook: SPT
Image courtesy of Facebook.

By EMILY SCHALK, Staff Writer

Bryn Mawr’s Shakespeare Performance Troupe presented Much Ado About Nothing, their last show of the year, from April 7-9 in Rhoads Dining Hall. The production, which starred Marian Bechtel ‘16, Emmett Binkowski ‘16, Rachel Hampton ‘16, and Alison Robins ‘17, is set in the 1920’s and follows the stories of star-crossed couple Claudio and Hero, and ex-lovers Benedick and Beatrice, in the midst of Prohibition.

Initially, director Kathleen Kelliher ‘16 decided to set Much Ado in the 1920s on a whim, but throughout the rehearsal process, she realized it meant much more. “When you have two years to actually delve into what it means to set this show during Prohibition you raise some interesting questions,” Kelliher said. “If everyone is a criminal what then happens to ideas of morality in the show? If this show is set in a time when women were gaining more and more rights and sexual freedoms in this country, how can we make an inherently misogynistic show empowering to women?”

Alex Berndt ‘19, who played a watchman, messenger, and musician in the show, said that all of the cast “work together really well. It was just a really fun time, just working with everybody. I didn’t know many of these people very well before, and now we have a bunch of inside jokes.” Their next production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will open on May Day of 2016.

Review: Celtic Festival

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Photo licensed for reuse
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By KATE HAWTHORNE, Staff Writer

“Rince na Mawr,” Bryn Mawr’s Irish Dance group, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a performance that married traditional dance with pop culture.  This is their fourth annual Celtic Festival. In honor of the Irish holiday,  Lindsey Foster,  Bridget Murray, and Erin Saladin – performed a flash mob in front of the Campus Center to advertise the performance taking place the following two nights.

In the first act of their show, the troupe performed an interpretation of the beautiful tale of Merida as told in Brave, the 2012 Disney/Pixar film about a Scottish princess who wishes to be free to live her own life. The performers all showed great skill in their dance and put the storyline together beautifully. Their acting was consistent, a quality rarely  found in these kinds of interpretations. In particular, the acting of Merida’s family (Jo Dutilloy as Fergus, Sophie Rehrig as Elinor, and Bridget Murray and Hannah Symonds as Merida’s younger twin brothers) melded well with their  dancing.

The costumes were also beautiful and, on occasion, hilarious. There was a two-person horse that was held together by a hula hoop and the bears wore “hooded scarves,”  and a furry animal hat that can also act as a scarf and mittens. One particularly compelling dance was the, “The Suitors’ Interruption,” where two members of the Scottish Country Dance group (Julia Whittle and Tirsana Paudel) and a member of Rince na Mawr (Veronica Benson-Moore) tried to out-dance each other to win the affections of Merida (Laney Harrington), before Merida  out-shined them both.

The following dance, “Mother/Daughter Dance-Off,” was a playful duet.  Harrington and Rehrig competed in a dance-off to different types of music in order to exemplify the differences between mother and daughter.  Harrington danced to Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” and Rehrig danced a traditional light jig. The act was beautifully choreographed by  members of “Rince na Mawr” (with help from Paudel and Whittle).

In the second act, the costumes were much more simplistic and rather than stories, the troupe performed vignettes. There was an interesting mixture of soft shoe and hard shoe acts, as well as modern and more traditional acts. The highlight of this number was “The Empire Strikes… The Floor?” which was set to The Piano Guys’ “Cello Wars.”  Needless to say, a Darth Vader’s mask made an appearance. The choreography in this piece was outstanding and overall, the celtic festival was a success.

Greasepaint Production Performs Urinetown

in Archives/Arts/Haverford by
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Image courtesy of Greasepaint Productions

By ISABELLA NUGENT, Staff Writer

Under kaleidoscope lights in the high-ceiled tomb that is Erdman common room, Greasepaint Productions performed Urinetown to the Bi-Co campus. Urinetown turns a satirical lens on issues of human rights and revolution through grand musical numbers and plunger-wielding fight scenes. Imagine Les Misérables but with less blood and more toilet jokes. I’ll admit, walking into a show with a self-proclaimed terrible title, I didn’t know what to expect. But as soon as the lights dimmed, I was quickly won over by the hilarious dialogue and exuberant performers. I will never under-appreciate my ability to pee for free again.

Directed by Ellen Cohn, Bryn Mawr ’17, Urinetown ran from April 7-10. I attended their final performance on Sunday night, squeezing my way into a room overflowing with buzzing Bryn Mawr and Haverford students. Even with essays due and readings unread for Monday’s classes, so many people poured out to show their support for this small production. The play opens with the two narrators Office Lockstock (played by Brittany Steele) and Little Sally (played by Dylan Hoffman) immediately breaking the fourth wall, setting the tone that this play is not only parodying other musicals but that it means to act as a very direct metaphor for corrupt, capitalistic systems.

