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By Taylor Tracy – Assistant Student Life and Arts Editor

Art isn’t only sculpture, painting or drawing. Everyday objects can be artistic too.

Palestinian fabrics, jewelry and metalwork are currently on display in the Korn Gallery to be enjoyed for their aesthetic beauty instead of their practicality.

The works in the exhibit are from President for the interim term Vivian A. Bull and her late-husband Dr. Robert J. Bull’s private collection from their travels in Jerusalem, the Middle East and at archaeological sites in the area.

About her desire to buy the work of local women around the sites, she said, “It came from a fascination with the beauty of the work that was done.”

“They expose the beauty of the art in a part of the world we don’t know a great deal about.”–Vivian Bull, president for the interim term

Seven colorful and intricately hand-embroidered dresses are on display. They are the result of combining different pieces of fabric over time. Pieces from different dresses are often sewn together into a new one.

However, Bull doesn’t keep the dresses hidden away in a closet. She said, “The dresses have all been worn and show the effects of being worn.” She added, “I wear them frequently.”

Bull also recognized their cultural value when she said, “They expose the beauty of the art in a part of the world we don’t know a great deal about.”

Photo by Marley Crank, staff photographer

Photo by Marley Crank, staff photographer

Members of the Islamic art class, taught by Professor Marguerite Keane in the art history department, curated the show with Gallery Coordinator Gabriele Hiltl-Cohen.

About the students curating, Bull said, “It’s just a great joy to me to see the students working so hard.”

The students were divided into two groups.  One worked on the educational component of the exhibit by researching the pieces and writing the wall texts while the other installed the work.

Kether Tomkins (’15), who worked in the installation group, spoke about how the nontraditional nature of the works affected her group’s approach to the installation. She said, “Most of the shows are more traditional, so to have a collection like this, it challenged us to think about the gallery space.”

One of the challenges was how to display the work. One metalwork piece had to be supported on the wall with thick gutter screws.

There was also the question of how to display pieces of fabric on the wall without damaging them. Alexa Zbieranowski (’17) sewed many of these pieces onto paper to be hung.

About working with textiles, she said, “Working so closely with the textiles was inspiring. The pieces reflect enormous amounts of talent and dedication.” She also noted, “The biggest challenge was overcoming the fear of damaging the textiles because they were hand-crafted.”

Edith Braggiotti-Painting (’14) said of how the show affected her perception of art exhibits, “It makes you aware of how much work goes into a show.”

The exhibit includes seven hand-embroidered dresses from Palestine in addition to an array of other practical objects. There are two pillow cases, which would have been used as part of a Palestinian woman’s dowry, as well as a glass case of hand-crafted jewelry.

Hanging on the walls are swatches of hand-embroidered fabric, a large copper platter and two rugs on either side of the gallery. There is also a garment on display that doubled as a protective tent in the event of a sandstorm.

There are two lectures about Palestinian textiles in conjunction with the exhibit. Hanan Munayyer will present a lecture called “The Origins of Palestine Embroidery” on April 3 at 4 p.m. and Anna Badkhen will present a lecture on April 10 at 4 p.m. called “Weaving Stories from the Global South.”

An opening reception will be held on April 4 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Palestinian Textiles will be on display until April 24 in the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts. The show is open from 12:30-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

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

 

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Painting the beauty of Ireland with their words, award-winning Irish poets Theo Dorgan and Paula Meehan charmed the audience in Craig Chapel Friday evening. Sponsored by the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies’ Master of Fine Arts in Poetry and Poetry Translation program, the event featured readings by the two poets, a book signing and a reception with the program’s faculty.

About 85 attendees, composed of Drewids and members of the Madison and neighboring communities, filled the chairs and chatted in the chapel before administrators from the Caspersen School opened the event.

Associate Dean William Rogers briefly spoke of the MFA program’s success and cultural events hosted by the graduate school, like this one. He said the program is “establishing itself as a premiere program in the country. Of our students, 72 percent have been published or formally presented.”

Director of the MFA in Poetry and Poetry in Translation program Sean Nevin jokingly spoke to the audience about his being both a poet and an administrator. He introduced the two accomplished Irish poets to the audience citing their recent awards and publications.

In September President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins named Meehan as the Ireland Professor of Poetry. Nevin said, “This is the highest post in Ireland for poetry.” This reading was her first public U.S. reading since her appointment, according to Nevin.

Described by Nevin as “a native Corkonian and Dublin-based poet,” Dorgan, a man with thick, dark eyebrows, walked to the microphone on the stage. In a rough and cadenced voice, he said, “It is a great joy to be here in this beautiful place and feel the campus’s spirit of generosity.” The poet, novelist, translator, editor, documentary screenwriter, 2010 recipient of the Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry and author of five collections of poetry captivated the audience with a selection of 12 poems.

His third poem, “Kilmainham Gaol Dublin, Easter 1991” entranced the audience from first to final words. Dorgan quieted his voice for the poem’s final words, “I do not know that I will ever be the same again./ That soft-footed gathering of the dead into their peace/ was like something out of a book. In Kilmainham Gaol/ I saw this. I felt this. I say this as calmly and as lovingly as I can.” The audience leaned in and sighed.

