Entries Tagged as 'Entertainment'

KU Improv Entertains Off the Top of Their Head

1.23.2017

By Justin Hermstedt

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Last spring, Teagan Fitzpatrick founded KU Improv. In its second semester, the group grew and garnered a consistent following at its many performances.

John Pace, a freshman from Olathe, joined KU Improv last fall. He’s been doing improv for a few years.

“It’s pretty much ‘acting without a script,’ to put it in three words… or four words. I can count; I swear,” Pace said.

Although the club is young, it pulls around 10 to 20 people at the average show. Those are solid numbers for a comedy startup, whose existence might not be known of by the majority of students.

Style on the Hill went to check out their last show of the fall semester, and KU improv brought the comedic heat.

This semester, be sure to support the good people at KU improv. It’ll be a merry (and free) time, especially if you like memes and/or muppet impressions.

 

This Is Halloween: A Guide to Netflix Horror Movies

10.31.2016

By Sydnie Germany

It is finally October 31 and that brings us lots of candy, pumpkin patches and lattes, and of course the amazing tradition of Halloween! There is definitely no better way to celebrate Halloween than with spooky horror movies and a big bucket of popcorn (or candy corn, depending on your personal cravings).

Ranging from your typical horror movie to straight up creepy, here is a list of eight scary movies to watch on Netflix to satisfy all your Halloween scare-fest needs. Enjoy!

  1. Would You Rather

2. Hush

3. 13 Cameras

4. Amityville Horror (2005)

5. The Dead Room

 

6. The Houses October Built

7. The Babadook

8. Creep

Event Radar: First Fridays in Kansas City

10.07.2016

By Maria Rodriguez

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Do you enjoy art, fashion and music? Well, look no further than Kansas City. First Fridays are full of pop culture and entertainment. And now, thanks to the University of Kansas, students are able to attend this amazing monthly event without wasting any gas money. Every First Friday (weather permitting), a bus takes students from Lawrence to Downtown KCMO.

I was able to attend for the first time ever, and it was by far one of the best events I have been to. From food trucks to art galleries, the night was full of picture opportunities.

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For the 21 and over crowd, I highly recommend Up-Down bar. If you are into photography, I also recommend checking out the vintage shops on the West Bottoms.

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Listen Up!

9.22.2016

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Photo by Maggie Russell

Considering the current weather, it’s a little difficult to believe that the Autumnal equinox is already upon us. Let’s welcome the new season with open arms! Here are some tunes to help you shed your summer skin:

 

Tailgating 101: Five things every newcomer should know about game day in LFK

9.10.2016

By Ellie Milton

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Photo by Georgia Hickam

Ask anyone on campus: the KU football team hasn’t had the best of luck in the recent years. Yet, that definitely doesn’t mean that Jayhawks don’t know how to throw a tailgate! Whether you’re from Kansas or you’re here from out of state, there are a few things you should know about game day here at the University of Kansas.

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Photo by Georgia Hickam

  • Even though we aren’t the number one team in the Big 12, fans still go crazy for KU football. I come from a state where college football is a huge deal. Knowing KU’s recent records, I was not expecting much from the first game’s festivities. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how much KU football spirit the people of Lawrence have. I saw kids wearing little Jayhawk costumes, food tables looking more like something out of a Hogwarts banquet than a college tailgate, and most of all, everyone was wearing crimson and blue.
  • Dressing up for game day is a big thing. A quick tip when picking out an outfit for game day: if you’re comfortable, you’re probably underdressed. Girls in heels and dresses, guys in dress polos and button downs, and everything in between.
  • The RCJH chant will absolutely give you chills every time you hear it. I’ve been to Jayhawk football games before and I grew up a fan of KU, so the “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk” chant is nothing new for me. Even though I’ve heard it a hundred times before, the second the entire stadium starts chanting, I truly felt like a KU student for the first time.

 

  • There are TONS of options for tailgating. Whether it’s greek tailgates, family tailgates, club tailgates, or just house-party type tailgates, you’ll find a place to get hyped for the game. The best spots? The neighborhoods and parking lots by the stadiums are some of the hot spots, as well as a few of the Greek fraternity houses.
  • Finally, if you think LFK goes hard for football games, just wait until basketball season. Allen Fieldhouse, we’re coming for ya!
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Photo by Georgia Hickam

 

WTF Is Up?! – Brazil impeaches president, things get stranger, and more!

9.02.2016

By Darby VanHoutan

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I paid my first rent, remembered to eat three meals a day, and managed to stay informed this week. Now, here’s a few happenings from the world for all! WTF happened this week?

 

2017 – Full of Stranger Things

Many people remember where they were when Michael Jackson’s death was announced or President Obama announced the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. Me, on the other hand, I remember the exact moment I first saw Eleven – or Elle for short – on my television.

 

The Netflix original series Stranger Things debuted this summer, and the world has never been the same. The show follows some ~spooky~ happenings of adolescents living in a small town in Indiana. Don’t worry—I won’t give away any spoilers. Besides the fact that Barb is dead, Will was rescued from the upside-down, and Eleven has some sort of supernatural connection to the monster.

 

The most exciting part is that Netflix announced via Twitter on Wednesday that it has been confirmed for a second season that will come out in 2017. Unlike me, Netflix really didn’t give away any clues besides some 80’s-esque thriller music and words like “Palace”, “Storm”, “Pollywog”, etc. Good News! Only three months until 2017.

 

Brazil Seeking Leader

This past Wednesday while the rest of world was partaking in some dollar-night-like festivities, the Brazilian Senate impeached their president. The first female president of the country, Dilma Rousseff, was suspended this past May to await trial, and as of Wednesday, has been removed for the rest of her term.

 

This impeachment comes at the closing of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games and, in summation, was due to what the Brazilian Senate saw as Rousseff covering up the country’s growing economic and social issues. The final vote in the Senate was 61 in favor of the impeachment and 20 opposed.

 

Rousseff’s Vice-President Michel Temer is currently serving as interim president, will remain in the position until the end of the term in 2018.

 

Willow Smith gets Shady

Ever since Willow Smith whipped her hair in 2010, I’ve been infatuated. The latest move by the daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, is serving as the ambassador to Chanel’s AW16 eyewear campaign. The entire campaign, shot in black and white, features the model/actress/singer sporting….sunglasses. No virgin to starring in high end fashion campaigns, Smith has also modeled for Marc Jacobs and more.

 

Chanel creative director and all-around mastermind Karl Lagerfeld photographed the entire campaign which can be viewed here → AW16 Campaign.

 

One Big Explosion for Mankind

Facebook’s first ever communications satellite was set to launch this coming Saturday. The satellite, attached to sexily-named rocket SpaceX Falcon 9, would have extended internet access across 14 countries in Africa. However, during a static fire test this Thursday the rocket exploded. (I feel you, rocket) The explosion destroyed the rocket along with the entire payload, satellite included. Luckily, the rocket was unmanned and there were no civilians injured at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station where it resided.

 

Don’t worry SpaceX, just like college students tell themselves every day – this too shall pass.

NYC Surf Rockers High Waisted Wanna Party with You in Lawrence 09/01!

8.30.2016

By: Darby VanHoutan

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There’s nothing quite like good music. High Waisted, a band led by singer and all-around badass Jessica Louise Dye, is going to bring an entire night of good music to Lawrence. Currently on a Summer long tour, the band will be in Lawrence at the Jackpot Music Lounge on Thursday September 1.

Lawrence is one stop of many on the band’s tour for their debut album On Ludlow that was released in March of this year. The album, in summation, sounds like Summer and is appropriately classified as a surf rocker album.

Along with Dye is Jono Bernstein on drums, Jeremy Hansen on bass, and Stephen Nielsen on guitar. Over the past year the group has received praise from numerous publications around the world as well as being named Best Party Band by GQ Magazine. If there’s any band I make room to see – it’s one holding this title.

If you can’t wait for their concert, you can find their music on Spotify, Soundcloud, or on their website which appropriately ends in .party instead of .com. After listening to a few of their songs and realizing the only thing better than dancing to them in your room is seeing them in person, join us on Thursday night to watch them live.

Stay tuned for updates and rock on!

How to take the “Slump” out of the Second Week Slump

8.29.2016

By Logan Gossett

The intrigue is gone. Walking to class is a burden. Class A’s room is going to be suffocatingly warm. Class B is a 50 minute class that goes 50 minutes too long. Class C is a type of motorhome. Class D is too easy and class E is too difficult. And I couldn’t think of anything to say about class F, so let’s assume it’s okay. With the exception of the hypothetical class F, all of the above are thoughts of someone ailing from the second week slump.

The second week slump, or SWS as I just arbitrarily decided to abbreviate it, is a malady that plagues college students entering their second week of classes. Syllabus week won’t prepare students for the gauntlet of the following semester of stress, and the most notable victim of the post-syllabus week life isn’t grades or mental stability: it’s the quality of outfits.

Laundry has to get done at some point and, when it inevitably doesn’t get done, students end up dressing like every day is laundry day. That mysterious orange stain may objectively ruin the beige top that matches with everything, but sometimes the stain’s obscured by denial, so that helps. For the most part everyone’s already made an impression on one another, so solemnly walking into class wearing a hotel bathrobe to open week two feels mostly harmless anyway.

Second Day Slump

To paraphrase an amateur life coach, everyone is thinking about themselves too much to judge people as viscerally as people judge themselves. That being said, everyone probably notices the mysterious orange stain loitering on that dynamic beige shirt. And everybody better notice those spotless triple white Adidas Ultraboosts (I’m not paraphrasing life coaches anymore; I just really love my Ultraboosts.) SWS can’t be cured. SWS doesn’t have a single remedy. Nonetheless, those who suffer from SWS have two options:

  1. Domesticate the madness. Put a leash on it. Name it Fido and take it for regular walks — do what has to be done to acclimate to the madness of life after the first week of classes. Once a routine is established, it becomes much easier to process the mayhem. Laundry would probably be a good place to start.
  2. Suffer from SWS for the next 17 weeks, which kind of ruins the name “Second Week Slump.” A two semester slump can be miserable, so it’s worth trying the first option before perma-slumping. As the old adage goes, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” whatever that means. Just assume you’re a squeaky wheel and get some oil.

Fortunately Style on the Hill is here to help assuage the second week slump! We’ve prepared a playlist that’s sure to be the oil to your squeaky wheel.

Sapochnik Serves the Juiciest Pie in GOT History With Season 6 Finale “Winds of Winter”

6.29.2016

By Logan Gossett

[HEAVY SPOILERS]

On Sunday, Miguel Sapochnik concluded season six of Game of Thrones with two of the three best episodes in television history, per IMDB and totally objective Game of Thrones fans. If it wasn’t the best episode in television history, “Winds of Winter” was at least the best episode in the series. You know an episode’s phenomenal when “best episode in the series” is a compromise. Due to the resonant hype from the impeccable season six finale “Winds of Winter,” a coherent recap of Sunday’s episode is out of the question. What that question is, I have no idea. Instead, these are six incoherent ramblings from an overhyped Game of Thrones fan. Bullet points are present to give the illusion of structure.

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  • “Winds of Winter” essentially confirmed the most popular fan theory in the history of entertainment, but two scenes somehow carried more gravity.*

First, Peter Dinklage elevated the exchange between Tyrion and Daenerys to another impossibly impressive level. Tyrion hasn’t appeared to be that genuinely fulfilled since his relationship with Shae in season four, which turned out to be manufactured by his father who was *ahem* similarly fulfilled by her.

Second, the first twenty minutes of the show displayed unparalleled visual storytelling. The word “game” in Game of Thrones has never felt more darkly ironic. Cercei’s game overcooked a notable slab of King’s Landing, including the player at the top of the leaderboard in Margaery Tyrell, although an argument can be made that Mace “the ace” Tyrell’s rousing, even arousing, motivational abilities will be missed with greater longing. Perhaps the most impressive cinematography of the episode was Tommen pulling a voluntary Bran by falling from a window after Cercei’s wildfire explosion. The longshot of a charred King’s Landing framed between two pillars illustrated the collapse of faith and the crown, with Tommen falling in-between them. The visual storytelling was like Pearl Jam’s music video for “Jeremy” except good, and not similar whatsoever. Plus, the casting budget for next season was reduced considerably. The Great Sept of Baelor’s explosion was basically a cost saving collaboration between Cercei and frugal HBO executives.

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  • Imagine if the most attractive tourist destination in the Bahamas was a kiddie pool with hungry piranhas in it. Now imagine a great white shark idling next to the pool, yelling obscenities at visitors. Throw in a Steve Buscemi selfie at the bottom of the pool for good measure. Thanks to Dorne, this is the obstacle Miguel Sapochnik overcame to make “The Winds of Winter” the greatest episode in Game of Thrones history. Sapochnik turned an episode featuring a Dorne scene into the best episode of the series. Dorne is a kiddie pool with piranhas inside, a verbally abusive shark outside, and a picture of Steve Buscemi at the bottom. Yet, Sapochnik’s brilliance meant that somehow didn’t ruin the experience. Amazing.
  • Bronn should totally be dead by now. When a side character becomes likable, they suffer a prompt, brutal death. Just a few victims of the Law of Likability:
    • Myrcella Baratheon (aka Cercei’s normal kid) : Poisoned by the belligerent great white sharks of Dorne.
    • Roose Bolton (aka vampire guy): Poisoned by his enemies.
    • Syrio Forel (aka ballerina warrior): Killed by the Lannister’s Gold Cloaks, beaten mercilessly by fan theories involving Jaqen.
    • Oberyn Martell (aka staff-wielding ballerina warrior): Rekt by the Mountain.
    • Shireen Baratheon (aka hyper-literate greyscaled girl): Burned at the stake.

In sum, Game of Thrones writers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss don’t beat around the bush: they uproot it. The fact that Bronn is still alive is unprecedented in Game of Thrones. After hearing “bad pussy,” I’m surprised he didn’t uproot his bush himself.

  • Apparently Arya killed Walder Frey, so that’s nice. Arya’s efforts to ensure that Walder Frey sniffed out her pun before she killed him were admirable. This scene was mostly forgettable, despite its implications for Arya and the satisfaction of seeing Walder Frey eat his sons and die. Many fans bemoaned the heartless nature of Arya’s morbid execution of Walder Frey, but I’m all in on vengeful Arya. If Melisandre peered into Arya’s peepers now, even she would be mortified by the killing machine staring back. Considering Melisandre’s placement on Arya’s list and her removal from Jon Snow’s, Mel should avoid studying flames for a while, because her future doesn’t appear promising.
  • What the hell is Euron Greyjoy doing? There’s no way he’s built more than 15 ships by now, and the few that he has can be quickly charred by dragons. With Dany sailing to Westeros, everything but the White Walkers seems pretty trivial anyway. What are 1,000 ships without a dragon?  What’s an Iron Throne with a limitless army of the dead marching to the wall? What’s a god to a non-believer? What’s one more rhetorical question?
  • Game of Thrones fans have universally lauded Lyanna Mormont (aka bear queen?), but I’m having a difficult time reconciling her role. The reason D&D increased the ages of most POV characters is because a 7 year old killer-assassin-Arya rampaging through Westeros is impossible to take seriously on-screen. If a 14-year-old Jon Snow were to giants in the north and evolve into Lord Commander, we might as well be watching Spy Kids. Bella Ramsey, Lyanna Mormont’s actress, provides a nice performance, but she’s also portraying a 10-year-old girl.

When I was 10, I was probably learning how to walk. An exceedingly competent, inscrutable kid is just intrinsically ridiculous. Arya’s a believable kid character. She’s reactionary, unintelligent, and lacks clear judgement. Her bravery and resolve have triumphed, but she’s not going to hush a maester when he’s offering sage advice. If she did, arrogance and neglect would be the motivating factors, not wisdom.
Dragons? Totally believable. I draw the line at unimpeachable kid characters.

 

*This is probably hyperbole, considering how widely accepted R+L=J was by A Song of Ice and Fire fans in the 20 years preceding Sunday night. Then again, I can’t imagine “Jimmy Neutron is actually an eggplant” or “Family Guy is literally human feces,” carried as much hype as R+L=J.

Black Box, Glass Ceiling: The Life of a Black Actress in America

5.02.2016

By Kate Miller

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Brianna Woods on set filming “Oprah Loves Bread (A Weight Watcher’s Parody)” for Friend Dog Studios

Growing up, Brianna Woods was told that being an actress was something she just couldn’t do.

A black 21-year-old woman from Overland Park, Kansas, she remembers sitting down in high school with a high school mentor who she says was trying to be helpful. Woods, who at the time was deciding what she wanted to study at the University of Kansas, was young and impressionable. Her mentor said, “’You have a lot of talent, but it would be wasted,’” Woods remembers. “‘No one is looking for you. No one is going to hire you at this point.’”

Because of that conversation, Woods, who had been acting since third grade, chose to enter college studying business. She kept that conversation secret, even from her family, who had supported her love for the performing arts since the beginning.

Woods eventually dropped business and changed her major to theater in her first year of college—and has since been cast in both traditionally “black” and “white” productions both at her university and in professional companies. Despite her success, she knows the road ahead of her will be filled with obstacles other actors don’t encounter simply because of the color of her skin.

“Growing up it was ingrained in me, my parents would say, ‘Being who you are, you have to work twice as hard, twice as fast, be twice as strong and be twice as hungry,’” she says.

The path to becoming an actor isn’t easy for anyone. It’s a career largely ruled by who you know and the talent you’re born with—plus years of training, relentless auditions and harsh rejections. For a young black person, it’s even harder. Theater is full of traditionally white roles, and for the actors who don’t fit the bill, there isn’t much opportunity. Black actors have long been pigeonholed into “traditionally black” roles and shows, such as subservient characters who serve as comic relief—but seldom the lead.

For Diadra Smith, a black University of Kansas student studying theatre and psychology, this was the case all through high school. She recalls never having been asked to look at any roles outside of “black plays” and remembers serving as a stereotype for her culture in her school. After auditioning for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which she considered a pretty race-resistant show, she was shocked when she wasn’t cast, joking that she could have instead played the chocolate river. Her directors said, “‘Well, you can always do something for Kwanzaa,’” Smith remembers. “And that really threw me back because, I was like, do you think that’s all I can do?’”

However, Smith and Woods are part of a new generation of black actors demanding more visibility and opportunities in the theater world. A new show with an entirely multiracial cast, “Hamilton,” leads the blockbusters this Broadway season. The show, which follows the life of the first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, casts black and Latino actors as the founding fathers, including a black George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The University of Kansas theater department’s most recent season includes three shows that focus on diverse casting and culture, compared to just one in the 2014-15 season and none in the year before that.

So what does this mean for the young black actors trying to make a name for themselves? It’s clear that black theater has come a long way from blackface and Jim Crow characters, but even after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it took 72 years before the first interracial couple danced together on a film screen—Shirley Temple and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in their famous stair dance in 1935. Even though racist characters and blackface are no longer accepted in today’s media, it doesn’t mean it’s a welcoming field for black actors.

According to a study released in February 2016 by the University of Southern California, speaking roles in film, broadcast, cable and streaming are only 12.2 percent black. Of the black roles present on screen, only 33.9 percent of these are female roles. “Overall,” the study says, “the landscape of media content is still largely whitewashed.”

While the study didn’t include theater roles, the results aren’t that different across all fields of media, says Tony Bolden, a professor of African-American Studies at the University of Kansas. And when black actors have representation in film, it’s usually within the stereotypical roles and characteristics existing since slaves were emancipated in the 1870s. “There is a suggestion [in characters in film] that people of African descent are either unintelligent by nature or immoral by nature, given to criminality by nature,” Bolden says. This can come in the form of stereotypical casting— such as blacks playing the roles of criminals, subservient workers or just serving as a culture point in an otherwise “white” play.

Woods knows the struggle of being seen just for her skin color and nothing else. Growing up in Overland Park, her friends from school were mostly white, although she had a community of black friends through church and her community. When she and her friends would play a game where they imagined they were the Cheetah girls (the popular Disney characters from the early 2000s), Woods was always told she had to be Aqua—the “black one.” Even though she was only eight years old, she spent a lot of time thinking about what it meant.

Brianna Woods' professional headshot

Brianna Woods’ professional headshot

“I grew up never feeling like I truly fit in,” she says. “I wasn’t white but neither group thought I was really ‘black’ either. I spent a long time trying to figure out my identity and trying to figure out why being black was both something my white friends thought was cool but also complimented me on not being submersed in.”

Smith says it’s hard for white people to understand how much harder she has to work to be on the same playing field as other actresses. These challenges range from hair and makeup people not knowing how to correctly do her hair to people asking her to do her lines in a “black” accent. “Just little things like that…As an actor, you have to show in your real life that you deserve to be there,” she says.

Even though being black in a predominantly white industry is hard enough, Bolden explains there are several other breakdowns within race that make acting difficult. It’s not just that actors are black; an actor’s gender, socioeconomic status, politics and birthplace all factor into the roles available to them. Simply by being female, Woods and Smith have a harder path ahead of them than a male black actor does.

Despite the difficulties of her field, Woods had a recent breakthrough when she was cast in a new production as the lead. In January, she performed in a staged reading of Moulin Rouge!, the 2001 film starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, at the Buffalo Room in Kansas City, Missouri. The show is set in Paris during the turn of the 20th century, and she played the lead of Satine, a courtesan originated by the fair-skinned, redheaded Kidman.

Brianna Woods performs in the Buffalo Room's staged reading of "Moulin Rouge!"

Brianna Woods performs in the Buffalo Room’s staged reading of “Moulin Rouge!”

While a black Satine may have been a big deal, the Buffalo Room in Kansas City, didn’t use that to publicize its production. At the end, Woods asked the directors why she had been chosen, to which they had responded that she was simply the best who auditioned. “I just started crying and said, ‘Thank you for not making me a gimmick. I wanted to thank you for letting my work speak first in a world where my skin color speaks the loudest,’” Woods remembers.

The co-producers of the show, husband and wife team Vi Tran and Mackenzie Goodman Tran, said using Woods’ race as a promotional tool was never an option. But it did factor into the casting decision—made by Goodman Tran and the other producer, Katie Glichristmainly in a discussion as to whether or not Woods would be up to the potential backlash from the decision and the monumental responsibility from being the face of a “black” Satine. Tran, who is an Asian American actor himself, knew the importance of the casting decision.

“It’s very important that performers like Bri have casting directors who are willing to see her in that role,” he says. “It all comes down to the more that happens, for performers like myself and for performers like Bri, that it becomes normative. Casting directors are doing themselves a disservice if they’re walking in with preconceived notions.”

Sometimes, that disservice begins early, especially in the spaces where actors are learning their skills. But Mechele Leon, the chair of the Department of Theater at the University of Kansas, is hoping to change that. She has seen more opportunities for Woods and Smith develop under her guiding eye. She was chair when the University Theater produced both “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Detroit ’67,” in which Smith and Woods had lead roles. But she says she’s not satisfied with the “simplified formulaic” presented at many university theaters today. Instead of falling back on the old manner of filling a diversity slot in a season by producing a “black” play or a “female” play, she wants to reflect the diversity seen in real life—where those characteristics intersect. For example, instead of producing a “Hispanic” play, she would want to produce a show that explores what it’s like to be a female, lesbian Latina—therefore, exploring several different diversities at once.

She’s pushing for an explicit statement from her department about its role in promoting diversity, especially in the light of the University’s recent racially-charged discussions on campus. “It’s time for us to say what we really think needs to be the shape of the season, for us to feel comfortable about its inclusivity and diversity,” she says. “It feels sometimes like it’s hit or miss. It hasn’t been a commitment; [now], it has to be at the top of our thoughts.”

This isn’t news to actors like Woods and Smith. Both agree the theater through which they learn has taken steps to make them feel more included, but neither is quite satisfied yet. Woods says the recent push towards more diverse theater comes from minority actors being fed up with the lack of representation—and the only option left is for them to take those steps themselves.

“Minorities are realizing that some people are stuck in their ways,” Woods says, “and they’re not going to write parts for us as lead roles and they’re not going to put us in the front seat, so we have to put ourselves in the front seat.”

Photography courtesy of Brianna Woods

Loco For YoYo: Interview with YoYo Performer Patrick Canny

3.01.2016

By Georgia Hickam

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Did you know that you can pursue yoyo as a professional, competitive hobby?  I didn’t either until I met Patrick Canny.  I first saw him perform at this year’s KU’s Got Talent, a student-run talent show full of gifted singers, dancers, and performers.  Patrick is a professional yoyo performer ranked No. 8 in the nation and No. 27 in the entire world.  He has won countless yoyo competitions and can now add KU’s Got Talent to his growing list of successes.  I sat down with Patrick to ask a few questions about his unique hobby and his personal style.

What originally inspired you to pursue yoyo?

“My dad really inspired me to get into yoyo when he showed me the basics on an old wooden yoyo. I was instantly hooked! I started taking yoyo more seriously when I learned that there were competitions around the world and people who were way better than me. Ever since I’ve been trying to constantly improve my routines, and I think 2016 will be a good year ;)”

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How would you describe your personal style?

“My personal style is almost 100% based on comfort. Some people think it’s super lame, which I don’t really understand, because if you’re not totally comfortable, you’ll never be able to fully focus on what you’re doing. In fact, a few of my friends are always calling me out, telling me to wear “nicer clothes” but I don’t really get it. I guess my philosophy is that I should be ready to take a nap at any time, since you never know when you’ll have the opportunity to just chill out.”

What’s your favorite thing to wear right now?

