2014-15 Season Now On Sale! World, U.S., New England, CT Premieres

This year, we invite you to join us as we welcome the world to Wesleyan. Artists working in contemporary or traditional forms from 18 different countries will be performing or exhibiting at the CFA over the next nine months.

fall_2014_brochure_cover8-18-14A centerpiece of this year’s program is Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan, which begins in September. Each of the performers to be featured is Muslim or of Muslim heritage, has a distinct set of personal experiences, and is embedded in a particular place, society, and cultural tradition. It is our way of inviting audiences to celebrate the complexity of Muslim women today, while at the same time exploring the historical and cultural context from which these women have emerged. We are also inviting audiences to participate in the creative process as we give birth to a new play by Leila Buck ’99, based on stories of Muslim and Muslim-American women in our region.

We are also bringing one of the United States’ most innovative theater companies working at the intersection of text and technology, The Builders Association, for two performances in October. Their amazing production Sontag: Reborn is a portrait of the younger years of one of America’s most iconic intellectuals, Susan Sontag. In November, the Theater and Music Departments join forces to mount the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, directed by Theater’s Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento with music direction by Nadya Potemkina, director of the Wesleyan University Orchestra. The musical was the thesis production of Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Theater major who graduated in ’02, who went on to win the Tony for “Best Original Score.” The book was written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, who will be a visiting faculty member at Wesleyan this year. It is sure to be an extraordinary production. And throughout the fall, the epic-scale, haunting landscape paintings of Professor of Art Tula Telfair will be on view in Zilkha Gallery. We invite you to enter into the imaginary worlds that Telfair creates in twelve large-scale paintings that are simultaneously awe-inspiring and intimate.

We launched our new website over the summer, and we hope you’ll visit and return often to find out about all of the faculty, student, and visiting artist events and exhibitions this year. We hope you will look to us as a place of enlightenment and enjoyment in the coming months.

Pamela Tatge
Center for the Arts

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 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.

Celebrating 40 Years in 2013-2014; Tickets On Sale July 1

Doug Varone and Dancers will be performing on Thursday, September 12 & Friday, September 13, 2013.
Doug Varone and Dancers will be performing on Thursday, September 12 & Friday, September 13, 2013.

Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts announces the highlights of their 40th anniversary season in 2013-2014, including two world premieres, four New England premieres, and six Connecticut premieres:

September 6 – December 8, 2013: The Alumni Show II exhibition in Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, featuring painting, sculpture, drawing, installation art, video art, performance, and films
September 12 & 13, 2013: Stripped/Dressed featuring Rise and the Connecticut premiere of Carrugi by Doug Varone and Dancers
September 13, 2013; November 16, 2013; and February 15, 2014: Dine/Dance/Discover, a new event designed to bring audiences closer to the work on stage before and after all three 2013–2014 Breaking Ground Dance Series performances
September 27 & 28, 2013: the Connecticut premiere of Who’s Hungry by Dan Froot and Dan Hurlin
September 29, 2013: the first of twelve recitals featuring the complete piano works of Wesleyan John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Neely Bruce, including two world premieres
October 9–13, 2013: the 37th annual Navaratri Festival, including the Connecticut debut of dancer Aparna Ramaswamy
October 15, 2013: the New England debut of Netherlands-based pianist Reinier van Houdt
October 25, 2013: Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, the “Hendrix of the Sahara”
November 9, 2013: the Connecticut debut of London-based a cappella trio Juice Vocal Ensemble
November 11, 2013: Blood, Muscle, Bone, a performative “teach-in” by choreographers Liz Lerman and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
November 13–16, 2013: Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull directed by Wesleyan Associate Professor of Theater Yuri Kordonsky
November 15 & 16, 2013: the Connecticut premiere of the dance work Pavement by Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion
January 30 & 31, 2014: the New England premiere of the theater work HOME/SICK by The Assembly
February 1, 2014: the Connecticut debut of the Ignacio Berroa Trio
February 14, 2014: the first concert in New England by Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko after winning the Gold Medal in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition
February 14 & 15, 2014: the New England premiere of Times Bones by San Francisco’s Margaret Jenkins Dance Company
March 8 & 9, 2014: the 15th annual DanceMasters Weekend, featuring a Showcase Performance by three dance companies, and twelve Master Classes over two days
March 27—29, 2014: the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States conference, to be held in New England for the first time since 1998

Tickets for the 2013-2014 season at the Center for the Arts go on sale on Monday, July 1, 2013. Tickets will be available online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/boxoffice; and starting at Noon by phone at (860) 685-3355, or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown.

Programs, artists, and dates are subject to change without notice.

Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talks to playwright Christina Anderson (Apr. 12)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talks to playwright Christina Anderson, who will be giving the free talk “The Theater as Apparatus: Why This Play? Why Now?” on Friday, April 12, 2013 at 4:15pm in CFA Hall.


Christina Anderson

When asked in an interview “why theater?”, Christina Anderson answered “I love the fact that adults are willing to pretend for 90 minutes.” Christina fell in love with the play and power of theater as a child and hasn’t stopped writing since. Lucky for me, she did put down her keyboard for a few minutes to chat with me about her work, process and upcoming talk.

Monica Tinyo: What will you be talking about this Friday?

Christina Anderson: The goal of the speech is to talk about my background and relationship with theater and [how to have it] be a part of my life, rather than it be my life. I want to look at different ways that social responsibility can play a part in the stories we tell and the importance of using theater as an apparatus because, in all honesty, we can’t compete with television or film, but on the flip side, they can’t compete with us, either. Its really about finding these ways that theater is unique and necessary, and using the apparatus of theater in celebrating live performance.

I love theater. There are things that frustrate me about the business, but there are things about it that I love. I just hope that my day [at Wesleyan] will offer some insight into the early stages of making a career out of [playwriting and a love of theater].

Can you talk a little about your recent projects? Maybe Hollow Roots (performed in January as part of The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival in New York City) and this idea of the neutral narrative?

Hollow Roots is about a female protagonist who goes on a quest to find a person of color with a neutral narrative—neutral narrative being a narrative by someone who is not affected by their race or gender; she is in this fictitious New York-like city on a quest to find this person and it ends up being her.

I was just really interested in this [solo performance] structure, and as I was starting to do research, I noticed that a lot of solo shows featured people of color who embodied various characters—the theatricality being that all these different people live in this one body. On the other hand, solo performances by white men were usually solo narratives—sitting for an hour and telling a story. I was really fascinated by that. I wanted to challenge myself to create a lone [“neutral”] narrator, who we would visually identify as a black person.

Is this indicative of how you normally create a work? What is your process as a playwright?

With all my plays, it starts from a series of questions. The purpose of writing isn’t about finding a single solution or answer. It’s about exploration and discovering possibilities. For Hollow Roots, it was “what is it like to live as a person of color in a society that considers itself post-racial?”

I do a ton of research before I start any play; I usually come in to it with a theme and read a ton of books, essays, analytical writing, music, art, blogs, plays by playwrights I admire. I just get a big pot of information, stir it up, and start thinking about the theatrical world that I am trying to create. I always try to challenge myself when I write—a two character play, or a solo play, and then I develop a character or a few characters and figure out what the relationships between them are. I make an outline of all this and then I just write.

Christina is a rare talent who is equally a teacher and a story-teller, making us question all the certainties we take for granted. Her openness and curiosity are infectious. I will leave you today with a few wise words from Christina:

Be present. Don’t bother posting a picture of the meal you cooked. Don’t post the song you just danced to. Don’t tag the friend you just hung out with. Just do it. Be present. Let the experience, the memory live in your muscles, your limbs—not on Facebook. Nourish is a verb. Give yourself the things you need to grow, to be healthy, to be your ideal self.

For more, visit this post and come hear her speak this Friday at 4:15pm in the Center for the Arts Hall. An Outside the Box Theater Series event presented by the Theater Department and the Center for the Arts, co-sponsored by the Center for African American Studies and the Wesleyan Writing Programs.

Trailblazing Lee Breuer at Wesleyan this Weekend

Director of the Center for the Arts Pamela Tatge talks with Lee Breuer, who conceived and adapted (with Maude Mitchell) “Glass Guignol: The Brother and Sister Play,” which will receive its first Connecticut performance on Saturday, February 16 at 8pm.  

Lee Breuer

One of my top ten theater experiences of all time was seeing Lee Breuer and Bob Telson’s The Gospel at Colonus, a Pentacostal version of Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus that premiered at BAM’s Next Wave Festival.  I remember getting completely immersed in the world that Mr. Breuer created, and knew that he was pushing the theatrical form unlike anybody else.  Since then, the co-founder of Mabou Mines has created work after work for those with an appetite for intelligent, risk-taking and provocative work in downtown New York and around the world. Wesleyan audiences will remember his talks as a part of the Outside the Box Theater Series over the years, and many Connecticut theater-goers had the opportunity to see his masterpiece, Mabou Mines DollHouse in New Haven in 2006 [a Long Wharf Theatre/Yale Repertory Theatre co-presentation].

This Saturday, Mr. Breuer brings his latest work, Glass Guignol: The Brother and Sister Play, to Wesleyan. When I spoke with Mr. Breuer about what compelled him to make this piece, he told me about the intensity of his experience directing A Streetcar Named Desire for the Comédie-Française.  The legendary theater company had never presented an American play in its 330 year history, and they chose Mr. Brueuer to bring the American classic to life in a new French adaptation.  The work played to rave reviews and sold out houses for six months straight, until the Williams estate shut it down.  He explained that they didn’t like the non-traditional unorthodox direction, and wanted to keep it from being seen.

“Tennessee was brought down by critics, in the end,” Mr. Breuer explained. “They hated him because he was gay, and because he changed his style of work. He wrote 30 plays after he brought Streetcar to Broadway, only a few of which got any attention. I could relate to that.” Mr. Breuer went onto say that he got rave reviews of Gospel at Colonus when it was at BAM, but that all changed when it went to Broadway.  “In Glass Guignol, I’m experimenting with how to direct Williams’ later plays which have yet to be successfully done.”

At 76, Mr. Breuer said he’s working on three plays simultaneously.  “I have a lot I want to do while I can,” he said. Glass Guignol is an exploration/excavation of the multi-faceted fictional refractions arising from Williams’ erotic, voyeuristic relationship with his sister, Rose.  It uses Two-Character Play as a frame and then references many of the women in Williams’ other plays, stories, and poems [The Glass Menagerie, A Cavalier for Milady, and Suddenly Last Summer] that dramatize the brother/sister relationship. Actress Maude Mitchell co-created the work and plays many of the women.  The play also features Jessica Weinstein ’02, the only actress ever to appear twice in one season at the Center for the Arts!  Last September, Wesleyan audiences had the chance to fall in love with Ms. Weinstein’s Tall Hilda in Anonymous Ensemble’s Liebe Love Amour!

A Mabou Mines Masterclass Workshop Production
“Glass Guignol: The Brother and Sister Play”
Conceived and adapted by Lee Breuer and Maude Mitchell
Saturday, February, 16, 2013 at 8pm
CFA Theater
$25 general public; $20 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Panel Discussion: Tennessee Williams after “Iguana”
Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 4:15pm
CFA Hall

Featuring Lee Breuer, Maude Mitchell, and Thomas Keith, Editor, New Directions Publishing and Dramaturg of Glass Guignol: The Brother and Sister Play. Moderated by Wesleyan Professor of Theater Ronald Jenkins.

Spring Events include World, U.S. & New England Premieres

Gallim Dance performs February 8 & 9, 2013 as part of the Performing Arts Series.

This spring at the Center for the Arts we bring you work that is of today: innovative, inquisitive and sure to surprise and engage you. Continuing our exploration of Music & Public Life, we bring you a concert of music from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello–what you might have heard both in the mansion and in the slaves’ quarters–where audiences will have the chance to experience the first glass harmonica on the Crowell Concert Hall stage. The great activist and trumpeter Hugh Masekela will bring his band to Wesleyan, and our own West African Drumming ensemble will have the chance to open for him. In dance, we bring back Andrea Miller’s Gallim Dance after their performance at the DanceMasters Weekend Showcase in 2011 brought audiences to their feet. Her piece Mama Call investigates her Spanish-Sephardic heritage, and the reprise of Pupil features the spirited music of Balkan Beat Box. In theater, we bring the master innovator Lee Breuer to campus with his newest work Glass Guignol, a compilation of texts from Tennessee Williams’ women, performed by the indomitable Maude Mitchell.

In Zilkha Gallery, Lucy and Jorge Orta’s Food-Water-Life will be on view. This is the first-ever solo show in the U.S. of work by these Paris-based artists, who stage performative events to bring attention to some of the world’s most urgent environmental and social issues. The colorful sculptural works, including a large canoe, and three parachutes, will take advantage of Zilkha’s scale, and a series of food events is being staged to more deeply connect you to the themes of the show.

Spring is also when you have the chance to put your finger on the pulse of the next generation of contemporary artists: an evening of work by seniors in dance, three theater thesis productions, four weeks of thesis exhibitions in Zilkha, and two solid months of music recitals will give audiences an overview of the art that is being generated at Wesleyan.

So please join us! We look forward to welcoming you.

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

Monica Tinyo ’13 interviews Jessica Weinstein ’02 of Anonymous Ensemble (September 22)

On Saturday, September 22, the Center for the Arts presents Liebe Love Amour!, an interactive work by Anonymous Ensemble. CFA Intern in Arts Administration Monica Tinyo ’13 interviewed Jessica Weinstein ’02, Anonymous Ensemble member and Wesleyan alum.

Did you love Hilda? If you saw Hilda in the interactive video preview or on stage in Liebe Love Amour!, you undoubtedly love her. I had the fortune of talking to the creator of Hilda (also known as Tall Hilda when on stilts), Jessica Weinstein, who is just as dynamic and charming as her alter-ego Hilda. Jessica is an actress and performance artist currently with Anonymous Ensemble, as well as a Wesleyan alum. As explained in her bio, “Jessica believes in life as theater and theater as life, has insatiable wanderlust, speaks and sings in many languages, and has a thirst to explore new forms of performance every day.”

Jessica has been creating fantastical characters since her time at Wesleyan. Her bio goes on to say that she “has a history of renegade solo missions […] She was […] part of the infamous DOUFAS. When Doofa disappeared in 2004, Dufa embarked on a worldwide quest to find her lost soulmate. Jessica’s latest partner in crime is a body double who is an exact replica of herself, who she has taken on adventures including a 30 hour Amtrak train ride from New York to the Florida Keys.” Jessica’s characters are not created for a specific performance piece but rather are born organically. Hilda first appeared on stage as the MC for the performance piece, TheBest [Weinstein’s first performance with Anonymous Ensemble], in which she walked around the stage on stilts. Hilda has been living both on and off the stage for almost a decade.

Jessica’s current company reflects her creativity. Anonymous Ensemble describes themselves as “the intrepid pioneers of stage and screen.”  They “manifest the extraordinary by refusing to be daunted by boundaries between genres, barriers between cultures, discrepancies in budgets or the limits of what is possible. […] When approaching a new project AnEn starts out with an insane premise: a narrative dance party, an opera imagined by a computer, a cinematic love affair with an audience, or a piece of children’s theatre that is actually cool!” Jessica explains that anything can happen in live spaces with real bodies [both the audience’s and artists’ bodies]. In Wanderlust, another piece by Anonymous Ensemble, the audience was moved through multiple spaces in a massive circus tent. Audience members played the non-speaking roles, which enables a distinctly different experience every time. Jessica describes a nervous energy when using non-actors that always adds a layer of excitement. Although it was scripted, the audience was intrinsically part of the narrative: “AnEn [always] creates audience-based work and considers the audience to be the co-creators of each event.”

With each new piece, Anonymous Ensemble continues to conceive structures that involve the audience and act as a platform for flexibility and spontaneity. In Liebe Love Amour!, the ensemble toys with the idea of how to create a “live film” and how to bring in the audience even more so than in the past. The ensemble combines the most magical aspects of film, the intimate gaze into someone’s soul, with the real time and space of the theatre. “AnEn accepts the pervasive power of the Screen in our current times but demands that the screen be transfigured by the unpredictable, the human, the never-to-be-repeated possibilities of the Stage.”

Although Jessica wasn’t with the company when the title was created, the title of the company always made sense to her in terms of their performance practice. When asked how the company came up with the name “Anonymous Ensemble,” Jessica explained the project always seemed more important than the “ensemble;” whatever project Anonymous Ensemble is doing is the focus rather than a manifestation or showcase of the company. She talked about the fact that the company is always changing; everyone who has been part of the ensemble at some point is and will always be part of the ensemble. The common thread between the projects that are seemingly so different is that there is always a quest. In Liebe Love Amour!, the audience goes on a quest for love with the insatiable Hilda. At the Wesleyan performance, the audience was seamlessly, lovingly, and humorously incorporated into the quest; the audience, as “co-creators of [the] event,” were so enveloped in the narrative that magical “Old Hollywood” notions of love seemed plausible.

We hope you enjoyed the performance Liebe Love Amour! on Saturday and will return to see Jessica in Lee Breuer’s Glass Guignol on February 16, 2013!

(Quotations are from Anonymous Ensemble’s website.)

A scene from "Liebe Love Amour!"
A scene from “Liebe Love Amour!”

Anonymous Ensemble: Liebe Love Amour!

New England Premiere

Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 8pm

CFA Theater

$23 general public, $19 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty & staff, non-Wesleyan students, $6 Wesleyan students


“Behind all the frenetic and seemingly spontaneous activity is a very cleverly constructed ‘performance script,’ with the audience expertly managed to suit the show’s needs.”
—Circus Sideshow Magazine


Liebe Love Amour! is a theatricalized “live film” of an epic search for love. In this latest work of interactive theater, Anonymous Ensemble creates Hollywood magic using cameras, a green-screen, live video processing software, and the opulent imagery of silent film director Erich von Stroheim. The show unveils a panoply of love affairs between Tall Hilda and a string of paramours including a fictionalized Erich von Stroheim, a devout Gloria Swanson, and the audience in the theater. Throughout the narrative, the audience is drawn into and onto the silver screen as their own stories become part of the fabric of the piece. The show is a tryst between cinema and live performance that invites the audience to voyeuristically participate in the artifice of cinema and the magic of theater simultaneously. With its lush, cinematic orchestration and rapid, real-time editing, Liebe Love Amour! spins layers of romance and reality as it reels towards its inevitable Hollywood finish.

Tickets are available online or by phone (860-685-3355) or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office in the Usdan Center at 45 Wyllys Avenue.


To learn more about Anonymous Ensemble, click here:



And for Jessica Weinstein’s blog, click here:


Fall Events include World, New England & Connecticut Premieres, Navaratri Festival

Rama Vaidyanathan performs on October 21, 2012 as part of the 36th annual Navaratri Festival

Over the course of the next year, a campus-wide steering committee has put together a far-reaching series of global performances, talks and participatory projects, all with the intention of bringing us into an examination of the role of Music & Public Life. We will celebrate and study the sounds, words and spirit of music in public at the local, national and transnational levels, all designed to cross disciplines and to engage the campus and community-at-large. From performances by Middletown’s own Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem to the legendary Hugh Masekela; showcasing student research in the role of music in the current political campaigns; to the creation of MiddletownRemix–there are points of entry for everyone.

In September, we feature dance and theater companies who are exploring the role of the audience as actively engaged in the live creative process of the theatrical event. In ZviDance’s Zoom, patrons use their smartphones to integrate their own photos and text into the work; in Anonymous Ensemble’s Liebe Love Amour!, the audience is engaged in constructing the “performance script.”

October and November bring the return of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar of Urban Bush Women in a stunning work she co-created with Nora Chipaumire (visible) that features an international cast of all-star dancers; as well as the CFA’s commission of a work by the fiercely interdisciplinary writer/director Rinde Eckert (this year’s winner of an inaugural Duke Performing Artist Award). The Last Days of the Old Wild Boy has been developed with students and faculty in Music, Animal Studies and Neuroscience and is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Creative Campus Initiative.

It’s a robust fall, rich with work that brings us into new conversations with art and its possibilities. We hope you’ll join us!

Best regards,

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts