sunies

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HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAPPY BIRTHDAY SUNNY!!! THANK U SO MUCH FOR ALWAYS STICKIN AROUND FOR ME AND I HOPE WE GET TO BE FRIENDS FOR A LONG LONG LONG TIME!!!!! ALSO LOOK AT HOW MANY PAIRS WE HAVE OUR FRIENDSHIP JUST BARELY PASSED A YEAR

pictures above are all the pairs me n sunny have, whether platonic or romantic!! we have a lot lmoa if u click on the closeups i have listed the character names as well as their duo name in the caption!!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA HAPPY BIRTHDAY AGAIN!!!! HAVE A GOOD ONE

@ask-thespikinator

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5. If your OC were a boss, mini boss, or final boss in a video game )of your choice) how would the hero have to fight them? What do their attacks look like? What is their opening dialogue when the hero meets them and once defeated, what do they say or do?

Featuring Suni! If she were a boss, she would fight exclusively defensively. Attacks would consist of trapping the hero in solid hologram spheres and hindering their movements.

Did you fear life so much that when you saw yourself multiplying you needed to wrap our umbilical cord around your lack of motherhood?
— 

FROM THE VAULT: Mary Anne Rojas - “Mother” (CUPSI 2013)

Mary Anne Rojas, performing for SUNY Oneonta during prelims at the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. Subscribe to Button on YouTube! 

Want to be on Button? Submit your poems to our chapbook contest! Winner receives publication, $500, fifty free author copies, and an invitation to perform at a Button Poetry event and be filmed by Button. Not sure about a full chapbook? We’ve launched our first-ever video contest as well! You even can (and should!) submit to both! Check out all the details here.

An Open Letter to SUNY New Paltz

Dear President Christian,

My name is Elise Smalley, though nowadays I’m better known by my professional name Rosalind Elise Parenzan. I graduated from the Theatre Arts program at SUNY New Paltz in December 2015. But today, I am ashamed to be a part of the SUNY New Paltz community.

For the Fall 2016 semester, the Theatre Arts department is producing Oklahoma! This in itself is not an issue, it is one of the most important American musicals historically and certainly has its place on the New Paltz stage. The issue is that the piece is being reimagined to include anti-LGBTQ+ themes. This garnered the attention of alumni, current students, and those not connected to SUNY New Paltz to publicly question the decision on Facebook for SUNY New Paltz to be the venue of this reimagining. Many current students and alumni in the Theatre Arts department identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, and historically the town of New Paltz has been LGBTQ+-friendly, with same-sex marriages performed there as early as 2004.

On June 8th, 2016, a casting notice was sent out to current Theatre Arts students regarding the upcoming Fall 2016 production of the musical Oklahoma!, directed by Broadway veteran Joe Langworth.  This notice contained the paragraph, “I’d also like to consider going one step further and entertain the possibility of cross gender casting, especially with the role of Jud [Fry]. If Jud is played by a woman, what does that say about Laurey’s aversion to him/her? Could Laurey’s hesitance result from her inability to face a side of herself that she is not ready to accept?”

In the script, Jud Fry is a sexual deviant who puts pornographic images on his walls, is told to commit suicide in an extended scene which includes a song celebrating his suggested death (“Poor Jud is Daid”), forces himself onto the female lead at her wedding to another man, and then dies as part of the musical’s happy ending. Some Facebook commenters brought up that this casting decision plays into the historically damaging media tropes of the “Predatory Lesbian/Psycho Lesbian” and “Dead Lesbian Syndrome/Bury Your Gays.” Why suggest changing a sexual predator villain who must die into a lesbian, instead of a romantic lead character such as Curly or the comedic characters of Will and Ali Hakim? Why choose the ONLY character that dies in Oklahoma! to be reimagined as a lesbian?

On June 9th, 2016, a new edition of the casting notice was sent out without explanation, with the only alteration being a shortening of the above paragraph to “I’d also like to consider going one step further and entertain the possibility of cross gender casting.” This change did not satisfy the original concerns raised, as it did not preclude the casting of Jud Fry as a lesbian.

When another alumna and I publicly raised our concerns on Facebook, current Theatre Arts professor Andrea Varga responded, “I don’t know how much more inclusive we can get,” and “Calm down [and] remember ‘it’s just a play.’” These comments both disregard theatre as a political venue (which it has been throughout history) and suggest that plays cannot affect audience members’ views of the world. (Not to mention the idea that SUNY New Paltz cannot become more inclusive…) These statements are at odds with what is taught in the classroom setting at SUNY New Paltz, where professors share stories of how audience members, including themselves, have been deeply affected by what they have seen onstage. This production of Oklahoma! takes an established musical and reimagines it to include harmful stereotypes and violence against a minority character that was not present in the original piece. Whether SUNY New Paltz wants to admit it or not, this production now contains a political statement that is at odds with SUNY’s “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” policy. As SUNY Provost, Executive Vice Chancellor, and Task Force Co-Chair Alexander N. Cartwright stated, “Inclusion goes beyond just making sure we meet our diversity commitments. It also addresses the way that our students, faculty, and staff feel about being on campus every day. Are they respected? Do they feel supported?” I fail to see how a play which now suggests that killing off a minority to protect the majority is an example of respecting and supporting people on campus that identify as part of that minority.

The Associate Chair of Theatre Arts, Ken Goldstein, offered to speak to concerned students and alumni, which I really do genuinely appreciate. He and I went back and forth over e-mail, and in his final e-mail to me, he asked, “In your mind, what is an appropriate response?”

