Olivia Drake

Mixed-Race, Interfaith Identities Explored through Performative Conversations

Middletown-based ARTFARM artistic director Marcella Trowbridge, center, works with Lola Makombo ’20 on crafting a performative conversation based on interviews with a family member.

Students in the Mixed in America: Race, Religion, and Memoir course explored mixed-race identities not only through reading, writing, and classroom discussion, but through performative art.

Matt Kleppner ’18 created a short performance based on an interview with his uncle.

Throughout the semester, students used the genre of the memoir as a focusing lens to look at ways that Americans of mixed heritage have found a place, crafted an identity, and made meaning out of being considered “mixed.”

The course is part of Wesleyan’s Creative Campus Initiative, which pairs non-arts faculty with artists for collaborative teaching and research. Professor Liza McAlister teamed up with the local professional theater organization ARTFARM to offer students a module of four classes under the instruction of artistic director Marcella Trowbridge.

In the students’ exploration of memoir, Trowbridge asked them to interview a family member and craft a short performative piece based on their interviews–or–their responses to their interviews.

“We spoke about ‘brass tack’ strategies for interviewing and documentation, but then left the linear procedural work for a process-based inquiry,” Trowbridge explained.

The class collaboratively brainstormed and worked physically with mark-making, personal items, architecture, kinesthetic response, and the use of space. Students also learned about using text, gestures, movement, sound, repetition, and props in a performance.

On April 18 and 19, the students shared their compositions with their classmates.

“It was fascinating to hear some of their stories, what resonated for them and what they chose to share,” Trowbridge said. In seeking an understanding of their own ancestry, heritage, and identity, these young adults asked soul-stirring questions and bared themselves with courage and vulnerability. “Some of their stories were beautiful. Some were deeply painful.”

McAlister applauded the students efforts in creating the powerful and emotional pieces in such a short period of time.

“Marcella wasn’t just a director in the conventional sense,” McAlister said. “She had a method through which she guided the students to create their performance pieces. Her method incorporated interview techniques, ethics, embodied knowledge, drawing, writing, and principles like repetition, sound, and props. She tapped the class into alternative modalities of learning and producing and I am thrilled she brought her talents to Wesleyan.”

Photos of the performances are below (photos by Olivia Drake):

Liza McAlister is chair and professor of African American studies, religion, Latin American studies, feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and American studies.Liza McAlister is chair and professor of African American studies, religion, Latin American studies, feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and American studies.

Classes began with energized walks through the space. Pictured is course instructor Liza McAlister, chair and professor of African American studies; professor of religion.

Jaclyn Lore-Edwards ’21 shared a story based on interviewing her mother.

Nathan Pugh ’21 interviewed his aunt. At left is Alyssa Carlson ’21, who played an acting role in Pugh’s performance.

In front, Ruby Fludzinski ’20 acts a scene based on her interview while Sarah Sanders-Messman ’19 uses ropes to illustrate Fludzinski’s struggles.

Lauren Stock ’21 interviewed her brother.

Christian Yau-Weeks interviewed his "nino" or godfather.

Christian Yau-Weeks ’21 interviewed his “nino” or godfather.

Trowbridge encourages Alyssa Carlson ’21 to pause in an embrace at the end of her performance. Carlson interviewed her grandfather as part of the class project.

Neha Nascimento interviewed her Portuguese "avó " or grandmother.

Neha Nascimento ’21 interviewed her Portuguese “avó,” or grandmother, and used cubes and shoes to help illustrate her story.

Trowbridge helps Sophie Elwood ’20 tweak her performance.

Lola Makombo ’20 braided cloth and rope while delivering her performance based on an interview with her grandmother.

Isabel Algrant ’21, center, participates in a group exercise.

Matt Kleppner ’18, Sarah Sanders-Messman ’19, and Lola Makombo ’20 participate in a breathing exercise during class.

CAAS, Second Shades Present Student-Written, Directed Play

On April 19, 20, and 21, the Center for African American Studies and Second Shades student organization presented the play La Violecion of My PapiYon in the Patricelli ’92 Theater. The play was written by Arline Pierre-Louis ’19 and directed by Ruby Fludzinski ’20 and Ray Achan ’19. The production was put together by a cast and crew of over 50 people who all identify as people of color.

Set in the beautiful town of Jacmel, Haiti, during the post-Duvalier era (1988), Gylda (played by Inayah Bashir ’20 and pictured below in the purple and white dress) is a hardworking housewife by day and lucid dreamer by night. She divides her time among the three most important areas of her life—motherhood, marriage, and friendship—but struggles at finding time for herself as a woman. This all changes when Gylda experiences a growing spiritual awakening.

Photos of the performance are below: (Photos by Jonas Powell ’18)

Paterson’s Senior Thesis Explores Urban Farming, Communal Activity, Performance (with Photos)

Theater and earth and environmental studies major Katherine Paterson ’18 moves a bin of radishes into a greenhouse she constructed on the Center for the Arts green on April 16. The greenhouse build was part of her senior thesis, which was accompanied by a performance and harvest on Earth Day. Paterson also is minoring in German studies.

Senior Katherine Paterson’s passion for theater and environmental studies has grown over the past two months while she constructed a greenhouse for an honors thesis that explores and links together urban farming, communal activity, and theater.

On Earth Day, April 22, Paterson presented (at)tend, a durational performance of song, poetry, and spoken word, which unfolded over the course of the spring semester. The project involved the collective construction, seeding, and tending of a greenhouse by students and community members, and culminated with a spring harvest.

“The goal of the project was to serve as an experiment in creative place-making—in creating a space that the larger Wesleyan community helps to build and maintain,” she said. “A greenhouse containing living plants brings people together and links them with one another and their environment.”

The thesis also explored the questions, “Where does our food come from? How does it grow? How does changing our relationship to food affect our interactions with one another and with our environments?”

Paterson’s advisor is Katherine Brewer Ball, assistant professor of theater.

A photo essay of the thesis project is below (photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08):

 

Feb. 29: Paterson kicked off the project inside a cold frame at Long Lane Farm. Cold-frame structures allow gardeners to get a head start on the growing season. Students broke up compacted soil and filled large bins. Paterson taught fellow students how to plant seeds and mark containers.

During the summer of 2017, Paterson conducted field research in New York City (funded by a College of the Environment grant). She interned at Harlem Grown, an urban farm, and visited Swale, a floating food forest. The experiences helped shape and inform her thesis project.

Bloom Reimagines a Forbidden Love Affair in White Houses

On April 19, New York Times best-selling author Amy Bloom, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, presented a reading from her new novel, White Houses, inside the Smith Reading Room at Olin Library. Bloom also is professor of the practice in creative writing and English.

On April 19, New York Times best-selling author Amy Bloom, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, presented a reading from her new novel, White Houses, inside the Smith Reading Room at Olin Library. Bloom also is professor of the practice in creative writing and English. The event was sponsored by the Friends of Wesleyan Library.

Amy Bloom, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, is the author of White Houses, published by Penguin Random House in February 2018.

White Houses is Bloom’s first historical fiction novel. Guided by 3,000 letters (hundreds more had been burned) between prominent journalist Lorena Hickok and politician/activist Eleanor Roosevelt, Bloom has re-created and reimagined one of the great love stories of the 20th century.

From the description:

Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, “Hick,” as she’s known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as “first friend” is an open secret, as are FDR’s own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick’s bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life.

Amy Bloom is the author of Come to Me, a National Book Award finalist; A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Love Invents Us; Normal; Away, a New York Times best seller; Where the God of Love Hangs Out; and Lucky Us, a New York Times best seller. Her stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Short Stories, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, and others. She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Slate, Tin House, and Salon, among other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award.

This spring semester, Bloom is teaching ENGL 268: Reading and Writing Fiction and ENGL 357: Writing for Television II.

Cardinal Community Classic Raises Funds for Local Cancer Center

Jordan Bonner ’19, at right, presented a check for $3,088.26 to Middlesex Hospital’s Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center on April 15. The funds were raised during the Cardinal Community Classic basketball tournament held at Wesleyan.

According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 1 in 8 American women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime, and every day new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed.

On April 15, more than 40 teams from Wesleyan and the Middletown community participated in the inaugural Cardinal Community Classic, a 3v3 basketball fundraising tournament. All proceeds, totaling nearly $3,400, were donated to Middlesex Hospital’s Comprehensive Breast Center to support local individuals affected by breast cancer.

The event was spearheaded by men’s basketball team member Jordan Bonner ’19, whose aunt is a breast cancer survivor. Bonner recruited Lina Marzouk ’19, Remi French ’20 and local business owner Ernesto Vargas to help organize the event. In addition, men’s basketball team members JR Bascom ’18 and Jordan Sears ’18, football player Brandon Morris ’19, and assistant basketball coaches William Battaglia and Tyler Gaffaney helped Bonner with planning and logistics. Several other student-athletes volunteered to serve as referees, scorers, and registration table staff.

“I really wanted to put together an event to honor my aunt and support people who are going through the same journey,” Bonner said. “This event benefited not only patients, but our community as a whole. We believe this event and the generous donations made will touch the lives of those most affected in the greater Middletown community. The tournament also fosters a better sense of community between Wesleyan students and Middletown residents as we come together to support individuals affected by this disease.”

