Author: Dylan Walker

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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Google April Fools prank misuses online influence

Technology and the Internet have taken April Fool’s hoaxes to another level. Who needs to go to the trouble of slapping a “KICK ME” sign on a friend’s back when it is just as funny (and so much more convenient) to pass along a Rickroll? Consumers know this, and so do the many companies that attempt to join the day of fun. Take Google, for example. The technology giant has understood the value of a good joke since its start-up days – launching a new hoax every April 1st since 2000. Most of the time, the pranks are taken in stride. Not so this year.

The 2016 prank feature was called “Google Mic Drop.” If a user composed an email and hit the button “Send + Mic Drop,” a GIF of a Despicable Me Minion dropping a microphone would attach itself to the email and emails from the conversation would no longer be received by the sender.

As Google wrote in a blog post announcing the feature, “Everyone will get your message, but that’s the last you’ll ever hear about it. Yes, even if folks try to respond, you won’t see it.”

This was not well-received. People complained that accidentally clicking the button cost them important customers and jobs, or embarrassed them when the GIF was attached to serious correspondence. By the end of the day, Google pulled “Mic Drop” and issued an apology to its users.

This whole fiasco has raised several questions. Is it acceptable for a ubiquitous corporation like Google to pull pranks like this? Does Google deserve the backlash it has received? Most importantly, why Minions?

Personally, I disagree with those who believe Google should cease and desist when it comes to these hijinks in general. Companies and corporations have always utilized rituals and trends in attempts to reach consumers. The Internet makes it easier for them to do this. For an example of what I mean, see the Denny’s Tumblr account. It is a clear example of what happens when a company uses familiar memes to try and reach “the kids.” Such ploys are prime advertising, and everyone knows it. So why should Google be held to a different standard because of its size? April Fool’s Day is a known time for people and businesses to pull pranks, and customers should recognize that.

That being said, Google probably deserves criticism for this particular prank – mostly because it’s really not funny. Past Google pranks, Denny’s memes and the like succeed because their audience is not actually hurt by the joke. Most of the hoaxes Google has presented in the past 16 years have been considerate of users. For example, 2007 saw the homepage changed to advertise Google Paper, a cutting-edge service where Google would type up emails and send them to homes via traditional mail for free. In 2008, Google launched “Google Calendar is Feeling Lucky,” which supposedly gave users the option to set up a date with a random celebrity. These features were obviously fake, and the only negative consequence in believing the pranks was the mild chagrin one might have felt after falling for them. I see a difference between this sort of thing and pranks that actually alter people’s correspondence or affect their ability to communicate, as “Mic Drop” appears to have done.

But frankly, we have a bigger problem to worry about, which brings us to the final question: why Minions? The implication that this prank might have merely been product placement for Despicable Me, and that Google and the studio executives behind Despicable Me think we as a population find the most joy in watching sexless, ageless yellow beans running around spewing gibberish and punching each other is frightening. Forget questions of corporate responsibility; I find the Minion issue most creepy of all.

All this to say, please be wary of what you read on the Internet, regardless of who it comes from and what day of the year it is. Become an intelligent consumer. Maybe then April Fool’s pranks can remain the lighthearted fun they were meant to be (provided that they are actually high-quality – and don’t involve Minions).

Dylan Walker ’18 ( is from Mountain Grove, MO. They major in classics with a concentration in film studies.

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24-Hour Theater Festival showcases student talent

Supportive roommates, curious onlookers and devoted theater geeks filled Ytterboe Lounge on the night of September 19, 2015. 7:30 P.M. marked the performance of the 24-Hour Play Festival, the first Deep End APO venture of the year and a kick-off to another season of student theater at St. Olaf.

The 24-Hour Play Festival is a tradition at St. Olaf. Participants begin working on their projects Friday the 18th at 6:00 P.M., worked for four hours and then reconvened on Saturday afternoon to finish their projects. Each 24-Hour Play Festival has a theme and three quotes, at least two of which must be used in each production. This year the theme was Hall Sports, and the quotes were “I just wish Old Main was farther away,” “I need you like I need guac in the tortilla line” and “You gotta go put some berry in that schnitzel.”

Sixteen actors split into three groups participated in this year’s festivities. The first group, Yo Mama, was a quartet featuring Sarina Wolbeck ‘18, Peter Cunniff ‘19, Tyler Seufert ’19, Danny Vojack, and Anya Fairchild ’19. Their production was entitled “Tissue Issues” and told the story of a St. Olaf student body snowed into their residence halls, with dorms fighting each other for supplies — tissues included, as one might guess. Yo Mama filled their dialogue with funny and topical one-liners referencing tropes that any audience member would understand, such as the fact that Kildahl rooms are tiny and college students tend to take selfies before any event, maybe even including a battle between dorms to regain tissues.

