Play Preview: "Much Ado About Nothing" Coming in November

Amidst the coming whirlwind of too-soon midterms, surprise papers due in a week, and the ever-changing lineup of faculty, St. Mary’s students will have a moment to laugh at the comedy-romance spectacle that is Much Ado About Nothing. The Shakespeare play about “betrayal, lovers, bumbling villains and incompetent law officers” is coming to Bruce Davis Theater November 7-9 and 13-16. Directed jointly by Prof. Michael Ellis-Tolaydo and senior TFMS major Madeleine Barry, Much Ado is going to have a very unique and distinctly St. Mary’s twist on typically traditional Shakespeare.

Stage manager and junior Austin Gore is behind the scenes, “making sure all the actors have arrived safely” and generally trying to “maintain the director’s vision.” While it is still early in the production, Gore says he “enjoys Shakespeare but does not have a favorite scene yet.” In total, around 42 people auditioned for the play and were accepted.

Senior and TFMS major Celia Rector is playing the character Hero, a woman that falls in love with the soldier Claudio. Rector says of the play, “I absolutely love Shakespeare, and this comedy has always been one of my favorites. There is something special about it, because while a lot of the jokes and situations are over the top, all of the characters have a genuine love for each other, and really are trying to work towards happiness.” The play will certainly be a welcome distraction from midterms, when the time comes around for it to grace the stage. Be sure to grab a ticket when November rolls around, for it is sure to sell out fast.

Sawatdee Thai Grocery is Great for Fresh Seafood

When I searched Thai food restaurants in the area I only expected to find Thai Inter, but I was pleasantly surprised to find an unknown Thai grocery store and restaurant called Sawatdee on Great Mills Road in Lexington Park. The other editors had never heard of it, though they did have a Facebook page, which showed food pictures and had good reviews.  Last Saturday, I drove out to find the grocery store, dragging my boyfriend along lest it turn out to be a myth and not really exist. After passing by the grocery once and freaking out my GPS (her name is Susan), I quickly did a U-turn and found myself in front of a tiny building with the name “Sawatdee” in Thai and English. We walked inside and immediately the atmosphere seemed friendly and accommodating. While it mainly serves as a local grocery for the area, there are two small tables in the middle of the one room building where we sat to wait for our food after ordering.

There are shelves on the left side of the shop that have everything from Siracha Rooster sauce to microwaveable Japanese Mama noodles and coconut milk to make curry with. On the other side two large fridges carry fresh seafood from the bay and a smaller fridge for sodas and teas. Colorful pictures of each available dish are posted on the walls and there are menus at the counter to pick out your meal.

I went for the classic Pad Thai which is thin rice noodles, peanuts, bean sprouts, and other veggies and delicious spices. My boyfriend decided to be adventurous and get the chicken curry with rice. The owners are very nice and make sure to see what spice level you want for your meal. It only took about ten to fifteen minutes for our food to arrive, and I was excited to eat what I had been craving for the past week.

The shrimp was fresh and very succulent while the noodles were cooked to perfection. For only eight dollars, I got a huge helping of pad thai with shrimp and veggies. The curry came out with a mild spice that left your tongue simmering and enjoying the burn. I snuck a few bites of curry and was very pleased with it. So for a total of 16 dollars we got two bottles of water and a large portion of a classic Thai dish. The owner was very attentive and came out to see if we needed anything a few times.

I would suggest the Sawatdee grocery any time you crave Thai and are on a budget, or if you want access to fresh seafood and Thai products to make your own delicious dishes. Overall, I would give the restaurant an 8 out of 10 for splendid taste, price and service.

'The Monuments Men' Lacks Historical Accuracy

While war movies often have trouble with authenticity and being accurate to a million different details while still being watchable, few have achieved this balance and those that have are brilliant movies (Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers come to mind). Monuments Men is more than a war movie, however, it is a vignette of one of the biggest art preservation campaigns yet accomplished and was the very first time such an undertaking had been attempted.

The film is based on the book of the same name, a historical recount of the Monuments Men division of the armed forces from 1941-1946, where men and women with backgrounds in art conservation, sculpting, art history and even museum curators/directors and others formed a large unit whose task was to go throughout Europe to preserve thousands of years of history and culture in the midst of a war zone.

