Many of you know that Wesleyan was the lead commissioner of Liz Lerman’s Ferocious Beauty: Genome, her groundbreaking work about the repercussions of genetic research. But I’m not sure how many of you know that one of Liz’s Wesleyan collaborators, Professor of Biology Michael Weir, wrote to her after the world premiere with an idea:
“Imagine a biology or genetics course that begins and ends with students experiencing [the Ferocious Beauty: Genome] piece, and imagine during the semester, when issues like Mendel or gene regulation or bioethics are covered, related parts of the piece were shown to the class. I am imagining that this experience would cause many students to build a new kind of framework in their minds causing them to be more inquisitive and thoughtful about the biology and its significance. They would make associations with the choreography and dance, and I wonder whether their thinking would be qualitatively richer?”
Five years later, with the support of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Wesleyan and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange developed Science Choreography – a website that’s a digital textbook with a plethora of tools for teachers who are teaching genetics, evolution and other related issues. The site will be officially launched at a celebratory reception this Thursday, April 21 at 5pm at Beckham Hall on the Wesleyan campus, to which the public is invited. Liz Lerman and scientists who work in Wesleyan’s Hughes Program in the Life Sciences will discuss their findings about using choreography in the classroom and its effects.
We do hope you will join us.
Thursday, April 21, 5pm-6:30pm Fayerweather Beckham Hall Wesleyan University Free admission; please RSVP to Maureen Snow, firstname.lastname@example.org
An interview with Cheryl Tan ’11 by Sarah Wolfe ‘12.
Cheryl Tan, a senior music and theater major, will present her senior project The Old Maid and the Thief by Gian Carlo Menotti on Sunday, April 10 at 7pm in Crowell Concert Hall. I sat down with Tan, who plays Laetitia, to discuss the performance and her process. The opera, one in a series of one-act operas composed by Menotti in the middle of the twentieth century, follows the tradition of radio opera. Tan produced the piece more as staged reading than as a traditional opera.
The story takes place in the home of two women: the old maid Miss Todd (Meghan Twible ’12) and her serving maid, Laetitia (Cheryl Tan ’11). They are visited by a beggar, Bob (Matthew Getz ’14) who requests food, “and they let him stay because they’re lonely and sad,” as Tan summarizes. Worrying that Bob may be a recently escaped fugitive from a few towns over, they nonetheless allow him to stay in their house in order stave off their loneliness. In order to keep him there, they begin to steal from other townspeople. “It’s really about a bunch of awful people being awful to each other, which is great,” quips Tan.
Chelsea Goldsmith ‘13, rounds out the cast by playing the neighbor, Miss Pinkerton. Tan chose this particular Menotti opera because it asks for a small cast. Originally drawn to the Italian American composer through a challenging aria she encountered, Tan decided early on that she did not want to perform a solo recital. Opera has not been one of Tan’s focal points in her time at Wesleyan, but is the culmination of her work with Voice Teacher Priscilla Gale, who specializes in the operatic style. “I’ve done a lot of musical theater, jazz, theater and taiko,” says Tan, “[but] I’ve been with [Priscilla Gale] for three years, and she’s really made my voice into what it is today. The great thing about this for me right now is that I’m singing every day. Which means everything’s getting stronger, and that’s really exciting.”
The Old Maid and the Thief offers the chance to experience a memorable performance. Sung in English, the cast features four excellent Wesleyan singers, as well as Andrew Chung ’11 on the piano. “Going to be great,” ends Tan, “Going to be so good.”
“The Old Maid and the Thief” will be presented in Crowell Concert Hall on Sunday April 10 at 7pm. Admission is free.
An interview with Samantha Joy Pearlman ’11 by Sarah Wolfe ‘12.
This Thursday, April 7 and Friday, April 8, the Center for the Arts will travel back to World War II to experience the life of an American woman who participated in the USO Camp Shows. The solo performance, titled Devotedly, Sincerely Yours: The Story of the USO, counts as the creative component for Samantha Pearlman’s senior thesis in the Theater Department. Sitting down with Pearlman last week, we discussed how she came to this topic, the history of the United Service Organizations (USO) Camp Shows, Inc., and the process involved in putting on a show at Wesleyan.
The story follows the style of the USO’s radio broadcasts, which featured Hollywood stars like Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Lena Horne and Bob Hope singing to American soldiers all over the world, as well as telling jokes and humorous anecdotes. Pearlman’s character and the host for Devotedly, Sincerely Yours is based on the career of Louise Buckley as a USO entertainer. Pearlman came across the character through a letter Buckley wrote describing her experience as an entertainer. Pearlman describes the find as, “an 8 page, single spaced letter, one of the most beautiful letters I’ve ever read, and she just poured her heart out about her experience overseas and what it was like living there. A lot of the text of my show is taken from the letter.”
Pearlman also draws on a variety of sources for the text of the performance, inspired by the work of playwright Charles Mee, who wrote Big Love, which Pearlman acted in her freshman year. She comments that, “he works in collage and assemblage… I always kind of wanted to do something like that, and so this project for me was my chance to get my feet wet in creating some kind of piece of musical theater, and then also taking all the tools I’ve learned as an actress here.” Pearlman took Professor Ron Jenkin’s “Solo Performance” theater class which granted her the skills to create and star in this one-woman theatrical event.
Due to Pearlman’s strong musical background, she was able to challenge herself through this performance by utilizing her voice and musical theater abilities to express the broad range of emotions needed for a powerful show. The songs chosen come from wartime periods between 1915 and 1945. She found these after long searches through the Music Division of the New York Public Library, Olin Library, and eBay purchases from “people who are auctioning off what’s in grandma’s attic, and have no idea what they have.” Sorting through approximately 300 songs, she managed to narrow the numbers down to eight that will be performed as a part of Louise’s story.
It was easy to see Pearlman’s enthusiasm and love for the project while she spoke about the process. She spoke with exceptional ardor about the music, stating that it was the part of the performance she most looks forward to. She’s been working with senior Ian Coss, a banjo player, who Pearlman describes as an “amazingly talented, unbelievably dedicated music student”, and they have met together since last semester to compile and arrange the music for the performance. The show includes an eight piece, all-male band. Each of the men in the ensemble play a soldier who might be watching and experiencing the performance. “I remember, the first band rehearsal [when] they played the opening fanfare of the show . . . I literally was just beaming, I couldn’t believe that this was happening.”
Pearlman, eager to share her work states, “I’m excited to have the opportunity to present my work and have a lot of fun with it, and hopefully make people think about American identity, American wars, and especially about being an American woman.” The show presents American culture and history through an artistic form that will present enthusiastic Wesleyan students. Not to be missed, Devotedly, Sincerely Yours represents the end of Pearlman’s career at Wesleyan, but a stunning ode to what the time at Wesleyan can allow a student to create.
“Devotedly, Sincerely Yours” plays April 7 and 8 in the CFA Theater at 8pm. Admission is free, but tickets are required. There is a two ticket limit per person. Tickets are available on the day of each performance at the box office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Avenue, or by calling (860) 685-3355.
The other ensemble members include Ian Coss ’11, Jack Gallagher ’12, William Frakner ‘14, Jacob Hiss ‘13, Myles Potters ‘12, Owen Callahan ‘12, Issac Silk ‘14, Daniel Moakley ‘13, and Zachary Rosen ‘11. “Devotedly, Sincerely Yours”is also inspired by, or takes texts from, Louise Buckley, Grace Drysdale, Maxine Andrews, Ann Miller, Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Arch Oboler, Robert B. Westbrook, Tampax Incorporated, Woman Power Campaigns, the National Center for PTSD, Four Jills and a Jeep, the USO Camp Show Inc. “Guide to the Foxhole Circuit,” Command Performance, Mail Call, BBC Radio Broadcasts, and the USO Camp Show Inc. Publicity Records (1941-1945), among others.
First, I want to thank everyone for enlivening this blog with your opinions about the work that you’ve seen at the Center for the Arts over the past month. All of us at the CFA appreciate your comments…keep it up! There’s nothing better than an engaged audience!
I had a wonderful trip to New York on Saturday to see the latest iteration of the Eiko & Koma Retrospective Project at New York’s Baryshnikov Arts Center. Sam Miller ’75, the producer of the project, and Program Director of Wesleyan’s new Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance, introduced the work and two members of ICPP’s faculty (Judy Hussie-Taylor, Danspace Project and Doryun Chung, MOMA) gave an introductory talk and then we were ushered into an adjacent studio to view the installation. If you saw Raven at Zilkha in November of 2009 or at the CFA Theater last summer, you would see how Naked has grown out of that work. The scorched canvas pressed with rice and salt now surrounds the work and the audience. Eiko and Koma lie together on another canvas laden with earth and raven feathers. To me, the work is about life and death, aging bodies, memory, dreams, proximity and distance. It is visually stunning and completely captivating. The New York Times thought so too.
I saw Evelyn Israel ’10 and Julia Cheng ’08 in the audience and chatted with them after we saw the piece. They, too, were moved and excited to see the long line of people waiting to get in.
Those of you who attended the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange’s Time Has Set the Table for Tea in February will remember Brian Stewart, Professor and Chair of Wesleyan’s Physics Department, who hosted of the tea alongside the character of Edith Warner. You’ll be interested to know that after his highly acclaimed performance, Brian went on tour with the Dance Exchange! The company performed The Matter of Origins (which includes the stage work as Act I and the tea as Act II) at Montclair State University in New Jersey last week, and Brian reprised his role as host of the tea for three sold-out houses.
Finally, please don’t miss KaWa Hula: Hula Through Time on Friday night. This is the first time we have featured traditional Hawaiian music and dance in Crowell Concert Hall. The group of glorious dancers and their jovial master Kawika Alfiche are from San Francisco and received a wonderful write up in the Times for their performance at Symphony Space last week.
Our own Kehaulani Kauanui, Associate Professor of Anthropology and American Studies, gives the pre-show talk at 7:15pm.