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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Campus activates creativity for annual arts affair

Published: May 19, 2012
Section: Arts, Etc., Featured

Even with finals looming, the final weekend in April proved truly incredible. In part, this was because the Leonard Bernstein Festival for the Creative Arts brought art, dance and music to venues across campus. Meanwhile, a number of theater productions were being staged alongside the semester shows of countless clubs. To top it all off, students danced on Chapels Field as Nite Jewel, Phantogram, Childish Gambino and fun. performed. No matter where you looked, somebody was performing in every possible nook and cranny.

Though it was virtually impossible not to encounter one of the aforementioned performances, Springfest was the most prominent event, dominating student interest by recruiting hot new acts. Bringing such in-demand artists to Brandeis is no small achievement, and students showed their appreciation by displaying maximum enthusiasm. Even before you arrived at Chapels Field, you could hear the performers virtually everywhere on campus. Once there, students alternatively danced, packed the stage and lounged on the hill in order to enjoy the sunlight. With finals drawing ever nearer, Springfest provided the perfect distraction and proved hard to leave once it pulled you in.

fun. far exceeded the energy and enthusiasm in person than on their albums. Where their recorded music is light-hearted and minimally complex pop music, live they showed significant musicianship and, moreover, excellent showmanship by frontman Nate Reuss, formerly of The Format. Party ballads like “We Are Young” and “Some Nights” were familiar to Brandeisians and the crowd sang enthusiastically, if off-key.

Childish Gambino created an atmosphere of freneticism, both offending charming students with charisma and alarmingly descriptive lyrics. The crowd appreciated his immense stage presence, anticipating the performance for more than half an hour while the stage crew broke down fun. before Gambino began. We especially appreciated the last few songs, which Gambino performed sans Georgetown University t-shirt.

Not far from Chapels Field, the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC) was flooded with entertainment. Several music groups performed in the atrium during the course of the day. The SCC theater wasn’t left out of the action—students staged a variety of shows that showed off what they’d been working on during the semester. With groups ranging from the highly professional to the amateur, the eclectic selection was indicative of the great array of talent present at Brandeis. Leading up to the festival, students decorated the SCC with several installations that shined on their own and strengthened the creative atmosphere. Outside the SCC, students and children—a rare and welcome presence on a college campus—decorated the sidewalk with brightly colored chalk.

The day before Springfest, the all-female a cappella group Too Cheap For Instruments (TCFI) held its Third Annual Folk Fest on the Great Lawn. This event exemplified everything the arts festival is about. TCFI brought in non-Brandeisian folk singers to perform for the audience and, although the songs were not something we would usually be into, we could not help but tap our feet. One standout was The Four Legged Faithful, a four-person group that describes itself as “Americana/Folk/Bluegrass.” Several stands were also set up selling handmade crafts, such as jewelry, bags and pottery. The highlight of the festival, however, was TCFI’s performance itself. The group sings admirably, blending their voices together perfectly. Although they were a bit difficult to hear at times, this was the venue’s fault more than their’s. The group, which is known for its novelty songs, somewhat disappointed the audience, however, when they did not perform one.

The theater community also came out in full force for the weekend. The serious and heart-wrenching “Next to Normal” made a great impact, while the smaller, light-hearted student-adaptation of the web series “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” was performed in the Ridgewood Commons. The improv group Boris’ Kitchen also staged its semester show.

With so much happening, it was almost difficult to keep track of all the events, and it was certainly tempting to dart wildly from place to place in a mad attempt to experience it all somehow. Campus is rarely as alive as it is during this weekend of the arts, creating a strong sense of community and connection. There was truly something for every niche of Brandeis society to enjoy.

Planning something right before finals week is always dangerous; after all, what if no one comes? Despite this potential complication, the arts thrived. It was wonderful to see many clubs, groups and individuals showing what they do, what makes them special—essentially showing the many kinds of Brandeisian creativity. From the perspective of first-year students, wandering around a familiar campus to find it packed with entirely unexpected art and performance was truly astounding. It’s difficult to forget the sheer wealth of creative energy present at Brandeis with so many performances throughout the year, but to be confronted with all of it in one weekend, with some seriously accomplished outsiders in the form of Springfest performers, is an entirely and absolutely wonderful experience.