Author: My Khe Nguyen

One act play festival to focus on campus-relevant topics, issues

With the conclusion of its 2015-16 season, the St. Olaf Theater Department is now presenting the Quade One Act Play Festival, comprised of seven one-act plays directed by seven different directors from the Intermediate Directing class. The festival will occur on Friday, May 13, and Saturday, May 14, in Haugen Theater.

The directors started work on their plays shortly before spring break. Most of the stages of production — including adapting the script, casting and rehearsing — are conducted by the directors themselves under the supervision of Artist in Residence Gary Gisselman and teacher’s assistant Dylan Stratton ’16.

The plays shown in the Quade One Act Festival are: Skylight by David Hare, directed by Margaret Jacobson ’17; House of Cards by Charles Mee, directed by Joanna McLarnan ’17; Bent by Martin Sherman, directed by Marcus Newton ’16; Tigers Be Still by Kim Rosenstock, directed by Shannon Brick ’16; Old Times by Harold Pinter, directed by Zonglun Wu ’16; Tomatoes by Ash Willison ’17, directed by Willison; and Small Talk by Jenna McKellips ’16, directed by Becca Thavis ’17. The seven half-hour plays will be divided into a two day event.

Directors chose their play based on themes and messages they wish to convey to the St. Olaf community.

Small Talk, for example, is an attempt to portray St. Olaf’s social media life. Every social media quote and reference used in the show is an exact quote from the St. Olaf YikYak, Facebook or Twitter — the words of our peers.

“People are like squirrels; sometimes, we just like to hear the sound of our own voices. But what we say matters,” Thavis said.

Skylight is a story about a man and a woman who had an affair. The play depicts the man’s visit to his girlfriend after his wife dies. According to Jacobson, the play shows how complicated human relationships are, especially when love is involved.

“We do not know what to do, how to feel. We want to stay with them and, at the same time, want to leave them,” Jacobson said.

The show is a valuable experience for the directors. They have had to overcome many obstacles, such as adapting the script. They were sometimes forced to make painful cuts in order to stay in the half-hour time limit.

There are also fun memories between the directors and their cast.

“The stories that randomly come up because of our characters or the warm ups,” Thavis said, “To get everyone comfortable, I made them roll across the room, on top of each other, or carry people without using their hands. It is hysterical.”

The Quade One Act Festival runs May 13 and 14, starting at 7:00 p.m. on both nights.

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Humanitarian Zainab Salbi inspires activism

On Thursday, April 21, St. Olaf hosted humanitarian, author and media commen- tator Zainab Salbi. The event attracted a large number of students and was streamed and archived on the St. Olaf web site.

A survivor of the Iran-Iraq War, Salbi is the founder and CEO of Women for Wom- en International – a humanitarian organization that supports women in war-torn areas. She is also a nationally bestselling author whose works include “Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing up

in the Shadow of Saddam,” “The Other Side of War: Women’s Stories of Survival and Hope” and “If You Knew Me You Would Care.” The talk, similarly titled “The Other Side of War: Women, Wartime, and the Dream of Peace,” was sponsored by the Political Awareness Committee.

Salbi began her lecture with the story of a young Syrian whose brothers were killed in the Arab Spring and was later convinced to join a group of terrorists. The boy’s best friend became an activist against ISIS. According to Salbi, the concept of activism is different between the Western world and

non-Western world. Many non-Western activists risk their lives when they speak out against violence.

Her point, however, is not to distinguish the two worlds but rather to encourage activism everywhere.

“To fight for your cause, it comes with a price. And it does require a sacrifice,” Salbi said. “And a question for all of us to have: ‘Do I have that belief in me to go all the way for my cause?’”

Salbi openly shared her experience as a prominent activist. She recounted words of discouragement from others when she began pursuing activism, lessons she learned from unexpected people and her journey to discover her own dark side. Her ideal superhero is Batman, who is courageous enough to fight with the darkness within himself before helping others.

Salbi talked about different ways to stay positive in the face of atrocity and said that it is hope that keeps her grounded. She told stories from war-torn areas where injustice prevails. In one story, a man witnessed all of his family being massacred in a church. In another, soldiers mutilated a woman’s body and forced her children to eat it. One woman was hit publicly by the Taliban for wearing sandals. Another woman in a rape camp had to serve a man when her number was called. After recounting these horrors, Salbi revealed that the people in the stories are now finding meaning through arts, study and activism. The strength these people exhibit gives Salbi hope.

She advocated for an active and authentic way of living. The act of showing up, speaking out or acting one’s truth can start on a small scale, such as in a group of friends, a committee or a club on campus. According to Salbi, it takes as much courage to say small truth as to say big truths.

Salbi finished with some advice for youth activists. She encouraged them to serve humbly and to treat the high- est and lowest people with the same respect. She recommended students always acknowledge that they are in service to the earth so that humility may keep their minds and hearts open.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated an anecdote of “a mother cutting off her leg and feeding it to her starving children.” The anecdote has been corrected tosoldiers mutilated a woman’s body and forced her children to eat it.”

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Climate science insight necessary for meterologists

In a recent survey, it was reported that 67 percent of members of the American Meteorological Society believe that humans are a primary cause of climate change, a number that matches largely with popular belief. However, when asked whether they believed that climate change was “largely or solely caused by human activity,” only 27 percent agreed. Though to some the disparity in these results may seem surprising, it’s not wholly unjustifiable.

