JoAnna Bourain ’12 Interviews Mark Sussman ’85, Co-Founder of Great Small Works (Feb. 3 & 4)

Great Small Works

Tonight and Saturday night, the Theater Department and the Center for the Arts present Great Small Works, a New York-based theater collective that creates work about contemporary issues. CFA Intern in Arts Administration JoAnna Bourain ’12  interviewed co-founder Mark Sussman ’85 about his time at Wesleyan and about the production you’ll see this weekend.

JoAnna Bourain ’12:  Great Small Works’ website lists the company’s major influences, many of whom I’ve encountered in my coursework at Wesleyan, namely Walter Benjamin, Bertold Brecht and Erik Satie. Tell me about some of your Wesleyan classes that influenced your creative process.

Mark Sussman ’85:  At Wesleyan I was a double major in Theater and Religion. The theater side of my education was mostly in directing and design and I knew that after Wesleyan I didn’t want to join the workforce of the American Theater. After working in a collaborative setting at Wesleyan with groups like Second Stage I knew I wanted to have a company and to work collectively in a series.

I bring from my own years at Wesleyan an interest in working in a more collective situation- this comes from the late Fritz DeBoer (Theater Department) who really inspired me. Certain experiences that I had in the Music Department along with the atmosphere within that department were really important to my creative development – both experimental music and world music. Susan Foster and Alvin Lucier co-taught a class that was essentially about site specific performance art, as well as a class by Jon Barlow who taught the work of John Cage and Erik Satie that brought together a really interdisciplinary vision of art. These classes helped me to make connections to my experience in theater. All of those experiences have stuck with me and help me to inform my every day creative processes.

JB:  Your website cites that Benjamin’s theory of the ‘state of emergency’ was an early catalyst for the first miniature theater piece. Considering the group’s beginnings in Bread and Puppet (a Vermont-based political theater company directed by Peter Schumann, who is speaking in CFA Hall on April 9) how do politics figure in Great Small Works?

MS:  I think we imagine everything that we do as having a political aspect. I think the reason that we are really drawn to Benjamin (who I first read in a tutorial in the Religion Department) was due to the fact that he looked at both aesthetics and politics and their inseparable relationship. If you look at something like the Republican Primary, we see that images play such an important role in how people are politically perceived. In Benjamin’s essay, The Thesis on the Philosophy of History, he talks about the notion of a Marxist view of history in which a state of emergency is used to encourage and create the rhetoric of a crisis where, actually, that state of emergency is a constant in capitalism. It’s a falsification to even think of it as a momentary state of emergency rather than a constant. That idea was we eventually applied to the toy theater.

Jenny Romaine, during the first Gulf War in the late 90s, remembers how the war was portrayed as a catastrophe day after day, and was filtered through us in the everyday banal act of opening The New York Times. The idea was to communicate this sense of every day terror as it is read in banal everyday actions.

The toy theater is an outmoded form that is low tech, handmade and has associations with folk theater.  It was a form we rediscovered from 19th century Europe that was a popular amateur form you would perform in the home.  It was something kids and adults would do together. Very often the scripts were melodramas from London’s West End. The popularity of the form coincided with colored lithography and with mass communication and mass culture; it’s a form that existed between printing, book making and puppetry.

JB:  Can you talk a little bit more about translating this particular process, a form that has more associations with the home than with the high-theater, into an actual show? I have read that you use a camera to project the miniature theater onto a screen in order to show the piece larger. This process creates an interesting tension between what the form stands for historically and what it becomes on the stage.

MS:  We started these [miniature theater] shows before we were even a company. We found that using the toy theater was a quick and easy way to talk about big ideas- there is a weird inverse relationship between the scale of the show and the ideas. In [Toy Theater of] Terror as Usual, one of the shows we will be performing, we see the performers operating the puppets. In a lot of puppet shows you never get to see the puppeteers. You see us operating the puppets, singing and talking and making sounds. That Brechtian act of revealing the performers is a big part of the show. I think that still works when we use the video camera and the projection when we are creating it before you. The image is taken apart and constructed in front of you. For an audience, this shows how history is created and constructed.

JB:  Why do you think that it is important that people see Great Small works?

MS:  It’s interesting and fun and unexpected. It is interesting how you see an idea and stories. Much of traditional theater expresses characters differently than we do – we present a story within a larger set of ideas with an analysis. We provide a visually appealing message and a way to comprehend and digest complicated ideas in an accessible form.

Great Small Works
Friday, February 3 and 
Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 8pm
CFA Hall, 287 Washington Terrace
Tickets: $15 general public; $12 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students


Each performance will be followed by a post-show discussion.

Cassandra Burrows, John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Jenny Romaine and Xavier will perform the works “Short, Entertaining History of Toy Theater”; “Toy Theater of Terror As Usual, Episode 12: Desert and Ocean”, a surreal serial drama using excerpted texts and images quickly cut from The New York Times, Hans Christian Anderson, Grace Lee Boggs, and Democracy Now!; and “Three Graces”, a “cantastoria” (picture-based storytelling work) in which three mythical graces – Harmony, Strategy and Splendor – float down to earth for an op-art romp inspired by Grace Paley, Grace Kelly, Grace Jones and Grace Lee Boggs.

World Premiere by Grandfather of Noah Heau ’12 (Feb. 5)

Karas String Quartet

This Sunday, the Karas String Quartet will premiere a new work by composer/arranger William Zinn, entitled Wesleyan Concertante.  Mr. Zinn is the grandfather of Noah Heau ’12, a cellist in the Wesleyan University Orchestra, and a Center for the Arts Events Staff Member.  Mr. Zinn approached Music Director Angel Gil-Ordóñez about the work, and Wesleyan’s Concert Committee then extended an invitation for the quartet to play it as part of the Music at The Russell House series.  The quartet includes violinist Cyrus Stevens, pianist Ruriko Kagiyama, violist Michael Wheeler and guest cellist Julie Ribchinsky, Wesleyan Private Lessons Teacher.  In addition to the world premiere by Mr. Zinn, the quartet will perform Mozart’s Piano Quartet in g minor and other works. Admission is free.

Karas String Quartet: Afternoon with Chamber Music
Sunday, February 5, 2012 at 3pm

The Russell House, 350 High Street

FREE!


Tell Us About It!

From now through January 17, share your thoughts about the spring events at the Center for the Arts in one (or both!) of the following ways:

1) Like us on Facebook and write something about our spring events on our Wall.
2) Follow us on Twitter and compose a tweet about our spring events (be sure to mention @WesCFA).

Everyone who writes about our spring events on Facebook or Twitter will be entered to win some excellent prizes, including the following:

—three tickets to see UConn Women’s Basketball play St. John’s (Saturday, February 18, 7pm, Gampel Pavilion, Storrs) courtesy of WNPR
—gift cards to Javapalooza Cafe courtesy of the Hartford and New Haven Advocates
—movie vouchers courtesy of Destinta Theatres
—arts books courtesy of Wesleyan University Press
—earbud headphones courtesy of Wesleyan Information Technology Services
—vintage posters courtesy of the Davison Art Center
—picture frame Center for the Arts magnets

Spring Events include World, U.S., & Connecticut Premieres

We hope that you will take advantage of all that the Center for the Arts has to offer in the coming months:

In keeping with our tradition of welcoming the world to Wesleyan at the CFA, you will have the opportunity to discover one of Australia’s most adventurous contemporary dance companies (Chunky Move); a sizzling jazz guitarist/vocalist from Benin (Lionel Loueke); and an Argentine quartet that celebrates the tango music of Buenos Aires (Fernando Otero).

And in keeping with our interest in the intersection of art and science, the CFA has commissioned two works that will have their first performances at Wesleyan in conjunction with Feet to the Fire: Fueling the Future. SPILL, by Leigh Fondakowski and Reeva Wortel, is a visual art/performance installation that explores the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The work will debut at Beckham Hall in February. Composer Paula Matthusen, new to Wesleyan’s music faculty, will premiere work divided by time at the Van Vleck Observatory. The sound installation is a reflection of how the scientific definition of energy resonates and clashes with cultural and historical concepts.

Other highlights include the world premiere of a new multi-part suite by jazz vibraphonist and music faculty member Jay Hoggard; the U.S. premiere of Quicksand, a provocative new work by inDANCE, the highly acclaimed Toronto-based contemporary dance company directed by Wesleyan Artist in Residence Hari Krishnan; and a 21st-century examination of Gertrude Stein’s Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, directed by Theater Department Chair Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento.

We invite you to stretch your imagination, contemplate new ideas and celebrate all that the CFA’s faculty, students, and visiting artists and companies have to offer.

