‘Black Comedy’ and ‘Black Box’ are Complementary

Death and religion have never been laughing matters—at least until now.  “The Actor’s Nightmare” andSister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You,” two one-acts written by Christopher Durang and performed in the Black Box from November 3-6, allowed absurd black comedy to flourish in the Southwest theater scene.  Hilariously dismal and refreshingly intelligent, both pieces satisfied an enthusiastic student audience.

The plot of “The Actor’s Nightmare” is likely familiar to any performer who has dreamt of being thrust onto stage without knowing his or her lines.  Such is the case with George Spelvin, although he cannot seem to wake up, or figure out whether he is performing “Private Lives,” “Hamlet,” “Waiting for Godot?” or maybe “A Man of All Seasons.”  The talented Luke Burris convinced a chortling audience that he knew just what it was like to be in George’s situation, traveling through phases of confusion, haughty confidence, uneasiness, and ultimately, indifference as to whether or not he survived this hellish nightmare.

“Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All to You” was perhaps more enjoyable than the first, thanks to its rousing and extremely well-executed climax.  Despite appearing sweet in a floppy nun’s hat, Rachel Nethercut was spot-on in her portrayal of the rigid and cruel Sister Mary, who refuses at all costs to admit that a single flaw exists in the framework of Catholicism.  The show was relentless when it came to satirizing strict moral code, although Durang made it clear that the consequences of close-mindedness are not a joking matter.

Without a doubt, directors Carter Bellaimey and Louis Umbarger went beyond expectations and set the bar high for future student directors.  Their production was stirring and innovative, from its use of humorous short film to make the usually repetitive pre-show announcements, to its silent projection of “Fight Club” before and between shows, to its unsettling implication that those who laughed at certain moments would be sent to hell, and finally, to the fact that it gave way to some of the best individual performances Unhinged has seen in a very long time.

All Hail Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

As everyone knows, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows entered theaters November 19th. The day had finally come to see Part 1 of the last movie of the epic Harry Potter series. Many students decided to take the risk of seeing the movie at midnight, sacrificing precious hours of sleep on a school night. They filed into line as early as 5:00 PM, and waited until 10:00, when they were finally allowed to enter the theater and pick seats. All showings at AMC Southdale were dedicated to the movie, and all were sold out. Harry Potter fanatics were dressed up as their favorite character, ranging from the lowly house elf to the most evil purebred. Pandemonium ensued: Duels were fought in the hallways of the theater, curses were being cast every which way, broomsticks were being flown to the concession stand, until at last, midnight arrived. Fans took their seats and waited anxiously as the monotonous previews droned on. Suddenly, the lights were dimmed, and the all too familiar theme song of Harry Potter was being played. The thing that everyone had been waiting for was actually happening.

The movie itself was more than anyone could have predicted. Entwining drama, suspense, and a hint of comedy, David Yates does a great job of keeping the viewers’ attention. Daniel Radcliffe, who plays the famous Harry Potter, outdoes himself yet again. Be it fleeing from oncoming deatheaters, staring romantically at Ginny, or groaning in pain from seeing visions of Voldemort, Radcliffe’s acting ability goes above and beyond normal standards. Rupert Grint, who plays the red-headed Ron Weasley, also manages to portray his character accurately. Although he remains moody for the majority of the time, his wittiness shines through during certain scenes, lighting smiles on the audience’s faces. Emma Watson portrays the intelligent Hermione Granger. Throughout the movie she shows bravery, passion, anger, and other emotions that truly reflect her character. Another character who really stood out was Bellatrix Lestrange. She is played by Helena Carter, whose intensity out-stages all of the other villains. She plays the role perfectly, and there’s almost a glint of the true Bellatrix in her eyes each time she appears on screen. New characters were introduced, like Xenophilius Lovegood (Rhys Ifans), Luna’s strange father, Bill Weasley (Domhnall Gleason), Ron’s werewolf-bitten brother,  Mundungus Fletcher (Andy Linden), a traitorous scum, and Yaxley (Peter Mullan), a loyal death eater.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows definitely lived up to fans’ expectations. Abby Hilden, a sophomore, says “Even though i haven’t seen movies 3, 4, 5, or 6, it was honestly one of the best movies I’ve seen. it was so suspenseful.” Not only was it an exceptional movie, but the experience of going to the midnight showing just added to the excitement. When asked about his opinion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ben Tracy, a junior, responded “The movie itself was one of the best of the series, but the true fun was dressing up, waiting in line for hours, flying around Southdale on a broomstick, getting in wizard duels with random people, and having a night out with friends to celebrate with our great friend: Harry Potter!”

