Randi Alexandra Plake

Sultan Discusses Evolutionary Biology at the Royal Society in London

Sonia Sultan at the Royal Society, by Tom Parker for Quanta Magazine.

Sonia Sultan at the Royal Society. (Photo by Tom Parker for Quanta Magazine)

Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of  environmental studies, was invited to speak at a major meeting of London’s Royal Society in November.

The theme of the meeting was “New Trends in Evolutionary Biology.” Sultan was joined by biologists, anthropologists, doctors, computer scientists and other visionaries to discuss the future of evolutionary biology.

Sultan discussed her research on the Polygonum plant, known by its common name “smartweed.” Her research shows that if genetically identical smartweed plants are raised under different conditions, the end result is plants that may look like they belong to different species.

Sultan is a plant evolutionary ecologist. She is a major contributor to the empirical and conceptual literatures on individual plasticity and its relation to ecological breadth and adaptive evolution. In 2015, she published many of these ideas in the book Organism and Environment: Ecological Development, Niche Construction and Adaptation (Oxford University Press).

In addition, Sultan is now affiliated with an international consortium of evolutionary biologists who are testing some of new ideas as part of a multi-million dollar grant project titled “The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis“, primarily funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

Aubry ’89 Pens Science Fiction Book for Young Adults

Edward Aubry '89 courtesy of Curiosity Quills Press.

Edward Aubry ’89.

Edward Aubry ’89 is the author of a new young adult science fiction book, Prelude to Mayhem, published by Curiosity Quills Press in November 2016.

Prelude to Mayhem is the first book out of five in the Mayhem Wave series. The next installment is slated for release in mid-2017, according to Lisa Gus, managing partner at Curiosity Quills Press.

In this apocalyptic novel, Harrison Cody’s world is in ruins. He follows a mysterious voice on the radio as he and his pixie sidekick travel on foot across a terrifyingly random landscape. They discover Dorothy O’Neill, who has had to survive among monsters when her greatest worry used to be how to navigate high school. Together they search for what remains of Chicago, and the hope that civilization can be rebuilt.

Aubry, who studied music composition at Wesleyan, is the author of the young adult books Unhappenings (2015), Caprice (2012), and Static Mayhem (2010). He lives in rural Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters, where he has taught high school math for the past 12 years.

Thesis Research by Arulanantham MA ’15 to Appear in Astronomy Journal

Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy; Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology; Wilson Cauley, a post-doctoral fellow; and Nicole Arulanantham MA ’15 are the co-authors of a paper forthcoming in The Astrophysical Journal.

The paper is based on Arulanantham’s thesis research at Wesleyan. The paper also was featured in the December newsletter of the Gemini Observatory, an international observatory based in Hawaii and Chile.

“The subject of the paper, a star known as KH 15D, was recognized as an important and interesting object in the 1990s through observations made on the Wesleyan campus by undergraduate and graduate students,” Herbst explained.

Arulanantham earned a master’s degree in astronomy and is now a graduate student in the astronomy department at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Local Artist Paints Portrait of Master Drummer Adzenyah MA ’79

The artist Pierre Sylvain is joined by Chair of the Music Department, Director of the Electronic Music and Recording Studios, and Professor of Music Ronald Kuivila.

Music Department Chair Ronald Kuivila congratulates artist Pierre Sylvain on his painting of Abraham Adzenyah. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Hanging in the Abraham Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall is a new portrait of Abraham Adzenyah MA ’79, master drummer and adjunct professor of music, emeritus, painted by local artist, Pierre Sylvain.

After 46 years of teaching at Wesleyan, Adzenyah was honored during a special retirement ceremony this past May. The ceremony included a building dedication of the Abraham Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall, formerly Rehearsal Hall. Two farewell concerts followed, featuring 150 musicians in West African music and dance ensembles from across the Northeast, culminating in an all-night dance party.

Sylvain was contacted by Ronald Kuivila, chair of the Music Department, director of the electronic music and recording studios, and professor of music, to paint Adzenyah’s portrait, using acrylic paint.

Sylvain first met Adzenyah 20 years ago, and painting his portrait gave them a chance to reconnect.

Sylvain explained, “The painting was truly inspired by him and the generous person he is. I felt his spirit coming out of my brush strokes.”

 

 

 

 

Watch a series of videos from Adzenyah’s Retirement Celebration:

Sudanese-American Singer Elgadi ’04 Releases New Album

Sarah Mohamed Abunama Elgadi ’04, known by her stage name Alsarah, recently released a new album, Manara, with her band, Alsarah & the Nubatones. Manara, or The Lighthouse, is rooted in the style of Sudan and Nubia, and inspired by East-African music.

KCET.org says Manara “is more fluid and free-flowing than the band’s debut album, lifted by moaning trumpets and humming electronics, broken up by interludes of radio static and bits of the album’s penultimate track ‘Fulani.’”

Alsarah, who was a music major at Wesleyan, is a Sudanese-born singer, songwriter, and ethnomusicologist based in Brooklyn. She is a self-proclaimed practitioner of East-African retro-pop. She has toured both nationally and internationally, and has released one full-length album titled, Aljawal, and two full-length albums with her current band, Alsarah & the Nubatones.

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Watch the full-length music video of “Soukura” from Alsarah & the Nubatone’s sophomore album, Manara.

Lame ’04 Discusses Film Editing Manchester by the Sea

Film editor Jennifer Lame ’04 spoke to the Los Angeles Times on her experience working on Manchester by the Sea, by Oscar-nominated director and writer, Kenneth Lonergan. The drama, starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, is about a man who returns to his hometown to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.

In the interview, Lame explained how one scene between the divorced main characters made her surprisingly emotional in the editing process. “I’ll never forget the day I got the Michelle and Casey scene,” said Lame. “Just watching raw dailies, I was crying. That’s never happened. That scene crushed me.”

Lame also reflected on her time at Wesleyan where she studied film. She said she fell in love with the editing process here, but struggled to find satisfying work until she landed a gig in 2007 as an apprentice editor on Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, directed by Sidney Lumet.

Wesleyan to Open Bookstore on Middletown’s Main Street

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A new university bookstore will open in late spring on Main Street in Middletown and will be operated by RJ Julia Booksellers, the nationally known independent bookstore in Madison, Conn.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth speaks to a crowd at the new bookstore location on Nov. 30. (Photos by Laura Matesky) 

Wesleyan President Michael Roth speaks to a crowd inside the new bookstore location on Nov. 30.

The new bookstore will be located at 413 Main Street, near the intersection of Washington Street, and is expected to contribute significantly to Middletown’s thriving downtown. Popular restaurants, Kidcity Children’s Museum, and retail outlets are nearby.

The 12,000-square-foot space will be renovated with an open concourse design. Work will begin in December and the opening is planned for late spring of 2017.

“We’re committed to strengthening the ties between campus and Main Street,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “Relocating Wesleyan’s bookstore is a major step in the direction, and I am so delighted that R.J. Julia Booksellers, with their phenomenal reputation, will be our partner in this effort.”

During previous discussions about moving the bookstore, Wesleyan community members had advocated a Main Street location and urged that the university avoid using a national chain to run it. The new location responds to those concerns and will be a vibrant place for special events, as well as ongoing business. It will improve first impressions for prospective students and families. Also, the new location will create more connections between campus and Main Street by giving students, faculty, and staff reasons to go downtown to take advantage of a new cultural hub.

During textbook buying periods, Wesleyan will provide additional shuttle service to the new bookstore.

Opened 26 years ago as an independent bookstore, RJ Julia hosts more than 300 events each year in Madison and has won several major awards. Among those are Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year, Lucile Pannell award for bookselling excellence, and Connecticut Magazine Best Bookstore.

Wesleyan Hosts 8th Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of Connecticut

Professor Gilmore accepting the Joe Weber Award

Marty Gilmore accepts the Joe Webb Peoples Award at the 8th Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of Connecticut.

On Nov. 18, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (E&ES) hosted the 8th Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of Connecticut (GSC). The event featured a student scholarship wine-tasting fundraiser and a public science lecture called “The Real Jurassic Park in the Connecticut Valley,” by paleontologist Robbert Baker.

During the meeting, Phillip Resor, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, Martha “Marty” Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, were awarded the Joe Webb Peoples Award for their efforts in hosting the 2015 New England Intercollegiate Geologic Conference. The award recognizes those who have contributed to the understanding of the geology of Connecticut through scholarship, education and service.

Many other E&ES faculty were in attendance, including Dana Royer, Suzanne O’Connell, Johan Varekamp, Peter Patton and Timothy Ku. Additionally, several E&ES graduate students attended, including John Hossain, Melissa Luna, Shaun Mahmood, and alumni Bill Burton ’74, Nick McDonald MA ’75, and Peter LeTourneau MA ’85.

Angelson ’08 is Star of Amazon’s Newsroom Drama

Genevieve Angelson '08 by Ramona Rosales

Genevieve Angelson ’08 (Photo by Ramona Rosales)

Season one of Amazon’s period drama, Good Girls Revolt, premiered in October 2016 and the show’s star is Genevieve Angelson ’08.

Good Girls Revolt is based on the book by Lynn Povich P’03, and coincidentally stars another Wesleyan parent, Jim Belushi P’04. Povich is an award-winning journalist who wrote about her early career at Newsweek. She was one of 46 women who sued the magazine for sex discrimination in 1970. After the lawsuit, Newsweek agreed to provide equal employment opportunities to women, and Povich went on to become the first female senior editor in Newsweek’s history.

Angelson, who was a film studies major, attended Wesleyan with Povich’s daughter, Sarah Shephard ’03. She read the book when it was published, and she even knew a few of the women involved in the lawsuit. In what she describes as “completely serendipitous,” Angelson was given the script and an audition for a role in the series.

She described an intense attachment to the script and the story. “When I saw what it was based on, I wanted it so much,” she explained. “I thought if someone else gets [the part], it’s not going to mean as much to her.”

