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By Kayla G. Webster – Contributing Writer

The Drew Theatre Department’s production of “Gospel at Colonus,” directed by Adjunct Professor of Acting and Directing Rodney Gilbert, is an unusual and unexpected experience of emotion and energy. The show places Sophocles’ “Oedipus at Colonus” in a modernized, gospel/church based setting. An unusual – and perhaps more accessible – way of watching Greek theatre, the show alone has strength in its ability to convey stories and themes untouched by the original text simply through the incorporation of music and movement pieces. The director handled this adaption in such a way as to subtly imply his thoughts and intentions while staying true to the emotion and story of the original play.

Lighting (Nathan Forster (’15)) and set (Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Andrew Elliot) were kept simple and appropriate, in no way distracting from colorful costumes (Sophia Koevary (’14)) and the high-energy musical pieces. The music was well incorporated, and the vocal talents of the entire cast must be noted – in particular Demetrius Kee (’14) and Stephanie Weymouth (’14), who captures the listener with a vocal prowess that was a highlight throughout the entire play. That being said, there are times during the show when it is difficult to ignore that these are performers drawn from a limited pool (being a college production), and not every voice seems to have the vocal strength required, even if it does have the inherent quality. It was only a minor distraction, as only the occasional note fell flat – but it is important to keep in mind that these singers are not professionals, and the audience does get reminded of this fact  every now and again. Overall, all music and musical performances felt smooth and well placed thanks to musical director Mark Miller, assistant professor of church music and composer in residence.  The only place in which any performances felt out of place was perhaps during a few dance sequences which seemed unnecessary and a little strange, though they were not badly handled.

The acted parts were just as strong as the vocal, if not stronger. An emotional and wholly devoted performance by Najah Johnson (’16) is worth noting as is an enthusiastic and diverse portrayal by Shakur Tolliver (’16), both playing a preacher and sharing the role of Oedipus with the stunning Kee, comes close to stealing the show.

Indeed,  “Gospel at Colonus” is something of a theatrical experience – the audience is literally encouraged, at one point, to take to their feet and rejoice right along with the actors on stage. With a devoted cast and tight direction, the only serious problem with the show is due to the show itself. The unusual script and style of the play effectively places every character on the same plane – there is no one who is given more depth or development than anyone else, nor does it seem like it would be possible for this to change. The effect this has, however, is one of creating a two-dimensional cast of characters in a very limited world. It is something that works well for this style of play – all the audience knows or needs to know is exactly what they’re shown or told. However, not having much to follow in the way of character driven plot, it may run a bit long for most audiences. That being said, it is the second half of the show in which the music and performers truly soar, and it shouldn’t be missed for anything.

“Gospel at Colonus” will be performed in the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, tickets are $10.

Rating: 4/5

 

By Rachel Tavani – Contributing Writer

When first walking into “The LEGO Movie,” it is not unusual to ask why. Why would I be interested in a movie meant for young children? Why did I just spend upwards of 12 dollars to see a movie about toys I never played with as a child? Why did my friends agree to this?

But boy did “The LEGO Movie” surprise.

The film opens to show the villain, the infamous Lord Business, attacking the stronghold of the Master Builders to find a weapon of ultimate destruction called the Kragle. Led by Vitruvius, the Master Builders are a group of select Legos with the ability to create anything they imagine out of the objects around them. Vitruvius prophesies the rise of a savior as he is beaten by Lord Business.

Years pass, and Lord Business has taken over the Lego world, turning it into a civilization that models a kid-friendly version of George Orwell’s “1984.”

This is where the real story begins. Emmett, a content construction worker in the dystopian society, is a nobody. He simply lives his life according to the rules given to him by President Business, who is actually Lord Business in disguise. One day after work, Emmett sees a girl sneaking into a construction site. He follows her and accidentally finds the “Piece of Resistance,” which indicates that he is the savior, or the Special, that Vitruvius foretold of years before. Wyldstyle, the girl he followed, becomes Emmett’s partner in crime as they flee from Lord Business in an attempt to stop his plans to unleash the Kragle on all Lego people.

The star-studded cast makes for it’s own entertainment, as the voices of iconic actors give life to the Lego people. When Morgan Freeman voices a Lego that eerily resembles Gandalf, a movie is sure to turn some heads. Freeman is joined by Will Ferrell voicing the evil villain, his quirky personality lending itself perfectly. Elizabeth Banks voices Emmett’s witty and spunky companion. Chris Pratt voices Emmett, the unassuming hero.

While the movie may be billed as a children’s film, it manages to raise very advanced themes. Emmett, when faced with the fact that he is in fact not special at all, despite finding the “Piece of Resistance,” has to come to terms with being unextraordinary. In his mission to save the world he loves, Emmett learns to accept himself for what he is, or rather what he is is not. The movie also explores more complex themes such as the meaning of life and the many facets of father and son relationships.

