New England Premiere of “HOME/SICK” Brings Co-Artistic Directors Back Home to Their Alma Mater (Jan. 30-31)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Nick Benacerraf ’08, Edward Bauer ’08, Jess Chayes ’07, and Stephen Aubrey ’06 of The Assembly about the work “HOME/SICK,” which will receive its New England premiere on Thursday, January 30 and Friday, January 31, 2014 at 8pm in the CFA Theater.

The Assembly: “HOME/SICK.” The Living Theatre, New York, July 2012. Photo by Nick Benacerraf ’08.

In the summer of 2006, Stephen Aubrey ’06, Jess Chayes ’07, Nick Benacerraf ’08, and Edward Bauer ’08 traveled to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to perform We Can’t Reach You, Hartford, an original work of theater which became Ms. Chayes’ senior thesis at Wesleyan.  Over seven years later, the four Wesleyan alumni are still making work together, and this week they return to campus for the New England premiere of HOME/SICK.

HOME/SICK tells the story of a handful of student activist leaders in the 1960s who, searching for justice and an end to the Vietnam War, became convinced that violence could pave the way toward peace. With ambitions to overthrow the government, they formed the Weather Underground after taking control of the Students for a Democratic Society movement in 1969.

“It is a deeply political work without trying to be didactic,” Mr. Benacerraf said when I spoke with the four of them earlier this week in the CFA Theater.

HOME/SICK was co-authored and co-created by the members of The Assembly, a Brooklyn-based theater ensemble co-founded by Mr. Aubrey, Mr. Bauer, and Mr. Benacerraf.  “It took a year to develop the original script,” explained Mr. Bauer, “and it was written to varying degrees by all of us.”

Political and personal histories converge in HOME/SICK.  Having identified a number of sub-topics within the larger historical period, the ensemble set about researching, discussing, questioning, writing, and rewriting.  According to Ms. Chayes, “HOME/SICK fuses historical sources with deeply personal material,” a style that has become the hallmark of The Assembly’s artistic process.

They first performed HOME/SICK in 2011 at the Collapsable Hole theater in Williamsburg, only one month before the Occupy Wall Street movement began in Manhattan’s Financial District. The production couldn’t have been more timely.  With Occupy Wall Street at the forefront of local and national news, and quickly garnering international attention, the story told in HOME/SICK suddenly gained a heightened sense of immediacy.

Mr. Benacerraf recounted how the reactions of their audiences changed in accordance with the action unfolding just across the East River. “It was inspirational to a lot of people to know that you could be this committed to trying to change the world,” he said, “or that it was even possible to think this way.”

One year later, when The Assembly performed HOME/SICK again, they were met with different reactions. “When we did it again, after Occupy Wall Street had mostly fizzled out, we had people who were inspired the first time weeping in our arms, literally weeping, at intermission,” Mr. Benacerraf recalled.

Rooted in history yet relevant to the present day, HOME/SICK asks the question: “How far would you go to make the change that you feel is necessary?”

Mr. Aubrey, Mr. Bauer, Mr. Benacerraf, and Ms. Chayes are quick to give credit to Wesleyan for instilling in them a “liberal arts ethos,” as Ms. Chayes described it, which has guided and defined their work. “We are interested in finding many different ways of interrogating the same question,” she said.

Mr. Benacerraf mentioned the Wesleyan Theater Department for the rigorous theoretical engagement it demands of its students, a practice these alumni have carried with them into the world.  He also spoke of Second Stage, the student-run organization that oversees student theater on campus, for having influenced they way they work — collaboration forming the core of their creative process.

“What’s it like to be back at Wesleyan?” I asked.

“Wonderful and strange,” Mr. Aubrey responded. “Now my mentors, the professors who taught us to make art, are sort of like colleagues, and it’s wonderful to think that they want us back, not as students but as artists.”

“It still feels like home,” Ms. Chayes added, “It feels like where this company was forged.”

The Assembly: HOME/SICK
New England Premiere
Thursday, January 30 & Friday, January 31, 2014 at 8pm
CFA Theater
Post-performance Q&A with activist Mark Rudd, a founding member of The Weather Underground, on Thursday, January 30, 2014
$23 general public; $19 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Spring Events Include New England Premieres and Connecticut Debuts

PrintAs winter sets in, the Center for the Arts heats up with many events and experiences designed to inspire, entertain, provoke and delight. We are welcoming two groups who, like the CFA, are also celebrating their 40th anniversary. The first is Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s premier dance companies that will perform the New England premiere of Times Bones, an enthralling work that features music by Paul Dresher and poetry by Michael Palmer. Jenkins is one of this country’s master choreographers with an astonishing body of work and we are delighted to be bringing her company to Connecticut. We are also bringing members of Sweet Honey in the Rock to Wesleyan. For four decades, this Grammy Award-winning all female African American a cappella group has brought joy to audiences around the world. Three members of Sweet Honey will be teaching workshops that will culminate in a showing on April 17. This is an extraordinary opportunity for both singers and non-singers to enter into their creation and performance practice. Other highlights of the spring include the first major solo exhibition in the U.S. by Paris-based American artist Evan Roth, whose work lives at the intersection of viral media and art, graffiti and technology. You’ll also have the opportunity to hear Ukranian Vadym Kholodenko, winner of the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, play a program that includes Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms, and Nikolai Medtner. Wesleyan’s Music Department will host the 28th conference of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, which will feature a series of concerts where you can immerse yourself in new music by American composers. And Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton will premiere the work Threshold Sites: Feast, which explores how we experience and enact our own corporeality, and how that impacts the way we experience our communities and our environments. At the end of the semester, you’ll have the chance to see the culminating works created by Wesleyan students, and be able to put your finger on the pulse of the current generation of art makers. Highlights include a production of Slawomir Mrozek’s Vatzlav, directed by Lily Whitsitt ’06; thesis performances in music and dance; and three weeks of thesis exhibitions by studio art majors. We have a rich and expansive spring planned for you. Please join us as often as you can.

Pamela Tatge
Center for the Arts

Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Nadya Potemkina (Dec. 4)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina about directing the Wesleyan Concert Choir, who will perform a free concert on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 7pm in Memorial Chapel, located at 221 High Street in Middletown.  The concert will feature works by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Richard Genée, Eric Whitacre, Ernst Toch, René Clausen, and Jay Althouse, performed in collaboration with members of the Wesleyan University Orchestra.

Can you tell me a little bit about where you’re from and how you ended up at Wesleyan?

I come from St. Petersburg, Russia.  I grew up there and received my bachelor’s degree in viola pedagogy, double majoring in choral conducting, and then I came to the United States in 2002 to the University of Northern Iowa  on an exchange program with a string quartet from St. Petersburg.  We came to study chamber music and to work on our masters’ degrees in performance.  We did a few tours around the country and some outreach activities in the area. At UNI, I started taking conducting lessons and decided to continue my studies in conducting, but I couldn’t get into a doctoral program with a master’s in viola, so I went to Ball State University in Indiana to get my master’s in conducting and then moved to Memphis.  I currently am an A.B.D. and working on my dissertation.

What is the focus of your dissertation?

I’m trying to find ways to promote contemporary orchestral music and to make it more accessible for unprepared audiences, hopefully by bringing forth certain associative symbols that composers may have had in mind or connections to other art forms—paintings that may have inspired a certain piece of music, sculptures, sources of light, program notes that may help people process sounds that at times are too confusing and hard to understand, or just too far away from the western tradition that we are so used to.

Can you tell me about the program for the Wesleyan Orchestra fall concert that happened last month?

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina directed the Wesleyan University Orchestra for the first time on November 16, 2013. Photo by Lucy Guiliano.
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina directed the Wesleyan University Orchestra for the first time on November 16, 2013. Photo by Lucy Guiliano.

The program was very significant for me personally.  First of all, we are celebrating Tchaikovsky’s creative life this year, since it’s the 120th anniversary of his death.  This particular symphony [Symphony No. 4] is very special to me.  It was the first piece I ever conducted with a full symphony orchestra.  I was barely able to get through the first five pages of it because the sound, the quality of sound, that you experience standing on the podium just—I don’t know, it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was so overwhelmed.  So, we have Tchaikovsky with this very special piece, and we opened the concert with an overture by a composer who had profound influence on Tchaikovsky’s work. In his letters Tchaikovsky writes a lot about Mozart and how much he admires his music and how much it changed his life, his creative process, so I decided to feature an overture by Mozart to precede Tchaikovsky’s piece.          

And where was it that you first perform this symphony?

It was part of my final test for a conducting class at University of Northern Iowa.  It was a life changing experience for me.  It was when I decided that I most definitely wanted to experience this kind of music making again, so I decided to continue my studies in conducting.

Do you view conducting as a type of music making, even if you yourself are not playing one of the instruments?

I think it most definitely is a process of music making.  People say often that conductors are not musicians, that they’re artists, implying we’re sort of standing up there on the podium looking cool.  But I do believe that the things we say and our facial expressions and gestures communicate all sorts of musical ideas on very different levels to the people who surround us.  It changes the way they play.  I see it often when I go to conducting workshops, and you have ten students conducting the same group of people in the same music.  If saying that conductors do nothing special were true, then the piece would sound the same ten times, but it’s never the same.  Somehow the quality of sound, the tempo, phrasing—it changes from person to person.

Do you then develop a very personal relationship with the group that you are conducting?

Oh yes, of course.  You must.

How has this relationship evolved over the course of the fall semester?

I certainly know my musicians better now because I have been able to watch them play and see what their technical advantages and difficulties are, what they may need to work on; what is their characteristic way of moving the bow, let’s say, or for winds maybe some unique sound quality in certain registers, the tuning specifics, something that’s very characteristic of the person.  Knowing that allows me to find ways to help them improve in areas that need attention.

Do you expect to have many of the same students in the spring semester?

I sure hope so.

How many students are in the orchestra this semester?

I have about 23 people registered for the class, but I’m also so fortunate to have such strong support from the faculty and also from the musicians of the Middletown community.  Without their help we wouldn’t be able to produce the quality of music we have been able to play.  I think we had about 50 people on stage for the concert last month.

So many of those people were local musicians?

Yes, and they’re just kindly donating their time to the group.

Do they come to class periodically?

Yes.  Also, students who wish to play in the orchestra but have scheduling conflicts are welcome to volunteer and come as often as they can.  We’ve had a couple of faculty members playing.  It’s been fun.

How is the experience of working with the concert choir different from that of working with the orchestra?

The conducting style we use for singers differs from how one should conduct an orchestra.  With singing we have a single type of instrument—it’s a human voice, and it’s also strongly connected to text, to lyrics.  So choral conducting is a lot more abstract.  It sort of paints the pictures in the air.  But with orchestra you have so many different parts and different instruments that produce the sound in very different ways, so you cannot be as free as with singers.  It has to be more strict and precise. We will be singing a colorful variety of pieces, both a cappella and accompanied, with the assistance of members of Wesleyan University Orchestra.

How many instruments do you personally play?

I started at the age of five as a violinist but switched to viola at the age of twelve.  I just like the sound of the viola better.  I play some piano, guitar a bit.

Is it fair to say that you are more interested in how all these sounds can marry and come together?

Yeah, it’s magic.

MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham Opens Up a Dialogue Through Dance (Nov. 15-16)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to DanceLink Fellow Stellar Levy ’15 about Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion. Tickets for all three performances by the company this weekend are sold out.

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion "Pavement." Photo by Steven Schreiber.
Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion “Pavement.” Photo by Steven Schreiber.

With a basketball hoop in the background and beat-up sneakers on their feet, seven dancers take the stage this weekend in the Patricelli ’92 Theater for the Connecticut premiere of Pavement, an evening length performance by dance ensemble Abraham.In.Motion.  One of these dancers, Kyle Abraham, is the founder and artistic director of Abraham.In.Motion and a 2013 MacArthur Fellow.

Cecilia A. Conrad, Vice President of the MacArthur Fellows Program, said of this year’s Fellows: “They are artists, social innovators, scientists, and humanists who are working to improve the human condition and to preserve and sustain our natural and cultural heritage.”  As an artist concerned with issues of identity and history, both personal and shared, Mr. Abraham certainly fits this description.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1977, Mr. Abraham’s artistic upbringing reflects a diverse range of influences, from classical music to hip hop.  He draws from these influences to create dynamic and deeply personal choreographic works such as Pavement.

Informed by John Singleton’s film “Boyz N The Hood” and the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, Pavement takes place in Pittsburgh’s historically black neighborhoods, Homewood and the Hill District.

On one hand, the history of these neighborhoods is one of culturally rich moments — Ella Fitzgerald’s performance in one local theater, Duke Ellington’s in another.  On the other, it is about desolate realities, many of which persist today — extreme poverty, gang violence, and drug abuse.  Pavement is an attempt to narrate this past, giving voice to an urban culture faced with a history of discrimination and conflict.

I spoke with DanceLink Fellow Stellar Levy ’15, who worked closely with Mr. Abraham and the members of Abraham.In.Motion as an intern this past summer in New York City where the company is based.

“I think what’s setting him apart right now is his ability to combine dance vocabulary and something that relates to people who don’t necessarily have that vocabulary,” says Ms. Levy.

There’s something approachable, maybe even familiar, about Pavement.  The dancers wear everyday clothes and sneakers and perform with a basketball hoop as their backdrop.  Even the movement plays with this familiarity, much of it derived from interactions that happen on the street and other everyday encounters.  In this way, the stage is transformed into an urban sidewalk, a literal pavement.

Through her internship, Ms. Levy had the opportunity this past summer to see Pavement performed on three different occasions (and countless other times in rehearsals).  While working at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors performance in New York City and the Huntington Arts Festival in Huntington, Ms. Levy was approached by enthusiastic audience members who wanted to express their thoughts, feelings, questions, and excitement about the piece.

“It’s definitely a way for people to start thinking, whether or not they understand the piece or think that they do,” Ms. Levy says.  “It opens up dance as a way to communicate. It says, ‘This is a conversation we’re having.’”

And it’s an important conversation, one that asks challenging questions about what it means to grow up in an underserved neighborhood, about gang violence, drugs, and discrimination, about equality and seeking freedom, about sexuality and human relationships, about how we tell history and how we make it, how we identify ourselves and how we are identified, questions about being an individual and a member of society, and perhaps more than anything, questions about the importance of community.

“There is a sense of the whole,” Ms. Levy says.  “You leave feeling like part of things, or at least like part of something.”

Click here to watch a video of Kyle Abraham and company member Matthew Baker discussing Pavement on YouTube. Interviews conducted by Stellar Levy.

Sing with Juice Vocal Ensemble (Nov. 8 & 9)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 discusses the Juice Vocal Ensemble, who make their Connecticut debut on Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall. There will be a free sing along with Juice Vocal Ensemble on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 4:15pm in the 
Daltry Room (Music Rehearsal Hall 003)

Juice Vocal Ensemble
Juice Vocal Ensemble

Are you in an a cappella group on campus?  Do you sing in a band or a choir or maybe just in the shower?  Did you dream of growing up to be a rock star?  Maybe you still do.  Whoever you are, if you love to sing, come join Juice Vocal Ensemble this Friday, November 8, 2013 at 4:15pm in the Daltry Room (Music Rehearsal Hall 003), 60 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
 for a free sing-a-long.

Juice Vocal Ensemble is an experimental a cappella trio out of London. Featuring sopranos Anna Snow and Sarah Dacey, and alto Kerry Andrew, the group mixes contemporary classical with folk, jazz, pop, electronica, and world music.  Their debut album Songspin (2011) won an Independent Music Award for “Best Contemporary Classical Album” in May 2012.

Juice comes to Wesleyan as part of their first U.S. tour since an appearance at the South by Southwest Festival in March 2011.  Following the sing-a-long on Friday afternoon, they will perform in Crowell Concert Hall this Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 8pm.  Their set will include original arrangements of British folk songs and pop music by Guns N’ Roses, Erasure, Mariah Carey, and Flatt and Scruggs; as well as compelling classical works by U.K. composers including Gabriel Prokofiev; six U.S. premieres, including one work written by Anna Snow; and the world premiere of “Ferrara Redux” by New York-based composer and Wesleyan alumnus Toby Twining MA ’06

Additionally, there will be a pre-concert talk at 7:15pm on Saturday by Wesleyan University John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Neely Bruce.

Juice Vocal Ensemble
Connecticut Premiere
Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$22 general public; $18 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

He Buys White Albums (Nov. 2)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Rutherford Chang ’02, who will be in residence in Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery for the free “We Buy White Albums” event on Saturday, November 2, 2013 from 2pm to 6pm.

Visitors to Zilkha Gallery enjoy the "We Buy White Albums" installation by Rutherford Chang '02 during the Opening Reception for "The Alumni Show II" on September 10, 2013. Photo by Sandy Aldieri.
Visitors to Zilkha Gallery enjoy the “We Buy White Albums” installation by Rutherford Chang ’02 during the Opening Reception for “The Alumni Show II” on September 10, 2013. Photo by Sandy Aldieri.

