Category: Arts and Entertainment

StoGrow: money doesn’t grow on trees

The St. Olaf Garden Research and Organic Works (StoGrow) and the Environmental House co-sponsored the Harvest Festival on Saturday, Oct. 28 in the Art Barn. It was a celebration of the last harvest of the season featuring produce grown by students, lawn games and performances from three campus musicians and bands.

The organizers collaborated with Bon Appétit to create a seasonal menu featuring produce grown by StoGrow. The fare was considerably more exciting than your typical Stav dish. They served Creamy Kohlrabi and Smoked Cheddar Bisque, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seed Clusters and Fall Tomato Salsa with Crackers and Crostini. Fireside’s delicious hot cider was available to drink.

The event was the last for StoGrow for the foreseeable future, as the student organization was officially disbanded on Nov. 1 due to budgetary issues.

“We felt like we wanted to go out with a bang, we wanted to have a fun time,” Aubrey Olson ’18, StoGrow co-farmer along with Athena Stifter ’19, said. “[StoGrow and the Environmental House] have been talking about a collaboration for a while.”

StoGrow’s farmers are hoping that StoGrow will live on despite this setback. They are currently in talks with the Biology and Environmental Studies department to absorb StoGrow sometime during the spring semester. Olson highlighted the importance of StoGrow’s mission and its importance to the campus.

“It brings awareness of local fruits and vegetables to the campus community,” Olson said. “I know a lot of people tend to be in their own little bubble and just have what Stav provides, which is very unlike what is actually grown … people just aren’t aware of how food is grown.”

StoGrow had a bountiful harvest this fall. They gathered organic vegetables like kohlrabi, tomatoes, kale, cucumbers, butternut and acorn squash, radishes, beans and peppers. They had a very productive summer too and donated hundreds of pounds of produce to Stav Hall.

Even though the delicious food was the main focus of the event, there was also plenty of entertainment at the Harvest Festival. Kubb, a Swedish game where the aim is to knock over wooden blocks using sticks, was by far the most popular lawn game. There was also a notable performance by campus band Green Tree and the Blazers. Harry Edstrom ’19 serenaded the crowd with his acoustic guitar and duo Alex Hemmer ’18 and Danny Harrington ’19 rounded out the afternoon.

The event was a great way to celebrate the bounty of the harvest and highlighted a student organization that has suffered from the recent budget cuts that have affected many areas of campus life. Hopefully we see their return next spring so we can all enjoy more seasonal produce.

× Featured

Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Reality blurred in “Twentieth-Century”

Where is the line between acting and reality?

That’s the question that Warren, played by Logan Luiz ’20, and Brown, played by Jeffrey Nolan ’20, grapple with in “The Twentieth-Century Way.” The one-act play was written by Tom Jacobson and performed on Oct. 27 and 28. The show was put on by Deep End APO, the St. Olaf theater honors society, and directed by Chaz Mayo ’18 and Ian Sutherland ’18. 

In what begins as an improvisation exercise amongst two actors auditioning for the role of “confidence man” – or con-man, for us laypeople – Warren and Brown take on a number of different characters that tell the story of two actors hired by the Long Beach police department to out and arrest gay men in 1914. 

Of Warren and Brown’s many characters, my favorites were the journalist and editor at the Sacramento Bee (obviously). The hurried speech, thick, old-timey accents, aggressive cigar smoking and disgusting clamor for the “truth” had Mayo’s style written all over it. In fact, I think I’ve watched him perform a similar improvisation in the Manitou Messenger office about once a week.

Despite the overwhelming number of transitions, Luiz and Nolan did a good job distinguishing between each scenario. Each new character was marked with a small costume change and a new accent. While the accents needed some work, they were at least different enough to distinguish who was who.

As the show continued, it became more and more difficult to determine which characters were on stage at any given time. It was an intentional choice by Jacobson to make it difficult to tell whether Warren and Brown were still improvising or if they were in fact in a bathhouse, a police department or a court room. The gradual, building fuzziness between scenes was brilliant, and it set the audience up for the I-don’t-know-what’s-real-anymore ending. Luiz and Nolan pulled it off beautifully.

