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CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to stage manager Julia Tyminski ’17, and Albert Tholen ’15 and Grace Nix ’15, who are performing as Mr. and Mrs. Smith, in the Wesleyan University Theater Department production of Eugène Ionesco’s “The Bald Soprano,” which runs through Saturday, April 25, 2015 in the CFA Theater.

Wesleyan University's Theater Department presents "The Bald Soprano." Sitting (left to right): Sara Fayngolz '17, Natalie May '18, Peter McCook '16, Grace Nix '15. Standing (left to right): Edward Archibald '17, Albert Tholen '15. Photo by John Carr.

Wesleyan University’s Theater Department presents “The Bald Soprano.” Sitting (left to right): Sara Fayngolz ’17, Natalie May ’18, Peter McCook ’16, Grace Nix ’15.
Standing (left to right): Edward Archibald ’17, Albert Tholen ’15. Photo by John Carr.

In 1950, Romanian playwright Eugène Ionesco wrote The Bald Soprano, one of the seminal plays of Theater of the Absurd. He was inspired by the cliché dialogues between the imaginary Mr. and Mrs. Smith in an English phrasebook for beginners. Albert Tholen ’15 and Grace Nix ’15 play Mr. and Mrs. Smith in the production by the Wesleyan University Theater Department, directed by Professor of Theater Yuri Kordonsky.

“We are a proper British couple with a twist,” says Ms. Nix with a sly smile.

The entire play takes place in the living room of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, in their home on the outskirts of London. “It’s a drawing room drama,” says Mr. Tholen. “One that goes horribly awry.”

With The Bald Soprano, Mr. Ionesco rejected coherent plot, character development, and the concept of realistic drama. Through dark and daring humor, the play discusses the futility of meaningful communication in contemporary society, and the tragedy of language in a universe driven by chance.

“It’s a very different logic of causality in this world,” says Ms. Nix. “An illogical logic.”

Ms. Nix and Mr. Tholen, along with the other four actors in the cast (Edward Archibald ’17, Sara Fayngolz ’17, Natalie May ’18, and Peter McCook ’16), have been working with Professor Kordonsky since the beginning of the semester. Together with dramaturge Rachel Sobelsohn ’17, assistant director May Treuhaft-Ali ’17, and stage manager Julia Tyminski ’17, they spent the first two weeks of rehearsal analyzing different translations of the play, originally written in French, to draft their own composite script.

“We spent hours talking about single words,” says Ms. Nix. “Until we arrived at a script, which we felt was the best expression of what this play is trying to say.”

“It’s nice to have ownership over the language in that way,” says Mr. Tholen. “It’s become our script.”

Professor Kordonsky gave the actors a great deal of creative responsibility throughout the process. They would divide into subsets and work on specific moments in the script, then come back together as a cast and share. They created scene after scene, gradually bringing both clarity and complexity to Mr. Ionesco’s absurdity.

“I think more than anything else, Mr. Smith is like a coat that I wear,” says Mr. Tholen. “I don’t get on stage and become him. It’s more of an attitude.”

“It’s the total acceptance of a different world,” says Ms. Nix. “Even though it doesn’t make any sense, it feels right.”

The Bald Soprano invites its audience to view the play from the actual stage of the CFA Theater, rather than from the house seats where one faces a proscenium.

“For this play you want an intimate connection with the audience,” says Ms. Nix. “If the audience were farther away, I think we would lose that connection and some of the urgency of the play.”

Sitting on the stage of the CFA Theater, the audience finds itself right there in the living room of Mr. and Mrs. Smith — in close proximity to the play’s simple set: a couch, some chairs, a clock.

“The set looks relatively realistic,” says stage manager Julia Tyminski ’17. “But the minute the show starts you realize it’s an absurd production, yet the actors are playing it as if it’s realism, and that’s where the comedy comes in.”

Wesleyan University’s Theater Department presents
The Bald Soprano by Eugène Ionesco
Wednesday, April 22 through Friday, April 24 at 8pm
Saturday, April 25 at 2pm and 8pm
CFA Theater
$8 general public; $5 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $4 Wesleyan students

Directed by Professor of Theater Yuri Kordonsky. Designed by Professor of Theater, Retired, Jack Carr (set and lights) and Artist in Residence Leslie Weinberg (costumes).

Artist in Residence Patricia Beaman presented two exhilarating world premieres, including Women of Myth Unleashed with renowned Baroque soprano Christine Brandes, juxtaposing the traditional form and mythological subject matter of the Baroque era with 21st century modern movement and contemporary issues, on March 27, 2015, at the CFA Theater. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.

 

 

 

Singer-songwriter Omnia Hegazy performed on March 27, 2015, at Crowell Concert Hall. Ms. Hegazy was accompanied by drummer Max Maples, bassist Carl Limbacher, electric guitarist Coyote Anderson, and Natalia Perlaza on Arabic percussion and tabla. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.

 

Sadia Shepard ’97 presented a literary talk about narrative strategies in writing and film on March 25, 2015, at The Russell House. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.

The reception for seniors Luca Ameri, Raphael A. Leitz, Dat Vu, and Derrick Qi Wang in the Art Studio Program of Wesleyan’s Department of Art and Art History, took place on March 25, 2015, in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.

The opening reception for the Middletown Public Schools Art Exhibition took place on March 7, 2015, at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. The exhibition ran from March 7 through March 14. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.

