As I searched for a last course to fill my general education requirement, I wanted the course to be special. I wanted a course that I gave me a hands on experience outside of the typical engineering courses that I took. A close friend of mine suggested FAA 110 as such a course, and I am so glad that she did. FAA 110 became the favorite class that I took at University of Illinois. I had very little knowledge nor experience in arts and I was able to enjoy the amazing performances and museums that were held at our university.
When I was picking my classes for Spring 2020 my advisor suggested that FAA 110 would be a fun class to take. However, what I didn’t know was that FAA 110 would become my favorite class I’ve ever taken in my college career. When the semester first started, I realized that class would be meeting on Wednesday mornings and also be meeting on the scheduled event days. When I found that out I wanted to drop the class because I thought it would interfere with my social life, I’m so grateful that I didn’t!
FAA 110 provided me so much more than free performances, I truly believe it gave me a new pair of eyes for art. I have never been the type of person to attend performances or visit museums during my free time and that is simply because I just never gave art the opportunity to be appreciated. This course allowed me to have a better insight on the amazing opportunities the University provides students with that are often not taken advantage of. I truly enjoyed this course because whenever I attended class and the events, it felt like academics wasn’t the one thing constantly on my mind but instead my own feelings. I’ll never forget when Professor Collins said this in class, “Your voice is important. Never allow your voice to be stifield…Not only in this class but in everything!” This really has stuck with me and will continue to, because no professors in my college career ever made me feel like my opinion truly mattered enough to make a change. I’m so glad that FAA 110 taught me about the beauty of art but also that there is power within myself.
I’ll never forget the first performance I attended, Shanghai Ballet. What a masterpiece, I never thought I would be able to appreciate a performance without any words being spoken. However, I learned that art doesn’t have to say much, you just have to allow art to speak to you. I’ll always remember this performance as the first performance that brought me to tears. I wish more people were able to see this performance through my perspective.
Step Afrika!: Drumfolk was the second performance I attended in the Krannert Art Performance Center. As a history major that specifically loves African American history I can honestly say, I wish this performance never ended. This performance tells the story of how African Americans were stripped away from their culture and have had to continue to fight for till this day. There were so many different elements that overall made the performance unforgettable!
The third performance I attended was Jonathan Swensen’s cello performance. I never thought I would have truly enjoyed a cello performance, but I also never thought it would bring me to tears. Jonathan Swensen’s performance allowed me to reflect on my thoughts and let all my little broken pieces in me feel like they were put back together just by simply listening.
The fourth performance that I attended was Micheal Barenboin and the West Eastern Divan Ensemble. I was fortunate enough to be seated in the front row, this allowed me to get a view that I felt like no one else in the room had. The orchestra players were unbelievably talented and anyone could tell that these performances have played their instruments their whole life. This performance was truly unforgettable.
Cabaret, a true masterpiece full of meticulous details that truly made the show shine! This musical not only made you feel like you could connect with the characters such as Sally, Clifford, Fraulein Schneider or even Herr Schultz but it made you feel like you were part of the show!
Virgo – Man Dem: While watching this performance, I must admit that I was a little lost. I didn’t quite understand why the dancers were making weird movements that didn’t go along with the music. I think that’s the beauty of art. Sometimes no one understands because it’s not always for the audience, sometimes it’s for the artist himself. What I learned through this performance is that I as an audience member would not be doing my job if I were to not make the effort to at least understand. Sometimes you’ve got to be able to listen to yourself and be okay with no one else understanding.
Drum Tao: Out of all the performances I have gotten the opportunity to attend, Drum Tao is by far one of my favorite performances for multiple reasons. It was a performance that showed me that art has the ability to completely ease your mind away from your problems even if it’s just for a while.
The Container: This was the first and last performance I viewed through the online database. This production showed me how refugees seeking refuge have to endure. This really touched me because it made me think of the difficulties a lot of my family members had to go through in order to provide me and siblings a better life.
FAA 110 provided me so much more that what I could’ve learned in a classroom. I promise to always to try to convince friends to take this course because it truly has been one of my favorite courses I have ever taken. I just want to thank Dr.Collins and Dr. Robinson for making the course so exciting and enjoyable!
FAA 110 was one of the most interesting classes I’ve taken in my time at college. Since my time here at university is ending soon, I appreciated the opportunity to get a better idea of the artistic capabilities this campus has. I enjoyed the ability to learn more about our facilities at the art museum and performance centers. I hadn’t been to the art museum or most of the theaters of the performance center before, so it was nice to explore and learn about the people and resources that makes them function. We also watched many diverse live performances this semester, from joyful ballets to intense plays. It is incredible to see how different productions make use of the same stage for their own purposes.
The Shanghai Ballet’s performance of The Butterfly Lovers was the first ballet I’ve witnessed, and I was more impressed that I predicted. The dancers moved elegantly across the stage, perfectly in rhythm to the music and each other’s actions. Although it was at times difficult to understand the story they were trying to tell, their athleticism and humor kept me entertained.
Step Afrika!’s performance of Drumfolk was my favorite performance this semester. The high energy music and dancing paired with the cultural and historical significance really spoke to me. The performers did their best to include the audience in some of their musical acts as well, further raising the energy in the room.
This musical performance by Laura Kabasomi, or Somi, was our first production focused on the story of a single person. Although Somi was accompanied by her band, the stories she told and songs she sang spoke mostly of her own experiences with race and her African heritage. Her performance was filled with emotion that was clearly straight from her heart.
Getting through the Dayby Anna Deveare Smith was the first performance this semester that did not have a musical focus, but instead relied on impersonations and spoken stories. Anna’s ability to capture the essence of characters both known and unknown to the audience was incredible, and the way she wove humor and more serious tones into her performance was impressive as well.
The Cabaret was one of the more humorous performances I have seen so far. The characters were relatable and engaging, and no opportunity for a joke was missed throughout the play. I was especially impressed by the narrator, who had an amazing sense of stage presence.
Metamorphosis was a bizarre, radical shift from what we had seen so far in this class. The humor was scarce, and the characters were faced with impossible ethical dilemmas throughout. Nonetheless, Mirai Moriyama’s performance as Gregor was the best display of acting I had seen in any performance this semester. He was able to conjure a visceral feeling in me with only his body and its movements, needing no help from prosthetics or costume changes.
The most impressive feat of Virago-Man Dem was its masterful use of vibrant colors. During this performance, the cast changed between costumes that varied greatly in appearance, and the screen behind them displayed colorful murals and silhouettes that helped tell the mood and story behind the play. Visually, this was one of my favorite spectacles this semester.
The Container was undoubtedly the most bold and intense production I have seen this semester. The plot was based on real situations people still struggle through today, and it didn’t hold back in showing the seriousness and dangers of immigration. The most interesting part of this performance for me was the stage: having the audience mere inches from the cast, trapped inside the dark container with them makes this quite an uncomfortable play to sit through.
In conclusion, this class has helped me gain appreciation for various types of performances. Without FAA 110, I may have never seen a live ballet or spoken word performance. After being exposed to these different styles, I am happy to say that I enjoyed them much more than I predicted. Although my time here on campus is soon ending, I plan on attending live performances more often when I have the opportunity to. I’m thankful to the teachers and students who have led the discussions on these topics, and helped me learn more about the history and efforts of the people who make these productions possible.
Let me start off by saying this has been the most enjoyable course I have taken in all my four years here at the university. I was able to explore the arts and earn a new appreciation for them–something engineering students don’t often find themselves doing. I looked forward to coming to class, since we were always either doing a cool activity or taking an interesting tour, and spend my evenings in the Krannert Center. Sadly, we were not able to spend the entire semester together due to COVID-19, but I was still able to explore beautiful performances online through Digital Theatre+. Here’s a recap of the performances seen throughout the semester:
The first performance we saw as a class was The Shanghai Ballet performing “The Butterfly Lovers” at the start of the Chinese New Year. I had never seen a ballet prior and was half-expecting to be bored by the event. However, that was definitely not the case. I was enamored by how well they were able to tell a story without ever saying a single word. The skillful movements and intentional lighting were enough to convey the exact emotions felt onstage.
The next performance, by Step Afrika!, I enjoyed even more. They brought history to life with the their percussive talents. With a simple stage and intriguing costume design, it was easy to focus on what the performers wanted us to see.
Somi is a Jazz musician who performed some songs from her recent album. I never really listened to Jazz music before, so I am glad I attended this performance. Somi’s songs were so soothing yet powerful all at the same time. She also sang about some issues that were important to me.
Seeing Smith perform was a bit of a curve ball to me. I was not sure what to expect when heading to this performance. It was not like any of the other performances we have seen; this was a one-woman show. She recreated interviews she conducted and did so with a lot of emotion. While being funny, yet serious, her impersonations of her interviewees sold the show.
The night of Unofficial the class attended Cabaret–which was very fitting. Cabaret was a comedic, scandalous musical set in 1930s Germany. Many scenes were risqué, but honestly it was refreshing to see a performance that was more adult-oriented. This was also the first performance I’ve seen that had subtitles above the stage–something I found very interesting.
The Merchant of Venice was the first performance I viewed online after in-person classes were postponed. It was a witty comedy that touched upon some serious topics. I read the play in high school so it was nice to revisit it and see how the performance compared to simply reading the play.
The Container was a very unique performance. Being performed in a shipping container with low light really set the mood for the entire performance. The choice to perform in a shipping container was ingenious, and I wish I could have been there to see it performed live. The story was already compelling and sincere as is, but being there in person would have been a whole new level of immersion.
The final performance I viewed this semester was Metamorphosis. This was definitely a wacky one. The movements by the performers were flamboyant and exaggerated–fitting with the peculiar story. The performance was also in Japanese, so I had to follow along with subtitles. Metamorphosis opened my mind to watch other forms of media that may not be in a language I understand.
A sincere thank you goes out to Dr. Collins and Prof. Robinson. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this class, but I took away more than I could have ever asked for. They always had so much energy and never failed to brighten up my day. They also helped us explore the arts in ways a typical class could never. Thank you for helping me explore performances I probably would have never seen on my own. Thank you for making my final semester a great one! 🙂
I decided to end my college career exploring what only the University of Illinois could provide: an experience exploring the culture and arts of the University’s feature facilities like the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the Spurlock Museum. I lamented being cut short of the fun times I was having, but I am happy I got to take part. Dr. Collins and Dr. Robinson provided a course that broadened my horizons, taking me to performances I may not have otherwise. This stayed true into the pandemic as I was directed to online performances to compliment my education. My classmates were friendly and fun. My brief encounters with them are ones I treasure immensely and some of what I miss the most in this isolation we all suffer through today.
Where to start off…first of all this class gave me an insight on all the creative things that the University provides which we must take advantage of while we can because our time there is short. This semester proved that point. We never know how long we have with something, it is up to us to not take it for granted and take every opportunity given to us while it’s there. I feel this way about this class. I am glad I ended up taking a class I never took before because of all of the amazing events I was able to experience. That was something I could not have done on my own, but now I may thanks to this class.
Even though our in class person time was cut short this spring semester of 2020, that did not stop the learning nor viewing the events in an alternative manner. Thanks to Digital Theatre Plus, the online viewings were still made possible. Even though it was not the same experience as an in person production, it still continued the entertaining as the other events.
Productions through Krannert
“The Butterfly Lovers” was the first production that the FAA 110 class introduced us to. I was really glad it involved butterflies in the title because butterflies are so captivating to me, which got me more excited for the performance rather than viewing it as mandatory. What I loved about this production was the acting through ballet, the performers could not speak with their mouths so the only other alternative was through dance. I really believe they did an excellent job in conveying their message to the audience because after all, everyone stood up for a standing ovation !