“I’m really into tailored sweatpants (read: joggers) because they show off the kicks as well. Shoes are pretty much always the highlight of my outfit. Lately I’ve been wearing Vans Sk8 Highs and TNT SG, but I’ve got Jordan IIIs and Saucony Trainers in the mix as well. My favorite things to wear lately have been Nike Tech Fleece products. I have a pair of pants and a jacket, and they’re both really comfortable and functional pieces. The nice thing about Tech Fleece is that it’s double lined, doing a better job at insulating heat than other, comparable products. This has definitely been useful in the cold weather we’ve been having!!”

Describe your style in three words.

“Cozy Or Die!”

What role do you see yoyo playing in your future?

“I’m pretty positive that I want to actively pursue yoyo as a career…I’m practicing really hard this year but I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be in the competitive scene. I hope to stay connected to all the awesome friends I’ve made in the community, and I’ll probably try to stick around as a judge/contest organizer. I’m also working on a design for a yoyo right now, which is cool because it ties directly into my coursework as a mechanical engineer. Hopefully one day people will be able to use a yoyo that I designed!”

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Photography by Luke Finnell

Photo Feature: KU Swing Society Festival

2.22.2016

Some of us spent Valentine’s Day with a special someone, some us spent the holiday alone. But some spent the evening in the Kansas Union Ballroom dancing the night away. Staff photographer Skyler Lucas dropped in on KU Swing Society’s annual swing festival last weekend and grabbed some great shots of the dance competition and its dancers.

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Photos by Skyler Lucas

 

Halloween Must Watch Movies

10.28.2015

Halloween is just days away! We’re getting into the spooky spirit over at Style on the Hill, brainstorming our costumes and watching scary movies. Here are a few of our favorites!

Halloween movies

Tell us what you’re watching this Halloween (if you’re not watching the Royals World Series game) and tag us on social media! We’re @styleonthehill.

Compiled by Holly Kulm
Graphic by Hannah Pierangelo

A Guide to Staying in LFK For Fall Break

10.07.2015

FallBreakLFK

Fall Break is just days away! We’re practically counting the minutes to the long weekend. Whether you’re staying in town or squeezing in some traveling over break, we’ve got you covered. For those of you holding it down in LFK, here’s our guide to relaxing right and enjoying every second of the break. Stay-cation, here we come.

Coffee

First, coffee. No, wait. First, sleep in. Then coffee. The weather’s cooling down and it seems like everyone is crazy for pumpkin spice. We can’t deny the power of the pumpkin, but we can direct you to a couple Lawrence staples for a pumpkin latte flavor test.

Prima Tazza | Pumpkin Spice Latte

I asked the barista for recommendations of specialty fall drinks. He thought for a moment, taking his first pause from filling the orders of the long line of sweater-wearing, 20-somethings that had arrived before me. “I guess that would be a pumpkin spice latte,” he offered. I was a little disappointed with this response, hoping that as one of the Lawrence staple coffee shops, the bar might have a more creative seasonal drink selection, especially since their specialty drinks are always so good. I ordered the sole autumn-inspired drink on the menu and took it with the optional cinnamon and nutmeg, which he sprinkled on top of the perfectly foamed milk with particular care. Inhaling, I let the warmth of the drink and mug warm my face and hands—an awe-struck grin overcoming my post-midterm expression. My first sip was filled with anticipation. Hmmm. I tried again, this time taking a fuller gulp, hoping that maybe the first had been just foam. But the second sip was confirmation—the latte was nothing special. In fact, it was almost tasteless. The only spice or hint of fall flavor was that which the barista had sprinkled on top, not within the drink itself. It lacked the distinct pumpkin spirit I had hoped for. Dissatisfied, I left the shop almost wishing (shamefully) that I had gone across the street to Starbucks.

By Audrey Danser

Henry’s | Muddy Pumpkin & Lawrence Phog

The Muddy Pumpkin

I order the twelve ounce Muddy Pumpkin in a ceramic mug. I sit in the corner of Henry’s by the board games and books, and look at the art on the wall while it cools. Don’t you just love the way the frothy milk is shaped like a leaf? One sip and I swoon. This take on the flavor of autumn blends a smooth black chai, not too spicy, a double shot of Southpaw espresso, and only a touch of pumpkin spice. This drink isn’t going to club you over the head to remind you it’s fall. You already know that. Instead, it’s a sweet dose of pumpkin that entices, rather than overwhelms. Add the quick bite of espresso, and this makes for a satisfying drink with a kick. When you want an alternative to the typical Starbucks fall fare, when the traditional PSL and graham cracker nonsense don’t thrill you the way they used to—look no further. The Muddy Pumpkin is here.

The Lawrence Phog

Okay, okay it’s not pumpkin. But one look at the ingredients on Henry’s delightful chalkboard seasonal menu, and I can’t help myself. I have to try it. I get this cup to go, and have to wait a moment for it to cool to the right temperature. It was difficult, let me tell you. When I take the lid off, I can smell the sweet combination of lavender and honey rising through a thick pillow of steamed milk. To drink it now and suffer the burnt tongue? I decide not to risk it. Finally the tea is cool enough. The steamy Earl Grey latte is simply delicious. It’s floral, it’s sweet, and it’s perfect for fall. Plus, with a name like the Lawrence Phog, I can’t help but imagine how this drink might taste on a cold, misty morning. If you like tea, you don’t want to miss this hot drink infused with cool flavor.

By Hannah Pierangelo

Explore

There’s plenty to do around town this weekend, and if Lawrence is too familiar, you can always get away to Kansas City! Here’s what’s on our list to check out over break.

Saturday Oct. 10: Fall and football go hand in hand. If you’re staying in town this weekend, don’t miss a chance to see our team play (and show off your game day style). Kickoff begins at 11:00 am.

Sunday Oct. 11: Take a road trip to Kansas City and support the Chiefs, who are playing the Chicago Bears at 12:00.

Monday Oct. 12: A concert is the perfect excuse to get dressed up and go out. The Internet, a soul band made up of several members from Odd Future, will be performing at the Granada. Complex said their new album, Ego Death, “is in the early running for R&B album of the year.” Doors open at 7 pm.

Tuesday Oct. 13: Spend time relaxing and shopping around at the Lawrence Farmer’s Market, before classes resume the next day. The Farmer’s Market is open Tuesday from 4 to 6 pm at 824 New Hampshire, and pick up a pumpkin or two to get in the fall spirit.

By Aleah Milliner

Netflix Binge

We wish we could say that we’re too busy adventuring over break to watch Netflix. But that is a lie. Netflix just loaded some fresh movies and shows this month and we’re ready to binge it all.

Movies:
  1. The Awakening (2011)
  2. The Babadook (2014)
  3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
  4. Bruce Almighty (2003)
  5. The Nightmare (2015)
TV Shows:
  1. Charmed (1998-2006)
  2. Once Upon A Time (2011-Present)
  3. Dexter (2006-2013)
  4. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015)
  5. Supernatural (2005-Present)

By Holly Kulm

 

Photo by Abby Liudahl
Graphic by Hannah Pierangelo

Dare to Dream

9.28.2015

By Hannah Pierangelo

Krenek

Woodruff Auditorium bubbles with the chatter of the audience on a Wednesday night. Unsurprisingly, the crowd is almost entirely female. Tonight’s event is titled “Dare to Dream” and is targeted to the young women present—girls with stories, girls with dreams. Christie Garton, KU graduate, college expert and founder of the company U Chic and the 1000 Dreams Scholarship fund, speaks about her efforts to inspire young women and help them accomplish their professional and personal dreams. Accompanying Garton is Farrah Krenek, an actress known for her roles in Orange Is The New Black, Law & Order, Nurse Jackie and SNL, among others.

The point of the event is part advice, part inspiration and part gushing about Orange Is The New Black. But Krenek is more than just a celebrity speaker. Her experiences growing up and working in the entertainment industry tell the story of what it’s like to be different.

Krenek, who stands over six feet tall with short, spiky hair and dons typically masculine attire, says she was bullied as a kid for looking like a boy.

“I went through very bad bullying and very bad ridiculing,” Krenek says. “And I was from an era where there was no Google, no Youtube, no social media that I could report this to, so I just had to take it, which is why I became stronger.”

For Krenek, “Dare to Dream” means pursuing acting as a gay woman and trying to overcome her past, where she says she felt unaccepted. Now, as she has found her success story in the entertainment industry, Krenek values her craft more than ever.

“I am not an actress because I am looking for glamor [or] fame,” Krenek says. “The reason I’m doing it is because I want to represent girls that are like me. Or that were like me and had nobody to look up to. I’m not saying that there were not gay females that could be actresses that could be an example, but they really didn’t look like me. Being a girl that looked like a boy that wanted to be an actress that was auditioning for girl roles, they acted like, ‘What circus do you belong to?’”

“My message is: it wasn’t easy, but I didn’t give up,” Krenek says.

Krenek trained at a modeling school, but distinctly recalls hating makeup. When she auditioned for the massively popular Netflix original series Orange Is The New Black, Krenek says she could be herself.

“Everything I hate—the makeup, the glamor—was everything they didn’t want,” Krenek says. “It was [more like,] the meaner and tougher you look, the better.”Farrah Krenek

Garton says she chose Krenek to speak at “Dare to Dream” because of the actress’ success at a young age and her inspiring story. Moreover, her campaign’s mission is about giving young women role models.

“This is a time to realize that there’s not just one type of girl out there,” Garton says. “This is a diverse generation of young women today.”

Garton reaches her audience of college-aged women primarily through U Chic, which sells items and also gathers college advice from girls across the country to include in the best selling college guide book, The College Girl’s Guide to Everything. The book has sold more than 100,000 copies and is now in its fourth edition. U Chic also launched the 1000 Dreams scholarship fund last year, which uses a portion of sales in its web store to contribute to funding the dreams of girls everywhere.

“This life stage is such an important life stage,” Garton says. “You’re in the midst of figuring out what your dreams are. This is a formative time of your life. I think to hear this information and these personal stories that we’re sharing about how their girls are funding themselves or using support from our company to go out and do things, it’s really about sharing.”

The book gives young women a voice, and also a platform to share experiences, advice, and support. She says the book not only deals with classroom issues, but also aids with relationships and the college lifestyle.

“My experience was very much driven by what I did outside the classroom,” Garton says. It’s the reason she started the 1000 Dreams Fund. While in college here at KU, Garton was involved with her sorority, the symphony, and started her first non-profit at nineteen years old. Music Mentors is still serving the Lawrence community through the KU Center for Community Outreach today. Garton says her extracurricular experiences helped make her a more well rounded student, and she wants to extend those opportunities to all young women.

Over the last year, her company surveyed 300 college women about their college experience. She found that more than half say that extracurricular activites are important to the future, but 95% lack an easy access to funding to pursue these activities.

Garton’s scholarship fund aims to change that. In the last year, it has already funded sixteen women. One scholarship recipient is also here tonight. Gracie Schram steps on stage with canary-yellow pumps and a guitar. The Kansas City high school student is just seventeen years old, but has already recorded a full-length album with a Grammy award-winning producer Charlie Peacock (The Civil Wars, Brett Dennen) in Nashville. She donates a portion of her album sales to charities and has helped underprivileged children in Africa and Haiti, raising more than $30,000 for The Global Orphan Project.

Gracie Schram

Krenek, Garton, and Schram all take the stage to emphasize the importance of a person’s story and a person’s dreams.

“I have a story to tell, and just because I don’t cry about it every day, anymore, doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult,” Krenek says.

She spends the final part of her speech doling out words of advice, encouraging the audience to make friends with strangers, look up from their phone screens and interact with the world, and above all, value their self-worth.

“If I can hear the story of one girl that tells me, ‘I saw you on TV’ or ‘I got your message’ or ‘I heard your story and it inspired me,’ then mission accomplished.”
The 1000 Dreams Scholarship Fund is taking applications now. Apply here.

Photos by Hannah Pierangelo

Farrak Krenek and Christie Garton spoke at the Kansas Union September 23rd, 2015.

For Boos and Giggles: Being Funny For A Living

9.16.2015

By Hayley Francis

Dennis Gubbins-comedy

Dennis Gubbins performs standup comedy at West Side Comedy’s Laugh Party in Santa Monica earlier this year.

Sitting atop a stool on the dimly lit stage of Replay Lounge, the sting of two fireball shots lingering in her throat, my roommate, Maddy Rich, grabs the microphone from the mic stand. Twenty-three people fill the bar stools idly holding drinks, or stand eating popcorn, anticipating her opening line. The come-as-you-are dressed crowd has gathered at 7 p.m. on a Thursday night for one reason: to laugh. It’s the weekly standup comedy open-mic and this is Rich’s first time performing.

The MC, Rob Schulte, tries to help. He sits at a podium with his own microphone and laptop contributing “hell yes,” funny sound effects, shout outs, and laughs to engage the crowd and keep the handful of performing comedians rolling.

He’s one of seven local comedians who created Harpoon Presents, an organization with an initiative to spread comedy in the Midwest. Last year, local comedians Bene Garcia, Chance Dibben, Peter Lyrene, Joe Noh, Shadoe Barton, Rob Schulte and Zach White realized that their individual local shows were closely scheduled or overlapped. The self-described indie comedy group decided to get together to collaborate, and it set out to establish Lawrence as a “good place for comedy.” With no comedy club in Lawrence, the group puts on weekly open-mic opportunities and showcases and monthly shows. The goal: “To expose anyone and everyone who is interested in comedy.”

So what drives these people, like the members of Harpoon Presents, my crazy roommate, and professionals, to willingly stand in a spotlight or under dim fluorescent bar lights teetering on a crowd laugh as they do their best to be humorous? Why risk being thrown to the dogs for a laugh? My roommate says standup is her door of opportunity to the improv world, where she feels her class-clown personality can land her a job she’s excited about. She aspires to be on SNL or perform with the Chicago improv group The Second City. Schulte says it’s simply the joy of making others laugh. Fellow Harpoon Presents member Chance Dibben says he’s pursuing comedy because it’s freeing and all for fun.

When I asked professional comedian and actor Joe Torry, a St. Louis native, he justified his 25 years of joke-making saying, “For me it’s therapy.”

Torry says comedy is a way to articulate his feelings through humor and connect with others. “It’s being able to vent and get immediate approval. I feel like I’m a hero when I say certain things because people are going through the same stuff that I’m going through…When some people think like you and they’re not even the same color, or the same age, or the same gender, then it’s like a universal laugh or a universal healing.”

His claim to fame before strictly focusing on comedy was hosting the Russell Simmons Def Comedy Jam in 1992, where he went on to star in several hit comedy films like House Party and Strictly Business, and made appearances in the TV series E.R. and NYPD Blue as well as other films like Poetic Justice and Sprung. He is now working on standup and improv comedy and preparing to do two major tours, one solo and the other with a collection of comedians. The best part of being a professional comedian he said: “It’s more of a talent that’s blessed by being able to make money, and to express myself without getting arrested.”

But getting to his status didn’t come easy. “It was a hustle.” Attaining professional success begins at ground zero for most. Torry says the process begins with re-locating oneself, like he did, to Los Angeles, the best place for opportunity and exposure. Self-promoting your talent is also important, like uploaded performance footage to YouTube or sending out DVDs to prospect companies. From there it’s casting a wide net and performing as much as possible, networking, seeking agents and managers, and ultimately being at the right place at the right time. Along the way, Torry advises that aspiring comedians should, “try to find [their] own voice. And to stay well read, meaning to be able to perform anywhere and tackle any subject.” And once a comedian gets a bite, it’s about continuing to elevate him or herself while climbing the ladder.

The climb to individual fame for the core members of Harpoon Presents, however, doesn’t seem to be its main objective. Each person has their varying, individual aspirations, but the group’s goal is to collectively build a larger audience for themselves in Lawrence, and help others to get a foot in the comedy door. While they all joked about being jealous of blossoming newbies that surprise them at open-mics, their collaborative work is simply about the laughs and a shared love of comedy.

“I don’t expect to become famous, but I do enjoy creating something fun for my town,” Schulte said. “I just want to do weird stuff.”

Harpoon Presents is aiming to achieve this with it’s weekly and monthly events, as well as bringing “some of the country’s best, most interesting, and weirdest comedians to Lawrence” in its annual Riptide Comedy Festival. The festival, which took place in April, is a downtown Lawrence showcase of more than one dozen comedians from around the country performing over three days. The hope, according to the members of Harpoon Presents, is that the showcase will “grow the seed” of comedy in Lawrence. There are already over twenty affiliates outside of the group’s core seven that perform regularly at the organized shows; the seed is growing.

Keeping the seed alive will be the challenge. Outside the efforts of Harpoon Presents, it will be even more challenging for individuals aspiring to be professionals to make it. Torry says maintaining and elevating success as a comedian is an ongoing battle:

“People talk about retiring, but that’s when you’re dead. At every level you need to try to take your game to another step, another roof, another plateau. And I guess that’s what keeps me inspired, and everyone else inspired, is that you’ve never made it. The energy of still having to prove yourself, which most people do especially when you’re living out in L.A. or Hollywood. People don’t care what you’ve got, what you did yesterday.”

My roommate is beginning this ambiguous climb to hopeful success as she raises the microphone to her mouth on the Replay Lounge stage. “Well, coming after that guy,” (a mid-thirties bearded man who joked about “hot twenty-year-olds” and having sex with them) she begins, “let’s talk about ladies. And all that we do for you guys.” She uses this springboard to talk about guys’ desire for nude selfies from women and tells the story of her first, failed, nude selfie to her high school boyfriend. She unknowingly included the fresh poop sitting in the toilet in the background of the photo. “I felt pretty good about what I sent, but I nervously waited for his response. He finally texted back and said, ‘Flush the toilet.’” The crowd erupted in laughter. She chuckles and concludes her one-and-done story with, “Well, that’s all I got.”

