Saturday, March 9, 2013

NYT Defense

We will be defending Ben Brantley's review of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Brantley is the chief theatre critic at the New York Times. He is a well-trusted source who even has his own website to showcase his review.

We will look at his on-the-fence tone, as well as his argument comparing the classical Cinderella with his politically correct progressive version.

We will talk about how he uses the history of past productions of Cinderella as well as pop culture references to support his argument as well as advance his tone. He uses this context to capture and engage the reader.

We will analyze the structure of the review, specifically looking at how he does a good job establishing and supporting his argument, but how his ending is confusing and falls flat. His "but" statement comes early on and addresses the idea of the pretty Cinderella against a more revolutionary Cinderella.

Overall, the review is well-written, informative, and engaging; Brantley clearly has done his research and addresses many important aspects of the production.

The review can be found here:

Aliera & Nicole

9/11: A Date All Americans Instantly Recognize

" 'Offensive to all Muslims or just to those radicals whose aim is to destroy America and the West.' This is a distinction without a difference." (Comment on BreitBart).

Even today, attacks of violence, vandalism, and arson against people believed to be Muslim in the US continue. Over a decade later, 9/11 still shakes us, angers us. Some hate Islam as a whole, still striving to place the blame for the 3,000 lives lost. Others hate the bigots who blindly hate Islam because of their ignorance to the complexity of the situation.

Amy Waldman’s novel, “The Submission,” honestly portrays many sides of the issue, humanizing everyone. She gives everyone a story, the hated and the haters, revealing extreme religious intolerance in the US and honestly examining our country’s reaction—both an understandable and repulsive one—to the terrorist attack.

Waldman creates no main character in her novel. “The Submission” opens with a jury elected to choose a design for a 9/11 memorial. It begins through Claire Burwell’s eyes, widowed by the attack, but quickly cycles through various other characters. The architect of jury’s chosen design, a beautiful garden, is Mohammad Khan, a Muslim-American, sparking extreme controversy throughout the novel. Rooted in a fear of Islam from 9/11, Khan’s refusal to withdraw or change his submission, causes even more racism, hatred, and resentment.

Waldman channels the hatred and misunderstanding of Islam into her novel and dissects it, giving a voice to all sides: a white widow confused about what to think, an Islamophobic white man whose brother died, the Muslim-American architect, and a Muslim immigrant from Bangladesh whose husband also died when the towers fell.

Waldman’s language reflects her journalistic background; it’s simple and direct, every word matters. Despite the swift changes between narrators and the direct language, however, each narrator has an astounding depth. Their inner-thoughts are almost a confession to the reader, each section almost journalism in their minds, which creates an ability to see and better understand each character’s perspective.

In the novel, when Burwell says the hatred and resentment “isn’t about you. It’s about the religion,” Khan’s response is:

“How would you feel if I justified what happened to your husband by saying is wasn’t about him but about his nationality—his country’s policies—damn shame he got caught up in, that’s all—but you know, he got what he deserved because he paid taxes to the American government. I get what I deserve because I happen to share a religion with a bunch of crazies?”

Burwell only hears “damn shame” and “what he deserved” and angrily concludes Kahn believes her husband was just “collateral damage…and bore responsibility and guilt simply because he was American.” But this is exactly what Kahn argues against. She simply doesn’t listen.

That is the point the novel makes. That is why it’s important to read. It makes us reflect on our reactions, misconceptions, and prejudices and realize we need to open to other people’s stories. We need to listen.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Life is a prayer in the gospel of Tree Bark..."

I kept going back to this song this past month. The Gospel of Tree Bark, by singer, songwriter, and cellist, Anna Fritz (who is based in the beautiful Portland, Oregon)--what does that title and line of the song even mean? It sounds like a passionate environmentalist slogan mixed with a tacky religious greeting card. And the weirdness of the music video doesn't help. But somehow the song enchants you.

The song is strange, mystical, almost childlike. The music video includes odd masks, a forest, and a really long string of bright red yarn. When I listen to the song, however, is resonates with me. It captures a feeling of loss. The sadness, the confusion, the helplessness. The desire to just blindly walk with no idea where you are going. The sense that something is off in the world--something is out of place, upside-down, disturbing. 

The song is creepy and unsettling while also being uplifting and hopeful. With the creepiness, sad, and disturbing feeling in the song, there is also a fairy-tale quality. You become focused on the surreal women in masks. You are engrossed with the red yarn and where it is leading the woman. Where is it taking her. You witness a transformation from a woman following yarn to into a fairy-tale creature playing the cello in a forest. And then at the end she is being led again, the yarn tugging her finger, perhaps implying it is not where the yarn leads you that matters. The yarn doesn't lead anywhere. It eventually just ends. But it is about the journey of following the yarn. That's what the "gospel of Tree Bark" means. 

It is about what you do, where you go, when the yarn runs out: "Life has gone on and will go one forever, and you're just a droplet, a small bean of light... " Realize that, and still go on. Realize you are no longer lead, and lead yourself. Realize you are lost in the woods, and dance. 

"Life is a prayer in the gospel of Tree Bark," so pray, live--and see what happens.