With unbounded energy and clear, beautiful voices, Stimulus's Free to Be You and Me conveys a message that is as relevant to grown-ups as it is to the children for whom it was written. While the show, which played before a group of schoolchildren yesterday and runs tomorrow and Saturday night, never apologizes for its strong opinions about gender roles and human relations, it also doesn't preach. Instead, through an engaging series of performances, actors taught the audience basic truths in songs like "It's Alright to Cry" and "Parents are People." A skit called "William's Doll," for example, attempted to break the stereotype that only girls play with dolls, and "When We Grow Up" encourages boys and girls to be happy with themselves. Although the show was designed as an alternative to traditional children's education, University students who see the show will find plenty to amuse them. Arts and Sciences graduate student Jef Johnson, who doubled as the Quaker mascot as an undergraduate, enlivened many skits with his physical humor -- a cross between the styles of Pee Wee Herman and John Cleese. College senior Margi Drinker's frustrated baseball player and College sophomore Jen Marlowe's "tender sweet young thing" showed two different, equally entertaining views of little-girlhood. And Nursing junior Lara Vecchiarello and College sophomore Derek Braslow were adorable as a pair of babies trying to figure out what sex they are. All the performers at yesterday Bodek's Lounge performance, overflowed with the carefree energy of children at play, singing and dancing with a sense of fun so contagious that anyone who grew up listening to Marlo Thomas' Free to Be, and many people who didn't, will find themselves humming the tunes after they leave the theater. Braslow said he enjoys being in the production because he can act like a child. "I can be a kid again," he said. "My character is myself as a child." Cast member Carolyn Kaelson said she thinks the show's message is as relevant today as it was in the early 1970s when it was first performed, adding that she has seen children agree with the stereotypes Free to Be attempts to dispel. She added that one skit, "The Southpaw," told the story of a boy who won't let his best friend, a girl, play on the neighborhood baseball team because of her gender. "All the little fourth and fifth grade boys in the audience were cheering for him," said Kaelson, a College sophomore. Stimulus Children's Theater was formed four years ago as a community outreach program, and they still perform primarily for children, traveling to local schools and the Ronald McDonald House. Free to Be You and Me runs Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 7 and 9 p.m. in the High Rise East Rathskellar.
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(****EDS NOTE - CORRECTION - The speaker was misnamed. He is actually Joel Bainerman) Saying he meant to shock his audience, Israeli economist Joel Bainbridge attacked many elements of Israel's economic policy -- including the necessity of American aid -- in a speech to a small group in Hillel Auditorium last night. Bainbridge, economics editor of the Jerusalem Post, sharply criticized Israel's bureaucracy, saying that the country would not need American aid if it removed government controls on production. He said creating a more open market would free $4 to $5 billion. He said the country's highly centralized economy prevents it from fulfilling its economic potential. "We're going to wind up, along with perhaps Albania, as the last stronghold of a controlled economy," he said. Bainbridge added that Israeli government bureaucracy wastes the majority of American money, given in the form of private donations and government aid. As a solution, the Canadian-born economist suggested that American investors donate directly to industries and institutions instead of using traditional means like Israeli government bonds. Bainbridge also discussed current issues including the influx of Soviet Jews into Israel, the Persian Gulf crisis, and the intifada. He said he doubted the economic feasibility of a Palestinian state. "I'm not sure the Palestinians have the ability to absorb even one refugee," Bainbridge said. "They don't have the infrastructure." In addition, he criticized the Israeli government's attempt to provide jobs for the incoming Soviet immigrants, saying that new jobs will decrease the efficiency of an already bloated economy. He recommended instead that they be given stipends. Audience members said they agreed that Bainbridge's description of Israeli economics was correct, but some felt his policy prescriptions were too harsh. "I don't agree with his political views," said College junior Alice Segal. "But I used to live in Israel, and the economic part is right on the mark." And Itai Hemeiri, a representative of the Israeli kibbutz movement who counsels students planning to travel to Israel, called Bainbridge's speech biased. "I think he's extremely one-sided," said Hameiri. "He described the economy, but he did not explain why it is that way." But College sophomore Stan Schuldiner said he thought Bainbridge's analysis demonstrated "a good understanding" of the general situation in Israel.
When the Theatre Arts Program decided to produce Master Harold and the Boys last spring, set design, ticket sales and costuming weren't the only things director Samantha Aezen had to worry about. With a predominantly white performing arts community, she did not know whether she would be able to fill the production's two black roles. And although seven black students auditioned for the play focusing on race relations in South Africa, Aezen said this black participation was a fluke. While the University's performing arts community is diverse by genre, encompassing theater, music, dance and comedy, it is largely segregated by race. While leaders maintain that there is no overt discrimination, minority students interested in performing arts say they are put off by the sea of white faces and do not audition. As a result, the theater community here mirrors its real-world counterpart. The mainstream groups are mostly filled with whites and perform works usually drawn from white culture. Alternative groups formed in response are mostly black and focus on minority culture. Even though both white and minority performers say they would like to see more integration, the community seems to have reached an equilibrium. Leaders of mainstream groups consider race a non-issue because they do not see direct discrimination, and black groups are focusing on providing an alternative for minority expression rather than working within traditional groups. 'Not Incredibly Inviting' Minority turnout at auditions is consistently low. According to Arts House Theatre President Heidi Saffer, for example, the acting pool for the program's productions over the last three years has been 70 percent female and almost completely white. And minority leaders say the imbalance is self-perpetuating. Because non-white students do not see role models in performing groups, they are reluctant to audition. "It's not incredibly inviting when you watch different groups on campus and you don't see any African-Americans or any Latinos," said College junior Uzoma Ogbuokiri, co-founder of the Inspiration, a black a cappella group. "It seems like you'll be entering into something you have to deal with, not something you're going to enjoy." "It's bad enough to worry about 'is this note right,' but you look around and you're the only black person in the room," he said. "As a freshman, you don't want to be the different one out there." Student Performing Arts Coordinator Kathryn Helene said the biggest hurdle is getting minority students to audition, adding that when making cuts, the groups' need for talent supercedes racial considerations. Myong Leigh, who sings with the Glee Club and PennChants, said the selection process is race blind. "Whoever is good gets in, but there's no such thing as affirmative action, either," the Wharton junior said. Glee Club President Matthew Williams said his group strives for a good vocal mix and does not consider personal attributes like race. But Inspiration co-founder Marisa Sifontes said performing arts groups are guilty of limiting the number of minorities. "There is a quota," said the College junior. "You're not going to have an all-black a cappella group, or even a half-black group. You're going to have your one or two tokens, as it were." Increasing minority participation for theater groups is more challenging than it is for singing groups. A character's race is often important to both the story line and the setting of a show. But minority performers say productions could include more minorities through unconventional interpretations of shows, or even the use of stage makeup. Wharton senior Angela Ai broke with tradition by portraying non-Asian characters such as Maria in Penn Players' West Side Story and Rosabud in Quadramics' production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood last spring. "It's just hard to find a musical that has a lot of minority parts, but from my own experience, nothing's really stopped me," she said. But College sophomore Liz Cedillo, vice president of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, said that although she was involved with theater in high school, she is afraid that she will be typecast if she auditions at the University. "My student body was 70 percent Hispanic so there couldn't be any typecasting, and we had the opportunity to take part in many different roles," she said. Underrepresented Cultures Fear of being outnumbered is not the only thing preventing minorities from joining the performing arts, leaders said. The music and plays being performed on campus -- from traditional musicals like Cabaret to the Penn Singers' upcoming Disney revue -- rarely focus on minority culture. "Basically, you don't see yourself represented," Wilson said. "I don't recall one group or one play that dealt with African-American life or had African-American characters as main characters." But there have been some exceptions to this rule. Performing Arts Coordinator Helene, who also runs Take Charge Theater, said she tries to produce plays that have mixed-race casts and also address issues of racism. And last year's Master Harold production was also an exception. Some minority students on campus have reacted to underrepresentation by forming separate groups. The Inspiration was formed specifically to perform music by black composers, and other groups like Ayalah dance company and the Balalaika Orchestra portray the folk arts of different countries. MEChA Vice President Cedillo said she would like to form a Latino arts group to promote a culture which she says is often overlooked. Glee Club member Leigh said the separate groups fit into a "capitalistic theory," adding that if there is a demand for a particular kind of group, "someone will come up with it sooner or later." Helene said earlier this week that the formation of separate groups does not indicate that there is discrimination in the performing arts community. "Even though the groups are fairly homogenous, it's more a sense of hanging around with your friends than 'we don't want you,' " she said. Overcoming Barriers Although leaders agree that increasing minority involvement in performing arts is desirable, they are divided on the extent to which performing groups should target their recruitment at minorities. Inspiration co-founder Sifontes said performing arts groups need to be more aware of specific minorities' needs. "Unless you gear yourselves toward a certain community, that community is not going to open itself up to you," she said, adding that she has never seen audition notices in DuBois College House. Penn Black Arts League founder Wilson said he believes the best way to recruit minorities is to choose pieces that reflect minority experiences. Helene said she thinks increasing minority involvement will take a special effort. "The insularity that exists in our society requires more activism to overcome the barriers," she said. She added that she has tried to transmit the open nature of Take Charge's performances, using language in her advertisements that encourages people of all backgrounds to audition. Master Harold director Aezen said that drawing people to auditions often relies personal contact. "It's sort of a matter of where the ads go and who talks to whom," she said. "It's that kind of networking." But Glee Club President Williams, a College senior, said his group does not target minorities specifically but instead tries to reach all first-year men. He said the club sends all incoming male students a postcard introducing the group, and sings at freshman picnics and dining halls, adding that race is not a factor in determining membership. Performing artists said successful recruiting of minorities hinges on showing a history of minority involvement and success. Counterparts is known for being racially mixed from year to year, and President Kate Grant said that the group's most successful form of advertising has been Student Performing Arts Night. Grant said that a broad range of students see the show are drawn to the group's performance finesse and want to audition, adding that in past years, minorities have been attracted to the group because of star soloists like 1989 Engineering graduate Lolita Jackson. She also said the group performs a diverse range of music. 'Incredibly Comfortable' Minority students who have taken the plunge into performing arts -- either into existing groups or with new organizations -- say they have been warmly received. "When I joined the Glee Club, I expected that I'd be fighting a battle, but I found it was incredibly comfortable," said Ogubuokiri. "The Glee Club is almost a brotherhood." Wilson, who also co-founded the politically oriented Black Enlightenment Theatre last year, said the performing arts community as a whole was very supportive of the Penn Black Arts League when it was formed, helping its members navigate the bureaucratic maze a performance entails. Both Glee Club member Leigh and Ai, who is a member of Counterparts, said that they have not experienced discrimination and that race is not an issue within their groups. (CUT LINE) Please see FOCUS, page 3 FOCUS, from page 1
When College junior Marisa Sifontes looked at University performing arts at the end of her freshman year, she noticed a gap. The University, she felt, needed another a cappella group. It is not that there was a shortage of groups. The campus was already flooded with all-male, all-female and coed groups that dominated the program at every Performing Arts Night. What was missing was a group devoted to black music, she thought. "There was a need for an a cappella group where African-American interests could be expressed," said Sifontes, who also sings with Counterparts. She raised the idea with Ozuma Ogbuokiri, at the time a Glee Club member, who agreed that the gap had to be filled. "We figured there should be at least some representation for African-American culture in the performing arts field," Ogbuokiri said. "Besides, I had arranged [Michael Jackson's] Man in the Mirror and I had nobody to sing it." "We've had a very positive impact on the performing arts community," Sifontes said. "We've breathed some life into it. We're not just another coed a cappella singing group." The Inspiration has also been well received by the black community, according to Sifontes. It offers an outlet for students who want to perform and want to use their talent to enrich black life on campus or who are reluctant to audition for mostly white arts groups. Obuokiri said he believes The Inspiration will attract a new group of black spectators and performers to the performing arts community as a whole. "When people started watching the Inspiration, they would start opening themselves up to the performing arts field in general," he said. "It would make them more interested in what's going on in performing arts on this campus." The Inspiration's membership is currently all black, and both founders say this helps create a close, family-like atmosphere within the group. "Most of the people who are in the group knew each other before because the African-American society here is really close-knit," said Ogbuokiri. Sifontes said that the group is open to singers of all races. "We go for the best voices we can, and in the past two years, the best voices have been African-Americans'," she said. "Regardless of who's in the group, we focus on African-American music." The Inspiration's fall show, with Quaker Notes, will be November 1 and 3 at the Gold Standard.
Playwright Megan Terry, considered by many to be the "mother of American feminist theater," will conduct an acting workshop tomorrow on campus to call attention to women's theater. Terry's workshop, which is sponsored by several campus organizations and is open to the public, will focus on her play Approaching Simone. That play is scheduled to open in Philadelphia next month. The workshop comes on the heels of last spring's Women's Theater Festival, which featured several works by and about women. Tamarah Long, a 1990 College graduate who is organizing the workshop, said last week that since last semester's festival, there has been a growth of interest in the feminist theater genre on campus. English professor Lynda Hart, who produced last year's festival and suggested that Long contact Terry, said she was pleased that a former student is bringing the playwright to campus. Terry, whose show Body Leaks premieres at the Painted Bride Theater tonight, is founder of the Omaha Magic Theater, and according to Hart, she has written over 100 plays including Calm Down Mother and The Glooming. Long is also producing a Philadelphia performance of Approaching Simone, and there will be auditions for University students after the workshop. The Penn Women's Center, the Women's Studies Department and the Performing Arts Council are all sponsoring the project. According to PAC Executive Secretary David Simon, the group's donation is an unprecedented gift from the student organization. The workshop will be held in Bennett Hall's Penniman Library tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. Admission is $7.50 for University students.
Performing arts leaders this week pledged to fight the University's decision to prevent groups from hanging banners in the plaza in front of Steinberg-Dietrich Hall. Performing Arts Council voted overwhelmingly Wednesday night to request money from the Student Activities Council to install banner holders in the plaza, where arts groups frequently sell tickets for their shows. PAC President Stuart Gibbs said that if SAC did not agree to pay for the holders, his group would cover the cost of installation. He added though that PAC member groups would get first priority to use them. Earlier this month, the Office of Student Life began strict enforcement of its policy against hanging banners from trees and lamp posts on Locust Walk and installed pole holders along the Walk. The decision was made in order to prevent further damage to the trees, bushes, and light posts from which students have traditionally hung their banners, administrators said. According to Student Activities Director Francine Walker, who was not directly involved in the administration's decision, holders were not originally installed in the plaza because there are no trip rails on which to attach the holders. She added that any proposal for new holders would have to include the installment of new rails. Gibbs said the placement of existing holders causes unnecessary congestion on the Walk adding that the banners placed there do not attract attention. "There are a lot of places to put banners on Locust Walk except where we actually like to sell tickets," said the College senior. He added that performing arts groups hang approximately 75 percent of the banners on Locust Walk. PAC Executive Secretary David Simon said last night he hoped new holders would be in place before the beginning of November, when the majority of campus shows will begin selling tickets. He estimated that as many as eight productions could sell tickets on any given day later this semester. Simon added that sales on the Walk are vital to getting an audience. "Ticket sales will suffer," said the College senior. "In many cases, 100 percent of a show's sales happen on the Walk."
Imagine building the city of London on a budget of only $1500, in a space of 800 square feet. They, like all stage designers, will be both aided and restricted by the physical resources available to them -- the dimensions of the stage, the lighting equipment, the wood and nails-as they adapt the playwright's work to three dimensions. "We have a very limited budget and a limited time frame," said Schmidt last week. "We do the best we can with what we have." According to Schmidt, students' determined efforts will compensate for the lack of time and money. "Student groups rely a lot on the dedication of the students to pull off productons which should cost a lot more money than they do," he said. Schmidt estimated that he and three workers will work a total of 500 hours to create sets that will look real to the audience but will still be easy to move around the stage. But the manual labor is just one part of the complicated process of creating a set. Both the director and the set designer research past productions of the show, and each forms an idea of what the stage should look like. After the two confer, most of the responsibility goes to the designer, Schmidt said. "You do a lot of drawings and come up with your own ideas, having everything or nothing to do with what you knew before," he added. Each show presents different challenges. Threepenny Opera, for example, has three separate finales and moves rapidly from location to location. According to Lighting Director Simon, a College senior, she and the rest of the technical staff are formulating a "seamless" show, in which transitions between scenes are accomplished as if they are part of the action. Unlike most shows, the lights will never dim completely, and set changes will occur in one part of the stage while actors play a scene in another. But sets also help create a mood. The action of Threepenny takes place in the seedy underworld of a disintegrating city and Simon said she is looking forward to creating this dingy effect. "These people live in squalor," she said. "It's always fun to create squalor." The structure of the Harold Prince Theatre is well suited to creating any type of atmosphere, Simon said, because of its designed with a network of catwalks, presenting an infinite number of possible positions for each light. "The possibilities in the Prince are pretty much controlled by your creativity," said Simon. And according to Technical Director Brad Reimer, Schmidt has already introduced some experimental design ideas. "Usually you take a couple platforms. . . you find something that looks like what you want, and you put them up on stage," said the Wharton junior. "We're going to be using some special techniques to build what we want or represent what we want." Schmidt said he will be using scrim curtain, a material which is opaque when lit from the front and transparent when lit from behind, so it can function as both a wall and a window.
The name nearly says it all. Take Charge Theater wants students who can take charge and won't settle for less. Take Charge, which held auditions this week, is a unique program that enables students to take control of the technical aspect of show production, take a stand on current political issues, and take an interest in the West Philadelphia community. Created two years ago by Student Performing Arts Coordinator Kathryn Helene, the theater company has two different aspects. The first centers on a show focusing on a socially relevant theme that is produced by professional staff and assisted by student apprentices. The second involves University students conducting theater workshops with West Philadelphia High School students. Helene said the apprenticeship program attempts to fill dearth of experienced directors and producers in the University's community left by each year's graduation. "When I first came here, one of the things people told me consistently happened is they lost the technical pool," she said earlier this week. Students who have worked as apprentices said this week that they appreciate the formal training they received adding the program gave them a new way of thinking about productions. Randy Wise, who will be directing this year's fall production, said that the program's main benefit is giving students hands-on experience. "The idea is that they gain knowledge not only by learning, but also by doing," he said this week. "That's an exciting aspect." Wise added that Take Charge is unique in the Philadelphia area. The socially conscious nature of the plays is a result both of Helene's desire to see that sort of production at the University and of the maturity of the professional staffs. "Bent [Take Charge's first production] was a play dealing with homosexual love, which is something I don't think any student group would want to handle," Berman said. "When plays are done with large groups of people, they take fewer chances." The program's community outreach facet represents students' taking charge of their environment, according to Wise, who was in charge of it last semester. "There's this sense that Penn is isolated from the community around it," he said. "We thought theater was a valuable and exciting way to reach out." Take Charge Theater's fall show, Stopping in the Desert, will open November 29 in the Harold Prince Theatre.
At the age of 12, Stuart Ambrose has done it all. He has traveled around the world and seen both glasnost and the intifada first-hand. He's performed in nearly 200 concerts in places from former West Berlin to the Western Wall. Encouraged by his brother, College sophomore Michael Ambrose and a friend, Stuart, a seventh grader at the Haverford School, began playing trumpet in the band at the beginning of the semester. Penn Band conductor Claude White said that although the band traditionally been limited to University students, they had no objection to Stuart's addition. "He's completely at home in the group," said White. "He's a very mature person." Stuart's age did, however, present a problem when he had to fill out some paperwork for the band and he did not know what to put for his year of graduation. Some quick calculation provided the answer. "[I] put 'class of 2000,' " explained Stuart, who will graduate college 10 years from now. "It's really neat." In addition to playing the trumpet, Ambrose sings with the Philadelphia Boys' Choir. "Music is such a way to express yourself," he said. "Sometimes you want to break out singing." Although Stuart has observed some of the band's social life at the University, he said he has never tried alcohol. "My brother and my father and my mother say 'You'd better not touch it or you're dead,' " he said energetically. "I wouldn't touch it, anyway." Band members said this week that they welcome the youngest addition to their group adding that they admire his courage and dedication. "He's probably the only person in the band who goes home and practices," said Paul Luongo, a College sophomore. "His mother says she heard The Red and the Blue continuously for eight days." But Stuart, who at 5-foot, eight inches tall, towers over several other members, fits in well with the band. "He's taller than half the flute section," added Luongo, who first suggested that Stuart join the band. "Most people don't even know [Ambrose's age]," said Band President Michael Brose. "They just think he's a freshman." Ambrose said he hopes to continue playing with the band. "To think, if I like it, and if I go to Penn, I could be in it for nine years," he exclaimed. If he does attend the University -- which he said he would like to do -- Ambrose will be well prepared to handle several issues, such as diversity, that currently face the campus. He said his trip with the Boys' Choir to the Soviet Union, for instance, taught him that people around the world have common interests. "The people were nice," he mused. "They're just like us. They just don't have all the things we do." But despite warm receptions he's around the world, he was still surprised at the kindness of other band members. "You'd think that they wouldn't pay any attention, but they've been really nice," said Ambrose. "They listen to my questions."
Band executive board members have said they hope to occupy the former Psi Upsilon house at 36th and Locust streets when it becomes available in January. They insist their group will bring diversity to the center of campus. "If they're looking to diversify the Walk, we have 150 members from every kind of human being created," band President Michael Brose said last week. President Sheldon Hackney said earlier this semester that the Castle, which has remained vacant since Psi Upsilon fraternity was kicked off campus last May, will house students by January. He later said that no Greek organization will occupy the house. This opens the Walk to students who have no other access to housing in the center of campus. Brose said the band was prompted by Hackney's statement to send a letter to Vice Provost for University Life Kim Morrisson at the beginning of the semester, requesting that they be allowed to occupy the majestic house. VPUL Morrisson said last night she has not decided who will live in the Castle, adding that she has received letters from several student and academic organizations. She said that she has not even decided whether the house will go to an existing organization or to a mixed group of students. Band Secretary Stacey Branco said band members would benefit from living together. "I'm really close to the people I work with," said the College junior. "I wouldn't have to trek to their dorms or to the band office all the time like I do now. It would take a lot of stress off of us." Some members of the a cappella group Counterparts have also discussed the idea of housing part of the performing arts community in the Castle. Student Performing Arts Coordinator Kathryn Helene said yesterday she was not sure that any single organization should occupy the house. "I would have to say there are so many deserving groups that I couldn't go out on a limb and say my group is the most deserving," she said. Performing Arts Council President Stuart Gibbs said last night that Arts House provides sufficient living space for performers. "I don't think performing arts needs the Castle," said the College senior. "There are many more worthwhile groups."
"Just a jacknife has MacHeath, dear..." It's the signature song of the Players' fall show, Berthold Brecht's Threepenny Opera, and Fitzpatrick wants to hear it sung in several different voices. "Try to be more sarcastic this time," she instructs one auditioner. "Your daughter has run off with this MacHeath, and you want to warn her about him. OK. Again." The singer obliges, biting off her words and looking disdainfully over her shoulder. She is one of the 42 to audition, and is among the lucky 27 to be called back last week. The first-round auditions gave her the chance to display her individual strengths and personality, but during the call-backs, she must conform to the director's desires. Auditions are the first part of the grueling workout of bringing a director's idea to the stage. Although the show may differ from season to season, actors, directors, and dozens of others, take part in a ritual combining individual talents into a single polished production. Threepenny Opera is the story of MacHeath, a notorious London criminal, and the beggars, prostitutes and thieves with whom he associates. "Try to be more slimy," Block instructed an actor auditioning for the part of Mr. Peachum, who issues permits to beggars in return for half their income. "Be more. . . blech." Although the instructions to auditioners may sound peculiar to the people outside the theater, the director's methods are designed to highlight the auditioner's specific talents. "We want people who can play both sides of a character," Block said afterwards. "Every character on the stage has some duality, so we're looking for people who maybe look soft but could play it hard." Eric Morris, who has been cast as MacHeath, said this week that he shares Block's assessment of his character. "The audience is supposed to like him at certain points and not at others," the College junior said. "I think it's going to be a love-hate thing." College junior Andrea Davis, who is playing one of the female leads, said that the two-sided nature of the characters presents several acting challenges. "Polly Peachum is one of those sweet little characters, but she becomes strong all of a sudden," she said. "I didn't want to make it such an obvious click that the audience couldn't relate to it." At the audition, actors drape themselves provocatively over the metal chairs of Annenberg 516 to play a whorehouse scene. "Who's playing what?" asks one. "I'm Molly." "I'm Dolly." "I'm just called the Coaxer." Everyone laughs, including Block and Fitzpatrick, and for a moment it is possible to imagine the clean-cut University students trading jokes in a brothel. "I chose Threepenny because it's not the standard 'life is good, everything is wonderful' musical," said Block. "In Philadelphia, there are two major problems: homelessness, and the fact that the city is going bankrupt. That problem is something that needs to and can be related in the style that Brecht uses." Brecht wrote Threepenny Opera in 1928 in Berlin -- a city with problems similar to Philadelphia's, and according to Davis, this creates a dark mood that pervades the play, extending into the music, which is filled with minor chords. "There's a gloom over the entire production," said the College junior. "You get the feeling of Berlin between World War I and World War II." Brecht is also known for attempting to prevent his audience from being drawn into the action of the scene and empathizing with it. In Threepenny Opera, this effect is achieved through signs addressed directly to the audience and characters who break stage conventions by walking through imaginary doors and walls. "Brecht is a very strange animal," said College senior David Simon, who has been cast as Peachum. "He's very into making the audience know that this is theater they're watching." Block said last week that she wanted to introduce students to Brechtian style. "They haven't had Brecht in a while, and he's an important playwrite," she said. Although the rehearsals began just over a week ago, the cast is already enthusiastic about the November production. "I think everybody is very eager to make it a good production," said Davis. "It feels like if something went wrong with one area, everyone would pitch in to fix it." Many of the performers are new to the University theater community which creates an added tension to the audition with many not knowing what to expect. "There's a lot of young, new talent, which is very exciting," said Simon. "I've basically been working with the same people for the last three years."
