Alumni Involved in Arts and Culture

Books
William Evans Jr. ’40 Is a Figure in World War II Book
A new book by Robert Mrazek, A Dawn Like Thunder (Little Brown, 2008), tells a little known story of 35 men in the almost forgotten U.S. Navy Torpedo Squadron Eight that helped change the course of history at the epic World War II battles of Midway and Guadalcanal.

These men displayed acts of courage, loyalty, and sacrifice and went on to become the most highly decorated American naval air squadron of the war. Williams Evans Jr. ’40 was one of the heroes in the squadron, and his story is one of many covered in Mrazek’s stirring narrative. The book notes that Evans kept a personal journal and shares some of his thoughts about entering the Navy.

Joshua F. Moore ’94 is the author of the book What’s in a Picture?: Uncovering the Hidden Stories in Vintage Maine Photographs, published in 2008.

Moore ’94 Writes About Vintage Maine Photographs
Over the years, Joshua F. Moore ’94, deputy editor of Down East magazine, has written that publication’s popular feature “What’s in a Picture?” for which he has traveled the length and breadth of Maine to find intriguing historic photographs that capture unique people, places, and situations within the state. Moore is now the author and editor of What’s in a Picture?: Uncovering the Hidden Stories in Vintage Maine Photographs (Down East Enterprise, 2008), a collection of 50 historic and sometimes hilarious photographs. Through his interviews and in-depth research, Moore shares the fascinating stories behind the photographs, which cover a range of unusual events, oddball occupations, ingenious machinery, and creative pastimes.

Music
Opera by Cuomo ’80 Inspired by North Indian Music
The first full staging of Arjuna’s Dilemma, an unconventional new opera by Douglas Cuomo ’80, was presented at the Harvey Theater of the Brooklyn Academy Music in November. The opera is based on the renowned sacred text of Asia, the Bhagavad-Gita, and deals with a crisis faced by a young warrior prince in ancient India during a civil war. Cuomo has written music for theater, classical ensembles, and film and television (including the theme song for Sex and the City). For his new work, he draws upon North Indian music as well as elements of classical Western music and jazz. National Public Radio featured the opera.

In his enthusiastic review of Arjuna’s Dilemma in the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini describes Cuomo’s score as “appealing and unabashedly eclectic.” He comments: “Arjuna’s vocal lines, a stylistic blend of Indian chant and Western lyricism, are enriched by a chorus of five women, singing in English. … I liked the score best when Mr. Cuomo pushed the complexity to extremes, piling up Arjuna’s solos, choral counterpoint and instrumental textures to create haunting, astringent, multilayered music, with cluster chords in the electric keyboard and spiraling flights in the strings and winds.”

A recording titled Dragon's Head by bandleader Mary Halvorson '02 and the Mary Halvorson Trio was released in November 2008.

New Album Features Guitarist/Composer Halvorson ’02
The talents of acclaimed Brooklyn-based guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson ’02 are showcased on her debut recording as a bandleader, titled Dragon’s Head, which was released on the Firehouse 12 label in November. The album features ten new original compositions written specifically for her working trio with bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith. The recording allowed Halvorson the opportunity to experiment with different compositional forms, as well as varying harmonic, melodic and rhythmic components. She has previously composed music for recordings with her chamber music duo with violist Jessica Pavone and the avant-rock duo, People, with drummer Kevin Shea. At Wesleyan, Halvorson took classes with Professor of Music Anthony Braxton, the celebrated musician and composer, and has also performed with his music ensembles.

In a profile of Halvorson and her music in the New York Times in November, Nate Chinen discussed the new recording. He noted: “More than an auspicious debut, it is among this year’s standout jazz albums and one of the more original recent statements by any jazz guitarist, let alone a female jazz guitarist.” She was also featured in All About Jazz.com.


Theater

Nikolchev ’08 Presents Solo Show in Chicago
Actor and writer Anthony Nikolchev ’08 presents the Chicago premiere of his solo show, Look, What I Don’t Understand, as part of Thirteen Pocket’s first season devoted to original works. This one-man drama draws upon historical narratives experienced by Nikolchev’s family during their 1960s escape from the totalitarian hostility of communist Bulgaria to detainment in America, challenging himself and audiences to comprehend the experience of past generations through the perspective of present generations. Told through the words of a middle-aged Bulgarian immigrant at the gates of the U.S. border, the show integrates documentary theater with fictional narrative while it challenges the audience’s ability to process the alleged objectivity of history.

Several directors were employed to bring as many different perspectives to one story as possible to reflect the myriad of ways one historical event can be interpreted. These included Jane Kaufman, a dance choreographer; Joe Stankus, a film director; writer Lily Wahrman; and Justin Denis, a political activist and a recent field organizer for Obama during his presidential campaign. Yuriy Kordonskiy, assistant professor of theater at Wesleyan, was the supervising director for the show. Nikolchev and Kordonskiy are recipients of a Wesleyan University Project Grant.

Post-show discussions with Nikolchev and guests will be held following the Sunday matinees on Jan. 11, 18 and 25, and Feb. 1, 2009 (free with paid ticket).

The show runs from Jan. 8, 2009–Feb. 1, 2009 at the Athenaeum Theatre Studio 1, 2936 N. Southport Avenue. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays. For tickets, call 312-902-1500 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets are $15 for all regular performances; $10 for students and seniors with ID, and for each in groups of 10 or more; $10 for industry members on Sunday shows.

David Low

David Low '76 writes about arts and culture for the Wesleyan magazine and Wesleyan Connection. He is associate director of publications in the Office of University Communications. He is also a published fiction writer. E-mail: dlow@wesleyan.edu 

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