Tweetable Sentences

The orchestra webpage states residencies involve educational community building concerts that display classical programs in casual settings.

The conversion from three dimensional work to two dimensional photograph masks the textures but emphasizes the shading.

It ends with:  “someday I swear I will stay in your mind forever then you’ll know how to write & praise my Modern Girlhood.”

Since Mindy and the other women were uncomfortable with Danny’s comment, they could’ve called him out so he could learn how he was wrong.

Why is it that art conservatories in the U.S. are so expensive yet the artists can’t earn a livable wage after they graduate?

In middle school Sufjan Stevens would make me think of small midwestern homes in the rain and going to the supermarket at 4pm and dark.


The Longest Sentences

The conversion from three dimensional work of art to two dimensional photograph masks the paper, clay, and wood’s textures, allowing the shading and precise shapes to shine through.

According to the orchestra’s webpage, these month-long residencies involve a mix of educational events — master classes and side by side performance with local school districts, for example — and community-building concerts that display classical programs in a more casual setting.

Except for a brief period in middle school in which I would put on Sufjan Stevens and force myself to think of small midwestern homes in the rain and going to the supermarket when it’s 4pm and already dark.

Lately the question that has really been nagging me is this: Why is it that in the US, arts conservatories are some of the most expensive schools in the nation, but when it comes to paying those artists a livable wage after the fact, our country turns a big fat cold shoulder?

Mindy and the other women in the room rightfully disagree with Danny and they were all made uncomfortable by his comment — they could have called him out about his unfeminist actions and he could have learned what he did wrong.

The very end of the song is its climax: Papista brings her vocals up into a much higher range and yells them out: “someday I swear I will stay in your mind forever / then you’ll know, you’ll know, how to write and praise my / Modern Girlhood” and “then you’ll know, you’ll teach, you’ll fight for your own / Modern Girlhood.

Oberlin Alums in Journalism: The Grand Informal Q&A/Advice Post

Did you once sit in an Oberlin classroom, perhaps taught by Anne Trubek, and now work in journalism? We, the students of RHET 306: Writing About The Arts, have many questions for you.

How did you get from King to your current office? What was your path?

What do you wish you knew/had done before Commencement?

Internships, yes or no?

Should we all move to New York?

What should we be reading?

Are these good questions or there others we should be asking, and what are those?

Thanks for your responses! You can leave them in a comment below. Or, if you want to write more and/or privately, email Anne at and she’ll share your thoughts with us via email or in class.

Worried You’re Imperfect? Don’t Fret: Listen to These Songs

Worried You’re Imperfect? Don’t Fret: Listen to These Songs

Alt.: Myths of Beauty, and Other Pop Lies

by Monica Hunter-Hart

Occasionally pop stars run out of things to say about sex, drinking, clubs, and making the most of life through dancing. In these moments of crisis, the runner-up subject matter is motivation. Katy Perry informed us that “Last Friday night we danced on table tops and we took too many shots.” Next, she instructed us to have faith in ourselves, because baby, we’re fireworks! But she’s not the only one. Pop artists want us to believe that they care about our emotional lives. In the absence of sincere and affecting musical examples, I don’t buy it.

Inspirational pop songs sell big. I taught at youth summer programs for years and witnessed kids frequently using their downtime to belt out these tunes. 7-year-old Ivy, for example, was a Selena Gomez jukebox that could produce music ceaselessly without being fed quarters. “Who Says”—Gomez’s foray into the motivational genre—was her favorite.

Parents often indulge their kids’ interests in songs with seemingly positive messages. “Sure, my kid’s being noisy,” they think, “but at least they’re singing something appropriate, right? Better than the rap that’s on the radio these days!” And it’s true that these songs are a far cry from lyrics like those found in, say, the Drake/Lil Wayne collaboration “Right Above It”: “I hit the strip club and all them bitches find the pole / Plus I’ve been sippin’ so this shit is movin’ kinda slow / Just tell my girl to tell her friend that it’s time to go.” I certainly wouldn’t want my children yelling those words, or those within other obviously indecorous, yet popular, tracks.

