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Read the articles below or click here for the PDF version: FINAL – KINGSMANSPRING2019ISSUE11


USG Election Ballot Rolls Out, Missing Major Candidate

By Ryan Schwach, Managing Editor

The USG election ballot is out on BCWebcental, and students can submit their vote until this Thursday. The largest surprise is that Presidential candidate Hamza Khilji, who participated in the Kingsman’s presidential debate, did not make the ballot after failing to receive enough signatures.

“We [Khilji and Zain Qureshi, his VP] were both under the impression that when we submitted them, we submitted well over 400 signatures,” Khilji said. Apparently, only 384 signatures were verified and on Friday morning he was notified that he did not have enough signatures to be on the USG ballot. “I don’t know where the extra sheets went, but I can’t say anything because I wasn’t there,” said Khilji, who was on a trip when the submissions were submitted by Qureshi.

In a last-minute effort to stay afloat, the Khilji/Qureshi campaign has begun a write-in campaign, pushing supporters to write in their ticket. “Pursuing a write-in would make all the work we have put into it worth it because he want to finish strong and not give up,” Khilji made clear.

The campaign got heated in the last few weeks after accusations of slander were thrown between Khilji and opponent Carlos Calzadilla-Palacio over social media.

“I think it was unfortunate,” said Calzadilla-Palacio about Khilji being left off the ballot, continuing to say he respected Khilji for going forward with the write-in campaign and not giving up. As for Calzadilla-Palacio’s campaign, he feels optimistic. “I think that we have a lot of support on campus,” he said, citing his campaign’s endorsements from several student organizations. “We’ve stayed on message and campaigned continuously,” he said.

Maintaining her place on the ballot is current CLAS speaker Alyssa Taylor and her VP candidate Ethan Milich. “Thank you for all your support, and we cannot wait to continue serving you in the coming months!” said Taylor on a Facebook post. “There is so much support we have received and we are very confident in this current election.” said their campaign.

“I am very optimistic about the results of this election,” said Milich. Milich is also one of the four candidates for USS delegates, along with SGS President Fay Yanofsky, YPA President Corrinne Greene, and Norman Wagstaffe.

On the ballot along with the presidential candidates are the candidates for USG Assembly, where students selected up to 29 candidates. This is a larger number than the number of candidates in the running, as it was last year.

With the volatile background of today’s national political climate, this semester’s presidential race stands as an important election for BC students. With a diverse political climate, the crumbled state of our campus infrastructure, and underpaid adjuncts we have a lot to think about. Only 415 out of 15,000 undergraduate students voted in last years election, and all the candidates hope students come out for them this year.

You can still vote on BC webcentral until the elections close on Thursday, May 2 at 2:30 p.m.  And yes, your vote matters.

This article was originally published on 5/1/19 in Spring 2019 Issue 11.


Two Students Jumped Outside Ovi’s

By Moises Taveras, Staff Writer

On Monday, Apr. 29, two students were taken to the hospital after a scuffle just off campus.

When the two students were walking past Ovi’s Express, the restaurant just next to the local Starbucks, they were stopped by a group of young men who tried to sell them candy for charity. The students were not interested in buying candy, but the men persisted. After an escalating argument, the two were overwhelmed and jumped by the group.

One of the students was left bloody in the face from the fight. The other was left shaken by the experience but managed to escape the encounter without bruises or serious injuries.

This article was originally published on 5/1/19 in Spring 2019 Issue 11.


Students Salute Summer of ‘69, Remember Open Admissions Strike

By Quiara Vasquez, Editor-In-Chief

Students gathered on the West Quad on Thursday, Apr. 18 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a successful student push to integrate CUNY in 1969.

About twenty people attended the event, which was co-sponsored by the Brooklyn College Student Union and the BC Socialists. Fliers for the celebration displayed photos of the past year of campus activism (October’s #FireProfessorLangbert protests, April’s pro-Palestinian demonstrations, signs for the 7K or Strike movement) alongside historical documents; implicitly drawing a connection between current student activism and CUNY’s turbulent summer of ‘69.

The student protests began on April 22, 1969, when approximately 200 Black and Puerto Rican students padlocked the gates of City College, renaming the campus “Harlem University.” Radicalized by opposition to the ongoing Vietnam War, the student protesters demanded CUNY create ethnic studies departments and admit more students of color. (In 1969, only 9% of CCNY students were Black or Puerto Rican, even though the surrounding Harlem neighborhood was 98% Black or Puerto Rican.) After two weeks, city politicians ordered the police to break up the protesters, and violence ensued.

While the protests at City College were the most dramatic, Brooklyn College students also got in on the action; student activists banded together to form the “Concerned Students’ Coalition,” which made a list of 18 demands with similar aims as the CCNY protestors’.

Before the protest, CUNY had planned to implement an “open admissions” policy by 1975, in which all applicants would be admitted regardless of their grades, SAT scores, etc. Student activism forced CUNY to put open admissions on the front-burner; the policy became official in 1970. But the imposition of tuition at CUNY following New York’s 70s fiscal crisis put a damper on that newfound accessibility, as low-income New Yorkers unable to afford a college education were barred from reaping the rewards of open admissions. By the turn of the millennium, cuts to remedial classes and pressure from then-Mayor and future-Trump “TV lawyer” Rudolph Giuliani effectively ended open admission.

The dozen-plus students there that April afternoon declared their commitment to upholding the protesters’ legacy by advocating for causes like free public college and racial equity – and broader leftist causes, like Palestinian liberation and Puerto Rican independence. After all, as they put it: “Brooklyn College belongs to us.”

An exhibit on the open admissions protests will be up in the History Department lounge in Boylan 1115 through the end of the semester; the college library is planning its own exhibit on the protests in the fall.

This article was originally published on 5/1/19 in Spring 2019 Issue 11.


Smits and Burke to Give 2019 Commencement

By Allison Rapp, Digital Editor

Spring is in the air, and Brooklyn College seniors are gearing up to take on the next chapters of their lives. On Thursday, May 30, those seniors will head to the Barclays Center to officially become Brooklyn College alumni, and will also hear some advice from this year’s commencement speakers: Jimmy Smits, a Brooklyn College graduate himself and successful actor, and Tarana Burke, a Bronx native who founded one of the biggest social movements in American history.

Jimmy Smits was born and raised in Brooklyn to parents of Puerto Rican and Surinamese descent. After attending Thomas Jefferson High School, he received a bachelor’s degree in Theater from Brooklyn College in 1980, and an MFA from Cornell University in 1982. From there, his acting career took off. He appeared in the series premiere of Miami Vice in 1984, and began what would become five seasons of work on the TV show L.A. Law in 1986, for which he was nominated for six Emmys.

Perhaps his best known work came in the mid-90s, when Smits played the role of Detective Bobby Simone in NYPD Blue from 1994 to 1998. He also appeared as Senator Bail Organa in the Star Wars prequels during the 2000s. Later, he took on a role in The West Wing, in which his character Matt Santos ran for, and won the U.S. presidency. For his work on season three of Dexter, he was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. In addition to more Emmy nominations for his work in NYPD Blue, Smits also won the HOLA Award for Excellence from the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors in 1999.

When he wasn’t on-screen, Smits helped to found the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, to further support Latino presence in the media and entertainment fields. He currently resides in Los Angeles.

Tarana Burke attended Auburn University in Alabama. A three-time survivor of sexual assault herself, Burke began a non-profit called “Just Be” in 2003 in Selma, designed for young black girls aged 12-18. Shortly thereafter, in 2006, Burke began using the phrase “Me Too” to build awareness of the sexual abuse and harassment faced by women and young girls in every industry and every walk of life. It wasn’t until 2017 that #MeToo became widely circulated in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, but her message prevailed. In that time, Burke worked at Art Sanctuary Philadelphia, and was a consultant for the 2014 movie Selma. In 2017, Time magazine included her amongst the group of women who were recognized as Person of the Year, appropriately dubbed “the silence breakers.” She currently serves as the Senior Director of Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn, a program for young women of color.

This article was originally published on 5/1/19 in Spring 2019 Issue 11.


The Dream Deferred

Omar Helalat was twelve credits away from graduating with honors from SUNY Albany. Then ICE barged in.