Rutherford Chang ’02 purchased his first copy of The Beatles The White Album at a garage sale at age fifteen.  Since then he has acquired 856 more copies, all first pressings.  His collection of 857 White Albums is currently on display in Wesleyan’s Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery as part of The Alumni Show II.

The installation artwork, We Buy White Albums, displays 100 of them on a wall and the rest in bins, à la record store, that visitors can browse, admire, and even listen to on a record player. Mr. Chang also presents a new version of the album, which he created by layering and overlapping the 100 copies displayed on the wall.

When The Beatles released The White Album in 1968 over three million original copies flooded record stores.  Except for the band’s name embossed in small black font and a serial number in the bottom right-hand corner, the albums appeared in identical stark white sleeves.  Now, no two White Albums are the same, each having aged in its own unique way over the past forty-five years.  Some have yellowed more than others, most are scratched or water-stained, and many have been treated like blank canvases for doodles and personal notes.

Mr. Chang’s installation pays homage to the iconic album as a cultural artifact, an ever-changing relic from the past, an opportunity for reinvention, and an artwork in and of itself.  “They have all become these unique historic items,” says Mr. Chang.  “They all sound slightly different because of the age.”

Working with found objects has always interested Mr. Chang.  At Wesleyan he incorporated news publications and collage into his senior thesis, and he has continued to play with reinventing existing materials in his art.  In this way, We Buy White Albums is conceptually linked to much of his previous work, although the installation is far from a two-dimensional collage.  “It’s related in that it’s working with this already existing cultural material, and putting it together or rearranging it so you can see something new in it,” he explains.

The installation also signifies a departure from his previous work, which never before incorporated music or sound to this degree.  For his recent exhibition of We Buy White Albums at Recess in New York City, he created this new version of the album from layering the 100 copies displayed on the wall.  All 100 albums begin to play at the same time but then diverge and drift apart due to how they’ve warped and aged over the years.  Although most of the tracks are not drastically different from one another, some are as much as a minute off from others.

Just as each White Album continues to change and evolve, so does the installation as Mr. Chang adds more copies to his collection. Of over three million first pressings in existence, he has 857 but never stops looking for more.  “I suppose it [We Buy White Albums] could be ongoing until I get all of them, so I have a long way to go,” he jokes.

Initially purchased primarily from record stores, he now receives more and more donations.  “A lot of people came to me with their albums,” he says of his recent exhibit at Recess.  “They traveled really far to give me their White Albums, and I met a lot of people then who had had their album for forty-five years.”

This Saturday, November 2 from 2pm to 6pm, Mr. Chang will be at the Zilkha Gallery for an exciting performance event as part of this year’s Homecoming/Family Weekend.  We encourage you to bring your own White Album (if you have one!), or perhaps dig through the dusty boxes in your parents’ closets to unearth one.  Either way, we encourage you to bring yours to the gallery this Saturday and contribute it to this truly one-of-a-kind installation.

“We Buy White Albums” Event by Rutherford Chang ’02
Saturday, November 2 from 2pm to 6pm
Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery

Browse and listen to a collection of over 850 first-pressings of The Beatles’ 1968 album known as “The White Album,” and sell your copy to Rutherford Chang ’02. Mr. Chang will offer up to $20 for albums brought to Zilkha Gallery, and happily accepts donations as well.

New Trees at the CFA

Pamela Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts, discusses the four new trees planted in honor of the CFA’s 40th anniversary, to be dedicated at the concert by Amy Crawford + STORM and mamarazzi on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.

If you’ve ever taken a stroll through the Center for the Arts courtyard before a performance, or sat out on the lawn for an outdoor concert, you know how important the trees are to the architecture of the CFA. Architect Kevin Roche designed the buildings around the trees back in the early seventies, making sure that the building equipment would have as little impact on them as possible.  Over the past forty years, many of the trees have died from extreme weather conditions and disease.  In honor of the CFA’s 40th anniversary, the University has planted four new trees including one right outside the window of my office on the second floor of the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. Here’s a picture of them planting it earlier this month.

DSC_6030[2]This beautiful red maple replaces a willow tree we lost during Hurricane Irene.  It’s wonderful to come into work every day and see that little tree blowing in the breeze, knowing that one day it will grow to be every bit as majestic as its older brothers and sisters in the complex.