So not only does this film entertain, it enlightens. It explores the importance of discovering self-worth, destroying flawed governmental systems and participating in self-expression all in the span of an hour and 41 minutes using Lego figurines. Even the movie’s catchy theme song, “Everything is Awesome,” pleases the audience and sends them out of the theater singing. Never in my life did I think I would say a sentence like that, but I love to give credit where credit is due. And credit is due to Warner Brothers for gifting us with “The LEGO Movie,” for it was overall an astoundingly entertaining experience.

 

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By Leah Zarra – Managing Editor

Photo by Justin Camejo - Staff Photographer

Photo by Justin Camejo – Staff Photographer

He’s more than just a familiar face on campus – he’s also one of the most loved in the Drew community. Known by his last name, Hatef Quazi is well-known for swiping student IDs at the entrance to The Commons. The real wow factor is that he seems to know every student’s name and personally interacts with each one as we run up to dinner. He’s got the smile and spirit, but who really is the man behind those adorable sweater-vests?

Quazi and his wife Fazileh, another recognizable face in the community, first came to the United States from Bangladesh in June of 1985 when his youngest brother was a graduate student here at Drew. Since it was summertime, there were only grad students on campus so the family was able to live in Asbury Hall upon arrival. “Drew was my first home in America,” said Quazi, explaining that his brother helped get Fazileh a job in the cafeteria.

His goal in coming to America was that one day both his children would earn Master’s degrees from American universities. He himself came from a background of education – his father was a professor and “great scholar” who taught five languages. Quazi had a very good job working with USAID in Bangladesh. In fact, he would have been able to retire in about five more years, but knew it was more important that his kids get the best possible education.

I love to see students go here, but also to see them leaving with a good degree so they can use the knowledge gathered here for their future lives – Hatef Quazi

Students all love seeing Quazi during their day because of the rapport he’s built with them. Since he sees them every day, “I have a fascination with trying to remember people’s names… it became my passion, and then it was easy to remember the names,” he said. Besides chatting with students, Quazi’s hobbies include fishing as well as growing flowers and vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants and cucumbers in his yard. “I love nature. I love to watch it, I love to see it… I go crazy when I see water!” he exclaimed happily. If given the opportunity to travel anywhere, he would love to go somewhere with lots of water, fish and natural habitats, saying, “When I hear about Florida, Puerto Rico, California… I think I would like it there.

When asked about his favorite thing at Drew, Quazi definitively responded “the students.” He had already retired from working with the state government here for 19 years. He came back to work for two reasons.  He’s always valued an educational environment. “I love the students, and I get back the same kind of love,” he said, explaining what keeps him at Drew.  “It keeps me active. In the winter when we are gone for five weeks, it’s a boring time. I become lazy,” stated Quazi, who didn’t want to sit around just eating and watching TV.

“I love to see students go here, but also to see them leaving with a good degree so they can use the knowledge gathered here for their future lives,” Quazi said. He wanted to emphasize “education, education, education,” remembering how people would come to his father to ask advice and gather knowledge. After moving here, his daughter did end up getting two Master’s degrees as well as earning the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. His son also earned a Master’s from William Paterson University and now works at JP Morgan. Quazi’s belief in striving for education has brought he and his family great success, and this is advice he would pass on to all the students who admire him as a pillar of the community. “I am not sorry I left my good job because when I look at [my children] I see that I’ve reached my goal, and I am so proud,” Quazi said reflectively, and as always, with a smile.

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Are Drewids losing their love for Facebook? This week, CNN released an article about the desertion of Facebook by teenagers entitled “On Facebook, a growing teenage wasteland” that discussed the findings of a recent survey of teen social networking use within a national context.

The May 2013 study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, part of the Pew Research Center, found that “many teens expressed waning enthusiasm for Facebook.” These findings suggest that the space in teens’ lives for social networking is shrinking.

According to the CNN article written by Doug Gross, “While Facebook has downplayed the importance of the trend, the site simultaneously appears to be taking steps to address it” with changes to the privacy settings for teens. Now teens can make their profiles public, according to Gross.

After conducting a survey of 60 Drewids, it became clear that these findings and this diminishing carried over to the Forest. 58 percent of students in the survey reported using Facebook less at Drew than they had in high school, 27 percent of students reported that their Facebook usage remained unchanged since high school and 15 percent of students reported they’ve been using Facebook more since coming to Drew.

Therefore, not only are the Pew Project results a broad summary of a national trend, but they reflect the attitudes towards social networking here at Drew University.

In their report, the Pew Project cited several causes for the recent decline in teen interest including having issues with friends on the site, “the increasing number of adults on the site” and “the stress of needing to manage their reputation on Facebook.”

Some teens have opted for newer social networking tools such as Vine, Tumblr, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. The Pew project found that in 2012, “24 percent of online teens use Twitter, up from 16 percent in 2011.”