Best wishes,

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

P.S. If you are looking for arts interaction over the holidays, please attend Middnight on Main, New Year’s Eve on Main Street in Middletown.

A “21st Century Gazelle” at Crowell Concert Hall This Sunday, Oct. 30

We invited Hari Krishnan, Artist in Residence in the Dance Department, to write to us about Sunday’s performance by Rama Vaidyanathan.  Here’s what he said:

 

Hari Krishnan and Rama Vaidyanathan

Rama is a leading Bharatanatyam dancer from her generation in India today. Through sheer hard work and constantly creating new innovative dances, Rama 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/festivals in Europe to the most conservative classical arts-friendly venues in India. Rama’s Bharatanatyam cuts across linguistic, social, political and cultural boundaries.

Rama is also a dear friend and I remember in the summer of 2010 when we were on the teaching faculty for a dance residency in the U.K., the students had insisted that we perform together. Not having prepared any piece, we improvised right there and then a nouveau-Bharatanatyam duet to the delight of all present.

Being a contemporary dance and Bharatanatyam dance artist myself, I wasn’t too sure if Rama would be game to improvising a duet with me involving close physical touch. I was struck at Rama’s versatility not only to passionate collaborate but also boldly bringing her art into new experimental terrains while still maintaining her identity of that of a classical Bharatanatyam dancer. She is able to bring out the inherent beauty of the Bharatanatyam form with her creativity and genuine love for the dance.

I am delighted Rama is performing at Wesleyan with her team of stellar musicians [vocalist Indu Sivankutty Nair, violinist Vikram Raghukumar, K. Sivakumar on nattuvangam, and Kalapurakkal Arun Kumar on mridangam], offering her dazzling, highly individual brand of Bharatanatyam. Wesleyan is truly in for a treat of innovation, grace and pure joy – a Bharatanataym 21st century gazelle will be strutting her stuff on the Crowell Concert Hall stage this Sunday afternoon.

 

35th annual Navaratri Festival
Rama Vaidyanathan: Bharata Natyam

Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 2pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$15 general public; $12 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

We invited B. Balasubrahmaniyan, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music, to write to us about Saturday night’s performance by T.M. Krishna.  Here’s what he said:

 

T.M. Krishna

Krishna is a vibrant musician of South Indian classical Karnatak music. He is young, but very senior in artistry of this music. I have been listening to him since he was a teenager.  His ability, confidence and perfectionism keep him busy.  He spent years learning from the great masters Seetharama Sharma, Chengalpattu Ranganathan and Semmangudi Srinivasa Ayyar. His training combined with pure passion and hard work brought high acclaim at a very young age.  His recent work as a Jugalbandi performer with North Indian musicians is one more step to popularize South Indian classical music in the northern region.

In addition to his musical artistry, he is a also a renowned teacher and scholar.  He is a Founding Trustee of Jnanarnava Trust, an organization devoted to the research, documentation and archiving of the ancient traditions in Carnatic music. In 2006, the trust launched its Audio Archival Project of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini. This text, published in 1904 in Telugu, is of seminal importance in understanding the changes and developments in Carnatic music over the past 200 years. This was the first text that gave an authoritative and comprehensive notating system to Carnatic music.

He is noted for performing and teaching in remote areas for people who have not been exposed to Karnatak music. He’s also an expert at spotting rural talent and giving musicians the opportunity to learn and perform through his trust.

[T.M. Krishna will be accompanied by HK Venkatram on the violin and Trichy Sankaran on the mridangam.]

35th annual Navaratri Festival
T.M. Krishna
Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 7pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$15 general public; $12 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students.

Haveli India will present a bountiful meal, from appetizer to dessert, in World Music Hall at 5pm before the T.M. Krishna concert. Tickets, which include both the dinner and the concert, are $25 for the general public; $22 for senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff and non-Wesleyan students; and $13 for Wesleyan students.

Kelsey Siegel ’13, Visiting Dance Instructor Clyde Evans on Hip Hop, Rennie Harris Puremovement (Sept. 30 & Oct. 1)

Arts Administration Intern Joanna Bourain ’12 talks to Kelsey Siegel ’13 and Visiting Instructor in Dance Clyde Evans about Rennie Harris Puremovement.

On Friday September 30 and Saturday October 1, Rennie Harris Puremovement, a hip-hop group from Philadelphia, will showcase a performance in the Center for the Arts Theater. The company, started in 1992 by hip hop veteran Rennie Harris, aims to drive hip hop away from its current stereotypes and commercial manifestations and back to its urban street forms through lively performances. I sat down with dance major Kelsey Siegel ’13 and Visiting Instructor in Dance Clyde Evans to discuss the importance of this performance.

Kelsey Siegel, a member of Wesleyan’s Fusion hip hop dance group, sat down with me to talk about the significance of this performance. Kelsey explained that in her opinion, “hip hop is an important dance form because its expressiveness and liveliness can portray much more than just a narrative.”  She explained to me that Rennie Harris Puremovement is important because the group embeds a social message about hip hop within their dancing that battles stereotypes built up the media. “Hip hop is also a much more accessible dance form that allows for a hybridity of movements, dance styles, and cultures. This fusion of dance styles and culture is evident in Rennie Harris Puremovement’s integration of ballet-like moves, West-African body movements and gymnastic  break dance moves. They’ve taken a dance style developed in the street and have brought it into a theater, which allows for the dance form to be considered from a more critical perspective.”

Clyde Evans, Jr. is a Visiting Instructor in the Dance Department and is teaching two hip hop classes this semester.  Also from Philadelphia, he was a founding member of Rennie Harris’ company.  “This [event] will not only broaden the experience of the traditional theater-goer, it may also inspire or even prompt artists to rethink presentation/choreography of their art.”  Evans is excited to have his students see the company, and remembering what it was like to go on tour with the company, he’s also excited for the dancers. “The experience of traveling as a dancer and the well-rounded perspective of the world as seen through the eyes of an artist – it’s priceless. It’s amazing. It’s flying without wings. So my excitement is really for them.”

The company will present repertoire that spans its 20 year history set to music by the Headhunters, Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, Parliament Funkadelic, Groove Collective, and others.

Rennie Harris Puremovement
Friday, September 30 & Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 8pm
CFA Theater
Pre-performance talk with dance scholar Debra Cash on Friday at 7:15pm in CFA Hall
$23 general public; $19 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
Rennie Harris will give the Cynthia Novak Lecture entitled “Hip Hop History and Culture: Rage, Resistance and Regeneration” at 7pm on Thursday, September 29 at The Russell House, 350 High Street.
There will also be a dance masterclass for intermediate to advanced students on Saturday, October 1 at 11am in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio, 247 Pine Street.

Students Interview Dewey Dell Company Members

Students in Professor Ellen Nerenberg’s Advanced Italian class (ITAL221) interviewed the company members of Dewey Dell soon after they arrived on campus.  The students then translated the interviews into English, so that members of our campus and community can get to know them better.  Enjoy!

Eugenio Resta

Interview by Chelsea Reutcke, Class of 2012, Advanced Italian I

This weekend I sat down to talk with Eugenio Resta, of the avant-garde Italian theatre group Dewey Dell. The quartet consisting of Eugenio and Agata, Teodora and Demetrio Castellucci was first formed at a rhythmic movement and philosophy school in Cesena in 2007. Teodora gathered the group together to put on a small performance. Now they have five shows in their repertory and tour Europe. The group’s visit to Wesleyan is also its premiere in the United States. Eugenio commented on the excitement of performing to an audience made up largely of students, saying how rare an occurrence that would be in Europe. Each member plays a specific role in the group and Eugenio’s task is to design and oversee the lighting and scenery. Although he studied set design in Urbino, Italy, he has had no formal training in lighting and has learned as he goes along. The type of sets and lighting required vary from one show to another, ranging from simple to complex designs, depending on the mood he tries to invoke. If a problem concerning the set or lights arises during a show, Eugenio says he tries to stay level-headed and calm as he works through the issue, and the show continues on. The individual performances always vary though, so company members don’t get bored, he joked. He also explained that Dewey Dell members strive to always be astonished by their work. As far as any specific lessons he wants imparted on the audience, he said “Niente,” nothing. He wants the public to see something they had never seen before, a new world far from their own, and to take away an emotion that they felt while watching the performance.

Interview by Alana Rodriguez, Class of 2013, Advanced Italian I

Following study at the Stoa in the city of Cesena, Italy, the avant-garde theater group named Dewey Dell has been performing since 2007. They have performed in different European countries and now, for the first time, in the United States here at Wesleyan. Within Dewey Dell, Eugenio Resta is responsible for the shows’ set and lighting design. He has various sources of inspiration including movement, and when designing a set attempts to create the environment. He also utilizes special effects, such as smoke and lasers, to visually enhance the scene for the audience. The other group members-Agata, Demetrio, and Teodora Castelluci-are siblings and he enjoys working with them and helping them with other tasks involved in creating a show for performance. For the audiences here at Wesleyan, who are mostly university students, he wants to create a world that doesn’t exist and that evokes many emotions. He likes classical genres in theater and design that is very imaginative since, according to him, there are ample sources of inspiration for one idea in theater. In addition to Dewey Dell, Eugenio studies and works other kinds of jobs. Yet for him, Dewey Dell is not just a job, but a passion.

Agata Castellucci

Interview by Grace Asleson, Class of 2013, Advanced Italian I

Last Saturday (September 10), I had the opportunity to meet with Agata Castellucci, a twenty-year-old actress, choreographer dancer, and member of the experimental theater group, Dewey Dell, which she helped to found with her sister, brother, and another friend. When I met Agata, I didn’t know what to expect—she is my age and has already traveled the world. She has not only established a career in the performing arts, but has also co-created her own group. Oh and did I mention that this is all while she continues to study at the University of Milan? Needless to say, I was intimidated.

But, as I found out, she is not only down to earth, but she was also great fun and happily attended a local concert with my friends and I on Friday night. When I asked Agata about Dewey Dell, she told me that the name was inspired by a character in William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying. From this name, and support from her artist parents, Agata and the rest of Dewey Dell have created something potent, eerie, and totally unexpected. Friday night’s performance was an explosion of energy and talent with elaborate costumes and sharp staccato movements.

Soon into our interview, it became apparent that Agata is an old soul—she began to travel with Dewey Dell while still in high school, learning about different cultures, which in turn fuel her ideas. But Agata, in many ways, felt like she could be a peer and a friend. She admitted that the siblings do not always agree on choreography, but sometimes the disagreements spark greater creativity. I look forward to seeing more of Agata’s style and grace at Dewey Dell’s final performance this weekend, Cinquanta Urlanti 
Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti, to be performed in the CFA Theater on Friday, September 16 at 8pm.

Interview by Isabella Cucchi, Class of 2013, Advanced Italian I

It was incredibly enlightening to speak with Agata Castellucci about her past in theater, her roles within Dewey Dell, and her impressions of both Italian and American culture. Agata explained that her passion for choreography and theater began at a young age.  Because their parents own a well-established, internationally renowned theater company in Italy, Agata and her siblings were constantly exposed to the arts, and cultivated an appreciation for theater from an early age. This ultimately led to the Castelluccis’ desire for and decision to create a niche for themselves, separate from their parents’ sphere of influence. (According to Agata, the group decided on the name Dewey Dell for the simple reason that the four members happened coincidentally to be reading Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying at the same time.) While sibling rivalry can sometimes hinder their artistic process, Agata reported that the group generally gets along well, and that each member contributes something unique and important. As the youngest member of Dewey Dell, Agata is inspired by her older siblings. At one point in the interview, she fondly described her household growing up as “never silent,” with music booming constantly  from her brothers’ rooms. This, she explained, offered yet another source of appreciation for the arts, and specifically for artistic diversity. Agata explained that she now listens to everything from classical music to electronic dance music to rock and roll, and all of these genres affect the group’s work. Dewey Dell did not achieve immediate success, however. Agata noted that her professors at school did not initially approve of the movement, and group members were forced to make excuses for occasionally missing class or turning in a late assignment. Since overcoming these scholastic obstacles, Dewey Dell has traveled the world, exploring different universities, groups, and cultures. Agata remarked that she loves America, noting its differences from Italy, and especially from her small town of Cesena. She, like all the Dewey Dell members, is very happy to explore Wesleyan and all it has to offer. She is particularly excited to have the experience of working with her own age group in pursuit of something she loves.

Teodora Castellucci

Interview by Sydney Lowe, Class of 2013, Advanced Italian I

The first time I met Teodora, she wasn’t wearing much makeup—just a t-shirt and jeans along with a bright smile. I was slightly embarrassed by my newly-remembered Italian (tenses and vocabulary which I lost over the long summer), but was excited at the opportunity to get to know this rising international star. Born in the small town of Cesena, Italy, at 23, Teodora is already an incredibly accomplished dancer, choreographer, costume designer and founding member of the avant-garde performance group Dewey Dell. With her co-company members, she has performed around the world (Barcelona, London, Berlin, and Italy, to name a few venues). Even though she never formally studied dance, she says that to be a dancer has been her dream since she was a young girl.. In 2007, her dream became a “family-affair” reality when she started working with her equally talented siblings Agata and Demetrio, and their close friend Eugenio Resta.  à elle vide is an avant-garde performance piece that revolves around the curious void between a rooster (Teodora) and a scorpion (Agata). The second piece that will be performed at Wesleyan on September 16, Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti, is about the blurred borders between sailors, the ship, the wind and the sea. Teodora says that although their performances have no specific objective, they want the audience to try to understand their movements without using words—to have their eyes talk for them the way Dewey Dell Bundren in Faulkner’s book As I Lay Dying does. (The group’s name, Dewey Dell, is a tribute to one of Teodora’s favorite authors, the strange yet captivating Faulkner.) When I attended their performance later that night that was exactly what I saw. The Teodora on stage seemed to be a completely different person from the young woman I’d talked to in the middle of Usdan only hours earlier. It is clear that Teodora speaks with her precise movements, her bold red makeup, the music and more; more than just her eyes. “People always tell you, ‘Yes, go follow your dream!’ It seems very cliché. But now, I am actually following my dream and, honestly, it couldn’t be better.”

Interview by Edgar Pliaskis, Class of 2014, Advanced Italian I

The contrasting colors of the posters of Dewey Dell around Wesleyan campus attract the attention of many. And although everyone has a chance to see the fantastic performances of this experimental theater group Dewey Dell, I got a chance to meet and chat with one of the performers, Teodora Castellucci.

As we slowly assembled a conversation, I learned that generally, two different animals such as a cat and a scorpion influence each performance. This influence is usually gets reflected through the costumes that Teodora designs herself (seen on the posters.) Theodora noted that Dewey Dell does not have a real mission. Rather, it wishes the audience to perceive the movements of the choreography and build their own interpretation.

This group has performed multiple times throughout the members’ native Italy as well as in London, Paris, Barcelona and just recently the United States. I urge everyone to show up to at least one of the performances that Dewey Dell has put together for us to enjoy.

Demetrio Castellucci

Interview by Rosie Keogh, Class of 2013, Advanced Italian I

The Wesleyan community is thrilled to have the avant-garde Italian theatre group Dewey Dell on campus.  Demetrio Castelucci, co-founder of the group, and its musical engineer, is enthusiastic to see Wesleyan students’ response. The music for the two productions– à elle vide, and Cinquantana Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta—is largely electronic.  The experimental, non-verbal sound reflects the company’s muse:  Dewey Dell Bundren in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Dewey Dell, one of the novel’s stream of consciousness narrators, is nearly mute. The Dewey Dell production, correspondingly, uses expressive non-verbal music and visual onomatopoeia to relate to its audience.  The music employs both computer technology and an electronic orchestra. The internationally traveled group hopes to return to Wesleyan with a student workshop on campus sometime before this December.

Dewey Dell: Cinquanta Urlanti 
Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti
United States Premiere
Friday, September 16, 2011 at 8pm
CFA Theater
$18 general public; $15 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Dewey Dell is an event in Outside the Box, a series of groundbreaking performances and discussions in theater, co-sponsored by the Theater Department and Center for the Arts.

Summer at the CFA

Tickets for Kenny Barron Trio, Marc Bamuthi Joseph / The Living Word Project, and Trey McIntyre Project are now on sale! Click here to buy your tickets online.

EVENING PERFORMANCES

 

FREE NOONTIME TALKS AND PERFORMANCES

Music and Theater This Weekend: Spotlight on Cheryl Tan ’11

An interview with Cheryl Tan ’11 by Sarah Wolfe ‘12.

The Old Maid and the Thief
The Old Maid and the Thief

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 Thiefwill be presented in Crowell Concert Hall on Sunday April 10 at 7pm. Admission is free.

Thesis Theater This Week: Spotlight on Samantha Joy Pearlman ’11

An interview with Samantha Joy Pearlman ’11 by Sarah Wolfe ‘12.

Devotedly Sincerely Yours
Devotedly Sincerely Yours

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.