REVIEW: KASA Culture Show 2024 — Seoul Shadows

Landing itself at the tail end of the year, the KASA Culture Show presents a grand finale to the year. KASA stands for the Korean American Student Association, a cultural/social organization that seeks to bring together a Korean American community and celebrate Korean culture. The night was full of wonderful performances of music and dance, but the true highlight was the screening of a popular K-drama remake. This year, KASA showcased their remake of the film Door Lock (도어락).

Before I get into the film, I’d like to highlight how amazing the music performances were. Sinaboro started off the night with a bang (of a janggu) performing a traditional Samul Nori (사물놀이) ensemble. Samul Nori is a genre of traditional Korean percussion music that utilizes four instruments: the kkwaenggwari (꽹과리), a small gong, the jing (징), a larger gong, the janggu (장구), an hourglass-shaped drum, and the Buk (북), a barrel bass drum. The precise rhythms and clangorous quality of Sinaboro’s performance brought a part of Korean culture that was unique and very interesting to learn about/experience. Additionally, Seoul Juice gave a stellar performance, although I am not completely familiar with their set list, each song filled the theater with pleasing harmonies that the band is well associated with. Personally, I’ve seen Seoul Juice perform multiple times and they always deliver, by which I mean every single member gave their all.

Seoul Juice Mid-Performance

Now the film was no doubt the highlight of the night, as it captivated the whole audience in its masterly-made production. Door Lock is a horror movie about a woman’s victimization by the hands of a stalker. Carrying heavy themes about sexual assault, stalking, and kidnapping, the film is one that leaves the audience in horrifying suspense about the identity of Kyungmin’s stalker but also woeful concern about her safety. By all means, the most fun part of it was the audience’s reactions as everyone screamed in terror, gasped in shock, and aired their frustration that she would just let that guy in her apartment. The way the film was shown to the audience was also unique and fascinating as it was cut into parts, progressively being shown between performances. It left us in the audience with cliffhangers, red herrings, and terrible suspense.

However, I do note that there was one problem I found to be pervasive: the overrepresentation of Kpop in Korean culture. While I absolutely adored the flawless formations and power of Female Gayo, the baddie energy and captivating visuals of Humi, the stylishness and effortlessness of DB3, the uniqueness and ingenuity of UMTKD, the focus and freshness of K-Motion, it felt like the heavy presence Kpop has overshadowed other important aspects of Korean culture. I would like to emphasize that Korean culture is not just the Kpop that it is often represented with, and a culture show should be a space to celebrate diverse representations of culture, not just a popular facet of it.

Despite this criticism, I found the KASA Culture Show to be a great time. The energy from the audience gave me life, and every time the dancers were only shown through silhouette I audibly gasped by how cool it looked. In summation, I love performances and the multimedia showcase of the KASA Culture Show was exemplary in all counts quality-wise.

REVIEW: Impulse V: Roots (hosted by MEMCO)

Another unforgettable MEMCO (Michigan Electronic Music Collective) Impulse event at Club Above!! The theme of this month’s event was: Roots. It celebrated and highlighted black DJs, reminding all of us of techno music’s history–it was created by black people, specifically not too far from Ann Arbor in Detroit, Michigan. This event was paired with a film premiere of a new documentary (12 years in the making) about Detriot techno called God Said Give Em’ Drums and a panel discussion with legendary Detriot Djs like Stacy “Hotwaxx” Hale, Delano Smith, John Collins, and DJ ETTA. I sadly was unable to attend the screening and panel but the good news is the film will be in theaters soon! So when you are all able to, go watch it!!!! Then, come celebrate at a MEMCO event. If you haven’t been to one yet this is a great time to start, and if you want a preview of what you could experience…keep reading! 

I go to most MEMCO events, but I was especially excited for this one. I am originally from Los Angeles, California, and coming to Ann Arbor, Michigan, it was hard for me to feel a part of the community. I don’t like sports games, I don’t call soda “pop,” and I’m not sure I could tell you anything about the automotive industry (not to diminish Michigan culture to these three things, but I hope you get the point). Learning about the origins of Techno music and going to my first MEMCO event, I felt right at home and proud to call Michigan my new home. Roots was the first MEMCO event I’ve gone to with only black DJs. It was some of the best sets I’ve heard. There wasn’t a moment that I didn’t want to dance and move my body. Even when DJs switched the transitions were smooth and intentional–there was never a moment of stillness. 

My personal favorite sets were from DJ ETTA and MEMCO’s own NAPHTHA. DJ ETTA’s set was extremely fun, mixing hip-hop music with funky techno beats. She did an amazing job pacing each track and the evolution of each sound, i.e., adding sounds, distorting them, and playing with pacing/types of beats used. NAPHTHA was surely my favorite, though. His set had everyone dancing and gasping at the perfect transitions from track to track. I remember Club Above turning the lights on at the end of the set, and a group of us were so distracted by his set that we wouldn’t stop dancing. It’s one of those things where “you had to be there”. Looking up at the DJ booth, it looked like NAPHTHA was a scientist and was carefully using the mixing board–he knew how to use it so well I swear he could’ve made the board himself. It made me so excited that NAPHTHA is a UMICH student, and that someone so talented gets to share the campus with all of us. He is also currently a junior and will be around next year, DJing for more events so if you get the chance you must hear him play!!! I would not recommend anything more. The next MEMCO event is on April 20th at Club Above. The theme is Femme Fatale, and all of the DJs will be femme DJs!! Another very exciting event ending the semester with a BANG!

REVIEW: The G-Men’s Winter Concert, ‘One G-Rection’

Last Friday, I decided to attend my first acapella concert in two years on a whim. After learning about the G-Men’s winter concert last week, I was intrigued – I had attended several years of G-Fest in the past, an “annual showcase of the best student groups the University of Michigan has to offer,” per the G-Men’s website. I’ve always enjoyed this eclectic collection of performance groups and was curious to see what a different style of showcasing looked like for this all-male acapella ensemble.  

Upon arriving at Rackham Auditorium and picking up my ticket, I was immediately invited to scan a QR code to view the concert’s program. This provided an instant glimpse into the essence of the evening. From the beginning of their concert, the G-Men exuded an energy that was both goofy and charmingly awkward, yet unmistakably self-aware. This tone was established from the moment I opened the virtual program. One of the highlights for me was the group members’ comical bios and photos, which set the stage for the tone of the night’s festivities. Despite the lighthearted approach, the program still provided essential information, such as the set list and social media handles. Throughout the evening, each song was introduced with a cheesy yet endearing preamble, perfectly capturing the group’s spirit of ‘silly men, serious music’. This energy was also evident in the group’s comedic approach to explaining their concert title, ‘One G-Rection’.

If you were wondering, I can confirm: Pitch Perfect really does emulate the accurate energy of college acapella concerts. The G-Men’s performance never disappoints. Senior G-Men member Max Crandell arranged seven songs for the evening, and I remain consistently impressed by his theory skills. The group’s blend was impressive, and each soloist brought their own personality to the song as they stepped forward to lead. I particularly enjoyed the soloist performance by Leo Kupferberg, a junior member who performed “Blow” by Kesha, as he exuded confidence and joy that are no doubt characteristic of his approach to the G-Men as a group. Overall, I was impressed by the musical performances of the G-Men in their winter concert. This came as no surprise to me, as the quality of each song I’ve seen performed by this group is always high.

The only other student performance group listed on the bill was Midnight Book Club, known across campus for their short-form improvisational comedy. I have to admit, I’m not always the biggest fan of college improv, but I thought this group did well in their scene work, especially considering the number of audience members they had to work with.