This may sound an impossible thing to do, but the Monuments Men were able to save priceless national treasures as well as the hundreds of thousands of daily objects confiscated from mainly Jewish families. The book is almost 500 pages and while it has a strong narrative, translating this into a film is problematic and the flaws in the movie are many. With that, I must say that I enjoyed the film (I say this begrudgingly since it was directed by George Clooney) and it was able to capture some of the major events of the book gracefully.

One of the big problems I have with the film is that they have changed all of the names of the people involved. Throughout the film, every time Matt Damon called Cate Blanchett “Claire Simone” I wanted to scream at the screen that the name of the French museum volunteer and invaluable asset to the French underground as well as the Monuments Men (a woman who worked alongside Nazis at the Jeu de Palmes, a Louvre museum in Paris and kept meticulous notes on every piece of art they stole and brought there) was actually Rose Valland. I am sure there was a privacy debate or something with the copyright to make it necessary to change the names, but after reading the book I found myself frustrated at puzzling out who was supposed to be who when all the names were changed.

The strong narrative present in the book is very much present in the film; it begins with the theft of the Bruges Madonna and actually ends with the discovery of it. The Madonna was one of the most important finds the Monuments Men had and I thought it was rightfully at the center of the story along with the Ghent Alterpiece from Belgium. Besides Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray and John Goodman were among the many veteran actors in the film who really brought the characters alive and truly seemed to understand the atmosphere of the time.

I was especially impressed by the landscapes and how real they seemed, the “movie magic” was poured all over the backdrop from Paris to Inner Germany. While it bothered me how they changed a few key details, such as how Ronald Balfour, British art historian, met his end. In the book, he is walking with a guide in a town in Belgium that is under attack from Germany and when he rounds a corner a bomb goes off. In the film, they paint Balfour as a struggling drunk who is redeemed by his heroic death in attempting to stop the Nazis from stealing the Bruges Madonna.

This is not what happened; the film over-romanticized the death of Balfour while also taking artistic license to tell his story. Overall, I would give the film a 5.6 out of 10, it was entertaining but not overly accurate with facts or true to the actual events that happened in 1941-1945.

SMP Spotlight: Katie Boyle Investigates Gladiatorial Combat in Ancient Greece

During senior year, besides counting down the days and hours to graduation, most students at the college are busy at work with their St. Mary’s Projects (SMPs) on whatever topic that interests them. Senior and Anthropology major Katherine “Katie” Boyle is no exception and her project dives into the ancient world of Greece and their entertainment.

Boyle has always been interested in Roman and Greek entertainment, specifically naumachia or gladiatorial combat. In 2009, she took a trip to Tunisia for her Latin class and explored the Roman amphitheater El Djem. This would later spark her continued interest in amphitheaters.

The theater of Ancient Corinth in Greece and whether or not naumachia or other aquatic events could have been possible there is the subject of her project. Many sources have conflicting information on the uses of the Corinth Theater and this conflict is the center of her paper. While on the Greek study tour offered by the history department at St. Mary’s, a site report assignment led Boyle to the Corinth Theater as well as the theater at Delphi.

“Gladiatorial combat is a very interesting topic to me and I wanted to know if there was any truth if behind naumachia was held [at the Corinth Theater],” Katie said when asked what inspired her to research the fascinating Greek staple.

Anthropology projects will begin to be presented Friday, May 5, in Kent 316. It will be interesting to see if Katie Boyle sheds more light on to the ancient uses of Greek and Roman theaters and amphitheaters, and whether her question about naumachia will be answered.

Encounters: A Night of Poetry, Dance and Creative Expression

Running from February 26 through March 2, “Encounters” was a emotional and breathtaking performance by ten dancers and three narrators on the redesigned Bruce Davis Theatre floor, where each person stood in the literal limelight (on top of a glass cutout in the floor with lights shining through it) to talk about their lives. This was not just a dance show, but also one that included poetry and spoken word.  Performers sang and recited poetry alongside the individual choreography of the dancers.

A mixture of fantasy and reality, “Encounters” allows the audience to peek into the dancer’s worlds for a moment. In the theatre, there were four rows of benches set up at each side of the room and in the center, on a black tarp-like stage the dancers stretched before waiting to begin their performance. In the center, a square glass addition had been added to allow the person speaking to be in the center and to draw attention to them. Each of the ten dancers had an introduction, which was either a story about themselves or a poem that really spoke to them, followed by specific choreography to their personalities. In addition to the introductions, many of the dancers had solos or duets. The costumes were all white and tan made of undyed, natural fibers to represent the personal, raw nature of the dancer’s stories. As costume designer Prof. Jessica Lustig pointed out, “the only color in the show was the handprints on the columns – the human touch literally is what colors this place.”

One of the most striking of performances had junior Celia Rector and sophomore Windy Vorwick connected in a duet that had them both finishing each other’s steps and words. They gave a powerful monologue on women and gender equality through a first-person story in the life of a woman. Celia Rector said “the hardest part of the show (for me) was making a whole bunch of different pieces fit together. Transitions were really tricky at first because we wanted to make sure everything made a cohesive whole.”Another highlight was senior Shukriyyah Greaves, who talked about needing peace in a world that sees her as the enemy, a very consciousness and symbolic dance that was powerful and raw. Freshman Austin Gore was impressed with the show, saying “I admired the bravery of all of the students in the production of “Encounters,” because it was about their own lives. There is nothing more vulnerable than placing yourself in front of an audience to express yourself, and when it is your actual self and not a character, that takes an immense amount of bravery.”

Frances Norwood Lectures on Dutch End of Life Policies

On Monday, Feb. 24, at 5p.m., Dr. Frances Norwood of George Washington University delivered a speech in Cole Cinema. The lecture covered a wide spectrum of observations and conclusions based on her ethnographic fieldwork in the Netherlands, where she interviewed and observed doctors and their patients about euthanasia, including their views about it.

A medical anthropologist and recipient of the Margaret Mead Award in 2012, Dr. Norwood was born in North Carolina and after receiving her undergraduate degree in Industrial Relations at University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), she later went on to attain her Masters in anthropology at American University. She also got a joint Ph.D. from University of California- Berkeley and San Francisco.

Medical anthropology is the study of culture and humans through their health and well being. This being said, there are many possible research topics in the field. For Dr. Norwood, the connection between culture and nature relates to their end of life policies in ways one would not expect.

Before actually sharing her findings, Norwood went over the Dutch history with water. For hundreds of years, people in the Netherlands have been building dikes and polders to keep the North Sea from encroaching on their sparse land. They did this through creating mounds of earth, usually kept dry by a windmill constantly pumping the water out. This connection with controlling water translated into a huge project started in 1953, called the Delta Works Project, that protects the Netherlands from being flooded by raising and lowering the water levels through 400 miles of dikes. In Dr. Norwood’s words, the Dutch have a connection from wanting to control water to controlling death. Junior Sam Newman thought, “What was most interesting in the talk were the floods and how the Dutch control the water around them.” What does this have to do with their end of life policies? Norwood elaborated on their legal policies for euthanasia and how their view of nature shapes their view of death as well.

The Dutch have had euthanasia legalized since 1984 and in 2012 it was further legalized by statute. Of course there are rules as to how and when euthanasia can be used. It is used for someone who chooses to end their life because their suffering/pain is too unbearable or they have an incurable disease that has become too much.

There are five stages to a euthanasia request and all are including allowing the whole Dutch family to talk together about it and allow the individual who is thinking about it to be able to change their minds or get a better understanding of the process. The stages include an initial request, written request, second opinion, date set, and, finally, euthanasia death. This process takes weeks to months and most requests do not make it out of the first to third stages for various reasons.

As junior Sabrina Parker put it, “The talk was interesting because I did not know about euthanasia. It is good to know there are good uses for it since cultures use it in different ways.”

After sharing some of the data she collected on doctors’ feelings toward euthanasia, Dr. Norwood posited that the current push for the legalization of euthanasia occurred as a “response to over-medicalization” and that the Dutch are trying to bring nature back into the end of life.