What these parents fail to realize is that there are still problems with the lyrics of these “inspirational” songs—they just happen to be more insidiously subtle than those of Lil Wayne. Motivational music often encourages listeners to find their liberation through unhealthy means. And more often than not, these songs are just not effectively inspirational. Sure, they sell. They’re catchy and peppy, so they can improve one’s mood. But their actual messages are almost never believable, so they can’t succeed in provoking in listeners any deep change in mentality.

Let’s journey a bit into this frothy musical practice. Bruno Mars is famous for writing over and over again about how much he really loves his woman—so he’s a fittingly chipper place to start. In “Just The Way You Are,” he sings, “When I see your face, there’s not a thing that I would change, because you’re amazing just the way you are.” Sweet, right? Wrong. He makes it clear in the rest of the lyrics that she embodies traditional standards of beauty: “When you smile, the whole world stops and stares for a while”—i.e., it’s not merely him who finds her attractive; “her hair falls perfectly,” etc. In confirmation, the female star of his music video is conventionally gorgeous. On the surface, this song is an anthem for being true to oneself. But really it’s an ode to orthodox beauty.

In “What Makes You Beautiful,” the young men of One Direction also praise the good looks of their love interest, though she doesn’t share their opinion. “You don’t know you’re beautiful,” they croon, “That’s what makes you beautiful.” Feminists have already—and rightfully—jumped on this idealization of female insecurity. Their heroine can only be considered lovely if she is unaware of it. Note: it’s easy to forget our cultural values within this confusing age of modernity—remember, readers, women should be humble and meek!

Selena Gomez picks up where One Direction left off in “Who Says.” “Who says you’re not perfect?” she asks, adding, “That’s the price of beauty,” i.e., if you’re perfect and beautiful, you necessarily don’t know it. “I’m no beauty queen, I’m just beautiful me,” she repeats, a statement brazenly contradicted by our awareness of Gomez’s appearance and by the flattering series of shots in this song’s music video. You’re perfect, girls, but only if you look like Selena Gomez! The question “Who says you’re not perfect?” is ridiculous, as we are bombarded every day by messages intended to make us feel inadequate for commercial gain (we’re imperfect without that lipstick; we need those jeans to be complete; etc.). It’s also deeply problematic that these songs define personal worth as originating in one’s physical appearance.

In response to Gomez’s query, we could cite Hannah Montana, who assures us that “nobody’s perfect” in her song of the same name. To inspire listeners, she focuses on the universality of flaws. However, this tactic is a guise for continuing to emphasize the ultimate importance of perfection. “I know in time I’ll find a way,” she says. To her, defectiveness is not a state to come to terms with in and of itself; it’s a state that can be reckoned with only by focusing its transience. You and I are messing up, she says, and that’s okay, but only because we’ll stop messing up soon: “I mix things up, but I always get it right in the end.” How wonderful to have the opportunity to aspire to Hannah Montana’s version of “right.”

Pink has also taken the opportunity to contribute to the pop music discourse on perfection. In “Fucking Perfect,” she sings, “Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel like you’re nothing, you’re fucking perfect to me.” Even though Pink sings to an unspecified “you,” it’s impossible to believe that she’s addressing us individually. She doesn’t know us. What kind of validation is this, then? I’m not going to trust an evaluation of my personal worth done by someone who’s never met me. Perhaps if I found anything to relate to in the character she’s describing, I would believe that the message was relevant to me. But Pink’s descriptions of the “you” are vague: the only detail we have is that this person is “so mean when you talk about yourself.” Nothing much to grab onto there.

Katy Perry’s “Firework” has similar issues. You don’t know me, Katy Perry, so why should I believe your assurance that “There’s a chance for you, cause there’s a spark in you”? The subject of the song does not trust her or her self-worth. If people believe only in their own dim obscurity, telling them the opposite—that they’re freaking fireworks—is not going to automatically cause 180-degree reversals.