There is also a new paper bark maple between Art Studio South and the Music Studios, a beech tree near the World Music Hall’s north stairwell, and another paper bark maple between the Skull and Serpent building and Music Studios.

Please join us for the 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert of music alumni this Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm when the trees will be dedicated, or just come by and take a stroll and welcome them to the CFA!

CFA 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert:
Amy Crawford + STORM and mamarazzi

Featuring Music Alumni of the Past Decade
Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$20 general public; $18 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $15 Wesleyan alumni; $6 Wesleyan students

Liz Magic Laser ‘03: Exposing the Absurdities We Take for Granted (Oct. 17)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Professor of Art Jeffrey Schiff about Liz Magic Laser ’03, whose films will be shown during a free screening on Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 7pm in the Powell Family Cinema at the Center for Film Studies.

Liz Magic Laser, “Distressed,” 2009, single-channel video.

We invite you to get to know the world of Liz Magic Laser ’03 (and yes, that is her given name).  She’s a performance-based artist living in Brooklyn, New York with an eye for the unexpected. Merging live theater, film, and video, her work often appears when you least expect it — in a bank vestibule, movie theater, or newsroom, or on the sidewalk one Saturday afternoon. Ms. Laser uses these public spaces as platforms for deconstructing the mechanisms of political melodrama.  By appropriating performance techniques and psychological strategies employed by the media and politicians, she calls attention to the ways in which public opinion can be influenced and shaped.

This Thursday at 7pm, there will be a screening of three short films by Ms. Laser in the Powell Family Cinema at the Center for Film Studies.  A graduate of Wesleyan’s class of 2003, her work is presented in conjunction with The Alumni Show II which is on display in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery through Sunday, December 8, 2013.

The first film in the series, Distressed, features five professional modern dancers working hard to distress their new blue jeans on a bustling sidewalk.  In the second film, Mine, a medical robot performs a series of surgical maneuvers on Ms. Laser’s handbag, removing and piling her ID cards, spare coins, and lipsticks into something resembling an abstract expressionist assemblage.  The third film, Flight, presents a series of fast-paced chase scenes that blur the line between the chaser and the chased.  This eclectic trio of films reflects Ms. Laser’s interdisciplinary inclinations, which she says stem from the interdisciplinary approach emphasized at Wesleyan.

One of her former professors at Wesleyan, Professor of Art Jeffrey Schiff, remembers her as a curious, avid, and experimental student. He recalls a series of large color photographs that she made of caviar while in one of his classes, commenting on her creativity and versatility as a young artist. She had a knack for photography, but consistently expressed interest in other mediums, and later turned to performance art in her graduate studies at Columbia University in New York.

Recently, Ms. Laser has gained a lot of exciting visibility, and just this year she served as the commissioned artist for the 2013 Armory Show, one of the largest international contemporary art fairs. Also this year, she has had solo exhibitions at the Westfälischer Kunstverein in Münster, Germany, for which she received the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation Grant, and at DiverseWorks in Houston, Texas.

Given the potency of her work it is no surprise that she’s gaining international acclaim as an artist interested in contemporary concerns. “Liz has found a way of investigating relations between artist and audience, and the mediated political theater that we are all subjected to by mass media, that is unsettling, disturbing and amusing,” said Professor Schiff.  “Her work has been very good at exposing the absurdities we take for granted.”

Films by Liz Magic Laser ’03
“Distressed” (2009), “Mine” (2009), and “Flight” (2011)
Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 7pm
Powell Family Cinema, Center for Film Studies, 301 Washington Terrace, Middletown

37th annual Navaratri Festival features world famous flute virtuoso and acclaimed Bharatanatyam dancer (Oct. 10-13)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 discusses the 37th annual Navaratri Festival at Wesleyan, which takes place from Thursday, October 10 through Sunday, October 13, 2013.

The sound spirals from Shashank Subramanyam’s bamboo flute, lingering in the air, each note like a bird taking flight. The cadence flutters, falls, and rises again. He sits at ease before the mesmerized audience. He has done this a million times before and traveled all over the world to perform, from the President’s Palace in New Delhi to the Improvisation Festival in Switzerland to the World Flute Conference in Nashville. His next destination? Middletown, Connecticut for Wesleyan’s 37th annual Navaratri Festival.

One of India’s major festival traditions, Navaratri literally means “nine nights.” During this time, there are nine consecutive nights of music and dance performances all across India. 37 years ago, Wesleyan’s first ever visiting artist for World Music and his brother began the tradition of celebrating Navaratri at Wesleyan. The festival has become one of the University’s most cherished and unique traditions, and Wesleyan Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music B. Balasubrahmaniyan (Balu) says there are no other festivals of its nature or scale in the United States. This year’s festival brings two world famous artists to campus, one for the second time, and the other for the first.

Shashank Subramanyam
Shashank Subramanyam

Mr. Subramanyam performed at Wesleyan’s Navaratri Festival in September 2003 [during the 30th anniversary season of the Center for the Arts], and it is a great honor to welcome him back this year. Deemed a child prodigy, he has played a defining role in classical Indian music for the past three decades. In 1984, only six years old at the time, he played with a top-ranking accompanist in his debut performance. At age twelve, he became the youngest musician to ever perform the senior-most slot at the Music Academy, Chennai, a performance typically entrusted to legendary musicians.  Since then, he himself has become a legend of classical Indian music.

Balu describes Mr. Subramanyam as a “self-made musician” and speaks to his extraordinary talent and remarkable versatility.  According to Balu, “he can handle any type of composition with ease.” Mr. Subramanyam has collaborated with many other musicians, including jazz and folk musicians, and in 2009 he received a Grammy Award nomination for the album Floating Point with John McLaughlin.  At Wesleyan, Nishanth Chandran will join him on violin and Sai Giridhar on mridangam.  The performance will take place in Crowell Concert Hall on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 8pm. Earlier that day, at 3pm in Crowell Concert Hall, Mr. Subramanyam will give a free lecture/demonstration.

Aparna Ramaswamy
Aparna Ramaswamy

On Sunday, another world famous artist, dancer Aparna Ramaswamy, takes the stage in Crowell Concert Hall for the Connecticut premiere of Sannidhi (Sacred Space).  Ms. Ramaswamy has also performed all across the globe, but never before at Wesleyan [or in Connecticut]. She is a disciple of Alarmel Valli, one of the greatest Bharatanatyam dancers today, and like her legendary teacher, Ms. Ramaswamy infuses traditional Bharatanatyam dance with her own contemporary aesthetic. Wesleyan Assistant Professor of Dance Hari Krishnan explains, “Aparna uses the classical grammar of Bharatanatyam as a framework, a kind of empty canvas upon which she imprints hues, colors and tints of her personality.”

A new solo dance work, Sannidhi (Sacred Space) explores how the stage can be transformed into a spiritual site. The performance employs the rich tradition of Bharatanatyam dance as a means of posing timeless questions about space and spirituality. “Aparna has created an exciting, brand new repertoire of dances that take audiences on a journey of kinesthetic spectacle, emotional intensity, and gorgeous musicality,” Mr. Krishnan said. “She is always present on stage and engages with the audiences with every fiber of her being.”  Sannidhi (Sacred Space) will take place at 3pm on Sunday, October 13, 2013 and will include a post-performance question-and-answer session with Ms. Ramaswamy.

[Click here to read the October 8 article by Siobhan Burke in The New York Times, Pleasing Deities, and the Eyes, With Storytelling Steps From India, which includes a review of Sannidhi (Sacred Space).]

Navaratri is a celebration of music and dance, a time to rejoice, share food, and be with family and friends.  We hope you will join us in welcoming Mr. Subramanyam and Ms. Ramaswamy into our community.

37th annual Navaratri Festival

Henna and Chaat hosted by Shakti
Thursday, October 10, 2013 from 7pm to 9pm
Olin Library Lobby

B. Balasubrahmaniyan: Vocal Music of South India
Friday, October 11, 2013 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$12 general public; $10 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Talk by Assistant Professor of Dance Hari Krishnan:
“Celluloid Classicism–Intertwined Histories of the South Indian ‘Dance Revival’ and Early South Indian Cinema

Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 1pm
CFA Hall

Lecture/Demonstration by Shashank Subramanyam
Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 3pm
Crowell Concert Hall

Shashank Subramanyam
Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$15 general public; $12 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Saraswati Puja (Hindu Ceremony)
Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 11am
World Music Hall

Aparna Ramaswamy: Sannidhi (Sacred Space)
Connecticut Premiere
Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 3pm

Crowell Concert Hall
$15 general public; $12 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Made possible by the Music Department, the Center for the Arts, the Jon B. Higgins Memorial Fund, the Madhu Reddy Endowed Fund for Indian Music and Dance at Wesleyan University, the Raga Club of Connecticut, the New England Foundation for the Arts, Middlesex Community College, Haveli Indian Restaurant, and individual patrons.

Alumni Musicians Take the Stage (Nov. 2)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 discusses the Center for the Arts’ 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert 
featuring music alumni of the past decade Amy Crawford + STORM and mamarazzi, which will take place during Homecoming/Family Weekend on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.

This year the Center for the Arts celebrates its 40th anniversary and a number of Wesleyan alumni artists are returning to campus to join in the festivities. These alumni are photographers, musicians, creative bloggers, installation artists, painters, performers, and more. Together they represent a microcosm of Wesleyan’s thriving and diverse art world. They majored in music, government, art history, neuroscience, and just about every other subject.  They work across disciplines and with mixed medias, constantly pushing the boundaries of creative expression.

The Alumni Show II is currently on view in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery; and on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm, Amy Crawford and Eric Herman, two graduates from the class of 2005, will perform in Crowell Concert Hall along with other alums during the CFA 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert. Featuring music alumni of the past decade, the concert promises to be as diverse as the Wesleyan arts community itself.

Amy Crawford '05
Amy Crawford ’05

Having performed her senior recital in Crowell Concert Hall, Amy Crawford returns to that same stage with jazz ensemble STORM featuring guitarist Jesse Lewis, drummer Jared Schonig, bassist Ike Sturm, and vibraphonist Chris Dingman ’02. Ms. Crawford and Mr. Dingman did not know each other at Wesleyan, but they connected soon after when she reached out to him for some alumni advice on surviving as a musician in the Big Apple. Although they’ve become good friends and worked together on a number of projects since then, this will be the first time Ms. Crawford performs with STORM.

Ms. Crawford describes STORM as a quartet with incredible chemistry, and says she’s been itching for an excuse to work with them.  Last year she wrote, recorded, and produced a number of original songs independently.  At Wesleyan, she and the members of STORM will play from this catalogue of original material, with a favorite cover or two thrown in for good measure. She is excited to see how the studio-produced songs come to life in a live performance with other musicians.


Eric Herman takes the stage with Brooklyn-based band mamarazzi and his bass guitar. The band, which Mr. Herman describes as a “Wesleyan expat project” that traces its beginnings to 2008, also includes guitarist Andrew Aprile ’06, keyboardist Rob Cohen ’06, percussionist Sam Bathrick ’04, tenor saxophonist Tacuma Bradley ’04, vocalist Tavi Fields ’02, and drummer Andrea Belfiore. Not easily categorized into one genre, mamarazzi fuses together funk, jazz, hip hop, salsa, and Afro-funk.

mamarazzi draws from a range of influences, including Thom Yorke, Maceo Parker, Frank Zappa, Fela Kuti, and Wesleyan’s own Adjunct Professor of Music Abraham Adzenyah, who teaches “West African Music & Culture.” Mr. Herman thinks everyone in the band took at least one class with Professor Adzenyah, and they continue to incorporate what they learned from him into their music. Professor Adzenyah’s class inspired many of mamarazzi’s members to travel to Ghana, not as a band but on their own, and Mr. Herman says these trips have informed their music.

Both Mr. Herman and Ms. Crawford attest to the influence that Wesleyan professors have had on their music, careers, and lives. Ms. Crawford found a mentor in jazz musician and Adjunct Professor of Music Jay Hoggard. “I never considered myself a singer,” she says. “He was the one who pushed me in that direction. He helped me build myself into a better musician.”  Both alumni give a shout out to John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Anthony Braxton for encouraging them to pursue music.  “He was a huge inspiration for me,” Mr. Herman says.

Shaped by their experiences at Wesleyan, Ms. Crawford and Mr. Herman will help shape this year’s music scene as they return to the CFA for the 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert. The concert presents an opportunity for current students to see what alumni artists are working on now and for our community to see how far our graduates have come.

CFA 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert:
Amy Crawford + STORM and mamarazzi

Featuring Music Alumni of the Past Decade
Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$20 general public; $18 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students