Second, Swaggin’ Dragons performed, made up of Julia Pilkington ‘17, Julia Woodring ‘19, Avery Baker ‘19, Aaron Lauby ‘19, Josh Horst ’19, and Davis Nemmers ’19. “Interdisciplinary Relations” focused on a competition to figure out who set fire to the gym. What stood out the most were the memorable characters, including a quirky math professor named Randall (that’s Ran-dull, not Ran-doll) and an inebriated football coach. This middle portion of the show drew heavily on the sports part of hall sports, with a training montage and a slow-motion race scene.

Then Terrestrial Whale Sharks closed the trio. Emery Rankin-Utevsky ‘18, Paulo Gladney ‘19, Bjorn Long ‘19, Melanie Thompson ‘19 and Holly Ness ‘19 starred in “Marco Paulo and the Goblet of Hall Sports.” It was fitting that this piece closed the show as it cohesively blended the residence hall and the athletic aspects of the theme. In the play, Paulo the freshman was drafted by his residential assistant, Barry, into competing in the Mellby 4 Hall Sports Championships. By the end, Paulo had received training from a janitor (and former hall sports champion), victory over “the Overdog,” and even true love.

The nature of the festival’s shorter sketches drew many who might not come to a St. Olaf theater production otherwise. Gabe McAndrews ‘19 attended the Festival to support his roommate, and after seeing Deep End promotion of the event, but came away with more than good roommate points. “Never before have I been enthralled with similarly formatted shows or theater in general, but this show changed my perspective and I may attend more productions.”

Dylan Leonard ‘16 echoed McAndrews. “I attend the occasional play and improv show that is hosted on campus. I have never before been to the 24-hour theater project until this year. I would say that it is likely I will attend more plays throughout the year. Overall I thought the show was hilarious with zany plot lines and hilarious quips.”

It’s a good thing for McAndrews and Leonard, then, that Deep End has much more student theater coming up this year, such as productions from student directors and a show much like the Play Festival, featuring Cards Against Humanity prompts. This event was a delightful way to see up-and-coming theater students and enthusiasts at work, and readers should definitely make time for more Deep End theater in the months to come.

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Quade One Act Festival preview

Mark your calendars, folks – the 2015 Quade One Act Festival is coming up! This annual event features one-act plays directed by Artist in Residence Gary Gisselman’s intermediate directing class and will be held May 7-9 in Haugen Theater. There are four shows each night, with the festivities starting at 7 p.m. every evening. No show will run longer than 30 minutes, and each night’s shows will run consecutively.

We know you are excited to attend and appreciate the hard work of up-and-coming student directors and actors, so to help build this excitement, the Messenger is proud to bring you a preview of all 12 shows. Here is what you can expect this year, along with remarks from each director:


Private Lives, 7:00 p.m.

Directed by Stacie Argyrou ’16

Starring: Sean Pruett-Jones ’18, Ash Willison ’17, Nolan Bedward ’17 and Christa Schmidt ’16

Private Lives, a deceptively simple play, is the story of a once married to each other – now divorced – pair, Amanda and Elyot, who, in search for love with their new spouses, find themselves sharing a terrace in a hotel in France. Soon after they see each other, they discover that their life actually constitutes to a newly liberated world, in which indulgence, fantasy and decadence combine to create an uncertain, yet desirable future for the both of them, together.”

Middletown, 7:30 p.m.

Directed by Dominic Bower ’16

Starring: Seton FitzMacken ’17, Katya Vorokhobova ’18, Leidy Rogers ’18, Shannon Cron ’15, Siimon Sander ’18 and Elijah Verdoorn ’18

Middletown is a play by Will Eno that follows the lives of not-so-ordinary tolkfown as they navigate the cycles of life and death.”

And They Danced Real Slow in Jackson, 8:00 p.m.

Directed by Taylor Heitman ’16

Starring: Rosie Linsner ’18, Becca Thavis ’17, Gabe Coleman ’17, Max Anderson ’15, Maddie Sabin ’17, Ian Sutherland ’18 and Jill Luoma-Overstreet ’16

“This play is about a girl who has struggled with polio her entire life in the 1940s. A mashup of memories about how she, and others, have handled her disability, this is a beautiful story about overcoming inner demons, or how they can overtake you.”

The Fire in Our Hearts: Scenes from War, 8:30 p.m.

Directed by Becky Raines ’16

Starring: Cameron Jackson ’17, Amy Trunt ’17, Yiwen Wu ’17, Denzel Belin ’15, Katie Johns ’15 and Emery Rankin-Utevsky ’18.

