Tag Archives: boston public library

In Macbeth Spinoff, ‘peerless’ Darkly Satirizes College Admissions

A scream pierces a silent theatre as the lights come up on stage left. Two girls, dressed identically, stand in front of a row of lockers. The girl on the left clutches an envelope in one fist and a letter in the other, visibly rattled. She utters one word, “deferred,” as her twin looks on in horror. After a back and forth exchange of disbelief, the second girl says “there’s always regular decision,” to which the first replies “No, they only take one.”  

So begins peerless, a play about college admissions with a fatal twist. While the college admissions process is a harrowing experience under normal circumstances, peerless, a play written by Jiehae Park and directed by Steven Bogart, takes this anxiety to new levels. Currently produced by Company One Theatre (C1) in Rabb Hall at the Boston Public Library, peerless runs through May 27 at the Boston Public Library’s Central Library in Copley Square, the first time that a fully-staged production will occur in the space. In an effort to make the piece accessible to all, the event is pay-what-you-want with no minimum contribution.

Peerless focuses on twin sisters, M and L, whose devotion to one another may only be overshadowed by their desire to get into “The College.”  L has stayed back a year so that M could get into The College first and thus help L get in with “sibling preference.” The show follows their downward spiral into madness after M gets deferred from early application.

Based loosely on Macbeth, peerless takes the classic work by William Shakespeare for a modern jaunt. Instead of witches, peerless includes an ostracized “Dirty Girl,” a loner serving as the play’s stereotypical student who doesn’t quite fit in. Rumors swill around her, only adding to the mystique of her weird utterings and the influence they have over M and L. M and L essentially become Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively. Both are driven and determined, and L becomes M’s motivator when the increasingly dire consequences of their actions begin plaguing her conscience. The girls murder their way into gaining admittance, killing off boyfriends and schoolmates in an attempt to get the “one spot” that was taken from them.     

Playwright Jiehae Park found inspiration for M and L from the infamous Gibbons twins, June and Jennifer, identical girls who grew up in Wales in the 1960s. June and Jennifer rarely spoke to other people, and moved very slowly, seemingly  always in sync with each other. Their story is crime ridden, and resulted in the mysterious death of Jennifer at the age of 29.  

Much of the dialogue between the girls is fast paced, with one always finishing the other’s sentence. Kim Klasner and Khloe Alice Lin, who play M and L, respectively, did a lot of work outside of rehearsal to craft the relationship between the sisters. They talked about their own high school experiences, and what they thought the childhood of characters like L and M would be like.  

And, according to Klasner, each spent lots and lots of time perfecting the back and forth dialogue. Their hard work is evident, as they seamlessly deliver the line “Me.” “And then-” “You.” “You.” “And then-” “Me.” It is a mantra that they repeat throughout the show as they go about their evil deeds, reaffirming that all they do is with the end goal of both of them attending “The College.”

The versatile set allows the actors to move fluidly from one scene to another, giving the show, which runs for an hour and a half without intermission, an easy pace that keeps the audience engaged. Lighting and sound design complement the story and acting, matching the descent of M and L into madness.

The show deals with a number of hot button issues, including race and suicide. At one point, when the twins are discussing why M was deferred, she says “but I’m a double minority—Asian and a woman!” At another, there is a frank discussion of suicidal thoughts. While the play is a dark satire of the process of college admissions, it also doesn’t lack genuinely humorous moments. Klasner, who plays M, feels that the show does a good job of balancing the heavier topics with the lighter ones, and using them to complement each other. “[It] makes you laugh and catches you off-guard,” she said.  “It gives people a good way to approach a topic that usually is hard to bring up.”

In the end, however, peerless wants to grab your attention and make you think.

“We are all just excited to put it out there and talk about everything,” Klasner said. “Our goal is to start conversations.”

Featured Image by MaryElizabeth Mooney / Heights Staff

At Boston Public Library, Intondi Joins Race, Nuclear Armaments

Dr. Vincent Intondi did not match his surroundings.

The Commonwealth Salon began to fill with Bostonians excited for the talk awaiting them, a certain buzz was in the air, as many intrigued, politically-conscious citizens headed to the Boston Public Library. But Intondi did not share the curiosity that the attendees displayed in their pre-event chatter, perhaps because he knew that the words he was about to fill the room with did not focus on political success and promise. Rather, he was preparing himself to relive the guilt he feels over the damage that his nation has caused others.

Intondi, an associate professor of history at Montgomery College, was invited by the Union of Concerned Scientists to speak on the intersection of race relations and nuclear weapons—two issues at the forefront of concern in today’s political environment in the United States.

A topic some people consider a white-pacifist issue, nuclear disarmament concerns are often considered to be independent from the concerns of African-American communities. Intondi argued that historically this is not the case, citing the actions of several prominent leaders in the black community, such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama, as evidence. He emphasized that the goals of movements against racial discrimination and nuclear weapons have always been interconnected. They fought together through the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, France’s decision to begin nuclear testing in non-white countries, the creation of the Truman Doctrine, and countless other incidents.

Intondi explained that non-white races naturally came to the aid of each other during times of discrimination because they could easily sympathize with one another. In an effort to describe this, Intondi spoke to the crowd from the mindset of black Americans during World War II, and the fear that they felt seeing the internment of Japanese-Americans.

“There is a group of people that committed no crime and are simply being put in concentration camps because of the color of their skin,” Intondi said. “This could happen to us.”  

His words made clear that the global concerns of different races cannot be separated from each other. Furthermore, their concerns cannot be separated from the nuclear threats that loom over all of them equally.

Intondi did not always realize the intersectionality of these two issues. Raised in a white-minority town by parents who detested racism, Intondi spent a significant portion of his life focused on African-American studies and race relations. Before 2005, nuclear destruction was a distant, abstract issue in the back of his mind.

Once he visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki to meet with survivors of the atomic bombings, however, his viewpoint entirely changed.

Filled with anger, guilt, and a newfound shame in his country’s actions, Intondi knew he needed to further study nuclear impact when he returned to America. Once he did, he learned how perfectly his two passions were intertwined. While many describe the fight of African Americans as one for civil rights, he now prefers to use a more universal term. All racial equality and nuclear disarmament activists are really fighting for the same thing: human rights.

concerned scientists

After getting his Ph.D. in history from American University, Intondi became a professor and an author. He is also the director of Montgomery College’s Institute for Race, Justice, and Community Engagement, and the director of research at American University’s Nuclear Studies Institute. In 2015, he released his first book titled, African Americans Against the Bomb, which caught the attention of the founders of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Intondi was then  hired under their Global Security branch to bring a more diverse viewpoint to the organization.

Unfortunately for Intondi, most of his life’s studies are given a backseat every time the current President speaks about, or takes action on, these issues.

“As somebody who has dedicated most of my life to eliminating racism and nuclear weapons, and then to have a racist in charge of nuclear weapons, it is very easy where I could feel defeated,” Intondi said.

Regardless of how discouraged he often feels regarding the administration of President Donald Trump, Intondi declared that he will take political action whenever it is called for. He evoked the promise he made to the atomic bomb survivors in Japan: that he will not stop fighting nuclear weapons as long as he lives. He pointed out that now is a more important time than ever for him to keep his promise.

Intondi also emphasized the importance of college students taking action. He acknowledged that while protests and walkouts are extremely important, not everyone is going to be the person marching in the streets. Some are better organizers, speakers, and artists, and that may be their contribution to the cause.

“Everyone has a gift, and what they do with it is their gift back,” Intondi said—a message he reminds his students of frequently.

Intondi noted that if he was at Boston College, he would focus on making it the most politically-aware and socially-conscious campus as it can be. A large part of this, he stressed, is having support between students of different races, faiths, and backgrounds. Every group has to show up for and protect each other when they most need it.

Intondi advised students who want to make a more immediate impact to hold their officials in Boston accountable for their actions, both good and bad. Voting, being politically engaged, and considering future careers in politics or nonprofits are all ways to get involved in the system. Intondi also emphasized daily acts of resistance as a way to engage economically in the fight.

Intondi’s final piece of advice involved remembering the intersectionality of race relations, nuclear disarmament, and countless other issues. Most of the battles fought today are intertwined in their goals, and together the people’s voices are stronger and more effective. He hopes to see voices advocating for nuclear limitation at the upcoming People’s Climate March in Boston, along with multiple other cities, this April.

“So, yes, we are in for the fight of our lives, and we are going to have to fight like hell to make sure our undocumented immigrants are protected, and our women are treated equal, and that black lives do indeed matter,” Intondi said. “But if we do not act on this now, we’re not going to be able to look back and see if Trump did it right or wrong, because we won’t be here.”

Featured Image by Mary Kate DiNorcia 

No More Whac-a-Mole: Protecting Our Arts Culture

I’ve often thought that life closely resembles a giant game of Whac-A-Mole. If you actually manage to fix one thing, something else inevitably pops up and goes wrong and then you’ve got to fix that too. As far as I can tell, this horrible chain will continue until you throw in the towel out of sheer disgust for the vicious cycle and walk away from the problems altogether.  

This might not be the best strategy, but it definitely works. And most of the time it only results in mild feelings of regret.     

But unfortunately, this Whac-A-Mole problem doesn’t only apply to individual people, like me, it seems to be something that plagues larger entities, like the City of Boston. Take for example what took place within Boston’s art world over the past week.

The Boston Public Library (BPL) houses many examples of stunning art and architecture alongside its extensive collection of books. One of these examples is a set of eight 19th century French murals surrounding the Library’s main staircase. Installed in 1895, the murals were painted by the famed muralist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and depict The Muses of Inspiration. Each mural was painted on a canvas, and installed in a manner that mimics the installation of wallpaper. Unfortunately, after so many decades, one of these murals is beginning to peel off.  

According to WBUR’s The Artery, BPL officials noticed that the mural depicting the muses of philosophy had developed a bulge in the upper right corner. After a scramble to identify the cause—the degradation of supports due to moisture—BPL officials worked with art conservators to develop a method of safely removing the mural from the wall. Happily, everything went as planned and the mural is safely awaiting a restoration process that is estimated to take between six and eight weeks.  

