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CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 discusses the events of “Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan.”

Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan is in full swing! We opened last month with the panel discussion Gender, Islam, and the “Muslim Problem,” organized and moderated by Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk, followed by the Planet Hip Hop Festival. For those of you who were unable to attend the Planet Hip Hop Festival, or for those of you who were there and wish to see if you made it into the video, you can see exciting footage here.

Earlier this month, Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan was featured on WNPR’s Where We Live with Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge joining Dr. Feryal Salem, Assistant Professor of Islamic Scriptures and Law, Co-Director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program, and Director of the Imam and Muslim Community Leadership Certificate Program at the Hartford Seminary, and Sufi fusion singer Riffat Sultana (who will perform at Wesleyan on Friday, November 7, 2014 at 8pm). Click here to listen to the broadcast.

Wesleyan University’s Dance Department and Center for the Arts present "To Not Forget Crimea: Uncertain Quiet of Indigenous Crimean Tatars" Panel Discussion and Fall Faculty Dance Concert by Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio, Friday, October 24, 2014. Premiere of multimedia work in response to political changes in Crimea.

Wesleyan University’s Dance Department and Center for the Arts present “To Not Forget Crimea: Uncertain Quiet of Indigenous Crimean Tatars” Panel Discussion and Fall Faculty Dance Concert by Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio, Friday, October 24, 2014. Premiere of multimedia work in response to political changes in Crimea.

A number of exciting Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan events are on the horizon. On Friday, October 24, 2014 at 8pm in the Memorial Chapel, Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio presents the premiere performance of the multimedia work To Not Forget Crimea: Uncertain Quiet of Indigenous Crimean Tatars, a response to recent political changes in Crimea. Featuring live music and dance in collaboration with New York Crimean Tatar Ensemble Musical Director Nariman Asanov and Yevshan Ukrainian Vocal Ensemble Conductor Alexander Kuzma, the work explores issues of historical memory, cultural narrative, and the quest for human rights, as they relate to the history of Tatars, native inhabitants of Crimea, and their complex relationships with Ukraine and Russia. A free panel discussion, “Indigenous Ukrainian Perspectives of Crimea Post Russian-Invasion, will take place before the performance, on Friday, October 24, 2014 from 6pm to 7:30pm in Fayerweather Beckham Hall.

Next week, on Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 7pm in CFA Hall, Lebanese American writer, actress, and teaching artist Leila Buck ’99 explores family, memory, and politics in her free solo performance Hkeelee (Talk to Me).

This semester, Ms. Buck is teaching a course in the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program Department, Beyond “the Veil”: Representations and Realities of Muslim Women in the U.S., as part of the Creative Campus Initiative. The course employs artistic methods, personal narratives, and in-person connection to research and examine the dominant representations of Muslim women in the U.S. mainstream media and the complex realities of Muslim women’s lives.

Ms. Buck will also give a free workshop performance (Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 8pm), where she will present a work-in-progress showing of a collaborative theatrical work commissioned by the Center for the Arts as part of Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan.

In the meantime, we hope you will join us for all of these upcoming talks and performances.

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Benjamin Zucker ’15 about the Vijay Iyer Trio, who perform on Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.

Vijay Iyer. Photo by Jimmy Katz.

Vijay Iyer. Photo by Jimmy Katz.

This Saturday, Grammy Award-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer takes the stage in Crowell Concert Hall, along with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, for what promises to be a landmark performance in the history of jazz at Wesleyan.

A 2013 MacArthur Fellow, Mr. Iyer has been named “one of the world’s most inventive new-generation jazz pianists” (Guardian), “an American treasure” (Minnesota Public Radio), and “one of the best in the world at what he does” (Pitchfork).

What Mr. Iyer does is complex and multifaceted, innovative and cutting edge. “He’s doing a lot,” comments Wesleyan Music major Benjamin Zucker ’15. “He is literally and figuratively all over the world.”

Mr. Zucker met Mr. Iyer this past summer in Alberta, Canada at The Banff Centre’s International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, an annual three-week program of which Mr. Iyer is the Director. At Banff, Mr. Zucker had the opportunity to study directly under Mr. Iyer.

Mr. Zucker describes Mr. Iyer’s music as “intricate, rhythms against rhythms, and repeating figures that layer over each other.”

A polymath with a background in math and science, as well as the humanities and the arts, Mr. Iyer received an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the cognitive science of music from University of California, Berkeley.

“He was studying the cognitive perception of music at U.C. Berkeley at the same time that he was playing in an active jazz scene in San Francisco and Oakland,” says Mr. Zucker. “He is someone who has thought a lot about what music can do and how we can get it to do what it does.”

In addition to his background in math and science, Mr. Iyer’s identity as a South Asian American informs his music. “There is a tradition of Asian American jazz, especially in the Bay Area,” explains Mr. Zucker. “But Vijay is at the forefront of a new wave of multicultural jazz and improvisation.”

A prolific composer, Mr. Iyer has released an astonishing eighteen albums over the years. His first album with the Vijay Iyer Trio, Historicity, came out in 2009 and quickly became one of the most influential and acclaimed albums in contemporary jazz.

“The trio is a very cohesive whole,” comments Mr. Zucker. “It really is a full give-and-take with everyone providing their own contribution to the overall rhythm.”

Mr. Iyer and the Vijay Iyer Trio speak to the ever-changing and dynamic nature of jazz music. According to Jazzwise Magazine, “The Vijay Iyer Trio has the potential to alter the scope, ambition and language of jazz piano forever.”

Mr. Zucker will give a pre-concert talk at 7:15pm this Saturday, October 11, 2014, prior to the performance at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.

Vijay Iyer Trio
Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall, 50 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
$25 general public; $22 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Emma Sherr-Ziarko ’11 (Theater), Stage Manager/Video Operator for The Builders Association, who present the Connecticut premiere of “Sontag: Reborn” on Thursday, October 2 and Friday, October 3, 2014 at 8pm in the CFA Theater. 

How did you become involved with The Builders Association?

Through Wesleyan actually. I met them my senior year when they came and did a workshop. [Actor Moe Angelos and Video Designer Austin Switser presented the talk “Inside The Builders Association: Integrating Media and Performance” in February 2011 in CFA Hall.] Austin Switser came to my Media for Performance class. I never anticipated that I would work with them because at the time I wasn’t particularly interested in multimedia theater or multimedia performance. That has since changed.

[After graduating] I decided that I wanted to move to New York and pursue theater. Acting is actually my passion and what I’m most interested in, but when I got to New York—and this is where Wesleyan comes in again—my friend Rachel Silverman ’09 (Theater and Sociology) who had graduated [from Wesleyan] two years before me and who was working for New York Theatre Workshop emailed me and said that they were bringing this show with The Builders Association called Sontag: Reborn to New York Theatre Workshop and needed a Production Assistant.

Adapter/Performer Moe Angelos as Susan Sontag in "Sontag: Reborn" by The Builders Association. Photo by James Gibbs.

Adapter/Performer Moe Angelos as Susan Sontag in “Sontag: Reborn” by The Builders Association. Photo by James Gibbs.

So I became the Production Assistant, and I got to know Moe Angelos who is the performer and adapter for Sontag: Reborn. I spent a lot of time with her backstage running lines. I also took control of the set, which is not big but is very complex because there are hundreds of books and notebooks and everything has to be in a very precise order.

And then at the end of our run at New York Theatre Workshop, the Managing Director for The Builders Association, Erica Laird, came up to me and said that they had been invited [to bring Sontag: Reborn] to a festival in Seoul, Korea in October 2013, and would I be interested in joining them for that. I said, “Yes!”

It’s been very humbling and incredibly inspiring to see these artists work. They are totally brilliant, and I do believe they are changing the way that people think about theater.

Where did the idea for Sontag: Reborn come from?

Artistic Director Marianne Weems knew Susan Sontag, and Susan had been on the board of The Builders Association. [Then] Moe started reading Susan’s journals—her son [David Rieff] had published them after her death—and thought, you know, this could be a really cool thing and not your average one-woman show.

So Moe brought the idea for Sontag: Reborn to The Builders Association?

