Zadie Smith Reads at Boston College

London-born novelist Zadie Smith teaches at NYU.

London-born novelist Zadie Smith teaches at NYU.

 

Zadie Smith, award-winning novelist, essayist, and short-story writer best known for her debut novel White Teeth, treated a wrapt Boston College audience to a reading of her new story, “Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets,” yesterday evening. Gasson 100 was full to bursting: eager listeners crowded at the back behind packed seating, pressed into the sides of the room, perching on the windows, clutching well-worn copies of White Teeth or NW, Smith’s latest novel. Excitement was palpable, a buzz reminiscent of English playgrounds in early 2000′s as copies of White Teeth were passed around like illicit cigarettes, taken home to be devoured in late-night reading binges. This installment of the Lowell Humanities Series  was initially scheduled to host Edwidge Dandicat, acclaimed Haitian-born novelist and nonfiction writer who was forced by unforeseen circumstances to withdraw from the event, asking Smith to take her place. The Boston literary community were certainly glad that Dandicat found an equally respected and illustrious writer as her short-notice replacement.

After apologizing in advance for attempting an American accent, Smith launched into “Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets” with very little foregrounding: we knew only that it was set in New York, the protagonist was an African American drag queen, and that we would be getting the whole story, no matter how long it took. It became clear early on that this would be, in fact, a masterclass in delivery, Smith alternating between Miss Adele’s sassy American quips and the narrator’s deep British tones in what became a seamless one-woman dramatic reading, all characters vocally distinct and fully embodied.

It wasn’t just the texture of voices that Smith conjured to animate her words that her audience found so compelling, it was the tissues of deeper lives poking up through the surface of the story, grounding the action in a denser sense of personal history, of the city’s history, revealed with the deftest of touches, and then quickly submerged again beneath a snappy one-liner. Miss Adele walks the freezing streets of New York, lamenting the partial gentrification of the neighborhood — why didn’t they go all the way instead of half-assing it? — and musing on her strict religious upbringing, her straight-laced brother living in Florida. Entering an unassuming and family-run corset shop, Miss Adele encounters a husband and wife bickering incessantly in a language she can’t understand, abysmal customer service, and her own aging body. Importantly, she is confronted by her own expectations of judgement and discrimination — her conviction that she can detect derision in spite of language barriers. Meaning, for Miss Adele, is universally felt. Making us laugh, making us think, making us sit deathly still  in order to catch every word, Smith delivered an exemplary literary performance.

Zadie Smith signed books for a long line of fans.

Zadie Smith signing books for a long line of fans.

Afterwards, the usual run-through of writer Q&A’s — where do your characters come from, and which writers do you admire — concluded with an unexpected non-question: a man stood up in the middle of the room and thanked Smith for writing; her influence made the world a better place, he said. The audience applauded their support of this statement, glad to leave Smith with something of the feeling she had left them. Later, at the signing table, Smith took her time, chatting at length with those who waited for a signature, diffusing these usually awkward exchanges with questions about her readers lives, leaving a lasting impression of a woman truly engaged with the world around her — unaffected, sincere.

“Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets” appears in the current issue of the Paris Review, which also features poetry by Smith’s husband, Nick Laird. The last in the Lowell Humanities Series for this semester takes place next Wednesday, April 9th, Gasson 100, and features Emma Donoghue.

Next Stop Arts Fest: Three of BC’s best go through to the next round of Battle of the Bands

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Battle of the Bands 2014 kicked off with a fierce preliminary competition.

The Vanderslice Cabaret Room was bursting with supporters for the six bands going head to head on Friday March 14th , competing for a place at the Arts Festival’s BC’s Best. Juice, Seaver’s Express, and Bobnoxious and the Master Craftsmen emerged victorious, and will be going on to play at the festival on Thursday, April 24, in the hope of winning a slot at this year’s Modstock.

Openers Juice impressed with a diverse range of influences. Photo courtesy of The Heights and John Wiley.

Openers Juice impressed with a diverse range of influences. Photo courtesy of The Heights and John Wiley.

Representing a diverse mix of styles, from indie rock to smooth, jazz-infused pop, by way of the distinctive soul-hop of Times New Roman, all six acts played blistering sets that proved, once again, that the band scene is alive and well at Boston College. Newcomers Juice raised the bar early with an eclectic mix of feel-good rock, rap, and violin hooks, followed by Free Alley, who almost stole the show with their first song, “One More Time,” that saw keyboard player Alex rushing to the front of the stage to join the guitarists in a deliacte three-part harmony.

The Seaver brothers were very much the dynamic duo. Photo courtesy of The Heights and John Wiley.

The Seaver brothers were very much the dynamic duo. Photo courtesy of The Heights and John Wiley.

Seaver’s Express exploded onto the stage with dynamic frontmen the Seaver brothers proving themselves a formidable presence in the competition. Energized, and armed with effortlessly hip, original tracks, the BC/Berklee five-piece established themselves as the band to beat early on. Changing the pace mid-way, Times New Roman delivered his stylized brand of hip-hop inflected pop with impressive precision, before BC’s Best veteran competitors Bobnoxious delivered a tight, powerful set that proved their determination to clinch the title this year. Closing out the night, The Mints charmed everybody with laid back jazz-laced love songs that earned them the “most kissable” award from emcees Lou and Ceara.

