Author: alexandc

Muse Project adds new twist to Twelfth Night

April 28 and 29 marks the run of the St. Olaf Muse Project’s first full production: Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare. The show will run in the Flaten Art Barn on its first night and in Rolvaag 520 on its second night. Jenna McKellips ’16 founded The Muse Project, an all-female student theater group.

McKellips describes the group’s origin as an attempt to provide more female roles in theatrical productions on campus.

“I was disappointed by the lack of female leads for theater students at St. Olaf and formed Muse Project as an attempt to provide that opportunity for anyone that identifies as female,” McKellips said.

By adapting the original script of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to an all-female cast, McKellips seeks to explore and raise questions about the socially performative aspects of gender roles. This production is one component of her current senior capstone project on Judith Butler and gender performance.

The Muse Project’s first production last year featured a performance of original scripts, and McKellips is excited to add a Shakespearean piece to their list of productions. She hopes that the Muse Project will continue under new student-direction after she graduates this year.

Throughout the production process, McKellips and the cast have had frequent discussions on issues of gender performance in relation to the text and hope to get audiences engaged in similar conversations.

“I think the commentary on gender really comes out when you portray the script with an all-female cast. There are subtle behaviors and attitudes you have to adapt to when performing socially-coded male or female roles, and these become more noticeable in an all female cast,” Margaret Jacobson ’17, who plays the traditionally male role of Malvolio, said. “[McKellips and I] really explored gender power dynamics through body language. As my character experiences a loss of power throughout the play, I adjust my physicality so that I am performing more socially-coded feminine behaviors.”

Haley Woods ’16, who plays the character of the Feste, discussed how gender performance plays into her acting as well:

“Originally, the fool in Twelfth Night is a male character, but we’ve found the role lends itself well to a more gender fluid interpretation. By leaving Feste’s gender ambiguous, I think we call attention to the theme of gender that is woven throughout the show – that others’ perceptions of our gender are often based on the way we’ve been taught to perform our gender,” Woods said. “As Feste, I’ve tried to be conscious of moving and gesturing in more stereotypically masculine ways, while also finding moments to channel a more feminine energy. I hope [this will show] the audience that our preconceived ideas about gender aren’t nearly as important as the the things we do and the ways we identify.”

The production promises to be a fun and interactive experience for audiences.

Julia Pilkington ’17, who plays Maria, expressed her excitement for this unique run of performances.

“Muse Project’s Twelfth Night will be a fun blend of honoring the literary traditions of the text and adding modern flourishes that make it approachable to those who might otherwise avoid Shakespeare,” Pilkington said. “There will be free food, audience interaction, contemporary music, high energy choreography and lots of laughs to go around.”

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Hollywood remakes reflect literary tradition

Hollywood is currently cranking out a ton of remakes. The recent reboots of Star Wars, Star Trek, Jurassic Park and Spider Man, as well as upcoming remakes of Ben Hur, Dirty Dancing, Psycho, The Mummy and Sister Act, have led many to wonder if Hollywood has run out of new ideas.

A recent article in The Atlantic entitled “Spinoff City: Why Hollywood is Built on Unoriginal Ideas” by Amanda Ann Klein and R. Barton Palmer attempts to analyze and explain the current trend of remakes in Hollywood. Klein and Palmer focus on the historical development of the modern blockbuster and Hollywood’s box office concerns and note that, “The drive to exploit audience interests in comic strips, magic lantern shows, vaudeville, popular songs, and other films and then to replicate those successful formulas over and over until they cease to make money is foundational to the origins and success of filmmaking worldwide.”

While it’s true that Hollywood places high concern on its commercial success and box office performance, and this may provide a partial explanation for the prevalence of this trend, it is also important to recognize that the act of taking a pre-existing story and retelling it extends back even farther than Hollywood itself. Throughout most of Western history in particular, storytelling has had an emphasis on drawing from pre-existing plots and characters. Nearly all of Shakespeare’s plays are retellings of previous stories, Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, John Milton’s Paradise Lost and many operas such as Gioachino Rossini’s Barber of Seville, or Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata are all based on pre-existing stories, or retellings of familiar tales. Thus, the idea of retelling or remaking a story is not uncommon and has been going on for centuries before Hollywood.

