Macaulay Seminar One at Brooklyn College
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Category — Drama

The Tempest

Going to the Opera to watch the Tempest was a very extraordinary experience. Knowing the about William Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest and having read it as well, I was interested to see how they would present the play as an Opera.

While watching The Tempest, I was really impressed with the set design and concept of the Opera in an Opera house. However, at the same time I was confused to how the set had to do with the play. What really impressed me was Adriel’s singing and her flexibility on stage. I also enjoyed the acting and the costumes of the actors. I felt that they added a nice touch to the performance.

Overall, I thought that it was a really interesting as to how they converted the play into an Opera. However, I would have liked if the opera was broken up into five parts just like the acts in the play. This would have made the story line much easier to follow. Other than that I enjoyed watching the Opera.



December 22, 2012   No Comments


The setup of this play was interesting. The background had stacks of boxes and a mess of papers. When asked why it was made this way, the playwright answered that it’s to symbolize the nasty actions made by people and the polluted environment we’re creating. On the left side were an assortment of file boxes. This setup took place for the whole play.

Even though the scenery never changed much, that never got into the way of my imagining what the environment of the play would look and sound like. Part of this is because of the skilled lighting. The file boxes were lit up during the formal meetings with the lawyer, Alexandra, and during the court case. In scenes taking place on the streets, the mess of papers in the background was lit up. the rest was left to my imagination, which compensated pretty well.

Going into the play, I was apprehensive that I wouldn’t understand the plot. Plays are usually not my preferred style of art to enjoy, and in the past I haven’t been able to follow them (The Tempest Opera proved me wrong, however). I was able to follow the first few scenes, where Oliver and a fellow businessman argue over the environmental harm caused by the firms Oliver represents. These early scenes also had my favorite actors of the play. Their argument was funny, and realistic. I could see one of the actors, Steven Rishard, being in a sitcom like Seinfeld or Friends. He fits the role perfectly. The other actors and actresses, with the exception of Julissa Roman, who played Luz, sometimes exaggerated their speech, and the emotion on their face and in their tone didn’t sound real.

The play is filled with symoblism, especially in puppet scenes. A vulture is often used to give Luz premonitions and guidance. A puppet haunts Oliver, perhaps as punishment for harming the environment and indirectly hurting the lives of Luz, Helene, and Zia. The voices of the characters echo during these scenes, and I wondered how this effect was made without microphones.

It was difficult for me to understand what was happening in the following scenes, although I understood the general theme of the play. It was meant to show an example of the hardship involving citizenship and violence faced by women. Acquiring citizenship is hard nowadays in America, especially when coupled with finding a job, supporting oneself, and handling emotional stress. The file boxes and papers in the set function to illustrate how everything is formalized with courts and legal papers nowadays. They almost look like litter, which functions well to show the slums of Guatemala City, tent cities in Haiti, and toxic, polluted neighborhoods. People aren’t given the chance to freely be heard, and receive fairness. This seen in court, when Luz snaps, and yells at the lawyer, “Look at me!” The play juxtaposes the easy life of businessmen, and how their actions affect the lives of other people without their knowing.

December 20, 2012   No Comments

The Tempest

I had an interesting experience during our visit the Metropolitan Opera. Going into it, I was pretty excited. This was mostly because I had previously attended an opera and I had thoroughly enjoyed it, but I felt a little differently about The Tempest. This was probably because the previous opera that I attended was actually geared for children so it was kind of funny, and was based a well known children’s story (I think it was Cinderealla). In contrast, I found The Tempest to be a little boring; probably because I wasn’t super familiar with the story. Also some parts were a little difficult for me to follow, and I actually had a little trouble following some of the different characters (there were two, whose names I forget, but they had some pretty similar costumes). I’m also not sure how well a medium opera was to convey a Shakespeare play. Some of the rhyming scheme wasn’t too great. Also, the singing itself made it difficult to actually understand a lot of the words, and I found myself paying a lot of attention to the little screen on the seat in front of me, and not so much at the actors on the stage. I felt that the singing also caused a lot of the words to be stretched out too much in order to fill the length of the music, and that kind of bothered me, too.

There were however aspect of the opera that I did enjoy, however. I did like the grandeur of the opera; I kind of liked dressing up for the night out, and the building itself was beautiful, both from the inside and the outside. I also enjoyed the musical aspect of the opera. I spent a solid amount of time averting my eyes from the stage and into the orchestra pit, watching the condutor do his thing, and orchestra making they’re wonderful music. I also liked the stage design, especially the very first scene depicting the tempest, and costumes a lot. And the secret backdoor exit was pretty cool, too.

December 13, 2012   1 Comment

Luz @ La Mama & The International Center for Photography

The International Center for Photography, a mecca of photographic documentation located a few blocks from Times Square, was the first cultural experience of our Macaulay evening. When you enter this unassuming building, you’re immediately overwhelmed by the photographs. Covering every wall, there was a sensory incapacitation of images ranging from innocent images of children standing in deserted fields, to dead bodies laying in the streets. It was unbelievably difficult to look at some, while others were rather simple, and other still lighthearted. There was an interesting video exhibit as well, which appeared to have been significantly less frequented. A video made up up animated pencil sketches showed the death, danger, and hope of the Apartheid, and detailed periods of history in which these moments were especially relevant.

The most moving photograph for me was one by a member of the Bang Bang Club, Ken Oosterbroek. This was a group of four friends, photographers, and journalists who were on the front lines during the apartheid. Ken and Kevin have both since passed away; Kevin committed suicide due to the mental toll of one of his photos, and Ken was shot during the war, believed to be by peacekeepers. This image is of what looks like a large mob of people marching towards something, and children holding hands, running in front of them. The image is moving and powerful; with the juxtaposition of those running peacefully away from the angry mob, we see a true contrast between apartheid violence and apartheid peaceful inhabitants. A very moving exhibit, photo, and visit.

Also this evening we went to see a play at La MaMa experimental theatre, down in the east village. This play was interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, the characters all played other characters. They interchanged between a lawyer in a suit and a street inhabitant wearing dirty clothes, a judge and a victim. This performance was mainly about the legal proceedings involving citizenship, as well as a really moving discussion of sexual assault. The talk back with the author at the end was enlightening, and I’m glad we had the opportunity to attend. The sets were beautifully crafted, and the ingeniousness of the symbols, including the 2-person-operated bird, took it to a new level.

Great evening altogether.

December 8, 2012   No Comments


On the same day we visited the ICP museum, we watched an experimental show called Luz at the La Mama theater in downtown Manhattan. There is no easy way to explain this show. I honestly cannot say I had a firm grasp of it myself. The thing I took away from it most was the idea of how different women from different underdeveloped regions of the world have been taken advantage of. I have heard of such stories, read about them in newspapers, seen them on TV. However, there is something different about seeing a story such as this up close. Although the story itself was fictional, there is something about being there in the room while discussions of it are occurring on stage that gives me chills.

The environment of the theater enhanced the effect, to be honest. It seemed to be like an out-of-the-way place and the theater itself was very small and simple. Thus, because of its size and lack of decorations, there were no distractions. There was nothing that could take away from the full effects of the play. I was especially impressed by the stage setup that the show had, with heaps of papers in the background, cabinets lined along the sides, and a simple table in the center. Walking into the play, I had thought that the set would be changed between scenes. However, it stayed the same throughout, which takes much skill to manage without the story not making sense. The same set was used as the lawyer’s office, and as the courtroom, and at every other place visited by the lawyer. The set did have a sense of symmetry, in terms of how everything was laid out. Although it seemed chaotic, it seemed to fit the scenarios presented. For example, in one scene, Alexandra, the lawyer, walked over to one of the gigantic piles of paperwork and pulled out an important document. Although everything seems chaotic, there is some sense of organization for the characters.

I was, however, very confused by the role of the businessman. There was obviously some clear signal there about corruption and politics, but I had a hard time picking up on it. Additionally, the fact that the same actors were used to play multiple roles was quite impressive. This shows a few things: one, that the actors chosen are very versatile and creative. This also serves as a symbol to show that the lives of the people portrayed are interchangeable…the things that happen to these women can happen to any other person in similar circumstances. This could teach the members of the audience not to take their lives for granted. I was also confused a bit whenever the black bird-like  creature came into the picture. I was not sure exactly what that could mean.

Despite certain aspects of the play that I found to be a bit hard to follow, I thought it was all in all a very impressive performance by talented actors. I loved how the set stayed the same, so that there were virtually no distractions for the audience. The story is a touching one that many people can empathize with, and the strict was very well executed.

December 6, 2012   No Comments

The Tempest

When we went to the opera, what struck me first was how fancy everything is. I was surprised I’ve never been to Lincoln Center, even though I’ve been living in New York almost my whole life. The place really displays grandeur, having the opera buildings overlooking the patio, with a fountain in the center. Inside the building, people were dressed very formally. We headed up the stairs, passing through an indoor balcony (which reminded me of the staircase scene in “Titanic”) to our seats.

staircase in “Titanic”

I laughed at how the chandelier in the auditorium rose to signify that it’s time to be quiet. I’m sure people who consistently go to the opera are familiar with it, although it was new for me.

Usually I find it difficult to follow the plot lines of plays, but this one was different for me. I understood everything that was going on, and sincerely enjoyed the show despite my expectations. The only disappointing thing was that there was very little actual melody to the singing during the opera. The dialogue was always sung, but the only time there was a melodious tune was in one of the final scenes, where Prospero forgives Ferdinand.

One interesting thing I noticed is how subtle the transitions between some scenes were. At the end of one of the scenes, the crew of the boat left the stage very slowly. They left so slowly that one wouldn’t even notice how they disappeared, unless he paid attention to them.

The music went along with the plot well. I remember how sharp bursts were played by violins whenever there was an argument, and calming chords were played during the romantic scenes. Once again, there were rarely any tunes played. Mostly, there were chords being played in order to emphasize the characters’ points.

It’s difficult to rate this opera, since I don’t have much experience with them, and can’t compare it to anything. But this was an interesting introduction to this genre of art. It must be difficult to synchronize all the talents that had to be used in this opera. That includes the musicians, actors/singers (especially Ariel), the gymnasts, the people who do lighting, the playwright, William Shakespeare, the costume designers, and the multitude of others whose hard work went into this production. A work of entertainment presented as successfully as this one must always be commended.

December 2, 2012   No Comments

Hannukah Vs Christmas

So we went to the Uptown Showdown for this mock-debate. It was supposed to be funny. Most of it wasn’t.

Team Hannukah got started on the right foot with Seth. Seth made the Hannukah story funny, but got in the facts, like you’re supposed to do at a debate. Seth struck the right balance, something that none of the other people on stage managed to do.

Craig Baldo, aka “the guy with the vacuum cleaner”,  was funny, but didn’t have anything of substance to fight Seth off with. He did a good job at telling the audience why he loves Christmas, and that vacuum was entertainment GOLD.

Jackie Hoffman was NOT funny. She was too angry and serious, and her voice got really shrill and made me start looking for my ear plugs- and I don’t own any ear plugs. She did her research though, so she gets some points there, and her mocking Christmas songs was humorous.

To me, at least, Albertina Rizzo wasn’t funny, but to be fair, I NEVER find political people funny in person. At least I can now tell the world “Albertina is a Democrat” with confidence!

Both teams had slideshows. I found Team Christmas’s show by Michael Showalter funnier- those 3 denim shirts KILLED me. Kevin’s show was also pretty good.

The Q and A with the audience was a flop. I can’t tell if that’s because all Q and A’s are lame or this one was just bad because it started firmly on the wrong foot with that guy asking Michael Showalter if his tummy fat was real. That was just mean!

It was heartening to see both teams jump in to defend Michael- I felt it was symbolic, saying that no matter what you celebrate, being a bully is wrong. It was what Michael would’ve called a “RhinoceDuck moment”, where everyone can get along to shame bullies.

My problem with the debate was that the 2 teams didn’t respond to each other, but rather plowed on with their prepared programs. That’s not a debate.

When we debated each other in class, we actually rebutted the other team’s points about apples, we didn’t keep on talking about how awesome oranges are. Our classes’ debate was fierce, and we all got really into it. It was fun


November 30, 2012   No Comments

The Tempest

The Tempest was the first opera I went to. It was a new and different experience, and overall I enjoyed it a lot. I felt rich, though I was sitting so high up that I could touch the ceiling. I thought opera shows were like a Broadway musical and it would be a normal play but when you least expect it, a song starts. My favorite character was Ferdinand because he has an amazing voice. My least favorite character is Ariel because her voice hurts my ears. When I first heard her voice, it did not sound human. But I admire her talent. I agree with Daniel that some words would be stretched when sang, and those words were usually rhymes. Knowing the story of The Tempest is key to understanding the opera. The first acts were very easy to follow but I got lost on the last act. I could not figure out why Properso had a sudden change of heart. My favorite part was when Calilban tried to overthrow Properso but he failed miserably hahaha. I was really impressed with the background. When Ferdinand and Miranda were holding hands and moving towards the sunset. The background was the only moving but it felt real. Amazing!

November 10, 2012   No Comments

The Tempest

“The Tempest” is the only opera I’ve ever been to in my life.

Thanks to a friend of mine, I had read “Maskerade” by Terry Pratchett, so I was prepared.

According to this book, a random person viewing an opera won’t know what’s going on at all without the little booklets that they pass out explaining it, so I looked up the plot online beforehand. The book was right- I would’ve never been able to follow the show without it.  I like my entertainment to be fun, and fun can only be had if at least half of your brain isn’t saying “OK…what’s going on….I don’t understand.” So I can read a book and not understand why a character did something because I know it will be explained later in the plot. Movies take this reliability to an extreme, recycling the same plots over and over again- you know what’s going to happen in a movie just by the title and poster. The opera seems to be the most brain-bruising form of entertainment by far. I wasn’t used to this, and I don’t think I like it.

“Maskerade” also pointed out that the singers in the opera have to worry about their appearance, and I noticed that everyone in “The Tempest” took good care of themselves, but maybe that’s just in acrobatic operas like this? I wouldn’t know. Either way, the Tempest involved a lot of  gymnastic skills, and I wasn’t expecting that- I guess I always pictured some fat lady singing high enough to break glass when i pictured “opera.”

The voices involved sounded good to my unsophisticated ears. The Ariel singer’s voice was annoyingly high- 2 people complained that they got headaches from her.

I liked the scenery, especially the sea and the forest. The idea of waving a sheet to portray the ocean worked out well, and the trees moved farther apart as singers walked towards them, creating and illusion of depth.

The costumes were intense. They were made so that even the people in the top row could see all the details.

I don’t know. Opera just isn’t my thing.

November 6, 2012   No Comments

ICP and Luz

At ICP I chose a photograph by Greg Marinovich. The caption read ANC supporters attack Lindsaye Tshabulala, a suspected Inkataha supporter, at Inhlazane Station, September 1990.

Two men can be seen in the photograph. One man is on the floor, lying on his back with his arms and legs spread out.He is wearing a blue jacket and his head is tilted to the side. A little further in the photograph, almost above the man on the floor, but more to the side, stands a second man. He is standing firmly with his legs spread apart. In his raised left hand he holds a knife with its blade pointing downward. His right arm is held out at his side. He is wearing a dark, sort-sleeved shirt and reddish-orange pants. His face is obscured by his hand, the knife he is holding in that hand, and the shadow that is cast by them.The scene transpires beside a street, on what looks to be a sidewalk. There are no other people in the frame of the photograph besides these two individuals. There is a red car in the background, but it appears driverless.

After our visit to ICP and a break for dinner, we headed to La MaMa theatre to see Luz. From the beginning, I was interested to see how the play would develop in a small theatre and with a small cast. To say the least, I was very pleased. The small size of the theatre made the performance very intimate and it was interesting to see actors playing different, and sometimes very opposing, roles. The acting was solid, in some places better that others, and the plot, or rather plots, despite being a bit confusing in how they connected was pretty captivating. The playwright also dealt with somewhat touchy, yet prevalent topics, giving the play a certain gravitas. I also liked how the story was told with the use of flashbacks and dream sequences, especially the scene where Alexandra an Luz are speaking to each other in different languages, Alexandra in English and Luz in Spanish. Also, I thought the little conversation/question answer session with the playwright that took place after the show was pretty cool. I felt that it helped to hear the playwright’s views on certain things, and I liked how at certain points there were people from all over the theatre having some back and forths, both with the playwright and each other.

And I was also quite partial to the roasted swan.

October 23, 2012   No Comments