Veterans Bobnoxious pulled out all the stops. Photo courtesy of The Heights and John Wiley.

Veterans Bobnoxious pulled out all the stops. Photo courtesy of The Heights and John Wiley.

For a full write-up, check out The Heights review, and make sure to support final round qualifiers Juice, Seaver’s Express, and Bobnoxious and the Master Craftsmen at Arts Festival 2014, Thursday April 24, 8:00 p.m. in the Main Tent.

Robsham Hosts Production of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf

Blog For Colored Girls

Thursday March 20 – Sunday March 23

Thurs – Sat 7:30 p.m.; Sun 2:00 p.m. Robsham Theater

Written by Ntozake Shange, the play first opened on Broadway in 1976 and has since been adapted to television, film, and book form. A combination of poetry, song, and a variety of dance styles, the show stars seven dazzling African American women dressed in different colors performing a series of poems. This group of fierce women hail from seven different cities and come together to express the struggles and obstacles they have faced and overcome, finding their rainbows through love, friendships, pain, suffering, and music.

The Black Box theater in Robsham is cozy, dim, and perfect for the interactive nature of the performance. Multiple small tables for audience members are located in the middle of the stage, with more seating situated in front and to the side. All seven actresses performed the characters effortlessly, each one a little different, but all together powerful in their interactions.

If you haven’t already picked up your ticket, you’re going to have to scalp someone else’s because all performances are sold out! Great job to the ladies of the Rainbow and all of the directors, performers, and crew that put this show together. It’s must see!

“Are the Decisions of This Generation Honoring the Future of the Next?” BC Alumna Frances Dubrowski Raises the Big Questions About Climate Change

Artists Tackle Climate Change at BC Arts Fest 2014:

Honoring the Future: Artist Panel and Discussion

Thursday April 24, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., Devlin Hall 101

Peter Handler (figure carving by Casey Gleason),  Arctic Ice Reliquary (2011) Turned Sitka spruce, anodized aluminum, painted basswood, glass. Dimensions: 18" D x 48" H. Courtesy of the artist.

Peter Handler (figure carving by Casey Gleason), Arctic Ice Reliquary (2011) Turned Sitka spruce, anodized aluminum, painted basswood, glass. Dimensions: 18″ D x 48″ H. Courtesy of the artist.

The ongoing conversation surrounding climate change is increasingly essential in the face of rising sea levels and extreme weather, fast becoming a global environmental issue. At this year’s Arts Festival, Boston College will contribute to that conversation through a special event designed to educate on climate change through art. Honoring the Future, a new non-profit project directed by BC alum Frances Dubrowski, ’70, will introduce festival-goers to prominent contemporary artists who produce art in response to climate change.

Boston College is an ideal place to stage this discussion, explains Dubrowski, due to the college’s “commitment to discernment.”  Occurring every year around Earth Week, the festival itself has a history of recognizing the relationship between arts and environmental responsibility; past events include photographer James Balog’s festival appearance in 2013 and the screening of award-winning eco-documentary Chasing Ice. At the Arts Council, we’re delighted to continue raising awareness of climate issues this year with a program that Dubrowski says will “examine the central questions each of us faces:…What can I contribute? How can I match my individual talents to the world’s needs?”

Soon we may all be forced to confront these questions as the stakes are rising with the sea; Dubrowski claims that numbers of the dislocated and homeless as a result of floods, wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters could reach the millions as entire nations, perhaps, destabilize, a scenario the American military is already preparing for. “The central issue — the one essential truth we must come to terms with — is that we have the power to craft a different future for us and for our children if we act now.”

In a bid to educate and empower the public on climate change, Honoring the Future aims at harnessing the ability of art to encourage reflection, engage the emotions, and foster creativity, as a means of inspiring Americans to “summon creativity and courage, individually and collectively, to respond to our climate challenge.” After their appearance at Arts Fest, Dubrowski and co. plan to take their “Climate SmART” lecture series across America and work with education institutions to develop curricula that introduce an art-based approach to climate science.

Mags Harries and Lajos Héder, Sunflowers – An Electric Garden (2009) 15 “sunflowers” along I-35 highway, Texas. Photovoltaic custom cells, steel, earth forming, planting.  Each approximately 18’-26’ high. Photo credit: David Newsom. Courtesy of the artists.

Mags Harries and Lajos Héder, Sunflowers – An Electric Garden (2009) 15 “sunflowers” along I-35 highway, Texas. Photovoltaic custom cells, steel, earth forming, planting. Each approximately 18’-26’ high. Photo credit: David Newsom. Courtesy of the artists.

The importance of education in schools is encapsulated in the project’s name: “Honoring the Future” serves as a reminder that the next generation – current students – will bear the consequences of the previous generation’s energy and lifestyle choices. “Each of us must begin to discern our individual contribution,” says Dubrowski, “and make choices that respect the birthright of tomorrow’s generations to a vibrant, healthy future.” The artists’ work encourages us to examine our own behavior, to ask ourselves whether  the decisions of this generation are honoring the future of the next. Once that question is asked in a way that is “thoughtful, creative, hopeful, and collaborative,” says Dubrowski, we will each be able to better understand how we, personally, can contribute to positive change.

The Arts Council are proud to support the aims of Honoring the Future by including the program in this year’s Arts Fest; the session will include images of climate-related work by four outstanding artists, and an opportunity for audience-panel interaction and discussion.  Join us Thursday, April 24 in Gasson 101, Boston College campus, and get involved in what might be this generation’s most important conversation.

Honoring the Future is sponsored by the Open Space Institute, Inc, as part of its Citizen Action Program. Open Space Institute is a leader in environmental conservation and has served as a fiscal sponsor to over 130 successful citizen action projects.

Frances Dubrowski, ’70, has spent over 35 years as an environmental lawyer, and has taught law and policy at both Georgetown University Law School and the University of Maryland, as well as to American and overseas government officials, bar associations, and community organizations.

University Chorale Dazzles at Winter Concert

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Directed by John Finney, the University Chorale of Boston College performed wonderfully for their Winter Concert. The concert consisted of eleven pieces, each demonstrating the vocal range and ability of the performers. Throughout the performance, the chorale reflected the principles of Boston College by displaying Catholic tradition through the pieces’ Latin lyrics. On the altar stood a large group of diverse young singers whose music reverberated within the boundaries of the walls and within each member of the audience. One of the highlights of the performance was the Selections from Mass in G major, which consisted of four separate pieces, each highlighting a different section of the chorale. In addition, Dexter Kennedy was vital to the entirety of the performance as he dexterously played the organ, producing a melodic backdrop to the harmony of voices. Overall, the concert was a moving and tranquil recital, and gave the audience an opportunity for relaxation from the constant labor of midterm season.

In this upcoming semester, the University Chorale will be going on Spring Break Tour in Madrid and Barcelona early March. Their next few on-campus performances will be the Spring Concert at Trinity Chapel on Newton Campus on Saturday, April 12th and the Arts Festival at O’Neill Plaza on Thursday, April 24th.

McMullen Museum Highlights Photography between Wars

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This Monday’s opening celebration of the “Paris Night and Day: Photography between the Wars” exhibition at Boston College’s McMullen Museum was a lively success in showing off a diverse collection. There was an atmosphere of excitement as visitors and BC Students navigated the crowded museum, enjoying hot chocolate and dessert, listening to BC bOp’s live music, and enjoying the impressive display.

Historically focused on Paris’s interwar period (1918 to 1939), the exhibition holds the incredible work of famous photographers from Man Ray to Ilse Bing who collectively exposed the City of Light through art. The show is divided into two floors, the top focusing on Paris by day, and the bottom revealing the famous city by night. The historical aspect of the show is stunning in itself. The images depicted the fashion of the period with high, thin drawn on eyebrows of the women and men in loose tunics gallivanting through the streets. New inventions, like that of the airplane, are frozen in time within the photographs, drawing upon the wonder and excitement such a machine must have brought.

The show is one of social dichotomies. The contrast between a picture of a wealthy woman draped in fur walking her dainty dog in the park and that of a poverty stricken young man slumped over himself on a park bench just a few steps away in the gallery gives incredible insight to the divergent social spheres of the time. The nightlife of Paris includes photos of swanky bar top conversations with tangled lovers and the dark activity within brothels . The photographs give insight to what life was really like in the streets of peacetime France, exposing regular people and the happenings in their everyday lives.

Each photographer has a  unique approach to style, adding to the already intriguing historical aspects of the exhibition. The artists played with the idea that a photograph is a true representation of our observations. Distorting the film in its development allowed some artists to shape a seemingly factual photograph into creations from their imagination. Other artists played with perspective in truly striking ways, transforming a seemingly simple moment in time into beautifully constructed pieces of art.

“Paris Night and Day: Photography between the Wars” offers a glimpse of high and low society and how those people behaved. The photographs show all one hopes Paris to be: romantic, diverse and mystical.

Grammy Nominated Choir Performs at Boston College

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Choir of Trinity Wall Street performed “Mass for 8-voice A Capella” in a dimly lit St. Ignatius Monday evening and brought the church to life! The group was clearly deserving of their 2013 Grammy award nomination as demonstrated through their use of deep low notes and air piercing high notes which harmonized effortlessly. Under the direction of Grammy award winner Julian Wachner, the group aimed to execute a dramatic fusion of different languages, ideas, beliefs and ‘confessions’. Throughout this unique performance, the songs gradually increased in volume and depth. Each song was also followed by a moment of silence, so the audience could let the hymn sink in and reflect on the religious meaning. The surrounding community made a strong presence filling nearly all pews for this Ritual of the Mass. Boston College wishes the Choir of Trinity Wall Street best of luck in the upcoming performances around the globe! 



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