Between readings, Dorgan removed his glasses and spoke to the audience of his family, love, mistranslations, sailors and how he couldn’t resist the temptation to write about paintings.

Meehan stepped up to the stage next and spoke of the MFA program. She said, “This program’s dedication to poetry creates a welcoming community. Being on your campus, I’ve experienced this beautiful atmosphere.”

The poet with shoulder-length white hair and wearing a black dress spoke in a soft voice and with a pleasing lilt. Meehan read poems about her grandparents, her childhood, nature and the beauty of Irish music and culture.

Before reading her fifth poem, she explained the poem’s speaker is a blind woman finding her way home by music. Meehan wrote “Home” to honor the music tradition of Ireland. In the poem, the woman hears a familiar song wherever she travels, but never sung exactly how she remembers from home. Meehan’s completed the blind woman’s journey and said, “Where the song that is in me/ is the song I hear from the world, I’ll set down my burdens/ and sleep. The spot that I lie on at last the place I’ll call home.”

Meehan also spoke of her own experience in an MFA in Poetry program at Eastern Washington University. She said, “If I hadn’t had those two years of companionship and critical support, I’d still be in a bar somewhere talking about the books I’m going to write.

After Meehan closed her reading, the two poets sat down to sign books at a table just outside the Seminary Hall Atrium. A line formed and the poets greeted each attendee with a warm smile.

For Drewids aspiring to become poets, both Dorgan and Meehan advised young writers to read a lot and stay confident. Dorgan said, “Read everything you can, learn the craft and don’t inhibit yourself.” Meehan said, “We writers often start out as readers. Follow your instinct, self-validate and don’t be put down.” She strongly added, “Say to yourself, I have a right to be a creative person.”

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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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A sweet and delightfully humorous production, Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” is a must-see for Drewids and the Madison community. Produced by the Department of Theatre and Dance and Drew University Dramatic Society, the play struck the audiences’ funny bones with whimsical vocal and facial expressions.

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Pierce Lo (’15) plays Algernon and Sophia Koevary (’14) plays Cecily in Oscar Wilde’s play, “The Importance of Being Earnest” (Photo courtesy of Jen Costa Photography)

Set up as theatre in the round (the stage surrounded on all four sides by audience), the play opened to two Victorian loveseats facing one another, as well as a table topped with decanter and sherry glasses in a London flat. The upper-class British accents helped define the setting, though Pierce Lo’s (’15) was questionable and inconsistent at times. Excellent dialect was only marred by the occasional challenge of seeing each actor’s face from all four sides.

The black box floor of the Thomas H. Kean Theatre had been painted to resemble marble tiles, on which appeared to be the repeated optical illusion of Rubin’s vase/face — the well-known image of a vase which can also be seen as two profiles facing each other. This suggests multiple interpretations, which is fitting for “Earnest” because the plot revolves around the juggling of different identities and lives: that of Tim Ward’s (’14) John/Earnest Worthing and Lo’s Algernon/Bunbury Moncrieff.

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Tim Ward (’14) plays John/Earnest Worthing and Chelsea Imbimbo (’15) plays Gwendolyn Fairfax in Oscar Wilde’s play, “The Importance of Being Earnest” (Photo courtesy of Jen Costa Photography)

Besides the set, the costumes designed by Courtney Cooke (’14) proved aesthetically pleasing as well, particularly in Act II, when Sophia Koevary’s (’14) Cecily Cardew, Sarah Petry’s (’14) Miss Prism and Chelsea Imbimbo’s (’15) Gwendolyn Fairfax all appeared in shades of pale pink and lace. Cooke’s choice to mirror the costumes for Cecily and Gwendolyn added another layer to the play’s theme of mixed-up identities.

The minimal lighting design was unvaried but the music cheery, which played between each of the three acts.

Without a doubt, Stephanie Weymouth (’14) and Ward stole the show, breathing life into their respective characters, Lady Bracknell and John/Earnest Worthing. Weymouth utilized confident vocal control and facial expressions to successfully convey the amusingly condescending attitude of her character. Ward aptly handled the stage’s design as he scooted and jumped around the stage, giving every side of the audience plenty of opportunity to see his performance. An audience favorite, proven by the uncontrollable laughter, was a moment in Act II when in the midst of  Worthing’s childish tantrum, Ward stuffed a scone in his mouth, resulting in the comedic spewing of crumbs for his next few lines.

Tyler Metteer’s (’16) reserved portrayal of Lane, Algernon’s manservant, offered a balance to the wild behavior of the Victorian aristocrats. Metteer controlled his reactions, never flinching at outlandish requests or offering more than a sigh while attending to his master. He was indeed the “perfect pessimist,” as Algernon pointed out.

Dan LaPenta’s masterful direction showed on stage and the cast played well off one another to keep the energy up. “Earnest” will be performed tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, tickets are $10. With few complaints, Drewids are strongly advised to set aside a couple hours of their weekends for a night of classically Wilde entertainment.

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