CityWide Must Evolve: A Case for Reform

As far as high school student governments go, CityWide Student Government is quite an admirable one. This academic year has seen bold progress as CityWide embraced its role as a forum for discussion among its members. (For those unaware, CityWide is the representative body for the students of all Minneapolis Public Schools, hosting monthly summits of a dozen representatives from each of the city’s public high schools.) As a result of efforts led by CityWide members, including some of our very own Southwest Senators, the School Board welcomed discussion on modernizing the District’s Electronics Policy.

The role of CityWide will become more crucial as the District evolves. With similar education plans being implemented district-wide and a considerable refocusing on attendance boundaries, the District is facing an overall homogenization—a move that will serve to unite the high schools under the MPS banner. This unity will rely much on CityWide. To evolve in accordance with the new responsibilities, there are significant flaws within the structure of CityWide that must be remedied.

First, the Executive Board must be elected via Direct Representation.

The current election method of the highest echelon of CityWide representation is much too anarchic and allows for certain schools to dominate the Exec Board. At the final meeting of the year, all in attendance are given an option to run for any of the ten positions (President, Vice President, Editor, etc.), with the only requirement being a minute-long candidacy speech. The winner of the Presidency acquires authority for the entirety of the following school year. Essentially, a first-time attendee to a CityWide meeting can take the stage, and should their charisma be adequate, take control of such a crucial organization of which they were never contributors.

Direct Representation strives to fix this flaw.

In Direct Representation, the student bodies of each Minneapolis Public High School would be allowed to select their Executive at CityWide. Instead of a hierarchy in the Executive Board, there would be “Ten Executives” of CityWide Student Government.

The benefits to this system are overwhelming. The tendency for South and Southwest to take up disproportionate amounts of seats on the Board will be countered. Healthy competition will arise as a natural by-product of having ten Executives all with large constituencies to represent.

Direct Representation is the first step.

Second, participation must be academically incentivized.

A youth organization reaches its highest level of legitimacy when academic incentive is provided for participation. In the case of CityWide, additional Social Studies credit is the natural award. The structure of the government will be best preserved if the members have academic incentives for participation. This will require discussion with Social Studies departments throughout the District.

Third, the Mission must be reinforced.

All members of CityWide should be required to memorize the Mission Statement of the government.

“We, the CityWide Student Government, are here to provide service and to voice the opinions of Minneapolis Public Schools students. Our goal is to create a positive, respectful, forum where students feel welcome to discuss their concerns and develop leadership skills. We will represent and unite students in the Minneapolis Public Schools district. We realize that students, administrators, staff, parents, and community all play an important role in education and we will work together to achieve the best education possible.”

This requirement, recited at the commencement of each summit, would reinforce the principle of “voicing opinions.” An encouragement of discussion has already taken hold of this year’s CityWide. The continuance of it can be insured by adequate reinforcement of the Mission Statement.

Fourth, the location of the monthly Summit must change.

CityWide has been well-served in its developmental stages by the lower level hall of northern Minneapolis’ Urban League. The evolution of the organization requires more suitable circumstances. A question of taste, what is clear about the venue of the Summit is this: a new location, better equipped for the capacity and progression of CityWide, is necessary. Such a move would vitalize the government, ensuring its progress.

These reforms will aid CityWide in its ambition to be relevant to the District over periods of extensive progress. In order to be efficient, the government must evolve. By modernizing its election method, academically incentivizing participation, reinforcing its mission, and adopting a more appropriate venue, CityWide will develop a strong resilience to the tendency of all too many student organizations—the tendency to slip into oblivion via irrelevance.

Author’s Note: I entered CityWide my sophomore year and admired the nature of the government from the very beginning. It is my whole-hearted intent that I leave the Student Government better than I found it. These four points are based off a close affiliation with CityWide throughout the past three years. Discussion and debate are at the core of the spirit of CityWide. I encourage any and all discussion and debate for the sake of CityWide Student Government.

CityWide Must Change : A Case for Direct Representation

“We, the CityWide Student Government, are here to provide service and to voice the opinions of Minneapolis Public Schools students.”

Like it or not, you, as a student of the Minneapolis Public Schools, have a government. Entitled “CityWide Student Government” (Briefly, Citywide or CW) the organization is the monthly congregation of a dozen representatives from each Minneapolis Public High School. Its executive board is comprised of members elected by the government members in an annual election. Chief among its responsibilities is the representation of the 30,000+ Minneapolis Public Schools students to the School Board. Nominally, there is much power in Citywide. An efficient citywide can do much to benefit the quality of education and the student experience in Minneapolis Public Schools.

Recently, Southwest chose to formalize its representation to Citywide. Dubbed “the Southwest Ambassadors,” Southwest students present at the Citywide meeting have invigorated the government. At times abrasive, always productive, Citywide Student Government has produced its first Citywide policy change initiative at the request of the Southwest Senate, via the selected Ambassadors. The change is directed towards the electronics policy of the District that the Southwest Senate viewed to be draconian at best. Now, significant strides have been made by Citywide to the extent that, according to a Southwest Member of the Citywide Executive Board, the School Board is hosting a special session to remedy the matter.

Yet this hard-fought achievement brought to light the significant flaw within Citywide: The composition of the Executive Board.

Case in point: the hailed progress on a modernized Electronics Policy. The first meeting of the year ended with a promise by the Executive Board to return the following month with a draft policy. The next meeting saw nothing that could be considered policy—the promise was extended. The third meeting of the year saw the presentation of the resolution, justifying the need for change but not suggesting any. This meeting saw agitation and discord. Ultimately, the preamble was presented to the School Board, which appreciated the idea, and called for a special session.

The problem is within the means to which this end was achieved. What should have taken one month took three. At this rate, the efficiency of the government is highly compromised. To fix this requires a restructuring of the Executive Board.

What exists now is a ten-member executive strata of students elected at the last meeting of the year.

The process of candidacy is very inefficient. There is no application—simply whoever shows up at the last meeting is eligible to run for the position of choice. Thus, one person, charismatic enough to pull it off, can have no previous participation in Citywide, show up to the last meeting, win the presidency by giving the best one-minute speech, and control citywide for the whole of the following school year. To solve this obvious flaw is the purpose of “Direct Representation.”

Direct Representation, the brainchild of the Southwest Senate, calls for an Executive Board comprised of one internally selected member from each high school. Including the smaller specialty high schools, the number of Executive Board members will remain roughly the same. Each school will be held responsible to provide their best representative and they shall be made an executive member. Essentially, there will be “Ten Presidents.”

A major flaw within the Executive Board is its composition. The current board is composed of Southwest and South students with the exception of two members. The domination by the two schools is contrary to the “citywide” angle of the government. The principle of Direct Representation counters this imbalance.

Direct representation also creates a competitive atmosphere. When any new idea is brought up by, let’s say, an Edison student, it becomes the responsibility of Edison’s Executive member to pursue that initiative. A cooperative mindset will prove itself to be most beneficial, so a natural camaraderie will emerge while still maintaining a competitive edge.

Citywide will thrive. It will prosper and, above all, it will be efficient. Citywide would be the envy of any student representative body. To attain its rightful status and develop efficiency for the sake of the students, Citywide must change—it must adopt Direct Representation.

How the Senate Will Fail (and Why It Will Rise Again)

For the Senate to be relevant, there must be a crisis of existence

As the creator of the Senate, I can say firmly and with much pride that the Senate will fail. Here’s how:

Apathy. Continual, mundane apathy. It’s both the curse and blessing of being a member of a democratic society. Inherently, there is nothing wrong with it. The problems only arise when something new is proposed.

The Senate originated with the purpose of full representation of Southwest Students. In calm periods for the school, such as now, the attention of the Senate, which meets during lunch periods, would mainly revolve around CityWide Student Government initiatives and school policy. In periods of crisis, such as the present situation at North, the senate would assume its role as representatives of the student body and adopt rules of debate and action to protect the interests of the school as the students best see fit. Southwest is arguably the least likely of being threatened with closure, but therein lies the necessity of a representative body: a safeguard of the Student Body’s interests.

The Senate was a completely novel idea. Nowhere exists a completely student-run representative body. The “Senates” in some suburban schools resemble service organizations more than representative bodies, the biggest danger in the mind of the author being their control by adult advisors. Thus there exists a certain Southwest spirit in the idea of the Senate.

But the senate will not work now. There is no urgency. There is no reason to abandon apathy. Had this been a school facing an imminent crisis, the context of the Senate would make tremendous sense. Otherwise, the existence of the senate would require an extraordinary change of mindset (who knows? Might happen) that will not happen. There is a distinct lack of interest in a safeguard. Eventually that apathy will result in low attendance at the meetings (which has surprisingly been avoided so far) and the eventual dissolution of the senate. It is something that is bound to happen. That is why the Senate will fail.