As she walks off the stage, relieved to be done, the MC hollers, “Yeah! First time for Maddy Rich, let’s hear it!” The crowd gives a supportive clap, and a few people lend some shouts. Flustered she didn’t use the entire five minutes, but relieved to have broken the performance ice, Rich exhales loudly when she greets me behind the bar. “Whatever, it’s done.” But when the butterflies settle, she excitedly begins talking about what to change and add for next week’s open-mic act.

Q+A with Dennis Gubbins

Professional comedian and actor Dennis Gubbins is known for films such as Beer Fest, and The Horror of Barnes Folly, and he has acted in commercials, a few T.V. shows and award-winning independent films. He was also a writer for South Park, and is currently a writing consultant for the upcoming Netflix series Flake’d, and a writer and producer for Comedy Central’s Brody Stevens: Enjoy it! In addition, he is working on stand-up comedy, writing various TV pilots, and auditioning for acting positions. I asked him what it’s like to be funny for a living.

Where do you get your material?

DG: Generally my material comes from real life experiences. I like to tell stories and a lot of times those stories are about awkward and funny things I have done or said. I am pretty self-deprecating and not really into making fun of people.

Is any topic off limits?

DG: No, not really. I think if it is funny then it is okay. But you never know if it is really funny and not offensive until you try it a couple times. Like rape…I don’t find it funny so I avoid it, other than the couple times I referred to myself as the child produced by Louis CK raping Zach Galifianakis. I don’t do that joke much. Any “hot topic” like religion or racism is certainly fertile ground and free game, but it is a fine line between funny and interesting and offensive and tired [or] hack.

Who is your favorite comedian and why?

DG: I don’t really have one, but I really liked Robin Williams growing up because he was physical and wacky and I was like that too. I was compared to him by a mutual teacher we had. He grew up in Marin County like I did. Today I think Bill Burr and Louis CK are great. I really like Zach Galifianakis and his comedy, and Sarah Silverman and Tig Notaro always make me laugh.

What has comedy taught you about life?

DG: I wish more! Ha. Comedy has taught me to look at the hard and awkward things in life from a different angle, to find the humor in all things. That is not to say I laugh in the face of death–I don’t–but it has taught me that it all depends on how you look at something and choose to interpret it. I also learned this growing up in an Irish Catholic family with a lot of funny people. Gallows humor was always big in our homes and so was pushing the taste a bit.

Photo courtesy of West Side Comedy. 

 

Cream of the Crop: How A Band Called ‘Maybe Not’ Defied Its Own Name

6.01.2015

By Lyndsey Havens

Maybe Not KJHK Farmers ball 2015

Short, concise and memorable — that’s how Alex Chanay describes the name of the band he is part of. Chanay, a junior from Topeka, plays guitar and sings in the band Maybe Not. In addition to Chanay, the trio includes Sam Goodrich (drums) and Gus Cobb (bass), both seniors from Topeka.

“We would go back and forth on what we should call ourselves,” he says. “Most suggestions would get met with a ‘maybe not,’ so basically our band name was chosen from our indecisiveness.”

On the contrary, the audience at Farmers’ Ball—a music competition held by the University of Kansas’ student-run radio station, KJHK—voted a decisive yes when it awarded third place to the band on April 25.

Farmers’ Ball grew out of a KJHK program featuring local music called Plow the Fields in 1994. Tom Johnson, general manager at KJHK, says the event began “as a way to recognize the best in local Lawrence musical talent.”

For Mitchell Raznick, a senior from Omaha, Neb., the competition has evolved to more than just that. Raznick, the live event director at KJHK and one of the emcees at the event this year, says Farmers’ Ball is one of the defining events for local music. He says, “It creates an opportunity for the local musicians to get their work out there, and it helps KU students and Lawrence residents interact with the local music scene through tradition.”

That tradition started on the hill in 1994 when SUA still held Day on the Hill, a daylong music festival on Campanile Hill that featured national acts like Pearl Jam. Farmers’ Ball was conducted in partnership with this event. The local band that won Farmers’ Ball was awarded “the epic prize” of serving as the opening act, Johnson says.

Damage to the hill from concertgoers brought Day on the Hill to an end, but KJHK, unwilling to surrender, carried on with Farmers’ Ball. The competition offered substantial, though somewhat less “epic” prizes, such as studio time and t-shirt printing. The competition is now held at the Bottleneck and the prize is straight cash. Johnson says offering a cash prize “makes the most sense to support local bands, giving them the ability to invest in what they see fit to grow their act.”

Fresh Crop of Talent

Maybe Not KJHK Farmers Ball 2015

This year, there were 85 submissions to Farmers’ Ball. Johnson says each year the competition averages anywhere from 50 to 80 entries.

“I can tell you that every single band that made the top eight semifinal spots deserved to be there,” Johnson says. “I think that’s the first time I can honestly say that about all of the bands since I began at KJHK, so that indicates to me that the local music environment is as robust as ever.”

This was Maybe Not’s first time participating in the competition; the band officially formed in August 2014. Its music teeters between upbeat and emo-esque, finding a balance that’s pleasing to the ear.

Chanay says the group was having a tough time reaching a fan base beyond their immediate friend group and felt that Farmers’ Ball was the best way to gain exposure in Lawrence. Travis Diesing, a junior from Papillion, Neb., says the Bottleneck was at least three-fourths packed for the semifinals.

Will the band perform next year and try to move up in the rankings? Chanay, true to form, says, “probably not.” He says Farmers’ Ball achieved what they wanted it to this year—build its audience in Lawrence and form friendships with other bands. “We’d rather leave the slot open next year for another young band trying to do the same,” he says. When the next competition comes around, Chanay says the band hopes to be on tour.

The most challenging part of competing, Chaney says, was “having extremely disparate sounds go up against each other to be judged.” He says the band didn’t expect to make it to the finals and that they felt extremely lucky to share the stage with equally deserving groups.

“The stakes are high when you’re dealing with a concentrated event that can literally launch a band’s career,” Johnson says. “We respect how much care we have to pay to the process throughout.”

Margaret Hair, a graduate student from Greensboro, North Carolina, is a full time staff member and program coordinator for the SUA-KJHK Live Music Committee. In simple terms, she explains there are five steps to the process, which begins with bands submitting their music to KJHK.org. She says about 40 students spent a Saturday listening to all of the submissions and voting on every band.

From there, online voting begins. People are able to listen to music from the top 16 bands and vote for their favorites. The top eight bands then move on to perform in the semifinals — which took place on Saturday, April 18. Each of the eight bands plays a 20-minute set and the audience votes for their favorite at the end of the night. The four bands with the most votes advance to the finals show.

For the finals, each band plays a 30-minute set and audience members again vote for their favorites at the end of the night. No Cave, a hard-hitting fusion of a rock and jam band, won the first place prize of $2,000. Via Luna, an instrumental group with electric-indie flair, won the second most votes and prize of $1,000. Toughies came in fourth, winning the prize of $250.

Maybe Not says it plans to use its cash prize of $500 for promotional t-shirts and making CDS of its two EPs. Aside from the participating bands’ increased publicity, KJHK largely benefits from this event as well.

“Having the event every year means we can try to catch bands as they form and grow,” Hair says. “It’s also a big boost to the station, in that it gives us access to a huge set of local music every year, and establishes connections with dozens of local acts.”

Farmers’ Ball is a collaboration of every area, not only within the station, but also including the live music partners at SUA. Hair says while it’s rewarding to see the various areas work together to produce the event, it takes a lot of work to get to the finish line.

“There are challenges to navigating the year-long campaign of encouraging bands to submit music and then working through all the voting rounds,” she says. “But the end result — a big, buoyant local music extravaganza — is easily worth the work.”

Photos courtesy of KJHK Staff. View more live photos from Farmer’s Ball here, or check out kjhk.org

Hear more of Maybe Not on Bandcamp.

Concerts From The Couch

5.20.2015

By Hannah Pierangelo

Abandon Kansas concerts from the couch

“It’s magical out here.”

Jeremy Spring speaks in passing, but he’s right. There’s something special in the air tonight. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s decently warm for the first weekend in April. Maybe it’s the fairy lights setting the mood. Maybe it’s the lawn chairs casually arranged in the backyard of a home in west Wichita. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m attending an intimate living room concert and it’s not actually in a living room.

Spring, vocalist and guitarist for Abandon Kansas, who played the 14th show on their national living room tour in the band’s hometown, Wichita, laughs off the comment. But there is a little magic out tonight.

Abandon Kansas embarked on their tour in the middle of March. They wrapped up a total of 46 shows in the cozy homes of their fans last weekend, playing almost every single day for the majority of the spring. It’s the band’s sixth living room tour and clearly a hit with their fans.

Playing music in living rooms is not a new concept by any means, but it is flourishing again. Google “house concert” and tons of entries show up. Most stories on the subject describe a growing trend of artists playing in homes, though none can cite any data to support the claim. However, with so many people taking note, it’s clear that house shows might be everything but trending.

Live performance in private space may be a tale as old as time, but this type of intimate event was most popular in 1920s New York. With the modern communication available in social media and event planning apps, it’s easier now more than ever to host concerts in unique spaces like homes and backyards.

Tonight the band plays in a backyard instead of a living room, which Spring says is unusual. But the house is familiar—Spring recalls helping friend and previous Abandon Kansas drummer Brian Scheideman renovate and flip the house. Scheidman still owns the house, and the hosts for the evening have rented the space from him for the last five years.

The band take their makeshift stage, a grassy place beneath a swing-less swing set adorned with fairy lights, just after 9 p.m. The sun now fully set and a crackling bonfire lit to keep the guests toasty on the still chilly spring night, Abandon Kansas croon out their new songs, carving their electric indie-rock in the dark.

“There are a lot more loose moments, a lot more mistakes,” Spring says. “We don’t play to metronome like we do onstage. There’s not a ton of lights and all this jazz. It’s just right there, raw. It’s very exposed. People are sitting on the floor right next to us. It’s the real deal.”

If you’re a concert fanatic like I am, then a private show limited to 40 people, including the band members, is a dream come true. I’d expect this level of up-close-and-personal time from a VIP all-access pass, complete with bodyguards and maybe even red velvet rope. It’d probably cost a fortune.

For this exclusive evening with the band and the first play of their brand new record Alligator, I paid $10. That’s a Chipotle burrito if you add tax and guacamole. That’s the cost of the Moleskine notebook I used to take notes at the show.

“House shows have always been around,” Spring says. He thinks they’ll always be there, too. “They just kinda come and go. But to do a full tour of house shows, I think that’s kind of unique. I haven’t seen a ton of bands doing that.”

                    KEEP IN TOUCH
Abandon Kansas
Website: abandonkansaslovesyou.com
Twitter: @AbandonKansas
Facebook: /abandonkansas
Soundcloud: /abandonkansas

The Golden Age of the House Concert

The living room concert dates back to the Harlem Renaissance, which spanned from the early 1920s to mid 1930s in New York and cultivated African-American art, literature and culture. Residents of Harlem experienced both rent and wage discrimination and faced exorbitant costs of living during the time. The 50-block district emerged as a slum by definition of its living conditions. During the early part of the decade, it’s estimated that nearly 200,000 blacks migrated to the neighborhood, with up to 7,000 people inhabiting a single block. The residents began to host Saturday night parties in their small apartments, enlivened with good music and “refreshments,” as alcohol was prohibited at the time, and invited friends to pay at the door for a good time. Friends were happy to oblige, well aware of the living conditions they shared, and the cost of the rent party typically amounted to less than entry to Harlem’s popular clubs.

Langston Hughes writes in his autobiography The Big Sea: “The Saturday night rent parties that I attended were often more amusing than any night club, in small apartments where God knows who lives . . . but where the piano would often be augmented by a guitar, or an odd cornet, or somebody with a pair of drums walking in off the street. And where awful bootleg whiskey and good fried fish or steaming chitterling were sold at very low prices. And the dancing and singing and impromptu entertaining went on until dawn came in at the windows.”

Professor Jacob Dorman of the History and American Studies departments at KU says that soul food and music were a large part of rent parties. Upright pianos were prominent fixtures in the small living spaces and players innovated the “Harlem stride piano” method of playing, which allowed the player to create a bigger sound and cut through the noise of the party.

“One reason why rent parties are so important is that they illustrate that the way most people lived in Harlem was not the way white visitors experienced Harlem,” Dorman says. Popular Harlem venues like The Cotton Club were white owned and only admitted white guests. Other clubs allowed blacks if they passed a paper bag test, meaning that their skin had to be lighter than the color of a brown paper bag.

“What this meant was that ordinary working class people had to find their own entertainment and make their own fun, and they did so in small cabarets and bars and in these occasional rent parties that might start late and go all night,” Dorman says. “So rent parties, with their music, soul food, and opportunity for sociability among black working class people, illustrate one powerful way that people were able to put their cultures and their bodies to work for their own pleasure, even if they worked low paying jobs or were not allowed into Harlem’s more famous commercialized leisure spaces.”

Though the repeal of Prohibition and The Great Depression effectively ended the rent party in the early 1930s, the Facebook invitation for the Abandon Kansas show tonight boasts a cheap ticket and a BYOB attitude, ringing in the house concert once again. The living room show isn’t a formal event—it’s just an opportunity for a good time and good music, same as in Roaring 20s Harlem.

“Most people aren’t brave enough to go out to a house show so it’s like, just the hardcore fans come out and the people that really want to know what’s going on,” Spring says. “That gives us a chance to get some real hang time with the people who really know who Abandon Kansas is ‘cause [these shows are] not highly publicized.”

The band promoted this tour the way they promote all of their tours—through social media. But for first time, Abandon Kansas tried organizing the national tour by offering the option to host as a perk for donating to their crowdfunding campaign last year.

Spring says it’s been hard to put out a new record. It’s been four years since their last full-length, Ad Astra Per Aspera. The title comes from the Kansas state motto “To the stars through difficulty.” Spring says there was plenty of difficulty to get the new music released. The band left their record deal at Gotee Records and instead opted for an independent approach. Teaming up with post-hardcore band Emery and their new label Bad Christian, Abandon Kansas were able to set up an IndieGoGo and raise $15,000 to fund their third full length, Alligator.

A Siren Song of Social Media

Abandon Kansas concerts from the couch

Social media and online event planners have been crucial to the renaissance of the living room show. The concert-tracking smartphone app Bandsintown, used by 250,000 artists and more than 16 million concert goers, just announced a new analytics feature in February that allows artists to view their best markets at a glance.

“We are living in an age where data is becoming increasingly accessible and in music, analytics are critical to decision making,” says Leah Taylor, the director of communications at Bandsintown.

“Bandsintown Analytics shows where the highest concentrations of concert-goers are worldwide,” Taylor says. “The purpose of the tool is to help artists understand where it would be wise to book shows—from a house party to a stadium.”

Crowdfunding is another method, and one of the newer ways for musicians to raise money and connect with fans. Backers donate money to the cause, usually a new record or tour, and gain rewards in return. Abandon Kansas, like many artists of late, endeavored to crowdfund for a new album and a living room tour to get back to playing for their fans. Spring emphasizes that it’s not charity, but more like paying in advance. Backers got a copy of the album, tickets to the living room tour, and for $300 upfront, the option to host the band in home.

Tonight’s hosts, Allison and Molly, have hosted a house show before with a handful of local Wichita acts at their last home, a duplex shared with their best friends on the other side of the dividing wall. They pitched the few hundred bucks to have Abandon Kansas play in their new place in west Wichita.

“We like doing it,” host Allison McElroy says. “We both love music and I’ve listened to Abandon Kansas since high school.

Once the band met their crowdfunding goal and the living room tour became a reality, the band and the hosts began promoting primarily through social media.

Spring finds that Facebook is the most successful for the band, though they also try to post frequently on Twitter and Instagram, and keep up with podcasts. He says the word of mouth is still the best way to get people interested in the show.

KU grad Ryan McGee recalls hosting a living room concert here in Lawrence in 1995, pre-dating the ease of instant online communication.

McGee hosted the small folk act Catfish Keith in his house on Mississippi Street, which has since been torn down for the parking garage. He remembers putting posters around campus and trying to entice as many friends as possible with the promise of a keg. Without even e-mail, McGee says he called the phone number on the back of the band’s CD to figure out how to book him.

“At the time, that’s all you could do—hang up posters and talk to people,” McGee says. “I would have had a much bigger reach on Facebook, or even gone beyond my social circle with something like Twitter.”

McGee remembers the living room packed with people of all social circles—friends, strangers, even a few professors.

Though it’s been 20 years, McGee has thought about hosting another living room show.

“It lives on in memory the way a traditional concert might not,” McGee says. “The best part is the feeling of being responsible for the event around you, bringing all the people to enjoy music.”

David Bazan, solo artist and the man behind indie-rock band Pedro the Lion, is another musician finding success in living room tours. He began touring in homes in 2009 before the official release of his debut full-length solo record, Curse Your Branches.