By Noah Daly, Business Manager

From SUNY Honors to Federal Prison

In 2019, the political climate has forced much of America’s working class to underrepresent itself in fear of prosecution and targeted deportation. This country of immigrants is on the verge of losing yet another bright young man, Omar Helalat, a longtime resident of Rockland County, NY and SUNY Honors student, who is less than a month away from being deported to a country he hardly knows.

Omar’s trouble began on March 21, 2018, when an ex-girlfriend (who shall remain anonymous for security reasons) reported to police that he had physically harmed her in a confrontation on the University at Albany’s campus.

“I still can’t believe how quickly everything happened,” recalls Ryan Gilroy, one of Omar’s two roommates at school. “One minute we’re sitting there, asking Omar why he looked like he’d just been mugged, and the next six police officers come in and take him and barely say anything at all.” The couple had a tumultuous history according to Gilroy, who recalls them “fighting constantly.”

Omar’s girlfriend was reached numerous times to voice her side of the story and repeatedly refused to comment on the proceedings.

The honorable George R. Larimer of New York’s 20th District oversaw the initial hearing. He found that there was not substantial evidence to sentence Helalat, and set a $1,500 bond for his release, and set a second court appearance for the following month.

When his father Abdel Helalat, who brought his family to the U.S. in the summer of 2001, heard what had happened, he drove to Albany from Rockland County (a two hour trip) in the middle of the night to secure his son’s release. Abdel went to the Albany jail to bring him home. He paid $1,500 bail and waited for him in the courthouse. Omar had spent the night in jail, and his father was anxious, knowing that his son would be in a poor state of mind after even eight hours behind bars.

“My son is a caring boy,” Helalat said. “He is not made for hard things like jail. After this trouble I just wanted to embrace him again.”

The bailiff had said that after one hour of processing, Helalat’s son would be free to go, but then another thirty minutes went by, and then another. In the end, the court date would be the last time Abdel Helalat got to stand with his son.

As Omar was being processed, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement intervened, citing Omar’s expired B2 Visa, and took him away to a holding cell in the Albany County Jail. From that moment on, Omar has been in the hands of the federal government.

During the proceeds of the second hearing, the plaintiff retracted all allegations, dropping all charges. After the initial civil case filing, Omar’s personal information was automatically drawn by Albany Police, where it was found that he was not a fully naturalized citizen, but a so-called “Dreamer.” The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) memorandum was implemented by the Obama administration in 2012. DACA is an arm of American immigration policy that allows some individuals with unlawful presence in the United States who were brought to the country as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit. If both parents of an immigrant have obtained their Green Card, the child (under 18) can apply for an expedited Card.

In Omar’s case, his parents only obtained both of their cards after his eighteenth birthday. Omar and his eldest sister Marah were protected under DACA, until Marah received her green card in 2016. Omar, then already over eighteen, did not. This forced Omar to wait the full five to six years required for an adult to receive their card, under the hopes that his DACA protections would hold out. His youngest sisters, Aiyah and Hiba, were born in the U.S. and are both full citizens.

So why not immediately pursue getting his son’s citizenship completed? If Omar’s family are citizens why wouldn’t they pursue the same action for their eldest child?

When Omar arrived in this country, his family was painfully aware of the mistrust the public had towards people of Middle Eastern descent.

“I cannot describe the fear we felt,” Abdel saied, recalling the days after the terror attacks on September 11th, 2001. “As new immigrants, with two small children, we didn’t know if we still had a future in this country, and we did not want our young son’s life to be covered in such hatred.”

Out of fear that the national suspicion of Muslims would further set back his family’s life in America, Abdel waited several years to begin his own application, further postponing the beginning of Omar’s Green Card process.

After September 11th, 2001, the number of immigrants coming to the United States from the Middle East more than tripled. Matthew Borowski, an immigration Lawyer representing Omar, put it in no uncertain terms: “[Migrants] saw that the attacks had really shocked the people in United States as well as the government, and the door was closing. They thought, ‘it’s now or never.’”

Unfortunately for the Helalat family and the tens of thousands of families currently facing the tumult of becoming naturalized citizens, the United States Congress and the Trump Administration let the renewal clock on DACA run out on March 5th, 2018, less than twenty days before Omar was taken.

Open freedom is not a native concept in the Middle East. To supplant a young man who is by all measures, culturally if not ethnically American, is to ostracize that person.

Omar’s family is part of Rockland County’s Sunni Muslim community. After attending Sunday school, “I pray much more here than I ever did at home,” says Omar. “I didn’t always feel I had reason to pray six times a day when I was at school. Now I pray and read from the Quran, the Bible, and from Buddhist texts often.”

Concrete, Barbed Wire, Blue Sky

Omar was sent to Batavia Federal Detention Center on March 23, 2018.

Batavia Federal Detention Center has been a repository for immigrants taken by Immigration and Customs Enforcement since Trump took Office. Prior to that, it was home to some of the most notorious criminals in New York’s history.The prison, which touts a reputation of zero escapes and zero inmate deaths, housed al-Qaeda operatives and other priority international targets alongside non-violent illegal migrants since it first opened in 1998. For a SUNY Honors student, the transition to life there has been bleak.

“They wake us up at 7 a.m. for the meal cart,” Omar says. “It’s a stale bagel, a danish or a muffin, some cereal, and two pints of milk. After that I usually go back to sleep. We’re still in lockup so there’s nothing to do.

“At 9:00 a.m. to 11:10 they open the courtyard. We have some space to exercise, and there is a basketball hoop, but the main reason everyone goes outside is the air: We’re very cramped in there, and the ventilation isn’t great, so you’re constantly smelling everyone around you. Just breathing fresh air is enough to get me out of bed in the morning.

“From the courtyard, all you can see is the concrete walls, barbed wire, and the sky. I haven’t seen trees or grass since they took me in.”

At 11:10, it’s count time. No talking is permitted as the entire cell block is individually lined up and confirmed to be who has been assigned to that cell – as if they could go anywhere else.

“We have to stand in our bunks for an hour while they count us. Usually, I read a book. Once the count is cleared, I can leave my bunk to go to the showers.”

At 12:10 the meal cart comes around with the midday meal trays. The carb-dense lunch trays at Batavia make hospital food seem like a three Michelin star affair: plain rice, mashed potatoes, and bread are the staples. Not even salt makes it into these. Occasionally, unseasoned meatballs or dry chicken breast make it onto a plate. Omar eats the halal tray because “it’s the best of the worst.”

Around 12:30-12:40 people finish eating and start getting ready to work. As is the case in most prisons in the United States, inmates are allowed to take on menial labor as part of their day-to-day activities in exchange for a meager wage. Omar sweeps and takes out the trash for a dollar a day.

“I wouldn’t know what to do with myself otherwise,” he said.

When the floors and tables are clean around 1 p.m., Omar makes a cup of coffee and avoids the TV. He’s too busy pacing and thinking.

Fifty-six people are housed in the cell block. Spaces are exceedingly small.

More than half are awake, but Omar, having never even been in a police car prior to this ordeal, does what he can to go back to sleep so the hours pass more quickly. He describes the interior of the cell block in decidedly harsh terms.

“Inside the prison, people are so close that you can’t help but smell everyone. It stinks in here. It’s about 55 degrees inside the facility, so people are wearing their jackets most of the time. Now that the weather is getting warmer, it’s usually warmer outside.”

There’s a radio with headphones you can listen to since the TV is so loud. Every day it plays a rough cut of CNN, Fox, and daytime shows like Oprah.

At 2:00 p.m., the guards open up the courtyard. There’s a basketball hoop and a ball, but the space is otherwise barren. “I haven’t seen grass or trees since they put me in here. Just more concrete, barbed wire, and sometimes a blue sky. The only reason I go outside is to breathe fresh air.”

Between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m., inmates get to use the phones. Omar uses this time to contact his family.

“Pretty much every day I talk to my Dad. Most of the time we talk about the case. I ask him ‘will they deny me?’ The answer is always the same. ‘I don’t know. Nobody knows.’

“I think a lot about my sisters; Hiba is in Felix Festa Middle School, and Ayah [Omar’s middle sister] is preparing for her SAT and will be heading to college soon. Marah is studying at UAlbany.”

When I ask what his oldest sister studies, I hear a small laugh escape Omar for the first time in our correspondence: “She majors in Political Science with a focus in Homeland Security.”

Around 4 p.m., count time begins again, keeping inmates standing at attention for the next hour while the second headcount of the day is completed. A corrections officer hefts a large binder with the names, identification numbers, and photos of each to make sure that everyone is who they are. Another guard trails him and physically counts everyone. Afterwards, the second officer publicly reports to the first.

Most days, Omar reads a newspaper or a tablet (though he doesn’t like the tablets).

“I will read a book sometimes. There’s a few non-fiction titles and Alex Cross detective novels. Lately I’m reading from the Gospels of John, The Bible, New and Old Testament, Qu’ran.”

Omar and his family are Sunni Muslim. Every Sunday for more than twelve years, he attended the Jerrahi Order of America, a small, ivy-covered mosque in Chestnut Ridge. All that time, he was taught  by Imam Khalik El Nakib. El Nakib, who originally hails from Cairo, Egypt, met with me and Omar’s father on a warm afternoon during what would have been Omar’s spring break. Though Omar professes that he is “not as strict “as I should be”, his time inside has only brought him closer to his faith. “I try to learn more about my religion while I’m here.”

“Everyone in here is flesh and bone. They are good, average people. I’m in here, and all I want is the opportunity to be of value to this country, this state, and my community. I just want to be somebody who  can bring something to this country. This is my home, this is where I grew up. Getting deported is something I never expected.

“I love my state and my community. I just want the chance to prove it.”

One Community, One Family, Two Nations

Now, after more than a year behind bars, Omar has very few legal options remaining.

“At this point, a habeas corpus appeal is his best hope, since he was imprisoned without any standing charges,” Borowski says. “We have already filed one appeal unsuccessfully, and if this second appeal does not go through, Omar will be deported on May 18th.”

Even after living in the United States for seventeen years, more than two-thirds of his life, there is nothing more than public appeal that can impact these proceedings. As is the case with so many immigrants in similar situations, Omar’s fate rests on the support of his community. If family, friends, and concerned citizens can stoke a fire that catches the eyes of news media, there is a significant chance that a habeas corpus appeal will succeed. In cases such as this, the laws of the land are inflated and deflated by the voice of the people.

At present, some 4,200 people have joined a Change.org petition asking Governor Cuomo to sign an appeal of clemency on Omar’s behalf so he can return to the University at Albany, where he’s a mere twelve credits from graduating with a degree in business management and Latin honors. Several UAlbany students have already begun work on a documentary, and several organizations on Brooklyn College’s campus, including the Marketing Society and the local chapter of the Young Progressives of America, have already pledged their time and resources in spreading awareness.

In regards to the alleged incident that initially brought on this ordeal, Omar said only that “she was my ex-girlfriend.”

“It wasn’t working out between the two of us. It got toxic. We argued continuously. My criminal charges were dismissed. I would never hurt anyone.”

Though the trials of adolescent relationships bear learning valuable lessons, there is no justice in this. No charges were ever formally brought against Omar. He has no criminal record. The only thing that now separates Omar from his friends in Rockland are a few slips of paper and the color of his skin.

When we grow up next to someone, it can feel nostalgic just by looking at them. In Rockland, the communities of New City, Nyack, West Nyack and Congers knows each other intimately. People walk into a store or restaurant and often have to spend few minutes greeting their neighbors as they get settled.

Every time I stepped into school, I could expect to see Omar. He would be just three stops after me as we’d get picked up by the morning bus, and for several years we had overlapping classes in middle school and high school. The nearby Palisades Mall was Mecca for the under stimulated pre-teens of the county, and like the wandering tribes in school hallways, small packs of kids would loudly greet each-other from across the food court on Friday and Saturday nights. Omar was among the regulars on Friday and Saturday nights. Though we never operated in the same circles, there was always a mutual respect. Always a ‘Hey Noah’ and a cheesy grin, even from across the massive room.

No matter how far we travel, those familiar faces can appear years down the line. When we see them, it’s nostalgic: we draw upon the memories of that same period of our lives. That thing called high school was, for me at least, tumultuous and weird and ultimately very toxic. But there were people like Omar, always with a smile on their face and warmth in their presence.

On Christmas Day, 2018, I was halfway around the world when I found out Omar was in prison. Immediately all these thoughts and memories came back to me.

The reality of living in a community like Rockland is that you grow up heavily insulated to the harsh realities of the rest of the world. Omar’s parents and millions like them came to the United States for this reason in the wake of social, political, or environmental crises. Now, to eject him from the cultural landscape that nurtured him because of a hiccup in the progression of formal paperwork is unthinkable, almost laughable.

This not to criticize the checks and due process of naturalizing immigrants, but in protest to the idea that someone like Omar is in any way un-American. He has as much claim to the American way of life as I do, and to see it stripped from him so lightly, on such precarious legal technicalities, is a crushing blow to the camaraderie of this community and this nation.

“The only opportunity I see for myself is in this country,” Omar said. “I’m only here to be of value. I’m only here to help. I care deeply about being an American. I’m not out to hurt anyone or break anything. I just want a chance.”

It is erroneous to believe that anyone among us is beyond reproach, but to strip someone of their home, their dignity, and their way of life for the same issue that could’ve easily appeared in our own lives is criminal. After spending seven years protected by DACA, working tirelessly in his pursuit of a better life, Omar faces oblivion. Not because he is a threat to society, but because of the wonton edicts of a Xenophobic president have brought him to this moment. If liberty is to continue to exist in this country, the commons must rally for themselves. If we as Americans can claim that this nation of immigrants is still the land of opportunity, then we must give bright, hardworking, young people like Omar that same chance at the American dream.

This article was originally published on 5/1/19 in Spring 2019 Issue 11.


Review: A More Beautiful and Terrible History

The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History

By Isley Jean-Pierre, Staff Writer

Brooklyn College professor Jeanne Theoharis’s book “A More Beautiful And Terrible History” sheds light onto some aspects of the civil rights movement that are often neglected when recalling American history. Often downplayed and minimized, the sides of the story that are forgotten deny American people of all ethnicities a full grasp of a story of struggle and chaos in the fight for social and economic justice. Theoharis brings forth a side of American history that most people want to forget, for this history shamefully shows how perverse and indifferent our nation was, and still is.

One of the highlights of the book is in how it challenges the myth that racism was a Southern phenomenon in the United States. Establishing how the media coverage went all out to criticize segregation in the South but “turn a blind eye” to segregation happening in the North, Theoharis shows the hypocrisy of some media outlets and people who came to believe that the Civil Rights Movement was just in the South.

The second highlight is how, contrary to popular beliefs, that the movements did not just happen out of a vacuum, but were the results of decades of fighting and their voices being ignored and dealing with promises made in the wind. The history that we get minimizes the enormous deeds that activists had done over decades of barely noticeable change. Too often, we fail to mention the intimidation they faced from the government and police officials to keep them in check and maintain the status quo, even at the expense and the suffering of other human beings.

Following some school desegregation in the north, Black children searching for a better education were attacked, often with physical violence, by white parents, under the pretext that Black and Latino students were “problem students.” The history that we get does not hold these white parents accountable.

Theoharis also shows how women of color were important for the movement, yet they barely received any respectable recognition. Following Rosa Parks’s stand and during the Montgomery bus boycotts, they gathered funds to help maintain the various cars used to transport Black people to and from work. As a result of school segregation, they called on local schools to provide better education and environment for their children. They were more than just wives, but despite their prominent roles in the civil rights movement, they were often portrayed as secondary characters to their male counterparts in the fight against racial and social injustice.

The history that we get takes great pleasure in blaming Black and other minority groups for their living conditions, but fail to explain why those conditions emerged and exist in the first place. There is so much humiliation that one can take, and the heroes and heroines who endured those pains to bring change, not only to their communities, but to the world in general, cannot be crystallized in the past, when the very same inequalities they were fighting for are still present to this day.

This is a book that is not afraid to present the truth, and the truth is quite ugly. The parallels to what is happening in this country today in regard to racial and social equality totally question how much this country has really changed. “A More Beautiful And Terrible History” should make you feel uncomfortable, angry, and saddened – but also proud, and grateful for those who put their lives on the line for the greater good, cementing the power of the people in the face of injustice.

This article was originally published on 5/1/19 in Spring 2019 Issue 11.


THEATER REVIEW: “The Lesser Magoo” Sure Is Lesser, Alright.

By Quiara Vasquez, Editor-In-Chief

Mac Wellman’s “The Lesser Magoo” is a play you can really sink your teeth into, provided you are a critic who treats avantgarde theater with the same rancor a mastiff treats sirloin.

[This synopsis deliberately left blank.]

“The Lesser Magoo” employs/squanders the talents of Danielle Kogan, Kevin Herrera, Carol Mazhuvancheril, Liz Tancredi-Gillam, Vanessa Chia-Chung, Oogonia Bandersnatch-Fnord, Aglet Terahertz y Merguez, Ian Parker, and many more. Just kidding – Oogonia Bandersnatch-Fnord and Aglet Terahertz y Merguez are strings of incomprehensibly loquacious non-sequiturs unsuccessfully masquerading as people. So no, they are not real actors – but they could be characters in “The Lesser Magoo,” because playwright Mac Wellman is not quite interested in writing “characters” as we conceive of them. Wellman, I must ruefully report, is one of those “unusualists” (to cop one of the many terms “The Lesser Magoo” fabricates) hostile towards conventional, Aristotlean, bourgeois, etc. expectations of what theater (/θi’.eɪ.tə(ɹ)) is supposed to be, by which I mean hostile to the audience’s expectation that theater is supposed to comprehensible.

Now, I’m no fan of tidy plotting in fiction, but I generally prefer to understand what the actors are saying at any given moment – or more broadly, what the play I’m watching is about. The Internet helpfully informs me that “The Lesser Magoo” is the fourth entry in Wellman’s askew adaptation of the Biblical tale of Susannah, the virtuous woman bedeviled by scheming old men who want her for her body. If “The Lesser Magoo” is a representative sample, I’d say Wellman’s oeuvre is likely more reminiscent of the Biblical tale of Onan, the one about the guy who rebels against expectations by masturbating.

Now, as anyone who’s watched a good foreign film can tell you, it’s possible to enjoy a story that you don’t really understand. Especially when you have a good cast, as “The Lesser Magoo” does. It also helps when you have a good director like Meghan Finn, who treats this word-vomit in much the same way smart directors treat the similarly unintelligible (to the 21st century theatergoer, anyway) words of Shakespeare: have the actors compensate by acting as broadly and with as much vocal timber as they can muster. When you also consider Yang Yu’s playfully Brechtian lighting design (where the spotlights are engaged in a cat-and-mouse chase with the actors and audience alike) and Michael Cassedy’s jaunty original score, “The Lesser Magoo” is merely confusing. Hell, when I put it this way, it almost sounds like the play is good. I probably should have led with that – but what am I, some sort of structure-obsessed Aristotlean cuck? I don’t think so.

Probably the most fascinating thing about this production (as opposed to the most perplexing thing, e.g., everything about it) is that as currently directed, “The Lesser Magoo” reads more like a scathing parody of the avant-garde theater world that spawned it. About half of the play takes place at a houseparty for the insipid rich, who are head-over-heels in love with a foppish dandy named Gabriel Pleasure (Geovonday Jones, who has added a dash of artificial sweetener to his natural sugary charms). Pleasure is held up as a prolific genius who’s produced dozens of daring and convention-breaking works (e.g., an epistolary novel written only in high school French), none of which our protagonists have ever read. He spits out vacuous zingers to a crowd of jargon-spouting wine-sippers who chortle at his genius (citation needed). Sounds like the downtown art world to me (she said, cynically).

Maybe I’m being too hard on Wellman. After all, most of the great playwrights to come out of Brooklyn College honed their craft under his tutelage. This past year of Theater Department productions has been a testament to the network of young talent he’s helped to develop – Sarah DeLappe, Young Jean Lee, Annie Baker, et cetera. As a distinguished professor, Wellman has been nothing but good for Brooklyn College, and the theater world is greater because of it. As a playwright… well, let’s not be mean(er than I have been) and say that ending a strong season of plays with “The Lesser Magoo” was a mistake.

This article was originally published on 5/1/19 in Spring 2019 Issue 11.


Opinion: “Gemini Man” Shoots on Campus

By Ryan Schwach, Managing Editor

While BC students were off at home and on vacations trying to forget how strange the placement of the break was, the campus was busy hosting the production of the upcoming feature film Gemini Man starring Will Smith and directed by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon filmmaker Ang Lee.

The large set which took over the entirety of East Quad included a few hundred student extras all doing what Hollywood has insisted students do on their quads, including the fabled image of two students playing frisbee, which you are apparently not actually allowed to do here at Brooklyn College. The shot I witnessed was a tracking shot of Smith, Winstead, and an actor playing a younger Smith walking down the path in front of Boylan Hall. Productions have shot at BC before, last year the FX series The Americans shot on campus under the guise that it was George Mason University in Virginia, but for Gemini Man it is very clearly Ingersoll Hall and East Quad the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Ramona Flowers are walking through.

The film, which is coming out this October, stars the Men in Black star as an elite assassin who faces off against a younger version of himself, cloned by the organization he works for. Smith stars alongside Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, and Benedict Wong. I have to say the trailer looks reasonably run-of-the-mill action thriller, no real story or anything special. Although, director Ang Lee does have two Best Director Oscars under his belt for Life of Pi and Brokeback Mountain, as well as an award for Best Foreign Film for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. So that being said, maybe Lee has something up his sleeve for Gemini Man.

As a BC film student it is always cool to see a big budget production shooting on the campus we use as our backdrop for our own film projects. For me it almost seems like a solidarity for filmmakers that we are shooting on the same ground, and maybe a concealed feeling of superiority that we know all the good angles on campus, and they maybe Lee could take a few suggestions from us.

The one strange thing to me is why BC students didn’t really know about the shoot. When I was on campus during the shoot, they had several coach busses available to bus in the decent sized flock of college age looking people to play the students of whatever campus this is supposed to be. One would imagine shooting at a college during its spring break would provide a campus worth of extras who already live nearby and would be content as long as they get a shot of Will Smith hanging out on the Bedford steps. Maybe I am alone in this? Maybe no one would want that? I know I might have been interested.

As a film student it might have been nice if the production worked something out with the film department, have someone from the crew talk to some students about the business, let us watch from a window for all I care. Obviously the department could pay a speaking fee, but it doesn’t seem like an astronomically audacious request. Honestly if anything it might drum up some word of mouth for the film, a few thousand BC students willing to go see a film that they can claim some sort of connection to.

Regardless, I am going to see Gemini Man at some point. I am a fan of Smith and Ang Lee, and at least I’d like to see the shots of BC, granted they don’t wind up on the cutting room floor.

This article was originally published on 5/1/19 in Spring 2019 Issue 11.


Men’s Tennis Advance to Semifinals

By Maruful Hossain, Sports Editor

For the second straight year, the number 3 seed Brooklyn College Bulldogs men’s tennis team makes it to the CUNYAC semi finals in Men’s Tennis after defeating Lehman College. The Bulldogs shut out Lehman 6-0. The Bulldogs improve to 7-8 overall after this postseason victory.

The Bulldogs swept through doubles play, only dropping one game in three matches. No. 1 doubles pair, Justin Vasquez and Andor Kasuba, started Brooklyn off with an 8-0 shut-out. Jonathan Lum and Samuel Meyerovich also had an 8-0 shut-out, and Rohan Mathur and Remi Lawrence closed out the doubles play with an 8-1 win.

Justin Vasquez gave the Bulldogs its first singles win with a 6-0 shutout  over Chris Mulholland and Rohan Mathur also scored a shutout over Miguel Haboosh. Christian Pena defeated Michael Herrera 6-1, ending the season undefeated at the Brooklyn College tennis courts.

The Bulldogs will now face the number 2 seed, the College of Staten Island Dolphins, this Thursday, May 2 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, with hopes of advancing to the championship.

This article was originally published on 5/1/19 in Spring 2019 Issue 11.


 

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