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December 08, 2015 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
Tuesday, December 8, 2015 — 5

Love and ‘Piazza’

SMTD production
explores beauty and
challenges in Italy


Daily Arts Writer

If I had to choose an ideal loca-

tion to explore all things beautiful
and passionate, no doubt it’d be






the School of
Music, Theatre
& Dance pres-
ent “The Light
in the Piazza,” a
musical explor-
ing the beauty
of love and the
challenges that follow.

As a studio production, the

show centers on actors’ creations
and the depth they bring toward
telling this story.

“Being a story of relationships

and human connection, this show
lends itself well to a minimal,
actor-centric approach,” direc-
tor Brian Hill wrote in an e-mail
interview with The Michigan
Daily. “I knew that everything
was going to have to be actor gen-

With a cast of 15 musical the-

atre students, a five-piece orches-
tra and strong technical design,
this production will, as Hill puts
it, “feel like a full meal.”

Adapted from Elizabeth Spen-

cer’s novel, with music and lyrics
by Adam Guettel and a book by
Craig Lucas, “The Light in the
Piazza” is set in the 1950s and
tells the story of Clara and Marga-
ret Johnson, a family from North
Carolina, who spend the summer
in Florence. Clara, Margaret’s
daughter, falls in love with a local
Italian, Fabrizio, which Margaret
strongly opposes.

Premiering on Broadway in

April of 2005, “Piazza” was a huge
success — which doesn’t come as
much of a surprise considering the
talent of the original cast, includ-
ing Victoria Clark as Margaret,
Kelli O’Hara as Clara and Mat-
thew Morrison as Fabrizio. The
original production won six Tony
Awards, including Best Original
Score, Best Orchestrations, and
Clark took home an award for Best
Performance by a Leading Actress
in a Musical.

While casting the produc-

tion with such strong roots, Hill
sought honesty in each character.
He acknowledged that no one is
exactly like the members of the
original cast, just as no one is
exactly like SMTD students Kaity
Paschetto (Margaret), Christina
Maxwell (Clara) or Luke Stein-
hauer (Fabrizio).

“I prefer to let the actors’ indi-

viduality dictate the interpreta-
tion,” Hill wrote.

Hill’s vision for the show focus-

es on what each actor brings to the
work and how their contributions
further enhance the story. Due to
the simplicity of the technical ele-
ments of this production, stage-
craft such as a hat caught in the
wind, one of the most well-known

scenes of the show, was created
through the actors’ choices rather
than technical support.

“Knowing that we had that lim-

itation set the tone for the physical
vocabulary of the show ... it has
been a constantly shifting process
finding out how to use this vocabu-
lary as effectively as possible.”

Hill’s reaction to these adjust-

ments is not one of deterrence.

“I love limitations. They always

lead to creative solutions,” he


“Piazza” illuminates, Hill lets the
story move naturally.

“I think story comes first and

theme follows as a byproduct,”
Hill wrote. “My main objective
has been to tell this gorgeous story

And just as each actor brings

something distinct and unique
to the roles that audiences have
grown to love, Hill believes each
audience member takes something
different away from this produc-

“One of the happy surprises

for me is how much of an ensem-
ble piece this play really is,” Hill
wrote, while describing the devel-
opment of this work. “This compa-
ny has found a way to tell this story
as a true ensemble.”

Just as you’d expect, the incred-

ible talent of SMTD students has
led to very high demand for tickets.

“Though I’m told the run is

already sold out, if you can get
a ticket to see the show … do,”
Hill wrote. “This cast is extraor-
dinary and the entire company
from orchestra to crew is creating
something very special.”

Remembering John
Lennon 35 years later


For The Daily

The first time I’d ever really

heard of John Lennon was when
I was standing at his memorial.
While walking through Cen-
tral Park with my parents, we
stopped at Strawberry Fields,
his quiet commemorative in the
middle of New York City. I was
about 12 at the time, and I knew
The Beatles like I knew the Bible:
I obviously was aware of its exis-
tence, and I’d heard some parts,
but I’d never read it and never
cared to. There was a “Hey Jude”
rendition on TV that I vaguely
recalled and I must have heard
“With A Little Help From My
Friends” at some point. But other
than those fleeting moments,
The Beatles were nameless to me.
John Lennon meant even less.