The most impactful part of the play was by far the last twenty minutes, during which I was extremely confused, but enjoying it. Warren and Brown begin to blur the line between staging homosexual acts and actually enjoying them, and the real message of the show comes through – that acting sometimes isn’t acting.

“The line between the actor and role blurs and turns hazardous,” Brown said. “Have we become our parts? Gotten emotionally involved?”

What I also found compelling was the show’s more subtle commentary on love, intimacy, pleasure and morality. A specific physical tension between Warren and Brown was evident from the first scene, and while I originally interpreted it to represent clashing masculinity between the two men, the tension developed into a more panicked, sexual intimacy that both characters worked desperately to put on the other. The show also highlights how seduction can be used by one party to exercise power over another, and how the intimacy of less-gratuitous physical acts such as kissing can be incredibly revealing and intimate. The two characters spend the entire show doing anything but kissing, which makes their kiss at the end incredibly impactful. 

× Featured

Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

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.

× Featured

Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Twin Cities artist gives talk on new exhibit, arts careers

“It was still wet. It’s never been cleaned,” Joe Sinness said, laughing as he discussed the urinal, ripped from the walls of Target Center, featured prominently in his new exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, “the Flowers.” 

On Oct. 9 at 7 p.m., Minneapolis artist Joe Sinness visited St. Olaf to discuss his latest exhibit and overall trajectory in his career as a visual artist.

Originally getting his start at St. John’s, Sinness later got his MFA in Studio Art at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Sinness’ preferred medium is colored pencil, with which he makes hyper-realistic drawings reflecting on and critiquing societal perceptions of the queer experience. In his work, Sinness draws mostly from images he can find online – from Google searches to movie stills to pornography – but has increasingly made use of real-life models.

Sinness gathered material for his first solo exhibition, “Fey,” during his Fire Island Artist Residency in 2015. Here, Sinness and other queer artists lived and created on this historic gay enclave, just outside of New York City. Leaving the residency and going back to the straight world was a huge shock to Sinness’ system, but he took the connections and skills he learned and applied them to his art.

Sinness’ first exhibit, “Fey,” at Macalester College, featured men he met during his residency at Fire Island. “Fey” showcased and dramatized queer culture in not only its subject matter but also in the words used to describe it. Sinness appropriated a common slur for the title of his exhibition. Sinness also titled each of his “excessively refined and precious” pieces, depicting still lifes straight from gay male domesticity, with a word in Polari. Polari is a secret language used among circus performers and queer people in the United Kingdom. 

After his first exhibit, Sinness was offered the opportunity to have a show sponsored by the Minnesota Artists Exhibition, of which he later served on the panel. Through their support, Sinness created his most recent exhibition, “the Flowers.”

In “the Flowers,” Sinness tears apart and reworks queer stereotypes in media. Perhaps his most striking piece in “the Flowers” is the one with the urinal: “Theme.” Directly behind the urinal is a large-scale, hyper-realistic drawing of a scene from the 1980 film “Cruising.” The scene in “Cruising” shows cops at a bar, ready to interrogate gay criminals. However in his rendition, Sinness makes them active participants in homosexuality, suggestively licking their batons and showing their butts.

Sinness said he wanted to reclaim the cops’ “macho fascist energy” for pleasure. Only the individual viewer can decide whether they find the scene funny or sensual or uncomfortable, but it draws them in nonetheless. 

Sinness reworks Hollywood aesthetic to serve his own purposes in other features of the gallery, giving real-life models or porn stars backgrounds straight out of an old Hollywood set, like in his piece “Devin.” The pink sky and fluffy clouds behind the hyper-realistic drawing of the model feel as though it could have been taken from a 1950s musical.

Anyone with an interest in old Hollywood or gay culture should visit Sinness’ exhibition at the MIA, which is running until Oct. 29. 

About Manitou Messenger

View all posts by Manitou Messenger →

× Featured

Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

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.” 

× Featured

Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye