Ghost of Hamlet Rocks Lehman

By Leonel Henriquez

Raised stage at the Studio Theatre. Photo by Eileen Sepulveda.

When audience members walked into Lehman’s Studio Theatre on March 17 to see a raised platform stage on steel girders, they could immediately sense that this would not be an ordinary presentation of Hamlet. 

“The stage was made to look like a boxing ring, leveled up, with the ring side seats,” said senior Ibrahim Traore, who was recast as Laertes just two days before the first show.  

Overall, the production was a fresh, innovative success, with director Rick DesRochers brilliantly adapting Shakespeare’s Elizabethan work. DesRochers presents it in a post-colonial creole setting reminiscent of Haiti after the French revolution, with characters wearing knickers and corsets. He modernizes the staging, however, with the use of projection screens which show flashbacks of the king’s death and pictures of his ghost which startle the audience. 

The performance is pushed along by a score of classic rock music and ritualistic voodoo dance routines choreographed by Amy Larimer. DesRochers also broke with traditional casting, as male characters were played by women, with Nadja Gonzalez as Rosencrantz and Giselley Munoz as Horatio.

One of the best things about the staging of this production was the proximity and interaction of the performers with the audience. Performers would appear in the balcony, climb down to the orchestra and walk up into the gallery. At times the actors placed their hands on people’s shoulders and even took hold of someone’s hand and talked directly to them, bringing the experience to life as opposed to just viewing a performance. At one point, Robert Torigoe as King Claudius places a hand on an audience member’s shoulder and talks to them as if they were a member of the king’s court as the scene plays out. 

Bereket Mengitsu was outstanding in the role of Hamlet. Beyond the prince’s controlled ramblings and bewildered looks, the physical interaction between him and the other characters was masterful. Mengitsu rolls around on the ground with Polonius (Hermanuel Darnis), and climbs on and humps the throne that his mother, Queen Gertrude (Jacqueline Rosa), is sitting on as he confronts her for marrying his uncle so shortly after his father’s death.    

“I’m not a big fan of Shakespeare” said audience member Anna Rodriguez, “but this was fun.”

“I’m so proud of everyone associated with this play. They all worked so hard,” said DesRochers. Tearing up he added, “I couldn’t be prouder.” 

Former Basketball Star Enlightens Students on Mental Illness

By Andrea Nieves

Chamique Holdsclaw basketball player and mental health activist. Photo by Rick Goldsmith.

Lehman hosted the 10th Annual ReelAbilities Film Festival on March 12. The festival, which strives to bring Lehman students together to give a better understanding of disabilities, showcased the award-winning documentary “Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw,” directed by Rick Goldsmith. The film follows the journey of Chamique Holdsclaw, a basketball superstar who struggles with clinical depression and bipolar II disorder. 

While Holdsclaw herself wasn’t in attendance, the film gave Lehman students and staff insight into her journey in life. In the film, Holdsclaw says as a high school, college and WNBA basketball player, she has flourished in her many amazing achievements but suffers depression from the loss of her grandmother. Holdsclaw said she has emerged as an advocate for mental health to help others who face the same hardships.

The film gives an important insight into the lives of public figures and shows that they are not perfect. As sports figures, Holdsclaw says, players are expected to show no weakness whether they’re on or off the court. It prevents them from seeking help for their mental health issues because they fear judgment or criticism from their peers. “If you saw a psychiatrist, people would think you’re crazy,” Holdsclaw says on the discussion of mental health in sports. She chose to suffer in silence and says it hindered her personal growth. 

According to a June 2013 article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Holdsclaw was arrested for smashing the windows and firing a gun into her ex-girlfriend’s car. She was sentenced to three years’ probation, ordered to pay a $3,000 fine, and complete 120 hours of community service in 2012. She realized she could hurt those around her and received therapy for a year and a half. 

Holdsclaw proves despite being successful in life, she could still fall victim to depression. In the film, she says “Many people would ask me, ‘How can you be depressed when you have so many blessings?’” Depression is an illness that can affect anyone whether you’re rich or poor, young or old. She became the face of mental health awareness and used her status to teach young students to get help for their suffering, and to identify signs of depression in others. 

