For college-age students, the intimate staging and short Disney songs from the past 50 years will be familiar and comforting. Some of the show's most heartwarming moments came during its full-company numbers, in which the entire cast stood, sat or kneeled on stage and concentrated on producing beautiful, multilayered harmonies. Especially touching was "Candle on the Water" from Pete's Dragon. Other ensemble numbers were more upbeat, including dancing as well as singing. While the performers executed a neat kick line and some solid jazz squares, these numbers underlined the fact that many of them are primarily singers, not dancers. Among the show's many feel-good numbers, "It's a Small World" stood out, with a multi-lingual presentation of the Disneyland classic. The show's solo numbers, which also ranged from poignant to humorous, reached their best in College junior Mary Hahn's jazzy "He's a Tramp." Disney's darker moments were also well represented. Dressed in sleek black, College juniors Alice Lao and Nancy Dow warned the audience about the evils of 101 Dalmations' Cruella De Ville, and College juniors Priya Dixit and Jennifer Nardozzi hissed with appropriate cat-like arrogance in Lady and the Tramp's "We are Siamese." In their desire for intimacy, the performers repeatedly committed one technical error: they stood at the very front of the stage, a region which was so poorly lit that it cast distracting shadows on their faces. The show was followed by a screening of Mickey Mouse's Christmas Carol. Lend Us Your Ears runs through Saturday in Houston Hall Auditorium at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5, $2.50 for children.
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Nonsense words like "supercalafrajalisticexpialadoshus" and "chim-chim cheree" will mingle with directions to "let your conscience be your guide" and to "wish upon a star" in the 90-minute show. Lend Us Your Ears, which opens tonight in Houston Hall Auditorium, is a revue of music spanning the history of Walt Disney movies, and the show will be followed by a presentation Mickey Mouse's Christmas Carol, an animated film. Familiar tunes and light-hearted presentation will send students on a trip through their childhoods, bringing back memories with songs from classics like 101 Dalmations and more modern productions including The Little Mermaid. College junior Jon Bing said the simple, familiar music would attract a large audience, not just for nostalgia reasons but also because it is easy to comprehend. "Penn has so many different avant garde things where you have to think about what the author's trying to say," he said. "With this, people can just hum along and know exactly what Penn Singers is saying." The show's finale, borrowed from the Epcot Center American Pavilion, will be the culmination of the show's upbeat theme, presenting a patriotic message in a style that College senior Erin O'Brien called "pure and perfect camp." But Penn Singers President Jeffrey Hammond said the music's simplicity was a problem for the group, which is accustomed to performing challenging arrangements with four-part harmonies. "All the Disney music is pointed so that when you're 12 and you know a little piano, you can play it," said the College and Wharton senior. "It's all in the key of C." The show is an ensemble piece, in which all the singers work together and get equal credit in the show. The Penn Singers' spring show, on the other hand, is usually an operetta, in which performers are separated into leads and chorus. Members of the 40-person group said the ensemble style makes the show fun to produce, and they hope the audience will be caught up in the spirit of fun. "Part of the attraction of Penn Singers is people can see we're having a good time," said Bing. "People can tell that we all happen to be friends." Performers also said they are enjoying singing the Disney pieces, expressing the nasty sentiments of 101 Dalmation's Cruella de Ville and the cheerful rebellion of Peter Pan's "I Won't Grow Up." "I like the choice of music a lot," said College junior Tom Carter. "It gives you a chance to sing ]Disney music[ when you're in college." Lend Us Your Ears opens tonight at 8 p.m. in Houston Hall Auditorium. Tickets are $4 for the Thursday night show and $5 for the Friday and Saturday shows. Children's tickets are half price.
Graduate School of Fine Arts Dean Lee Copeland yesterday defended the school's decision to bring controversial artist Andres Serrano to campus last week. He added that he did not personally invite Serrano and was reluctant to restrict the decision of the GSFA Lecture Committee, a student group that functions independently of the dean's office. The dean also denied charges that he is insensitive to Christian beliefs. Representatives of the Newman Center sent a letter to Copeland last Friday objecting to Serrano's appearance on the grounds that his work was offensive to Catholics and Christians. Copeland said he will write a letter in response later this week. The school sponsors several lectures a week, and Copeland said he did not want to place restrictions on who would be allowed to speak. "We don't censor speakers, and there has been a tradition on our campus that even if many of us would find certain speakers offensive, we would uphold the free exchange of ideas," he said. Copeland added that he trusted the judgment of the students who selected Serrano. The Newman Center letter, signed by Father James McGuire, director of the Newman Center, Campus Minister Bob Cardie and several student leaders, also charged that the GSFA was less sensitive to Christians than it would have been to another religious group. Both the dean and members of the lecture committee said that Serrano was chosen because he is a central figure in the debate over National Endowment for the Arts funding for controversial artists. Lecture Committee member Becky Acker, a third-year fine arts student, said yesterday that she considered Serrano's work a critique of Catholicism, similar to author Salman Rushdie's statements about Islam. Neither Acker nor Copeland said they anticipated a negative reaction to the speech. Acker said she thought the academic nature of the University community would make it more tolerant of controversial issues. Copeland said that a similar incident, an exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs at the Institute of Contemporary Art, had drawn little attention because it happened before the NEA controversy began. Serrano's work makes use of many Christian images, and his most notorious is Piss Christ, a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine. Copeland said that while Serrano is important as a figure in the controversy, he thinks Serrano's work has little artistic significance. "Personally, the lecture and the display of his work certainly did not strengthen my own opinion of him as a creative artist," he said. "I found the work to be not very interesting, artistically speaking. Both the creative content and the technical work were not outstanding."
