Author: Charles Mayo

Muse Project stages “Crucible”

On Saturday, Nov. 4 and Sunday, Nov. 5, The St. Olaf Muse Project performed its fall show, a production of Arthur Miller’s classic play, “The Crucible.” The company performed their show in Tomson 280 lecture hall.

The St. Olaf Muse Project is one of three student theater organizations on campus. The group specializes in feminist theater and gendered performance, often playing with the implications of casting women in traditionally male roles.

“The Crucible” marked a change for the org’s policy. In the past, casts for Muse Project shows were limited to only actors who identified as female ever since its first show, Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” However, this semester the group began allowing people of all genders to be part of the show as well.

This semester also saw the Muse Project venture into much more contemporary material for its productions. Though “The Crucible” was written 54 years ago, it strikes as relatively modern in contrast with last year’s performances of Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” and Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” It also stands out from these previous shows by being the first dramatic play by an org that had until now leaned heavily towards comedy.

Though in its own time, the play was written as a commentary on McCarthyism and the politicized witch hunt of the HUAC hearings during the Red Scare, the production’s co-directors – Noah Letscher ’20 and Emily Schrader ’20 – hoped to use the show to explore the gender norms of plays written in the 50s Broadway era.

The Muse Project has yet to announce its spring production but if it keeps to its traditions of the past couple years, it is likely to be a play by William Shakespeare.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

New website geared toward prospective students only

A couple weeks ago, the St. Olaf website launched a complete overhaul of its design and opinion has been divided since. In a general sense, prospective students, underclassmen and individuals that do not attend the college (such as alumni and parents) love the new website. On the other hand, many upperclassmen decry the redesign. Change is hard.

And I am definitely one of those upperclassmen that does not like it. But my distaste is within reason (at least I like to think it is).

First off, my gripes are not with the aesthetics of the new page. It seems like every time anything – whether it’s a college’s website or a major company’s logo – goes through a design overhaul, all of a sudden everyone becomes an expert in graphic design and has their two cents to say. And then two weeks later they get over it. 

The design itself is not the problem; it looks fine. Given that one of the reasons for the logo update was to get away from the old, more 90s-ish look, it makes sense that an update to the website’s UI was also warranted. As much as much as I liked the old site, it was definitely a product of an older time.

This actually kind of gets at why I prefer the old website. Even though it was not necessarily as visually appealing as the new design, it was infinitely more usable. All the information you needed was compact and easily indexable. It was a tool that I used daily to access practical college-related apps or to find information. And all of that is still there, but not in an intuitive, easy-to-use format. 

In the quest to make the website look all new and shiny, I now have to scroll down about half a mile to find the link I’m looking for. 

Not to mention that the calendar is a complete mess, with events from all over campus overlapping each other in a confusing array. My only respite is that – at least at the time of writing this op-ed – that the directory still operates with the old design for whatever reason.

Due to this impracticality, the new website is most irritating to those students who actually used the website in their day-to-day lives. For us, the website was a compact directory to any and all campus info that we needed. 

But maybe we need to admit to ourselves that the website just isn’t for us anymore. This isn’t the 90s or the early 2000s anymore; it’s more than just students who are clicking on the page. 

In fact, probably the majority of visitors to the site are prospective students who are trying to decide whether or not they want to come here. And from that perspective, the old website just didn’t cut it. It looked old and outdated. I know from searching through grad school options that a bad website is a kind of a turn-off toward any particular school. So if the look of the website is at least a part factor in the admissions process, it’s only fair that the college wants to put its best face forward.

I could have written a more fiery op-ed going through all the little nitpicky things I find irritating about the new website’s functionality (or lack thereof), but ultimately it doesn’t matter because the old website is not coming back. It’s purpose has changed. 

It’s not a tool for students anymore, but basically a digital pamphlet for the St. Olaf Marketing Department. And the people who are upset are the people who cannot handle that.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Maybe the problem is movies, not spoilers

Despite a healthy amount of hype and critical acclaim, the long-awaited sequel “Blade Runner 2049” suffered a drasticly underperforming opening weekend. This economic loss is one of the first hurdles in director Denis Villeneuve’s rising stardom and reputation as a filmmaker that has been able to simultaneously provide artistic merit and fiscal viability in each of his films.