Like many 12 year olds, I spent

half of my time complaining and
the other half on my oh-so-cool
new flip phone. But this memo-
rial, which epitomized a man
and a time of which I was totally
unfamiliar, managed to move me
from my adolescent trance. I sat
on one of the benches and looked
around — actually looked around.

Strawberry Fields, a small

blip in the massive park, is far
less assertive than your average
memorial. There are no towering
statues, no imposing sculptures,
no extended quotes. One word,
“Imagine,” sits in the center of
a Portuguese mosaic. All kinds
of people line the surrounding
benches, wearing anything from
the all black of a New Yorker to
classic ’70s tie-dye. I didn’t make
the connection at the time, but
it’s a spot on representation of
Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is
Over)” (“For weak and for strong,
for rich and the poor ones … for
black and for white, for yellow
and red ones”). Flowers were
placed all around the mosaic
forming a peace sign, and at the
entrance a man sat and sang the
words “love is real, real is love … ”

But none of this can describe

the emotion that Strawberry

peace or maybe something else
entirely, hovers in the air like a
warm cloud. It seeps through
the looks of the people walking
by, the couples on the benches,

and the kids running around. In
many ways, Strawberry Fields is
all of John Lennon and none of
John Lennon. While Lennon was
straight forward and gritty, his
memorial is reserved and kind.
While Lennon struggled with
inner turmoil, his memorial is
serene and at ease. Both repre-
sent something much larger than
themselves. Lennon may have
once been a man, but what he
now symbolizes is something far
greater than flesh and bone.

Perhaps, though, the most

beautiful part of John Lennon
was how imperfect he was. He
struggled with depression, he
cheated, he left his first son, he
had violent bouts and on and on.
In our era of “problematic” celeb-
rities and TMZ, Lennon would
far from fit the mold of perfection
and conformity we demand from
our idols today. And Lennon didn’t
care. He gave out Fuck You’s as
easily and eloquently as he sang
about love. On “God,” from his solo
masterpiece John Lennon/Plastic
Ono Band, he calls out everyone
from Jesus to Kennedy as a fraud.
Few then and few now are willing
to make such blunt, controversial
statements, and even fewer are so
universally embraced for it. But
above it all, John Lennon loved
this world. His music was critical
because he saw greatness and hope
in humanity. He railed against the
Vietnam War, inequality and poli-
ticians in the hope that something
would change for the better. And
yet the violence and hatred he
fought was the very thing to take
his life, when 35 years ago today he
was gunned down in front of his
home in New York City.

Those issues Lennon was con-

sumed by in the ’60s and ’70s are
eerily similar to those we deal
with in 2015. The militant chau-
vinism he warned us of seems just
as prevalent today than before the
Vietnam War. Last month, con-
servative Twitter account Cloyd
Rivers posted “ISIS is coming
to America … They will come to
cities and people with no guns
… Arm yourself. Get training.
Stand ready.” It was retweeted
by thousands. Concerns over
inequality have boiled over into
protests on our streets and in
our universities. The sexism that
Lennon’s feminist voice — given

to him by activist and wife Yoko
Ono — derided is still prevalent,
making it stubbornly difficult for
women to reach top positions in
the workforce and adding to per-
vasive levels of sexual assault on
campuses and across the world.
Gun violence, the very thing
John Lennon lost his life to, has
found its way into our lives with
alarming regularity.

But there are moments of

hope. Thousands gathered this
year in Central Park to commem-
orate Lennon’s 75th birthday,
forming what would become the
largest human peace sign ever
made. As relatively inconsequen-
tial as a moment like that might
seem, it shows that for all of the
nihilistic comments that are
thrown around — “love is dead,”
“the world is screwed,” etc. —
there’s still a sense of optimism
left, something that will hope-
fully never change.

The same is true with music

today. For some reason, cer-
tain fans seem to believe that
the industry has been in a state
of perpetual decline since the
’70s. Detractors said the indus-
try died with Lennon, and then
again with Cobain, and again
with Tupac. But “real” music is
far from dead, assured by leaders
like Kendrick and Killer Mike.
Their socially charged poetry,
while tackling different specific
issues than Lennon, is based on
the same activist spirit that we
hail Lennon for. Take Kendrick’s
song “Alright” from his pro-
test album To Pimp a Butterfly.
“N***a, we gon’ be alright” might
not be as delicate as “imagine all
the people, sharing the world as
one,” but the message is similar.
Both recognize problems that
pervade our society while still
evoking hope.

We might not all be living in

communes or crossing the coun-
try in painted Volkswagen vans,
but 35 years later John Lennon’s
legacy remains strong. Maybe
this is because 2015 isn’t so dif-
ferent from Lennon’s own era.
We fight some of the same battles
and we deal with many of the
same problems. And just as they
needed Lennon’s voice in the ’60s
and ’70s, we need it today. If you
look in the right places, you’ll
find it.

The Light in
the Piazza

Dept. of
Theatre Studio

Dec. 10-13

Arthur Miller Theatre


‘Top Model’ goes out
with a fizzle in finale


Daily Arts Writer

After 12 years and crowning

22 top (in title only) models,
“America’s Next Top Model”
quietly ended
its run Friday
night with its



Tyra Banks’s
muse gave the
world the ulti-


and Jade. However, in its final
installment, “ANTM ” failed
to encapsulate its own place in
pop culture history, going out
with an episode rather than a

Beginning the two-part fina-

le with four contests: Lacey,
Mikey, Mamé and Nyle, the
show milked the models’ roles
to extreme lengths with ubiq-
uitous off-camera commentary
— which consisted of Lacey’s
weight loss and purity tirades,
Mikey’s mini-monologues on
his destiny for prison, Mamé’s
relationship drama and Nyle’s

deafness. Even by the end of
the first episode, it’s painfully
obvious that each contestant’s

uniqueness had been talked to
death, leaving no words fresh
enough to further the cast’s
dispositions. And when models
aren’t discussing themselves,
topics range from explorations
of narcissism to vamping of
the competition’s meaning and

Following the final four’s last

photo shoot, a campaign for Zap-
pos Couture, Mamé and Nyle are
declared finalists, competing in
the finale runway show flanked by
their fellow cycle-22-ers. Mamé

how she cozied up with Mikey
after beau, Justin, was elimi-
nated in episode 10. This cycle’s
clown, Devin, has just enough
camera time to remind viewers
why he wasn’t missed while the
remaining almost-top models

not-so-subtly support their pick
for the title.

Tyra Banks — the show’s only

consistent figure — was its com-
pass as always. Surprising view-
ers with fashion choices (that nose
ring), and charming them with her
gravitas and energy, it’s only sad
that her gravity to the program
wasn’t expressed in screentime
or fresh commentary. Too often,
her lines left deliberations and
feedback in the realm of any old
“ANTM” rerun on Oxygen rather
than than that of a true series


moments of tenderness between
contestants and their mothers and
fashion industry chic, “America’s
Next Top Model” ’s final shot felt
dated and left me missing Janice
Dickinson more than ever.


Next Top

Series Finale

The CW


We swear this is actually from the show.

The best Young Thug
songs I heard in 2015


Daily Arts Writer

Young Thug is both the

antithesis of 2015’s rap scene
and its greatest product. In
a year defined by responses
to racial tension (I’m looking
at you, To Pimp A Butterfly),

uninterested in making any sort
of social commentary. While
other heavy-hitters struggled
with relevance (Lil Wayne)
and respect (Drake), Thugger
dominated by just not giving

attitude felt refreshing in a sea
of serious rappers, his rapid
product output provided a stark
contrast to artists leaving us in
the dark about release dates
and his all around eccentricity
ushered in a completely new
style of hip hop.

But before reading, please

note that this is not a list of the
best Young Thug songs of the
year but of the best Young Thug
songs I’ve heard this year. The
dude puts out a new track every
other day, and they can be
pretty difficult to sift through.
I could easily copy and paste the
full Barter 6 track list on here
and call it a day (because that
album is just straight bangers),
but that wouldn’t be doing
the rapper justice. Instead, I
sorted through that and his
other prominent projects of
2015, Slime Season and Slime
Season 2. And while this list is
undoubtedly premature — he’ll
definitely put out more music


songs remain some of his most
significant of the year.