Though her fieldwork was based in the Netherlands, Norwood works in the healthcare industry in the United States and so expounded on the possibility of euthanasia legalization in the U.S. According to the medical anthropologist, 45 percent of all people in the U.S. die in the hospital instead of at home. This can be seen as over-medicalization in that people are subjected to a lot of pain through the things that keep them alive, rather than just living at home for their last few moments. Culturally, Norwood said, “The U.S. is distrustful of authority and uses a very individualistic mentality,” and so euthanasia would not be a viable choice here unless changes were instituted in the health business. One should have better choices to pick from outside of either a sub-par nursing home or euthanasia. However, Norwood did also state that health industries are moving slowly toward more community-based treatment (especially for older people) and less hospital-based, so as to help the patient.

Senior Yna Davis had this to say about the talk, “She is so articulate. She is explaining concepts I knew nothing about in a super informative and thought provoking way – it makes me want to learn more. This is definitely one of the coolest talks I have been to.”

Zombies Invade During the Valentine’s Day Weekend

During the Valentine’s Day weekend, while lovers were dining out or exchanging gifts, zombies and humans were fighting a fierce battle for survival…at least they will be until the end of the mini-game on Sunday, Feb. 16. Humans versus Zombies (HvZ) is a popular tag-based survival game popular on college campuses throughout the United States.

People sign up to be humans, while one or two people are assigned the role of Original Zombie (OZ). The OZs tag people, turning them into zombies. As the game progresses, zombies try to “eat” as many humans as possible, and the humans fight back with weapons that range from socks stuffed with more socks, to nerf guns. It gets very involved and as you walk through the campus, you can see zombies (wearing bandanas around their heads) waiting behind bushes or pillars and their human counterparts (wearing bandanas on their arms) alert and ready to send a sock flying to stun the zombie for just long enough to flee.

HvZ is a club on campus that is headed by sophomore Hannah Dickmeyer, sophomore Dalton Haber, sophomore Orion Hartmann, junior Erik Fisher and senior Katie Boyle. Usually games last a week, so the special three-day mini-game (from Friday, Feb. 14, to Sunday, Feb. 16) was especially packed with missions to allow players to get the most out of the experience. The theme was medieval in nature and the humans had to protect their emperor as well as accomplish objectives. If the human emperor died, the zombies would get a queen who could make the zombies active again and, therefore, make it a lot harder for the humans to win. Sophomore and executive board member of HvZ Orion Hartmann said, “The best part of the game is that you’re always playing. Everyone starts out as a human and when you die you just switch teams and have different objectives. It’s an entirely different playing style and it’s fabulous.”

Since the mini-game has a medieval flare, there are lords and relics in addition to the human and zombie emperors. One of the missions that took place on Saturday, Feb. 15 was an excavation to find holy relics, in the form of pool noodles – if the excavator was tagged, the relic would go to the zombies and they would be able to use the relic against the humans. The excavator was surrounded by humans going to and from the excavation site, as well as while they were there. While at the site, the excavator had to “dig up” the relic, staying there for a certain amount of time before taking them back to where all the humans would meet again. The relics were then purified in another mission that day, allowing the humans to use them as weapons against the zombies. Sophomore Acer Lewis thought that “it was awesome, and it is somehow fun to be terrified all the time.”

Keep an eye out for the full-game coming up either in late March or early April, and be sure to sign up for an exciting, post-apocalyptic tag game where you can get exercise, a history lesson, and the camaraderie of being a surviving human or a still-active zombie.

Race and Education: A Lecture by Philosopher Laurence Blum

Baltimore native and well-known philosopher Laurence Blum lectured on race and education within his experience teaching a high school course on race and racism in a Cambridge, Massachusetts’s school. The event was co-sponsored by the DeSousa-Brent scholars program, Educational Studies and the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department. Blum achieved his PhD at Harvard University for Philosophy and has been teaching at the University of Boston since 1973.

He handed out a course outline to the audience previous to beginning the lecture. It looked like a standard syllabus for a class and you could tell he was a teacher. He started the lecture with a description of the course he taught at Cambridge and Rindge Latin High School and then talked about his students in the class. As he explained, Blum approached the topic of race through a historical and scientific lens so he could show his students where today’s societal racial categories were born. He compared the racial systems in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States in order to trace their origins. One of the exercises he gave students in class was to think about the African role in the slave trade and in particular the morality of selling other Africans to Europeans.

Blum stresses the importance of talking about race without being stigmatized or shut down, as he says that “I think that Americans ignore race” and to even talk about it is considered an attack on the person. There is a civic side to his teaching, where his students could learn “basic racial literacy”. This means they learned how to engage with and learn from other students who did not belong to the same group as them. The school in which he taught the class was 33% white and a mix of Latinos/Hispanics, African American/Black/ Caribbean and Asian students. In making the composition for his class, Blum wanted to evoke cross-racial conversations and also, an atmosphere where all would feel able to speak freely about their experiences without persecution. He wanted students of color to be a majority in the class, as in most of the Advanced Placement classes white students were the majority and that can cause discomfort as well as feelings of inadequacy. Sophomore Kareem Adams thought that the lecture “was informative and opened up a proverbial window to look at race differently regardless of ethnicity. We all need to get out of our comfort zones.”

One of the main reasons Blum taught this class was to show that anyone could talk about race and he wanted to “deracialize race”, meaning that no matter who you were you should be able to talk about it without being ostracized. A common misconception is that white people in the US are not interested in race and Blum challenged that through his designing and implementation of the class. As a white teacher teaching about race and racism, Blum had a few rules for himself to follow. Some of these included affirming people of color’s stories (giving them the same validation all humans should get), showing belief in student’s abilities, to really be interested in what they have to say and lastly, to make clear that there is a lot a white Professor such as himself will not understand since he is a white male.

Highly informative and fascinating, the lecture ended with a question and answer session open to the audience. Several people raised their hands and around six or seven people were called upon. The questions ranged from how to implement a core class on race that is a requirement across counties or even states, and also about how even relating a experience of what someone has had to go through is often seen as an ‘attack’ on white students. An example would be a person of color relating the experience of being followed around a department store and another person denying their experience or perceiving it as a threat to their belief system because it does not fit into their idea of what happens in the world. Fatima Dainkeh, junior, “thought it was wonderful and important to have a person not of color talk about race especially at a majority white school.” The lecture was an enlightening and well-thought out look into modern American society and our education system in regards to our perspectives on race and ethnicity in this country.

The Photographer as Visual Artist: Michael Robinson Chavez on the End of an Egyptian Era

Photography is usually seen as a way to capture the art around us and to preserve it indefinitely. In a talk given at the Boyden Gallery on January 28th, Michael Robinson Chavez showed that photography (and specifically photojournalism) is also a tool to inspire action and to document history in the making. The talk was a part of the ‘Photographer as Visual Author’ exhibit that showcases five photographers’ work in various places such as Egypt, Belarus and Japan with the idea of documenting stories visually about difficult subjects such as revolution, conflict, and nuclear disaster.  Each of the highlighted photographers have given talks on their respective works and the hard work behind the photos.

Chavez has been to multiple war zones and places around the world that are usually over looked in the news sphere or in the daily lives of Western audiences such as Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Peru. Though he touched on those experiences, the main focus of the lecture was on the Egyptian revolution and the pictures he had on display from those turbulent days of the beginning of the Arab Spring. Two weeks before the Revolution began, Chavez taught several photography workshops in Cairo. He learned of the igniting Egyptian Revolution soon after returning to the United States and requested to be sent back to cover it. The iconic photographs he took are mostly from Tahrir square, where many demonstrations occurred. As he discussed the experience, Chavez mentioned all of the behind the scenes work that has to go into getting stories and being a photojournalist for a prominent newspaper like the New York Times. He emphasized the importance of research within the field, especially in a time where newspapers have shrinking budgets and have to be careful with what they cover in order to ensure financial stability. Before he can even cover a story, he does intense research on the subject and then proposes it to his bosses. Though it is difficult to cover everything he wants, Chavez has been able to cover a wide range of places.