Unfortunately, the concert itself was not highly attended. As I looked around at the audience, I noted the age of my fellow spectators. I saw very few University of Michigan students – it seemed that most of the attendees were parents or family members of the G-Men’s members, and I would estimate that the Rackham Auditorium seats were about 25% full, give or take. While I did love the amusing song introductions and I mostly enjoyed Midnight Book Club’s performance, the minimal audience attendance definitely skewed the comedy of the night to prompt an awkward chuckle, as opposed to raucous laughter. After attending G-Fest for several years, I know this group has the potential to draw a larger crowd. I believe that there is room for growth in the G-Men’s marketing strategy, and the performance itself may have been better attended if more performance groups were listed on the bill, similarly to G-Fest. 

The University of Michigan boasts an established and engaged acapella community, with fourteen groups affiliated with the Michigan Acapella Council, but this minimally attended performance led me to ponder how frequently these groups interact after the ICCAs conclude each year. When each group gets immersed in their own winter programming, does the community momentarily disband?

I look forward to attending more G-Men events in the future, and I sincerely hope that more students get the opportunity to check out their impressive performances. Keep an eye out for the next G-Men album, which was recorded recently and will be released in late 2024.

REVIEW: “Tales Told in Brick and Stone”

Taking Time with “Tales Told in Brick and Stone”

This week I took a walk to The Argus Museum to check out “Tales Told in Brick and Stone” a photography exhibition centered on the emotional resonance of abandoned buildings. The show is a group exhibit featuring the work of Sophie Grillet, Susan Lawless, and Sasha Mykhailova. Themes of shadow, neglect, and decay bring our attention to what we abandon, and express reverence for the echoes of the past found in the structures of our present.

Sophie Grillet is an English artist turned Ann Arbor local.  Her collection “Shadows of the Past” reflects on impermanence. Often her compositions pair buildings with the shadows of figures, contrasting the fleeting nature of people with the intention of buildings to last.

“Orvieto Italy” and “Shadow on Glass”

Susan Lawless’ work is a photography essay titled “Asylum”. It features photos of the abandoned  Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane. “Asylum” reflects on what it means to be on the outskirts of society. There is a haunting quality to a location like an abandoned insane asylum, and Lawless’s collection brings a respect to the place. We are asked to spend time with something that so often we turn our eyes and minds from, and in doing so we spend time with the memories of the people who once lived and worked there.


Sasha Mykhailova is a Ukranian photographer. Her collection is a series of photographs taken of the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The photographs are of rooms abandoned and in states of disrepair, gymnasiums with floors warped beyond being a floor, dormitories with rusted out bed frames, papers yellowed and scattered across floors. The presence of disaster and decay warns us to turn away, go back, find another way to go. Mykhailova holds our hand and says, “It’s okay, look”.

“Chernobyl” 6-9

The stories that buildings tell are subdued and often quietly complex. To listen to them requires us to slow down and spend time with emotions that aren’t usually comfortable. We are eager to be distracted from the past, the marginalized, the fleeting, and the abandoned. Maybe in part because it puts our present moment into the context of history. After spending time with “Tales Told in Brick and Stone”, I felt like I had gained a reverence for the past, and an awareness of how the structures around me will continue on long after me. I looked around The Argus Museum with a new perspective, appreciating a space dedicated to remembering.

The Argus Museum is on the second floor of the Argus building on William Street, a few blocks away from the Ann Arbor District Library. It is a museum about the Argus Camera Company, which was founded in Ann Arbor in 1931. In addition to the current arts exhibition, the museum is full of old cameras and artifacts about camera making, documenting the history and development of the Argus camera company. The museum hosts photography exhibits and conferences throughout the year in their gallery space.

“Tales Told in Brick and Stone” will be available for viewing at The Argus Museum until April 5th.

REVIEW: The Grown-Ups

Directing student Leah Block (BFA 24′) presents her senior thesis: The Grown Ups  by Simon Henriques and Skylar Fox. This effortlessly quirky piece revolves around a group of young counselors from a summer camp who are earnestly cultivating the next generation of camp-goers. The counselors all love camp! And all their camp traditions! Except for the racist ones…like the previous Indigenous name of their predominantly white cohort or the exclusionary structure of camp games (lending preference to older kids and men). But besides that, it’s all fine…..right?

