REVIEW: Basement Arts’ SLUT The Play

Content warning: this play and review contains topics of rape and sexual violence. 

Centered around 16-year-old Joey’s testimony about the night she was assaulted by three of her friends, Slut: the Play interweaves Joey’s interviews and the reactions of Joey’s female classmates. The play itself has a rich history, initially created by the all-girl, non-profit theatre organization The Arts Effect. Slut: the Play was eventually adapted into the Netflix Series Grand Army.

The organization of the play translated well to a Zoom format, utilizing a mix of filmed (masked) group scenes, Zoom calls, and individual recorded monologues to tell the story. The ability for monologues to be filmed in genuine locations was a powerful dynamic in Basement Arts’ adaptation. Joey’s friend Jane talking to an unseen mother in a kitchen. The sister of one of the perpetrators pleading him for answers while sitting cross-legged on her bed, laptop on her lap. 

Strong acting throughout, I was gripped by the cast’s performance. The play was difficult to watch at times, with disturbing content matter both in terms of sexual assault descriptions and some character’s reactions to the events in question. However, I think it was a brutal call to recognize the many different aspects of a toxic culture that often discourage survivors from speaking up. 

The titular word, ‘slut,’ starts off as a sex-positive term among Joey’s classmates for their dance team nicknamed “The Slut Squad,” but turns into a horrible, derogatory, blame-filled word once Joey steps forward with her story. A community reacting with victim-blaming and accusations of lying leave Joey wondering if there will ever be resolution for her, considering the way her community has responded to her coming forward. The play ends, however, with a small glimpse of hope–the words “I believe you.”

Basement Arts did a speaker series to accompany this show, including interviews with Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate Vanity Catoni-Ellis and co-creator of the play Meg McInerney, which I think was an important supplement to the show, considering the heavy content material. Overall, I believe Basement Arts handled this production well, making it work for the current circumstances in order to ensure the meaning of the material wasn’t lost.

Basement Arts asks patrons to consider donations to the following organizations in lieu of ticket prices:

First Step – https://www.firststep-mi.org
Safe House Center – https://www.safehousecenter.org

PREVIEW: Range of Reaction

On Friday, January 29th, Arts in Color will premiere a digital student choreography showcase entitled Range of Reaction.The virtual dance showcase is produced, choreographed, and performed entirely by University of Michigan dance students. Five dynamic choreographers have created short dance films that seek to answer the question “how does the world that we live in right now affect the choices that we make daily?” Range of Reaction showcases thought-provoking art, tackling a variety of topics including colonialism, groupthink, racism, and queer identity.

 

Range of Reaction began as a cathartic discussion of the creative silence COVID-19 has brought to art communities, and transformed into an imagining of what art may look like as our communities heal. Each work was filmed throughout the fall in Ann Arbor, with every party involved strictly following University of Michigan and statewide COVID-19 safety guidelines. This week’s showcase highlights the perseverance of artistic communities, as it offers the premiere of five original works despite the numerous hardships and challenges the pandemic has presented.

 

Range of Reaction will be posted to the Arts in Color Vimeo on Friday, January 29th at 8pm EST and will be available to view free of charge. Supported in part through the School of Music, Theatre & Dance Meta Weiser EXCEL Fund, as well as Arts at Michigan, Range of Reaction is a must-see showcase for those looking for a refreshingly original and thought-provoking performing arts event from the safety of their home.

 

To watch the Range of Reaction Promotional Trailer, visit https://vimeo.com/504178628 . Range of Reaction will be posted to the same channel.

REVIEW: Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche

In the light of today, I didn’t suspect to be given the opportunity to write a review for Basement Arts’ production of “Five Lesbian Eating a Quiche”, but last minute, the theater department received an email inviting us to see the show, despite it being what was supposed to be the show’s dress rehearsal. So at 7:30p, fifty-one people filed into the Newman Studio in the Walgreen Drama Center, program in hand, and cheered on five lesbians with a severe quiche addiction.

The show was a delight. It was funny, satirical, well-acted, clever and all-together a terrific production. Anna Demarinis served as Lulie, the president of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein, leading the show as a true powerhouse. Ruby Perez, “Dale”, and Patricia Joseph “Wren”, portrayed a compulsive, but heartfelt couple, so glad to be able to admit, in the face of the nuclear apocalypse, that they were in fact, lovers. Sofia Angelopolous portrayed Vern, a rigid, and rather intense officer in charge of maintaining the community center. And Maddy Paxson, with an unexpected British accent, served as a perfect contrast to the rest of the group, as the new officer “Ginny”, who was unawares to the lesbianism of the rest of the group. Sydney Prince’s directing was spot-on, and despite the news of the day, all fifty-one of us left laughing.

But what struck me about “Five Lesbians…” was its timeliness. After today’s announcement and as many students mourned the closing of campus for the rest of the semester, seeing five women look down the barrel of the end of time was hard. No, I’m not comparing coronavirus to the nuclear end, but for many students in STMD, they saw the majority of their work go down the drain. Performances were canceled, projects were postponed indefinitely, and no one seemed to know what was next. Basement Art’s production reminded me though, quite clearly, that in times of uncertainty, there are certain things we can, and have to, rely on.