Yes. This show was Moe’s brainchild, [but] the way The Builders Association works is incredibly collaborative. I’ll give you an example of that: This show has a script, but they don’t always have set scripts, so then what happens is Austin Switser, the Video Designer, starts playing with stuff, and [Lighting Designer] Laura Mroczkowski starts playing with lights, and [Sound Designer] Dan Dobson is like a magician creating music—it’s unbelievable. They literally jam together to create the world of the work. It’s unique. It’s exciting. And it’s exciting to be a part of.

Does any of that collaborative, and at times spontaneous, process of making the work carry over into the final performance?

Absolutely. For example, this show is actually a dialogue. It’s a one-woman show, but it’s really a dialogue between Moe and a video. As you will see, if you come to the performance, there is a piece of recorded video footage that is Moe as older Susan Sontag in dialogue with live Moe [playing a younger version of Susan Sontag]. I run the video footage of old Sontag. Basically there’s a mini keyboard that controls the video footage, and I essentially speed it up and slow it down according to Moe’s performance, so it’s a live performance.

What is it like to be an actor in The Builders Association?

I’ve spoken with Moe a lot about that and it’s very different because you are constantly interacting with the multimedia aspects, especially in this show where there are no other actors. All she has to respond to is the video, the lights, the sound, and the other aspects of the video design.

Can you describe the sound score for Sontag: Reborn?

It’s music and sound effects composed by Dan Dobson with other pieces that are referenced by Susan Sontag. Dan’s a genius. He is one of the original members of the Blue Man Group. If you sit around during lunch breaks in the theater, that’s when he jams and creates this music. It’s unbelievable.

Is this a typical show for The Builders Association?

I would say that this is actually an unusual subject matter for The Builders Association. It’s basically a portrait. In many of the other Builders Association shows there’s more of a commentary, or at least some political aspect. For example, House / Divided blends the story of The Grapes of Wrath with the housing crisis. There’s a lot of intermingling of classic texts and contemporary socio-economic political issues, which there isn’t in Sontag: Reborn.

It’s a portrait of a life, or a part of a life, and the goal with it was to examine how this amazing intellectual mind became herself. You don’t get a lot of her philosophy in this show, and we don’t use much of her fiction or essays. There’s a little bit of it, but it’s mostly from her journals [and] examining how she became who she was as a person.

What was your reaction the first time you saw Sontag: Reborn?

I thought it was totally beautiful. It is totally beautiful and incredibly compelling. It’s a fascinating show because it examines how Susan Sontag’s mind evolved from age fifteen when she was reading more books than I will likely ever read in my entire life, discovering her sexuality and what it meant to be a woman in the time that she was growing up, and battling with her intense intellect.

How do you expect Wesleyan students will respond to the show?

I really feel like this piece is going to appeal to Wesleyan students because Susan Sontag is fiercely intellectual in a way that I think Wesleyan students—at least from my experience—are encouraged and challenged to be. I think most students here can relate to her struggle against her intellect, as a driving force in her life, and how she didn’t want to let that consume her.

Outside the Box Theater Series
The Builders Association—Sontag: Reborn
Based on the books Reborn and As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh by Susan Sontag, edited by David Rieff
Connecticut Premiere
Thursday, October 2 and Friday, October 3, 2014 at 8pm
CFA Theater
$25 general public; $22 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
Presented by the Theater Department and the Center for the Arts. Co-sponsored by Wesleyan’s English Department and Writing Programs. Additional support provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Adaptive Capacity Program.

Pamela Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts, discusses the Planet Hip Hop Festival, curated by Nomadic Wax, taking place on Saturday, September 20, 2014 as part of “Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan.”

This Saturday, audiences have a rare opportunity to witness performances by three international Muslim women in hip hop, including Montreal-based Algerian singer-songwriter and rapper Meryem Saci, the Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter, poet, and emcee Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh, and Tavasha Shannon a.k.a. Miss Undastood of Queens, New York.

