May this provide an update and entry into our present work at the Center for the Arts should this be of interest or helpful to you in this time. Although there is a lot to absorb online right now, we wanted to share with you some of our current projects.
In the coming months, you will ‘see’ us online more intentionally through a series of experiments with our creative community of students, faculty, alumni, and guest artists as outlined below. We welcome your feedback and participation.
Virtual Artists in Residence and Commissions: Eiko Otake has been engaged as our first CFA Virtual Artist in Residence, and we will begin circulating video journals of her work in development for those interested. We are also engaging in a select number of virtual commissions with guest artists who know our community well and will be announcing these projects shortly.
Arts Departments: Each spring, the CFA supports an abundance of faculty and student concerts, performances, and exhibitions. We are working in partnership with Art and Art History, Dance, Music, and Theater to explore how best to showcase their endeavors through alternative formats.
Creative Campus Initiative: Since 2006, we have been providing support for guest artists working in Wesleyan classrooms in partnership with non-arts faculty. In the past week, we awarded modest grants to Wesleyan faculty members (both arts and non-arts) to resource online collaborations with thirteen artists to support and complement coursework and/or to share the labor of mentoring and inspiring students at this difficult time.
Middletown Public Schools: Closing our 39th annual Middletown Public Schools Art Exhibition early was tough for all of us, and while we recognize nothing can replace moving through the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery with the works of our local public school students, we will be sharing images of their work in the hope that the circulation of our future artists might be wider than previously imagined.
#WesCreative: We will be collecting and putting a spotlight on the remarkable skills and imagination of the Wesleyan community.
You will hear more about each of the extraordinary initiatives from various Center for the Arts staff members over the course of the spring.
The CFA has always served as a platform for our creative community on campus, in Middletown, and beyond, and we intend for that to continue through this complicated and difficult time.
Please be well. You are loved and appreciated and we will get through this together.
Center for the Arts
With the CDC reporting cases of COVID-19 nationwide doubling since Monday, and Governor Ned Lamont declaring a public health emergency in Connecticut, it has become clear just how rapidly this virus is spreading. After Wesleyan University consulted with a variety of public health experts and other higher education institutions around the country, we wanted to let you know that all on-campus events and exhibitions have been canceled until further notice as a preventive measure. The University will continue to update the website with the latest available information.
Anyone who purchased tickets in advance will be issued a refund from the box office starting the week of Monday, March 16, 2020 and artists who were scheduled to perform this spring will be compensated. We encourage you to utilize your refund to re-invest in the arts through a donation, album, artwork, or ticket to a future performance. If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to donate your tickets to the Center for the Arts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 860-685-3355 Monday through Friday from 11am to 3pm.
Thank you for your continued support of the arts, and for your understanding about this decision.
Stay well and we will be in touch again soon.
Center for the Arts
It is astonishing to me that Friday April 1 is my last day at Wesleyan University, after nearly seventeen years. I wanted to send you a note to thank you for being patrons of the Center for the Arts. There is simply no way we can ever welcome artists to Wesleyan without the presence of an engaged and committed audience. You have no idea how wonderful it was for me to look out at you from the Crowell Concert Hall or CFA Theater stage, or to see you at an opening in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. I knew that you were there to join me in celebrating what the arts can tell us about other cultures and other worlds; how they can help us to make sense of the world in which we live; and how they can make us feel both the exhilaration and the sadness of what it means to be alive. I want to thank you, in particular, for the times you bought a ticket to a performance by an artist whom you didn’t know but, because we at the CFA felt it was an important artist or group, you took the risk.
In these last days at my desk overlooking the CFA Courtyard, I am reflecting on so many great moments when we shared such joy and excitement not only for visiting and faculty artists, but also when we marveled together at the virtuosity and creative power of Wesleyan students and all that they have to offer us.
I will miss my Wesleyan and Middletown families greatly, but as an alum and parent of a member of the class of 2016, I know that I will return often and continue to experience the arts as only Wesleyan can present them. I also want to take the opportunity to introduce Laura Paul, Interim Director of the Center for the Arts, who will lead the CFA in its next chapter. Together we have been planning a 2016–17 season of performances and exhibitions that I know you will enjoy.