In addition to being ineffective and unhealthy, the form of inspiration that these songs support is sexist. While brainstorming contemporary, motivational pop tunes for this piece, I noticed a pattern in my list: the only songs I could think of were either sung by women and directed toward a general audience or sung by men and directed toward a woman. Pop music constructs the need to be reassured or comforted as a female phenomenon. Is this really the source we should turn to for emotional encouragement?

That said, the basic idea of achieving uplift through music is a good one. Are there pop songs that successfully do this, while side stepping sexism and the reinforcement of beauty standards? Anecdotally, Beyoncé’s “Flawless” did work for me—until I saw the music video in which her calculatedly crafted appearance proves that she did not “wake up like this.” The most successful song for me has been Taylor Swift’s “Mean.” She admits to her own weakness more sincerely than Hannah Montana: “You can take me down with just one single blow.” Instead of attempting to find inner peace in the face of insult (I wouldn’t be able to relate to the ability to do that successfully), she focuses on the flaws of her offender: “All you are is mean, and a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life.” Swift doesn’t attempt to be perfect. She attempts to be vindictive. And who can’t relate to that?

Genderfucked Drag: Serving Bearded Lady Realness

Genderfucked Drag: Serving Bearded Lady Realness

Mathu  By Michael J. Davis

If you haven’t heard of RuPaul’s Drag Race by now, then you must have been living under a rock – or maybe in Russia – for the last 6 years. LogoTV’s runaway hit has skyrocketed drag culture into the global limelight, but what we have seen on the show is a very specific kind of drag; it’s the kind that can be served up with a bow – and honey, the bigger the better – and digested easily by the public. Until very recently, it has been divas, dolls, clowns, and not much else. That is, until now.

Last week, the shows eager viewers were given a glimpse into the darker – and hairier – aspects of drag with the runway challenge “Bearded Lady Realness.” Since then, the show’s following has been all atwitter, reeling from the shock of seeing bearded queens on the mainstage. Suddenly, there is confusion about what makes a drag queen. Does the presence of facial hair or chest hair suddenly retract the title of drag queen, no matter how big the wig or high the heel? Of course it doesn’t! In fact, it’s not even new.

‘Genderfucked’ queens have been around since the infancy of drag in the club scenes of the 80’s in New York City. These queens revel in blurring the gender binary and provoking people to look deeper. The strongest bastion of these queens now resides in the Pacific Northwest cities of San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, where burly, bearded, gown-clad boys abound. Beauty is not the primary – or even the secondary – objective of this faction of the world of drag. It’s more about the performance, the expression of self, and the ability to precipitate emotional reactions. SF queens like Grace Towers, Ruby-Blue Gender-Bender, and Effervescence Jackson all lip-sync “the house down” while rocking beards and chest hair.

Effervescence Jackson, or Effy, as her close friends call her, spoke about her drag, “My drag is deliberately gender-ambiguous. For me, it’s not about being fishy or making people think I’m a woman. It’s about making them think. I want a reaction. I want to change their perception of something on some primal level. I want to change how people think about gender, how they think about drag, and how they think about art. That’s why I do what I do.” This is the effect many queens in this genre of drag wish to achieve; they want to challenge your preconceived notions of the world around you.

While many genderfucked queens deliberately avoid looking polished, others take pride in being flawless – from beard to toe. One such queen, who has been around since the days of Paris is Burning, is the creative producer of Drag Race: Mathu Andersen. An original New York club kid, this queen counts the legendary James St. James (whose memoir Disco Bloodbath inspired the 2003 film Party Monster), and the incomparable Mama Ru as their close personal friends. In fact, this self-proclaimed “wig whisperer” has been RuPaul’s personal makeup artist and wig wrangler for years. Andersen also recently made drag “herstory” by participating in the first major fashion show to feature only drag queens and men; presented by the preeminent designer – and go-go boy favorite – Marco Marco.

