At an impromptu sushi dinner at the Plum House on Monroe Ave., senior Julian Klepper and I sat down to converse about the artistic scene at UR.
Klepper, an award-winning filmmaker, placed first in the Auckland Student Film Festival for his film titled “Life Accelerated.” The plot was a fictitious dramatic comedy about his journey and trials in a foreign land.
Not only does he consider himself a filmmaker, but also a performance artist extraordinaire, playing the role of the character Oswald in the upcoming Todd production of “King Lear.” In this candid interview we discussed about the social environment that students at UR are subjected to when creating and showing their art.
At a university where science is king, the art department has been compartmentalized into the obscure quarters of Sage and Todd, which is very much outside the periphery of the academic campus.
The spatial relation of the arts to the University speaks multitudes to the attitudes present throughout this campus. The dim disposition of these creative centers hinder the creation of an environment that is conducive for artistic expression.
Besides suffering from limited funding, there is not much hype or support from the student population either. Most students rarely ever venture into Todd Union other than to pick up their mail, and many probably don’t even know that the Sage building exists. Even Klepper shyly admits that before being involved in “King Lear” he had only seen one other Todd play.
Todd Theatre, known for its experimental and abstract productions, will host the play “King Lear” in April. The infamous Shakespeare play takes a modern twist and sets the main character in the garbs of a powerful CEO, rather than a feudal King.
The cast of “King Lear,” under the direction of producer Nigel Maister, meticulously practices everyday for up to four hours in hopes of creating a unique masterful performance experience.
This devotion to one’s art generally goes completely unnoticed by the UR community. As a former intern for the public relations and marketing department at Todd, this air of disinterest certainly isn’t from the lack of publicity. From banners at Wilson Commons to postcards in each students mailbox, shows are certainly publicized to the max.
I would rather hypothesize that students are either too lazy to leave the comforts of their dorm rooms or are just culturally inept. Whichever the truth may be, it certainly is a disappointment to those engaged in the arts.
Aside from the Todd International Theatre Program, there are several independent student productions that emerge from this campus. Last semester, the play, “Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll,” produced by Johnny Stulberg, opened at the Drama House to rave reviews.
Klepper, a featured actor in the play, reminisces on the freedom he had in his role as a vulgar environmentalist that advocates his view of the earth as a human garbage can. He proceeded to perform his favorite line in the play. “Shit, fu**, piss, shit, fu**, piss, [Spits on the ground]. What’s that-its shit. Shit in the air, shit on the ground, it’s a bunch of shit. If you ask me, we’re living in a goddamn human garbage can.”
Moments like these confirm why I enjoy the company of the likes of Klepper. It is always refreshing to be able to communicate abstractly. We continue our dinner and Klepper passionately expresses what it means to be an artist on this campus.
“Most people didn’t come here to study art,” he said. “They just knew they loved it. All the artists I know on this campus, theatre, studio art and music included, found art again. It really is beautiful to see people truly open up and express themselves artistically. In an environment where artists are not fully supported, it creates more drive and more passion.”
Despite all the obstructions artists endure on this campus, it only further inspires them to push the envelope. Klepper believes that it motivates artists to be even more passionate and execute their projects with true drive.
Over the last bites of our deliciously rolled sushi and Heineken beer, Julian and I wondered what the future for art would be at the UR once we graduate this May.
He profoundly stated, “Art exists beyond this realm. True artists know their responsibility to shed light on parts of life that cannot be expressed otherwise. Have faith, Eunji.”
Han is a member of the class of 2007.