“Red Box” Finds Hope in the Holocaust

Contributed Photo

The two-act play “The Red Box” masterfully explores a love story that takes place in a time when the existence of any love or any faith seemed inconceivable: during the Holocaust.

Yesterday night, The Wien Experimental Theater hosted a stage reading of “The Red Box,” a play written in 2006 by Jason Mitchell.

The play opens with the main character Victor as a recluse old man (Lawrence Merritt), who refuses the efforts of an eager woman who wants to interview him about his life during the Holocaust.

Eventually and reluctantly, he lets the woman in, and the story of his life begins. He narrates while Jonathan Monk acts out the past as the young Victor.

Victor is a naive, optimistic boy from a upper class Jewish family. In order to escape his mother’s smothering embrace, he finds a job at a local cafe where he meets charismatic and carefree Martin (Joel T. Bauer).

Amidst the rise of the Nazi regime, the audience is allowed a glimpse of the blossoming but forbidden relationship between Victor and Martin. Victor tells Martin that they should escape to a red house in Berlin, but Victor seems oblivious to what they are escaping from.

The audience knew from the beginning that this love would come to an end. The voices of the actors become more insistent. The innocence and optimism that defined young Victor gradually disappears.

In their last conversation, which occurs after Victor leaves his family because they forbid him to see Martin, Martin rejects Victor’s plan to run away, but his reluctance in doing so is apparent.

Martin’s parting line to Victor is: “Do whatever you can to survive.”

This line would echo later on when Victor finds himself in a concentration camp as a prisoner punished for his sexual orientation. Mitchell, using research from gay survivors Holocaust, recreates scenes where Victor is targeted for being an outcast.

As Victor puts it himself, he can’t be accepted by the Jewish prisoners because he is gay, but he can’t be accepted by the gays either because he is Jewish.

During this time, his faith is challenged and his love for Martin, though strong in the beginning, fades. The concentration camp forces Victor to abandon his younger years, turning him into a hardened young man.

The play is performed on split stages, and the scenes switch between the present and the past. Merritt tells Victor’s story while Monk acts it out.

Even as the play focused on the Holocaust, Mitchell manages to write in humor, a feat that is not easy given the subject matter. However, Mitchell seems to do this to further highlight the life and personality of victims in the Holocaust. And it works.

The actors and actresses used their voices to emphasize the movement within the play. In the most appropriate places, silence said more than words needed to tell.

While the actors read their lines, a slideshow played in the background, revealing photos from previous productions of “The Red Box” and also images from the Holocaust. These additions compensated for the lack of costumes and grand makeup in stage readings.

“The Red Box” premiered in 2006 and has been circulating across the country. The staged reading was sponsored by the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies.

Most impressive about this play is the sentimentality that pervades the storyline and the emotions that actors invoke from the audience, who are on their edges, rooting for Victor to survive.

Article originally published in The Mirror on March 28, 2012

Fan Composes Unofficial Music Soundtrack


Sam Cushion, composer.
Contributed by Sam Cushion.

Sam Cushion is not John Williams. He’s not responsible for composing a music soundtrack for any big budget movie. He hasn’t won any awards. However, his name is known all over “The Hunger Games”  fan sites because he created an unofficial fan-made soundtrack for the popular books series.

After reading the first book in 2009, Cushion wrote “Rue’s Lullaby” under the name of District Tribute. The song is dedicated to one of the tributes who competes in the Hunger Games. When he finished writing this piece, which now utilizes a full orchestra, he didn’t intend to do more.

However, throughout 2010, he wrote 26 more songs for a Hunger Games-inspired album called “The Hunger Games (Unofficial Score).” Now, Cushion said as his long-term goal, he wants to “keep being able to make music for awesome books and people as long as I can.”

Cushion unveiled his second album “Catching Fire (Unofficial Score),” based off the second book of the series, in May 2011. However, Lions Gate Entertainment, the studio that released “The Hunger Games” movie, asked him to change the names of his title in 2011, which led to the birth of “Music of Panem.”

Recently, he released a deluxe edition album on iTunes, which combined all three of his original albums.

Cushion finds inspiration in composers E.S. Posthumous, Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, and some of Cushion’s songs are reminiscent of their styles. Also, as he composes his pieces, he takes away parts from punk bands like blink-182 and Sum 41.

To get word out about his albums, Cushion visited fan sites of the book series and spread word by mouth.

One commenter said about his first “Music of Panem” album: “I love this soundtrack! It’s absolutely wonderful! [E]specially Rue’s Lullaby! Will they be using anything in the movie?”

Cushion replied, “Thank you! It will not be in the movie. I am just a fan who makes music about books I like.”

To write music inspired by books, he jots down specific scenes or characters that stand out to him while he reads. Cushion said, “I wish it was this big elaborate process, but it is just a matter of figuring out how to tell a story without words.”

When asked whether or not he intends to break into the music industry for films, Cushion said, “As far as the movie side of the industry, it just scares me.” He calls some of the people in the industry “cut throat.”

Overall, the movie pleased Cushion. He said: “I think it was done brilliantly! Everything from the camera work to the music was executed perfectly for me. There are of course things left out that were in the book, but there were also some new elements and scenes added that helped tell the story in a way that the book couldn’t do. I wasn’t disappointed at all.”

One of his current projects deals with “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” Ransom Riggs, the author of the picture book series, had reached out to Cushion and complimented his music soundtrack for the books.

After releasing his “Hunger Games” albums, Cushion is now writing a soundtrack to Cassandra Clare’s young adult book “City of Bones.”

In a project not related to books, Cushion has also created “Life is Beautiful,” which seeks to remind people about how easy, but how wrong, it is to “forget the simple and beautiful things in life.”

Check out some of his music below and also follow his twitter (@sam_cushion):

Music of Panem: Beginning of a Rebellion Part 1
From unofficialtribute, Sam Cushion’s YouTube channel

Rue’s Lulluby
From unofficialtribute, Sam Cushion’s YouTube channel

Article published in The Mirror on March 28, 2012

From Print to Screen: Hollywood Turns to Books for Movie Inspiration

Friday’s release of “The Hunger Games” is so close that fans can practically taste Peeta’s Cinnamon Bakery bread and apple-smoked grosling.

“The Hunger Games” follows Katniss Evergreen as she and her loved ones struggle to survive under the tyrannical power of the Capitol, an advanced and rich city that has 12 districts under its power. Gone is the America that we know now.

Each year the Capitol holds an event called the Hunger Games where a boy and a girl from each district run is entered into a raffle. If picked, the contestants compete against each other, and only one can emerge as the victor and will reap the benefits of more food for their family. In certain districts food is a commodity for their residents.

Katniss volunteers herself as a tribute when her little sister is picked, and the first book covers her battle to survive in the 74th annual Hunger Games.

The craze surrounding the March 23 release of the movie has been compared to those around the “Harry Potter” series and the “Twilight” movies.

Naturally, one thing that these three movies have in common is that they are all based on books. Books have become the rough drafts of movie screenplays, and authors are evolving to become more like screenwriters.

Movie adaptations of books have been happening for years. Many movie directors have been lauded for being faithful to the books and their movies have achieved great success in the box office and the critics’ book.

“Apocalypse Now,” written by postmodernist writer Joseph Conrad, follows a Vietnam War veteran who goes into Cambodia on an assassination scheme. The movie, starring Martin Sheen and directed by one of the famous screenwriters behind the cult classic “The Godfather” Francis Ford Coppola, impressed the audience and Hollywood. Veteran film critic Roger Ebert said in a review: “’Apocalypse Now’ achieves greatness not by analyzing our ‘experience in Vietnam’, but by re-creating, in characters and images, something of that experience.”

However, there is a double-edged sword to a book-based movie’s success; it can also plummet at the box office.

“Green Lantern,” a film inspired by the “All-American Comics” character, received unfavorable reviews. Critics didn’t think the movie, which was about a man who comes to possess a ring that acts both as a weapon and a shield, was directed well. Even Ryan Reynolds, the title character, couldn’t save the film.

Despite these two outcomes, one thing is sure: book followings usually make for a wider range of audience. More viewers equate to more revenue.

In the list below, you’ll find other books that have been or will be adapted into movies.

As for “The Hunger Games,” adapted from Suzanne Collins’ book, may all the odds be ever in the movie’s favor.