She recalled being so thankful to the production and writing teams for wanting to tell the story of the female employees who changed the workplace for women everywhere. During her audition, she said, “Cast me, or don’t cast me in this part. Cast the right person, whoever that is, but please take this pilot and make it into a series. I’m a part of a generation of women who need this kind of story to be told.”

Angelson indeed landed the part of Patti Robinson, a brilliant researcher who wants to be treated equally with the male journalists in the newsroom.

However, when Angelson first arrived at Wesleyan, she did not set out to be an actress. She chose Wesleyan for the liberal arts education she would receive and for the student body she would be a part of. Then, during her junior year, she worked at a production firm in Hollywood, an experience that helped her see the options she had to work in the film business if she didn’t pursue acting. She said, “I was good at it, but I wasn’t fulfilled in my soul. That’s when I made the decision to train to become an actress.”

After Wesleyan, Angelson went on to graduate from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts master’s program. From there, she landed television roles on series such as Fox’s Backstrom, where she played the lead role of Detective Sergeant Nicole Gravely, and Showtime’s House of Lies, where she played the role of Caitlyn Hobart.

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Play by Greenidge ’96 Explores Pressures of Today’s Teens

Milk Like Sugar by Ryan Maxwell

Milk Like Sugar. (Photo by Ryan Maxwell)

On Nov. 2, Milk Like Sugar, a new play by Kirsten Greenidge ’96, premiered at the Mosaic Theater Company in Washington, D.C. Broadway World calls it a “rousing story about young women coming of age in a time when issues of acceptance, mentorship, and materialism challenge the dreams and ambitious of so many teens.” This production is a D.C. premiere, for both the play and for the playwright. Greenidge has had extensive production history around the country, but had yet to premiere a production in D.C.

Greenidge, who majored in history at Wesleyan, was inspired to write the play “because I wanted to write about young people grappling with growing up without choices. Since the play was first produced at La Jolla Playhouse and Playwrights Horizons, it’s beginning to find a wider audience, and that’s wonderful.”

Milk Like Sugar, commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse and Theater Masters, in association with Playwrights Horizons and Women’s Project Productions, premiered in 2011, before transferring Off-Broadway to Peter Jay Sharp Theater later that year. In addition to the 2012 Obie Award for playwriting, Milk Like Sugar received the 2011 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award, and the 2011 San Diego Critics Circle Craig Noel award for Outstanding New Play.

Greenidge, who focuses on placing underrepresented voices on stage, has many projects in the works, including commissions from CompanyOne, Yale Repertory Theater, Denver Center Theater, The Goodman, La Jolla Playhouse, Baltimore Center Stage, and Emerson Stage, where she and director Melia Bensussen will adapt the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Common Ground. Her latest work, How Soft the Lining, inspired by the lives of Mary Todd Lincoln and her freed black seamstress, Elizabeth Keckly, just premiered on Nov. 5 in Boston at the Boston Center for the Arts. The show will run until Nov. 20.

Tony Award-Winning Actor Wood ’83 Discusses Ties to Election

Photo via LCT.org

Frank Wood ’83

Frank Wood ’83, the Tony Award-winning actor who is currently starring in The Babylon Line at the Lincoln Center Theater, discussed his family’s ties to the election in an interview with the Lincoln Center Theater Blog.

In the interview, Wood noted he is the brother of Maggie Hassan, the current governor of New Hampshire and U.S. Senator-elect. His father, Robert Coldwell Wood, Wesleyan’s Andrus Professor of Government, Emeritus, had also taught at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and had served as the first under secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Johnson administration.

Through his father’s political connections, Wood met many interesting people. “I remember listening to all these people, but we were also encouraged to talk and, whether we knew it or not, develop our speaking skills,” he said.

Wood said that this training led to acting, which he pursued at Wesleyan as an undergraduate and later at New York University as a graduate student in theater.

Read the full article here.

Ishiguro Awarded Research Fellowship to Study Acehnese Dance

Maho Ishiguro MA'12, and doctoral student, was awarded the Nadia and Nicholas Nahumck Fellowship. Contributed photo.

PhD candidate Maho Ishiguro MA’12 was awarded the Nadia and Nicholas Nahumck Fellowship.

Ethnomusicology PhD candidate Maho Ishiguro MA ’12 was honored at the 2016 Society of Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting with the Nadia and Nicholas Nahumck Fellowship for her research titled “Seudati and the Social Contestation of Female Dance in Aceh, Indonesia.”

The award is given to help support research on a dance-related subject and its subsequent publication, and consists of a $4,000 research fellowship and $1,000 award for publication.

“This fellowship will allow me to continue doing my research on the topics of Acehnese dance and music forms, women’s practice of performing arts, and changing socioreligious climate in the post-tsunami Aceh, from 2004 to today,” she said.

Ishiguro, who spent 15 months in Indonesia on a Fullbright-Hays Fellowship studying Acehnese performing arts, will now take a deeper look into the seudati dance form.

“In my research, I plan to look more closely into seudati as a case study to examine the issues of female and male aesthetics expressed through movements in Acehnese dance and how choreographers navigate through social expectations and Islamic regulations today when they create movements,” she said.