‘Clybourne Park’ echoes the past of its predecessor

By Emily Steinhardt

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Steve (Matt Morris) escourts deaf wife Betsy (Casey Innes) out after an argument with Russ (Daniel Thach). Photo by Emily Steinhardt

Under the direction of Stephen Smith, nine actors successfully brought to life the story of Clybourne Park, the fall drama that ran from Nov. 9-11 and 16-18.

According to DCCC’s website, “Clybourne Park is a razor-sharp satire about the politics of race, written partly as a prequel/sequel to one of the greatest plays ever written in this country, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry.” The play takes place in the same house as A Raisin in the Sun in the same suburb of Chicago.

The first act is set in 1959 as a white family is selling their house to an African-American family. Act two jumps to 2009 as the descendants of the Younger family from A Raisin in the Sun are selling the home to a young white couple as the neighborhood experiences gentrification.

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Francine (Breonna Adams) and husband Albert (Terence Stroman) try to leave as an argument breaks out between family and friends. Photo by Emily Steinhardt

The show comes full circle at the end as it flashes back to 1959 and the audience meets Kenneth (Ben Vuocolo), a character that is mentioned throughout the show but never seen. It was the final moment of the show, and it tugged my heart out as I finally understood many subtle things that were discussed in the play.

In both acts, themes of racism, mental illness, gender, disability, and class are examined at large. The actors portrayed these very relevant topics in a believable manner that mirrored how many people still talk about them today.

The show was chalk full of standout moments from each of the actors. Performers played two different characters from the separate acts that echoed each other. They were all very successful in highlighting those similarities, especially Daniel Thach, Matt Morris, Terence Stroman, and Casey Innes.

Set designer Mimi Smith truly transformed the space. Stage crew and actors helped “change” the set during intermission to show the passing of time in the house by taking off a changeable wallpaper among other things.

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Bev (Samantha Angelina) tries to ask Betsy (Casey Innes) if she wants iced tea. Photo by Emily Steinhardt

Costumes were designed by Samantha Angelina, who was also one of the actors in the show. She captured the feeling of both eras, making it easy for the audience to believe they were back in the 1950’s or 2009.

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Lindsey (Casey Innes) talks with Kevin (Terence Stroman) about travelling around the world. Photo by Emily Steinhardt

Stephen Smith directed yet another fantastic play that “examined ways we still need to reckon with our national history which sadly keeps dividing us” as he said in his director’s note.

Bravo to the cast and everyone involved in such an excellent production.

Contact Emily Steinhardt at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

NakedEye Ensemble takes center stage at DCCC

By Victoria Lavelle

It was lights up as NakedEye Ensemble took center stage to present “Loud and Soft, High and Low” at the Marple Campus Large Auditorium as part of DCCC’s New Music Concert Series Nov. 2.

The eight-member electro-acoustic ensemble pulled from the group’s combined classical, rock, and jazz talents, and performed musical works by modern and “cutting-edge” composers, utilizing acoustics, electric guitar, toy piano, and a variety of unique sound-making instruments that included kitchen gadgets.

Founded in 2009 by pianist Ju-Ping Song, NakedEye began as the resident contemporary ensemble of Pennsylvania’s Academy of Music. According to Song, approximately two years later the group had developed into an independent organization in Lancaster, Pa., composed of professional musicians from classical, rock and jazz backgrounds.

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DCCC’s New Music Concert Series continued with NakedEye Ensemble’s Jeff Stern performance on percussion Nov. 2. Photo by Victoria Lavelle

“NakedEye’s body of repertoire reflects the group’s mission to innovate and explore musical expression outside of convention,” Song said. “From notated works to guided improvisations for flexible instrumentation, the group has established a New Music presence in its home city of Lancaster, from which it collaborates with composers and performers to import and export musical works in a rich, ongoing artistic exchange. NakedEye believes in the power of New Music to surprise, uplift, and change.”