An article published recently in Slate offers potential reasons for this low number. One reason draws on the fact that, in many cases, meteorologists may actually have no formal schooling in meteorology; rather, they are merely trained to speak in front of a camera. As such, some meteorologists may be more ignorant on the topic of climate change as a whole. In fact, only 32 percent of respondents to the original survey held a bachelor’s degree or greater in meteorology and only 37 percent considered themselves experts in climate science.

Another given reason is a sort of self-censorship derived from the unwillingness of meteorologists to isolate viewers who are politically divided – the topic of climate change, though a scientific issue at its core, has developed into a politically charged one. Conversely, the meteorologists themselves might showcase a bias towards their own ideological inclinations; conservative meteorologists like James Spann and Roy Spencer regularly express their doubt about climate change.

The situation can cause detrimental influence, and meteorologists who are skeptical of climate change, unfortunately, have many proponents. Spann has more than 250,000 Twitter followers and Spencer occasionally testifies in front of Congress.

Various groups are springing to action in order to rectify the situation. For instance, Climate Central designed the Climate Matters program and WxShift website to educate television meteorologists on the link between weather and climate science. The former reaches 300 of the 2,200 television meteorologist nationwide, and that reach is growing. The outcome of such programs, audience members listening to educated meteorologists, certainly seems positive and will, hopefully, work towards presenting a more accurate conception of the reality.

The situation, however, is not as simple as it appears. The lack of acceptance of the reality of climate change among meteorologists does not spring only from ignorance. Thus, it cannot be removed only through education.

Take, for example, the political ideologies that can influence someone’s views on climate change. The politically charged nature of the issue makes people reluctant to discuss it and can lead to the refusal to adopt new ideas, which hinders the effect of education. Apart from meteorologists who are apparently skeptical of the climate change due to their political views, those that choose a middle ground in order to appeal to viewers are hard to blame. An argument for these neutral meteorologists would be that, when there is already a good deal of misinformation presented by the media, there is nothing morally wrong with presenting more ambiguous information on the climate change.

Above all, the most significant problem in the issue is the matter of freedom of speech. That idea that climate change is caused mainly by humans is the opinion of the majority and more than 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists share this point of view. In the case that the education of meteorologists on climate science does not change their opinion, we are hardly justified in censoring meteorologists who have different perspectives, biased as they may be. As for neutral meteorologists, unless they voluntarily consent to spread their opinion, currently there is no legitimate force demanding them to sacrifice their viewership for nature.

While I believe that the bias as well as the indifference of meteorologists is harmful and that such meteorologists should be more responsible for their opinions, I accept that the situation is troublesome due to the freedom of expression.

Although it is illegitimate for the Federal Government to create a consensus among the meteorologists, some of these meteorologists continue to spread their ignorance to their viewers. As such, it is paramount that meteorologists become educated on climate science so that they can foster and maintain an educated public.

My Khe Nguyen ’19 ( is from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Her major is undeclared.

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Adoptee stories shared through film

On Monday, April 4, students gathered in Regents Hall 210 for a screening of the film Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, an award-winning documen- tary by Tammy Nguyen Lee. The Departments of Asian Conversation, Asian Studies, Race and Ethnic Studies and Teaching Race and Family all co-sponsored the event. The screening was followed by a Q&A session with Associate Professor of Communication at Pepperdine University Bert Ballard, who is prominently featured in the documen- tary and served as film consultant. The documentary describes the events of Operation Babylift, which was a U.S. military operation aimed at evacuating over 3,000 Vietnamese orphans just before the end of the Fall of Saigon, from April 3-26, 1976. Beginning with the voices of Vietnamese adoptees expressing their feelings, the documentary moves to the narration of American volunteers in the Babylift. The film then shifts to the Vietnamese adoptees’ lives in the United States. Some adoptees feel compelled to return to Vietnam to find birth moms, volunteer to teach English in Vietnam, or adopt a Vietnamese child.

The driving force of the documentary is not the histori- cal facts but the individual voices of those affected. Their experiences speak to the complex problems of internal psychology, racism, social judgment and political conflicts that followed these adoptees as they grew into adulthood.

One of the stories that most attracted students’ attention was the story of the Ballards’ quest to adopt a Vietnamese child in the present day. The process lasted for three years and was complicated when the U.S. government ended Vietnamese adoptions over allegations of baby selling, bribery and false documents. In July 2008, the couple moved to Canada and started the process again. In 2010, they adopted Jayden from an orphanage in Vietnam.

Following the screening, Ballard answered questions about what it was like growing up as a Vietnamese adoptee and the process of adopting a Vietnamese child, focusing on the consequences of growing up without knowing his origin and often feeling smothered by the whiteness of the community.

Ballard acknowledged the complexity surrounding the issue of transnational adoption. He said that when he was growing up a lot of people accused him of ungratefulness if he expressed any ambiguity about Operation Babylift.

“I feel both grateful and angry – blessed for the oppor- tunitues and sad that I don’t know my birth mom,” Ballard said. He pointed out that Operation Babylift was mainly a PR stunt to make the U.S. look better after losing the war.

The event attracted about 40 students. Ballard hopes that the movie will enhance St. Olaf’s understanding of the con- sequences of this little known period of American history.

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote