Author: Dylan Walker

Lyric Theater’s muscial revue recieves positive reviews

diences with their production of the opera Der Vampyr. Luckily for everyone who left that show wanting more, Lyric Theater is back at it again with their 2016 spring show, Light. This year’s production features a unique design and an original concept that should not be missed.

Several years ago, co-directors of the Lyric Theater James McKeel and Janis Hardy decided that Lyric Theater should provide student directors, choreographers and composers an opportunity to showcase their work by directing a spring opera, operetta, musical or musical revue. Ever since, the spring show has been produced exclusively by students.

The Music Department provides financial support and mentorship to students selected to direct a production but gives them as much creative freedom and responsibility as possible. Student directors are responsible for handling auditions, rehearsals, set, lighting, costume design and public relations. This year, Devon Steve ’17 was selected for the honor.

“Devon’s idea for Light was intriguing because it wasn’t just a musical revue, but a careful choice of musical songs that revolved around mental and physical health and gender issues. He asked Kjersten Lukken ’16 to write a script that would weave a story around the numbers and unify it,” McKeel said. “The issues involved are delicate and timely so they are working hard to be sensitive to them while still creating an entertaining revue.”

Lukken’s original script tells the story of eight intertwined individuals in New York City: Katie (Bee Lauer ’18), Levi (Gabe Salmon ’18), Marco (Zach Kubasta ’19), Jamie (Julia Woodring ’19), Ava (Samantha Noonan ’17), Clara (Julia Holden-Hunkins ’19), Johnny (JW Keckley ’17) and Dylan (Trevor Todd ’18). Each character deals with their own emotional, mental, and relationship struggles. The show features music from A New Brain, Avenue Q, Jekyll and Hyde, The Last Five Years, Next to Normal, Songs for a New World and motion pictures Moulin Rouge and Once.

A very talented creative team has worked on Light. Besides Steve as stage and musical director and Lukken as librettist and script supervisor, the show also boasts Garrett Bond ’19 as assistant music director and Emily Hynes ’18 as stage manager. In addition, Steve brought in three guest artists to help make the show better: McKeel for acting, Jared Miller ’17 for music and Gabrielle Dominique ’17 for movement and acting. McKeel praised this team highly.

“Devon and his creative team have been very good about auditioning, rehearsing, organizing schedules, etc – and they have been very good about taking constructive feedback. This bodes well for the production,” McKeel said.

Light will be performed May 12, 13 and 14, at 8 p.m. in the Christiansen Hall of Music Urness Recital Hall. Each show is free and open to the public, with first-come first-serve seating. Viewer discretion is advised, as the revue does include mature content and language. In addition, there are trigger warnings for physical abuse, bipolar disorder and suicide. The performances are sure to be enjoyable, but Steve emphasized that to get the most from the show one should come prepared to truly enter the world of the characters.

“An audience member will be taken on an emotional journey through the lives of these eight characters, only if he or she is willing to invest in the story,” Steve said. “The story is powerful and in order to really love a character, understand a character, identify with a character or even hate a character, the audience members have to allow themselves to enter into the story from the first note played on the piano.”

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Coloring books not just for children anymore

They are sweeping our nation, giving our brains mindless pleasure and our hard-working RAs the tools for a relaxation floor event. They appear in forms from cards to posters, and picture everything from mandalas to gardens to pop culture phenomena. You can find them everywhere, even in St. Olaf’s own bookstore. You know what I’m talking about – adult coloring books. The pastime once reserved for children has become a favorite hobby for people of all ages.

In the past two years the hobby has become so popular that it may be more accurate to call it an “obsession.” The adult coloring book industry, sparked by artist Johanna Basford’s 2013 release of “Secret Garden,” has never fared better. Sales have dramatically risen from 2014 to 2015. These books are regular bestsellers on Amazon and their success is also affecting the colored pencil industry.

Why are adult coloring books suddenly so popular? Fans of the books say they remind them of their childhood, provide a method of easy social bonding and reduce anxiety. Critics of this trend say that the books are a symbol of America’s declining maturity, are simply a waste of time or can backfire and become addictive.

Writer and art gallery curator Robert Pela believes that coloring books are simply an immature coping mechanism. In a Phoenix New Times article, he wrote “I’m a snob. But I’m also an adult, one who remembers when adults relaxed with bourbon, not Crayolas and an outline of My Little Pony.”

I am personally not enchanted by this fad. While I recognize that coloring can be relaxing for some, the activity usually increases my stress level. Thoughts that run through my head while I’m coloring include: “What colors do I use?” “What if I go outside the lines?” and “I’d better copy these pages twelve times in case I mess up, and under no circumstances should I color the original book.” It is almost easier for me to just look at the pretty black-and-white pictures. But I have plenty of friends who do love to color, and they appear to have lots of fun with it. They are all productive and successful people, and the fact that they enjoy a hobby that is labeled “childish” does not affect that. When used in moderation, the trend seems to inflict no apparent harm. Does it matter whether someone relaxes with bourbon or Crayola crayons? Coloring books do not harm anyone, so I fail to see why there needs to be objections over adults enjoying them.

I think the key to the trend, however, is “moderation.” There is definitely a limit to how much time one should spend coloring, although I have yet to hear of many people spending six hours a day engaged with the books. I would hesitate to call “coloring addiction” a widespread problem. However, my biggest qualm with the coloring trend is the idea that people in need of professional help for stress relief or anxiety disorders can turn to coloring for relief and feel fine. The truth is, we live in a very passive culture. We assume that we can make a difference in our own lives or those of others with very little effort. A hashtag automatically saves the children, our friends understand we love them from one smile and a “hello,” all of our problems and worries are resolved with a pack of pencils and a piece of paper. Unfortunately, this is not true. Relaxation and everything else that the avid colorists seek will not come from a simple distraction. Sure, mindless activities have been shown to reduce stress, but that alone does not cure any underlying problems. Hopefully anybody coloring for these reasons recognizes this.

Overall, coloring books are great fun but attaching excess significance to their completion (whether that involves claiming they are cures for psychological maladies or are leading to the rot of civilization) leads to focusing our attention on things that don’t really matter. Let people have their fun, and enjoy the trend until it inevitably dies out. Life’s too short to do anything but.

Dylan Walker ’18 ( is from Mountain Grove, Mo. They major in Classics with a Film Studies concentration.

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Sexual misconduct policies under revision

Much has happened since Madeline Wilson ’16 and fellow activists first donned their gray shirts and launched their web site My College Is Protecting Rapists. Wilson filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Education Department, and Minnesota state representatives David Bly and Erin Murphy have gotten involved.

On Tuesday, April 19, 12 days after receving the complaint, the OCR accepted Wilson’s case and filed with the nonprofit law firm Gender Justice. Wilson published the official complaint online. It claims that St. Olaf allowed private investigators hired by the alleged perpetrator to harass Wilson, among other violations.

Wilson’s Notice of Determination “indicated that [the alleged perpetrator’s] version of events was more credible in part be cause he ‘appeared to have a clear memory of the events on May 10.’ Because [Wilson] was highly intoxicated at the time, she did not have a clear memory of these events. Using the standard in this way makes it impossible to fairly adjudicate claims regarding sexual assault with an intoxicated victim.”

Now that the case has been accepted, it could take up to two years before the OCR determines whether or not St. Olaf violated its sexual misconduct policies and Title IX.

President David Anderson ’74 formed a ten person Title IX working group to reconsider the college’s sexual misconduct policies. According to the group’s web page, members will “critically review our policies, seek input from the community and make recommendations for policy changes to be implemented by the start of the 2016– 17 school year.”

The working group will meet weekly between April 21 and June 30 with the goal of presenting a report to Anderson on July 16. Board of Regents member and College Audit Committee Chair Timothy Maudlin ’73 is chair of the working group.

Other members of the group are Sexual Assault Resource Network co-Chair Kaelie Lund ’16, Student Government Association president elect and former It’s On Us co-Chair Emma Lind ’17, athletic director Ryan Bowles, college pastor Matthew Ma- rohl, Assistant Professor of Social Work and Family Studies Susan Smalling ’97, executive director of HOPE Center Erica Staab-Absher, assistant Ramsey County attorney Jill Fedje ’85, higher education attorney

Carl Crosby Lehmann ’91 and Macalester College Title IX coordinator Karla Benson Rutten.

In its initial April 21 meeting, the group retained Philadelphia attorneys Gina Mais to Smith and Leslie M. Gomez to provide legal guidance. It also restated its commitment to listening to outside suggestions.

Protesters have praised the formation of the working group and also expressed some concerns. One issue they raised is lack of representation for racial minorities, the

LGBTQ+ community and those who have gone through St. Olaf’s Title IX process. There is also concern about the gray shirt team being excluded from the proceedings.

“I’m worried that none of the gray shirt people were approached to be in the working group, because if it wasn’t for the gray shirt students this wouldn’t have even happened – so why are we not even asked to consult or asked our opinions of who should be on it?” Adrian Benjamin ’16 said.

Vice President for Admission and College Relations Michael Kyle ’85 believes that these concerns were already addressed.

“Like a lot of things at St. Olaf, we wanted a working group that was representative and that brought different backgrounds and experiences. We selected a committee based on a wide range of factors, and I am fully confident that all of the things that have been criticized are actually fully, intentionally and truthfully represented in the composition of the working group,” he said.

Wilson also fears that the working group will not lead to any change in St. Olaf policy. “They don’t present policy change, just recommendations which administration can choose to accept or reject. Will administration actually do anything with the suggestions?” she said.

Kyle disagreed with this characterization.

“Unequivocally every concern, every recommendation, every suggestion will be fully considered by the working group,” he said. “In fact, I find it a little disheartening that members of our community are already discounting the authenticity and sincerity with which this group is approaching its work.”

On Friday, April 15, Minnesota state representatives David Bly and Erin Murphy sent a letter to President Anderson requesting a meeting regarding the issue. Benjamin’s internship at the Department of Natural Resources and resulting connections to the politicians enabled him to ask Bly and Murphy to contact the president. Bly and Anderson met on April 21 without any students in attendance.

Bly left the meeting with a favorable impression of the working group.

“President Anderson talked about the fact that he has offered to meet with one or two students a few times and his desire that they get involved with the task force and give them information. I am favorably impressed with President Anderson’s effort and willingness to consider where improvement is needed and hope that students will share their opinions,” Bly said. He is scheduled to meet with student protest leaders again soon to discuss their next steps.

In the meantime, accusations of a lack of communication between administration and the protesters continue. Wilson insisted that nobody in the group has received any information from administration besides a single email since their initial meeting.

Benjamin agreed.

“We have come to the conclusion that they are unwilling to have a spot for us at the table and are using the working group as justification for that, because we’ve met with [administration] only once, and that was after lots of begging and pleading and articles in the media,” he said.

Kyle stressed that claims that the group is being silenced are unfounded. “We’ve given that group every opportunity that we’ve given any student on campus. We did not wake up and say, ‘How can we avoid talking to the students most vocal about this issue?’ But we do know that to have a group for better policy we must have a wide variety of backgrounds.”

Moving forward, Wilson will continue with the OCR complaint and work with incoming students to continue the movement she started. The working group will host a student forum on Tuesday, May 4 at 7 p.m. The Wednesday, May 5 meeting will be dedicated to listening to those who have been through St. Olaf ’s Title IX process.

Anybody interested in submitting ideas or concerns to the working group can do so on ix/submit-input-subscribe-to-updates/ until May 31.

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Laughs abound at sold-out INBLACK shows

The sketch show INBLACK has become something of a cultural land- mark here at St. Olaf. The night tickets go on sale, the line to buy them starts in front of the cafeteria and stretches to the Buntrock ballrooms half an hour before dinner even begins. This year was no different, with one show selling out within 14 minutes and all 1,000 tickets gone by the next day. It’s no wonder – INBLACK’s reputation is well-deserved, and 2016’s performances upheld this campus-wide anticipation.

This year’s cast featured Allison Lonigro ’16, Brandyn Liebe ’16, Sam McIntosh ’19, Lars Midthun ’16, Grace Brandt ’17, Elana Abelson ’17, Stuart Gordon ’18 and Bailey Williams ’16. Ten shows from Wednesday, April 20 to Saturday, April 23 took place in the Flaten Art Barn, each one packed.

The format of an INBLACK show is quite simple: the performers created 28 sketches, and as audience members enter they receive what looks like a Bingo card with INBLACK written across the top with four rows of text in red, blue, green and yellow underneath. A matching screen is on display behind the perform- ers, and squares are removed once each sketch is performed. People can yell out

what sketch they want to see next (for example, “B yellow”), resulting in each night having a different order and flair. After a preshow playlist and video, all eight performers burst out from behind a sheet – wearing all black, down to the fingernails – to strobe lights and trap music and proceed to take suggestions. After approximately 75 minutes, the show ends and the screen is, as they say, in black.

The best thing about an INBLACK performance is that each individual sketch contains its own tone and form of humor. Some sketches elicited the kind of laughter that makes one’s stomach ache, such as “Seitan,” a ritual hailing of the savory meat substitute doused in red light and pentagrams. In others, the humor was much more pointed, like “Lady S.C.O.T.U.S.,” which imagined a nine-woman Supreme Court rendered unable to work due to such stereotypes as constant crying or being unable to drive. Certainly not to be forgotten were sketches that were not funny at all but thought-provoking and contemplative, asking why we pray for Paris and ignore hundreds of other terrorist attacks around the world or whether or not sexual assault is taken seriously on this campus.