The author is the creator of the Senate. Though I am sad to see this organization slowly die, I am filled with pride towards all those involved and the Senate itself due to the inevitable rebirth of this noble idea.

It will undoubtedly take years, maybe decades, but the destiny of the Minneapolis Public Schools shows all tendencies towards conflict. There are simply too many wealthy suburban schools, too many flaws within the district, too many school closings and budgetary imbalances. The threat to close North High is only the beginning, for the circumstances that affected the oldest high school in the city can just as easily be applied to any of the other seven high schools. Whether or not we are ready for it, a crisis of existence will occur. the spirit of the Senate is geared towards this crisis.

It can only be hoped that the future classes of Southwest Lakers who are enrolled into such a crisis carry an ambitious spirit reminiscent to the one that created the senate. That will ensure the survival and flourishing of our school and our district.

The current Senate is destined to fail. It is a severe crisis of existence that will inevitably give it new life and a chance to fulfill its role as representatives of the Student Body of the great Southwest Lakers.

Soccer Sucks!

“WE GOT DOME!” was heard all throughout Southwest and seen on many Facebook status updates. Why? This year, Southwest High School proudly cheered their soccer team to the state finals and encouraged them as they won second place at the Metrodome. Students were even excused from school  to attend the semi-finals also held at the Metrodome. This was most likely the most supported Southwest athletic chronicle. But why? Other sports have done incredibly well and advanced to state competition, and the extent of support didn’t continue after their five-second announcement.

Soccer is a popular sport. This factor greatly contributes to the support of the soccer team. Even when the football team was competing for the city conference title, it was widely supported. But other teams, which are less mainstream, are not as recognized for their achievements. Even other extracurriculars, such as the speech and debate teams, the knowledge bowl squad, and the chess team, do not get to see the school filled with laker pride. The chess team does extremely well and is ranked high nationally. How many people have ever attended tournaments in support of the chess team?

It is very sad and frustrating that Laker Spirit doesn’t reach out to our many talented teams. Next time you hear about how the success of a team or competitor, try to congratulate them. City conferences for the Nordic ski team next week? Grab a coat and cheer for them. A tennis player has a bid for state? Go cheer for them. Heard the chess team won nationals? make it a point to show support. Southwest needs to continue to support ALL of it’s successful teams and clubs if it hopes to continue to do well.

Southwest Students Tour the Windy City

MEA break is a time widely known among high school students for staying out late, sleeping in, and relaxing. However, over 35 Southwest students chose to take this time to explore college options in the Chicago, Illinois area. These students were a part of a 3 night trip to Chicago hosted by Project Success. The trip included food, lodging and private college tours.

Students applied several weeks in advance and, once accepted, joined several South and Washburn students on the 8 hour bus ride to Chicago, Illinois. Leaving Southwest after lunch on Wednesday, October 20th, with a quick stop for food on the road, the travel buses arrived in Chicago by nightfall.

Over the next two days, students toured schools all over the city. Students got to choose from a selection of schools including Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, University of Chicago and DePaul University. Each student was able to tour up to 5 schools. Students enjoyed the variety of the schools offered. Many students found schools that they loved, “the University of Chicago was beautiful and it had a good core liberal arts program.” said Hannah Germaine, a Southwest junior. Another common favorite school of Southwest students was Northwestern University.

Each day, when tours had ended, students were allowed to explore the city of Chicago. Students got a look at different neighborhoods in the city, and were allowed shopping time on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. Alison Graba, a Southwest junior, recalls of the experience “I really liked how much freedom the Project Success staff gave us. They kind of just let us lose in Chicago and trusted us to be responsible for ourselves, which was really refreshing.” Siri Keller, a Southwest junior, adds “ It was definitely a great way to really get a feel of the city!” Following the explorations of the city, there was also time for picture-taking at Millennium Park and Navy Pier- common tourist destinations of Chicago.

However, the fun had to come to an end. On Saturday, October 23rd, students began the bus-ride home to Minneapolis. With several technical difficulties along the way, student grew frustrated. However, all students arrived home safely. Overall, the trip was a huge success. “Project Success is such an amazing organization and the staff are such wonderful people.” concludes Holly Stein, a Southwest junior. What a great way to spend MEA Break! It sounds like the city of Chicago might see a lot of Southwest alumni in the next couple of years!