In addition to Song, “Loud and Soft, High and Low” featured the sounds of cello performed by Peter Kibbe, electric guitar by Chad Kinsey, flute by Susanna Loewy, clarinet by Christy Banks, saxophone by Ryan Kauffman, electric bass by Mike Bitts, and percussions by Jeff Stern.

“NakedEye’s performance was full of life, with a new and modern sound,” said Downingtown adjunct professor of anatomy and physiology Navita Kaushal. “The way they put together the orchestra, along with the wind and brass instruments was absolutely great!”

From notated scores to guided improvisations, the group has established a New Music presence in South Central Pennsylvania. According to Song, the ensemble collaborates with composers and performers to import and export a diverse musical experience and ongoing exchange of talents.

As noted on the ensemble’s official website, their mission states, “The group is a working embodiment of its mission to perform and promote emerging contemporary music and talent, both locally and abroad.”

NakedEye Ensemble’s mission and direction is supported by the Thomas A. and Georgina T. Russo Family Foundation, PA Council of the Arts, New Music USA, The Amphion Foundation, and individual donors.

Song interacted with the audience throughout the show and narrated between musical selections, sharing background information and personal stories of the ensembles.

Composer Aaron Jay Myers of Boston described how challenging it became when he began composing the show’s music, calling the experience “complicated.” Myers shared that he had difficulties while composing the musical selection for NakedEye, due to an unexpected change in his eyesight.

Not long after beginning the musical composition, Myers said that he became increasingly worried that he might have amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” as it’s commonly referred to as. After seeking medical treatment, he was diagnosed with strabismus, a vision impairing condition in which the visual axes of the eyes are not parallel, so each eye’s vision appears aimed in different directions.

Myers said his rock and jazz roots are apparent in the music, he explained that his inspiration was something much different.

“I am honored to have composed these works for the fantastic musicians of NakedEye,” Myers said. “After being diagnosed with strabismus, it undoubtedly became the inspiration behind this orchestrated musical piece with the goal of turning something negative into something positive and productive. The melody starts out focused and clear, then some of the material turns blurry and hazy while gradually becoming unfocused. As it builds towards the peak and nears the conclusion, everything transitions back to being focused again.”

The ensemble earned “Time’s Illusion” Commissioning Project Award, and received the New Music USA Grant in June 2017, and the Amphion Foundation Grant in July 2017. The ensemble’s commissioned works have also received first prize at NYC’s UnCaged Toy Piano Composition Competition.

University of Wisconsin – Madison music composition professor Stephen Dembski composed “NakedEye Came” in 2014, but says he just recently revised the piece at his home in Manhattan.

“I just finished replacing the contrabass with the cello at Ju-Ping’s request, to properly fit the piece with the ensembles evolving instruments and players,” Dembski added. “I made the drive down to DCCC from New York City because this was the first performance of the new since the alterations and detailed specifications. This piece is struck by the heavy resonance of the name NakedEye, and I recalled its sonic sibling in the book of Job: ‘Naked I came from the earth, naked I shall return whence I came.’”

Altogether, the ensemble showcased six orchestrated pieces. Four additional performances by NakedEye included: “Fur Alina” composed by Arvo Pärt, “God Soul Mind Brain” by Randall Woolf, “Seven” by Don Byron, and “Workers’ Union” composed by Louis Andiessen.

After curtain call and the final bow, Song and the NakedEye members invited guests to stay and encouraged questions from the audience.

DCCC general studies major Charlie Smith asked the ensemble how they trained their minds to stay focused and keep precise timing without just glazing over each musical performance.

“It sounds easy, but it’s actually extremely hard,” Song replied. “If you lose your focus, you will indeed end up lost. One of the best ways to learn your timing, is to keep rehearsing it until you have it mastered.”

DCCC liberal arts major William McMahon directed his question specifically to the electric guitarist when he asked, “Who inspired you? Did you imagine yourself playing this sort of music, rather than the traditional ‘Rock-n-roll?’”

