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There was a time when Ntozake Shange did not wear shoes. Some may have considered this strange, but for Shange, it was more a question of the familiarity of life and the substance of art that dictated her wild Bohemian behavior throughout her youth. \n"I didn't know how to wear shoes, I didn't dance in shoes," Shange said. "And then I'm at the Tonys, wearing shoes." \nShange, a Tony-nominated writer best known for her play "For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf: A Choreopoem," visited the Wellz-Metz Theatre Monday to give a lecture on her craft.\nShange, who began writing in the 1970s after obtaining a master's degree from the University of Southern California, believes music is essential. "I Live in Music" is the title of one of her many books. Her love of music, dancing, writing and life is what led her to pen "For Colored Girls…," which premiered on Broadway in 1976. The show ran for a record 786 performances and was only the second play to appear on Broadway written by an African-American woman, the first being Lorraine Hansbury's "A Raisin in the Sun."\n"For Colored Girls…" is the subject of several reviews, commentaries and essays penned by thousands of writers and critics all over the country. The play is about the lives of African-American women -- their histories and culture and the trials of living in America in the '70s. It is a collection of poems, monologues, music and choreography, which led the author to deem it a "choreopoem," the first of its kind.\nStanding upon the Wellz-Metz stage, Shange began reciting several poems she wrote to accompany photographs from a book to be published this December. Each poem is written with prose, integrating native language and vernacular with short harmonious phrases. \nShe also engaged in a comfortable dialogue with the audience.\n"I love texture. I love the feel of things," said Shange about photography. "Because, with the feel of things, over time, you get smell, you get touch and taste."\nShange refers to her works as "venues," emphasizing the purpose in her writing as "moving us somewhere where we become beauty," Shange said in response to a question from the audience. "I need to know what these people are carrying on their heads because they're not where I am." \nIn her novels, which include "The Love Space Demands" and "Betsy Brown," Shange writes about the history of African-American women in a highly poetic form -- a form for which she has become recognized. \n"I see phrases all the time. I don't see why a sentence has gotta be flat," she said. "It should end the way a musical phrase ends. It should tilt. It should fade away into silence."\nSpeaking about her resulting fame and recognition, Shange said being in the spotlight is not the most comfortable place for her but writing "For Colored Girls…" placed her in the media quite often. However, she maintains a grounded attitude toward her popularity.\n"Because I am who I am, people expect certain things from me, and I'm just not interested in that. I like to do what I want, write what I want," Shange said. "That's why I started writing novels. When you write novels, you can stay at home in your silence."\nBringing Shange to IU was no small task, said Ronald Wainscott, chairman of IU's Department of Theatre and Drama. \n"Discussions to bring Ms. Shange to IU started last year, but she wasn't available because of a book tour," Wainscott said. "We thought it would be a really great opportunity for the students. She's basically a household name in theatre." \nGloria Gibson, associate vice chancellor of multicultural affairs, saw the visit as a great collaborative opportunity. \n"'For Colored Girls…' was a pivotal moment," Gibson said. "It spoke about issues that are relevant to black women that are still relevant today." \nInspiration comes to Shange in several forms: people, music, history, dance and life. She said she believes these messages to be a gift -- a crucial way to live in a world in and outside of her head, where words flow freely from the pen to the paper. \n"I hear musical phrases. I hear people talking to me," Shange said, "and they tell me things. It's a gift."\n-- Contact staff writer Olivia Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Juarez, Mexico, a town just south of the border to the U.S., 300 women have been murdered and/or raped during the past 10 years. Many of these women are still missing. More frightening is the fact that not one of these murder cases has resulted in a single conviction.\nWhen Eve Ensler wrote "The Vagina Monologues," a controversial and telling portrayal of the lives of women and their counterparts, she sought to address an international issue often overlooked in the media spotlight. She planned to shed light on the escalating crisis of violence against women.\n"The Vagina Monologues" has been performed at IU for the past five years. The show ran this weekend for three days, drawing very diverse crowds. Both women and men paid an $8 admission to see the show, whose proceeds are donated completely to local charities and V-Day not-for-profit organizations.\nV-Day is an effort to organize an international response to violence against women. V-Day is "a mission, a demand, a spirit, a catalyst, a process and a fierce, wild and unstoppable movement" held on Valentine's Day, according to the V-Day Web site, www.vday.org. This year, the V-Day spotlight is on the situation in Juarez. All of the profits for the production went to aid in the Juarez crisis and also to Middle Way House, a Bloomington-based women's crisis center.\nThe production, held in the Willkie Auditorium, featured a cast of 22 women -- including the directors and producers, Amanda Stevens and Leyna Wallace-Buntin. \n"I was originally just helping Amanda out, and then I just got so involved," Wallace-Buntin said. "I kind of fell into the role of producer by default."\nWorking on the production from the beginning, brainstorming and working fervently to put together an entire play in a little under a month-and-a-half, the duo held auditions in an unconventional manner. \n"They asked us to tell a story about ourselves, just a story about our lives," said senior Samantha Groff, a cast member. \nAfter hearing the women's stories, Stevens and Buntin chose cast members based on how well they believed the women could relate to the various monologues. After selecting the cast, they had only five weeks to prepare and rehearse the show. During the week, the cast members worked privately with their pieces and then met Sundays to rehearse as a group -- all while Stevens and Buntin dealt with issues of publicity, continual casting crises and financial support. \nThe staging of the performance was simple but effective and involving. Each monologue is performed in a solo format, occasionally allowing the cast to move about the stage, placing emphasis on the personalities of the women who are contained in the pieces. Also, the lighting design used red tones intermittently to differentiate between the more dramatic and lighter pieces. The cast wore red and black, matching the simplicity of the stage and set. \nYet, the strength of the play rests in the acting and the material, written by Ensler. The monologues are based off hundreds of interviews conducted by Ensler, ranging from an 82-year old woman from New York, a 6-year-old girl and a dominatrix. Ensler asked them about their lives, their histories and their vaginas. \nRanging from hysterical comedy to dark and effecting drama, the play speaks out about issues women think about but don't often talk about. \nIn a monologue titled "The Vagina Workshop," performed by freshman Cara Berg, a woman talks about discovering herself in a room full of other women on a little blue mat in an experience she denotes as "better than the Grand Canyon." \nIn another monologue, performed by junior Aran Mordoh, a dominatrix talks about the variety and pitch of moans, a useful sex instrument. In one of the highlights of the show, the entire cast of women piles on stage in a row and vocalizes what the dominatrix calls "the different types of moans," such as the "black girl moan," "the country girl moan," "the machine gun moan" and "the Jewish woman moan." All of these solo performances culminate into one, extraordinarily surprising and entertaining group ensemble deemed "the simultaneous triple orgasm moan."\nWhen the tone transforms to drama, the actresses are more than apt at conveying the complexities and hardships of the women they portray. Sophomore Angeleka Davis' monologue centers on the experiences of a black woman who grows up in a world where sex is not discussed and blame is on the shoulders of any girl who dares to think about "boys." The poignant piece chronicles the life of a young girl, from being raped by her father's friend, to having a deeply moving and tender sexual experience with a woman. \n"I could relate to the piece because I am a minority, and so was this woman," Davis said. "Her life was amazing, she was homeless and broken and yet she found strength." \nOther issues included the acid burning of more than 10,000 women in the Southern Asia, female genital mutilation and rape. These monologues were sobering and sad, leaving some in tears. \nOther pieces included "vagina facts." The "outrageous" vagina fact stated there are some states, including Texas and Ohio, where selling vibrators is illegal, yet guns are not. The piece by Buntin ended with the line, "We have yet to hear of a mass murder committed with a vibrator."\nThe show ended with Stevens imparting a last and moving letter from the writer, Ensler, on her experiences with "vagina warriors." \n"…I have heard the staggering stories of violence -- war rapes, gang rapes, date rapes … I have seen the worst. The worst lives in my body," writes Ensler. "But in each and every case, I was escorted, transformed and transported by a guide, a visionary, an activist, an outrageous fighter and dreamer. I have come to know these women (and sometimes men) as Vagina Warriors … They are directed by a vision, not ruled by ideology. They are citizens of the world. They cherish humanity over nationhood."\nThe piece ended with Stevens' tearfully vocalizing Ensler's last affirmative statement, "Every woman has a warrior inside waiting to be born. In order to guarantee a world without violence, in a time of danger and escalating madness, we urge them to come out."\n-- Contact staff writer Olivia Morales at email@example.com.
