Monthly Archives: September 2013

Time to Stop Binary Thinking – The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later

I had the pleasure to interview Thomas Ouellette (Director) and Peter Ruiz (Actor) from the upcoming adaptation of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, and hear – not only their opinions towards the play and its significance – but also about their views towards humanity, theater, and art. Peter and Thomas are very passionate about what they do, and they related it back to what is it that makes good articles. Their answer: the ones that comes closer to everyone’s soul.

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Camilo Garzon: Why did Rollins decide to make an adaption of the Laramie Project in this specific time?

Thomas Ouellette: A little history on the topic, the original Laramie Project was done in 1998. The play became instantly an international phenomenon. In the beginning of 2000 it was one of the top 3 plays produced in the US, and consequently became translated and adapted in many other countries. Many students in their twenties have at least seen one adaptation of it. The decision to make the Ten Years Later was made to mark the 10 year anniversary, done by the Tectonic Theater Group, and thus decided to check how the town was doing. In the first play, Matthew never appears. What appears is a place, just a town and its reaction. That is where the universality was with respect to places identifying with it. In the second piece the reaction is just like my town. The Tectonic was not going to go back to find unpleasant memories, but to check with the town itself and the progress or permanence that had occurred. Now. Why am I interested in the play now at Rollins? We did the play 6 or 7 years ago, in the Fred Stone. As you know, it’s a smaller venue. It certainly sold every night back then, however this time I did not want to visit the first play of the Laramie Project. I wanted to see where homophobia is now, not where it was in 1998, but now. The second play is about how Laramie has owned what happened and the ways they haven’t. The inhabitants of Laramie have rewritten their history. What is interesting is to see how people attach to the play. This is about two outliers in our town, but not only outliers, they are alcoholic outliers.

C. Ga: Now going in another direction, what do you consider has been interesting of the portrayal and artistic representation of these characters?

Peter Ruiz: One of the big ideas I think of is to connect with these people in the visceral level. It does not matter what you are in race, gender or identity. Laramie is an every-man’s-town. It represents the US towns and all of us. We should portray these characters as what they are, human beings. And as such, they are someone you can connect with, with compassion. They can be despicable, clearly. When Father Roger is talking about one of the perpetrators, we understand that he is more like me, than unlike me. When he spoke this line I recognized and confirmed my thought that everyone has a piece of every character.

Th. O: Cliché is that actors cannot play someone that they don’t like. But there is some truth inside of it. In Rollins, how do I get into the skin of the character that I don’t like? You are going to play a murderer, and have to figure out how to get in their characters, clearly based on human beings and the true accounts of their lives. We have to humanize them and tell their story. It’s not my job to teach a lesson, my job is to tell the story honestly and fully, and let the people react to it individually. If we wanted to make a point, or even tell a story with a moral, it would fail as a story. If I were to write a speech about homophobia and recite it in the Annie Theater, plus inviting the community to hear it, no one would come and hear it. I am an artist and what I can do well is to tell the story, and expose the audience to this.

P. Ru: I remember in the first rehearsal how everyone was discussing the killers. We went to talk about abstract thoughts and about their actions. I’m the super gay one, and I was the only one who stood up in the defense of Russell, because he would be abused and hit while growing up. I said that this might have been one of the reasons for him to not be strong enough to stop Aaron. There are a lot of people that cannot understand why he was an accomplice, even so they can still relate to their past.

 

C. Ga: But wouldn’t that be an apparent contradiction of terms? What about the dualities of human nature?

Th. O: Two things can be true at the same time. On one level, Russell deserves to be in prison. On the other level, it is true that he did what he could with the deck of cards that he was given. His past and the bad decisions he had made led him to that night, and helped to make Matthew a saint, a martyr, an icon. We all are Matthew Shepard. If you go to CFAM and see an art piece, and you have someone by your side, the person will take something from it, you take another thing. The same with theater. Once it is on the stage, as art is on the wall, it deals with interpretations. I don’t want an explanation from art. I want to take whatever I can from it

P. Ru: My perspective doesn’t come to live until I come to the audience. It is the exchange of ideas, passions, ideologies, that intermingle with the audience, and the actors of the piece. That is the moment when art is created.

