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A song cycle reborn

first_imgIn the darkest, cruelest depth of winter, a frozen landscape accosts your splintered heart that was broken by a maiden who found love in the arms of another. Misery is your only companion as you wander aimlessly in the cold. So what do you do?Naturally, you break into song about it.Or so decided Franz Schubert, the 19th-century Austrian composer who set his bleak and moving 24-song cycle “Winterreise” (“Winter Journey”) to poems about lost love by German poet Wilhelm Müller. The words and music add up to an unabashed, unrelenting tribute to grief.But the forlorn and sufferers from seasonal affective disorder can take heart. The American Repertory Theater  (A.R.T.) is offering a bright twist on Schubert’s solemn composition with its production of “Three Pianos.”In the hands of a trio of talented actor-musicians, Schubert’s work is transformed into both a silly and soul-searching house party with, as its title suggests, three pianos, and the audience as guests. With the songs sung in English, German, and occasionally a “bad English translation of German,” according to co-creator Rick Burkhardt, the production captures a passion for the music and connects to its melancholy message using both humor and heartache.“We were tempted to do the things we normally do, which is be amusing and sometimes lighthearted,” said Burkhardt. “But the piece also insists that we hold on to the mood — it’s a radical piece even for today. We kept getting pushed by the music in directions that were sometimes uncomfortable … it made us think about our own histories of heartbreak.”Schubert, who died at age 31, found little critical success during his short life. Much of the buzz generated around his work was the result of a committed cadre of friends who attended regular “Schubertiads,” festive events held in private homes to celebrate, perform, and promote Schubert’s music.It was in the spirit of those informal soirees that Burkhardt and collaborators Alec Duffy and Dave Malloy began to envision “Three Pianos” on a bitter February evening in New York City. During a party in a church, the three stumbled across copies of the somber Schubert song cycle in the choir loft. The accomplished musicians took turns singing and playing the first songs in the series on a nearby grand piano. Soon, others at the party joined in to harmonize or listen and enjoy. Before the night was out they had played through the entire work.“We realized when we were done that we had just enacted inadvertently a Schubertiad,” said Burkhardt. “And we realized we had the potential to give that extraordinary experience to an audience.”Throughout “Three Pianos,” the actors adopt the personas of Schubert’s friends and of the composer. They also play themselves, re-enacting their own arguments about the music and discussing the history of the work. The show comes complete with wine for interested audience members, and imaginative jazz, rock, and other interpretations of Schubert’s songs, in an effort, said Burkhardt “to give people access to this music.”The group spent time in Vienna in 2009, visiting the homes where the composer was born and died, and some of the halls where his music was played.  Later, they read his diaries and letters and those of his contemporaries.They found that “Winterreise” was in direct opposition to the popular romantic music of the day. Instead of being “florid and beautiful,” Schubert’s sparse and slow-paced composition was written largely in minor keys. But the poets whose work he set to music loved it.“In our research, we came across several examples of poets saying ‘I only learned what my poem meant when I heard the setting of it,’ ” said Burkhardt. “That is a rather remarkable thing.”With their new interpretation, Burkhardt and his co-creators hope to accomplish something similar by helping audiences connect with the work on a deeper emotional level.“There is a history of using art and song in particular to access emotions within you that are difficult to deal with … that’s a rich history and a history that I think all of us have tapped into at some point, and I think it’s good to see what comes from publicly acknowledging that.”“Three Pianos” runs from Dec. 7 through Jan. 8. For more information, visit the A.R.T. website.last_img read more

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OED reflects on issues of discrimination, harassment

first_imgThe Office of Equity and Diversity is twice as large since the Los Angeles Times first reported on sexual assault incidents that occurred during former USC gynecologist George Tyndall’s career. (Joelle Tenderich/Daily Trojan) Since the Los Angeles Times published its investigation on former campus gynecologist George Tyndall’s allegedly misconduct-riddled career, Jividen said that the office has doubled in size. Currently, there are eight investigators and typically about 40 to 50 cases open at a time, covering a wide range of issues such as sexual harassment and discrimination. During the event, discussion surrounding Tyndall’s alleged misconduct dominated most of the conversation. Many female faculty and staff members present spoke out about systemic sexism instilled in American culture. Jividen continued to emphasize the importance of addressing any kinds of issues on campus. “I’m looking forward to building and contributing to the [diversity and inclusion] work here at the University and building it enough to not have to be its own week or a special thing,” Crenshaw said. “I can see the long-term vision of the [Diversity and Inclusion] week is bringing that work [to say], ‘We’ve done all of this, and how can we push it further? How can we continue to grow and expand and make it open and honest for everybody?’ Because diversity and inclusion is a whole umbrella.” “Who is going to have the guts to report that kind of behavior, knowing that their job is on the line or their colleague’s job is on the line or something like that?” Jividen said. “We have to feel like the institution is going to be responsive to your concerns.” OED Director John Jividen led the discussion and represented the office during the event. The OED is responsible for investigating cases of protected-class discrimination and harassment in the USC community. Various women at the event emphasized the need for proper new-hire training at USC, citing that power dynamics in many professional relationships among faculty members and with students can ultimately pose a problem. “[The goal] is to start a conversation about equity and inclusion on campus and just get people talking about these issues more, meeting people that are like-minded and want to learn more about this and engage in this important conversation,” Jividen said. The USC Office of Equity and Diversity hosted a public meeting Tuesday to address ongoing patterns of discrimination and harassment cases on campus. The event, titled “What We Have Learned: The Ramifications of Not Having Difficult Conversations,” was part of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Week and stressed the importance of having open conversations about the current challenges facing the University. “Don’t talk about it, be about it,” said Erika Crenshaw, a project specialist in the Information Technology Services department who attended the event. “[The OED should] show me that things have changed. Actions speak louder than words.” “We’re missing one big component and that’s the difficulty to have these conversations,” he said. “People feel [the] administration isn’t responsive and hasn’t been responsive to bad misconduct and behavior in the past,” Jividen said. “The hope is that with the proper resources and the proper attention, we will move forward onto a better path after the things that have gone wrong in the past years.” Attendees discussed how the OED has an obligation to address incidents of discrimination and misconduct sooner and more carefully. Jividen said an incident of someone saying the N-word took six months to investigate. Jividen discussed instances of inappropriate behavior, racism and sexism that have been ignored for decades at the University. During his presentation, Jividen discussed four examples of misconduct that have occurred on campus. These include a senior administrator hearing sexual comments from a subordinate, a manager hearing someone use a racial slur, colleagues describing a faculty member as “tyrannical and offensive” and a faculty member friending a student on social media and chatting with her.last_img read more