“My one act showcases scenes from three different plays, spanning Greek and Roman times to modern day war. I chose these scenes because I’m interested in how the way we think about war has and hasn’t changed. I think each scene provides a different and engaging perspective to the humanity of war.”


Romeo and Juliet, 7:00 p.m.

Directed by Emily Field-Olson ’16.

Starring: Zach Greimann ’15 and Maggie Noun ’17

Romeo and Juliet is, of course, the story of two doomed lovers but I think it’s also a story about the dangers of hate. I wanted to do selections from this play because, although it’s 400 years old, I think the beauty and danger of the story is still relevant in 2015.”

Red, 7:30 p.m.

Directed by Erin Kerrigan ’16

Starring: Matt Stai ’18 and Preston West ’16

“This historically influenced play by John Logan centers on Mark Rothko, an abstract expressionist painter, and his interactions with his assistant Ken. Logan has dramatized the life of Rothko during his career in the late 60s to create a piece that places the changing art world in conversation with an artist’s struggle to feel relevant, to maintain passion and to fight the infringement of despair and commercialism in his work. I chose Logan’s play because it speaks beautifully to the questions of ‘What is art?’ and ‘Who decides what art is?’ as well as what it means to foster and to be challenged by the next generation of artists.”

Proof, 8:00 p.m.

Directed by Tara Schaefle ’16.

Starring: Grace Brandt ’17, Bess Clement ’18, Will Ibele ’18 and Chaz Mayo ’18

“I will be directing Proof by David Auburn, a show that is near and dear to my heart for many reasons and has also won the Pulitzer Prize and Tony awards. Proof tells the story of Catherine, the daughter of a recently deceased mathematical prodigy whose mind unraveled in his final years. In the wake of her father’s death, Catherine struggles through her relationships with Hal and estranged sister Claire to prove the fine line between the genius and insanity of her father and, in turn, herself. I first encountered Proof when I was in a production of it a few years ago, and that marked a turning point in my life when I decided that acting was something I wanted to pursue professionally. The script is sarcastic, brave and truly poignant, and I hope the audience will fall in love with it as much as I have.”

Once and for All We’re Going To Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen, 8:30 p.m.

Directed by Memo Rodriguez ’16

Starring: Abby Sunberg ’18, Lily Bane ’17, Josiah Beretta ’18, Bailey Williams ’16, Shelby Reddig ’17, Leah Voigt ’15 and Christine Menge ’18

“This show is a thirty minute celebration of raw energy.”


An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein, 7:00 p.m.

Directed by Emma Downey ’16

Starring: Tom Reuter ’17, Gabby Dominique ’17, Payne McMillan ’15, Charlotte Smith ’18 and David Knott ’18

“This one act welcomes audience members into the darkly comic world of Shel Silverstein, a world where nothing is as it seems and where the familiar is distorted. Shel Silverstein’s short plays and poetry are the foundations for this playfully disturbing show.”

Does This Woman Have a Name? 7:30 p.m.

Directed by Francesco D’Aniello ’16

Starring: Katie Hindman ’15, Kathryn Ravey ’16 and Jordan Solei ’15

Does This Woman Have a Name? by Theresa Rebeck is a play about jealousy, stigma and independence. The play follows two women, Mel and Sarah, who, out of necessity, have begun to operate a phone sex hotline. As they become more comfortable with their new jobs, Mel’s new boyfriend becomes increasingly uncomfortable with it.”

Twilight of the Golds, 8:00 p.m.

Directed by Olivia Mansfield ’15

Starring: Joey LeBrun ’15, Ben Pelegano ’15, Erica Loon ’15, Casey Bouldin ’15 and David Gottfried ’15

“I chose this play because I am interested in the use of theater to ask important questions about the society that we live in, and because I was drawn to the complexity of each of the characters. It’s about a family who has to make a very tough decision, and in doing that, I hope the audience members start to question their own beliefs and can empathize with the characters. Enjoy the show!”

Shades of Grey, 8:30 p.m.

Directed by Dylan Stratton ’16

Starring: Max McKune ’18, Anders Wahlberg ’17 and Alyeska Dellinger ’18

“This play, which has no relation to 50 Shades of Grey, was written by Meg Haley ’06 for an Austin 10-minute play festival. The script is a little unconventional and is reminiscent of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. The basic plot is a father trying to remember his wife and a son trying to remember his mother. The father and son meet at a bench in a garden in the middle of winter. The script itself is too short to stand on its own, so I have collaborated with the actors to devise a section before the script begins. The devised section introduces the mother to the audience and is composed of poetry and other text.”


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