But just as this art problem was solved, another popped up on the musical side of Boston’s art community.  

After 36 years of performances, the Boston Classical Orchestra (BCO) filed for bankruptcy. According to The Boston Globe, the orchestra was unable to cope with steadily declining subscriptions. After originally cancelling their remaining performances, the orchestra will finish out the year under a new name: The Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms Society.  

Organized under Steven Lipsitt, the former music director of the BCO, this new group, which features many members of the former BCO, will perform five concerts in the upcoming year. The original problem, although not fully addressed, has at least been momentarily resolved.  

Unfortunately, the closure of the BCO in not neatly resolved like the problem of the Boston Public Library’s murals. The BCO unearths a larger problem of funding in Boston, one that cannot be easily resolved.  

After a recent study by the Boston Foundation was published, it became apparent that the city of Boston suffers from an underfunded arts community that makes it difficult for smaller organizations, like the BCO, to survive. According to The Artery’s analysis of the data, while private Boston individuals are very generous in their support of the arts, larger organizations in Boston are much more reticent to contribute funds than organizations in other metropolitan areas. Arts-focused organizations also pay the full cost of their facilities, which ultimately adds up to be much more than other arts and cultural organizations pay in other American cities.  

This is a problem that Bostonians cannot walk away from. While Whac-a-Mole might be an okay(ish) strategy for an individual person with limited responsibilities, it is definitely not a strategy that a city can avail itself of. A city has too many people to protect, too many individuals to cater to on a daily basis.  It must learn to cope and balance, which is exactly what Boston needs to do with the funding and promotion of its vibrant arts culture. And now, with these problems under more scrutiny as of late, Boston has a chance to pull the innovative minds that populate the city together and develop a lasting solution.   

In Boston, as with in any city, these problems will never be dealt with as easily as a game of Whac-A-Mole, but they must be addressed. Because without these small organizations that add beauty and spontaneity, a city has no life.  

Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor

Online or Print: The Trip That Helped Me Break The Screen

I don’t know what it is about screens, but I just cannot concentrate with them. Notification this, reminder that, oh look! She favorited your tweet! Sweet.

Oh that’s right, what about those 65 pages you have to read on Kierkegaard, or the three-page response paper due in an hour and a half…where has the time gone?

It is a significant feature of today’s day-to-day existence that the more time-saving devices we seem to own, the less time is available to us, almost like Hegel’s famous master-slave dichotomy, but I digress.

Whether to read books on a tablet or in print has been a significant cause for discussion for our generation, not to mention the procrastination associated with the former.

Sure, the convenience of digital media is clearly a huge “it” factor that drives its ever-rising popularity, especially with the success of devices like the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.

Many schools across the nation, including my old high school in Florida, are now joining in the online-only bandwagon where students can only access their textbooks on a tablet or on a computer.

The responses have so far been mixed: my own brother doesn’t know yet whether he likes or loathes the new system.

But what about the aesthetic of reading a tangible text and the fact that studies have shown that individuals retain more information when reading on print?

I just needed to take a break.

And of course, whenever you try to avoid something and clear your mind, it usually finds its way right back into the forefront of your life. This Saturday was no exception.

As I sat down on the T on my way into the city, I stopped by at Coolidge Corner because why not, one more frozen hot chocolate never hurt anybody.

Walking down the street, drink in hand, wind in my hair with fogged-up glasses, the Brookline Booksmith caught my eye.

“Damn, I’m caught in the trap again,” I thought. So I walked in.

There is just something intangible about the tangible quality of holding a book in your hands, almost as if you’re indirectly interacting with someone’s thoughts at a particular moment in his or her life. For me, it feels like an intimate interaction with the writer’s psyche, no matter whether he or she is dead or alive.

Her ideas and arguments remain alive in those printed pages. That, to me, is a feeling I cannot get with a digital edition.

After what could have been an hour or 15 minutes, I left and got back on the inbound T, the still-cold drink in my hand.

Wandering aimlessly (not really) through the streets in and around Copley, faceless crowds walk about me and pigeons fly above my head as I’m now in a fully-blown existentialist thought process—taking a class on Sartre will do that to you.

I see a familiar face in the distance, only for her to dissipate back into the mob as soon as she appeared.

Only when I thought I had understood just what I was trying to grasp, a sign startles me out of the stupor, a literal one, that is.

“Book Sale Today! $1 paperback, $2 hardcover.” Into the public library I go. If reading is the transportation of the mind and soul into another time, then the library has the equivalent effect for the body.

I had never been inside, but boy, I will definitely go back.

At the end of the day, I did not find the answer I was looking for on whether digital editions or print ones are superior, but what I did get was a slight insight into the minds of writers from a time past, and an experience of sights from centuries prior, all while holding onto my frozen hot chocolate.

I may never find the overall answer I am looking for, but I can substitute the current reality and substitute it with one of my own: one where the response to the question is irrelevant.

Books, no matter in what form, have a special ability to transport the mind into unfamiliar settings and lives foreign to our own.

They have a special power, we just have to let them in.

Featured Image by Fransisco Ruela/ Heights Staff