Famed saxophonist Branford Marsalis will headline the Second Annual Celebration of jazz festival in November, as organizers hope to improve upon low turnout at last spring's festival. Organizers plan to captialize on Marsalis' popularity in order to draw a crowd to their weekend program of activities. "We're hoping students will take to it," festival Chairperson Alan Stern said earlier this week. The music of Marsalis, who has performed with rock musician Sting, was most recently featured in Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues, released this summer. Stern said the festival needs to fill three quarters of the 1940-seat Irvine Auditorium in order to pay for Marsalis' performance fee of $12,500 on November 2. "We tried to figure out who would be attractive on that large a scale," said the College senior. Stern said that while Marsalis is a talented performer, his fame was an asset that made him one of the festival's top choices. "We don't want to get someone who we think is great, but who can't sell a single seat," he added. The festival began last year, when organizers attracted 1000 people to hear featured saxophonist Sonny Rollins, according to festival Vice Chairperson Sherry Riesner. The idea to bring jazz performers to the University began nearly two years ago when Stern and a friend decided to investigate the possibility. They organized a staff of student volunteers and gained recognition by the Student Activities Council. Since then, a core group of students have worked diligently to secure a top jazz performer and were rewarded with Rollins and now with Marsalis. The weekend's educational segment will include a panel discussion on the boundaries between improvisation and composition in jazz and an exhibit of photographs by Milt Hinton, a musician who photographed and performed with many jazz stars. History Professor Neil Leonard, who teaches a course at the University on the history of jazz and its impact on American society, said yesterday that the festival's presence on campus demonstrates positive interest in jazz music. "It's very encouraging," he said. "It's important American music. [The festival] represents an important reflection of the ethnic diversity that we seem to be achieving on this campus." The festival goes beyond big-name performers. "We want to combine the entertainment and educational aspect of jazz -- as entertainment and as part of history -- into one big weekend of activity," said Stern. Organizers said earlier this week that they are unsure if a jazz performer, even one as well known as Marsalis, will be able to draw sell-out crowds due to the waning popularity of jazz. And jazz critic Francis Davis, who will be a panelist at a festival discussion, added that public interest in jazz is low, both for performers and for writers. "If you're going through a period like we are now when jazz musicians are not much in demand, there's not much demand for articles on jazz, either," said Davis. The organizers say coordinating the festival was a learning experience. "Preparing for your classes is so abstract," said Vice Chairperson Stephen Lapointe, a College senior. "With this, we're actually making something happen."
But until this week, they have never been told they could not play. When travel manager Heidi Saffer made a routine call to confirm the band's appearance at this weekend's football game at Lafayette University, she was told that not only does Lafayette no longer have a band, but they had already hired a halftime act. The band had invested $500 for a bus to Lafayette and had scheduled field and music rehearsals to prepare for the game. In addition, 55 band members had agreed to perform on a weekend when the band's ranks will be thinned by the Yom Kippur holiday. And executive board members discovered that the Lafayette athletic department had already sent sideline passes for band members. As one might expect, band members were upset. "It would be unprecedented for us not to play at a Penn football game," Band Vice President Stephen Birmingham said earlier this week. "I was kind of shocked," said College junior Tom Gordon. "I figured that marching bands are enough a part of the football game that [Lafayette] would respect the fact that we have a band even though they don't." The problem was resolved when Carolyn Schlie, the University's associate director of athletics, spoke with Lafayette Dean of Students Herman Kissiah and arranged for the band to perform with the high school band that Lafayette had already hired. "It was basically a big communication problem," said executive board member Michael Brose, an Engineering senior. Ivy League bands meet yearly to discuss intercollegiate travel and performances, but since Lafayette is part of the Patriot League football conference, their band was not included.
