PREVIEW: Into the Labyrinth: A History of Physics From Galileo to Dark Matter

What: the premier of an interdisciplinary musical performance narrating the history of physics and exploring the connection between science and the arts

When: Friday, January 27, 8:00pm

Where: Keene Theater, East Quad

Tickets: free & open to the public!

Into the Labyrinth is part-recitation, part-play, part-concert, a dynamic performance demonstrating how science can be interpreted and shared through the arts. A Q&A with three of the creative minds behind Into the Labyrinth–Alberto Rojo, Michael Gould and Nicholas Balla–precedes the show. Afterwards, the evening will feature a combination of narration and songs. The narrator, Michael Tulip, will read a combination of excerpts from the works of famous physicists and the writing of Elfriede Jelinek, a Nobel prize-winning Austrian author. Interspersed with the narration will be music for voice, guitar, drum set, and chamber winds, brass, and percussion. I look forward to seeing how the creators of Into the Labyrinth weave together the words–and worlds–of authors from the realms of physics and art to create an engaging performance that gets audiences excited about science.

REVIEW: Zero Grasses by Jen Shyu

I confess that I don’t quite know how to review Jen Shyu’s Zero Grasses performance piece. I’m a beginner to performance art. I don’t see it very often, and when I do most of it goes over my head. It’s true that I didn’t understand all of this performance, but what I can say is that I am so, so glad I went to it regardless because it connected with parts of my identity that I didn’t expect it to.

This artist residency was made possible by the Center for World Performance Studies (CWPS) at UM! They connect with students, artists, and scholars all across the globe to advocate for the power of performance for research and for public engagement. They work with lots of great artists, and center on underrepresented, non-Western, and diasporic voices, bodies, and acts. Check out their website to learn more, their next event is coming up on December 8.

Jen Shyu is a vocalist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and dancer. She graduated from Stanford in opera and has


classical violin and ballet training and has studied traditional music and dance from numerous cultures around the world. I went into Jen Shyu’s performance knowing none of this and came out thinking one thing: She is fully, imperfectly, human.

In Zero Grasses, Jen Shyu explores parts of her past that are, as she described in the post-performance Q&A, “icky.” She reenacted the moment she found out about her father’s passing while working abroad. The news came from an email message, cold and stark and impersonal, screenshotted and projected onto the stage. She danced and sang through the story of a relationship she had with a man twice her age. She read a diary entry from her childhood about the time she was called a racial slur as she stepped off the bus. She lay on the floor in grief when, after a lengthy and expensive medical procedure, the doctor only extracted one viable egg.

The performance was not neatly separated. She skips back and forth between chapters of her life, showing how messy they are, showing how a page written in a diary journal when she was 8 has parallels with her job as a salsa dancer at age 23. The creativity of it all blew me away. Numerous different instruments (most of which I can’t remember the names of) were strategically placed around the stage. Jen would fluidly move between them, coaxing music out of each to back up her rich singing like it was as easy as breathing. The main props used were giant cardboard boxes, each with artifacts from her past. At times she would paw through the boxes, fling them across the stage, or stack them on top of each other as a makeshift wall to project media onto.

The projections of pictures and videos that she had taken on her phone made it so REAL. I was looking at history but I was also looking at something that was continuously being created, a picture that could have been taken yesterday. I think it was the perfect way to capture Jen’s journey with grief, how she felt it anew each day. It was very alive.

In the Q&A, I asked how she was able to explore these vulnerable parts of her past and portray herself in a light that isn’t so great while still protecting her mental health. She responded that she is always thinking about who she could be helping with her art. She feels she would be doing more harm if she DIDN’T talk about these uncomfortable topics because they’re already taboo and it’s hard for people to find a safe space to process them. She does this in an attempt to have that connection with somebody in the audience who thinks “You’re not alone, I was there too at one point in my life.”

I really admire that courage.

REVIEW: 21 Chump Street

I arrived at the Keene Theater at 7:55pm, only to find that the theater was already full and it was standing room only. I found a spot in the back along the wall where I could still mostly see the stage, and after a couple more people trickled in, they announced that the theater had reached max capacity and no more people could enter. One person involved with Room 6 Productions walked past me and exclaimed to her colleague setting up the video camera in the back, “I thought no one was going to come!”