10. “Be Me See Me”
As the lone Metro Boomin-



Track-dominated Slime Season,
it makes sense that this song
stands out, if for no reason
other than its production. The
fact that it has an aggressive
Thugger rapping over it just
makes it even better.

9. “Phoenix”
I love Thug songs that could

almost be sad but then aren’t
because it’s Young Thug, you
know? Like, you can still
get drunk to this song. And
not “crying alone in your
room” drunk, but, like, drunk
drunk. But really, this is as

introspective as we’ve seen
the rapper, but still offers
some of his classic lyricism:
“Kuna Matata I need you, I am
a Mufasa genius / Baby come
fuck for no reason.” It’s oh so

8. “With That”
To be honest, a lot of this

song doesn’t make sense. And
when it does, chances are you
can’t understand it anyways.
The harsh switching of flows
could make it hard to swallow
if not for the syrupy production
that coats it with an irresistible

7. “Hey, I”
To the surprise of many,


romantic. In the most melodic

we’ve gotten from the rapper,
he sings about a woman that’s
“ready for a kiddy.” He lets
his guard down with her — “I
might just tell this hoe my
secret” — and even swears
off other women — “I, want
nothing to do with none of
these lil bitches.” But of course,
it ends with the song’s most
heartfelt line: “I’m going down
on her hard till I’m partition.”
Can someone write a song like
that about me?

6. “Power”

before its official release on
Slime Season, I didn’t hear
“Power” until a video of a

viral. Thank god I did though,
because this song features one
of my favorite lines on the tape:
“She sucked like eight dicks, I
call her Octagon.”

5. “Flaws”

is flawless. Thug’s verses are
some of his strongest. This
song just straight bangs.

4. “Raw (Might Just)”
This ballad — if you want

to call it that — is everything
I didn’t know I wanted from

have thought any of us would
enjoy him crooning “L-O-V-
EEEEEEE” over a chopped and
screwed beat? But it works, and
it’s beautiful. “A wise man once
told me nothing” is one of the
most profound insights I’ve
heard in a while. Damn.

3. “Check”
Behind “Can’t Tell,” this


commercially successful song
on Barter 6. Maybe because
it’s one of the safest efforts
on the album. Maybe because
the repetitive hook (“Got me a
check, I got a check”) is catchy
as fuck. Or maybe because it
features this series of lines:
“No, they won’t tease on that
dick / They won’t read on that
dick, they won’t leash on that
dick / Don’t Felicia that dick,
Mamacita that dick / They
gon’ snitch on that dick/And
she screamin’ loud, she can’t
secret that dick / Mama a beast
on that dick.” Whatever the
reason, this is the song you
should show someone when
you’re introducing them to
Young Thug.

2. “Best Friend”
I felt incredibly tempted

to give “Best Friend” the
number one spot on this list,
just because I can’t go a day
without playing it. The sound

plucked begins the song and
then ushers it into a cacophony
of other noises that serve to
both shock and satisfy you.
They build and build and build
… and never really resolve. But
that’s classic Thugger; we’re
never going to make sense of
him or his sound. And do we
really want to?

1. “Halftime”
Despite its release in early

2015, this track is a culmination

year. Following legal issues
surrounding his album’s title
— he tried to take the name
Carter 6 from Lil Wayne — and
press scrutiny surrounding his
sexuality — he’s often seen cross
dressing — Thug assures us all he
knows exactly what he’s doing.
He doesn’t give a shit about the
beef with Wayne (“Got 100 mil
flat like my motherfucking idol
/ I might eat it, I might lick it,
but I swear I’ll never bite ‘em”)
and acknowledges his own
heavy influence on pop culture
(“Every time I dress myself it
goes mother fucking viral”).
And it features some of the
most interesting production
and the most powerful rapping
on Barter 6. The beat keeps
changing and his flow keeps
switching; I can’t follow either.
He doesn’t stop for air, and
we don’t want him to. I could
listen to him rap forever.

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