Author: Stephanie Jones

‘Candide’ hopes to bring music outdoors

While most of us probably want the weather to stay nice this weekend, seniors George Fergus ’13 and Katherine Lewiston ’13 are counting on sunny forecasts to fulfill a plan two years in the making.

Fergus and Lewiston are co-directors of the 2013 spring lyric theater show “Candide,” which will come to life in the Christiansen Hall of Music courtyard this Thursday, May 9, at 7:30 p.m. The show will also be performed Friday, May 10, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 11, at 2:30 p.m. – if the weather behaves. If not, the performances will still be free and open to the public, but they will take place in Urness Recital Hall.

“With the weather being this unpredictable, we’ve had to practice in both spaces [the courtyard and Urness], and that complicates things,” said Kayleen Seidl ’13, who plays the role of the mischievous maid Paquette. “It affects entrances, exits and other aspects of the staging. We’ve been preparing for whatever happens – it keeps you on your toes.”

The unique outdoor setting forces not only the cast but also the crew and musicians to adapt. “There will probably be some challenges because your sound isn’t contained, so you can’t hear other people as well,” said Hannah Stallkamp ’13, who plays viola in the show’s live orchestra.

Regardless of whether audiences get to see “Candide” unfold in the courtyard or in Urness, there will be no shortage of surprises.

“The play is based on the book ‘Candide’ by Voltaire, so it’s super satirical,” Seidl said. “There are so many lines in it that, if you didn’t know they were satirical, would be super offensive. It deals with the philosophy that everything happens for the best and we live in the best of all possible worlds, but terrible things keep happening. We did an event chart one day as part of one of our rehearsals, and there were about 100 disasters – earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, people getting slaughtered.”

However, “Candide” is not just a gore-fest. It has multiple layers, ranging from the comedic to the philosophical to the musical.

“We chose ‘Candide’ because it’s just a really great show,” Lewiston said. “It’s witty, irreverent and fast-paced, and the music is really well-known and beloved. We knew that we needed the right cast, because it’s a tricky thing to sing well, but if we had that, we would have a great show.”

Luckily, Lewiston and Fergus feel they were successful in recruiting a talented cast of upperclassmen, underclassmen and even a faculty member.

“The students are fantastically talented, and George [Fergus] and I made the decision to cast a faculty member, Janis Hardy, in a major role,” Lewiston said. “It’s been a treat to have her in the cast, and I think she gives everyone else the drive that we need to pull this off.”

Multiple levels of seniority among the cast provided ample opportunities for learning from each other and just getting to know a variety of people.

“What I like best about the show would be the people,” Laura Newton ’15 said. “It’s a great cast and the musicians and directors have also been really fun to work with.”

Seidl agreed that getting to know the rest of the cast was a highlight. “There are a lot of underclassmen in it, so it gives me and the other upperclassmen a great opportunity to get to know the freshmen and sophomores,” she said. “It’s great to see how much talent is coming up.”

For the decisive word on whether each performance will occur inside or outside, consult the Facebook event “Candide: An Outdoor Operetta” http://www.facebook.com/events/118438785022047/.

Photo Credit: Madison Vang/Manitou Messenger

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Take advantage of administrators’ availability

About 20 minutes into the April 30 episode of “Lunchtime Live,” I started feeling a little silly.

It was not because of the goofy comments President David Anderson ’74 uttered in the most recent broadcast of his periodic, virtual, half-hour program, though I must share some comedic highlights: “this wall will come down” regarding the Cage expansion, but weirdly reminiscent of the Berlin Wall, gleefully anticipating “driving a stake through the heart of rumor” and announcing that, after much debate, the battle cry will officially be spelled “Um Yah Yah!” Amusing as these moments were, the most ridiculous thing about that situation was that I was seeking insight into St. Olaf’s administrators through “Lunchtime” when, as a student, I have the power to interact with them in much more meaningful ways.

A super-fresh example that immediately jumps to mind is the ongoing Enough! campaign. Though the student-led movement has carefully controlled the administration’s involvement with its actions, there have already been signs of fruitful dialogue. Anderson’s candid and specific comments on Enough! during “Lunchtime” were useful, but I found other actions even more encouraging: the email Anderson sent to all students on April 18, the attendance of Vice President Greg Kneser and Assistant to the President on Institutional Diversity Bruce King at a May 1 rally and the anticipated May 3 meeting between Kneser, King, Dean of Students Roz Eaton-Neeb and the Enough! leaders. Rather than just listening to what our administrators have to say through a scripted address, we have the power to interact with them directly and negotiate for significant, school-wide change.

