“MIT has arts?” I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that question! But it’s only from people who don’t go to MIT. MIT has a vibrant arts community, especially in dance, theatre, and music. This year was no exception. Every week in 2013, there were at least half a dozen arts events on campus, from student performances to an arts-focused hackathon.
MIT’s dance scene scored a coup in February when The ArchiTEKS, the hip-hop troupe that made itself a legend on YouTube and was a finalist on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew competition, visited MIT to hold workshops that were part of the Chinese Students’ Club Lunar New Year celebrations.
Walker Memorial saw its fair share of dance in April. First, MIT Ridonkulous hosted the Footwork showcase, in which Ridonkulous, MIT Mocha Moves, MIT Fixation, and MIT Imobilare performed along with other Boston-area dance groups. Just two weeks later, the MIT Ballroom Dance Team hosted its open competition, one of the largest collegiate ballroom dance competitions in the country.
Asian Dance Team performed “Inspirasian” in the spring and “Illusions” in the fall, with guest performances from MIT Lion Dance, Bhangra, Syncopasian, and Ohms, as well as other Boston-area performing groups.
DanceTroupe filled Little Kresge many times over with their spring, fall, and winter performances #DTMF, Kittens with Angst, and DTWERK!
MIT also hosted Ring the Alarm dance competition in the student center again. Numerous MIT groups competed, including Bhangra, Chamak, Fixation, Mirchi, and Ridonkulous, going up against Boston-area’s best collegiate dance talent. MIT gave up its reigning first place to Northeastern’s Kinematix in the dance-off.
The Musical Theater Guild had a year of seasonal productions, with the Rocky Horror Picture Show in IAP, the Wedding Singer in the Spring, Avenue Q in the Summer, and Young Frankenstein in the Fall.
Dramashop killed it. In February, they started the 2013 season with performances of Margo Veil, a non-linear action-romance-comedy-drama. In April, they performed a Greek myth-inspired tale of heartache and revenge, Elektra, produced and directed by Professor Jay Scheib. In May, they continued their annual tradition with Playwrights in Performance, featuring plays written, directed, and acted by MIT students. In the fall, the troupe performed No Exit, based on the work of existentialist playwright Jean-Paul Sartre. They finished 2013 with One Acts, another annual tradition, a series of short plays directed and performed by students.
Shakespeare Ensemble performed Shakespeare’s “Complete Works,” a hilariously condensed version of the Shakespeare canon. In the spring and summer, they sided more with tradition, performing Julius Caesar with only a few modern refinements and then Hector and Achilles. Their pinnacle work of the year was an abridged version of Hamlet, deemed “Halved Hamlet, twice the fun” by The Tech.
The Gilbert and Sullivan Players, an MIT group that performs the works of Sir William G. Gilbert and/or Sir Arthur Sullivan, transformed La Sala de Puerto Rico into a stage for the highly entertaining, 19th century comic operas Iolanthe and H.M.S. Pinafore.
MIT theatre arts extended beyond campus as well. The Nora Theater Company collaborated with Catalyst Collaborative@MIT, a program promoting collaboration between science and art, to produce Operation Epsilon at Central Square Theater. The stellar performance, telling the story of the German scientists detained in an English manor house after World War II, was connected to MIT in many ways. Not only did MIT help produce the play, but it the playwright, Alan Brody, is an MIT professor and he first learned of the play’s premise through fellow MIT professor Alan Lightman. Also, alumna and professional ice dancer Jessica Huot ’06 returned to the area to perform with the Ice Theatre of New York. Professor Jay Scheib’s group performed new productions in New York and at the Institute of Contemporary Art.
MIT’s core ensembles, the Festival Jazz Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, and Wind Ensemble, did not disappoint with their seasonal concerts. In the summer, PBS aired the television world premiere of MIT-produced documentary Awakening: Evoking the Arab Spring Through Music, featuring the MIT Wind Ensemble performing a composition by MIT alumnus Jamsheid Sharifi ’83. The piece encouraged listeners to contemplate the movement that swept Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and other Arab countries. It was the 50th Anniversary of MIT’s Jazz Program, and the 80th anniversary of MIT Women’s Choral Group.
Guest artists also graced campus. Highlights were La Scala Chamber Orchestra performing Fantasies from Verdi’s Operas in Kresge, the Alash Ensemble, Masters of Tuvan Throat Singing, and the guest performers of CAST’s Spring Sound Series. A highlight was the CAST Marathon concert, featuring multi-everything artist and alumna Julia C. Ogrydziak ’96.
In addition, WMBR Radio and the List Visual Arts Center teamed up for the Ampersand Concert Series in the ACT Cube.
Visual Arts & Film
The List Visual Arts Center, recently deemed “the most interesting gallery in town” by the travel site Fodor’s Travel, featured solo-exhibits by Amalia Pica, Oliver Laric, and Chris Marker. The cutting-edge modern works all brought up an existential questions such as what is an impulse, and how do self-reflection and critical thinking emerge in human consciousness. All the exhibits featured a mix of images, sculpture, and video.
Across campus, the MIT Museum showcased the photographs of Joel Tettamanti. OrigaMIT, MIT’s origami club, hosted its annual origami competition to great success. In addition, MIT hosted a french film series entitled “Films on the Green @ MIT” during the warm months, and then a European Short Film Festival in October.
Entrepreneurship in the arts
Arts transcended disciplines as well. In the fall, Arts at MIT launched the first annual $10K Creative Arts Competition, awarded to an arts-focused start-up in $100K Launch Contest, and Sloan students put on the first ever Hacking Arts event, a hackathon geared towards arts projects.