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.
Five Wesleyan Theater Department alumni—producer Roberta Pereira’03, director Michael Rau ’05, playwright MJ Kaufman ’08, producer Rachel Silverman ’09, and scenic and properties designer Emmie Finckel’14—talked about their work and careers in theater after Wesleyan. The talk was moderated by Associate Professor of Theater Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento on September 24, 2015 in CFA Hall.
Click Here to view the full album on Flickr. Photos by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography.
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.
Quiara Alegría Hudes is the Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater at Wesleyan University. Her play Water by the Spoonful received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Her other works include the book for the 2008 Tony Award-winning “Best Musical” In the Heights, and the plays Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue (2006) and The Happiest Song Plays Last (2013). Her younger cousin grew up in “the barrio,” graduated public school, enlisted at the age of seventeen, sustained a leg injury in Iraq, and became a veteran, all by the ripe age of eighteen. This talk on April 27, 2015 in Memorial Chapel told the true backstage story of what happened after Ms. Hudes turned her cousin’s life into a trilogy of plays. For him, opening night was only the beginning.
Click here to view the full album on flickr. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to writer, director, and performer Thaddeus Phillips of Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental about the Connecticut premiere of his solo theater work “17 Border Crossings,” taking place this Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 8pm in the CFA Theater.
What was the initial inspiration for “17 Border Crossings”?
Most of the shows I’ve made with Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental involved traveling somewhere to make the show. The travel is done as research for the performance. For example, we did a road trip from Denver to L.A., and we dropped down into New Mexico where we tried to find all the old parts or Route 66, and we filmed stuff and took notes and developed this piece called Flamingo/Winnebago based off that trip. We’ve done that in Bosnia, Cuba, the Amazon. But what would happen is I would come back and tell people stories of things that happened that weren’t directly related to the project we were doing, and I realized I wanted to do something with all this “outtake” material that was simply about travel. It didn’t have a storyline or a plot. It was just about traveling, and then I realized all of the stories that I was remembering or finding were about border crossings.
Can you talk a little about the work itself?
There are seventeen different scenes or sequences. I had done solo work before but very involved, complicated stuff with video or crazy sets, and [for 17 Border Crossings] I wanted to try doing the classic Spalding Gray monologue at a desk with a microphone and a glass of water. Because I’ve used video in other work recently, I’ve been trying to do works that are much more cinematic in their theatricality but with no video—the simplest scenes possible: the movement of a chair or lights or sound. The idea is to create a very modern/contemporary style of theater but without any media that actively engages the audience’s imagination, individualizing the experience more. If you use a bunch of media, everyone’s seeing the same thing, but if you simply suggest something and fill it in with text and sound, then the way you’re seeing it is a little bit different than the way the person next to you is seeing it because it’s not fully there yet.
Other than the overarching theme of border crossing, what elements of traveling does the work address?
There’s a few: one is that modes of transportation are weird, like a plane is a very weird thing if you really think about it, so there’s a little sequence about being in a plane that tries to expose all that—what you’re not supposed to think about. Then there’s always being taken to a little square room by immigration authorities. Technically when you land, before you leave Customs, you’re not anywhere. [It’s] this weird space where you go through the passport control. You’re in an architectural space that’s been defined as nowhere in the world. Then the whole absurdity of borders themselves, like the border between Israel and Jordan was made up by Winston Churchill, and he made jokes about it, saying “I just invented a country!”
What do you see as the significance of performing this work in such a globalized world, where travel is so much more accessible than it once was and so many more people are traveling?
When you start talking about these little stories or human stories, what you have is a huge global theme but [told] through specific details about a very specific person. What the show tries to do is make very human what it is to cross a border, from being on a plane and being completely unconscious of what’s going on underneath you to people trying to get across for a better life.
Write a story (500 words max) about when you crossed a geographic border, or a border of any kind. Where did it lead you? What insights did you have?
Then, post your story on the Center for the Arts Facebook event page for 17 Border Crossings, and you will receive a free ticket to the performance. The story with the most “Likes” by midnight on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 will win a $200 travel gift certificate courtesy of Sanditz Travel Management in Middletown!
