Liz Erwin '17 Plays Rocky in a SLC tradition

The cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show rehearsing.   Photo by Alissa Oritz '16

The cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show rehearsing. 

Photo by Alissa Oritz '16

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is tradition of alternative culture that needs no introduction. Bursting onto nighttime cult culture in 1976, somehow this glitter-crazed, dance-heavy B-movie satire has latched onto the hearts of millions. The gist is this--a happy couple stumble upon a mansion in the middle of the night, seeking shelter from the storm. Inside, they meet a group of violent, lusty, and fabulous aliens from the planet Transylvania. This selfsame show gathered fame not because of its impeccable storyline but instead as a late night performance extravaganza in which the actors on stage follow along with the monumental movie, urging the audience to get into the action. It is now a quintessential part of Sarah Lawrence Tradition.

  Of course, Rocky Horror does not just bust out of the projector screen -- a group of dedicated students work hard every year to give the student body some Transylvanian fun. Alisa Ortiz (’16) is this year’s director, and after working with the production for three years she is certainly ready to carry on the tradition.  

  “I'll say that being a part of Rocky, to me, means being part of a movement that truly encapsulates what it is to be a freak and to be proud of it," Ortiz said, "The movie is shitty--the writing is terrible, the costumes are falling apart, the acting is laughable, and yet there it is. Someone made that fucking movie. With all the sex and weirdness. And I think that people saw an opportunity to take something that could have shamed the entire LGBTQ* community and turn it into something that makes us all great." She continued, "So when we put on the show at SLC, it's like we're honoring that tradition of making difference and sexual strangeness and just plain oddity a fun and celebrated thing.”

  In this way, it is clear that Rocky Horror is not only a social event, but it reflects a part of the SLC community that makes it special. Campus wide, traditions like Sleaze Week have celebrated the promotion of sexual awareness and positivity. Unlike many colleges and universities in the United States, Sarah Lawrence tries to find a place for every voice and identity. With a high ratio of both LGBTQ* students as well as liberally-oriented students, the celebration of The Rocky Horror Picture Show hits home.

  Ortiz agrees, elaborating: “There's a lot of division within the LGBTQ* community." She also said, "Rocky is a unifying factor. For all that it is a terribly done piece of cinema, it is also a really stable common ground. No one in Rocky has their sexuality described as particularly anything. Frank, Magenta and Riff Raff all come from a planet called Transexual, but none of them look alike or behave in similar ways. They're all different and their sexual adventures and crazy alien encounters are what make the movie one of the only examples of cinema where a character is not defined by their sexuality or gender, they simply are who they are."

  With Ortiz leading the crew in the whirlwind experiences of learning the lines, the dances, and transforming normal Sarah Lawrence actors into the crazy characters that make up Dr. Frank n’ Furter’s world, one must imagine that rehearsal is quite the experience. Rocky, the monster himself, is played by student Liz Erwin ’17. Giving us the inside look on what it means to be a part of the Rocky Horror experience, she has nothing but positive things to say: “Being a cast member is unreal. That people are willing to habitually venture out at midnight to watch a film with hardly any plot and a whole lotta glitter is what makes Rocky so amazing. It’s a collective effort between the cast and the audience. Before you see it, you have no idea how much a bunch of ‘Transsexuals from Transylvania’ running around in heels can mean to you. But after your first viewing, Rocky and everyone involved in it feel like family.”

  What can one expect from the Fall 2014 production of Rocky Horror? Ortiz withheld all of her surprises for the day of the show, but promised the audience a classic Rocky Horror experience. “I don't like to stray from tradition, but I can proudly say that we have some new original callbacks, there will be swing and tap dancing, there will be musical interludes and plenty of childhood ruining moments.”

  Continuing on the importance of Rocky Horror to the SLC community, Ortiz added, "In a place like SLC where we have so many queer people and so many divided and often lonely voices trying to feel like a part of something larger, Rocky serves to unite us and remind us that at heart, we all want the same thing--to live proudly as our true selves and not have to give a fuck about what any other earthlings think about it.”

by Caely McHale '17


SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

PlayGround's Venus in Furs reimagines Sacher-Mosoch's novella

Smart, playful, and absolutely sexy, Venus in Furs opened in Downstage on Thursday, February 27. Written by David Ives, the play premiered Off-Broadway in 2010, on Broadway in 2011, and received two Tony Award nominations (Best Play; Best Actress In a Play).  SLC’s adaptation of Venus in Furs, presented by PlayGround, was directed by Collin Bradley ‘15 and featured Alex Emond ‘16 and Montana Lampert-Hoover ‘14.

Venus in Furs is not quite a stage adaptation of the Leopold von Sacher-Masoch novella Venus in Furs, but rather a play about a playwright in the process of auditioning a woman his own adapted version of the play. Set in an old warehouse in modern-day New York City, playwright Thomas Novachek (Emond) has just finished a long day of auditions and is about to leave for home when actress Vanda Jordan (Lampert-Hoover) stumbles in and begs to audition for the leading role of Wanda von Dunayev before Thomas calls it a day. Thomas reluctantly agrees, despite how unprepared she is. Vanda initially does not grasp the concept of the show, dismissing it as “basically S&M porn;” however, Thomas slowly discovers how talented Miss Jordan when the text comes rather naturally to her despite claims of having never perused the script.