With its grainy images, "AfroPunk: The Rock n' Roll Nigger Experience," which debuted at Boxcar Books Friday, is a documentary in every sense of the word. The film centers around the black experience in the punk scene, placing emphasis on the people in the film and allowing the featured cast to testify to their lifestyle by following them through their everyday lives and observing their worlds. Director James Spooner set out to make a movie emphasizing the black experience in the punk world, and he has succeeded. It reveals the isolation felt by African Americans in the scene and how they deal with their aggression.\nAfter months of relentless publicity and preparation, Ali Haimson, the general coordinator at Boxcar Books, stood in front of a packed house in awe. \n"I really thought no one would come," she said.\nThe film opens with a few quotes -- white text on a black screen. They are messages of poetic justice and tribute. \n"This film is for every kid that has ever been called a nigger," states a message from Spooner. \nBy featuring only black musicians, he has created a picture of the black punk culture and how that culture is a part of his own history. \nThroughout the movie, the four main cast members, and a plethora of other black musicians and punk fans speak out about race, identity, their message and music, their lifestyle, their inspirations, childhood and the prevailing difficulties of being black in a mostly white music world. \nThe first scene is a mixture of shots featuring young black men and women speaking about their childhoods. Most of them, such as Moe Mitchell, grew up in mostly white suburban towns where they were the only black kids in school. A school photo of first-graders shows Mitchell surrounded by white students and teachers. \nLiving in this type of environment, the film's castmembers explain how they came to like punk, what it means to them and how they grew up defying conventions and the standard image of white suburbanites in the punk music scene. \n"When I was a kid, I was convinced that white people were cool," Mitchell said. \nGrowing up in a white community, he was surrounded by white culture and music. Finding the message and style of punk to be contagious and fervent, Mitchell believed he had found the medium through which he could convey his message for the American black culture. In the film, he talks about growing dreads, wearing mohawks and terrifying his parents. \nAnother punker, Tamar-Kali recalled a time when her family wasn't accepting of her lifestyle.\n"My mom and my sister would go through my clothes while I was at school and throw away the stuff they thought was ugly," she said. \nKali is a punk-rock guitarist and singer living in Brooklyn. She felt alienated as a black youth in a predominantly white society. When she started listening to punk, she donned dreads and purple hair dye. These days, she sports a shaved head and facial piercings. \n"I think that what people don't understand is that it is not about the clothes, the hair or the piercings, but about the music," Kali said. \nOthers said it was more about a personal interest than identity. \n"It's a state of mind, but also a way of life," said Mariko Jones. \nJones, a deejay and self-described punk-rocker is proud to be one of the only black women at punk venues. \n"When I'm doing a show and a girl comes up to me and tells me she likes what I do, I feel like I am making a contribution," she said.\nThe film also shows how kids survive in the punk scene while promoting equality.\nIn a comic turn, Matt Davis talks about how he pays his rent. \n"I figured out how to pay my rent by donating blood," he said. \nDavis is a musician living in Iowa working venues. For him, the style of music -- its inherent anger and virtuosity are perfect for spreading his message of black empowerment and revolution. Davis is seen at a show, jumping violently to the frantic rhythm of his band's music. \n"I'm in five bands and I am writing a lot ... there is so much I want to get from life," Davis said. "We want to go and we want to play and we are not going to stop." \nToward the end of the film, the audience discovers Matt Davis died of a heart attack at the age of 26. The film was dedicated to his \nmemory. \n-- Contact staff writer Olivia Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org