How to post your story:
1. Go to the Facebook event page here.
2. “Join” the event.
3. Under “POSTS,” where it says “Write something…” cut and paste your story.
4. Hit the “Post” button.
If you don’t have Facebook, but would like to participate, please e-mail your entry by midnight on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 to email@example.com.
The Connecticut premiere of 17 Border Crossings, a solo work written and directed by Thaddeus Phillips based on his travel experiences. The audience is taken to the frontiers of countries around the world in a humorous and poignant examination of imaginary lines, arbitrary passports, and curious customs.
Wesleyan University is a center for creativity and innovation, and one of the best places for our community to come together to participate in that energy is at the Center for the Arts. Our year-long exploration of Muslim Women’s Voices in performance continues on February 27 with a rare opportunity to see a dance company coming to Middletown from the northernmost tip of Sumatra, Indonesia. The dances of Tari Aceh! feature quick, highly-coordinated movements of hands, heads, and torsos, punctuated by lively body percussion. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. And on April 17 and 18, you can get a first look at a theatrical work-in-progress by playwright and actress Leila Buck ’99 that was commissioned for Muslim Women’s Voices.
In April and May, we present “The Connecticut Meets the Nile,” a two-part happening that will highlight two great rivers. On April 10, Crowell Concert Hall hosts The Nile Project, an all-star gathering of musicians who live in the countries that border the Nile River and have come together to create music that draws attention to the environmental issues of a historic river that sustains millions of people. Then on May 9, at Middletown’s Harbor Park, Wesleyan and regional partner organizations present Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter, an afternoon of music performances, visual art, and kid’s activities that will engage our community with our own beautiful river.
And throughout the winter and spring, you can put your finger on the pulse of what’s inspiring our newest artists by visiting the Senior Thesis Exhibitions in Zilkha Gallery, or by attending thesis performances by music, dance, and theater students performed throughout the CFA.
“A spellbinding x-ray of a writer’s psyche” (The New York Times), Sontag: Reborn explores the private life, loves, and idiosyncrasies of Susan Sontag. The Connecticut premiere of the solo show, directed by Marianne Weems and adapted by solo performer Moe Angelos based on Ms. Sontag’s early journals, was performed at the CFA Theater on Thursday, October 2 and Friday, October 3, 2014, at the CFA Theater. Photos from the October 2, 2014, dress rehearsal at the CFA Theater. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.
Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge discusses the development of the work “SPILL” by Leigh Fondakowski. Ms. Fondakowski will give a free talk about the future of “SPILL” on Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 7pm in CFA Hall.
As the third Outside the Box Theater Series event of the year, playwright Leigh Fondakowski will give a talk on Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 7pm in CFA Hall.
As part of the course, Ms. Fondakowski and Mr. Chernoff accompanied the students on a ten-day trip to the Gulf Coast region visiting laboratories and research institutions, touring wetlands, and meeting the people who live in the affected communities. Upon their return, the students created performances that combined science and art to tell the story of the effects of the spill.
This course inspired Ms. Fondakowski to write a new theatrical piece, commissioned by the Center for the Arts and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Wesleyan’s Creative Campus Initiative, which she entitled SPILL.
Ms. Fondakowski went back to Louisiana and collected over 200 hours of stories in the following months from people who lived in the parishes hardest hit by the disaster. In collaboration with visual artist Reeva Wortel (American Portrait Project), Ms. Fondakowski created SPILL, which had its first staged reading at Wesleyan in February 2012.
Since then, Ms. Fondakowski has continued to work on the piece, including a presentation at the Culture Project‘s Women Center Stage Festival in New York in July 2013, followed by the premiere in March 2014 at the Reilly Theatre at Louisiana State University, performed by Baton Rouge’s Swine Palace.
In her talk this Thursday, Ms. Fondakowski will share the journey that her play has taken since she first showed it at Wesleyan, and will discuss its path for the future.
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.
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.
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.