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

Release Date: June 22, 2012

Notable actors: Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper

When you think of Abraham Lincoln, naturally you’ll associate his name with vampires. Well, maybe not now – but when this movie comes out in June, you will! The 16th President of the United States finds out that vampires are invading his grounds, but he will have none of it. Vampires, meet Lincoln the slayer, a creation by Seth Grahame-Smith from his novel.


“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

Release Date: September 12, 2012

Notable actors: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller

Because the movie is also directed by the book’s author Stephen Chbosky, there probably won’t be a problem with staying true to the original plotline. “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” star Logan Lerman plays a shy and book-loving high school freshman who eventually strikes up an friendship with two seniors Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). It’s a coming-of-age novel that explores drugs, sex, and other eccentric parts of life.

Contributed Photo

Release Date: March 15, 2013

Notable actors: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Abigail Breslin

Right now, the release date seems to be far away, but it will surely be worth the wait. Science fiction fans credit this book as one of the most well-written dystopian novels in history. Its author, Orson Scott Card, remains an idol of sci-fi fans. “Ender’s Game” follows a young genius named Andrew “Ender” Wiggins, played by “Hugo” actor Asa Butterfield, who is recruited by a military school in space and eventually trained to battle against alien invaders that are heading to earth. Some of the storyline will also include parts from “Ender’s Shadow,” which is the parallel novel to “Ender’s Game.”

Getting Involved to Get Ahead

Contributed Photo/ Delicia Alarcon

If you need to find Delicia Alarcon ‘14, you might see her at the info desk where she works. Or maybe you can try Sunday mass where she serves as one of the Eucharistic Ministers. Or check her out as she works as a First Year Mentor (FYM). Or you could look for in her dorm room in Loyola Hall.

“I’m never in my room,” said Alarcon.

Well, you get the point. The sophomore is everywhere on campus.

On March 15, the Honors student traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Rising Leaders Summit at the Marriott Metro Center. This summit, sponsored by Teach for America and the National Partnership for Educational Access (NPEA), brought together 115 talented and driven student leaders across the United States.

The Summit allows students to develop more leadership skills in seminars and start discussions on how educational equity can be spread in parts of the country that lack in it.

Alarcon, a double major in psychology and Spanish with minors in Entrepreneurship and Education, found the Summit to be an inspirational event.

“It was very inspiring to meet people from all over the country … and coming together with one common purpose and one common mission, which is to help education reform,” said Alarcon.

From the Summit, she cited Jonathan Padilla, treasurer of the Young Democrats of America, as an inspiring figure. Padilla shared four necessary characteristics of all leaders that Alarcon found to be “powerful”: humility, courage to take risks, conviction and passion.

Alarcon wanted to “become more involved with the overall mission of what Teach for America stands for, as well as to help the Fairfield community and Bridgeport educational system.” She was also familiar with other service and learning programs like Head Start, an educational system in Bridgeport, which incited her interest in Teach for America.

“Being involved with the kids, having the opportunity to speak to them in Spanish, because I know Spanish, and to close that achievement gap – that’s something I’ve always been passionate about,” said Alarcon. She sees Teach for America as a great medium to achieve her goal.

As newlyweds, her parents emigrated from Paraguay to the United States. Though born in the U.S., she learned how to speak Spanish at home to the point that she had to attend ESL classes to help her English.

In 5th grade, Alarcon moved to Asunción, Paraguay. Her parents wanted her and her brother to have a better understanding of their culture and also have the opportunity to meet family members. Her time in Paraguay was “enriching,” Alarcon said.

This bilingual experience inspired Alarcon to implement changes in education.

Alarcon is glad to have the educational opportunities that Fairfield provides her. She also cites multiple people on campus – Heather L. Petraglia, assistant dean and director of undergraduate programs at the Dolan School of Business; Meredith Marquez, associate director of Student Diversity Programs; Kristina Vaios, graduate assistant of Student Diversity Programs; Carrie Rivera, Project Excel; and Cath Borgman, director of the Career Planning Center  – who she sees as mentors.

So, what’s in store for her in the future? Alarcon hopes to continue her involvement with Teach for America and educating those in need.

Published on The Mirror website, March 21, 2012