Th. O: If I create a painting and just leave it the garage, is it art?

P. Ru: If someone sees it, then it is art. What we are working on now is art, what we will be showing in the Annie is theater art.

 

C. Ga: Why do we, humans, have to identify with all those socially over-imposed categories?

P. Ru: We live in a binary society. There is nothing in between for most of the society. One side is the proper, the right. The other is the wrong side to do things in. When we introduce the shades of gray, and stop thinking in black and white, our own brain starts putting a red flag. We categorize so that our brain can put things into boxes, and when we cannot, we create tension in ourselves. And the only way to deal with it is with actions. When people are uncomfortable it’s because of crossing boundaries. We attribute these different characteristics, such as masculinity to men to become a manly man; or on the contrary we attribute more feminine characteristics to men. These categories are not real.

 

C. Ga: It is completely sexist to do so. Even Jung argues that, what man should strive for, is an understanding of their feminine part, which he calls the anima.

Th. O: It is sexist. Why would you undermine women?  What is wrong with having a more feminine side in any gender? The lazy thing about binary thinking is that it allows us to define things from what they are not. A gay person is not a straight person. This does not define what they are. It is a shortcut. I also think that there are bits of me in the really troubled people and in the really virtuous. Theater allows us to see experiences and look at the world, plus having the magic in a darkened room, shoulder to shoulder with other others, and understanding how horrifying and fun it is to be human. To see the ways we relate with the characters and the ways we don’t. Shakespeare relates to us even nowadays because the way I relate with him underlines the ways I don’t. This play relates to us as humans, and thus it is not for one or the other, art is for all.

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As Shakespeare’s Macbeth teaches us that fair is foul and foul is fair, or Goethe’s Faust shows us how two souls are dwelling in his breast; be sure to come to the first show of Rollins’ adaptation of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later on September 27, at 8:00 pm (Doors will open at 7:00 pm) and see how art can show us a reconciliation of opposites, and not binary thinking.

LARAMIE10 #8 LARAMIE10 #9 LARAMIE10 #10 LARAMIE10 #2 LARAMIE10 #1 LARAMIE10 #13 LARAMIE10 #12 LARAMIE10 #11 LARAMIE10 #3 LARAMIE10 #4 LARAMIE10 #5 LARAMIE10 #6 LARAMIE10 #7

 

Photographer: Lisa Thompson

#1/ Director Thomas Ouellette

#2/ Director Thomas Ouellette

#3/ Director Thomas Ouellette (right) and actor Peter Ruiz (left)

#4/ Director Thomas Ouellette (right) and actor Peter Ruiz (left)

#5/ Actor Peter Ruiz

#6/ Director Thomas Ouellette

#7/ Director Thomas Ouellette

 

Photographer: Olivia Haine

#8/ Actors Ryan Roberson (left) and Casey Casteel (right) with Assistant Director Charlie Barresi

#9/ Actors Ryan Roberson (left) and Casey Casteel (right) with Assistant Director Charlie Barresi

#10/ Actors Taylor Sorrel (left) and Chris Stewart (right) with Director Thomas Ouellette (center)

#11/ Actors Taylor Sorrel (right) and Chris Stewart (left) with Director Thomas Ouellette (center)

#12/ Director Thomas Ouellette with actors Chris Stewart and Taylor Sorrel (from left)

#13/ Director Thomas Ouellette with actors Chris Stewart and Taylor Sorrel, from left (& Lillian)

My Land Is Not For Sale

Juan Manuel Santos is Colombia’s president. We both have had the opportunity to study outside of the Bogotan bubble. He went to University of Kansas, I came to Rollins. However similar we are in this educational privilege, we are radically different. I want to serve, he does not. If you want to rule, don’t preside over my country, Mr. Santos. I don’t want our country in your feeble hands for four more years. Politics is the meta-practice that strives for internal goods and for the whole community.

However, since Colombia signed a Free Trade Agreement with the US, my people have been bleeding. We have been economically growing and stable in inflation. Yet, there is a clear crisis with a reason: Colombia – as Mexico, when NAFTA was signed – was and still is not prepared for the economic consequences brought by a FTA. And it is because of this that farm-workers are still in a national strike.