While many may criticize the seeming lack of originality in remake/reboot films, I would argue that what is most important about a story is not merely what is being told, but also how it’s being told. Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been preserved and studied for centuries longer than its predecessors not only for its plot, but for how that story is told. Hamlet’s masterful language, structure, themes and character development are not a result of original content, but rather creative extensions of Shakespeare’s retelling. Just as a work such Hamlet can be loved for its


stylistic retelling, a remake or reboot of a film can also be loved for the sake of its retelling.

Rather than criticize Hollywood for lack of originality in story ideas, it’s important instead to consider why there is a current appeal for stories to be retold. Given that Hollywood’s origins in the early twentieth century were over a hundred years ago, it makes sense that many of those films are ready for a retelling. New technology, new audiences and changing social structures can all lead to possibilities for films of the last century to be retold.

New developments in special effects and CGI have led to live action retellings of Disney ani- mations. Cinderella, Maleficent and The Jungle Book are examples of films that could not as successfully have been made as live action films during the times of their original releases but can now be adapted with new styles and for- mats.

New generations provide the reboots of action films such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Terminator: Genisys, Prometheus or Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation with audiences who may not have watched the originals. Audiences today are able toenjoythecharactersandstoriescelebratedby generations.

Changing social structures may also lead to reexaminations of previous cinematic social constructions and seek to remake films which portray outdated gender roles or racial stereo- types. The recent reboot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens sought to re-evaluate representation by casting Daisy Ridley and John Boyega as its leads rather than the white male heroes that had previously dominated the screen in previous installments of Star Wars. Additionally, specu- lation regarding the sexual orientation of Oscar Isaac’s character Poe Dameron have led fans to believe that The Force Awakens may also have introduced its first non-heterosexual character to the saga.

Rather than criticize Hollywood for its lack of originality, we should instead examine the new creativity and purpose for remaking older films. New technology, new audiences and new social constructs all provide important advances in the how of films being made: not just the what.

Christopher Alexander ’16 (alexandc@stolaf. edu) is from Rochester, Minn. He majors in English and music.

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German film series to screen Gegen die Wand

On Monday, April 4, St. Olaf’s German Film Series will be presenting a screening of Turkish/German film Gegen die Wand (German for “Head On”) in Viking Theater at 7 p.m. Directed by Faith Akin, and starring Birol Unel and Sibel Kekilli, Gegen die Wand tells the story of two suicidal drug addicts, Cahit and Sibel, who form an unlikely romantic attraction after a business-like marriage deal.

Though they originally marry only so Sibel can escape her conservative, patriarchal family, after living together, the two eventually fall in love. Far from a happy ending, Cahit is taken to prison after accidentally killing one of Sibel’s ex-lovers in a bar fight. The rest of the film follows Sibel’s tragic journey through life as a single woman in a patriarchal society. Fleeing to Istanbul to escape her family’s anger and shunning of her, Sibel lives with her divorced sister and seeks employment. Finding work at a bar, Sibel’s struggles continue when she is raped by her employer and beaten nearly to death by three men as she walks home one night.

After these events, the film moves forward in time to Cahit’s release from prison and his journey to Istanbul to find Sibel. Though eventually the two are reunited, it is revealed that Sibel has remarried and has a daughter and the film ends with each of them parting ways.

This semester’s theme for the German Film Series is “Migration Cinema” and Gegen die Wand presents the work of prominent Turkish/German director Faith Akin. Winner of “Best Film” and “Audience Award” at the 2004 European Film Awards, the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 54th Berlin International Film Festival and the Goya Award for Best European Film of 2004, Gegen die Wand is an excellent introduction to Turkish/German cinema.

While Gegen die Wand is an important film, it should be noted that the film tackles some difficult issues, and contains many potential triggers. Viewers should prepare themselves for two hours of attempted suicide, self-harm, rape, graphic violence, frequent drug use, full frontal nudity and explicit sexual content. The film’s content is presented directly and graphically, and its unresolved ending may be difficult for some viewers.

Attending this screening can also count as class credit for those currently enrolled in German languages courses.

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