SEA Coffeehouse promotes environmentalism with various acts

November 11, 2016

On Wednesday in Chum’s, Students for Environmental Action (SEA) hosted a coffeehouse evening of student performances to touch on environmental issues with a group of peers. Despite starting the night with only a moderate turnout and an overall grim mood due to the political atmosphere, SEA rose to the challenge and provided a warm, fun and inviting space for the Brandeis community to reflect on environmental challenges and unwind from a stressful day.

SEA began by playing music and offering free food and paraphernalia such as free stickers and endangered species condoms, a sure way to invite participation by college students. Many students trickled in a few minutes late, but the evening began with improv comedy sketches by False Advertising. The group took a seemingly mundane and boring audience word, “modern,” and developed a series of characters in various sketches to questions and mock notions of modernity. One humorous character was the overly present grandmother checking in on her college-age granddaughter and looking for help with her Skype account. One clever repeated joke was a version of the company Apple. The employees took any and all customer requests, ranging from a phone that doubles as a blender to a request to bring an elderly gentleman’s wife back to life. In the absence of any props, costumes or staging, it was impressive to see False Advertising bring the stage to life and entertain the audience for a performance lasting roughly 20 minutes.

The second performance transitioned from a club performance to a solo performer, Adam Gurfinkel ’17. Like False Advertising, Gurfinkel extended deep gratitude for all the audience members coming together for a night of fun, despite events from the previous day. Gurfinkel spent most of his stage time commenting on the new political trending topics, with a personal spin. Following Gurfinkel’s performance, a cheerful and fun member of SEA read aloud two very cheesy and cute puns about the environment, bringing the night’s theme back into focus.

The next performance was on behalf of Brandeis Climate Justice, a former SEA initiative, which branched off into its own group two years ago. Brandeis Climate Justice originally focused primarily on fossil fuel divestment and has since grown into a larger group that regularly confronts and challenges legal issues regarding the environment. The group meets each Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Pearlman, but meeting times will likely change next semester.

One member of Brandeis Climate Justice then performed a collection of songs on two different recorders. The first piece was a collection of anti-fascist songs, which was followed by a second song on a different recorder. The second piece was a semi-original work, in part influenced by a protest song called, “Seventeen Hundred Miles of Pipe,” which asserts the dangers and harms of the Keystone pipeline. Finally, two more a cappella songs also captured the feel of protest and resistance against certain movements that serve to harm our environment. Bold and vibrant, these tunes echoed a strong sense of solidarity and collective empowerment felt by the audience that night.

A perfect follow-up to Brandeis Climate Justice’s performance, David Chernack ’17 and Rebecca Weiss ’18 graced the audience with warm, inviting and beautiful songs. Chernack and Weiss performed several duets. The first piece was called “Shenandoah Falls,” a piece as awe-inspiring as the title suggests. Both Chernack and Weiss played the violin, demonstrating excellent musicianship in fusing the two parts together to form one beautiful harmony. Their second piece was referred to by Chernack as “a traditional Irish cross-dressing song.” This second song featured Chernack on vocals and acoustic guitar, and Weiss on violin again. A third piece featured Weiss on violin and Chernack on a larger acoustic guitar. Weiss introduced this song as a piece she learned at a “house concert,” a concert hosted out of someone’s home for a small group of listeners. To finish their performance, Chernack and Weiss played an impromptu, unrehearsed edition of “This Land is Your Land,” in response to the prior night’s events. Ending on such a wholesome, positive, high note, the audience joined in, creating a much-needed gesture of cooperation, gratitude and support.

Additional performances included campus groups Symbiosis, Crowd Control, Voices of Soul, Farmers Club and Rather be Giraffes.

All in all, it would have been nice to see a larger turnout. Certainly, many individuals in the Brandeis community would have benefitted from such an event. However, the night brought those in attendance a feeling of warmth and a strong sense of community, not to mention free food and goodies.