Exhibit displays vulnerability like never before

Most students use spring break as a time to take a much-needed breather from Carnegie Mellon, but senior drama major Nate Bertone doesn’t have that luxury — he’s got two major artistic endeavors premiering right when we return. First, he’s directing a free evening of artistic performances commenting on diversity called “Kaleidoscope.” Featuring the world premiere of the musical Polka Dots, the show is on Monday, March 14 at 7 p.m. in the Philip Chosky Theater. The second piece is a photo project he’s been working on since sophomore year titled “We Wear the Mask.” The exhibition is set to premiere at the Future Tenant gallery in the downtown Cultural District on Friday, March 18 at 6 p.m. as part of the quarterly Cultural Trust Gallery Crawl. While simply reading that could cause a wave of stress, the Massachusetts native speaks of his momentous efforts as if they’re privileges rather than responsibilities. He hopes to spark conversations on campus and in the wider community regarding ways we can channel negative emotions into positive change.

“Kaleidescope,” a one-night only event, is a multi-discipline affair bringing together students from the School of Drama, Scotch ‘n’ Soda, and members of Arts Greenhouse, a Carnegie Mellon-sponsored after-school creative program for local high school students. The night will begin with musical performances from Arts Greenhouse, then feature original spoken word pieces from both Arts Greenhouse and Carnegie Mellon students, and wrap up with the world premiere of Polka Dots with a talkback with the cast following the performance.

Bertone was given the exciting opportunity to debut Polka Dots after connecting with one of the writers on Facebook; a friend posted a video of the writer performing an original song called “Sticks and Stones” about a young girl named Lily using positive thought to overcome school bullies. The themes of the song permeate Polka Dots, which is about the character of Lily Polka Dot and her experience as the first polka dot in a school for squares. The entire musical is based on the historical experience of the Little Rock Nine. Don’t be put off by the fact that the show was written as a touring educational show for middle school students: Bertone assures that the label is more of an age minimum than a maximum. “It’s a show that has these important topics from a middle school perspective but its very sophisticated in its conversations and has beautiful music … it’s a show that can be enjoyed by adults but also understood by children,” he said.

Four days after “Kaleidoscope,” Bertone’s exhibition “We Wore the Masks” opens downtown. A self-professed social media obsessive, Bertone is primarily interested in exploring the momentous changes that living online has brought to the human experience. He says that his photo project was spurned by the idea that “on a daily basis we wear masks that we need to remove in order to get to know each other … with social media we are constantly able to change the way that the world sees us by rewording a status or editing [our] profile picture, personally hand selecting everything the world sees about us.”

The project involved asking subjects to tell Bertone something about themselves they wouldn’t necessarily want to share with the world and then define it in a word. Bertone then photographed the exposed subjects and printed the word across the subject’s body, allowing them to finally share their true selves with the world. In addition to the existing photographs, the March 18 opening reception at Future Tenant will host a “living gallery,” where walk-ins may themselves become subjects and add to the collection.

Soon to graduate as a drama major with a focus in scenic design, Bertone has worked on a number of Carnegie Mellon productions including last year’s Milk Milk Lemonade and Hydrogen Jukebox, the School of Music opera. However, Bertone’s real interests lie in directing and playwriting, a passion sparked by his experience with the School of Drama’s annual Playground festivals, which allow for students to conceive, propose, and produce original theater pieces. “Playground really was the outlet where I understood what you can do with theater, and that really helped spark my path change,” he said. “Letters from War,” a play he wrote for Playground his sophomore year inspired by his grandmothers battle with Alzheimer’s and grandfather’s lung cancer, grew past its Carnegie Mellon roots and had its world premiere last May in Massachusetts.

Due to the wide age appeal of “Kaleidoscope”, Bertone expects to see a packed house in the Chosky Theater for the one-night event. “The hope is that we can get CMU students to come to this, and fill the audience with middle and high school students as well, and all have this conversation together,” he beamed over a cup of iced coffee. “The show is called kaleidoscope because in a kaleidoscope all the colors are in there and when you put them together it becomes this one beautiful image. So the idea is that the world we live in is a kaleidoscope, and would be very boring if it was in monochrome film.”

“Kaleidoscope” premieres Monday, March 14 at 7 p.m. in the Philip Chosky Theatre. Admission is free. For more information, check out Kaleidoscope’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/events/229720154040330/. “We Wore the Masks” premieres Friday, March 18 at 6 p.m. in the Future Tenant Gallery. Admission is free.