All the world may be a stage, but the University's section lacks good lighting and proper acoustics. Space, or the lack of it, is a perennial gripe for the campus performing arts community. They rush to sign up for it. They negotiate with other groups for it. They can't get enough of it. Two weeks ago, the Performing Arts Council requested emergency money after Quadramics volunteered to move its fall show to the expensive Harold Prince Theatre in order to make space for other groups in cost-free Houston Hall. In fact, three of the five agenda items at the PAC meeting arose from space-related concerns: new opportunities in the Tabernacle Church and fewer openings in Arts House. The number of groups has increased rapidly in the past 10 years, and with it the demand on the five theaters and various other performance sites on campus. Finding room has become the largest administrative burden on student artists, and long-term solutions have not been found. "When I was hired two years ago, I got a clear-cut mandate from the students that I should be worried about space," said Kathryn Helene, student performing arts coordinator, in an interview this week. "So I worry about space." Helene's office is responsible for coordinating space requests from the 28 PAC-member groups, and she also helps non-member groups fill their needs. Glee Club Director Bruce Montgomery, who has been involved with University performing arts for the past 41 years, said last week that interest in performing arts mushroomed about 10 years ago. (****EDS NOTE, CORRECTION - Quaker Notes, an a cappella group were formed in 1979) "Everything sort of grew, like Topsy," Montgomery said. In response to the expanded need, the University gave groups access to space in the Annenberg School and to what Montgomery termed "less attractive spaces" such as the High Rise rathskellars. Helene said that she and Vice Provost for University Life Kim Morrisson are currently evaluating alternatives for new space. "The University is cognizant of the fact that we need space," Montgomery said. "But they just don't have it to give." "We rehearse wherever we can get space," said Goldsmith. "There's not enough space on campus." Two years ago, the University began to rent a rehearsal room in the Tabernacle Church, and last semester Penn 6-5000 practiced in off-campus homes. Quadramics has rehearsed in classrooms and dormitory lounges. "The problem with developing new space off campus is that many students, especially undergraduates, don't want to stray too far from campus," Helene said. "There are security issues involved." The new hope for student performers is the planned campus center, which according to the most recent plan will include a black-box theater. Helene said she believes the building will eventually include an additional theater equipped with full sound and lighting facilities, as well as some rehearsal space. "One new theater would substantially help us as we stand now in 1990," she said, "but if this building is intended to be sufficient for the next 20 years, it is a practical given that it will become woefully inadequate unless things change around campus." Students complain that even the rooms they can secure for their organizations are often marginally useful, with poor acoustics or no piano. Chord On Blues President Bill Michalski said that his group would benefit most from better-equipped rooms in the campus center. "People tend to think that if youre an a cappella group, you don't need a piano," said the Engineering senior. "But you need a piano to learn the music." Helene added that the campus center committee has expressed a willingness to help identify other viable arts spaces on campus and to recommend renovations to make other areas more useful. Houston Hall is one of the most popular performing spaces because it is free for student groups, according to PAC President Stuart Gibbs, a College senior, while theaters in the Annenberg Center charge for maintenance and security personnel. According to Houston Hall Facilities Coordinator Nancy Wright, she fills four to six space requests from performing arts groups each night. Demand for performance space usually peaks at the end of each semester, leading to conflict among performing groups and a new mediating role for PAC. "PAC has more teeth than it used to," said Montgomery. "There's a tremendous feeling of cooperation that goes on between them [the groups]." Although group leaders often discuss their problem as if it were a crisis, Montgomery said they have found solutions through resourceful planning. "I don't know of any group that has had to cancel a performance because it could not find some place to go," Montgomery said.
Deja vu struck University research associate Mitchell Rothman this semester. Twelve years ago, the archaelogist who studies ancient cultures in the Middle East was forced to cut short his archaeological research in Iran as a revolution erupted in that country. Now, the Persian Gulf crisis has forced him to cancel his planned trip to Baghdad. Rothman, who received his doctorate from the University in 1988, had intended to view artifacts in the Iraq Museum as background for a book he is writing. "I'll have to write the book without that information," Rothman said. "It's a loss to the archaeology community as a whole." Rothman is one of several archaeologists who have had to cancel trips to the troubled region this year as tensions rise once again in the area that many researchers have called the cradle of civilization. For Associate Art History Professor Holly Pittman, the recent conflict is only the latest obstacle to her research in Iraq. She resumed work in Iraq last May on a project that had halted 11 years ago at the start of the Iran-Iraq war. Although she had left Iraq for the summer, she was scheduled to return later this semester. "We were uncovering early third-millennium sacred architecture in a region where we haven't had any evidence before," said Pittman. "This is a major blow to the research plan. I can't predict when we'll be going back." In spite of the delay in the project's timetable, funding for Pittman's project is not in jeopardy. The project is funded in part by the University Museum in conjunction with the Institute of Fine Arts in New York. "We are still committed to sponsoring and to providing whatever help we can," said Richard Zettler, acting curator of the University Museums Near Eastern section. "The allocations work one year at a time, but there shouldn't be any problem with that." The Persian Gulf Crisis is only the latest in several disruptions of research that researchers say are common. "Archaeologists who have worked in the Near East are accustomed to this sort of thing," said University Museum research specialist Patrick McGovern. "Unfortunately, political policy often affects archaeological work." Because of the rapidly changing political situation, Zettler suggested that researchers are forced to become flexible in selecting their digging sites. "This is analogous to what happened in Iran in the late 70s," he said. "Researchers moved to different sites. They could pursue many of the same research questions whether they were working in Iran, in Syria or in Iraq." Other researchers, like Julie Rosenbaum -- a doctoral candidate in the art history department concentrating on the Near East -- are finding alternatives to travelling abroad. Rosenbaum said yesterday that she will concentrate much of her research on artifacts recovered by European archaeologists in the 19th century. She is, however, worried about the long-term consequences of the conflict that may result in the destruction of invaluable artifacts. "The worst thing about the war is that Iraq is now completely cut off and there's a tremendous amount of excavation to do," she said. Zettler also said he was concerned about the eventual effects of the war. "It's a question of when well be able to get into Iraq again," he added. "We're not so concerned about the field projects as about avoiding a war."