Saying that artist Andres Serrano's speech had offended "Christian sensitivities," campus Catholic leaders sent a letter on Friday to Graduate School of Fine Arts Dean Lee Copeland objecting to the event. Serrano, who spoke at the GSFA last week, is the creator of Piss Christ, a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine, and many other works using Christian symbols. The letter, signed by staff and student leaders of the Newman Center, questioned Copeland's judgement in allowing Serrano to be invited to campus. The offensive nature of Serrano's speech should have been considered as seriously as his right to freedom of expression as an artist, the letter added. Copeland and members of the committee that chose Serrano could not be reached for comment last night. Serrano, whose work has been a focal point of the debate over National Endowment for the Arts funding for controversial art, was invited by the GSFA Lecture Committee as part of a year-long series. Father James McGuire, director of the Newman Center, said last night that campus Catholics should have been consulted on Serrano's invitation. "My problem is with the content of the art and knowing that it is considered very offensive to Catholics and Christians," he said. "A process of selection should be put in place so that a mistake of this kind could not occur, and all religions on campus could be respected." McGuire added that the failure to consider Christian sensibilities was in conflict with the University's statements about diversity. "Are we really serious about diversity, or is it just when it suits us, or when the issue is properly framed politically?" he said. The letter also charged that the GSFA would have been more cautious about offending a non-Christian minority than it was about offending Catholics. "Just because we're not in the minority does not give us a right to be overlooked in terms of this kind of thing being acceptable," Newman Center President Laura Strub, a Wharton senior, said last night. Campus Minister Bob Cardie, who signed the letter, compared inviting Serrano to inviting a Nazi, saying that both were offensive and neither had any positive contribution to make to society. He also said the Newman Center should have been consulted about the speech. "Someone can be prejudiced and not know it, and someone can be a racist and not know it," he said. "How do you know unless you ask someone who takes their religion seriously?"
Students, faculty and administrators will meet today in an open forum to discuss a new draft of the University's Racial Harassment Policy proposed in October by President Sheldon Hackney. The draft defines harassment more narrowly than the current policy, calling it speech using "fighting words" or behavior deliberately intended to harm a specific person. Some professors have praised the new proposal as a strong guarantee of the freedom of expression, while others, including many students, have criticized it as being too vague to protect students from harassment. Today's conference, which will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. in room 200 of College Hall, is intended as an open forum to air differing opinions on the policy. The conference was called by the Office of the President and co-sponsored by the University Council, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and the Undergraduate Assembly. Undergraduate Assembly Chairperson Duchess Harris said last night that the UA, which passed a nearly unanimous resolution condemning the proposal, is attempting to mobilize student opposition to the proposal. "People currently attending the University do not feel that it's a safe environment," said Harris, a College senior. "This will do nothing but feed into that sentiment." City Planning Professor Anthony Tomazinis, one supporter of the new draft, said last night that the proposal would guarantee the freedom of speech necessary for a professor to lead a class effectively. "Is a professor free to use a term or explore a book, or does he need the permission of every student in the class?" he said. "It's life and death for a university professor, the item of freedom of thought." Hackney created the new draft as a response to a Michigan State Supreme Court decision which declared the University of Michigan's racial harassment policy unconstitutionally vague. The University's current policy is nearly identical to the Michigan policy.
Showing slides of homeless people and compositions made from several bodily fluids, controversial artist Andres Serrano spoke to an audience of nearly 500 people in Meyerson Hall yesterday. Serrano, who received funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, is at the center of debate about federal funding for works that some consider offensive. Many of Serrano's pieces are centered around religious imagery, including crosses and statues of Jesus, and when he combined these images with bodily fluids, he created his most disputed work, Piss Christ, a picture of a crucifix submerged in urine. He also photographed statues of the Pope and of Joseph and Mary submerged in blood and urine. Serrano said last night that he does not consider his work blasphemous because he does not think blood and urine necessarily have negative connotations. "It's very hard for me as a human being to put a value on these fluids, and which is good and which is bad," he said. "I accept my bodily fluids and I think Jesus did, too." The slides also included the artist's recent Nomad series in which he photographed homeless people on the streets of New York and images of Ku Klux Klan members in full regalia. The audience laughed as Serrano told anecdotes about buying blood by the gallon from a butcher, but students asked frequent questions challenging his statements. Serrano said he does not want to be considered a political artist, despite the recent controversy. "If my work has become politicized, it's something that happens beyond my control," he said. "I'm aware that these works might have political and social implications, although maybe I cannot express them." But some at the University said that the nature of Serrano's work makes him an inappropriate choice for a campus speaker. Laura Strub, president of the Newman Center, said that she thought the photographs were offensive and constituted an attack on Christians, and she was upset that the Graduate School of Fine Arts had invited Serrano to speak. "I was very emotionally distressed when I walked out of there," said the Wharton senior. "It seemed like this kind of thing was acceptable, to just shoot down someone's religion without being sensitive to the audience's religious beliefs." Third-year Fine Arts graduate student Daniel Heyman, a member of the GSFA lecture committee, said he thought Serrano demonstrated the idea that a work of art can take on meaning that the artist does not intend for it to have. "Artists don't necessarily have a critical strategy. That's all supposition," he said. "It's very refreshing when an artist speaks out."