Ronald K. Brown, artistic director of Evidence, A Dance Company, held a Master Class on March 7, 2015, at the Cross Street Dance Studio, as part of DanceMasters Weekend. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.

 

David Dorfman, artistic director of David Dorfman Dance, held a Master Class on March 7, 2015, at the Bessie Schonberg Dance Studio, as part of DanceMasters Weekend. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view all the photos on flickr.

Choreographers Brian Brooks, Wendy Whelan, David Dorfman, and Ronald K. Brown discussed their craft on March 7, 2015, in the Woodhead Lounge in the Exley Science Center, during a noontime conversation for DanceMasters Weekend moderated by Nicole Stanton, chair of the Wesleyan University Dance Department. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Miranda Orbach ’15, Eriq Robinson ’15, and Virgil Taylor ’15 about their theses in Dance, Music, and Studio Art.

With the deadline for theses this Friday, April 10, 2015, Wesleyan seniors from all different majors are hunkering down across campus to complete the projects they have dedicated their year to. Thesis writers in Dance, Music, and Studio Art are presenting their work at the Center for the Arts every week through the end of the semester.

Spring Senior Thesis Dance Concert. Photo by Miranda Orbach '15.

Spring Senior Thesis Dance Concert. Photo by Miranda Orbach ’15.

Featuring new works by eight choreographers, the Spring Senior Thesis Dance Concert took place last weekend in the Patricelli ’92 Theater. Closing the first half of the concert was Miranda Orbach’s form[all] training, a piece in partial fulfillment of her honors thesis in American Studies and Dance.

Ms. Orbach’s written thesis, “Monstrous Form: the Ballerina and the Freak,” draws the ballet and the freak show together to examine how each distinct performance mirrors the other. Her thesis reads the ballet through the lens of the freak show, and the freak show through the lens of the ballet.

“Historically we have separated these forms so far away from each other,” says Ms. Orbach. “Bringing them together actually allows us to intervene in the literature about both of them. It’s not that they are the same, but that they are useful for reading each other, as spectacle, body, and display are central themes to both performances.”

In her thesis, Ms. Orbach tells the story of one ballerina: Caroline Shadle ’16, who performs in the piece with two other female dancers. They dance with one foot in a pointe shoe and one barefoot to a sound score that narrates Ms. Shadle’s story, giving powerful insight into the life of an aspiring ballerina.

“The feeling of freakishness is not so far from the feeling of being trained,” says Ms. Orbach. “The two work in tandem. All of these categories that we oppose so starkly in society—form and deformity, ability and disability—are actually inherent to each other.”

Eriq Robinson’s senior recital, Reality Ends Here: The Beginning of the End, will take place this Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 7pm in Fayerweather Beckham Hall. The recital, featuring a vocal ensemble and a horn ensemble, is one component of Mr. Robinson’s thesis in Music. The vocal ensemble is inspired by South African overtone singing, the music of the Japanese Ainu, and Slavei, an a cappella group on campus that performs Slavic, Balkan, and Georgian liturgical music.

“The performance is a narrative story telling experience with music, based on a cosmological structure that I made up myself,” says Mr. Robinson. His cosmological structure is based on ideas from Buddhism and other Eastern religions, as well as Abrahamic religions and some African religions.

“It’s a story about the beginning of the end of the world,” he explains. “The idea is that humans are the nerve endings of the cosmos. We are all just the end of invisible tendrils that are the cosmos, all part of a giant macro organism.”

In the written component of his thesis, Mr. Robinson gives a short history of Afro-Futurism and attempts to determine if his music fits into that creative lineage.

“Because I’m making up a cosmological structure, I’ve been trying to make music that doesn’t sound familiar,” he says. “The hardest part about it has been trying to make music that sounds unfamiliar, while at the same time not making bad music. What I think makes music good, on an objective level, is having some sort of system and methodology that’s tying it all together.”

Mr. Robinson plans to continue writing his story even after the recital, and hopes this will be the first in a series of performances.

Studio Art major Virgil Taylor’s thesis, Irregular Quadrilateral, will be on display in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery from Tuesday, April 14 through Sunday, April 19, 2015; with an opening reception on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 from 4pm to 6pm.

After receiving a Zawisa fellowship from the Wesleyan Studio Art Department last spring, Mr. Taylor travelled to Albuquerque, New Mexico in the summer to study metal plate lithography at the Tamarind Institute. The youngest person in the program, both of his roommates were university professors.

When Mr. Taylor returned to Wesleyan this past fall, he realized he wanted to shift the focus of his thesis from lithography to intaglio prints. Intaglio refers to a printmaking process in which the image is carved into the plate with acid, a scribe, or a needle.

“Even though I did not end up doing my thesis in lithography, I think my work at the Tamarind Institute this summer really informed me on how to think about compositions,” says Mr. Taylor. “It was an opportunity to spend four weeks doing nothing but printmaking.”

His exhibition will fill Zilkha Gallery with intaglio prints of irregular quadrilaterals, which look like rectangles in perspective. In addition, he has created a large-scale composition resembling his prints that will occupy the back bay of the gallery—a 24 foot long piece of steel painted blue will mirror the many blue lines in his prints, and an eight foot tall drywall panel will appear in the shape of one of his plates.

“I’m interested in work that doesn’t require or desire any explicit content, or really any implicit content, but exists as a formal space,” says Mr. Taylor. “That’s why I like being able to make the giant version, because I can emphasize that it’s simply an arrangement of forms.”

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