Regardless of the subject matter or

how it was presented, each sketch drew on concepts and tropes with which the audience was familiar. Who can’t laugh at the image of Randy Clay as a trea- sure hunter looking for the St. Olaf endowment fund, or grin knowingly at a Wizard of Oz-style musical about Pause pizza, or understand the often overwhelming anxieties of being a St. Olaf student? INBLACK addressed all of these and more, resulting in laughter at all the right times and successful lam- poons of its targets.

“INBLACK, when it examined prob- lems within the St. Olaf community and beyond, refused to pull its punches. Whether done humorously or seriously, it spoke to me and, I’m sure, the rest of the audience,” Catherine Stookey ’18, who attended performances on both Thursday and Saturday, said.

Overall, INBLACK continued its streak of making packed houses laugh, cry and marvel at the sheer level of talent exhibited by the performers. The eight phenomenal actors, comedians, writers, singers and dancers created a show that will be talked about at St. Olaf for a long time.

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Fresh Faces to take audience “home”

College students tend to be known for sleeping in on Saturday mornings. This is not so for the 27 actors, singers and dancers gathered in the Christiansen orchestra room, fighting back yawns and putting aside homework for the final music run-through of Fresh Faces ’19.

After brief vocal warm-ups and stretches, Dario Villalobos ’18 starts to play the opening riff of the show’s first group number, “It Sucks to Be Me” from Avenue Q, and the rehearsal begins. “Welcome to Fresh Faces ’19!” they sing at the end of the number, before moving on to the next piece.

This performance will be the eighth annual Fresh Faces cabaret. Deep End APO began the show to create a student-directed cabaret allowing first years from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests to participate in musical theater. Everyone who auditions performs in the cabaret. In this respect, Fresh Faces ’19 is the same as ever. Villalobos serves as music director and arranger (he also wrote all of the music for the pit), Rosie Linsner ’18 co-directs, Gabby Dominique ’17 co-directs and leads movement and Stuart Gordon ’18 is the assistant music director.

The theme of this year’s show will be “Home.”

“It’s not just the cheesy sense of home because these are freshmen and they are leaving, but it’s also about how to find home when you are in transition and you don’t know where to go. Home can be other people, or not just a typical place,” Linsner said.

“I really wanted to work on this song cycle that I’ve been thinking of about the refugee crisis and the discussion going on around the world right now and the media not advertising it as the big issue that it is. It is so undertalked,” Villalobos, an international student from Costa Rica, said.

Eight thousand Cuban refugees attempting to emigrate to the United States were stuck in Costa Rica for three months, a conundrum which struck Villalobos personally.

“There is no better way to address this than to have the incoming class sing about this because they’re coming into this new place,” he said.

The biggest way Fresh Faces ’19 will be different from previous years is that the performance has a narrative, rather than being a loose medley of songs. Segues are very polished, and close listening to the lyrics shows a definite story progression, as the directors intended.

“One of our biggest ideas was that this would be very smooth. It’s going to flow and be one cohesive story. In the past it’s been more of a song cycle, which is great, but we wanted to tell a story and have it mean something to the audience,” Linsner said. “The show is really focused on acting, and there’s not a lot of dancing but quite a bit of movement and blocking.”

As for the cast of Fresh Faces ’19, audience members are in for a treat when they hear the group. Everyone is featured at some point in the show, and everyone has a chance to shine. The well-meshed chorus of powerful voices provides a beautiful and robust support system for featured vocalists and is not to be ignored. Perhaps it coincides with Linsner’s comment that home can be found in unconventional places.

Be sure to catch Fresh Faces ’19 on April 23 at 7 p.m. in the Pause. You won’t regret it. The cast and directors agree.

“This show, although it may seem for fun or what freshmen do, has depth and a wide range of emotion that the audience will experience,” Aaron Telander ’19 said.

“The audience should be pumped for Fresh Faces because of the wide range of talent and all the energy we will bring. I hope the audience will see all our camaraderie,” Margaret Lindahl ’19 said.

“Fresh Faces is an energy-filled show with a lot of heart and talent musically and dramatically,” Kaci Campbell ’19 said.

Villalobos emphasized that audience members should come to the show with no expectations.

“Just keep in mind what it’s been like for you growing up, where you’ve been, and what have been some highlights in the timeline of your life. If anything, bring your ears to the show, sit there, really pay attention to those lyrics and let the cast take you on this journey,” he said.

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