If, by any chance, you are free this Friday, April 1, I will be in Crowell Concert Hall at 8pm to introduce the great Wu Man and the Shanghai Quartet. I would love the chance to say goodbye and thank you in person; if not, I hope you will come to visit me this summer at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts (if you missed the announcement in January, I’m going there to be their new Executive Director)!
Thank you again for your generous support of the Center for the Arts.
The Center for the Arts is one of the rare places in the state where you can consistently experience arts from around the world. This semester is no exception. In January and February, the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery hosts the work of ten contemporary Chinese artists born after the Cultural Revolution who are challenging traditional notions of Chinese identity and inventing new ways to shout out in the global arena. In February, Syrian singer Gaida brings her band to Crowell Concert Hall. At a time when her country is under siege, her soulful voice will remind us of the beauty and power of Syrian music and culture. And playwright Guillermo Calderón will discuss his award-winning works about Chile in the aftermath of the dictatorship.
Finally, the Music Department will host a March symposium on the work of the legendary experimental music composer David Tudor and, in April, the Theater Department offers Wes Out-Loud, a site-specific work created by Assistant Professor Marcela Oteíza and her students.
The semester ends on May 7 with Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter, the second annual eco-arts festival featuring world music bands, educational exhibits, and site-specific performance works by area organizations at Middletown’s Harbor Park, located on the bank of the Connecticut River.
Wesleyan University DanceLink Fellow and CFA Arts Administration Intern Sonya Levine ’17 talks to Associate Professor of Dance Hari Krishnan about internationally acclaimed Indian dancer and choreographer Alarmél Valli, who makes her Connecticut debut on Sunday, October 11, 2015 at 3pm in Crowell Concert Hall as the conclusion of the 39th annual Navaratri Festival. Mr. Krishnan will also have a conversation with Ms. Valli following the free screening of the film “Lasya Kavya: The World of Alarmél Valli” on Saturday, October 10, 2015 at 2pm in CFA Hall.
How does Alarmél Valli bring the forms of music, dance and poetry together?
Seamlessly and with great sophistication and accessibility! As a dancer who embodies the word “articulate” in every fiber of her being, Alarmél Valli is also trained extensively in music, and has an innate love for literature and poetry. So, her dance is literally visual music in the highest order. She is acclaimed as an artist who sings with her body. She has often been described as a painter who uses her body as an empty canvas, painting upon it all the glorious colors, hues, and tints of life.
What are the stories that she tells?
Her stories are always about the sensual and spiritual coming together in a complex, integrated manner. Her stories give great hope and affirmation of life and humanity. Her stories have the unique ability to cut across linguistic, social, political, and cultural boundaries. Alarmél Valli is a rare, one-of-a-kind artist whose dance touches everyone universally.
Why is Alarmél Valli important to the dance world?
Alarmél Valli is an internationally acclaimed superstar Bharatanatyam dancer. She has been a leading light in the industry for the past 40 years, touring major theaters, festivals, and opera houses from Europe to Asia. She has transformed the traditional solo dance of Bharatanatyam into a vibrant, dynamic, and engaging solo dance style—current and relevant for a 21st century global audience. This is why she is much sought after by the most avant-garde theaters and festivals in Europe to the most conservative classical arts-friendly venues in India. On a personal level, it has been a long-awaited dream of mine to have Alarmél Valli’s appearance at Wesleyan. Her dance teacher and my dance teacher were cousins. She is also a dear friend, and I have followed her work since the late 1980s.
Why is Wesleyan an ideal site for this performance?
Wesleyan University is a major site for the performance of Indian dance and music for the past 50 years, and that is why all the great artists of India consider it an honor to perform on this campus. From a dance perspective, Wesleyan is also a major historical site for the preservation of an important strand of courtesan-style Bharatanatyam, so to have someone like Alarmél Valli, who intersects tradition and modernity, is a natural progression as a testimony to this great institution. The audiences are in for a treat on Sunday afternoon where an iconic dance artist who has been compared to [Rudolf] Nureyev and [Mikhail] Baryshnikov will grace the stage. Alarmél Valli Connecticut Debut
Sunday, October 11, 2015 at 3pm
Crowell Concert Hall, 50 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown $18 general public; $15 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
This year, we are looking forward to introducing you to artists who are asking important questions about our world today, questioning why things are the way they are, and helping us to envision how they might be.
At a time when our country is struggling to find its way in terms of race relations, we’ve invited writer/performer Daniel Beaty to campus for a residency that includes the October 9 performance of Mr. Joy, his highly acclaimed tour de force solo show about a community’s efforts to heal in order to dream again.
Composer, visual artist, and new media innovator R. Luke DuBois takes over the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery from September 16 through December 13 with his exhibition In Real Time, creating maps, scores, and videos that use real-time data flows and media footage to raise questions of artistic agency, privacy, and fair use. In time for the election season, the CFA has commissioned him to create a new work using research generated by the Wesleyan Media Project.
All this shares the fall schedule with performances by faculty and students, including the final class performance by students of Adjunct Professor of Music Abraham Adzenyah, who is retiring after teaching Ghanaian drumming at Wesleyan for the past 45 years. You won’t want to miss that concert on December 4.
As always, we hope you will look to the CFA as a place of enlightenment and enjoyment in the months ahead.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to the winners of the Wesleyan University Concerto Competition—Josh Davidoff ’18, Harim Jung ’16, and Paula Tartell ’18—who will be performing a free concert with the Wesleyan University Orchestra on Saturday, May 2, 2015 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.
This Saturday, the Wesleyan University Orchestra, under the direction of Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina, presents Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and the winners of the Wesleyan University Concerto Competition.
The concerto competition is open to all undergraduate and graduate Wesleyan students. The three winners have the opportunity to play a piece of their choosing, either a published arrangement or an original composition, accompanied by the Wesleyan Orchestra or Wind Ensemble. This year’s winners are Josh Davidoff ’18 (clarinet), Harim Jung ’16 (double bass), and Paula Tartell ’18 (piano).
Mr. Davidoff is a freshman from Evanston, Illinois. He picked up the clarinet in fourth grade, but it was not until his sophomore year of high school that he realized his intense passion for classical music. He came to Wesleyan after a summer spent touring the country with the National Youth Orchestra, a 120-person orchestra of which he was Apprentice Orchestra Manager. He has continued to pursue music at Wesleyan and is currently studying with Private Lessons Instructor Charlie Suriyakham.
“Music has been very prevalent in my first year at Wesleyan,” he says. “It is related in some way to most everything I do.”
This Saturday, he will perform the Première Rhapsodie for clarinet and orchestra by Claude Debussy, a piece originally composed for the Paris Conservatory’s clarinet examinations in 1910. Mr. Davidoff describes it as incredibly challenging but deeply satisfying to play.
“This piece is particularly significant in music history because it is one of the first to use blankets of harmony, instead of more traditional progressions of chords,” Mr. Davidoff says. “It explores a pallet of sound, rather than a trajectory.”
A New Jersey native, Mr. Jung is a junior pursuing a double major in Music and Psychology. He played cello until middle school where he discovered his passion for bass. He has rigorously studied classical double bass since the age of thirteen, and also plays electric bass as a hobby. At Wesleyan he studies with Private Lessons Teacher Roy Wiseman.
This Saturday, Mr. Jung will perform the first two movements of Giovanni Bottesini’s Bass Concerto No. 2 in b minor, a concerto he has been practicing all year.
“I am particularly drawn to this bass concerto,” Mr. Jung says. “Not only because of its virtuosity, but also for its romantic and operatic compositional style.”
He describes this particular bass concerto as the Paganini of all bass concertos, heroic and strong.
“I imagine a baritone walking on stage and starting with this strong note,” he says. “That’s the image that comes to mind when I play this piece.”
Ms. Tartell is a freshman from Great Neck, New York. She started playing piano as a six-year-old, taking lessons locally until high school when she began commuting to New York City for her music schooling. After taking a break from music her first semester at Wesleyan, she entered the concerto competition as a way to get back into playing.
“I honestly didn’t feel like myself when I wasn’t practicing seriously,” she says.
This semester, in addition to preparing the concerto, she is studying with Private Lessons Teacher William Braun.
Ms. Tartell will perform Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in a minor in this Saturday’s concert. Premiered in Leipzig in January of 1846, it is the only piano concerto that Mr. Schumann ever completed.
“The Schumann really spoke to me,” she says. “It speaks not in a conventional, flashy way but reminds me of the person who is soft spoken yet says a lot.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”