Urinetown is about a small, dystopic town where people must pay a fee in order to go to the bathroom after a drought dangerously flattened their water supply. The proletariat underclass must struggle everyday, eagerly counting pennies to go to the bathroom while the upper class (politicians and workers with the corporation “Urine Good Company”) plan luxurious trips to Rio. Water is the coveted commodity controlled by corporations and enjoyed only by the elite few. After “Urine Good Company” heightens the fee even farther, the play’s protagonist, Bobby Strong, stages a revolution and demands that all citizens deserve the right to pee for free. Kidnappings, elaborate fight scenes, and duets between star-crossed lovers ensue with the looming threat of being sent to Urinetown hanging over each character’s head.

The musical is aggressively self-aware of its political satire, rehashing revolutionary rhetoric and openly spoiling plot twists for the audience. The entire play is an endearing juxtaposition of knowingly immature, goofy humor and depressing critique of power and oppression. Perhaps the ugly truth of our inherently unequal society must be sugarcoated in melodramatic gasps and flashy dance numbers about needing to urinate. Or maybe the privatization of the most basic needs in our society is so ridiculous that it can only talked about in a way that is silly and self-deprecating. However deep you delve into the meaning of this musical, Urinetown was an  eye-opening performance that revealed the talent of Bi-Co’s Greasepaint Productions team.

 

Bryn Mawr Film Institute Hosts Cat Festival

in Arts/Bryn Mawr/City Studies/Front Page/Uncategorized by
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Photo licenses for reuse
Photo licenses for reuse

By STEPHANIE MARRIE, Staff Writer

It is a packed house on April 22, at the Bryn Mawr film institute. Men, women, and children swarm around the cat memorabilia in anticipation of the Internet Cat Film Festival. The vendors are all women. Unfortunately, there are no actual cats.

Three busts wearing contemporary cat ears greet the visitors. Their ears were designed by the WXYZ Company, who were responsible for the designs of Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj’s dresses (as can be seen by the photo collection next to the entrance). In one of the cat ear photos just outside Hothouse Coffee, the designer’s daughter smiles brightly.

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Photo licensed for reuse

Across the atrium, two women show a book of cats available for adoption. The first cat volunteer, Janice, explains, “We’re with the Main Line Animal Rescue.”

The second cat volunteer, Judy, adds, “We’re totally not-for-profit. We run on fundraisers and donations, and we’re here showing some of our cats.”

When asked what she likes best about cats, Judy replies, “How can you ever choose one thing? Each one has its own personality. Each one is unique. You get so much more back from them than you give them. They’re such accepting, sweet creatures. I mean, I don’t know what else to tell you. If somebody’s not owned a cat, they don’t really know what cats are really about.”

Main Point Books seems to be a fan favorite among families. The table has everything from Grumpy Cat to collections of hot men with cats! The Simon’s Cat collection is one of the most prominent books on display, nicely foreshadowing the animation sector of the film festival.

Thomas Edison’s 1984 “Boxing Cats” was one of the first shorts ever made. Film was a new media and was commonly referred to as “actualities” or as Tom Gunning calls, “a cinema of attractions.” 

The most interesting part of the reception is the cat wine. It comes in two colors: red and gold. Zoe Boath, the VP of operations at Apollo Peak, explains: “It’s a mixture of beet juice and catnip, with a little bit of salt and water. It has all the same effects that catnip typically gives them.”

Both screenings of the film itself are fully booked. Some people are turned away from the aisles. Before the film begins, the audience is treated to several historical clips. These include the ending of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and a key scene from the film noir Cat People. Next, several trivia questions involving female-only cat breeds flash across the silver screen while the song “What’s New, Pussycat” plays in the background. Ten minutes later, the festival really begins. It is a collection of all the YouTube viral cat videos of the late 2000’s, in addition to some music videos. An animated short called “Trash Cat” also plays; it’s clearly inspired by Natasha Allegri’s “Puppycat” cartoon. The film ends with a high-quality recording of a cat competition.

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Photo licensed for reuse

April Book Review: Dr. Franklin’s Island

in Arts/Book Reviews by
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Photo licensed for reuse.
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By KATE HAWTHORNE, Staff Writer

If you like The Maximum Ride series by James Patterson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate, and The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling…  then you should read:

Dr. Franklin’s Island by Ann Halam

Genre: Mystery, Science Fiction, Young Adult

“What’s it like to see your best friend transformed into a bird in front of your eyes? What’s it like to know it’s your turn next?”  The novel focuses on three teenagers, Semi, Miranda, and Arnie, who travel to Ecuador as part of a group of 50 “British Young Conservationists.”

However, their plane crashes and they end up stranded on an island. The island isn’t entirely deserted and includes residents such as,  a mad scientist who uses the teenagers in his transgenic experiments. The story tracks the characters’ struggle as they endure the process of  painful transformation. This provocative book is, in some ways, horrifying – as mad scientists usually are.

Although this story elaborates on elements developed in popular franchises, it raises probing ethical questions. Some of the characters are forcibly turned into animals that reflect their personality. This is similar to the animagus transformation described by J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter, except that the transformation is completed against the characters’ will which raises questions of consent. The novel also touches on Stockholm Syndrome which invites speculation on the limits of empathy, trauma studies and Freudian theory.  In addition, Dr. Franklin’s Island takes a more scientific view of the genetic manipulation discussed in Maximum Ride. The novel is also an example of genre-shifting, as it transitions from the desert island trope to science-fiction almost seamlessly, while touching on fantastical concepts.

 

 

Tri-Co Battle of the Bands Controversy

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By FIONA REDMOND, Staff Writer

Photography by JENNIFER ORR, Photo Editor

The Tri-College Battle of the Bands was held on April 9 in the Bryn Mawr Campus Center. Although the night started without a hitch,  each of the eight Tri-co bands performing for 15 minute blocks, controversy came when it was time to vote for the ultimate wining band.

This was only the second Battle of the Bands that the Bryn Mawr Concert Series (BMCS) has put together, and was again used to choose, through a student vote, the opener for the main act that will perform on May Day at Bryn Mawr.

At least, that’s how it works in theory. The BMCS used a new form of voting this year, after last year’s technique of having students vote once at the end of the night led to a three-way tie. This year, the BMCS set up links to allow students to rate bands online on a scale from 1-5 immediately after the band performed. Then, after all of the bands performed, students used a secondary voting system, which listed all eight acts and asked the students to vote for who they believed deserved to perform at May Day.

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Unfortunately, this system came with its own set of problems. Because each individual rating URL was unique to a specific band, the BMCS posted these links to their Facebook and Instagram pages, so that they could be more easily accessible. Yet this led to some abuses of the voting system. Since the links were posted online, students who weren’t at the Battle of the Bands could vote for their own friend’s band, or their favorite band remotely. Reportedly, students purposefully gave other bands low ratings in order to promote their own personal favorites.

“I’m confused as to what happened….I felt like Swat bands didn’t get any support from the crowd, and I thought they were very good,” said Isabella Nugent, Bryn Mawr ’18. “It’s fair to bring your friends in and vote for you, but I feel bad for the Swat bands that didn’t have that much support.”

Obviously, this led to some frustrations, as the BMCS tried to navigate between satisfying the student body’s voice, and the knowledge that this voice was somewhat distorted by honor code violations.

“The BMCS members dedicate a large portion of their free time to this committee, and when we plan events we try to foresee these kinds of problems,” said Ash Dhir, Bryn Mawr ’18, a member of BMCS. “There’s many factors that we try to consider, and even though we hear student’s concerns, there’s not much that can change given the current amount of funding, location, and institutional regulations.”

After the performances, students aired their grievances on Facebook and the comment section of the individual band’s voting websites. One Facebook user commented on the Tri-Co Battle of the Bands page: “Let me be the first to say that the voting for this event is clearly rigged.”

This was followed by a chorus of agreements, yet most students emphasized that it was their peers that caused the rigging, rather than the BMCS itself. “I feel like it became a popularity contest of who has more friends rather than who has a better band,” claimed Nugent.

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However, the response wasn’t entirely negative. Several students commented on the BMCS Facebook page to thank the group for its hard work in putting the show together, and many performers echoed the same thought.

The BMCS responded to the various claims of rigging and favoritism through a Facebook post on Monday, April 11, in which the winners of the event were announced. In the post, the BMCS explained how the Bi-Co honor code was expected to be upheld during the voting process, yet, “this year, students abused the voting process.” As a result, BMCS decided to, “disregard the voting and evaluate the quality of each bands’ performance holistically.”

Following this approach, the bands Altair and Honey Pickup, both from Swarthmore, and Bazmati Vice, from Haverford, were chosen to play on May Day. The BMCS assures the student body that, “the challenges [they] faced this year will not be repeated”.

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