Enough! is just getting started, but the student initiative Take Back the Tap TBTT is proof that efforts to reach out to the administration can end in real results. TBTT organizers have persisted in their mission to eliminate bottled water from campus, meeting consistently with administrators in offices ranging from the Dean’s to Admissions to Facilities. The conversations were not just opportunities to lobby the people in power – they were opportunities to learn from the people who know all the details of St. Olaf’s operations. With this information, TBTT was able to devise plans that would address the needs of all areas of the school while getting as close to the movement’s goal as possible. On April 25, Kneser sent the whole St. Olaf community an email announcing that bottled water would be replaced with more sustainable alternatives in the Cage, at Commencement and in a variety of other places.

Progress through these student-administration collaborations is often slower than activists would like, but it has the potential to be lasting and far-reaching. We do not all have the time or energy to conduct well-organized, grassroots campaigns, but we all have ideas about how St. Olaf could be better. Watch “Lunchtime” for the jokes, but initiate a two-way conversation for meaningful engagement with your community.

Opinions Editor Stephanie Jones ’13 joness@stolaf.edu is from Boulder, Colo. She majors in environmental studies and philosophy.

Graphic Credit: Isaac Burton/Manitou Messenger

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Global feminism

In recent weeks, stories about feminism – whether that theme is an undercurrent or an explicit focus – have surfaced in the mainstream dialogue with increasing frequency. While even the most basic requests of the women’s rights movement continue to be met with befuddling vitriol, I am hopeful that increasingly sensible and nuanced media coverage will help the general public to overcome irrational stigmas about feminism.

My impression of an increasingly fair media treatment of feminism was buoyed by the celebration of International Women’s Day on last Friday, March 8. First observed in the United States in 1909, the holiday has grown exponentially over the last century into a worldwide event with millions of participants. All mainstream news sites that I visited presented diverse coverage of the occasion, including photo collections of female workers in other countries, essays on the modern place of feminism and captivating statistics and charts. Though not much of the content would be surprising to an aficionado of feminist blogs, the unavoidable mainstream coverage made a statement to the general public that the status of women around the globe is highly varied, sometimes troubling and relevant to everyone.

Feminists in the United States had a recent victory to celebrate on International Women’s Day this year: a renewal and strengthening of the Violence against Women Act, which President Obama signed into law last Thursday, March 7. Every Democrat and every female in Congress voted in favor of preserving the Act, which provides vital support for local programs to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as address the aftermath of these crimes. Still, 138 male Republicans in the House and 31 in the Senate balked at renewing what was previously considered to be a noncontroversial law. Perhaps they found the new provisions – opening the programs’ services to LGBTQ victims of violence and giving tribal courts power to prosecute non-tribe members for crimes on reservations – too radical.

However, the generally wide support for the Act’s renewal including dozens of Republicans in Congress and the sheepish statements released by some of those who voted against it indicate that, at the very least, it is no longer socially acceptable to be apathetic to the plague of physical violence against women. The War on Women is all too real: more U.S. women 11,766 were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends between Sept. 10, 2001 and June 6, 2012 than the total sum of 9/11 terrorist attack victims 3,073, U.S. troop fatalities in Afghanistan 2,002 and U.S. troop fatalities in Iraq 4,486 combined. Passage of the Violence Against Women Act should have been unanimous, but the support of many Republicans and the clear anxiety that many of its opponents felt for their reputations following the vote indicate that the most basic demands of feminism may soon be seen as undeniable.

Intimate violence is just one of many issues that continue to disproportionately affect women both in the U.S. and around the globe, and the work of the feminist movement is far from over – but this work will go much faster if the media coverage continues on a trajectory that portrays women’s rights as a current and vital concern for all of us.

Opinions Editor Stephanie Jones ’13 joness@stolaf.edu is from Boulder, Colo. She majors in environmental studies and philosophy.

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Feminism comes into the mainstream

In recent weeks, stories about feminism – whether that theme is an undercurrent or an explicit focus – have surfaced in the mainstream dialogue with increasing frequency. While even the most basic requests of the women’s rights movement continue to be met with befuddling vitriol, I am hopeful that increasingly sensible and nuanced media coverage will help the general public to overcome irrational stigmas about feminism.

My impression of an increasingly fair media treatment of feminism was buoyed by the celebration of International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8. First observed in the United States in 1909, the holiday has grown exponentially over the last century into a worldwide event with millions of participants. All mainstream news sites that I visited presented diverse coverage of the occasion, including photo collections of female workers in other countries, essays on the modern place of feminism and captivating statistics and charts. Though not much of the content would be surprising to an aficionado of feminist blogs, the unavoidable mainstream coverage made a statement to the general public that the status of women around the globe is highly varied, sometimes troubling and relevant to everyone.

Feminists in the United States had a recent victory to celebrate on International Women’s Day this year: a renewal and strengthening of the Violence Against Women Act, which President Obama signed into law on Thursday, March 7. Every Democrat and every female in Congress voted in favor of preserving the Act, which provides vital support for local programs to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as to address the aftermath of these crimes. Still, 138 male Republicans in the House and 31 in the Senate balked at renewing what was previously considered to be a noncontroversial law. Perhaps they found the new provisions – opening the programs’ services to LGBTQ victims of violence and giving Native American tribal courts power to prosecute non-tribe members for crimes on reservations – too radical.