The Planet Hip Hop Festival is an anchor event of Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan, a year-long exploration of Muslim women in performance. Each of the performers to be featured is Muslim or of Muslim heritage, has a distinct set of personal experiences, and is embedded in a particular place, society, and cultural tradition. This yearlong program is our way of inviting audiences to celebrate the complexity of Muslim women today, while at the same time exploring the historical and cultural context from which these women have emerged.

Anyone who writes poetry, raps, or sings is invited to attend three workshops this Saturday from 11am to 5pm in World Music Hall, before the evening concert in Fayerweather Beckham Hall at 9pm, where the women will be joined on stage by the Nomadic Wax Collective, a live backing band that will include bass, drums, keys, guitar, and a DJ.  The evening concert will be hosted by Boston’s Mr. Lif.

Performer Meryem Saci has been on campus all week visiting classes. In preparation for her visit to Wesleyan, she worked with Professor of French and Letters Typhaine Leservot to design a module for her class Negotiating Gender in the Maghreb. Likewise, Ms. Saci collaborated with Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk on the curriculum for his course Muslim/Western Engagements in Film and Performance.

Ms. Saci will lead the first of Saturday’s workshops, Music is Medicine: Hip Hop Therapy for the Bifurcated Soul, which will unpack the therapeutic and spiritual benefits that music can provide. A refugee herself, Ms. Saci moved from Algeria to Canada at the age of thirteen where she quite literally found her voice. Drawing from her own history and life story, she will explore what it means to be a refugee, an artist, and a Muslim woman.

Meryem Saci (third from right) with members of R.A.W. (Rap Assembly at Wesleyan) at their weekly freestyle rap cipher on Wednesday, September 17, 2014. Photo courtesy David Stouck '15.

Meryem Saci (third from right) with members of R.A.W. (Rap Assembly at Wesleyan) at their weekly freestyle rap cipher on Wednesday, September 17, 2014. Photo courtesy David Stouck ’15.

I wish I had been at the R.A.W. (Rap Assembly at Wesleyan) weekly freestyle rap cipher on Wednesday night where Ms. Saci joined a circle of students rapping and singing together. Believe me when I say that she, like the other performers in this Saturday night’s Planet Hip Hop Festival concert, will strike a chord deep within you.

Planet Hip Hop Festival
Curated by Nomadic Wax
Afternoon workshops and evening performances by international Muslim women in hip hop, including the U.S. debut of Montreal-based Algerian singer-songwriter and rapper Meryem Saci as a solo artist, the New England debut of Washington, D.C.-based and Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter, poet, and emcee Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh as a solo artist, and Tavasha Shannon a.k.a. Miss Undastood of Queens, New York.  The evening concert will be hosted by Boston’s Mr. Lif, and will also feature the Nomadic Wax Collective, a live backing band that will include bass, drums, keys, guitar, and a DJ.

Meryem Saci Workshop: Music Is Medicine—Hip Hop Therapy for the Bifurcated Soul
Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 11am
World Music Hall, 40 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
$12 per workshop; $30 for all three workshops. FREE for Wesleyan students!

Maimouna Youssef Workshop: Freestyling through the History of American Music—Improvisation 101
Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 1:45pm
World Music Hall, 40 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
$12 per workshop; $30 for all three workshops. FREE for Wesleyan students!

Miss Undastood Workshop: The Art of Rhyme—Exploring Islam and Hip Hop through Verse Writing
Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 3:30pm
World Music Hall, 40 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
$12 per workshop; $30 for all three workshops. FREE for Wesleyan students!

Planet Hip Hop Festival Concert
Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 9pm
Fayerweather Beckham Hall, 55 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
$18 general public; $15 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Center for the Arts Story: When I arrived on campus in 1971, the Center for the Arts was still an architect’s concept, and arts/music/theater/film/dance people made do with classrooms, studios, and performance spaces, scattered all over campus. So what a miracle when the CFA doors opened, giving us access to magnificent galleries, theaters, the auditorium, studio and practice spaces. As a music major (piano), it was a thrill to practice on grand pianos in the soundproofed practice rooms. Though I never became a professional musician, Wesleyan and the CFA planted the seeds for a lifelong passion for the arts. In February, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw the work of Piero de la Francesca, Fra Angelico, and other Renaissance masters, remembering how John Paoletti’s brilliant teaching awakened my love of art of that period. Attending Wes concerts, from early music to gamelan, gave me a taste for musical adventures, and I continue to explore and relish an eclectic range of performances in New York City. A couple of years ago, I was lucky to catch Ralph Samuelson MA ’71 (Ethnomusicology), performing with Japanese shakuhachi master Kinya Sogawa at Roulette in Brooklyn.

Favorite Course: Italian Renaissance art

Favorite Professor: John Paoletti

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 writes about the Toneburst Laptop and Electronic Arts Ensemble and its upcoming performance on Friday, May 9, 2014.

Last spring Assistant Professor of Music Paula Matthusen founded Wesleyan’s Toneburst Laptop and Electronic Arts Ensemble.  This Friday, May 9 at 8pm in World Music Hall the group will have their final performance of the year.  They’re calling it an “electroextravaganza.”

Most of us don’t think of our laptop computers as instruments, so what then is a Laptop Ensemble?

Each member in the ensemble performs with a laptop that’s connected to a hemispherical speaker.  Fourteen members strong, Toneburst projects sound out of an equal number of hemispherical speakers.  Members draw from pre-existing programs and ones that they create themselves in order to generate remarkably inventive musical scores, each one a unique interaction between laptop and musician.

Highly interactive, it’s as much about the ensemble as it is about the technology.  Just like any instrumental ensemble, the members assume different roles depending on the score and constantly engage with one another.

“This is a different way of recognizing the laptop as instrument but also as social interaction,” says Ms. Matthusen.  “It takes its inputs in a way that we have to interact with each other.”

One work in this Friday’s concert has ensemble members connected to their computers and clapping hands, so that each time two members clap a musical note sounds.  The original score, composed by graduate student Christopher Ramos Flores, transforms the ensemble into a circuit system.

“They are essentially acting like a large keyboard,” explains Ms. Matthusen.

Another piece derives its material from OKCupid, an online dating site. Composed by graduate student Daniel Fishkin, the score utilizes text-to-speech software to transform the OKCupid profiles into sound.

“Daniel’s piece recognizes the laptop as an interface to this entire other world,” comments Ms. Matthusen—the world of online dating and social networks.

This Friday’s concert is particularly momentous for Toneburst because it is comprised primarily of new works written by the ensemble members.

The scores are imaginative and engaging, technical and compelling.  Each one is carefully crafted and then rehearsed again and again.  Yet the laptop ensemble leaves a lot of room for improvisation and play.

“Learning the program is the first part of it and then you can figure out how to actually express yourself using the restrictions of the score,” explains Toneburst member Mark Frick ’14. “You’re taking a technology that hasn’t been exploited for something particularly expressive before and using it for an expressive means.”

“There’s a shared spirit of exploration that has evolved through the group as part of this way of making music,” reflects Ms. Matthusen.  “They are working together to realize these scores, and there’s a power about that.”

The Toneburst Electroextravaganza concert is Friday, May 9, 2014  at 8pm in the CFA’s World Music Hall. Admission is free.

 

 

Daniel Gold '75

Daniel Gold ’75

Center for the Arts Story: When the new cinema opened at the Center for the Arts I had the privilege of being chosen as one of the student projectionists. I took the job very seriously as I believed there was a real art to presenting a film professionally. I remember going to the cinema late one night to set up the film reels for the next day’s screening. It was dark and quiet. I was the only one in the theater. The movie was Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. In those days a feature length film came on many separate reels and we had two projectors. It took considerable skill for the projectionist to watch the corner of the screen for the small cue marks near the end of one reel, then start rolling and switch over to the next reel on the other projector without the audience ever noticing the change-over. I was checking out the cue marks and practicing the change-over between two reels when I looked out the port in the projection booth just as Martin Balsam, playing the investigator Arbogast, was nearing the top of the stairs inside Norman Bates’ house. From an overhead shot, the bedroom door swings open and Anthony Perkins, dressed as Norman Bates’ mother, charges Martin Balsam and plunges a kitchen knife into his chest several times. The Bernard Herman score screams with strident violin chords and Arbogast floats eerily through space in a nightmare fall down the staircase. Though I had seen the film many times I was frozen with fear. I completely missed the cue marks and never made the change over. When the horror eased a little and I snapped out of it, I quickly shut down the projectors, ran from the booth and out of the cinema never looking back. I would return in the light of day to complete my preparations and project the film in the safety and comfort of a theater full of people.

Favorite Course: The Western

Favorite Professor: John Fraser

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to graduate student Samuel Dickey ’14, and seniors Daniel Light ’14 and Emmie Finckel ‘14 about their capstone projects.  

Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts offers undergraduate programs in Art & Art History, Dance, Music, and Theater, and graduate programs in Music.  In every department, students have the opportunity to create a capstone project in their final year.  These projects take myriad forms, each one a reflection of the student’s unique interests and creative voice.

On Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 9pm in Crowell Concert Hall, graduate student in music Samuel Dickey ’14 will present his thesis concert. After graduating from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mr. Dickey came to Wesleyan in pursuit of a Master of Arts degree in Ethnomusicology.

The two-year program does not require that students produce a concert, as not all ethnomusicologists play an instrument.  Mr. Dickey, however, picked up his first guitar at the age of ten and hasn’t stopped playing since.  In 2010 he learned to play the Jeli Ngoni, a string instrument from West Africa.

His thesis concert brings together musicians from the Wesleyan community and beyond, including a couple of his bandmates from New York City. Half of the performers are Wesleyan students.

In addition to the recital, Mr. Dickey’s thesis includes a written component of 75 pages.  His essay examines the role of the guitar in West African music, and how this once foreign instrument became integrated into the performance of traditional songs.  He is looking specifically at music produced on either side of the border between Mali and Guinea.

“Guitars have become a vehicle for translating traditional music into a more popular sphere,” he explains.  “But more than the music being westernized by the guitar; the guitar has been Africanized by the music.”

Together, the essay and his recital mark the culmination of his studies at Wesleyan.

“The master’s program has been great,” says Mr. Dickey.  “I think it will allow me to pursue the sort of foothold I’ve been after in the music world.”

After graduation Mr. Dickey hopes to attain an ensemble coaching position or become an artist-in-residence.

In addition to graduate students, many undergraduates in the Music Department produce recitals as their senior capstone projects.  One such undergraduate is Daniel Light ’14, whose senior recital Resonance took place on Friday, April 18, 2014 in World Music Hall.

The Music Department grants its undergraduate majors a lot of flexibility in designing their senior projects.  One student may choose to record an album, while another opts for making a musical.

Mr. Light began with a couple of songs that he had written and ultimately developed a set list of seven original numbers.  He performed four of the songs with a full band, one with a string trio, one with a choral group, and one as a solo.

“It felt like a launching point,” reflects Mr. Light.  “I remember thinking that I would like to do this again at some point, to use my own material to fuel a concert.”

Much like students in the Music Department, those majoring in Theater have the leeway to design a senior capstone project tailored to their interests.  This past November, as part of her thesis, Emmie Finckel ‘14 designed the set for the Theater Department’s production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.

Theater Department production of "The Seagull." Directed by Associate Professor of Theater Yuri Kordonsky.  Photo by Jack Carr.

Theater Department production of “The Seagull.” Directed by Associate Professor of Theater Yuri Kordonsky. Set design by Emeline Finckel ’14. Photo by Professor of Theater Jack Carr.

Envisioned as a theater prop house gone to ruin, the set filled the enormous stage in the CFA Theater with furniture and other objects.  The audience watched the performance from the stage, immersed in the set alongside the actors.

The hands-on work that Ms. Finckel did for The Seagull comprised the first part of her thesis.  The second part is an essay of 30 to 40 pages, in which she examines audience agency in immersive theater design.

Ms. Finckel’s thesis gave her the opportunity to work closely with faculty members, including Associate Professor of Theater Yuri Kordonsky, who directed the production, and Assistant Professor of Theater Marcela Oteíza, who has become a mentor to Ms. Finckel in her time at Wesleyan.

“It was wonderful to feel like they respected me enough to want me to be involved [in The Seagull] as their collaborator,” recalls Ms. Finckel.

Dramatically different in approach and content, these three examples of capstone projects speak to the wide-reaching interests of Wesleyan students and their impulse to innovate and create.  The capstone programs provide students an opportunity to synthesize the experiences that they’ve had at Wesleyan, reflecting both on where they’ve been and where they can go.

Ann Dallas '75

Ann Dallas ’75

Favorite Course:

Typography

Favorite Professor:

David Schorr

Center for the Arts Story:

The CFA was my first “real” job! Working for the galleries with Dick Wood and Art Shail, then events and publicity with Jean Shaw and Jon Higgins. The best of times!

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton about her commissioned work “Threshold Sites: Feast.” This Spring Faculty Dance Event will take place on Friday, April 25 at 7pm, and Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 2pm and 7pm in the new Cross Street Dance Studio, located at 160 Cross Street in Middletown.

Social media such as YouTube and Facebook have all but eliminated formerly unbridgeable distances between people and communities across the world.  We are more connected today than ever before.

Coupled with growing concern for the environment, our increased connectivity demands that we reconsider our understanding of community.  What does it mean to be part of a community?  How can we foster local communities in an increasingly globalized world?  How can human communities exist in harmony with nature?

The notion of community is central to this year’s Spring Faculty Dance Event. Created and directed by Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton, Threshold Sites: Feast explores the relationships between bodies, communities, and environments through the lens of food.

“Something about the way you live in and experience your body is related to the way you live in and relate to your community and your environment,” says Ms. Stanton.

Food relates to it all.  We eat to nourish our bodies, come together to break bread, and depend on the earth for our food.  Food sustains every life, family, and community.

In recent years, food has become a hot topic of debate and conversation.

“There is so much controversy surrounding food production and food security right now,” says Stanton.  “So much talk about what diet is good for you and for the planet.”

Threshold Sites: Feast is the culmination of Ms. Stanton’s engagement in the College of the Environment’s 2013-2014 Think Tank: Re-Envisioning the Commons. Over the course of this school year, the Think Tank has made efforts to expand discourse between economists, scientists, ecologists, and ethicists by bringing the humanities and performing arts into the conversation.

Rehearsal of "Threshold Sites: Feast" on March 22, 2014 in the Cross Street Dance Studio. Photo by Sandy Aldieri.

Rehearsal of “Threshold Sites: Feast” on March 22, 2014 in the Cross Street Dance Studio. Photo by Sandy Aldieri.

Ms. Stanton will perform in the work alongside Rachel Boggia, Deborah Goffe, Nik Owens ’12, and Wesleyan Artist in Residence in West African Dance Iddi Saaka. They are a diverse group, with backgrounds in myriad dance forms and roots across the globe.

“It was an extremely collaborative process,” says Ms. Stanton.  “The question being how do all these different bodies come together in a process that feels full and rich and challenging to everyone.”

As part of the rehearsal process, Ms. Stanton prompted all of her dancers to reflect on their personal and shared experiences with food.  They collected stories about memorable meals and songs about feasting — weaving many voices together into one rich sound score that backgrounds the event.

Some of the foods discussed in the sound score, many of them cherished family recipes, will be served to the audience.  Yes, there will be literal feasting.

Ms. Stanton intends to source some of the food from Wesleyan’s own Long Lane Farm. Greg Foley ’16 has been collaborating with Ms. Stanton on a documentary, which parallels the rehearsal process for Threshold Sites: Feast with the process of getting the farm up and running.

Threshold Sites: Feast will be the first performance to take place in the Wesleyan Dance Department’s new studio on Cross Street. Formerly the A.M.E. Zion Church, the building has been remodeled into a beautiful dance studio that can also be converted into a black box theater.

Spring Faculty Dance Event
Threshold Sites: Feast
Friday, April 25, 2014 at 7pm
Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 2pm & 7pm
Cross Street Dance Studio
$3 Wesleyan students, $5 all others.

Supported by the Dance Department, the Center for the Arts’ Creative Campus Initiative with leadership funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the College of the Environment.

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