However, Villeneuve seems to be taking his box office disappointment in stride. In a recent interview with Vulture, he made the bold move of not only providing an explanation as to why so few went to see his film in theaters, but also continued on to stand by those same decisions.

Villeneuve cited the decision to employ relatively spoiler-free marketing as one of the major factors for the poor financial figures. The director claimed that audiences today want too much of the plot spoon-fed to them before they spend their money to go see it. He pines for the day when audiences are willing to just walk into a cinema without any prior knowledge of the film, and just accept whatever comes to them.

And that’s fine and all. I haven’t seen “Blade Runner 2049” yet – though I have every intention to – and I have been a fan of Villeneuve since 2013’s “Prisoners,” but I am getting sick of all the complaints about so-called “spoilers.”

The concept of spoilers has bugged me for a while, but I’m starting to get to the point where I’m getting impatient with the fact that it’s risky to talk about any TV show or movie in public because apparently just knowing what’s going to happen ruins the whole thing for some people. If that was really true, why would anyone ever rewatch their favorite movies? Why would they ever pay for a movie ticket when they could just read a Wikipedia plot summary free for the same experience? If pre-knowledge of events makes a movie no longer worth the effort, it is more likely a fault of the film than of the marketing.

Perhaps what people should be complaining about is the fact that Hollywood keeps pumping out movies that are so fluffy and loosely edited that a two-minute trailer communicates an equivalent experience to its two-hour feature-length counterpart.

The current trend of bad trailers is probably just a symptom of lots of bad movies.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Lyric Theater finds new life with recent show “Ruddigore”

The St. Olaf Lyric Theater’s fall production of “Ruddigore” was easily their best in recent memory. The show ran from Wednesday, Oct. 18 through Saturday, Oct. 21 and was directed by Great River Shakespeare Artistic Director Doug Scholz-Carlson ’90.

The guest-director’s presence was undoubtedly a key ingredient the success of the show. Interest in the Lyric Theater’s work had begun to wane through the last few years as show after show continued to focus almost entirely on the music. Although admittedly it excelled in that regard, the Lyric Theater nearly completely ignored the theatrical aspect of the opera or musical. This led to many shows that probably ought to have just been concerts instead.

However, with the help of Scholz-Carlson’s theatrical instincts, “Ruddigore” was able to break this trend and deliver a rousing good time on the level with the quality of its musical talent.

“Ruddigore” is a comedic Gilbert and Sullivan opera that centers around a love triangle between Robin Oakapple (Sam Parker ’18) and his foster brother, Richard Dauntless (Trevor Todd ’18). Both are vying for the affections of Rose Maybud (Erica Hoops ’18 and Greta Ramsey ’19, alternating each night). Things go south for Robin when it is revealed that he is actually the rightful “Bad Baronet of Ruddigore” meaning that, due to a witch’s curse, he must live a life of solitude and commit at least one crime a day or die!

This particular production made several edits to the original script, mostly to modernize jokes and to make them more local and St. Olaf-centric. Highlights included a jab at the Flaten Art Museum’s lack of audience, a lesson in being a proper Norwegian Lutheran and a biting suggesstion that the main character delay dealing with something unpleasant by forming a working group to delay any sort of action.

Outside of those three burns, most of the topical jokes were a little more low-stakes, but still produced laughs. While many audience members took joy in the light-hearted fun, others found themselves put off by it. All audiences could agree that many aspects of the show were inherently frivolous (such is the nature of Gilbert and Sullivan), but it was up to the individual to either embrace the escapist fare, or to pine for something a bit more “relevant.”

Stand-out performances of the show included the butler, Old Adam (Gabe Salmon ’18), who had the audience in stitches as he slowly scuttled about the stage, and Todd’s Richard Dauntless, who executed physical and verbal gags with a blend of deadpan and childlike innocence.

“Ruddigore” marks a period of reinvigoration for the Lyric Theater, which will hopefully carry forward into next semester’s production of the rock musical “Bat Boy.” 

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote