Chloe E. Jones ’15 on “Who’s Hungry” (Sept. 27 & 28)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe E. Jones ’15 discusses Dan Froot and Dan Hurlin’s “Who’s Hungry,” which will receive its Connecticut premiere at Wesleyan on Friday, September 27 and Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 8pm in World Music Hall.

Dan Froot and Dan Hurlin's "Who's Hungry." Photo by Rose Eichenbaum. Pictured (left to right): Rachael Lincoln, Darius Mannino, Zach Tolchinsky.
Dan Froot and Dan Hurlin’s “Who’s Hungry.” Photo by Rose Eichenbaum. Pictured (left to right): Rachael Lincoln, Darius Mannino, Zach Tolchinsky.

This weekend in World Music Hall four puppeteers will gather around a 24-foot-long dinner table, transformed into a runway-style puppet stage, for the Connecticut premiere of Who’s Hungry, a work of experimental theater.

From Los Angeles performance artist Dan Froot and New York puppet artist Dan Hurlin comes a story about the struggle of hunger across America and the strength of community. A deeply collaborative endeavor, Who’s Hungry weaves together the oral histories of five residents of Santa Monica, California who have faced either hunger, homelessness or both. To bring their stories to the east coast, Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts and Theater Department have partnered with two remarkable organizations: the New England Foundation for the Arts and St. Vincent de Paul Middletown.

A grant from the Expeditions program of the New England Foundation for the Arts has made it possible for Who’s Hungry to tour the region.  Each of the partner organizations hosting the performance interviewed members of their community who have either experienced hunger first-hand or seen it up close.  The interviews were compiled into the sound score Who’s Hungry New England, which will be incorporated into each performance.  At Wesleyan, this sound score, a powerful montage of voices meant to raise awareness about the impact of hunger in New England, will play as the audience gathers before the performances begin.

Wesleyan is also partnering with St. Vincent de Paul Middletown, an organization that provides food to individuals and families through their community Soup Kitchen and the Amazing Grace Food Pantry. The Soup Kitchen serves nearly 250 prepared meals each day to Middletown residents. The Food Pantry provides food to more than 1,000 households every month.

Representatives from St. Vincent de Paul Middletown, including community members who frequent the Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry, will be on hand at both performances of Who’s Hungry.  They will have a table in the lobby where people can learn more about their work and pick up a copy of Soup Stories, a booklet they’ve created from local stories. Following each performance there will be a live Skype discussion with some of the residents of Santa Monica whose stories are featured in Who’s Hungry. Representatives from St. Vincent de Paul Middletown will be there as the voice of the local community. As St. Vincent de Paul’s Executive Director Ron Krom said, “Hunger is not just a Cali problem; it’s a local problem, too.”

Additionally, St. Vincent de Paul Middletown loaned a series of portraits to the CFA depicting guests of the Soup Kitchen to be displayed before each performance.  The simple yet stunning pencil sketches are the work of illustrator/artist and Wesleyan alumna Abby Carter ’83.  As a long-time Soup Kitchen volunteer, Ms. Carter chronicled her experience using a camera and a sketchpad. Over 50 of her portraits are now on display at the Soup Kitchen, a gallery of local faces and a beautiful representation of the community. Mr. Krom says the gallery continues to grow as new people arrive and want their portrait proudly displayed on the wall of the Soup Kitchen.

Born of two strong and generative partnerships, the Connecticut premiere of Who’s Hungry is an opportunity to engage with an important issue on a local, regional, and national scale.  A product of great collaboration, Who’s Hungry is a catalyst for continuing to work together in confronting hunger within our own communities and across the country. Grab a seat at the table this weekend.

Dan Froot and Dan Hurlin: “Who’s Hungry”
Connecticut Premiere
Friday, September 27 & Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 8pm
World Music Hall
$23 general public; $19 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

A Outside the Box Theater Series event presented by the Theater Department and the Center for the Arts.
Please note that this performance contains mature themes and language that may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Center for the Arts Stories: Amy Crawford ’05

Amy Crawford '05. Photo by Julia Stotz.
Amy Crawford ’05. Photo by Julia Stotz.

Center for the Arts Story: Meeting Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge, interning at the CFA and learning the ropes of arts administration under her incredible leadership. I responded to an ad in the Argus for the CFA arts administration intern opportunity. Prior to that I didn’t know much about Pam and what the rest of the CFA staff were accomplishing. The internship gave me a different perspective on what happens at the CFA and also set me up with the skills to work in arts administration and produce concerts and projects in NYC after I graduated. Pam provided me with invaluable guidance and advice during my first year in the professional world – she is a gem and I will always consider her a mentor!

Favorite Course: Not a course, per se, but the independent study opportunities that Jay Hoggard offered me (I would receive early wake-up calls from Jay on lesson mornings to make sure I was on my way to the CFA!), and playing jazz standards with Anthony Braxton outside of class were some of my favorite and most formative musical experiences at Wesleyan.

Favorite Professor: James McGuire.

Thesis Title:
My major was Government, and the title of my thesis was “Cold War, Hot Jazz: American, German and Soviet Policy Responses to Jazz Music Pre- and Post-World War II.”  But I completed a senior music recital under the supervision of Jay Hoggard, “just for fun,” as well.

“SPILL” performances in New York, Louisiana

An update from Pamela Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts, about exciting developments for “SPILL,” a work that the Center for the Arts commissioned from playwright Leigh Fondakowski which had a workshop performance at Wesleyan in February 2012.

"SPILL" portraits and photos by Reeva Wortel.
“SPILL” portraits and photos by Reeva Wortel.

For those of you who don’t know SPILL, in 2010, playwright and director Leigh Fondakowski teamed up with Wesleyan Professor and Environmental Studies chair Barry Chernoff to co-teach an interdisciplinary course bringing together documentary theater and science. Students traveled to the Gulf Coast to conduct interviews and scientific research on the devastating British Petroleum (BP) oil spill that occurred earlier that year. Upon returning to campus, students developed original performances and visual art based on their research findings. Ms. Fondakowski too went on to create an original performance from her own research conducted in the Gulf, a work created with visual artist Reeva Wortel entitled SPILL.

Originally commissioned by the Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University, SPILL tells the story of the BP oil disaster through a deeply personal lens. Over the course of two years, Ms. Fondakowski interviewed oil rig workers, clean-up volunteers, community leaders, fishermen, scientists, environmentalists, oil industry proponents, families who lost loved ones in the explosion, and others—chronicling their stories into one compelling narrative that asks us to consider the true cost of oil. Much like The Laramie Project—Ms. Fondakowski’s wildly successful previous play (co-written with Moises Kaufman and Tectonic Theater) about the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay student from the University of Wyoming—SPILL engages its audience in a challenging but vital dialogue about critical issues.

While the first half of SPILL focuses on the oil rig explosion, the second deals with the aftermath and its effects on the people and land of south Louisiana. After each performance, the audience is invited to view an art installation comprised of life-sized portraits of the interviewees, painted by visual artist and collaborator Reeva Wortel. The striking installation creates a colorful space in which the conversation can be continued long after the performance itself has ended. In this way SPILL goes well beyond the average play. It is also an art installation, a conversation, a history, and a starting point for social change.

Following the workshop performance at Wesleyan in February 2012, the work went on to have several work-in progress showings including presentations/discussions at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, Louisiana State University, and the Women Center Stage Festival at Culture Project in New York. In the spring of 2014, SPILL will return to the place where the project was first conceived, taking the stage at theaters across Louisiana for its world premiere and a five-city tour.

Click here to read an article about SPILL from the New Orleans Gambit newspaper.

To learn more about SPILL or make a contribution, click here.

Center for the Arts Stories: Kelly Quinn ’93

Within the open and accepting microcosm of the CFA, I had the tremendous privilege of studying under Ron Kuivila in the electroacoustic music studio.  In that studio, I found the voice that was deep within me but unable to speak using conventional ‘language.’ Ron and the CFA—and Wesleyan as a whole—enabled me to finally find *my* language—not one of words, but one of sound: The one language that makes sense to me.

Naya Samuel ’14 on Doug Varone and Dancers (Sept. 12 & 13)

Wesleyan Dancelink Fellow Naya Samuel ’14 discusses her experience with Doug Varone and Dancers, who will present “Stripped/Dressed,” featuring “Rise” and the Connecticut premiere of “Carrugi,” on Thursday, September 12 and Friday, September 13, 2013 at 8pm in the CFA Theater.

Through the Center for the Arts Dancelink Fellowship program, I got the opportunity to intern with Doug Varone and Dancers in New York this past summer, and I’ve become a huge fan of their work. The company was founded in 1986, and is the resident company at the 92 Street Y Harkness Dance Center, which has been home to some of the biggest names in modern dance, from Martha Graham to Merce Cunningham to Alvin Ailey. Since its founding, Doug Varone and Dancers has toured extensively across the United State and in Europe, Asia, Canada, and South America. They’ve won 11 New York Dance and Performance Awards, also known as Bessies, and just celebrated their 25th anniversary. The New Yorker noted that “few choreographers can move people around the stage like Varone can. He is able to see overlapping and intertwining groups clearly, and to create movement for them that turns them into breathing organisms.” After spending a summer with the company I agree that Doug’s work is an astonishing blend of touching humanity and complex detail.

One of my favorite nuances of this company is their Stripped/Dressed performance format. This unique method is a beneficial and inventive way to make a specific art vocabulary less foreign to someone who is not immersed in that field. The first half of the program, Stripped, offers a bare version of a performance that focuses on the choreography and the creation of a piece as explained by Doug. This section is performed with the dancers in rehearsal clothes and with minimal lighting. At Wesleyan, the company will start by performing Rise, which premiered in October 1993 and represented a huge choreographic shift for Doug. It’s a high-energy, demanding piece requiring great physicality from its dancers, and it always leaves me excited about the work.  The costumes in the piece have become well known, so it’ll be an interesting reflection on the theatrics of putting a piece on stage to see it without them, and how this change affects the way it is perceived.

Doug Varone and Dancers. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
Doug Varone and Dancers. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

The second half of the program, Dressed, has the company performing Carrugi fully produced, with costumes, lighting and sound. Doug will have walked us through its conception and creation before intermission. It’s pretty exciting for me to watch or rewatch a piece once Doug has walked us through it. He gives us a context that we otherwise lack while watching most dance companies perform. Carrugi premiered in March 2012, and was inspired by the winding pathways in between small towns on the hillside of Italy’s Liguria region. Set to music by Mozart, the piece is intricate and attentive to detail, and ultimately satisfying both in its dynamic musicality and the relationships between dancers.

The focus of my Dancelink Fellowship was marketing and promotion, especially via social media, but during my time with the company I became familiar with almost all of the necessary components of running a non-profit. The internship was completely immersive. The company had been preparing for their summer intensive in Brockport, New York, and when I started interning the workshop was about two weeks away. Along with another intern, Ellyn, and my supervisor  and company member Eddie Taketa, I headed up to Brockport, six hours away, to stay for about a month with 70 dancers and the company.

In addition to running the company’s social media campaign, I also got to participate in classes, which was thrilling. It’s a small company, eight dancers, which made for an intimate class setting. It felt like we really got to know all of the dancers as crucial components of the company as well as as individual artists. Everyone was so open and eager to share their knowledge of the field, which was helpful to the handful of us there who were getting ready to graduate and trying to figure out what we wanted to do in the dance field. It was an incredible experience to switch back and forth between watching rehearsals and performances, which gave me a much deeper insight into what I was watching, as well as the different ways in which choreographers work.

I was able to learn about Doug’s method, and his use of choreographic games and dancer participation. The company members were so passionate about everything they were doing that it was impossible to not feel energized. I can’t think of a better finale to my Dancelink Fellowship than to be in the CFA Theater to welcome Doug Varone and Dancers to Wesleyan.

Click here to watch an interview with Doug Varone and company members Xan Burley and Alex Springer, conducted by Wesleyan DanceLink Fellow Naya Samuel ’14.

Doug Varone and Dancers: “Stripped/Dressed” featuring “Rise” and “Carrugi”
Thursday, September 12 & Friday, September 13, 2013 at 8pm
CFA Theater
$25 general public; $21 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
Pre-performance talk by Wesleyan DanceLink Fellow Naya Samuel ’14 on Thursday, September 12 at 7:30pm in the CFA Hall.
Free master class with Doug Varone and Dancers Company Member Eddie Taketa on Friday, September 13 at 2:45pm in Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio, 247 Pine Street, Middletown. Please call 860-685-3355 to register in advance.
Only one spot left for Dine/Dance/Discover on Friday, September 13 at 5:30pm—add $15 to your regular ticket price above. Please call 860-685-3355 to purchase.

Center for the Arts Stories: Christopher Andrews ’97

Christopher Andrews '97
Christopher Andrews ’97. Photo by John McCormick.

In my years at Wesleyan, the majority of my life was spent lurking behind the scenes around the CFA. I played a role in virtually every theater and dance production and good number of the music performances as well. While I had good relationships with my professors, and I was part of a number of interesting performances, what remains with me is the time I spent working and, well, not working, with Nelson Maurice and Charlie Carroll and their occasional co-conspirator Mark Gawlak. They were, if you can pardon a Star Trek reference, my Boothby. I considered them to be both mentors and friends.  I think working with Nelson during a summer program on campus is what convinced me to come to Wesleyan in the first place. They provided the connections that got me first an internship at the Goodspeed Opera House and then later my job with fellow alum John Cini at High Output in Boston. It is even my connection with Charlie that led to my wife and I getting together.  I certainly learned a lot about technical theater and practical problem solving working with them—skills that continue to serve me well long after I left the theater. Of course, Nelson would be the first to admit that he didn’t keep up with the technology, and in the end I think I was teaching him things, but the great thing about him was that the reversal never seemed to bother him. He was more like a proud grandfather than a teacher trying to maintain intellectual dominance, and I really respect him for that, especially now that I am a teacher myself.

But for all that, what I remember most is the quiet times, just hanging around the shop listening to them gossip and tell jokes of variable quality, or sitting up in the booth teaching Nelson how to navigate the nascent Internet so he could look up web pages about Panama, Maine, peddle cars and Moxie. I gained from them a certain pragmatism that is lacking in many theatrical environments (and elsewhere). They worked hard, but they never took anything too seriously – nothing is really an emergency, and there is a fix for everything. Of course, this led to one of my fondest memories, watching Nelson emerge onstage and start sweeping the stage in the middle of a curtain call because it had been a long day and he was ready to go home. For all their pragmatism, and the admittedly hard time they gave anyone who came in range, they are some of the Good Guys, dedicated to what they do, and above all dedicated to their students.

This was my Wesleyan.

Crafting “The Alumni Show II” Exhibition (Through Dec. 8)

Director of the Center for the Arts Pamela Tatge ’84, P ’16 discusses “The Alumni Show II” and guest curator John Ravenal ’81, P ’15. The exhibition is on view in Wesleyan University’s Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery through Sunday, December 8, 2013.

alumni show flux imageAt Homecoming/Family Weekend last year, I spoke with John Ravenal ’81, P ’15 about curating The Alumni Show II as part of the celebration of the CFA’s 40th anniversary. John is the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. Despite the swift timetable, he agreed and began the daunting task of crafting from the rich and wide-ranging body of art by Wesleyan alumni a selective and cohesive exhibition of seventeen artists. I’m excited for the extended Wesleyan family and the community-at-large to engage with the work and eager to hear the conversations that follow. As John writes in the exhibition catalogue, reflecting on his own experience, an experience shared by many who have passed through Wesleyan in some capacity:

“The building of the CFA and the value it conferred on the study and practice of the arts, while not uncommon for a liberal arts college, underscored Wesleyan’s commitment to education conducted in a spirit of free inquiry, without consideration for vocational utility, but rather dedicated to increasing the understanding of the human and natural worlds we inhabit. This lofty ideal, ever under attack as impractical, unaffordable, and even elitist, is precisely what has opened the door for generations of young adults to expand their minds far beyond what they even knew to anticipate, and to consider the arts as a valid path for a lifetime of intellectual as well as creative pursuit. The broad spectrum of themes and subjects explored by the artists in this exhibition underscores the wisdom of this attitude. It doesn’t seem a stretch to see in their complex, sophisticated, critical, and beautiful work a confirmation of Wesleyan’s core values.”

Join us in celebrating and expanding this vibrant tradition. The official opening reception for The Alumni Show II is Tuesday, September 10 from 5pm to 7pm, followed by a performance/installation [“Centrifugal March”] by Aki Sasamoto ’04 at 7:30pm in Art Studio North. We look forward to seeing you!

“The Alumni Show II”
Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery
Friday, September 6 through Sunday, December 8, 2013
Tuesday-Sunday, Noon-5pm
Opening Reception: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 from 5pm to 7pm. Performance by Aki Sasamoto ’04 at 7:30pm in Art Studio North.
Homecoming/Family Weekend Reception: Saturday, November 2, 2013 from 2pm to 4pm. Talk at 2:30pm by Guest Curator John Ravenal ’81, P ’15, Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Special Gallery Hours: Noon to 6pm.
Closed Wednesday, November 20 through Monday, November 25, 2013.

Center for the Arts Stories: Jonathan Kalb ’81

Jonathan Kalb '81 at Machu Picchu. Photo by his wife Julie Heffernan.
Jonathan Kalb ’81 at Machu Picchu. Photo by his wife Julie Heffernan.

My story is about an annual ritual of storing a god-awfully heavy upright piano that I stubbornly insisted on keeping with me all four years at Wesleyan. I’m sure a psychiatrist, if I ever asked one, would have a lot to say about why I lugged this absurd, quarter-ton, beaten-up, wooden instrument around during the most unsettled and itinerant time of life, hauling it from The Gingerbread House, to In-Town, to off-campus rentals on Washington and Pine Streets. More than three decades on, I can barely remember a time so innocent that moving seemed novel and fun. In any case, because Wesleyan housing had to be vacated over the summers, I had to find a place for my behemoth to stay every year from May until September. Full of freshman chutzpah in the spring in 1978, I walked into the Music Department, where I’d never taken a class, and asked a professor I didn’t know (I think it was Jon Barlow) if by chance I might leave my piano in a CFA practice room. He graciously answered: “Sure, if you can get it here.”

Thus began my yearly rite of bribing four or five friends with a case of beer to help push the damn thing across multiple streets and up and down long paths and sidewalks, on its rickety castors, to and from its summer sanctuary in the CFA. The asphalt pathways by the Music Department never looked the same after these operations and neither did my friends. The piano, however, was in great shape every fall (except for the castors) and I could play it in my room any time of the day or night, which is what mattered to me. Graduation inevitably forced me to focus on the merits of lightening up, and when a friend who had helped push (Joel Kreisberg) offered to buy the beast for fifty bucks, I reluctantly agreed. I saw it a few years later at his country house, nicked, faded, hulking, defiant—a proud old rusty ship just daring us to take it out on one more voyage.