In the film, Holdsclaw stresses the importance of keeping close friends and family around her when she needed it the most. Merrill Parra, Director of Student Disability Services at Lehman says, “Life is a journey that presents a lot of different challenges. Holdsclaw came to a realization that even though she was an athlete that was completely dependent on herself, she needed the assistance of others to have healthy physical and mental health.” This film aims to help others who feel as if they are alone and to show that people can suffer from depression, overcome it and still be successful. 

Lehman Playwrights Festival Centers Student Realities

By Hector Bello

Actors Brian Paredes and Kevin Vencosme play Roberto and Hector in “Sheema’s Wolf.” Photo by Hector Bello.

The special effects produced in this semester’s New Student Playwrights Festival took spectators on a magical journey into diverse realities. Running from Mar. 1-3 at the Lovinger Theatre, this spring’s festival, which happens every semester, showcased the work of six student playwrights: Yasmilka Clase’s “Speed Dating,” Erachie Brown’s “Your Cheating Heart,” Leonel Henriquez’s “Sheema’s Wolf,” Leslie Huynh’s “Passing” Eloy Rosario “Unrequited,” and Robert Torigoe’s “Deliver Me.” (Full disclosure: Henriquez is the managing editor of this paper.)

Despite the small size of the stage, the production team managed to use it effectively to make the audience part of the script. Director and Lehman professor Stephanie Stowe said, “Our choice to make people sit around the actors and actresses was an artistic choice. When we allow people to sit next to the performers, it surprises them and gives the plays a more intimate, personal feeling between the performers and the audience.” 

Stowe also noted that the production was completed under a tight deadline. “We only had two weeks to prepare everything,” she explained. “We had to proofread the plays, choose the clothing and everything. It was hard work but we got it done.”

Scene from “Deliver Me” by Torigoe. Photo by Hector Bello.

Student writers and actors who participated felt empowered by the opportunity to take the stage. Lehman student Brian Paredes, who plays Roberto in “Sheema’s Wolf,” by Leonel Henriquez, said it fed his love of acting. “We had new faces as well as old faces. Behind the scenes, it was good…this is what I need in my life.”  

Theatre major and senior Robert Torigoe, author of “Deliver Me,” said he is evolving as a writer and felt amazing writing this specific play.  He said, “It is the beginning. I am just beginning to write plays. I keep writing more and seeing if I can write more plays in the future!” 

Audience members also enjoyed the production. Lehman student Kelvin Santos, 28, said the first play, “Sheema’s Wolf,” was his favorite.  He said, “It was just so funny. I could relate with all the characters. The way they spoke, dressed and behaved was like what I live in the Bronx every day.”

Black Panther Has Reached the Top of the Charts

By Zayna Palmer

Poster for Black Panther. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

The first film in superhero history to ever have an all-black cast, Black Panther, is one of the most powerfully invigorating movies of all time. By giving the Marvel template a twist using African culture, director Ryan Coogler has created a masterpiece. It is especially great to see diverse casting in a Marvel Studios production because it appeals to black audiences and it gives a different aspect to the action genre. The film has also been extremely successful at the box office. In just over a month since its release on Feb. 16, it had grossed over 1.2 billion dollars as of Mar. 24.

Starring Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Chadwick Boseman and Angela Bassett, Black Panther focuses on the relationship between a father and son, and citizens fighting to protect a nation. The film’s hero, named T’Challa, does whatever it takes to protect his homeland Wakanda, while he faces danger from the villain Erik Killmonger, who wants to take his throne as king.

Lupita Nyong’o and Chadwick Boseman appear in promotional posters for Black Panther. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

The Black Panther soundtrack is also impressive, featuring luminaries including Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd and SZA. Musician Ludwig Göransson, who created the amazing instrumentals in the movie, traveled to Africa and used a field recorder to capture music for the film. He wrote down the meanings of songs and bought instruments to create traditional African music. He even traveled to Senegal to visit singer and guitarist Baaba Maal, who was also featured in the film. 

In addition, the scenery of the movie was beautiful, such as the forest in Wakanda. It reminds me of Senegal due to the instrumentals of the music and the beautiful waters. The characters wore a traditional woven African print, called Kente, and the gold rings that were worn around the necks of the Dora Milaje were inspired by the tribe of South Africa.

Overall, Black Panther is a terrific film because it has a black superhero as the main character.