“Davidson Reads” An Evening of Nonfiction with Dr. Brenda Flanagan and Amanda Ottaway ’12
I attended the “Davidson Reads” event highlighting the writings of authors Dr. Brenda Flanagan and Amanda Ottaway. The event began with Dr. Flanagan reading aloud excerpts from her new book about Nina Simone and her impact on the music industry and The Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Flanagan, a close friend of Simone, reflected on her personal experiences with the highly acclaimed singer, speaking highly of her passion for equality and anger toward the racial injustice plaguing the world. After touching on one of Simone’s most inspiring and career-changing songs, “Mississippi Goddam”, jazz pianist, Judith Porter, and jazz musician, Gerard Benson, performed a moving rendition of it for the audience. The song addressed Simone’s vexation with Alabama and Tennessee and the ever present racial tension tormenting the African American population. The musicians also performed “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” after Dr. Flanagan introduced the circumstances surrounding Simone’s creation of this powerful tune. Dr. Flanagan’s reading combined with the musical accompaniment was a touching applaud to the inspiring and impactful, Nina Simone.
Following Dr. Flanagan, Amanda Ottaway introduced her newly published book titled The Rebounders: A Division I Basketball Journey. I found it extremely interesting to hear of her experience as a Davidson College athlete balancing the rigor of academics with the lengthy and tiring daily physical practice required of her sport. Ottaway spoke of the lack of published literature focusing on female athletes and the clear inequality between the genders in this realm of writing. Ottaway’s work was inspiring to hear and influential in the bridging of the gender gap.
Davidson Department of Theatre: The Book of Will
After reading The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson, I was very excited to see the Davidson Theatre Department’s rendition of the acclaimed play. The theater department did not disappoint; the play was entertaining and polished. I was pleased to note that the Davidson play did not stray far from Gunderson’s script, and the scenes were enacted with the precise emotional conviction that I am sure Gunderson intended. The strenuosity and tediousness that went into the creation of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works was made abundantly clear through the characters’ struggles. My favorite part of the performance was the scene in which the physical act of creating the Folio was portrayed. I loved the artistic element, as the actors engaged in a sort of dance as they printed and hung each individual page to dry. The scene, for me, really just emphasized the overarching theme of the play: the collective effort that went into the compiling of Shakespeare’s plays into a distributable form. I also liked the changing backdrop throughout the play. Initially, the backdrop consisted of only a few sheets of paper floating in a cascading formation, but as the play developed, more sheets were added to represent the progression of the Folio’s completion. The most evocative moment of the play was the final scene in which the actors, placed all around the front of the auditorium, spoke lines from Shakespeare’s works in a variety of languages. This scene did stray from Gunderson’s final scene, although I found it equally as effective. I felt that this final scene successfully tied the play together as a whole. The scene gave the audience the impression of Shakespeare’s worldliness. His works are so widely loved and appreciated, and the scene effectually encompassed this sentiment.
Made in America (Some Assembly Required)- The Second City
I had the honor of attending Second City’s Made in America. Second City is an improv comedy group based in Chicago. They are widely known for their fast-paced witty humor, engaging of the entire audience. Their Made in America special focused on satirizing recognizable elements of America, such as the current state of our government and the insignificant popular culture stories that take up much of our focus. I was very impressed by their ability to think so quickly on their feet, taking a random word from the audience and turning it into a comedic skit that captivated the whole audience. Another improvisation game the cast played was “Freeze Tag”. In this game, part of the cast would act out a scene, and when another member clapped, the scene would freeze and the additional member would use the last line of the scene to start a completely different scene. Changing from scene to scene with as drastic changes as a horseback riding lesson to a moonwalk kept the audience enthralled and amused. Though I found myself entertained for the entirety of the show, my favorite part would have to be the improv “book interview” in which a member of the cast portrayed the role of an author speaking about a newly published novel. Individuals from the audience were encouraged to ask the “author” questions about her new book. The audience questions led the author to explain that her book was actually inspired by her murderous intentions against past lovers; the further the scene went the more comical and outrageous the dialogue became. Second City ended their performance with an encore in which they tried out some newly scripted holiday skits to get an idea of how the audience would receive the scenes. Though the scenes were still in the works, and the cast read from their scripts, the skits were just as engaging as the rest of the show. This was the first improv comedy performance I’d ever seen, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the show.