As my friend, Sebastian Sanchez 13’, stated in a Facebook status about the situation: “it has become a domino effect for those in ‘power’ to screw the ‘bottom’”. This tendency is evident right now with the agrarian workers.  Agriculture etymologically means the care of the fields. They are one of the cornerstones of the country because they indeed care for our land. “We are what we are because we have farmer roots”, a women protesting on one of the marches said. I have farmer roots. All my grandparents lived in rural areas when growing up. My blood is the same that runs through theirs. And they are voicing and acting upon the unfair treatment done by the authorities.

And what does the Head of State decide to inform the world and his country?

“The, so called, agrarian national strike does not exist

Those are heavy words, right there, Mr. President.

For a MEcon and MPA – that has been both Minister of Finance and of Defense, in a country rooted on an agrarian economy – I find this as a promotion for ignorance and indifference that I cannot stand.

I want to believe you were joking. I want to think of this as your way to relieve the distress and stabilize the tension. Maybe you were doubting existence of this phenomenon as Descartes, Husserl, or the Madhyamaka, so that you can then see what is real.

Are you disregarding that the countrymen that work tirelessly every day of their lives – like my compatriot Cesar Pachon, who voiced the problems of the agrarian community to the Senate on May 7th – should continue surviving this karmic retaliation that they do not deserve, and that their claim is (for you) non-existent?  Two questions now: Is there no corruption in any possible sphere of Colombian society? Are FARC not killers and your reelection-trump-peace-treaty that is being signed with them is for all of us to obliviously sing kumbayah?

I find this hard to believe when you declared a state of exception. This is clarified in the Colombian constitution from article 212 to 215. The Constitutional Court explains this in the C-049 Sentence of 2012. However the Court, in its jurisprudence, interpreted the 7th numeral of Article 241 as a constitutional mutation, which was done without the normal mechanisms of reform. Furthermore, the Court was not given, by the 1991 Constituent Assembly, the faculty to make an analysis of the decrees that declare these states. We know the president, and his ministers, have the faculty of declaring them. But he is doing it for a strike that does not exist? How does Santos have the pants to make this claim and declare it?

Cowardice, as Bulgakov wrote, is the most terrible of vices. Concealing, corrupting, and lying are not going to solve the problem. He is escaping from it, and he is ignoring it as well. And this makes me think of our generation. Yes, clearly we all get bored and selfish, it is natural. But not all of us act and decide cowardly. When you try to transform subjects into objects – and throw them into the garbage – they will come back. They will rebel to the mediocrity of this decision. Santos decided superficially, shallowly, and as what he is: a spoiled child. I am not going to accept this. I hope you, reader, won’t either.

I will guarantee you this: my land is not for sale. The storm will come to an end, and a slack tide will hit my country’s shores when Santos and these cynic politicians start acting as Colombians. Colombians like Cesar Pachon. As a fellow (although self-exiled) Colombian, I want you to be aware that I apply what Borges once wrote:

“Nobody is the homeland, but we all are

And you, Cesar, are definitely not alone.

Mckean, My Home

As a college student, you’ve probably been asked the same five questions everyone seems to be infatuate with asking such as: “What is your major?” “What do you want to do later in life?” “Have you studied abroad?” and my favorite “What is your favorite part about college?” For some reason my answer to the latter question seems to bewilder some, but my absolute favorite part about college is the culture of living in a residential hall and the memories I now have that I’m able to look back on and think of the “good ol’ times”. I’ve had the enormous pleasure of living in Mckean Hall for my entire college career (no, I haven’t repeated my first year over and over again, I’ve just happily lived in Mckean my first year and then have worked as a Resident Assistant for the building ever since). Whenever I tell my peers or even new faces on this campus that I live in Mckean Hall or that I’ve lived there for three years now, I always receive a facial expression of pity and hear responses like “Dude that really sucks”. It surely doesn’t help when the official newspaper for the College publishes articles where they identify the Mckean Residential Hall as the one that “smells like mildew, but it’s where the party is at”.