However, the generally wide support for the Act’s renewal including dozens of Republicans in Congress and the sheepish statements released by some of those who voted against it indicate that, at the very least, it is no longer socially acceptable to be apathetic to the plague of physical violence against women. The War on Women is all too real: More U.S. women 11,766 were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends between Sept. 10, 2001 and June 6, 2012 than the total sum of 9/11 terrorist attack victims 3,073, U.S. troop fatalities in Afghanistan 2,002 and U.S. troop fatalities in Iraq 4,486 combined. Passage of the Violence Against Women Act should have been unanimous, but the support of many Republicans and the clear anxiety that many of its opponents felt for their reputations following the vote indicate that the most basic demands of feminism may soon be seen as undeniable.

Intimate violence is just one of many issues that continue to disproportionately affect women both in the U.S. and around the globe, and the work of the feminist movement is far from over – but this work will go much faster if the media coverage continues on a trajectory that portrays women’s rights as a current and vital concern for all of us.

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Playlists tailored to your finals mood swings

In my seven semesters of college coursework, I have attempted to cure my dangerous blend of procrastination and perfectionism with a wide range of musical remedies. There’s no exact formula, but the right study music should energize you without stressing you out, relax you without sapping your work ethic and should absolutely not, under any circumstances, distract you with reminders of complicated heartbreaks. Picking study music is a delicate process of self-induced psychological manipulation.Some people prefer to push different mental buttons than others, but here are five strategies that have proven effective for me.

1. Let ladies who are equal parts awesome and terrifying inspire/scare you into getting your act together.

Best bets: Master of My Make-Believe Santigold, W H O K I L L Tune-Yards, MAYA M.I.A., Supa Dupa Fly Missy Elliott, 1991 EP Azealia Banks

These artists all exhibit the musical muscle of Amazonian warrior queens. I don’t know if it’s the feminine empowerment or just the sheer intimidation that motivates me, but these ladies have all been indispensable study buddies for me this semester. If M.I.A. can jump all over the stage at the 2009 VMAs spitting rap lyrics in a polka dot bikini while outrageously pregnant, anyone can do anything.

2. Regain your sense of joy and mischief with lively wordplay and spunky beats.

Best bets: Stereo Typical Rizzle Kicks, The Heist Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Mickey Avalon Mickey Avalon.

In the thick of finals week, things start to feel a bit too serious for my comfort – people’s faces take on a grayish tint, despair haunts their eyes and footnote formatting problems alone can provoke a nervous breakdown. At a certain point, anxiety and self-pity become extremely counterproductive, and it is time for the healing powers of comic relief. If you have time to watch a few episodes of “Arrested Development,” then by all means do that, but since lack of free time was probably one of the factors causing your grim condition in the first place, throw on one of the albums listed above while you hit the books. They will have the same enlivening effect on your study session that the class clown has on your history seminar.

3. Escape your cerebral prison with some heartfelt folk and bluegrass.

Best bets: A Little Bit Faster and a Little Bit Worse The Devil Makes Three, The Black Dirt Sessions Deer Tick, Palomino Trampled by Turtles

After a certain number of hours in a library cubicle, it can be easy to forget that you are an animal, a creature of the physical earth with the capacity for pain and desire and drunkenness. A few tracks from these albums with their raw, gritty lyrics and earnest instrumentalism will keep you grounded. A possible unintended side effect might be dropping out of college to work as a bartender on the North Shore or a cow wrangler in rural Tennessee.

4. Attack your eardrums with a relentless sonic machine gun of frantic positivity.

Best bets: Complete Greatest Hits The Cars, Ta Dah Scissor Sisters, Sidewalks Matt & Kim

Everything is great! Despite the fact that you have to write six pages in the three hours that remain until your morning class! Despite the fact that you don’t even remember what your bed looks like! Despite the fact that you just ate an entire box of Cheez-Its! Really, things couldn’t be better! It’s fine! Fine! Self-deception is a perfectly acceptable survival mechanism if implemented effectively.

5. Throw yourself an imaginary fiesta.

Best bets: Me Encanta la Vida Estilo Libre, The King of Dance Juan Magan, Meet the Orphans Don Omar.

Reggaeton is the most reliable method I know for deluding yourself into thinking that you’re at a fabulous party on a tropical island when, in fact, you are in the reference room. If you’re the type of person who gets distracted by lyrics while writing papers but you just can’t get into classical or techno, this could be the perfect fix. However, I feel I have a responsibility to warn you that these beats can be addictive; I start going through withdrawal if it’s been too long since I’ve heard “Danza Kuduro,” and given that the YouTube video has over 400 million views, countless others are fighting a similar battle.

joness@stolaf.edu

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