The Student Activities Council steering committee last night recommended for the third time that the conservative newspaper The Red and Blue be re-recognized by the SAC body. SAC's 180 members will vote on re-recognition next Thursday. This is the fourth time the newspaper has applied for re-recognition, and the third time it has received a positive recommendation from the steering committee. The newspaper, which lost recognition because it failed to register with the Office of Student Life in the fall of 1989, did not get a positive recommendation on its first attempt because the steering committee thought the editors had attacked other SAC groups in print, including the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Alliance. Previously the SAC body has disregarded the six-member steering committee's positive recommendation and denied re-recognition. According to SAC Steering Committee Vice Chairperson Greg Shufro, the committee gave The Red and Blue a positive recommendation last night because the newspaper met all the SAC requirements, including having a primarily undergraduate membership and a unique purpose at the University. This denial prompted the Open Expression Committee to pass a non-binding resolution stating that SAC had violated Open Expression Guidelines. Red and Blue Editor-in-Chief Chris Matton said the newspaper's chance for re-recognition depends on whether SAC debates the paper's editorial content or focuses on its technical merits as an organization. He added that he would try to de-emphasize the newspaper's content by not distributing copies at Thursday's meeting. "Clearly, any number of people will have read the issue and will bring their own copies, but we're not providing any ammuniton that we don't have to provide," said the Wharton senior. Matton said The Red and Blue asked the steering committee to grant them emergency recognition, a special consideration he said would improve their chances of being recognized by the SAC body. But Shufro said that the newspaper does not meet SAC's conditions for emergency recognition, which is reserved for cases in which an organization needs recognition in order to function. LGBA representative Doreva Belfiore, whose organization was one of the most vocal opponents of re-recognition last year, said that her group has not changed its opinion of The Red and Blue. "The membership feels that The Red and Blue has not changed significantly, particularly with its derogatory comments toward individuals," said the College junior. Last year, the LGBA sent letters to the newspaper's advertisers, recommending that they withdraw their support.
Most of the members of the Balalaika Orchestra had never played one before they came to the University. Some of them had never even seen one before Performing Arts Night their freshman year. Orchestra President Ivan Walrath had never even heard of one. But now, the 25 members of the Balalaika Orchestra are preparing to dress up in Russian costumes and play the triangular Russian folk instrument in public. At this Saturday's Vecherinka -- a Russian party -- the orchestra will play an hour-long program of folk music, followed by a Russian meal, dancing and a vodka tasting. The string instruments range in size from the hand-held prima domra, which is about 15 inches long, to the contrabass balalaika which stands five feet tall and is three feet in diameter. 1968 College graduate Steve Wollownik conducts the group, which he founded while he was a student here in 1966. Wollownik said that although he had learned to play the instrument through a group at his church, most of the people who join the orchestra have never played the balalaika. "Maybe three or four over the whole history of the group have played it," he said. "Mostly, we teach them." All of them, however, have had some musical experience. College junior Pei Pei Chung, who has been in the orchestra since her freshman year, said that performers of many different skill levels can play balalaika in the group. "It's easy to pick up a simple tune, but if you really want to excel at it, you have to work hard," she said. New members are not expected to be able to play all the songs at their first concert. Instead, the more experienced players carry most of the weight and the new ones are phased in gradually. Orchestra members said they provide an alternative to standard University performing arts fare. "A lot of the groups are a cappella, and I have nothing against that, but it gets kind of dry after a while," said College freshman Prax Tenorio. "[Balalaika] has a more international flavor." The orchestra's repertoire of Russian, Eastern European and Gypsy music is built from folk songs that members hear on records or at performances of other groups, and from sheet music that they receive from the Soviet Union, according to Wollownik. Because so many of the players are neophytes, group members said that emphasis is on learning and having fun rather than on just performance skills. "Rehearsals are very casual, very relaxed," said Tenorio, who had never seen a balalaika before he came to the University. "From what I gather, it's more having fun than anything else." Chung said the eclectic nature of the group, which stands out from other performing arts groups because it plays unfamiliar instrumental music, has created a social bond among the group members. "We have this bond because we play this weird instrument," she said. "We're just so different from the other groups that we have to have some kind of bond to keep it all sane." Wollownik said the group's size has fluctuated over the years, from four members to 45, and he added that its popularity has grown recently. "At the 250th celebration, we performed numerous times," he said. "A lot of the students were following us around from place to place." The group acquired two new instruments last year which were brought from Russia by a friend of one of the members, at a cost of $300 each, according to Walrath, a College senior. The Vecherinka will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Christian Association. The performance is sold out.