Mckean Hall has had an awful reputation for as long as I’ve been here, and I’m pretty sure it can be dated back even further, but has anybody really tried to understand why? Because I can tell you after living in that hall for three years straight that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the building. The long-standing reputation is the only substance of any kind that fills the halls with its “terror” and “disgusting appeal”, not the infrastructure, not its residents, not its Resident Assistants, and not Rollins College’s buzz of being a “party school”. Every single college or university across the United States faces the dilemma of having underage first years drinking, partying, vandalizing, you name it. This is not a problem singular to Mckean Hall and it is definitely an issue one can experience in almost any other residential hall on this campus.

Every first year dorm on this campus faces relatively the same conflicts, but why is it that people only think of Mckean when they think of first year’s parties? Because with the existence of a reputation, gossiping and bad-mouthing about certain events and certain people becomes easier to do and easier to believe.

Mckean Hall was designed by Hugh Mckean, a former student of Rollins College and a fellow X-club member, and when he designed this building, he did so by keeping future students in mind and making sure that they could have the best possible residential hall experience. He wanted to make sure that all of Mckean Hall’s residents could answer the question “What is your favorite part about college?” with “living on campus, living in Mckean Hall”. I completely and wholeheartedly adore this hall and I’ve been able to create great relationships with friends and residents with all that Mckean has to offer. From its thirteen comfortable living rooms, to the countless programs, to the wonderful Resident Assistants, and to the amazing memories effortlessly made, Mckean Hall you are my home and I wish that everyone could understand you.

Lightness and Weight – Response to The Sandspur’s Fall 2013 Orientation’s Issue

The difference between the journalist and the common citizen lies in a simple distinction: the common citizen has the right to ask questions in the spirit of true freedom of opinion, albeit the journalist has the right to demand an informed answer. The Franco-Czech writer, Milan Kundera, exhaustively ratifies this in Immortality.

I have written as a Freelance Writer in The Sandspur since my first day of classes at Rollins on January 16, 2012. I have continuously voiced my opinion against the status quo, informed the community and have been present recurrently as an irreverent and risky writer. That is why I remember with nostalgia the first issue where I wrote. It was educated. It was informative.

I recall writing an article about the decline of Literature, and collaborated with Amir in a recount of what was going on in international affairs. There were also articles about US politics, Liberal Arts being in peril, Erin Brioso’s provocative reflection about the MLK vigil, and even articles on the Immersion trip, and the Habitat for Humanity collaboration, during Winter Intersession 2012. However, what I found in this orientation’s issue was not what I was expecting.

I will tell you what I found during this Fall Orientation’s issue. I found disrespect towards women in the Sexperts column, which Gaby Cabrera points out in her response. And I found as well a judgment of value against McKean Hall, which Tasha touches in hers.

If you are a first year student and this is what you read in your campus newspaper, then you are already getting a preconceived notion rather than forming your very own opinion a posteriori. A newspaper that uses satire recurrently, and as the most common denominator in tone, should watch out. That is, evidently, because if laughter becomes laughable that is when the joke will become serious. Referring again to Kundera, only what has weight, and is of necessity, has value.  There must be lightness, yes, but not in excess. Gravitas is necessary for communication, especially if it strives to inform.

I congratulate other informative articles such as the LYNX guide and the Disney Rundown, which are of help to the community. But I hope the upcoming issues will stop this certain misinformation to the student body. I also hope that the students that submit their articles for the sake of informing the community will get theirs published, and not rejected. People that have the possibility to do good – especially by writing – have the moral imperative to do so. Accordingly, I will continue to write for the sake of information and journalism.

By writing these responses, Gaby, Tasha, and I are acting proactively to change what we consider should be for the betterment of Rollins. I will continue to provide not only my voice, but one of the students who are here for something more than an exaltation of shallowness.The Sandspur has to get better, and my diagnosis is not new. It has been a persistent topic of conversation with my friends, professors, and colleagues voicing this concern. Thus, find me here asking, as a potential journalist:

Why is it that the Rollins student newspaper is not representing our voice?

And I – respectfully – demand an answer.

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*NOTE: The Sandspur did not publish this response in the print edition. You can find it online at: http://www.thesandspur.org/lightness-weight-response-fall-2013-orientations-issue-sandspur/