A bash for Botticelli, a soirée for Sodom

Student company raises money for plays

Students, academics and art appreciators at the Mansion.

On Tuesday night at The Mansion, student production company Capstone Collective raised money for the plays Botticelli in the Fire and Sunday and Sodom, opening later this month at the Isabel.

Drama students, academics and art appreciators alike gathered at The Mansion on Tuesday night for three hours of diverse entertainment that ranged from dancing and desserts to academic lectures.

First produced in 2015 in Toronto, Botticelli in the Fire follows the life of the Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli while creating his most famous work, “The Birth of Venus.”

On March 6 at The Mansion, art curator Dr. Jacquelyn Coutre presented on the social and cultural implications of the “The Birth of Venus” and what it represented to Botticelli’s contemporary audience as well as its influence today.

Courtre said Venus is “a clear symbol” of the goddess of love, sex and beauty, but Botticelli treats her with “particular gentleness and modesty.”

The second play of the two-part show titled Sunday in Sodom is a modern retelling of the biblical tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, seen through the eyes of Lot’s wife Edith. Religions professor Dr. William Morrow was invited to speak on the original tale and how the “sins” committed in the story changed in meaning through time.

“Traditionally it’s been seen as ridiculous and disobedient for Lot’s wife to turn and look back against God’s command,” Morrow said in his talk. “But looking at women’s lives [at the time] in Israel, she may not have just been asked to give up her home, but her power.”

Organizer Ben Sterlin included these academic presentations to highlight the historical weight the plays carry in their scripts.

“The play takes a lot of creative liberties in making these stories quite modern,” Sterlin said. “We want people to look at them in a new light. I think being really grounded in history and the scholarship that revolves around these stories helps us recontextualize and make them much more poignant to a modern audience.”

But the night was far from a classroom lecture. Eveningwear-clad attendees drank beer and danced to covers of classic songs by Adam Eisen, Erez Zobary and Nicholas Ashmore. People also posed for photos with their friends.

After the show’s two posters were revealed to the audience — best described as risqué pop-art of the female form — berry pie and a cake reading “Botticelli” in blue icing were cut into and the music was peppered with laughter and conversation.

Overall, the evening was exactly as the invitation said it would be — business casual.

“I love how unapologetic the play is,” Sterlin yelled over the steadily increasing noise. “It almost takes the audience for a ride — it’s truly extravagant. Which makes having an extravaganza appropriate.”

The Botticelli in the Fire/Sunday at Sodom double-bill is being performed at the Studio Theatre in the Isabel Bader Center for the Performing Arts from March 21 to 25.

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