Andres Serrano, one of the artists whose work has been a focal point of the fiery debate over federal funding for artwork, will speak on campus tomorrow. Serrano's Piss Christ, a work of art composed of a crucifix in a jar of Serrano's urine, sparked widespread debate two years ago because critics considered the work obscene and objected to the Serrano's receiving funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Serrano's work, along with that of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, attracted the attention of Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) in the summer of 1989. Helms used the Mapplethorpe and Serrano exhibits as ammunition to pass a congressional bill restricting NEA funding. Graduate School of Fine Arts Lecture Committee member Becky Acker, whose group is sponsoring the speech, said that although Serrano will speak about his current work, he was chosen because of his role in the censorship debate. "He might bring up some issues that artists could think about, in this time period when there seems to be so much controversy about making art, and who can make it and who should tell us what to make," said Acker, a third-year Fine Arts student. Third-year Fine Arts student Daniel Heyman, another member of the Lecture Committee, said he was interested in providing a forum for the artist to speak in a place where he would not be restricted by censorship. "We see that as a function of the University: artists come and present their ideas and have real debate," he said. "It's impossible to talk about an artist's work unless you allow the artist to talk about his work and where it's coming from." Acker said that although Serrano's work is controversial, she has received no complaints about the artist's appearance at the University. Serrano's speech is part of the Graduate School of Fine Arts' year-long lecture series, and it is co-sponsored by the Institute of Contemporary Art. Serrano will speak at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday in Meyerson Hall, room B-3. Admission is free.
It's not Shakespeare. Performance art, which has gained widespread notoriety through the work of Karen Findley -- who was involved in a funding disupte with the National Endowment for the Arts -- is a multimedia presentation in which the traditional barrier between audience and performer is often crossed. Last weekend's show, The Wooden Boy and Other Stories, included three pieces, each of which used a different performance style to address the blending of the medium and message. The Wooden Boy was the evening's most conventional piece, a monologue in which Zimmerman told the story of a boy made out of wood who could not dream or speak because he was completely dry on the inside. Zimmerman often addressed the audience, commenting in one humorous exchange that the boy knew what was going to happen to him because he was eavesdropping on the monologue. The show's opening piece was more difficult to comprehend. A Silent Story consisted of a series of slide panels, which had a variation of the Garden of Eden story written on them, starring Zimmerman as a sword-wielding creator who cuts his creations into pieces. The performer ran along the balconies of the Penniman Library, brandishing his sword in conjunction with the narration. Sword, serpent, narrator and author merged in the story into a single creative but destructive phallic image. The panels, which displayed only words, often were addressed to the audience. They posed some interesting questions, but because each slide held only one short sentence, the narrative assumed a disjointed "Dick and Jane" cadence. In the show's final piece, Minuetto and Variations, Zimmerman played a recorder, interspersing sections of music with short speeches about the nature of conversation. Zimmerman, whose last work was "The Green Meadow," an interactive visual art work presented in the Philomathean Art Gallery, said after the show that most performance art is presented by visual artists, not actors. His own lack of experience was evident in the uneven nature of the performance. The Wooden Boy was highly entertaining, with effective body language and a relaxed narrative style, but in Minuetto and Variations he spoke in measured tones that seemed calculated to be profound, not to convey the message. The 25 audience members reacted well to the show, applauding more enthusiastically after each successive piece. College senior Akiva Potok said he enjoyed the changing relationship between the performer and the audience. "It's inside your mind," he said. "You're engaged in this rational game intertwining youself and the actor." College senior Jessica Cooperman, director of the Philomathean Art Gallery, said she thought The Wooden Boy was very entertaining. "His humor complements the more complex points he was making," she said.
Third and Oak: The Laundromat, which opened last night in the High Rise East Rathskellar, presents a substantial slice of life, full of comedic flavor and a sharp view of the world that may take a long time for some viewers to digest. The Laundromat is a ships-passing-in-the-night story of two women who come to a seedy laundromat at 3 a.m. to escape the realities of their lives. One is Alberta -- played by College junior Elana Weinstein -- a studious, reserved, middle-aged woman obviously far from home, and the other is Deedee -- portrayed by first-year graduate student Wendy Braund -- a young housewife who literally stumbles in from her apartment across the alley. As Deedee's almost compulsive talking battles Alberta's reserve, the characters drop hints about their troubled lives to each other and to the audience. While the unfolding stories are somewhat predictable, the show creates suspense by drawing the audience into the characters' developing relationship. Both characters could be reduced to stereotypes, but the actresses' talent gives them depth and sympathy. Weinstein makes the most of Alberta's comic potential. With her hair drawn tightly into a bun and a dainty string of pearls peeking over the collar of her turtleneck, she could be the ultimate sour-faced spinster. Instead, her wry expressions and high-brow jokes give the play much of its humor. Braund's rapidly changing facial expressions convey emotions that her rough-edged, uneducated character could not express in words. As the two women grow closer through their confidences, they develop a mother-daughter relationship, and one almost expects them to hug, or at least to make some sort of physical contact before the show ends. But that sort of behavior is more suitable for a sudsy television drama than for Marsha Norman's ruthlessly realistic script. The author resists the temptation to give pat solutions for the women's problems, leaving several unresolved chords that contribute to the play's believability. The production was directed by 1990 College graduate Katie Goodman under the aegis of the Women's Theatre Festival. Goodman said that the festival, which will take place in February, has attracted widespread attention on campus, drawing 45 student volunteers this semester. Third and Oak: The Laundromat runs through Saturday at 8 p.m. in the High Rise East Rathskellar. Tickets are $3.50, or $3 with a donation of a piece of winter clothing for the University City Hospitality Coalition.
Call it a recipe for success in the performing arts. Combine 20 hours a week of rehearsal with another 10 for administrative tasks. Add a dash of studying, a tablespoon of friendship, and a large measure of energy. Mix well and heat until opening night. The result: one star performer. Many students live according to this formula. For them, dancing, singing and acting are not only hobbies, but an integral part of their daily lives. And the students involved in the arts find themselves concentrating on problems that go far beyond hitting a high C or developing a perfect pirouette. Although the supposed goal of the performing arts is perfection in front of an audience, the activities' requirements go far beyond a moment in the spotlight, teaching students about social relations, commitment, and above all, time management. College senior Loren Noveck has been a member of Bloomers for the last four years, and now she is on the group's governing board. She said earlier this week that the most important part of her experience in Bloomers centered not on artistic development but on leadership training. "It's the first time I've had to be group leader," she said. "I'm learning all these real-world skills that might come in handy." The student leadership dimension of the arts groups not only teaches skills but adds to the feeling of achievement. College junior Lisa Wachtell, who performs with Counterparts and Arts House Dance and is a member of the Quadramics board, said that because of student involvement, she finds performing much more rewarding at the University than she did in high school. "The groups that I'm in are all formed and organized and directed by students," she said. "It's really important to me to be able to work with my peers on putting together shows. . . It makes the show that much more meaningful." The amount of time required for most performing arts groups -- from eight in a mild week of rehear sal to over 30 in a performance week -- requires that students budget their time carefully. Not only does study time have to be scheduled, but also time for meals, for relaxation, and for keeping up with friends. While some students acknowledged that academics were supposed to get top priority in their lives, many said that they often neglect their schoolwork, either temporarily when their rehearsal load is heaviest, or permanently, accepting the fact that their grades are not as high as they would be without the extracurricular commitment. A student coordinator for the Theatre Arts Program, Goldsmith has directed many campus shows, and she added that she is glad the University combines strong academics with many opportunities for being involved with theater. And College junior Carolyn Caulfield, a coordinator for Arts House Dance, said that she chose a relatively light course load to balance the 15 hours a week she spends dancing and the 10 to 12 she devotes to administrative duties. Other students said that their intense schedules prompt them to make better use of the study time they have, time they say would only be spent watching television. "If I wasn't doing it, I wouldn't be happy and I wouldn't do as well," said Wachtell. "I'd have more free time to procrastinate. This way, when I have time to study, I actually sit down and do it." But not all students have made the arts their top priority. Maggie Demel, a Nursing senior who performs with Penn Dance, said that she has cut down on her dance commitments this semester because of a nursing curriculum that requires 40 hours. These problems are not unique to performing arts, but they are compounded by the physical effort that performance requires. The long hours performers spend as a show approaches leave them open to illness generated by fatigue. To help prevent her cast from getting sore throats, one director forbade performers to yell to attract buyers as they sold tickets on Locust Walk. Performing arts involvement affects students' long-term plans as well. Bloomers' Noveck said that she had been considering going abroad her junior year but that she abandoned the plan when she became an officer in the troupe. Performing Arts Council President Stuart Gibbs said that his involvement in Without a Net and with the University arts community made him reconsider his career plans. "Being in performing arts has definitely shifted my focus away from pre-med, and now I'm looking to go into film and TV as a writer," said the College senior. "Once I was. . . in the performing arts community, I saw how many jobs there were in the world doing creative stuff." Extracurricular activities like performing arts also have a deeper personal impact, helping students choose friends and living arrangements. Even more than other genres, theater is known for creating tight bonds between performers. In or der to relate effectively on stage, actors must share real emotions, a process which enhances their day-to-day relationships, and the many hours they spend together at rehearsal speeds the process. As students bond with others in one show after another, a sense of community develops and they often decide to live together. Four members of Bloomers live in one off-campus house, for example, and in Gibbs' house, six out of eight residents are involved in performing arts. Another house is filled with students who work on the technical facets of University productions, and yet another houses a large group of Glee Club members. In these houses, tensions run high at audition times and in production weeks, when all the residents are wrapped up in similar concerns. Gibbs said that while he enjoyed living with people who shared his love of the arts, the overlapping interests in the house have created some problems. "I beat out another person in the house for having my play chosen [to be produced by Quadramics], I rejected one of them for director and two to be in it," said Gibbs, who wrote a play last semester. "If one person gets into a play and other people don't, you get the idea that you should handle everything gently." While some students choose to live together informally, Arts House Living Learning Program serves as an official resource for students interested in visual and performing arts. By providing discounted tickets to student and professional shows and by sponsoring lectures and & open-mike sessions, Arts House attracts both devoted artists and students who want only a slight connection to the arts. Arts House residents said that while the program's resources are helpful, the three floors of Harnwell House do not have a particularly "artistic" atmosphere. "I really don't think the average person who walks off the elevator says 'Oh! This must be the Arts House,' " said Arts House Graduate Fellow Jonathan Teitelbaum.