An example of this would be the ‘non-existent’ town of Rinconada, Peru where the government has no hold and basic utilities like sewage are not available. Rinconada is generally recognized as being the highest altitude city in the world. What was once a settlement for a small contingency of miners is now home to around 50,000 people. The town itself popped up due to the discovery of gold in the area. As the price of gold has continued to rise, so has the population of the city. Chavez went because he felt pushed to go explore it. According to Chavez, he “only lasted four days” because of the squalid conditions and the altitude. He showed slideshows of Rinconada pictures in a haunting black and white that emphasized the stark isolation of the town and the terrible conditions of life there. A member of the Student Government Association, Maribeth Ganzell, was “impressed and excited to see photography being brought to SMCM” and was also very impressed that the school was able to bring such a prominent photographer to talk.

The talk was well attended, with most of the gallery filled with professors, people from within the community and students alike. Chavez was able to keep attention on him with an animated, joking manner but also remain very approachable. Senior Jemarc Axinto appreciated “how he was sensitive to photographing people and when they were uncomfortable he backed off.” After presenting his experiences, tips for good photojournalism, and anecdotes, Chavez opened up the floor for questions. One of the questions asked was if he was afraid when he took the pictures in the midst of Tahrir square. His reply was an astonishing and interesting one: “You have to be fearless out in the field but there was this time when my fixer called and said people were riding into Tahrir square on camels and when I went down I ended up in the pro-Mubarek side of the rally. At the time, I didn’t know this but journalists were being imprisoned and threatened with torture. The crowd started to beat me up for taking pictures and a undercover policeman grabbed me up and took me out of there.” By braving such dangers, Chavez has produced photos that offer vivid portrayals of history in the making as well as depictions of human life. Associate Professor of Art Carrie Patterson commented on the exhibit overall, saying “it is wonderful to start the semester with an exhibition that highlights the importance of photography in the 21st century. This show is an excellent example of the cross disciplinary nature of the medium and speaks to the relevance of having photography in a liberal arts environment.” As a side note, Professor Patterson also added that she couldn’t “help but see the irony in having such a strong show and yet we are currently under the second year of not fully funding our photography program.”

Professor Dennie: Speech Writer for Sisulu and Mandela

Associate Professor of History Garrey Dennie is a common face in the halls of Kent Hall, where he teaches mainly African and Caribbean history courses as well as other history classes.

What most people probably do not realize is that Professor Dennie spent a year, from October 1989 to the fall of 1990, in South Africa doing research for his Ph.D. in political funerals, and ended up becoming a speech writer for two prominent voices in the struggle for South African de-segregation and liberation.

Dennie stayed with another graduate student from Johns Hopkins at the time, Afrikaner Caroline Hamilton and her husband. Hamilton was a member of the then criminalized African National Congress (ANC).

The ANC had been banned from South African politics since 1960, around the time that they also developed an armed part of the ANC. Since it was illegal to operate there, those members of the ANC still in South Africa were either in hiding or imprisoned. Hamilton was an underground member and was enlisted to write a speech for the newly released activist Walter Sisulu. Sisulu was released around the time Dennie arrived in the country and had been imprisoned since 1963.

When Sisulu was released, the ANC’s leadership outside of the country asked Hamilton to write a speech for Sisulu and because Dennie happened to be nearby, they co-wrote the first speech Sisulu gave. The ANC informed Hamilton and Dennie that if the speech was successful, they would write for Nelson Mandela if he was released.

Before his imprisonment, Mandela was the commander-in-chief of the armed part of ANC and was not as involved in the hierarchical structure as Sisulu was at the time. Considering Sisulu picked Dennie and Hamilton’s speech over one by the ANC stands for itself. Soon after Mandela was released they were asked to write for him through an intermediary Michael Vali.

Due to Mandela’s death just last year, Dennie wrote an article about speech writing and in particular something he has said “none of the commemorations that were seen dealt with: the struggles of his effort to shape the ANC and win control.” Though Dennie came to South Africa to do research, he left having become a part of the same political and historical process that he teaches at St. Mary’s College.

This Barbados native went from studying history to becoming a prominent part of history in the making and the College is very lucky to have such a knowledgeable and interesting professor in its ranks.