We’ve had many discussions through my time at SMTD about creating art in the time of uncertainty. And while some may not consider a show as silly and entertaining as “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche” art that addresses such a subject, I would wholeheartedly disagree. By the end of the show, I could’ve said, with great certainty that I felt a little more hopeful about our situation today. Maybe it was the relief of knowing I didn’t have to walk out the door and face nuclear fall-out, or that I wouldn’t have to decide which person in the room we’d have to kill. But whatever it was, it was enough to know we’d all survive.

More than that, “Five Lesbians…” was willing to share a little part of their process knowing that most of its audiences had given up theirs. Art in times of uncertainty relies on what art is founded on; community and generosity. Art provides us with a safe place to go, to return to, and to look forward to. Our art, whatever it may be, has the possibility to be an anchor in our lives, and in times of chaos and unknowing, times like today, it can provide us a roof over our heads in a storm: it doesn’t stop the weather outside, but it gives us a place to rest our heads. Thanks, Basement Arts, the cast, and all involved for a little bit of shelter tonight. To anyone reading this, I wish you could’ve been there.

 

 

PREVIEW: The Captive

The Residential College Players, better known through campus as the RC Players, is presenting their first full-length play of the semester, “The Captive” this Friday and Saturday, at 8:00p both days, in East Quad’s Keene Theater! Originally written in 1926 by French playwright, Edouard Bourdet, the three-act melodrama was shut down after 160 performances on Broadway because the lesbianism portrayed in the play was considered “obscene”. The story depicts a young woman, Irene, who is hopelessly and painfully in love with the unseen character, Mdme. d’Aiguines, despite her imminent engagement to a young gentleman, Jacques Virieu. Her love for Mdme. d’Aiguines keeps Irene captive, in more ways than one.

Be sure to stop by the Keene Theater this weekend to catch this one-of-a-kind performance!

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PREVIEW: Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche

Presented as part of student organization Basement Arts’ mainstage season, “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche”, directed by Sydney Prince, is bound to be one of the craziest plays you’ve ever seen! Playing in the Newman Studio (located in North Campus’ Walgreen Drama Center) this Friday at 7:00p and 11:00p, and Saturday at 7:00p, “Five Lesbians…” by Andrew Hobgood and Evan Linder invites audiences into a 1956 meeting of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein. The annual quiche contest is upon the society, and the only thing getting in the way seems to be the imminent threat of nuclear war. 

Of the production, director Sydney Prince, a senior FTVM and LSA Drama double major, says “Recently, I have felt like there is a lack of comedy at this school so primarily, I wanted to find something that would make people laugh and make people think.” When asked about why she proposed the play to Basement Arts, Prince said, “I’ve never read a play that so wholeheartedly embraces its world and is able to develop such a sentimental and real story about something that is so comedic and strange.

Be sure you don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind piece of theatre, this Friday, March 13th at 7:00p and 11:00p, and Saturday, March 14th at 7:00p. As per Basement Arts’ mission, this event is free to the public! 

 

REVIEW: 8th Annual Yule Ball

What a fantastic night!

University of Michigan’s quidditch team surely put on a show. The Rogel ballroom looked positively gorgeous in it’s Harry Potter attire, transforming into something almost as magical as the great hall itself. Quidditch hoops lined each opposing end of the room, decorated in twinkling lights, serving as a popular spot to to take pictures. A banquet table full of appetizing delights, tempted witches as wizards alike with different cheeses, fruits, cakes, and bread, as well as water and lemonade. A playlist of catchy dance music was constantly playing throughout the night encouraging guests to strut their stuff out on the dance floor, and of course being the enthusiastic dancer that I am, I complied, much to the despair of the dancers around me. I’ll tell you, dancing in full robes and high heels is harder than I thought it would be.

Although I enjoyed the Yule Ball very much, it did have it’s shortcomings. One of which is that the entertainment that was provided was a bit of a hit or miss. Of course, I have to take into consideration that this is an event put on by a student organization, hence budgets are always limited. However, when you see a sorting hat hanging from a string off a sagging wall-like structure that is  falling over at times…you start to wonder how much was left until the last minute. Of course, I would never claim that that was the case and I’m sure they worked hard on all their props, but if a prop is every failing, it’s better to just cut it out entirely. Another problem with the sorting hat was the performance itself. As my friend sat down to be sorted, it seemed as though the quidditch team had a series of sorting questions that were printed out a sheet of paper. However, the person in charge of the sorting hat only asked my friend two of them before abruptly sorting her into Gryffindor, a rather disappointing turn of events. As well as the sorting hat, there was also a divination booth which produced a better experience overall. The person in charge seemed very willing to put on the best performance possible and gave both my friend and I a very enthusiastic prediction of our futures.

Overall, I’d say it was a successful night in the long run. It was fun to see fellow fans of the wizarding world of Harry Potter enjoying time together under the same roof. No duels broke out and no one got turned into a ferret. I would have liked Dumbledore to make an appearance, but I guess that was too much to hope for.

Oh well, there’s always next year!