I stated, “The theatre department needs to send out an apology as a reassurance to the entire theatre department (or everyone who received the casting notice) that their voices are being heard. This needs to include two things. The first is a statement that Jud will either not be cast as a woman or that Jud will not be the only lesbian depicted onstage. The second would be to use this apology as a time to talk about responsibility in regards to inclusivity on the stage.  For example, many students may be entirely unaware of the tropes of the ‘predatory lesbian’ and ‘bury your gays’ and this is an opportunity to provide further education to help develop your student body into more well-rounded and socially-aware artists. It will also show that the faculty is staying current with our rapidly changing society. Ideally, this letter should be issued by July 1st to alleviate students’ concerns.”

Goldstein did not respond to this e-mail but sent out the following e-mail to the Theatre Arts department on June 28, 2016.

“Hi all.

As some of you know, the audition notice that went out a few weeks ago has triggered an unforeseen response with some members of our community.  The Department of Theatre Arts is committed to creating a community that is diverse, inclusive, welcoming and unquestionably safe, and in that spirit, I wanted to respond in a way that reached more than a select few students.

First it should be said, the information included in the casting announcement was intended to suggest the openness of the casting process for Oklahoma! and not, in any way, suggest artistic choices that have already been determined.  The ideas were included as a way to educate–to share the process and questions surrounding the early stages of any production; ultimately, early ideas are not always the direction a production takes.  The casting choices will, as always, be determined at the time of auditions.  If any “non-traditional” casting choices were to be made, the Department has trust that Joe Langworth, as director, will handle those choices with sensitivity and respect for the students and material.  Of course the opinions voiced on all sides of this issue will be heard and thoughtfully considered!

That said, I wanted to address the underlying question—How do we as a Department continue to build our Community and refine our communication while tacking these issues?  We must be willing to raise questions, we must be willing to engage in conversation, and we must be invested in taking on these challenges on as they arise.  This depends on students talking with students, faculty talking with faculty, and all of us talking together.  If or when as students, any of you is uncomfortable approaching faculty with your concerns, I would urge you to use the channels that are provided by the members of Theatre Council!

We strive to develop early career theatre artists with clear and impassioned points of view, and it brings great satisfaction to see the respectful, thoughtful and articulate discourse with in our community.  I would, however, urge you to consider that while social media can be a great way to discuss topics, you must contact the faculty directly through email or an office visit if you want to open a dialogue.

As it is the Summer, I have offered to be the conduit for this conversation and am happy to discuss it further through email, phone, Skype, or in person.  As the semester begins, we will hold open meetings for students and faculty to further discuss the specifics of this issue as well as other undercurrents that the faculty may not be aware of as we continue to grow.

Thank you all for your time, and enjoy the rest of the Summer.”

Again, this e-mail does not specify that the character of Jud will not be portrayed as a lesbian or be the only lesbian character on the stage, and does not contain an apology. It has been over a month since this statement. If there has been a change in the casting plans, the students and alumni are unaware as of today, August 23, 2016.

All current Theatre Arts students in the Performance concentration are required to audition for the show this upcoming weekend, and many Design/Technology concentration students have already been assigned to work on the production.

Now, you may be wondering why you are hearing from an alumna rather than a current student. Students within the Theatre Arts department are presented with two official options of raising their concerns when they feel the need. The first is for students to speak directly to faculty members, the second is to speak to the Theatre Council representatives which are fellow undergraduate students. The Theatre Council representatives then meet with faculty members. These faculty members decide future production assignments and casting, which leads to students feeling unable to speak up in fear that they will lose opportunities in the department.

If I were still a student at SUNY New Paltz, I would be horrified to work on this production, and there are current students who feel the same way. These students have spoken out on Facebook or have spoken to me privately. They are terrified to speak out publicly as they do not want to get “blacklisted” from future productions during their time at SUNY New Paltz, and as a former student of the department, I understand their concerns entirely.

Before Oklahoma! came Stand and Burn, a play written by a SUNY New Paltz student (now alumnus). Stand and Burn was chosen by Theatre Arts faculty to have its world premiere at SUNY New Paltz in Spring 2015. I was assigned as the Production Stage Manager for its premiere. Stand and Burn included multiple women speaking about a rape as a positive experience in their lives while a woman was physically assaulted onstage, women being used as furniture (and referred to as such), a transgender woman being dragged offstage clawing at the floor, the onstage murder of a gay man, and an extended sequence depicting sex trafficking set to a laugh track. As a woman, it horrified me, but I did not speak out for fear of losing opportunities to work on productions in the future, let alone speak out to those with the power to affect my grades.

On the official Theatre Arts website, the major is described as a “dynamic, experiential, and diverse educational experience.” If showcasing violence against women and LGBTQ+, even when not in the original text, is what this statement has come to mean, how can I be proud as a woman and member of the LGBTQ+ community to be a graduate of the program? To be clear, I am not asking for the department to only do shows that do not include any violence against women or LGBTQ+, that would be incredibly limiting and suggests that violence against straight men is socially acceptable, which is a view I do not hold. I am only asking more care is taken in season selection, especially when reimagining shows to contain potentially harmful messages against minorities, especially in today’s social climate.

I would also like to clarify that my issue with this production is with SUNY New Paltz being the venue and the lack of demonstrated concern by faculty members. It is not my place to approve or disapprove of a reimagining of a musical, that place belongs to the rightsholders, The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization

As of right now, I am deeply disappointed and cannot support SUNY New Paltz. I will no longer be attending the Theatre Arts productions, returning to alumni events, or donating any time or money to the university. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Rosalind Elise Parenzan