As Dana Sperry was watching TV a couple of days ago, he saw a piece about the fires in Southern California. The first thing survivors looked for were photographs, he said.\n"Photos are the most important way to keep a memory," said Sperry, the associate director of the SoFA Gallery, where MFA student Antonia Curry's works are on display. \n"The Possibility of Loss," which will run through Saturday, features Curry's Master's thesis show: a searing and inviting look at the world of photography, memory and childhood.\n"This is a story about my daughter. And also about my memories of being a daughter," Curry said. "And about how those stories meld into one."\nThe pieces are a combination of collages and photography. Some of the work features mixed media, such as a collage of hair and snapshots taken in Curry's youth. Also, many of the works are accompanied by personal reflections and comments of the artists. \nFor all of its aesthetic qualities, the most prevalent theme throughout the pieces is memory and what memory consists of. The work evokes a sense of nostalgia, a remembrance of youth and why human beings hold some memories and let go of others.\n"I remember being small, and looking up at my biological father's boots and belt. It's so strange what you forget and what you remember. I think that is reflected in this work," said senior Candice Coval, who attended the exhibit Tuesday. "I think she understands that being physically small is a reflection of being small inside, and what that feels like. I think that's very important to these photos."\nThe visuals in the photos are perceptual and they are realistic, but still possess an inherently imaginative quality. As memories sometimes seem to fade and become like dreams, so do many of the colors and lights in the photos. \nThere are four large photos on display, depicting the artist's daughter as a small child. "Mad," is a portrait of a child screaming in frustration. "The Mitten," captures a moment of peace, as the child reads a story book. \nThe collages are also thematic, featuring dozens of inter-connected photographs. One collage is a mixture of snapshots capturing family life, and what those memories look like. Also, there are snapshots of places, such as a hamburger place and a sign at a county fair. \n"They represent the vagueness of early memories, yet they are photos of everyday things. They are so powerful. She (Curry) really understands how memory is," said Coval.\nThe nature of memory is also depicted in the faded edges of many of the photos. The larger photos seem hazy and dream-like, but are made of colors that are sharp and vivid. In some of the collages, materials from Curry's own childhood are included, like a to-do list written hastily on a scrap of paper.\n"This exhibit arose from my desire to begin at the beginning. For me, (the beginning is) to turn inward and explore the fundamentals of where I come from: home. The first chapter is indistinct, murky memories of my childhood," Curry said. "The second is a to-do list, the magnificent and mundane things that happen in life. Things to do. Things to remember. Lists." \nPart of the exhibit also features snapshots taken with a toy Fisher Price camera by Curry's four-year-old daughter. The photos reflect the child's innocence in their tone and subject matter.\n"It is my view of what my daughter's world looks like," Curry said. "The possibility of loss is the comprehension that in every moment of a child's life exists the potential for loss of innocence, of naiveté, and of trust."\n-- Contact staff reporter Olivia Morales at email@example.com.
Picturing the everyday, a theme prevalent throughout the work of Bloomington photographer Tom Stio, is the subject of a new exhibit called "Parallel Universes," which is on display at the Buskirk-Chumley Textillery Gallery, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., until Nov. 29.\n"In this other universe, everyday objects such as a tree, some rusting machinery or even a crack in the concrete, transcend their everyday nature by revealing an extraordinary order or beauty," Stio said. \nStio, who studied at Brooklyn College, is also an IU alumnus. He has a master's degree in biology and now owns Shadow and Light Studio, 5353 E. State Rd. \nThe photos, all unique in composition, are a blend of objects and portraiture. Many of them depict inner-city urban decay, such as "Men," whose subject is a men's room surrounded by a cracked, graffiti-ridden city wall. \nOther photos, such as "Sandstone Waterfall" depict natural or rural harmony. The seemingly ordinary products of nature are captured and made important by the photos. In "Sandstone Waterfall," a crevice inside a cave is massive in its natural state, appearing like a solid waterfall cascading down to the cave floor. \n"They're reflective because they look like photos of such everyday things," freshman Puja Kathrotiya said. "Yet they all sort of have an internal quality that makes them beautiful. The colors, in the color photos, are brilliant." \nAnother photo, "At the County Fair," is subtle in its context, yet the palette of colors, including blues, reds and greens, is vivid and sharp in focus. This photo shows rows of jars filled with water and plastic balls used to play a carnival game. \n"The photo gives the viewer the sense that, although this is something very standard, it can be beautiful if you take notice of it," Kathrotiya said.\nIn other photos, such as "The Hand," shadows create a dramatic effect. The subject is a nude woman whose back faces the viewer, while her hands wrap delicately around her back and become the focus of the portrait. \nIn "Six Dancers," a portrait of ballet dancers, gallery onlooker Ashley Donaldson said the photo gave her a sense of nostalgia, remembering the days when she took ballet and other dance lessons.\n"It makes me think of when I danced," Donaldson said. "I like the way it has blurs on the outline of their bodies. It shows the movement of the dancers."\nAlthough they incorporate many different themes, such as urban life, rural scenery and portraiture, all the photos share one quality -- they are scenes of the ordinary, which may be overlooked in everyday life. \n"Inanimate objects may seem to become with a certain life force of their own; living things may gain an almost supernatural quality," Stio said. "It is this compelling, but elusive, 'parallel universe' of everyday things which I attempt to capture in my photographs."\nThe Textillery Gallery is located on the second floor of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater and is open during theater hours, according to Buskirk-Chumley's Web site.\n-- Contact staff writer Olivia Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you asked J. Mark Inman what his art could be classified as, he would tell you he honestly does not know.\nInman says three months ago, during his eighth hospitalization since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he just took it into his head to pick up a paintbrush and start painting.\nA musician, composer and artist, Inman is one of the thousands of people in this country subject to the realities of living with bipolar disorder. The condition is characterized by its ability to alter the mental state of patients diagnosed with the disorder, Inman said. Most commonly, bipolar patients swing violently between two completely opposing states of mind -- high or low.\n"The hospital had an arts and crafts program, and I started there with watercolors and acrylics," the junior music composition major said. "Something happened to my mind. It's very mysterious; I just started painting."\nHis first painting, an acrylic which features a face amidst brilliant contrasts of blue, yellow and red, now hangs on his refrigerator. The other artwork he has produced since that first brush with studio art will hang in a slightly different location until mid-November.\nAfter he introduced his work to some people in Bloomington, he was offered his own art exhibit at Gallery West Espresso, 702 W. Kirkwood Avenue. His show, which will run until Nov. 15, will feature what he calls "primal art."\nInman said some of his influences include his parents, his brother-in-law (a professional sculptor) and IU art professor and sculptor Jean-Paul Darriau. After a friend gave Inman a sketchbook of Darriau's, Inman based many of his own sketches off Darriau's. He is now becoming skilled in sketching proportion and the human form, and also the technique of cross-hatching, from simply studying the drawings in this sketchbook.\nHis work is varied, ranging from self-portraits to portraits of Mormon missionaries to depictions of historical events. It ranges from the highly stylized and recognizable to the eclectic free-form shapes which characterized abstract expressionists such as Pablo Picasso.\n"I bought some art history books after I started painting," Inman said. "My main influences are Picasso and Modigliani."\nAmong the variety of self-portraits and historical content, several paintings feature crucifixions, the subjects of torment being "madmen," a figment of Inman's imagination. Many of the subjects in his works are people, some who exist and others whom he imagines.\n"In these crucifixion paintings, the people presented are crazy and believe that they are Christ figures," said Inman. "However, these paintings pose the question, 'If you are being nailed to the cross, and you are deluded into thinking you are taking on the sins of the world, what's the difference between you and Christ?' I do not have an answer to this question."\nInman uses a wide range of colors, but his primary hues include orange, purple -- the color of royalty, which is predominant is his historical depictions -- and green.\n"Most of my self-portraits are green, the color of jealousy," Inman said.\n"Rape of Maria d'Avalos," a narrative of a little-known historical event, uses crayon and watercolor as mixed media. The painting is a portrayal of the brutality and madness, emphasized by bright colors and a careful mixture of crayon and watercolor translucency.\n"I could probably look at this for an hour, but they would probably close by then," said former art history major Matte Weltschmercs, who came to the opening.\nFascinated by Inman's use of precision in the artwork "The Murder of Gesualdo's Son," Weltschmercs said he found the work both horrific and symbolic of the artificiality of contemporary hierarchy.