May 3, 1999
Volume 51, No. 30
Mercurial weather notwithstanding, international celebration boasted a variety of art forms
The 185 flags of the member countries of the United Nations were flying--and occasionally falling down--in the rain and wind, and it was clear that some of the accidental "attendees" weren't quite sure what they had stumbled onto. But despite unpredictable weather and a general air of organized chaos, Emory truly became a global neighborhood during the festivities of the second "Emory at Home in the World" celebration in late March. The spring festival, organized by the Ethos subcommittee of the International Affairs Council, inspired many instances of planned and spontaneous cultural and social exchange.
By midday Friday, performance space was at a premium on Tull Plaza in front of Cox Hall where, as the flags snapped gaily in the breeze, dozens of Emory students, faculty and staff got into the spirit of the event with a variety of impromptu performances.
For Pakistani-born Shirin Keen, an Emory College junior majoring in creative writing, it was a chance to share the riches of one of her favorite writers. Standing before a cluster of listeners in the sunshine, she read selections from the work Ghacals by 18th-century Urdu poet Ghalid. "I had a small but very appreciative audience," she said. "Several people came up and thanked me and said they enjoyed the reading. It was very nice, actually. We should do things like this more often."
If photographic and anecdotal evidence is any indication, hundreds of other participants and spectators over the course of the weekend would agree. Among the more unusual offerings, for example, was a production by Professor Tova Cohen's entire Hebrew class. Their tongue-in-cheek, "three-minute Romeo and Juliet in Hebrew, with top hats, was performance art--or something!--at its zaniest. (Will Shakespeare ever be the same?)
Other, more sustained thespian antics were performed in Spanish, Tibetan and Japanese. In several romantic scenes, Emory College students Alexander Frenkel and Sofia Marban starred in an outdoor version of Spanish playwright Marco Denevi's No Hay Que Complicar Law Felicidad, under the watchful eye of their director and professor, Lola Martinez. As street theater, the play was a smash, especially when Frenkel and Marban began embracing and muttering to each other in Spanish while lying on the sunny sidewalk. Needless to say, the captive audience of would-be lunchtime passers-by stopped in their tracks. (The students went on to perform the play as part of PushPush Theater's April series of short plays, "30 Plays in 60 Minutes.")
In a less flamboyant mode, nursing school student Tenzin Dolma, a Fulbright scholar, donned a white ceremonial scarf and danced a song of peace. Dolma, 30, is Tibetan but was born in India, where her family fled into exile with His All Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama after the 1959 Chinese annexation of Tibet. The dance she performed was written and choreographed in honor of the Dalai Lama's 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. "I wanted to ask for peace, compassion and love for the whole of humanity," said Dolma. "I am the only Tibetan student at Emory, so I decided to share this special dance, which is very well known among the Tibetan performing arts in India."
Over on the Quadrangle, festival-goers watched Kurozuka (The Black Tomb), a highly dramatic medieval Japanese Noh play. Performed by 17 Emory students as masked actors, musicians and chorus, the production was directed by visiting professor Richard Emmert and actor Akira Matsui, who coached the students for weeks on the Japanese text and traditional instruments.
The results were "absolutely spell-binding," said Professor of the Performing Arts James Flannery, an audience member. "Of all the theater forms that exist, probably none are more removed from contemporary life than Noh; it dates back to the 14th century and has been handed down from father to son for generations," Flannery explained. "Yet to see it here on the Quad at Emory quite literally 'cast a spell' on those who were watching. The play dealt with ghosts, and as we watched and listened, we saw the great old trees on the Quad silhouetted against the sky, the beautiful buildings around the Quad in the evening light, and the very environment itself was embraced, transformed, by the action on stage."
"It was incredibly exciting to see things like this happen in a public space here at Emory, and especially on the Quad," added music professor William Ransom. "It's the kind of thing Emory needs more of-it brings people together, and it brings the campus to life."