“I was inspired by Pete Townshend from The Who, and Mark Stewart from the group, Bang on a Can,” Kinsey replied. “I used to play the electric guitar in rock music, and I made it appear effortless because it’s actually rather easy and fulfilling. Becoming a member of NakedEye Ensemble has been a much different experience that I never anticipated. I never went to music school, so I’m up here on stage playing with doctors. I don’t know how to read music, but I grew skills and talent through my passion. I’m thankful and blessed to be a part of NakedEye Ensemble.”

Contact Victoria Lavelle at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

Potter Fest

Story and photos by Emily Steinhardt

Thousands of people wandered around Germantown Avenue on Oct. 21 as Harry Potter Festival took over Chestnut Hill. Attendees enjoyed everything from Butter Beer to brooms as they explored the 12 block festival that doubled in size since last year.

Chestnut Hill College was host to the Annual Philadelphia Brotherly Love Cup, a Quidditch tournament that local colleges could compete in.

The day was filled with costumes and characters from the books as people of all ages lived in the world of Harry Potter.

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Avada Kedavra! Voldemort causes trouble all over the festival by picking wand fights with any Muggle who dares.

Hip-hop legend critiques artists’ music live on air

By Theresa Rothmiller

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He was about to put out just an album titled “Newark Illustrated”; instead, he made it into a movement.

“I had shirts with “Lil’ seven, album coming soon”,” James Stokes said. “Everywhere we went people would say, ‘There go them Newark Illustrated guys.’ In that moment, the lightbulb went off. I said if I was to put this album out, nobody would ever wear another [Newark Illustrated] T-shirt. I didn’t put the album out as that, and just ran with the movement.”

Oct. 12, James “Big Seven” Stokes, founder of Newark Illustrated Marketing and Promotions, sat down to discuss his 20 years of experience in the music business and his support for unsigned artists. In the beginning of his career, Stokes recalls becoming a New Jersey household name at a very young age.

“I was 13 and everybody that I was breakdancing with were 21 years old and up,” Stokes said. “It was unheard of for a 11, 12, 13-year-old to really be into hip-hop. My roots go very deep.”

Stokes reminisced on his travels as a kid, his quick gain of popularity, and how his friend wrote his lyrics until he was a freshman in high school.

According to Stokes, he needed a rap for school and his rap partner, Hassan 7-11, was sick. He said he put his mind to it and wrote a rap inspired by a teacher who doubted he would pass his class.

Stokes recalls that as the moment when his confidence as a writer began to grow.

By 12th grade, Stokes met his rap partner “Hahz the Rippa.” The two formed a hip-hop group called “Hard We’re,” and caught the eye of Jay-Z during the early 90’s.

After being offered a chance to be the first group on Roc-A-Fella Records, the group separated six months later, and Stokes states that his take-away message from that situation was that he needed to start his own label.

When he obtained his own label, “Nonstop Entertainment,” he realized his own daughter could be a star.

“One Christmas, I told my 10-year-old daughter [now Miss Nana] that I wanted her to say something on my voicemail,” Stokes said. He put together a brief rap for her to mimic. According to Stokes, people thought Miss Nana was a young boy, saying,“That little boy sounds dope.” Approximately three months later, people began telling Stokes that his daughter was the better rapper.

“Once I noticed how everybody took to her, I fell back to be a manager,” Stokes said. “There was no way I would have gotten behind Nana if there wasn’t anything there. This was a business decision. The fact that it was my daughter was a bonus.”

Through his recognition, Stokes connected with former radio personality and current television show host Wendy Williams. At that time, Williams was searching for artists to record promos. After Stokes submitted a few of his own promos, someone suggested Nana try one.

“I put together a rap [for Nana] to a Lil’ Bow Wow song and gave it to Wendy,” Stokes said.

According to Stokes, not only was Williams calling to make a deal to manage Nana, Bow Wow had an interest in her as well. After Bow Wow announced on BET’s 106 & Park that Nana would be joining him, Stokes accompanied his daughter on a 10 city tour, then a 20 city tour two years later.

From 2009 to 2013, Stokes and his Nana went on hiatus. Stokes said he realized while building Nana’s career, his dreams were put aside.

“I lost my identity,” Stokes explained. “My name was Nana’s father. I wasn’t even Little Seven anymore.”

Stokes described the experience both as a gift and a curse. Instead of sending hundreds of messages in first person (as Nana), he should have taken some credit, Stokes claimed.

Today, Stokes hosts his own live radio show “Time 2 Grind,” co-signed by hip-hop legend DJ Kay Slay. Airing every Monday and Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST., and found on Instagram, YouTube, Periscope, Facebook and more.

“It started as something to do while Nana was in college,” Stokes admitted. “Any arena I’m in, I try to dominate it hard. I named it ‘Time 2 Grind’ because of that.”

Stokes explained that it started from a show on another network. After working for different stations over the years, he realized his name and brand were more recognizable than theirs. He said he’d rather have his own show.

Similar to a blessing in disguise, he experienced with his album, approximately one year ago, fans suggested a great idea for Stokes show.

In the beginning, he hosted one show every sunday, “Big Seven and Friends.” Both unsigned and established artists were brought on the show. Meanwhile, 15 minutes were open for artists to call in to rap or sing live.

“Sundays became a bit stagnated, so I said I’m going to start a show called, ‘Hip hop 101,’” Stokes said. It consisted of unsigned artists having their album or mixtape reviewed live.

“For about a week, I had nothing to review, but had thousands of songs sent for the mixtape,” Stokes said. “It kind of came organically.”

He explained how listeners gave their feedback, and then someone asked to make a donation to have their song reviewed.

“The lightbulb went off and I said, ‘Okay, donate $20,’” Stokes recalled. “The artist paid. I played the record and gave my honest feedback.”

One artist after another began to donate, so he changed the entire show to that format. According to Stokes, the show has been very successful. He has thousands of listeners and viewers from Philadelphia, New York and Chicago, to Miami, Los Angeles, Minnesota, and more.

Next, Stokes is relaunching Time 2 Grind radio, adding a Gospel and women inspired segments. He said he wants people to understand that Time 2 Grind is a tv/radio show, and isn’t always hip hop related. As for NI-Marketing, they’re currently working on Miss Nana’s new project.

“My pride and joy is helping unsigned artists get from A to [not even Z] to N, and I’m satisfied,” Stokes said.

Contact Theresa Rothmiller at communitarian@mail.dccc. edu

The Arts

Story and photos by Victoria Lavelle

It was curtains up for the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus (PGMC) in the Large Auditorium at DCCC’s Marple campus, a Campus Life event to promote diversity at the college on Nov. 2.

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Under the direction of artistic director J Men’s Chorus
performs in DCCC’s Large Auditorium.

The chorus performs music together and is key in the creation of new choral compositions. Under the artistic direction of Joseph J. Buches, along with collaborative piano accompanist, Tim Brown, the PGMC performed a variety of Broadway melodies that included selections from Kinky Boots and a vast arrangement of adult contemporary classics.

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PGMC collaborative piano accompanist Tim Brown plays “True Colors.”

PGMC’s Brotherly Love ensemble sang “Bridge Over Trouble Water” with Broadway legend Jennifer Holiday at the 2017 Out& Equal Workplace Summit Galain Philadelphia. As an introduction into the chorus’s rendition of “True Colors,” the chorus shared anecdotes from their recent performance with recording artist Cyndi Lauper.

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Andrew Crowley sings Broadway solo from “Kinky Boots.”

The chorus is a cultural fixture in Philadelphia and is one of the oldest gay men’s choruses in the nation. It was founded in 1981 when former director Gerald Davis toured the city’s LGBT district with just three other members to sing Christmas carols during the holiday season throughout the mid 80’s.

The chorus became the first LGBT musical group to perform at City Hall for the Philadelphia City Council in 97’, and the growth of PGMC took off in the new millennium.

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Audience members of all ages enjoyed the performances by the PGMC’s
Brotherly Love ensemble.

The chorus’ mission as stated on their official website reads: “The Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus entertains audiences, supports communities, and fosters acceptance through exceptional musical performance. Our vision is a community that celebrates differences and a chorus that inspires change.”

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Joshua Edwards performs a Broadway song solo.