One glimpse of Mathu Andersen’s instagram will slam the door in the face of anyone who thinks bearded queens aren’t every bit as fierce as their meticulously manscaped counterparts. Andersen sports a Walt Whitman worthy beard that takes almost as many shapes as the queen herself. Mathu’s photos, mostly “selfies”, offer visual commentary on a gamut of topics including vanity, sex and sexual roles, beauty ideals, and ageism. On the first encounter, these photos are startling. On the second, profound. His instagram art has been so well received that it was featured in a show at the World of Wonder art gallery in Los Angeles, which was hosted by RuPaul – of course!

Whether it’s tinted hot pink, painted black, or tightly trimmed into a handlebar moustache, this queens facial hair adds a layer beyond the flawless maquillage that forces the viewer to reevaluate their perception of beauty, femininity and gender identity. Mathu Andersen no doubt brought the “Bearded Lady Realness” challenge on Drag Race to fruition, and it was an ingenious ploy to highlight the facets of drag that have, until now, thrived mostly on the fringe. These highly gender-ambiguous facets of drag are the most provocative and powerful, and therefore exhibit the most potential to drive change; a change that the US is struggling to come to terms with, but is being expertly coached through by Andersen, RuPaul, and the queens of Drag Race.

While Mathu Andersen was puppeteering the television premiere of genderfucked queens in the US, another queen was already garnering multinational attention on the stage of Europe’s biggest talent search. In 2014, Conchita Wurst, a queen with pipes like Christina and looks like Kim K – but with a beard – won the Eurovision Song Competition. If you are not familiar, think a more established and more successful Euro version of American Idol. This bearded bombshell represented the country of Austria, and was broadcasted into 170 million homes worldwide. She won by a landslide margin of 52 points and has since been dubbed the “Queen of Austria.”

Conchita’s participation prompted visceral reactions from all over the EU. There were petitions to edit her out of the telecasts in Russia, Belarus and Armenia (whose contestant offered to help Wurst decide if she was a woman or a man). In fact, some Russians even shaved their beards in protest. Ironically, Wurst wouldn’t have won the competition without the help of those notoriously anti-gay countries; she placed second and third in the polls of Armenia and Russia respectively. From the looks of it, tides are changing even in these staunchly conservative countries. (Much to Putin’s chagrin.)

Conchita was such a hot commodity in 2014 that she was ranked 7th in worldwide Google searches for that year, ranking just above ISIS and just below Flappy Birds. This 25-year-old queen has blown the lid off the world of genderfucked performance, and has inadvertently prompted a wave of acceptance all over Europe. People in Austria may have started to cheer for Wurst to win the competition out of pure nationalism, but soon they were rethinking their notions about drag queens and the LGBT community. Conchita Wurst, despite loathing the idea of being a political figure, has been given a platform to help usher in an era of LGBT acceptance in Europe, and thereby the world. What she will do with it has yet to be seen, but many advocates for LGBT rights are hopeful.

While genderfucked drag has been provoking thought and changing minds for 30+ years, in the past two years it has reached the world stage. With this kind of inertia, it only stands to reason that not only are beards an integral part of drag, but also that bearded beauties might even change the world.


Decreasing Capacities to Increase Ego

A second attempt at “Trend” pieces.

In the dark and damp basement of Warner Gymnasium ten people walk through watching as actors perform in devised theater pieces. It’s an intimate and engaging experience for all involved, actors and audience members alike.

Seniors Erin Amlicke and Julia Melfi took a different approach to their senior capstone projects. Rather than use an already-written text and just direct a play like so many seniors do as part of their culminating projects, Amlicke and Melfi proposed and were granted the opportunity to work with a cast and devise their own shows. Throughout the month of January, Amlicke and Melfi worked with the same set of actors to create two very different productions. Amlicke’s Playtime looked at the process of creating in a meta and self-aware way, asking the audience to think critically about their own creative processes and desires to create. Melfi’s Devour Me crafted a fantastical world full of dragons, fear, and wonder. Both women had full audiences for every performance and it was well-received by all who saw. Third year Theater major Ian Emerson said, “It was amazing, I love immersive theater and I’m glad Oberlin is allowing people to explore it”

It’s wonderful that Emerson had such a great experience at the show, but so few people were able to. Each performance of Devour Me and Playtime housed only 10 audience members. Does a full house mean as much when there are only 10 people seeing a show and the majority of the audience is faculty members and Theater majors? It’s easy to argue that these two seniors were limited by space, but there’s more to it than that: people just aren’t seeing shows and smaller audience capacities create the illusion of full houses.