Sacher-Masoch’s original Venus in Furs follows the power dynamic in the relationship between Severin von Kushemski and Wanda von Dunayev—a deeply infatuated Kushemski devotes himself as Wanda’s slave, and requests that she treat him as such. Venus in Furs very cleverly integrates the themes of sexism and sadomasochism that are developed in the novella into the play by juxtaposing the personal life of the playwright with the script he had written and the book he worked so hard to adapt.

Montana Lampert-Hoover '14 and Alex Emond '16 convey the power dynamic of Thomas and Vanda's relationship in this scene from Venus in Furs.                        Photo courtesy Minou Pourshariati

This is most clearly seen through the relationship Thomas has with his fiancée Stacy. Though she is present only through phone calls, it is apparent that Stacy largely influences Thomas’ decisions and actions. She calls quite frequently to check up on Thomas and he always responds sweetly and apologetically. Vanda very easily reads into Thomas’ engagement, accusing him of leading a lackluster—though very safe and secure—love life.

“Venus in Furs is a relentless piece of theatre,” said Bradley. “It tantalizes us with its sex appeal and entangles us in every tense argument. It forces us to reckon with our essential selves, only after it traps us in resignation. We are all easily extricable, what we are not is easily explicable. It is an innately sexual experience, but don’t be fooled.”

The audience learns more about Thomas as the play progresses, yet Vanda becomes more mysterious. She grows increasingly more seductive and coy, tempting Thomas. Her power over him grows until Thomas finally submits to her, finding himself handcuffed to a pipe in a corner of the warehouse. It is implied that Vanda is in fact the goddess of love Aphrodite herself, come to taunt Thomas for his work.

A humorous show that manages to address heavy, even taboo subjects and shifts between fiction and reality demands a couple of strong and versatile actors. The leading actors delivered in this regard. “Montana and Alex tackle these unbelievable characters with a committed, passionate, and energetic athleticism,” Bradley commented on their performances.

Emond is able to play hard and demanding when directing Vanda through the audition, and soft and submissive when answering phone calls from his fiancée. Lampert-Hoover is able to switch smoothly between formal and informal speech, refined and unrefined behavior. One minute, she’s speaking colloquially and spewing vulgarities with her legs wide open; the next, she’s using a much more sophisticated vocabulary with her back straightened.

The play reveals how power affects all relationships. “Venus in Furs extends the roles of submission and domination beyond the sexual, and into every human sphere. What drives our passions forward? Understand there’s something out there more powerful than we are, and it can run us or it can ruin us,” said Bradley. 

by Sienna Aczon '17

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Figure drawing club holds DIY portrait-drawing session

photostory by Ellie Brumbaum '17

The Figure Drawing Club held a do-it-yourself portrait drawing gallery session on Friday, February 21st in the A*Space. Participants learned how to draw their own likenesses on paper with markers, crayons, and colored pencils. In addition to the drawing lessons, Gabe Greenland ('16) and Guido Castellani III ('14) performed for those in attendance. The Figure Drawing Club meets every Thursday from 7 to 9 PM in Heimbold.



Open Mic Night is a must-attend Sarah Lawrence tradition

photos by Ellie Brumbaum '17

The Beatles spent two years performing in clubs in Germany, playing night after night. This intense practice is what made them into a band that was able to change musical history. Every other week, Sarah Lawrence students have a chance to perform, to practice their art, in the same way the Beatles did many years ago. The open mic performances hosted by the Sarah Lawrence Activities Committee (SLAC) are where creative members of the community can come together to listen and to perform. Even the shiest of people perform their niche: poets read their work, musicians perform on their instruments, and the bravest acts sing a cappella. The talent goes on.

On Thursday, February 20, the Black Squirrel served shakes to attendees of the latest open mic night. Comedy skits, poetry, music, and an impressive sing-along rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody filled the room. The joyful community members are blessed with this time to enjoy each other’s performances, sing with one and another and find new ways to be inspired by their peers.

My favorite shifts to works are always the open mics, because of the sheer enjoyment I get from watching my peers perform. The entertainment is always full of fun, the energy of performance and crowd anticipation rejuvenating. Although shifts at the Black Squirrel are never boring, I always look forward to the open mics. The more acts the better. 

Those who have never performed in or witnessed an open mic night are missing a crucial part of the Sarah Lawrence experience. We are small, tight-knit community, which allows us to know each other and one another’s work. This enables us to watch our peers evolve as artists and make strong connections to new friends who perform. It is its own type of party, a change of pace from the everyday monotony of a college student’s schedule, and a wonderfully heart warming time. Taking a break from the busy study life of college student to perform is exhilarating. It renews a person’s faith in work, art and gives life a breath of fresh air before the weekend. The comfort and support of friends is always a heartwarming experience. People cheering for one another, singing songs together, it can only bring a smile to your face. 

Performing love songs is wonderful, comedy acts keep you laughing, and folk tunes have the nostalgic feeling of campfires. No matter what the performance, there is something special about it. Two people can even perform the same song on the same night and each performance still has potential to mean something completely different. Each week there are new acts, people performing different songs (or the same song), a different kind of energy, crowd, and theme. But there is always a sort of familiarity to the nights: people with open arms greet each other cheerfully, excited to hear what they will perform that night. Open mic nights in the Black Squirrel are consistently a fun time, where everyone has the chance to showcase their unique performance talents. Coming from a regular attendee, do not miss a change to come and enjoy one of SLAC’s Open Mic Nights.

by Justin Becker '17