Attracting followers like a sweater with static cling attracts socks, the Spin Cycle Theater has revived student interest in women's theater with its production of Third and Oak: The Laundromat, which opens tonight. "It's a forum for women's issues at times of the year other than the week of the festival," Goodman said. The Laundromat is about two women in a laundromat at 3 a.m. The women, a starchy suburbanite and a washed-out housewife, are prompted into sharing confidences because of the strangeness of their situation. The play falls under the rubric of women's theater both because of its well-known feminist author, Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman, and because of its themes. Goodman said this week that the show portrays the struggle of a woman whose husband will not let her work, a problem that she said is as relevant now as it was when Norman wrote the play in the mid-1970s. "Fifteen years ago when she wrote it, [the problem] was a little more novel than it is now," she said. "But it scares me that it's still so common for women to think that they don't have the right to make choices about their own lives." Another of show's important themes is the development of communication between the two women, according to actress Elana Weinstein, who plays the suburbanite. "I do think it's a women's play. There's a lot of communication between the two about men, although not in the men-bashing sense," the College junior said. "There's a lot of relating to each other and sympathizing with each others' situation in life, which is something women do a lot." Both Weinstein and Goodman said that although good communication is not an exclusively feminine quality, the characters' gender and their choice of topics put The Laundromat in the feminist realm. Norman also wrote a play called Third and Oak: The Pool Hall, in which two men are in a similar situation. Her other plays include 'Night, Mother. First-year graduate student Wendy Braund, the show's only other actress, said that the play's appeal is not confined to women. "It's not that limited," said Braund, who plays the housewife. "There's definitely an empathy that you can feel whether or not you're a woman." The Women's Theatre Festival, which English Professor Lynda Hart developed and produced last year, has become a student-run enterprise, according to Goodman. She added that the festival, which will take place in February, has drawn 45 student volunteers this semester. "There are a lot of really intelligent women on this campus who are highly motivated and who want to put that motivation into a festival," the director said. "All these feminists are mixing their love for theater and their love for women's issues." The Women's Theatre Festival has lent its name to the production of The Laundromat, and Penn Women's Alliance and the Women's Center are helping produce the show. Goodman said she created the Spin Cycle Theater specifically for this production, but added that she will probably use the name for other productions because "it has sort of a women's connotation and it's kind of tongue-in-cheek." Third and Oak: The Laundromat opens tonight at 8 p.m. in the High Rise East Rathskellar and plays through Saturday. Tickets are $3.50, or $3 with a donation of a piece of winter clothing for the University City Hospitality Coalition.
Threepenny Opera, which opened last night in the Harold Prince Theater, presents fresh challenges in every scene, both for the actors and for the audience. Set in 19th century London, the Bertholt Brecht play attempts to show the dark side of urban existence. In one of the show's best scenes, the prologue cleverly introduced the problems of poverty, theft and corruption by tracing the progress of a coin as it was given to a beggar, stolen by a thief, paid to a prostitute and used to bribe a police officer. The play's grim atmosphere, accentuated by an exquisite backdrop displaying the inner workings of a run-down factory, made it difficult to watch, but some of the performers made the effort worthwhile. College junior Andrea Davis displayed her considerable vocal power and acting talent in the role of Polly Peachum, an ingenue with a tough side. And College senior David Simon did not neglect a single detail in his professional quality portrayal of the seedy Jeremiah Peachum. His walk, his voice and all his mannerisms combined to form a well-rounded character. Also among the show's high points were its three finales, depressing songs in which the entire company delivers richly harmonized sermons on the world's evils. But College junior Eric Morris, who played Mack the Knife, failed to deliver the charisma that his character demanded as the play's central figure. His songs, like many others in the show, were overpowered by the orchestra. Threepenny Opera plays tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Harold Prince Theater, and continues next weekend. Tickets are $5 and are available on Locust Walk.
In the dressing rooms and backstage areas of Annenberg Center, a world lay in pieces Tuesday night. It was the world of Bertholt Brecht's Threepenny Opera, which opens tonight in the Harold Prince Theater. Its citizens were being created under the makeup brush of director Deborah Block while its streets and storefronts were moved into place by stagehands. As she used lines and shading to make College sophomore Jaci Israel look like a 50-year-old woman, Block said that the final week of rehearsal was a process in which all the different elements of a production must be coordinated into a single unit. "It's like three different languages trying to come together and make sense," she said. Since they began rehearsing in the theater last Sunday, the cast has had to adjust to its unfamiliar dimensions and acoustics, and at Tuesday's rehearsal they were faced with the added obstacles of costumes and makeup. "We've been rehearsing all this time without props or a real set," said College and Engineering sophomore David Hafkin. "Everything changes." Commonly known as "hell week," a show's last week of rehearsal places high demands on everyone involved. Threepenny Opera crew members have been in the theater from 9 a.m. to midnight this week, installing sets and lighting, while the actors have spent six hours each day rehearsing. Lighting Director Eve Simon said that the long hours were necessary to correct all the problems that can happen when adjusting to a new space and installing over 100 lights. "It's just a written law that everything will go wrong and you will have to think really fast and fix it really fast," the College senior said. "You have four days to put the show together." Despite the intense work, actors said they cannot succumb to stress during the week. "Your energy has to be there all the time," said College freshman Megan Wozniak. Although the "hell week" syndrome is common to all shows, Threepenny presents some unique challenges. Block said the actors all speak in British accents that they have cultivated with special exercises. But the director added that some of them still need to keep their accents from fluctuating during the show. College junior Eric Morris said he was looking forward to seeing the results of the last two months' work. "I'm just looking forward to doing the show after all the preparation we've done," he said. "I'm looking forward to being on stage." Block said she was looking forward to Tuesday's night's rehearsal since she would be able to see all the elements of the show come together. And on Tuesday night, at 7:45, the pieces began to come together. The cast gathered on stage to warm up their voices, grouping in one corner to avoid the set pieces being fixed in place. As they sang scales and did vocal exercises, Block moved among them applying final touches of makeup. When they finished singing, the actors joined hands in a circle around Block. One wore a plain T-shirt with her costume skirt, and another sported Nike sneakers clashing with his Victorian era costume. And by 8 p.m., they would take their places on stage to complete their transformation into the world of Brecht. Threepenny Opera opens tonight at Harold Prince Theater and plays through Saturday at 8 p.m. The show also runs next Thursday through Saturday. Tickets are $5 and available on Locust Walk.
With banners, placards and home-made ticket booths, performing arts groups are pulling out all the stops this week to ensure their portion of a limited auidence for a weekend when over a half a dozen shows will play on campus. And although the groups offer differing forms of entertainment, from classical music to improvisational comedy, performers said this week they are not worried about compteing for thier audience share on Parents' Weekend. Without a Net member Brad Krumholz, who was selling tickets on the Walk earlier this week, said that student performances often overlap each other. "That's always been the case," said the College senior. "You kind of get used to the fact that there will be other shows." And College junior Ari Jacobson, who is performing in the Theatre Arts Program One-Acts this weekend, said he was confident that students who were really interested in seeing shows would find a way to schedule their time. But other students said they were upset that they would not be able to see all the shows they wanted to because of show scheduling. "Sometimes it gets to be that for two weekends in a row you're seeing three shows in a weekend," College junior Lisa Wachtell said last night. "I know that I've missed a lot of performances because I just haven't had the time." Several performers said that since their groups all need a rehearsal period of several months at the beginning of the year, the productions always pile up at the end of the semester. Financial managers said they hoped that parents could make up for an audience that may be spread thin because of the number of shows. "Everyone has two parents and a sister that they have to do something with," the College senior said. Performers noted that despite the large number of conflicting shows, most consistently draw a constant portion of their audience from the arts community. "The theater people tend to know what's going on, and also they are more interested," said Krumholz. But Penn Players member David Simon said that the overlap of shows prevents perfromers from going to all the shows they want to. "It's annoying to be in a show and not be able to go see your friends," he said.
In addition to Marsalis, a saxophone player, the quartet included pianist Kenny Kirkland, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts and bassist Bob Hurst. Marsalis drew popular attention when he toured with rock musician Sting and performed in Spike Lee's movie Mo' Better Blues. But he said in a speech Friday afternoon that he was more interested in playing well than in being famous. "I never said, 'I'm going to be famous someday,' " Marsalis told an audience of 50 people in Bodek Lounge. "People say, 'I want to be a rock star.' Why don't you try being a musician?" Marsalis' devotion to musicianship showed at the concert in his extended improvisations on alto and soprano saxophones, to which the crowd responded with long rounds of applause. In the Bodek Lounge talk, Marsalis said that while he grew up listening to rock and roll, he enjoys playing jazz because he finds the music challenging. "My playing jazz is not a testimony for me . . .or a testimony to the superiority of the black man," he said. "It's the music and only the music." At the end of the concert, the crowd, which was about three-quarters students, brought the band back on stage with a standing ovation. As an encore, the quartet played the theme song from Mo' Better Blues. Marsalis said earlier in the day that although he enjoyed working with Lee, he thought the film had nothing to do with jazz. "It could have been about a postman, some war buddies, or a bunch of lawyers," the musician said. "It was all-purpose dialogue." Jazz Festival coordinator Travis Jackson said he enjoyed seeing the quartet's live performance. "They are an excellent band, and listening to their records is marvelous in and of itself, but seeing them live just intensifies the awe you have for them," the College senior said. "You get to see the interplay between the musicians." College junior Shaila Ghatalia said that she went to the concert because she had heard Marsalis' music but she did not know much about it. "I'm not very familiar with jazz music in general," she said. "I wanted to learn more about it."
Festival coordinators made final plans and sold tickets and t-shirts to the room full of students, promoting the five-day series of lectures and concerts that gets fully underway today. The four students responsible for bringing jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis to campus tomorrow said last night that University interest in their organization and in jazz in general has grown tremendously in the last year. Festival chairperson Alan Stern, a College senior, said that in the first such program last year -- a Sonny Rollins concert -- a staff of six people did all the work. But this year, over 30 student volunteers are helping with the event. Travis Jackson, a festival vice-chairperson, said support from the now-defunct Penn Union Council and from the Social Planning and Events Committee helped give the festival the prestige and money it needed to attract well-known performers. "If you want to bring an artist of any caliber, you have to be willing and able to pay for it and to convince them that you're not just some fly-by-night operation," said Jackson, a College senior. Jackson added that he felt that he, Stern, and College seniors Sherry Riesner and Stephen Lapointe filled a gap in campus life when they began the jazz festival. "When I got to Penn, I really wanted something like this to be here," he said. "We found out the only way to get something done was to do it ourselves." Students said they were excited about the idea of a weekend devoted to jazz. "I think it's great," said Penn Jazz Ensemble President Lloyd Mandell, a Wharton and Engineering senior. "]Jazz[ is another culture Penn students should be exposed to." Last night's Handel's Mug event included performances by the a cappella group Penny Loafers and by pianist Adam Glazer, a College junior. It was also the opening of an exhibit of photographs by bass player Milt Hinton, who photographed his friends and colleagues in the jazz industry, including such greats as Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie. The photographs will remain on exhibit in Houston Hall Bowl Room through the weekend. Some of the upcoming festival events include: ·Performances by local high school jazz ensembles, noon today and 11 a.m. tomorrow, in Bodek Lounge. ·A lecture by conductor Gunther Schuller, "Is Jazz America's Classical Music?", 3 p.m. today in Bodek Lounge. ·A panel discussion and debate on "The Impact of Commercialism on the Jazz Composer and Performer," tonight at 8 p.m. in Bodek Lounge. ·A lecture on jazz criticism, noon tomorrow in the Ben Franklin Room of Houston Hall. ·A speech by saxophonist Branford Marsalis, at 4 p.m. tomorrow in Bodek Lounge. ·A concert featuring the Branford Marsalis Quartet, 8 p.m. tomorrow at Irvine Auditorium. ·A jam session with University musicians, at 1 p.m. Saturday in Bodek Lounge. ·A jamboree featuring Counterparts, the Penn Jazz Ensemble and Penn Dixie, at 9 p.m. Saturday in Bodek Lounge. ·Philly Phinale concert spotlighting Philadelphia jazz bands at 8 p.m. Sunday in Bodek Lounge.