There is tons of publicity: posters, emails, facebook invites, tweets, the whole nine yards to try to get people to buy tickets for theatrical performances at Oberlin. Nonetheless, attendance for theater productions tends to be the same: faculty, Theater majors, and assorted friends of people involved. Though the numbers for attendance are up this year, they really couldn’t go anywhere but up after dismal turnouts at Mainstage and LabSeries shows alike last year. This shouldn’t speak for the quality of the productions, but rather to the apathy of many Oberlin students and the other exciting opportunities on campus like concerts by big name music artists like Joey Bada$$.  So what better way to make a show seem desirable than to advertise it as an elite and limited experience? Lowering audience capacities makes a show seem like a more unique experience and speaks to the desires of those Oberlin students who wish to be on the cutting edge, outside and above their mainstream peers. Lowering audience capacities help combat apathy. And what better way to make those involved feel fulfilled by their involvement than to have people want to see the show?

The shrinking audience capacities are directly influenced by the lack of attendance at Oberlin College Theater productions. It is a rare and exciting moment when a show sells out, but damn, does it feel good for everyone involved in the production. Decreasing audience capacity allows actors, designers, directors, faculty, everyone, to boast about selling out a show. It feeds the egos of everyone involved.

The trend seems to have started last year during a production co-directed by Melfi and then 5th year Linus Ignatius. The show was House and audience members were given little information about the show other than its setting: the Frank Lloyd Wright House just a few blocks from campus. The show ran for 4 performances and because of the nature of the setting—a museum—there was a cap put on how many people could attend. The cap was purely out of procedural necessity: the Wright House is a museum and must be treated as such.

Ignatius already made it seem sexy to be able to go to House. Each person lucky enough to grab a ticket was told to dress formally and meet in front of Oberlin Market where they would be picked up and driven to the Frank Lloyd Wright House. The well-dressed audience watched silently and followed different characters around the house—each audience member choosing who they followed and thus which plotline they saw. The tickets sold like hotcakes and people begged Ignatius and cast members for a way to get in.

There began to be excessive Facebook posts about getting tickets to House and the egos of everyone involved grew like the Grinch’s heart after he discovers the joys of Christmas. That is to say, everyone got cocky. Rather than disappointment at a turnout of 25 people for a show with roughly 15 people in it to begin with, the cast was ecstatic. The hype around the show was great and it brought in new faces, but ultimately, only a select few really got to enjoy the experience, and everyone bragged about it.

Capstones and student-directed shows like Playtime, Devour Me, and House serve an educational purpose primarily for the directors who get to see what it’s like to direct, and in these cases, create, a show from start to finish. But shouldn’t the directors be wont to share their work with as many people as possible?

It’s a double edge sword because after putting months of work and preparation into a performance, those involved want to perform it for people who want to participate and be active audience members. Playing a show to an empty house on opening night (as is so common with shows performed in Oberlin College’s black box “Little Theater”) is discouraging and depletes the performance experience for the actors and designers and especially for the person who proposed the project.

It’s understandable why audience capacities are shrinking at Oberlin from an artist perspective: Theater majors are in the game for a reason. I say this with love and from experience, we Theater majors want attention and recognition and we’d rather get it from an intimate group of engaged audience members than scattered faces in an almost-empty theater. It’s scary to go out on a limb and produce something new when it seems all people want to see is college standards like Rent or Spring Awakening. If the ego stroking that comes from small audiences is helping artists put on more adventurous productions like Playtime and Devour Me, maybe it’s not all bad that Theater at Oberlin is becoming so exclusive. But maybe next time a friend asks if you want to see the latest production, you should say yes, because you never know what cutting-edge production you’re going to miss out on while the Theater majors are pumping up their egos.