New counselor Cassie joins for her first summer at the newly renamed “Indigo Woods” and meets the easygoing Lukas, high-strung (but well-intentioned) Becca, overly excited Maeve, and the odd and hardworking Aidan. The group indoctrinates Cassie, welcoming her and really  wanting her to have a good experience at camp. Each evening the group comes together at the campfire, recalling scary stories of their previous camp years, debating the best tactics to support the campers all while a national online argument is breaking out, shifting the political sphere of the world. Summer camp can feel isolating for some, (especially as their world is crumbling underneath them) and these young adults are now the “Grown Ups” in the face of crisis.

This cast was thoroughly cohesive and enormously charming. Each character was undeniably unique yet eerily resembling someone you’ve met before (probably from summer camp). Becca (Sarah Hartmus) and Aidan (Hugh Finnigan) were house favorites, with electric chemistry and sidesplitting comedic moments. I enjoyed both their attention to comedic timing and thoughtful physical acting. While I was drawn to Becca and Aidan’s characters specifically, I felt deeply connected to each counselor as an audience member. The way Henriques & Fox crafted their intimate dialogues made it feel as though I instantly knew each of these characters. The seamless flow of the actors’ choices among one another further enhanced the sense of familiarity. This ensemble was tight, with a deep-cutting emotional payoff in the end.

When I walked in, I was apprehensive of an in-the-round setting—a notoriously difficult set-up to direct for. But Ms. Block had perfected it and some. Her direction was personable and genuine, I felt like I was involved in all of the camp discourse, and ultimately a part of the demise. The in-the-round choice was brilliant for the storytelling aspects of this show, leaving another theater full of young adults to look inward at our place in a world facing escalating disasters.  Her vision was clear and cohesive, as so many poignant themes made their way out of the writing onto the stage, cultivating a really powerful performance.

Camp Counselor Leah taught us many things throughout our time at Indigo Woods: “Just because it’s the way we have always done it does not mean that it is the best way”, “comfort is the death of progress”, and “We can’t let resentment of not getting the world we want to stop us from leaving it better than we found it (Directors Note)”. She brought us all inside an idyllic summer camp and from there we were abruptly shot back into reality—perhaps that was the point of camp all along.


[Photo above depicts Sam Smiley as Lukas.] Photo thanks to SMTD’s Theater & Drama Dept.

REVIEW: Concert Black

On Saturday I had the chance to go see a live reading of the first act of Concert Black, a musical written by SMTD student Mattie Levy. It was held at the Newman Studio on north campus. The musical itself represented the lives of three music school students, an oboe player (Played by Levy herself), a violinist, and an opera singer. The play was split three ways between them, so the audience had the chance to see the differences and similarities between each characters life and experience in music school.

The musical talked about a lot of different things including the everyday stress of being a college student, the added stress of being in music school, and the discrimination faced by many African American music students. It was also told in short pieces rather than one continuous storyline, which really gave the audience a full glimpse into the life of each character. I really admire her ability to showcase each perspective, while also telling a continuous narrative.

As someone in music school myself, I really enjoyed and appreciated the chance to see Concert Black. Some of the experiences the characters talked about were ones that I could also relate to. Especially one scene where the character who plays violin is stuck in the practice room, debating whether or not to go out with friends instead, and the inevitable feeling of guilt sets in. It’s something I’ve done so many times but never seen represented before. It’s also just a very weird and isolating feeling that not many people understand. There were so many moments like this in Concert Black, things about being in music school that tend to go unacknowledged, and it was very satisfying to see it described like that on stage.

The scene changes, crew, and instrumentalists were also a part of the show. Members of the crew and orchestra wore white, rather than black, which made everyone stand out against the backdrop. I thought this was so cool, and like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It made me think about how everyone in a production like this is equally apart of it, not just the people on stage.

Overall I really enjoyed Concert Black and I can’t wait to see act two!