In an interview with Consequence of Sound, Bazan explained his start by asking himself, “What do I need to do to play songs and have people pay me money?”

“That’s what it comes down to,” Bazan says. “I genuinely love playing my music. I’m going to do it for the rest of my life. How can I do it to make the money to provide for my family and have it make sense? I said: house shows. If I can’t play anywhere else, I’ll play living room shows. That’s really how it all started.”

Bazan says he couldn’t do his living room tours without social media. Initially, the tour was just an email list of potential hosts that eventually grew to be his successful national tours today.

In the beginning, Bazan says he got “a lot of whisperings about making a bad career move.” Most musicians follows a traditional tour and release cycle that expects new material release about every two years, filled with touring in between.

“The thing is, though, people undersell how these shows connect with the fans,” Bazan says. “There’s no hype, no promotion, no gimmick. If I wanted to tour 100 to 150 days a year and put out a record every two years, I could do that.”

Beyond the cycle, Bazan says he loves to play house shows and get the chance to connect with his fans. “These 50-person living shows feel way more meaningful, even more meaningful than 300-person club shows,” he says.

Cash for Chorus

Just as Harlem rent parties emerged to cover the rising cost of living in New York, Spring says he began doing living room tours out of necessity.

“The touring scene is tough,” Spring says. “It got to the point where we’d play a bar and you know maybe a couple hundred people come out, but then we’d leave with a few hundred bucks either way.”

Spring breaks it down for me. In traditional touring, there are a lot of middle men. Typically bands give up around a third of the ticket price to the booking agent, manager and venue. With the living room tour, fans get a cheaper ticket at only $10, and the band gets the whole pie.

“Really, we’re not like buying new cars,” Spring says. “We’re just putting gas in the tank and making sure everybody gets fed and ordering more CDs and just keeping the business going.”

Another perk with playing in the living rooms of dedicated fans—the band gets a free meal and a place to spend the night. Spring says the living room tours are definitely the most financially successful tours for Abandon Kansas. Though he prefers to plug in and play loud, Spring likes to take on the living room tour once a year.

Spring sums up the living room tour best: “I think it just became survival. The music business changed. The way we download music’s changed. So the way we tour has to change.”

 

Alligator is available now on iTunes. Stream it here.

Photos courtesy of Abandon Kansas. 

Creative outlets for college students

4.23.2015

By Emily Brown

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As I checked into the front desk at the Lawrence Arts Center, a performer with sparkly-grey face makeup and feathers in his hair popped into the office. Upstairs, racks of shiny outfits stood in the hallway as two women used a garment steamer to dewrinkle fabric. The women were putting final touches on glittery costumes — the Lawrence Arts Center’s School of Dance was preparing for an important performance the upcoming weekend. A group of returning potters listened to a faculty member in the ceramics studio, and original art hung on the walls of the visual arts studios.

The community arts center has numerous opportunities for students to learn, perform, and create. Style on the Hill wanted to check out the best options for college students.

The Lawrence Arts Center, one of the top three art centers in the nation, focuses on three things: exhibitions, performance, and education. The building is located downtown, a perfect location for students looking for a hobby outside of their major or for supplemental art education.

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While performances and exhibitions occur regularly, the education part of the arts center permeates the entire building, Margaret Morris, the chief program officer, says.

There are dozens upon dozens of classes for students to try out, and the topics range from printmaking to Irish dance. There are classes for beginners and for more advanced learners.

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Students can take classes in ceramics, digital media and photography, textile arts, drawing and painting, jewelry and metals, paper and book arts and writing. The Lawrence Arts Center School of Dance offers classes in tap, jazz, hip hop, and other dance mediums.

Olivia Hernandez, a KU student majoring in Fine Arts, began working at the Lawrence Arts Center in 2010 as an art model. After modeling for an art class, she saw a sign advertising for volunteers. She started volunteering as a way to give back to the place she loved, and in 2014, she was hired as the dance program coordinator.

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Throughout the years, she has taken numerous classes at the Lawrence Arts Center, including Adult Ballet, Adult Modern dance and Imaginative Drawing. She says the arts center is a great place to receive a diverse range of teaching and instruction.

“If you are lucky enough to have a resource like the arts center, that offers great faculty and great financial aid, to a poor college student, there is nothing better,” she says.

Susan Tate, CEO of the Lawrence Arts Center, says the classes are perfect for students.

“It is not very expensive to take a class at the art center,” she says. “A student who is a business student might not have time in their schedule to take ceramics at KU, but might be able to come here and take ceramics. It is not the same commitment as taking a University class, nor is it the same expense.”

The cost can depend on the length of time the class meets and the medium. Classes can be as cheap as $80 (Adobe Illustrator) or as high as $273 (Ballet VI & VII).

The faculty teaching the classes have Masters Degrees in their area of teaching, and because the Lawrence Arts Center has a partnership with KU, many of KU’s faculty also teach at the arts center.

“What I really like is there is a real quality to the faculty,” Hernandez says. “Everybody has a strong background in what they are teaching. It is really, really enriching.”

The Lawrence Arts Center has numerous other opportunities for students to learn or engage in art. To learn more about what classes are held, or some of the upcoming performances, check out their website at http://lawrenceartscenter.org/.

 

A Night to Remember: Dancing With KU Tango Club

4.02.2015

By Mark Acre

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On a Thursday night, the unofficial start of the weekend for college students, I’m in the English Room of the Kansas Union for a meeting of the KU Tango Club.

Dimly lit chandeliers illuminate the white and brown walls and mahogany floor. I wait for the class to start in one of the chairs lining the wall of the room, observing other participants who were seamlessly dancing before the class formally begins. This makes me painfully aware of one fact – I don’t know how to dance. The subtle uneasy I feel in the moment harkens back to high school dances of yesteryear where much like the dress clothes I would wear, my dancing never seemed to feel right. I specifically recall a moment during my freshman year homecoming dance with Shelby, a girl from the homecoming group I went with. We stayed arms length apart as we danced, hands mostly at the shoulders. While subsequent dances were much more enjoyable, I was wondering if this tango class would make me feel like that experience did – graceless, gawky, inexperienced.

Every Thursday the club has structured lessons for beginners and intermediate level dancers. People can attend either or both, with the beginner lesson starting at 7:30 p.m. and the intermediate lesson starting right after. Every Monday night the club has “practicas” at the upstairs of the coffee shop Signs of Life. They’re more social and people just dance without any organized instruction. Both nights are free to students; my only required cost for this night was the courage to try something new.

My fears were quickly put to rest. The small group of ten people – a mixture of students and community members – was very welcoming.

Ali Imran, a graduate student from Lawrence and president of the club, led the group the entire evening. He first asked us to separate, with guys on one side and girls on the other. Imran then asked one of the participants, a girl who from what I saw earlier seemed pretty experienced, to help demonstrate some tango moves. Imran reviewed the previous week’s lesson, which delved into things called the cross and ochos.

I learned while tango has “leads” and “followers” both collaborate during the course of the dance.

This is what in part attracted Shalinn Starkey, a senior in Film and Media Studies and a regular to the club.

“I’ve done a little bit of other kinds of dances, but this is different because of the connection I think you have with someone,” Starkey says. “Like in Ballroom dancing for example, it’s all in the lead, but I feel like in Tango it’s more of a partnership. It’s kind of like your creation with someone else.”

With the floor as their canvass, Imran and girl with the blue dress kept their feet close as they walked, with their ankles and knees brushing as one leg passed the other, painting an elegant picture. After they showed the basics of the cross – taking a side step and then walking for three steps – we partnered up. A woman generously asked if I wanted to dance with her. Tango is danced in a counterclockwise circle so as the various partners danced, Ali walked around looking to help. He taught me my first lesson saying, “You need to get closer to her. Oh an put your hands on her waist.”

Partners usually spend most of the dance in embrace according to Daniel Trenner, nicknamed the “Johnny Appleseed of Tango” for his role in teaching and spreading the influence of tango since its revival in the U.S in the mid 1980s. He says Tango is more connection and relationship-based than other dances such as Salsa or Ballroom dancing. “Tango has this character of an intimate social dance that involves an intimate and personal connection between the partners.”

We switched partners several times, taking breaks to listen to Imran and critique our form. While they were all strangers to me, I became more comfortable with them and dancing as more time passed. But there was something else about the dancing that was appealing to me, something Shaher Ibrahimi, a senior from Kansas City majoring in biochemistry, helped articulate.

“It’s like a release, it’s fun” Ibrahimi says. He admits it was the Al Pacino movie A Scent of A Women, which features an “awesome” tango scene that first made him interested in finding the club.

I began the evening fearing the worst, but ended up enjoying myself and it will forever be a night to remember.

Edited by Katie Gilbaugh

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