Articles and Essays, Happs!, Reviews, Words & Works of Others

Urgent Recommendation: Claudia Rankine’s CITIZEN

CITIZEN: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Not racist? Hear, listen, and grasp social and race issues with the renowned author, playwright, and poet. “I don’t think we connect micro-aggressions that indicate the lack of recognition of the black body as a body to the creation and enforcement of laws.” Claudia Rankine said last fall in BOMB.
Wait, what’s a “microaggression”?? These words matter.
CITIZEN: An American Lyric divulges and dissects day-to-day, often sub-surface racism and its effects beyond the moment. Her fifth poetry book, it made history, nominated for two National Book Critics Circle Awards, for Criticism and for Poetry; it won the latter, along with the NAACP Image Award, PEN Open Book Award, and others, and is the only New York Times nonfiction bestseller of its lyric kind.
CITIZEN calls out in solidarity if you’ve ever been run into by an armored tank of racial marginalization or been caught in a nasty traffic jam of intersectionality. Rankine calls you to action if you give a hoot or are susceptible to participating in systemic racism. Cultural theorist Lauren Berlant described in the BOMB interview, “Citizenship involves metabolizing in the language of your flesh what you call the ‘ordinary’ injury of racist encounter.” Rankine’s prose details scene by the millisecond, along with internal reaction, piling on inevitable, immediate, smacking social resonance in fell swoop after fell swoop. Each scene rounds out with that “metabolizing” as it happens, or as its consequence plays out within black bodies and minds constrained by white hegemony and apathy.
Los Angeles’ Fountain Theater produced an adaptation in August, spotlighting the versatility of CITIZEN and Rankine’s multi-form and -genre work. Her dialogue and descriptions came to life on stage particularly smoothly: The ensemble cast rove among different characters, black actors facing white actors, playing out scenes of surprise verbal, contextual complicity or attack and slow-motion, time-stopped response, outburst, or restraint. Sitting, watching in your red theater seat became complacency; cringing and squirming in it were not enough.
In interactions of daily and professional life, how can white people stop colluding to enact racism, even if unintentionally? How can all people not commit and not accept racial microaggression? Recognition of such words and acts is a start.


A Positive of a Negative Proves a Mathematician a Performer

Gioia De Cari's TRUTH VALUES
Gioia De Cari completes a Master’s degree in math, at M.I.T., nonetheless, in just over an hour. She now performs with exactly enough dramatic flair and even some “spicy,” operatic singing, having turned from proofs to stage her wit; that is, from scholarly pursuit of logic to write, act, and tour her solo show. TRUTH VALUES traipses through that most illogical of tales, blunt sexism altering the female scholar’s narrative. Male chauvinist mathematicians (and other nerds) gender-discriminate or sexualize her at almost every turn, at odds with her Ph.D education. The UI WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) spearheaded bringing the autobiographical Best Solo Show winner to the Englert Monday night. De Cari delivers Lazer-carved characters who lecture her seminars or jive around the “party office” as TAs so that you forget only one actor plays them all. Guts, gusto, and unashamed femininity through her entire intense graduate career and teaching fellowship at Harvard add up to absolute, real theatricality.

An Oleanna fresh from across campus, minus the taint of Mamet’s mysoginy but unfortunately greater than or equal to that story’s professor’s, TRUTH VALUES brings quality to quantity in accents, the drive of the young mathematician and performer, and obectivity, via succinct dialogue and sometimes conjured costumes. The bare-minimal set exemplifies De Cari’s virtually lone navigation “Through M.I.T.’s Male Math Maze,” as she has subtitled the show. Directed with punch and elegance, award-winning classics director Miriam Eusebio (member of the historic feminist and LGBTQ collective Wow Cafe Theater and founder of the Intentional Theater) accelerates De Cari as young Gioia and her former, mathier colleagues and company to effortless synthesis, rendering obtuse where the acting ends and the directing begins. The lighting by Chris Dallos of Unexpected Theater casts precise environments, not too harshly but with no pretty ivy gobo.

If you missed the show, calculate how long it will take you to leave point A at a minimum of 60 miles per hour and arrive at point B, the next tour destination of TRUTH VALUES, as soon as possible.
Sept. 21, 2015

Articles and Essays, Happs!, Reviews

“The Roast of Iowa City” endcaps the Festival of the Book

The Roast of Ghostwriter-ville

We are lucky that Iowa City is the only one U.S. UNESCO Literary City the whooole world over, and to have an even bigger, city-wide, weekend-long Festival of the Book for it. The Roast of Iowa City finale was the best part, hands down, glasses up.

But if you only read to laugh, or like to listen to your hilarity while chowing down even more–the Roast of our fine town and campus last Sunday was an IPA- and dark-beer-drinking, mozz-stick-sizzling yuck-it-up to wrap up a writerly, readerly, mostly quiet, reverential, program-history-nostalgic serial string of readings and panels and the usual world-famous authors who of course went here to the Workshop or Nonfiction Writing Program. Word to the Iowa writer alum, the writing students pulled in for it, and the fantastic living breathing achievement, contribution to the canon, and way-paving for every other writing program of the U Iowa writing programs; WE’RE #1!!! It’s true! Pick up a best-seller, or watch one of the current well-written tv shows: Chances are there are Iowa ties, even if you didn’t know when you bought a black and yellow Hawkeye t-shirt.

If you wanna goof off and drink your weekend: Have no fear! Even Book Fest fans the flames of the finest, closeted non-reader fittin’ to Hawk-out! The culture editor of your favorite underground haps rag Little Village told all those stories you thought you were the only one going through about crappy crazy neighbors and trying to get an apartment, a New-Yorker-cum-Iowa-Citian told us why he loves (and hates) the place, a Townie told us why he loves (and hates) the place, and these were almost exactly the same reasons! An English major inflamed us with the fantasy concerns of a young Hawkeye spawn not becoming a fan. And taking the cake was a recent grad describing dating life at U Iowa in good ol’ Iowa City. Who knew Sally Mason, our controversial university president, was on Tinder? Or that a regular-guy student could find her–and she’d be a match?! Did he get a date with her? You should’ve been there!

Sit back in the Mill‘s almost-too-low light next year with me. I’ll order you the Iowa City tradition “Peckinpah” pizza pie that’s been on the menu since current Iowa students were just drunken twinkles in the eyes of some Hawkeyes fumbling with the locks of the stall doors painted with trippy white birch trees.