When asked what prompted her to use Facebook less, Drew student Naomi Freeman (’16) echoed these results and said, “Now that Twitter and Instagram are here, Facebook seems kind of old-fashioned.” She added, “Especially now that parents are on Facebook.”

Claudia Kopenski (’17) also agreed that other social networking sites are becoming the norm. She said, “Twitter and Instagram are what I use the most now.” She added, “My only use for Facebook now is to catch up with people back home.”

Not all Drewids, however, have turned to other social networking sites to fill the space Facebook once filled in their day. Others noted there’s just been a decline in interest in the site, especially since coming to college. When asked why she didn’t use Facebook anymore, Victoria Ruhle (’17) replied, “It’s just not as popular anymore.”

Most Drew students have kept their Facebook profiles active despite acknowledging a fading interest in being active on the site itself. This trend, it seems, has been accelerated by the availability of apps for social networking on smart phones.

Regarding his Facebook use, David Wasserman (’17) commented, “With these phones and the apps, I check it a lot but I don’t do anything on it.”

Other Drewids, however, have decided to leave Facebook completely, sometimes for another social networking site. Amanda Birbal (’16) is one such example. She said, “I use Twitter more. I actually deactivated my Facebook.”

However, while the opinions of many Drew students correspond with the Pew Project’s findings that interest in Facebook is declining, some Drew students’ opinions contrast the study and have found renewed interest and practicality in the site.

Caitlyn Duffy (’15) remarked of Facebook’s usefulness, “There’s more networking. I have to talk to people constantly.”

Other students have found that in college, Facebook is a useful tool for the managing of extracurricular activities. Catherine Hudman (’15) commented, “I use it more practically now than in high school for clubs.”

Overall, Drew students are expressing a decline in interest for Facebook, and in some cases social networking in general. While some current opinions in the Forest regarding social networking sites are depicted in these results, those opinions will undoubtedly continue to change and evolve in the future.

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STNJ_Our Town_DSCF1054

Photo Courtesy of The Shakespeare of New Jersey
At a rehearsal, Director Joseph Discher works with Phillip Goodwin who plays the Stage managers in “our Town.”

According to Joe Discher (C’91), Drew theatre alum and director of the ongoing production of “Our Town” at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ), the path to life after Drew actually begins at Drew. During his senior year, he took an internship with STNJ. He said, “My directing internship senior year is when my professional theatre career began and now I’m out there directing.”

A freelance director and actor, Discher said, “It’s important to be disciplined and skilled in whatever your field is. Listen to professors, challenge them and ask them to challenge you.” Discher worked on several Drew theatre productions as a student. He said, “Get as much experience in academic theatre before leaving college and get professional experience while you’re in school to make connections.”

The theatre industry can be a tough nut to crack. “It’s a lot about networking. Making connections is just as important as being good in your field,” Discher said.

His experiences during his time at Drew helped shape his career after graduation. Discher said, “I was a theatre major and I directed a couple shows at Drew. Then I did an internship at STNJ, which was then called the N.J. Shakespeare Festival.”

He added, “I had a lot of great professors at Drew and they were very inspiring to me.”

Discher discussed his direction of “Our Town.” Written by Thornton Wilder, the play utilizes a minimal amount of scenery and props. But this was not a challenge for Discher. “The playwright wanted to create a piece of theatre that didn’t rely on scenery. This really makes the story, the beautiful language come out stronger,” he said.

He explained this is very similar to Shakespearean theatre. “I work a lot with Shakespeare and his plays were written without huge breaks. Usually when I direct Shakespeare, I use minimal pieces. I’m used to directing this way. It’s something I’m at home with.”

However, Discher said, “The challenge becomes not having visuals to rely on to create a mood and getting great actors to draw the audience in.”

He explained “Our Town” is play you get more out of every time you see it, or in Discher’s case, direct it. “When I read the play, I didn’t really get it, and then I saw the play performed and thought it was amazing. As a director, I see even more now,” he said.

Discher added he believes Our Town is a great play for students to see whether they are theatre majors or not.

According to Discher, “The play is a lot about about companionship, life, death and the transience of human life.” Our Town centers around a woman who dies, but then gets to relive one day of her life. This allows her to re-evaluate the way she lived her life.

Discher said, “Life goes fast. We often don’t stop to notice the best things, which are people, moments, friends, lovers and family.” Written in 1938, “It’s even more relevant now with our noses in phones and computers. We wrap ourselves up in our problems, the tests to study for, plays to rehearse, but we’re missing the best parts of life,” he said.

Discher hopes Drewids see the play and use it as a chance to re-evaluate their lives. He said, “People who have been in the play or seen the play have talked to me and said the next morning they noticed the changing leaves colors and the smell of fresh cut grass.”

“Our Town” will be performed through Nov. 17. Student rush tickets are available for $15 30 minutes before the performance.

Discher said, “If you think you know the play, I’m willing to bet you don’t because every time I see it I get something new.”

 

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