Space and time for campus performing arts groups to rehearse shrunk this week as Arts House Living-Learning Program revamped its space allocation policy, cutting the rehearsal time available to the groups. The new policy, announced at Wednesday's Performing Arts Council meeting, says that groups are limited to five hours of rehearsal weekly in the program's 14th floor lounge. At the PAC meeting, Arts House Director Cathy McDonald said that the policy revision was prompted by the addition of the Women's Issues Program to the floor. According to PAC president Stuart Gibbs, some groups previously had unlimited access to the lounge. Arts House, which occupies the 12th, 13th and half of the 14th floors of High Rise East, rents space to other performing groups for $50 each semester. But the shortage of rehearsal space on campus has increased the need for time in Arts House, according to McDonald. "More groups are trying to sign up with us," McDonald said at the meeting. "We're trying to set up a semesterly schedule." The programs sharing the 14th floor have not yet had a problem sharing the lounge. Tina Escaja, director of the Women's Issues program, said yesterday that she only anticipates using the lounge once a week, adding that she has made arrangements with McDonald for each event. "This is only the second week," Escaja said. "At the moment it works well because I ask her in advance." Arts House Theatre Chairperson Heidi Saffer said that the changes may force the group to find other rehearsal space, since the group may need more time than the new regulations permit. Saffer added issues other than space should be considered when sharing the floor. "As people in Arts House, we expect people practicing in the lounge as part of the Arts House experience," she said. "The other people on the 14th floor knew what they were getting into, but we don't want to cause problems."
Council votes to recognize four performing arts organizations The Performing Arts Council voted last night to recognize four new groups, but not before several current members asked for a refresher course in what membership in the council means. At members' request, PAC President Stuart Gibbs took a few minutes of last night's meeting to explain the benefits of being part of the council. PAC, an umbrella organization for campus performing arts groups, mediates rehearsal and performance space conflicts and serves as a forum for discussion for other issues affecting members. Gibbs said that PAC recognition entitles groups to participate in the lucrative Parents Weekend variety show, although non-member groups may also perform if the council approves. In addition, PAC . "Groups that don't have a lot of space options come into PAC and we keep them from getting screwed out of rehearsal space," Gibbs told the council. But PAC's authority to resolve space problems are based more on precedent than on written regulations. Whether they are PAC members or not, all performing arts groups apply to Student Performing Arts Coordinator Kathryn Helene for space. "There's nothing in the [PAC] constitution that says we have dibs on all space first, but it seems to work that way," Gibbs said. But earlier this week, he said that because of the space crunch, PAC cannot grant recognition to all the groups who want it. The council now consists of 29 groups. None of the four groups applying for recognition last night cited space as a concern. "We want to be more involved in the performing arts community and decisions made therein," said College and Engineering senior Heidi Saffer, chairperson of Arts House Theatre. "It's important to have the rest of the performing arts groups see you as one of them and not as an outside group." Both Saffer's group and the Theatre Arts program received full membership last night. Pennchants and Penn Pipers received associate membership, which means they may not participate in PAC votes. Since both are subsidiaries of the Glee Club, PAC members said they were concerned that the Glee Club would effectively be given three votes. Stimulus, a children's theater group, was denied recognition last year, but did not reapply this fall. The group was allowed to be in Performing Arts Night last weekend. Groups whose primary purpose is performing and who are recognized by the Student Activities Council are automatically PAC members. Groups which do not meet these criteria must apply to PAC yearly.
American audiences stand to gain some insight into another culture from the translation of 'Made in Lanus', an Argentinian play opening tonight at Annenberg Center which is presented as part of Philadelphia's Festival Latino. Performed in Spanish with simultaneous English translation, the play by Nelly Fernandez Tiscornia recounts a couple's return to their Argentinian home town after 10 successful years in the United States. Philadelphia's Festival Latino is a week-long celebration of Latin American culture co-sponsored by International House and Annenberg Center. It also includes a concert and films. Made in Lanus features Luis Brandoni, an actor and playwrite, and Marta Bianchi, a film and television actress. The show opens today in the Harold Prince Theatre at 1 p.m. Other performances are tonight at 7 p.m., tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7 for students, available at the Annenberg box office. As part of Festival Latino, International House will present contemporary films from Mexico, Argentina and Colombia through Sunday. ARTS
WXPN-FM, the University-owned radio station, may nearly double its audience when it boosts its power output in early October that is, if listeners can find it on the dial. Along with the power increase, which will triple the broadcast area and boost the potential audience from 1.5 million to 4.5 million people, the station will shift its frequency from 88.9 to 88.5. To facilitate the signal expansion, WXPN will move its antenna and transmitter to a tower at the site of the WPVI-TV tower in Roxborough. WXPN currently broadcasts from a transmitter on High Rise South. The power increase will cost $340,000 and was funded by a combination of a private donation from a University Trustee, a commitment of the 1987 University capital fund and grants from local and federal agencies, according to WXPN Chief Engineer Scott Fowler. The station currently reaches listeners inside Philadelphia city limits and some suburban communities. Programming primarily targets a college-educated audience with a mix of alternative music and issue-oriented programs. According to General Manager Mark Fuerst, the nature of the station's programs will not change because of its expanded audience. "I think the enthusiasm for what we do is proportionately the same in suburban communities as in central Philadelphia," Fuerst said. Kathy O'Connell, producer and host of WXPN's most popular show, the nightly Kid's Corner, also said that the expanded audience would not require different programming. "The kids who bother to listen to the show, whether they're inner city or suburban, are very curious," said O'Connell. "They all speak English. Even more, they all speak radio." Fuerst said he anticipates that University football games broadcast on WXPN will attract faculty and alumni who live in the Delaware Valley. "We are serving a lot of exclusive listeners at that time," said the general manager. "People tune in just to listen to sports." Although affiliated with the University, WXPN is professionally staffed.