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October 07, 2004 - Image 20

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-10-07

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6B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 7, 2004
Boxes and Walls revamps style, strategy

The Michigan Da
youcallthisabagel? with Adam Rottenberg

By Megan Jacobs
Daily Arts Writer

No, it's not the newest move-in
group on campus. Contrary to what
the name may suggest, Boxes and
Walls is a student organization work-
ing to raise awareness and promote
tolerance of marginalized groups in
society. The title alludes to being
"boxed in" to the misconceptions
that, in turn, create a vicious cycle
of stereotypes and discrimination.
"We're a baby group," said LSA
junior Rachel Lederman, co-chair
of Boxes and Walls. The group has
already found success on campus
with its innovative and interactive
museum, even though this is only its
second year on campus.
This year. the exhibit will be held
on North Campus beginning in Janu-
ary. The group chose to continue the
museum into its second year after
receiving an abundance of posi-
tive responses from their efforts last
Already the search is on for more
tour guides so that, unlike last year,
more than three tours of the museum
may be led each night of the exhibit.
Visitors must pre-register for a tour,
and due to its popularity, the museum
was unable to take more than a few
walk-ins each tour last year. As a
result, the exhibit will run for twice
as long as it did before.
The museum itself consists of sev-
eral rooms, each focusing on a dif-
ferent minority group. Last year, the
chosen eight were women, Jews, Asian
Americans, Hispanics, blacks, the gay
community, Native Americans and
a room that concentrated on social
class. Participants assume a role as a
member of that room's group, follow-

ing a loosely scripted scenario along
with actors as they venture through
the segmented rooms of the museum.
"There are no actual boxes, but
rooms are as cramped as possible;
we want people out of their comfort
zone," Lederman said. Last year,
many room coordinators chose to
blanket their rooms with PVC pipes
and black tarps to produce a closed-in
Pre-prepared scenes are rooted
in real experiences of the volunteers
writing and acting in the scenes,
often associated with discrimination
and negative attitudes. "It's definitely
a dramatic experience," LSA junior
and co-chair Venessa Febo said.
Many students who participate in the
museum experience have never expe-
rienced first-hand the prejudices of a
marginalized group. The scenarios,
however realistic, are not dangerous
or insulting.
"We want it to be shocking, not
offensive," said Febo.
The women's room last year fea-
tured this scene: a woman comes in
for a job interview, and is offered
food and light refreshments. Upon
eating, she is reprimanded by the sec-
retary and scolded for not watching
her weight or caring about her appear-
ance. The situation does not improve
once she is being interviewed for the
job by a male superior; inside his
office, she is subject to inappropriate
sexual innuendos and discrimination.
Some rooms are more intense than
that, such as the room focusing on the
gay community. Last year, partici-
pants, ushered by tour leaders, walked
out of a closet, only to be exposed to
a simulated violent scene. "The physi-
cal parallels the internal," Febo said.
Unlike other museums, Boxes and

very now and then, a direc-
tor decides it's appropriate
to go back and revisit a film.
Sometimes it's a surefire success,
like when Peter Jackson released
the extended cuts of "The Lord of
the Rings" movies. Other times,
however, it's an unmitigated disas-
ter. Unfortunately, there is a spe-
cific group out there who feels this
pain more than any other: "Star
Wars" fans.
Sure, many may not get out of
their parents' basements that often
and may never have kissed a girl,
but George Lucas has robbed "Star
Wars" fans of something that is vital
to their survival - the original ver-
sions of their holy scripture.
The "director's cut" is noth-
ing new. However, it has taken on
a life of its own since the dawn of
the DVD era. Studios are no longer
intent on just delivering the film
like they used to back when VHS
was king. Now, it is commonplace
to return to the cutting room floor
for lost footage on even the most
insignificant releases. As enjoyable
as "Euro Trip" is, was it really nec-
essary to offer up a more salacious
cut when it hit DVD?
"The Lord of the Rings" extended
versions work because they adheres
to the vision the director always
wanted, but was not feasible in a the-
atrical setting. The "Alien Quadril-
ogy" box set also featured alternate
director's cuts for all the films, yet
the beloved (well, the first two films
anyway) original cuts remained. But
this is not always the case.
Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" is
only available in its altered state on
DVD. Even though Scott's "Alien"
can be seen both ways, and the new
cut of "Blade Runner" offers up
some interesting new ideas, fans
want to see the movie that they fell

in love with.
The director often takes on a
larger-than-life personality, espe-
cially in large scale projects. But
why should Ridley Scott or George
Lucas be able to take away what
their audience wants to see?
Unlike Scott, Lucas didn't wait for
home theater technology to advance
before he got his hands all over his
iconic sci-fi series. Instead, he saw
the 20th anniversary as the perfect
opportunity to "fix" the flaws he
found within the movies (or maybe
he viewed it as an opportunity to
milk the fans). While most of these
alterations were basically harmless
digital cleanup, some of the com-
puter graphics and reworked scenes
just seemed awkward within the
context of "Star Wars."
But the mad scientist continued
to work on his monster, whether it
made him popular or not. With the
DVD release finally upon us, Lucas
opted to further tweak the trilogy.
Now, normally there is cause for
rejoicing when such comprehen-
sive extras are added to a DVD,
but "Star Wars" fans should have
known better. To add insult to the
injury of only offering these new
versions, Lucas claims that these
are the only editions that will be
available from now on - they are
his definitive vision for what the
series should be.
While it is completely within
a director's rights to change his
work, the audience should not be
completely disregarded. There is a
reason people hold certain films in
such high regard, and it is a slap in
their face to take those memories
away. Sure the explosions may look
so much better when using the most
advanced CGI, but the spirit and
soul of the original disappear.
The tragedy of this is that Lucas

has already had the opportunity
to change his ways and respond to
this immense backlash. The '97
re-issues supplanted the originals,
causing uproar among fandom. The
lampooning of Lucas grew so large
that an episode of "South Park" was
centered on skewering the "Star
Wars" mastermind, his buddy Ste-
ven Spielberg and their never end-
ing quest to "perfect" their classic
movies. Kyle sums it up best: "Why
don't they leave these movies alone?
We like them the way they were!"

"Star Wars" goes beyond mo
movies in its cultural reach. It
such a seminal film in the way th
it not only still appeals to audiene
of all ages, but also in that it red
fined special effects. By refinin
the look of films from '77, '80 ai
'83, viewers can no longer see th
technical expertise that went in
creating these timeless classics.
It's a sad state of affairs when
man becomes so self-centered th
he wants to keep the public awa
from something that should b


: <.

Courtesy of Boxes and Walls
Boxes and Walls group members build the exhibit and control each room's environment during the tours.

Walls takes a different approach from
other museums. "This is a glimpse
into one form of prejudice," Leder-
man said. "It's not a lecture format."
Participants benefit from role-playing
in a forum that is safe, yet eye-open-
ing to the realities of inequity and
dangerous stereotyping. The script
and design of each room is created in
such a way that students feel firsthand
the slap of a racial slur, the embar-
rassment of discrimination and the
frustration of ignorance.
The rooms are segmented and dis-
tinct to make it easier for students to

digest, though all rooms are intercon-
nected. "No matter which room you
are in, you are part of the American
experience, the U of M experience,"
Febo said.
In the final stage of the museum,
students have the opportunity to dis-
cuss their feelings with counselors
to help break down the experience.
Additionally, they are asked to fill out
surveys reflecting their opinions and
feelings after completing the tour.
Though some responses were nega-
tive, the majority were overwhelm-
ingly positive, organizers said. Some


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even suggested that the Boxes and
Walls tour should be required or part
of freshman orientation.
Plans for this year's museum start-
ed immediately after wrapping up last
year's event; since it will take place
three months earlier, the crunch is
on not only to amass volunteers, but
also to prepare scripts and design
rooms to make the exhibit even more
effective than before. Due mostly in
part to the lack of room coordinators,
no concrete plans have been final-
ized for room themes or hard cop-
ies of scripts. "We're really open to
new ideas, possibly adding a biracial
room," Lederman said. The museum
will most likely contain several of
the same rooms as last year, such as
those focusing on women and the gay
community, as they were immensly
The museum will be on North Cam-
pus in the Video Performance Studio
of the Duderstadt Center, formerly
the Media Union, this January. To
find out more about Boxes and Walls
or how to become part of it, e-mail
bwinfo @umich.edu.
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The winners will be honored at the annual reunion dinner of the Class of '31 Engineers which
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