Indeed, many students, and many people from the public as well, wanted to see this one-night only, 15-minute musical, making it a popular and successful hit. Since the musical was so short, there was a narrator who provided important commentary in the beginning and in between songs to set the stage and move the plot along. Bryan Chan played Justin, a high school student that sees this transfer student Naomi, played by Maya Balleste, and instantly tries to win her over, asking what the heck he’s gotta do. She tells him that she wants marijuana, and though Justin doesn’t smoke, he does everything he can to get it for her, in the name of love. Though, Naomi, an undercover cop, eventually turns him in, she reflects on the smart and innocent kids that need to be taught a lesson, yet she can’t get them out of her head, referring to Justin and her care for him. This somber ending to a relatively funny and entertaining musical tried to pinpoint the pains and struggles of drug use in schools.

The music was very characteristically Lin-Manuel Miranda. As Brian Heyman, Ani Keshamouni, and Karthik Ganapathy, who made up the ensemble, played the three cousins who used their networking skills to get Justin his marijuana, they rapped and sang in the style that evoked images of Hamilton and Maui from Moana. Since the musical was so short, there didn’t really seem to be anything substantial, but the music was still great, the characters had their distinct personalities and development, and the acting was on point and made the 15 minutes really entertaining.

REVIEW: Weaving

It all started with a quote.

“I said to the sun, ‘Tell me about the big bang.’ The sun said, ‘it hurts to become.’” -Andrea Gibson

This quote actually embodies the theme of the play “Weaving” quite beautifully and fittingly, a story about becoming one’s true self and finding a place of belonging as that acceptance starts to settle in.

Vero and Bastion are two best friends in high school, both struggling to accept an identity that is true yet scary. Avery starts talking to Vero, lending her many books. Dominic and Bastion have been friends for a while, playing basketball every so often, but as Dominic is in his senior year of high school and Bastion is a year younger, confusing tensions and dynamics start to flare up.

In this play, Vero and Bastion were experiencing similar journeys in their denial and reluctant acceptance of their sexuality. However, they both couldn’t bring themselves to admit this to each other, showing how isolating such a revelation can be. It can be hard to admit something that the government and society has deemed as a sin or a vice or an indecent and inhumane act, whether it’s to yourself or your closest friend or your potential love interest that has sparked this all within you.

Bastion delivered a moving soliloquy during his history presentation, using prohibition as a metaphor for the LGBT community. The government can try to restrict people with all its power and the law, but the people will always persevere and push back. There was a rhythm and emotion to this speech, giving it a slam poetry-esque vibe that Sébastian Butler nailed with every trembling word and frantic pace.

Books played an important part of this play, with Avery giving Vero many books as her way of dropping a hint. For her paper, Vero wrote a literary criticism from a feminist lense, and while her teacher failed to appreciate what she had to say since she didn’t follow the prompt and quickly dismissed her objections to the heavily male-dominated curriculum in literature, Vero expressed the frustrations and the desire for recognition that many women feel today.

Hodges Adams wrote a chillingly realistic play of the everyday life of high schoolers in a town they couldn’t stand any longer. Every character in this story had some struggles. No one’s life is perfect, not the bullies or the happy, supportive friend. Natasha felt the pressures of applying to colleges and a suffocating grandfather. Though Marcus beat up Bastion in an act of homophobic violence, he was struggling with a substance-abusive family, having his own powerful take on prohibition. While this doesn’t excuse his intolerable behavior, it just shows that everyone is dealing with something under the surface others can’t see, accurately capturing the complexity of life and people.

I am incredibly grateful that Hodges Adams wrote this important piece of art and that they got to see it come alive in the Keene Theater by the RC Players. This play was incredibly moving and difficult to watch, precisely because it portrays the hard and strong life people of the LGBT community have to live to survive within themselves and within society.

PREVIEW: Weaving

“Stay true to yourself” seems to be the advice of the century as society becomes more accepting of different identities and supportive of individual aspirations. However, what happens when that advice starts to affect your closest relationship? Weaving, a new play by Hodges Adams, follows the friendship of Vero and Bastian, as well as their inner lives, as they each come to terms with their identities and the turmoil that comes with it. This LGBT coming-of-age story about books, love, feminism, and friendship is being performed by the RC Players on November 9 and 10 at 8pm in East Quad’s Keene Theater with a suggested ticket price of $5.