\n"The façade remains realistic, while the subjects are degenerate," Weltschmercs said.\nInman started writing and performing music at an early age. By the time he was 10 years old, he had begun composing his first musical pieces on the piano. Moving to Indiana from his native Massachusetts, Inman decided to attend IU because of its School of Music.\n"I love (the music school), I do." Inman said. "I'm experimenting right now with avante-garde jazz composition and performance. I do a lot of improvisation."\nAlso available at the show will be "Requiem," Inman's own album, a collection of classical pieces. The CD's cover art is unique also: Every CD features one of Inman's own original works of art.\n"I really don't know what I will do in the future. I'd like to live in Europe someday. I will continue painting and composing. My current goal is to graduate," he said with a laugh. "The point is to never give up on your art."\n-- Contact staff writer Olivia Morales at email@example.com.
Indiana natives bring romance and life to the stage in Brown County Playhouse's final show of the summer season.This poignant romantic drama chronicles the relationship between a straight-laced lawyer and his artistic and free-spirited lover/best friend Melissa. As time evolves, so does their relationship.\nTheir romance and friendship takes place over 50 years, during which this pair of deeply entwined soulmates wonder if they are destined for each other.\nWritten for the stage in the '80s, the show originally opened on Broadway to packed houses and rave reviews. Its author, A.R. Gurney, is known for penning "The Dining Room" and "The Cocktail Hour." His shows are recognized for their ability to research and discover the intrinsic qualities of love, life and humanity. \nCritics consider "Love Letters" Gurney's most critically acclaimed piece to date. The play is considered a graceful deviation from Gurney's previous work, in that it is less concerned with social comment and wit than with the human condition and the relationships people form. \nThe show is brought to life by three native Indiana talents, director Lynne Perkins, Indianapolis resident Rockland Mers and Depauw University student and teacher Gigi Jennewein. \n"We cast professionals; we wanted people with an IU connection. Our actors had a previous connection which aided in their interpretation," said director Lynne Perkins on the casting process. \nA veteran of onstage and offstage theatrical productions, Perkins attests to the dedication and talent of her small, intimate cast. \n"I have very much enjoyed working with Brown County, Gurney's language and this cast," she said. "This play spans two entire lifetimes, it is filled with such rich imagination. This cast has brought the characters to life, and as a viewer you recognize these people. My assumption is that the audience will see themselves in this, their own choices reflected in the language."\nGoing on to discuss the nature and relevance of this dramatic love story, Perkins said she believes that the audience will share in the experiences of the two main characters. In Gurney's powerful story, there is an eloquence that defines the darker side of a human relationship and their love communicated through letters, said Perkins. \n"It is a journey through the different manifestations of love, and it has humor and drama. Their relationship begins in 1937 and lasts fifty years, it's a friendship and a romance," Perkins said.\nFemale lead Jennewein said she believes in the free will and spirit of her character.\n"I like how hard she tries to overcome some very real obstacles," she said. "Most people don't think she would have these obstacles because she is wealthy. Her nature is a reaction to what happens to her."\nMelissa Gardner, the principle female character, is presented with personal crises throughout her lifetime. Melissa's mother is an alcoholic who marries several times. After going to therapy in sixth grade, Melissa is sent to a boarding school. She chooses to solve challenges by being herself; she is a talented painter and flaunts herself through art. She has a lot of inner struggles and fights the expectations that are demanded of her, said Jennewein. \nMelissa is young and impetuous when confronted with the realities of her relationship with Andrew Markplace Ladd, the lead male character. The two friends seem to rebound consistently, always wondering internally where their relationship is taking them. Along the way, there are hopes, triumphs and tragedies.\nThroughout this production, the cast has formed a working triangle in which they have allowed each other to grow on stage and off, says Jennewein. The idea is that while they mature, their audience will develop with them and relate to the message that the play presents.\n"Love Letters," which opens today, runs this weekend and continues every weekend in October until Oct. 25. For more information, visit the Brown County Playhouse Web site at www.indiana.edu/~thtr/bcplay.html.\n-- Contact staff writer Olivia Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org.