Residential Maintenance may find itself in hot water with students today as workers shut off service to High Rise East for the second time this semester. Alan Zuino, Residential Maintenance associate director, said yesterday that the building's steam line will be shut down from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. so that maintenance workers can repair two valves that regulate steam pressure. Zuino said that after workers discovered the malfunctioning valves in a routine inspection two days ago, Residential Maintenance tried to plan the repairs to inconvenience students as little as possible. "We are always concerned with allowing the residents to get their morning showers and get off to class," he said. "We've found over the years that a 9 a.m. start is a reasonable start, and we need those six or seven hours to do our work." Utilities service on West Campus has been interrupted several other times this semester. In addition to other shutdowns, all six buildings lost hot water for 12 hours this month and all water was shut off without warning in High Rise North September 27. Edward Gordon, operational services assistant for West Campus, said yesterday that his office does not receive many complaints when services are disrupted in the high rises. He added that those who do call are usually satisfied with an explanation of the problem. "Most people realize that the work has to be done," he said. "Obviously, no one likes waking up and realizing that if they want hot water; they'll have to get up before 9 to get it." Zuino said he could not predict if other disruptions will occur this semester, adding that various parts of the water system -- from a building's main supply line to a single water pump -- can cause difficulties. Students said last night the repeated shutdowns are an inconvenience. Wharton junior Margaret Arakawa said she was making plans not to be in the heatless building today, adding that this shutdown will not be as bad at the last one, which lasted 12 hours. "Last time, since the water was off for such a long time, I was seriously considering going off campus to take a shower," she said. "If it really, really is necessary, then it's fine," said College senior Lisa Broadwell. "But if it's something that could have been prevented, it's upsetting." And College senior Lyenochka Djakov said the disruptions are becoming too common. "It seems like they do this a lot," said Djakov. "It's a pain. . . I think it would be better to do it in the afternoon."
It said, "Because somebody's got to be a bitch. . . " But friends and colleagues say that Jackson's personality conflicts with the tough role she must play as stage manager to keep the production running smoothly. In Threepenny, as in most other shows, the stage manager's job includes organizing and finding space for rehearsals, making sure actors attend them, and helping to maintain discipline. In the week before the show opens, her responsibilities grow to include checking that the sets and lighting are installed properly and helping actors adjust to working in the theater. Once the performances start, her duties continue to increase to making sure each night runs smoothly, coordinating backstage tasks over a headset. Cast member Jaci Israel said Jackson balances problem solving with good cast relations. "Knowing her as a person also, I think she's doing a great job," said the College sophomore. "The few instances that came up, she handled with style. She wasn't rude, but she got to the point." Jackson said she doesn't like to be a disciplinarian but realizes that her job requires it. "I don't like to yell at people," said the College junior. "In an ideal world, people would be at rehearsal on time and be totally and completely serious. But it wouldn't be nearly as much fun." Jackson said that both the most exciting and the most difficult thing about her job is the stage manager's complete involvement with all the details of the production. "It's the best way to get involved with the show and with the cast without either acting or directing, and I don't do either," she said. "But it's a big chunk of time." For Jackson, her job continues after rehearsal finishes each night adding that the show's problems, both techincal and personal, become her particular concerns. "If you have a problem in your life, it's going to cause undue stress," she said. "But it goes away." This year's Penn Players production has been plagued by actors dropping out as well as by everyday difficulties like finding adequate rehearsal space. Jackson said she is enjoying working on Threepenny Opera, even though it is not a conventional, happy-ending musical. "I thought it was a little strange at first," she said. "But getting to know it now, I really like it." Jackson, who is also producing the Stimulus production of Free to Be You and Me -- which is running tomorrow and Saturday at High Rise East Rathskellar -- became involved with University theater her freshman year. In addition to stage managing one show and producing another, she has helped build and move sets into the theater for countless University productions. "I like to be in the theater working on theater," she said. "I love to go help build because you can see what you're doing and what it's going to become, and nailing together two-by-fours is a great way to vent your frustrations." The stage manager added that the more she is involved with a show, the more she enjoys it and looks forward to future productions. "[Theater] just slurps you up," she said.