“Step Afrika!: Drumfolk” was the second performance that we viewed through the Krannert Art Center. Originally I thought this performance was going to be mostly drum playing, but it meant much more than that. This performance gave me an insight on a culture’s traditional ways of expressing themselves. It brought to life the horrors of the past but at the same time the kindled spirits of those who are warriors. It was truly a wonderful and impactful experience that I would recommend for others to view if they ever have the chance.
“SOMI” was the third production that I got to view in person. What I liked about this performance was the fact that the main singer, Somi, had an amazing and diverse range of voice pitches to share with the audience. I’m pretty sure that everyone was amazed with her work. Personally, I really looked up to her given the fact that she always took the time to have the rest of her performers recognized, asking the audience to clap for them whenever they had an individual part to play or whenever they played with her. That showed her humbleness, which I really admired.
“Anna Deavere Smith” was the fourth In person production I was able to watch. This was a new type of experience for me because I had never gone to see a comedian/storyteller before so I did not know what to expect. Anna Deavere Smith had a unique form of storytelling that was new to me, but it was well vocalized given that the audience kept laughing at the jokes that she would incorporate in her stories.
“The Cabaret” was the fifth and last in person production I was able to view. This performance also included a historical event but it was told in events leading up to it, through different people. This production was more musical/entertainment like, which I really enjoyed to see. To me, the characters really drew in my attention because of how different everyone was and how they viewed life back then in Berlin, Germany.
Productions through Digital Theatre +
“The Container” was the 6th production I viewed, but the first one through an online database, because of in person classes being suspended. What I enjoyed about this production was shedding to light the gruesome realities of the world. The actors took on the role of what refugees seeking refuge go through because of the opportunities they are denied of. A tragedy, but this Is real life for many people, which we often don’t think about.
“Metamorphosis” was a production that I never imagined seeing. So many aspects of this play made it unique, the costuming, the storytelling, the set, but most importantly it was the storyline. The life of an ordinary salesman is turned upside down as he transforms into an insect out of nowhere. When I first heard the title I associated it with growth and butterflies, when I viewed the film it was nothing like metamorphosis for the better of an individual. It was more like a metamorphosis for the family and how to continue going about life.
The final production was a Shakespeare one but one of my choice. I chose to view “Macbeth” because I have heard about it in high-school but never got to read about it. The only thing I knew I was going to be in store for was confusing language. After reading an overview of the film I was able to go along with the storyline and conclude that Shakespeare productions are filled with tragedies and drama but at the same time creativity.
Overall, all of the productions were all entertaining and had a unique storyline behind it as well as the way the performance was delivered. Being in this class was an amazing experience and what makes it well liked are the teachers behind it. I am grateful that I had amazing, helpful, and encouraging teachers, Dr. Collins and Dr. Robinson, that really helped me through the class and explore messages within the productions.
I never thought that I would find a class as fun and enlightening as this one. I had taken a theater class my freshman year and absolutely hated it to the point where my love for theater had plummeted. This class helped resurrect it and brought it to twice the intensity. I got to feel the excitement of looking forward to the day of the shows. I realized I love the whole experience of being in a performing center. I got to see the beauty of the building itself, the passion the performers have, the shared emotions in the audience, and I got to learn more about different cultures as well!
I am extremely grateful that I was able to be in this class. I was able to reunite with my love for the arts in full force. It was amazing to have a performance to look forward to every single week and I am going to continue going to performances at Krannert more often because I have realized how healing it is to experience art and how much it has helped me deal with stress this semester. I was disappointed that I was not able to enjoy this class to its full capacity due to COVID-19…I was really looking forward to the remaining performances. However, I am still extremely happy with the experiences I took from the first half of the semester and I also really enjoyed the Digital performances and I am also happy that I now know that a website like that exists so I can enjoy more performances online this summer if I want to.
Despite my lack of experience with the performing arts, I decided to take this class to step out of my comfort zone and I’m glad I did. I had a grand time watching these performances and trying to form my own opinions about the message of each show and their purpose. Through this course, I’ve found the type of performances I like the most and I definitely want to be visiting the Krannert Center and local performing arts theatres in the future.