Bonner hopes that in subsequent years, Wesleyan can establish a Cardinal Community Classic scholarship fund that can be awarded to Middlesex Hospital’s Comprehensive Breast Center and other entities that are doing similar work.

Class of 2022 Students and Families Attend 3-Day WesFest

Hundreds of admitted Class of 2022 students and their families attended WesFest April 10-12 on campus. Guests had the opportunity to experience university life first-hand and explore the diverse opportunities that a Wesleyan education has to offer.

Hundreds of admitted Class of 2022 students and their families attended WesFest April 11–13 on campus. Guests had the opportunity to experience University life firsthand and explore the diverse opportunities that a Wesleyan education has to offer. The admitted students had ample time to mingle with their future classmates during the event.

 

Language Symposium Topics Intersect Language, Culture, Identity

Fengbeiling (Selina) Wang ’21 and Hongjia (Jane) Zhang ’21 spoke on “The Recognition, Mobility, and Transformation of Languages and Identities” during the two-day “Power of Language” symposium.

On April 6–7, the Fries Center for Global Studies hosted “The Power of Language” symposium showcasing original performances and student/faculty presentations on the intersections of language, culture, and identity.

At the event, more than 20 panelists spoke on the topics of Shaping Identity Through Language, Moving Across Language, Power Dynamics of Multilingualism, Life in Translation, Ways of Teaching Language, Language and Politics, and Building Community Ties Through Language Learning. Several panelists were Wesleyan faculty and students.

Wesleyan Introduces Spin Bikeshare Program

Erica Wright, project assistant for Physical Plant–Facilities, tests a Spin bike as part of Wesleyan’s new bikeshare program. The bikes offer an accessible, affordable, and environmentally friendly form of personal mobility.

On April 12, Wesleyan launched a new bikeshare pilot program for the campus community. Spin, Wesleyan’s partnering company, has placed 100 orange dockless bikes at multiple locations throughout campus.

The Spin bikeshare program is used on 18 campuses and universities nationwide.

Anyone with a wesleyan.edu email can borrow a bike for 50 cents for 30 minutes or receive unlimited rides for $14 per month. All new users get two hours of free riding. Anyone without a wesleyan.edu email address can rent a bike for $1 for 30 minutes or $29 per month.

To get started, riders can download the app by searching “Spin Bikes” in the app store and signing up with an @wesleyan.edu email. Users must connect a credit/debit card to the app.

Once registered, a bike-borrower uses the app to locate a nearby bike and scans a QR code on the bike to unlock it. After riding, a borrower may drop off the bike at a bike rack and should make sure it is locked (via a metal pin that automatically fastens the back wheel to the frame.) The rental session ends when the rider locks the bike.

PhD Candidate Case Speaks on DNA Repair

On March 7, Brandon Case, a PhD candidate in molecular biology and biochemistry, delivered a talk titled "Just Another Day Fixing the Double Helix" as part of the Graduate Speaker Series.

On March 11, Brandon Case, a PhD candidate in molecular biology and biochemistry, delivered a talk titled “Just Another Day Fixing the Double Helix” as part of the Graduate Speaker Series. Case’s advisor is Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, professor of integrative sciences. 

Wesleyan Team Wins Prize for “Best User Insight” at DataFest

Students from six local colleges and universities participated in Wesleyan's annual DataFest.

Students spent three days working on a complex data set during DataFest.

Seventy students from six universities participated in the annual DataFest April 6-8 at Wesleyan. Under the auspices of the American Statistical Association, the event is organized by Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center.

During the event, teams from Wesleyan, Trinity College, Connecticut College, the University of Connecticut, Yale University, and Bentley University were presented with a large, complex data set and worked over the weekend—and around the clock—to explore, analyze, and present their findings to a panel of judges.

Judges included Agbon Edomwonyi ’16, data scientist for the City of Newark, N.J.; Rich Anziano, global head of statistics for Pfizer; Melissa Mischell ’17, data scientist at CKM Advisors; and Ofer Harel, professor of statistics at the University of Connecticut. Winners were honored with a $50 cash prize, a medal, a certificate, and a yearlong membership to the American Statistical Association.

A Wesleyan team made up of Tiffany Coons ’18, Kelly Jamrog ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Frederick Corpuz ’20 won the prize for “Best User Insight.”

The WES student's on the winning team were: Tiffany Coons ’18. Kelly Jamrog Frederick Corpuz Carlo Medina

Tiffany Coons ’18, Kelly Jamrog ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Frederick Corpuz ’20 won the “Best User Insight” prize during the 2018 QAC DataFest. (Photos by Caroline Kravitz ’19)