Macaulay Seminar One at Brooklyn College
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Our final project

Make sure you have piece of Starburst candy at the ready!

December 19, 2013   No Comments

Pressing play on “Mohammed’s Radio”

In the case of “Mohammed’s Radio,” my reception of the play on paper differed greatly between having read and seen a staged reading of the play. Whether this be a consequence of the skill of the actors, or simply giving a human face and voice to black ink on white paper, the play shook me deeper and more profoundly than have many other plays. Even though stage acting was not involved, it was made clear very quickly that the actors where wholly invested in their characters. In a way that I have never thought I would experience a reading of a play, I felt invested in the play, so much so that my blood boiled when a “punch” or “bottle” was thrown; my mind raced to overcome challenges faced by the characters, even though I had never had to answer the call to defend a faith to which I have willingly handed my heart and mind.

In the case of Kelly, my opinion that her faith was true holds. The question of whether people act for the wrong reasons is most difficult to answer in a religious context. Faith, in many cases, is no joking matter, and neither are the circumstances that drove Kelly to covert to Islam. I do believe that she chose to covert willingly, but that her circumstances would ultimately decide how much of that faith she would retain. In addition, getting to hear the playwright’s own take was helpful in answering questions that may not have been satisfied until completing a second or even third reading of the script.

I am a far more visual learner, which may be the reason why seeing and hearing the play read out loud by the actors both forced me to interact with issues that – for most westerners – have been kept behind a television screen. The reading only further intrenched the ideas that I had about the nature of each character in my mind, especially in the case of Kelly. Reading the script birthed these feelings and thoughts in me, but experiencing the staged reading meant that these sentiments of mine now had a time and place to exert themselves.

Fantastic play. Invested actors. A devoted director. The stage was set, and so “play” was pressed.

November 26, 2013   No Comments

Ballet… Who Knew?

Before last Thursday, I could count the number of ballets to which I’ve gone on a single hand. This trio of performances, however, awakened an interest in ballet that none of the others had done. Yes, BAM’s production of The Nutcracker is fantastic, but I viewed it as I would a show and not necessarily as a ballet.

Theme and Variations is what I imagined a standard ballet performance to consist of: a man and woman dancing while surrounded by ballerinas and their partners. Although it didn’t follow a story, I felt that it was a general depiction of how a courtship might go. The man and woman represented blossoming couples of all sorts. While the other dancers twirled about in a fanciful (yet precise) manner, my focus rested on the couple in the center, their heated passions being spoken though choreographed movements. This does also spark another question: in the context of Theme and Variations, might the idea of choreography serve to understand the art of courtship and tendencies of a pair of lovers? I think it does. Just as love may very well be an art, the goal of choreographing such a beautiful work as Theme and Variations is a labor of love that requires an understanding of such relations.

The second performance, A Month in the Country, is to me a multi-layered one. Each of the characters served to intensify the audience’s reception of the performance as a whole. For example, Kolia (the son) danced whimsically, and in a sense, lightened the conflict between the other characters. However, I was left thinking more. Might his whimsical side serve to mask his desire to see his family remain settled with each other? After all, he did try to get his father’s attention with his new kite (among other actions).

After the show, a number of you and I discussed the idea that ballet performers who play in performances such as A Month in the Country must refrain from voicing anything, so all of the emotion and meaning they wish to convey must come though to the audience though their movement and even facial expressions. In comparison, the use of facial expressions in this second performance were needed all the more because of the set storyline, whereas in the first and particularly the third performances, movement of the body was much more the focus.

Piano Concerto #1 is much less an interest of mine, but was nonetheless a spectacular performance. I felt that it is much more a show of raw dance talent than a groundbreaking example of contemporary ballet, under which category the latter two performances fall.

At the end of the show, I wasn’t as tired as I had been after the opera. Although my day prior to attending the ballet was draining, my spirits were lifted. I am glad to say that I now have a greater appreciation for ballet and that I plan to attend more performances in the future, near and far!

November 12, 2013   No Comments

9/11 and Vietnam Remembered

As much as I enjoy art, it took a visit to the 9/11 and Vietnam War Memorials to solidify my understanding of how memorials are an art form. I still love observing oil on canvas, a tapestry here and there, and ideal beauty carved in stone, but I had rarely been moved as greatly as I was on our visit to these memorials. I was alive for 9/11, but not yet an idea during the Vietnam war, and although I witnessed the second plane hit the tower from a television set in San Diego, I had more of an emotional response when we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Yes, a name may be how we identify people at the most basic level, but reading the letters written to and from soldiers allowed me to better connect with conflict in which they were engaged.

The sheer magnitude of the waterfalls was humbling; the center of each – where the water fell out of sight –  was symbolic, and in fact, each stage the water went through on its way through the cycle represented each stage of that terrible day. I had no desire to speak. It was as though some greater force kept my mouth shut. I had no urge to fight back. But reading the letters of the American soldiers in Vietnam awakened an entire world of thought in me. The phrases “Dear mom” of “Dear son” or “Dear [the soldier’s name]” forced my to reflect deeply on how much I value the people who love and care for me unconditionally, so much so that began to tear up. (You might say I’m a momma’s boy, and you’d be right). Lastly, the circumstances surrounding the two conflicts being remembered differ; every person was in some way innocent in each conflict, but the knowledge of death in the minds of the Americans fighting in Vietnam was clear, and the days events were entirely unknown to the victims of the terrorist attacks. Somehow, the unfamiliarity of the unknown realm that is death and love for my family and beloved friends was more strongly affected.

I am fortunate not to have lost any friends or family in the 9/11 attacks, and all my heart goes out to those who did. The events of 9/11/01 are still fresh in the minds of the many, but the quiet and firm essence of the Vietnam War memorial showed me that the terror of the past may fade, but will never disappear; it’s silhouette will forever stand behind us as we look forward.


The water’s roar hushes the buslte of the city

rendering it a whisper.

The engraved letters mummify the soldier’s voices

lending silence to the city’s seasons.

Each blankets the city

as though the present is in infancy, whimpering,

and the past echoes

n’er to be forgotten.

November 5, 2013   No Comments

Tuesday’s Opera Outing

Attending the Metropolitan Opera on the evening before a philosophy mid-term exam was one of the greatest things I could have done, and did! I had seen other film an stage productions of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (including one I participated in during my junior year of high school), but Tuesday’s version was by far the most modern. Of course, people often imagine that Shakespeare’s plays are performed with a Renaissance setting, whether this mean the set looks antique or the setting really is Europe. However, this performance changed the way I thought of on-stage opera and the means by which the audience is captivated.

No one doubts the excellence of the Met, so the cast were bar none some of the greatest the opera world has to offer. Yes, the singing of opera is indeed an art form, but the set did just as good a job at sparking intrigue. When my high school put on our production of Midsummer, we tried very hard to replicate the Athenian and forest scenes to the letter. In particular, many of the forest scenes took place in front and within four towering green walls that had been constructed with a red door fashioned into their corners. In addition, a large tree branch had been constructed through the green walls in such a way that it had pierced the walls. At the start, the same frustration that I express towards Duchamp’s “In Advance of a Broken Arm”. Around halfway through the first act, though, I realized that the four walls symbolized the four lovers: Helena and Demetrius, Hermia and Lysander; the branch represented the Puck’s mistake with the love spell and the lover’s quarrels that followed. In many of the world’s cultures, the color red represents love and passion. This made me wonder if the doors represented the entryway to each of the four lovers’ hearts, and that each character who passed through the doors were following an intricate stage directions that followed intricacies of the storyline. Lastly, I wonder if the tree branch had been forced into the four walls or had grown through them gradually, each possibility leading to a slightly different interpretation of the story.

Overall, I had a fantastic time at Tuesday night’s outing to the Metropolitan Opera. In many ways, my opinion of the opera changed for the better. Therefore, I look forward to attending many more operas with the Macaulay class in the four years at Macaulay.

October 17, 2013   1 Comment