Students, employees at odds with administration

By Samuel Charles

Manifest 2010 was the first time in the festival’s eight-year history that a parade was not held. Instead, the administration decided to hold the first ever Convergence, an event not produced solely by Columbia students.

“The Convergence is bringing together the entire college community to celebrate [Columbia’s] creative spirit in one beautiful, well-defined moment,” said Kari Sommers, assistant dean of Student Life.

Redmoon Theater, 1463 W. Hubbard St., in partnership with the college, helped produce props and costumes necessary for the celebration. While seen as a positive step forward by members of the administration, some student workers in the Spectacle Build Shop felt that higher ups within the college did not communicate their ideas effectively, causing emotions to run high and feelings to be hurt.

Redmoon Theater helped the Spectacle Build Shop create the costumes for Emissary characters who were at Manifest last year that helped guide people to the Convergence. There were only three people from Redmoon helping with the process.

However, apparent lack of communication between administration and student workers in the Spectacle Build Shop led to some tension between the student workers and the people from Redmoon.

The animosity felt by Spectacle Build Shop employees wasn’t directed at members of Redmoon, who worked in Columbia buildings and used the college’s art supplies, but instead at

Columbia administration.

“It seems like the administration won’t ever understand that [bringing in Redmoon] is like a shot in the arm to the students,” said Jesse Kegan, a senior who has worked in the Spectacle Build Shop for more than three years.

The lack of communication between student workers and the administration was one of the most frustrating things as expressed by Spectacle Build Shop student employees during the process of preparing for Manifest.

“It’s sort of a bummer when they tell us one thing and then feel that it’s more worth it for them to pay a professional,” Kegan said.

He said Redmoon was brought in to help with Manifest production because of the administration’s lack of confidence in the Spectacle Build Shop.

“They’re worried we might fail,” Kegan said. “They’re worried we’ll [mess] up.”

Columbia’s partnership with Redmoon was strengthened by Frank Maugeri, an adjunct faculty member in the Film and Video Department who is the artistic director of Redmoon Theater.

“It’s Redmoon, but it’s Frank, it’s our faculty,” Sommers said.

While the company’s presence during preparation for Manifest was small, its work was helpful in preparing for Columbia’s first Convergence.

“Redmoon took some of the heavy lifting last year because it was our first time,” Sommers said.

Other members of administration view Redmoon as an especially good fit for Columbia.

“Redmoon is particularly well-suited for the kinds of theater and spectacle that our shop is interested in producing,” said Kevin Cassidy, a manager of the Spectacle Build Shop.

In addition to Cassidy, the idea of the Convergence was also conceived by Joy Dennis, who is another manager of the Spectacle Build Shop, and Elsa Hiltner, costume manager of the Spectacle Build Shop.

There are many different ideas and opinions about the future of Manifest, such as what direction it should go in, what themes it will follow, and surprisingly, who will be producing work for it. Cassidy said he believes in years to come there will be a different look to Manifest.

“Over the next few years we’ll gradually see a different kind of presence from our performers,” Cassidy said.

However, Kegan said he believes the Spectacle Build Shop’s days at Manifest are numbered.

“Our level of involvement is going to go down and down until Redmoon essentially is doing everything through the Spectacle Shop,” Kegan said.

Manifest’s future and what Redmoon’s level of involvement should be differs depending on the source.

Collaboration, though, is something all parties can agree is vital to both the Spectacle Build Shop’s future as well as Manifest’s.

“Collaboration is one of the hardest things you can do,” Sommers said. “Change is hard, but it’s our motto, damn it.”