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.

Pub and Library receive major facelifts for fall semester

Returning to campus after a long summer, students were shocked by the changes awaiting them in two community spaces, The Pub and the Library.  For those of you not familiar with the previous spaces, here is a brief picture:

Where the Pub now houses an array of drinks and pre-made food, we enjoyed a small room of booths that were constantly teeming with students eating French fries and typing on their laptops. Working amidst a backdrop of lightened wood and firelight colors is now an experience of the past, as the clean-edged and new cool blue scheme erases all traces of grease stains and scuffed floors from the Pub’s inevitable Friday midnight rush.

A similar spatial overhaul was initiated in the library, resulting in the new Copyright Café. Where students once sifted through bookshelves, a large section of the library has been walled off to create a café/study space. Lined with couches and booths, students now sit comfortably at tables sipping coffee and taking copious notes.

Both the aesthetic and functionality of these spaces have drastically evolved, and we have Kyle Wilkie’s hard work to thank. Wilkie, the Assistant Vice President for Campus Operations and Planning, was involved in both of these projects from their conception. In an interview with him, Wilkie answers questions about the improvements to the Sarah Lawrence campus with an insider perspective.

The Phoenix: To start off with, when did the planning for these improvements start? Many students were very surprised by the changes. What were the reasons for doing so? Was it in response to complaints?

Kyle Wilkie: Planning for these renovations began about two years ago. The previous facility at the Pub did not provide enough surface area for the variety of options that the SLC Community has been asking for. Additionally, a lack of refrigeration and freezer space led to frequent product outages. We used feedback from the Auxiliary Services Sub-Committee, the Committee on Student Life, the Committee on Library Planning, the annual Food Services survey, and lots of information that was communicated from the community to create a space that is much more conducive.

Phoenix: In the “best case” scenario, what will these improvements mean for the SLC community?

Wilkie: My hope is that these projects have a positive, lasting impact on student life at the College as well as the experience that we deliver to faculty, staff, and visitors. The completion of the Pub allows us to offer a new variety of options in an enhanced atmosphere. I have heard many pieces of positive feedback that signal just how well received the projects are.

Phoenix: In what way have these communities changed? How does the administration want these spaces to be used differently by the students?

Wilkie: The Library is positively impacted by the addition of the Copyright Café because it adds an amenity that previously did not exist. The Café gives a place to eat (which is not permitted in other areas of the Library) and take a break from studying. In particular, I know students will be excited to have access to the Copyright Café when the Library opens 24/7 during the last several weeks of the semester.

Many students are, in fact, very pleased by these new additions to campus spaces, and look forward to utilizing them much in the way Wilkie hopes. Wyatt Welles ’18 and Muntaha Mohamed ’18 were chatting in the Copyright Café and shared their opinions on the space as first years, viewing these changes with fresh eyes. Welles stated, “The café is much better than the one in Heimbold. It’s location is much more central to the campus and is secluded from the chaos of the building. Living in Hill House means you have a lot of awkward time in between classes when you can’t return to your dorm, and the Copyright Café seems like a good place to hang out.” Mohamed agrees, enthusiastically saying, “The only good coffee on campus is here!”

Many first years on campus are comparing these changes not to the old spaces of the Pub and the library, but to other dining facilities around campus. Julia Kaplan ’18 very matter-of-factly said, “It’s all the same for me, I don’t have a basis for comparison. I like [the Pub] better than Bates, I hate Bates.” This positive attitude continues with Shelby Krog ’17, as she eats her food outside on the Pub terrace. “The Pub smells better than last year! I like that there is new options, healthier options, but I miss the booths! [in the Pub].”

Those who have lived on campus previously are less convinced about all of the merits of these additions.  Living on a small campus, space is limited and needs to be utilized to the fullest. While these changes in the Pub and the library have brought wonderful spaces to the student body, it is only logical that they have taken away room for other important areas.

Jay Politano ’17 voices his concerns on Facebook, writing, “I miss the cozy quiet section in the library. Also, it's always cramped during conference week, so now there's going to be even less seating available. I can see seating becoming a problem at the Pub now too, especially once it's too cold to sit outside.” With books being replaced in the library with eating spaces, students have become skeptical about the necessity of taking away important learning spaces. Asmahan Malow ’16 was on Student Senate last year when the idea of the Copyright Café was introduced to the student body. “I was originally worried about the cramping of study spaces in the library, but it seems to be a nice area and a good study space.”    

It seems that time will tell how successful the improved Pub and the Copyright Café will be in the Sarah Lawrence Community.

by Caely McHale '17

Photos in this story provided by the author.


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.

A Performance to Make the Bard Proud: Women's Naked Shakespeare interprets 'Othello'

Promotional images of 'Othello' designed and photographed by Tori Close '14. Courtesy Jessica Adler '14.

The four rows of fold-up chairs packed into Slonim Living room were quickly filling up at 7:28 on May 3, the opening night of Women’s Naked Shakespeare’s production of Othello. The atmosphere was casual and warm, with the actors waiting in place for the performance to begin and the audience separated by only the imaginary fourth wall. Underneath the bright, movable stage lights that illuminated both the stage and the audience, the excitement was palpable and the show was sold out. At 7:34, the audience hushed and the performance began.

Othello is the tragic story of the “Moor” set in Shakespeare’s Italy. In a twisted web of love and lies, Othello and Desdemona fall to the malevolent mind of Iago, Othello’s right-hand man. Although the characters are all decorated members of the army, the action happens within the intrigue of rumor. Iago tricks Othello into believing that Desdemona is cheating on him with his fellow officer Cassio, that he can win Desdemona for Rodrigo, and that Othello must kill Desdemona for her perceived disloyalty. By Iago’s hand, the innocent people in Othello’s world kill each other in a massive final bloodbath only to realize in their last moments that they were only puppets in Iago’s play.

The play is complicated and winding, driven not by fact but by wildly stacked and contradicting lies. The casting was stellar, each actor transforming completely into their character for the hour and a half, fast-moving production. They each had a shining moment in the center of Slonim Living Room, looking deeply into the eyes of the engrossed audience.

Othello, played by Simone Recasner ‘14, was impassioned and created a multi-faceted Othello of extreme emotion, capable of extreme love and hate and transformed by those emotions into his own monster. Powerful throughout the entire production, Simone blew the audience away in the final moments of the show, the killing of Desdemona and Othello’s own suicide. Parallel to Othello was Montana Lampert Hoover ‘14 as Desdemona, a beautiful and pure presence shining through the murky web of lies and mistrust – her song as she foreshadows her own death was absolutely haunting. The purity of Desdemona and the passionate Othello was then contrasted with Iago, played by Lila Mensing ‘14. Her evil, conspiratorial glances while malicious plans unfolded delighted the audience and made the antagonist a crowd favorite, despite the chilling nature of her classically villainous monologues. The Duke, played by Ottavia Brey ‘16 resounded with regal nature. Emilia, played by Tsebiyah Derry ‘14, exploded in the second half of the play to undo the plans of her husband Iago with a beautiful strength. Minou Pourshariati ’14 and Koby Omansky ‘16 as Cassio and Roderigo played complex and exciting characters that were sadly ensnared in Iago’s trap.

Not only were the performances compelling, but the fight scenes came complete with swords and fake blood dripping down the walls. The applause was thunderous as one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces came to a close, and due to the talented direction of Jessica Adler ‘14, earned that applause and so much more.

Running again on May 9 and 10 in the Slonim Living Room, don’t miss this exciting production by Women’s Naked Shakespeare here at SLC. 

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.