Alumni

Alumni news.

Roellke ’87 Elected President of Stetson University

portrait of Christopher Roellke

Christopher Roellke ’87 is the new president of Stetson University. (Photo courtesy Stetson University)

Christopher F. Roellke ’87, PhD, has been named president of Stetson University, effective July 1, 2020. Currently dean of the college emeritus and professor of education at Vassar College, Roellke will be the 10th person to hold this position, succeeding Wendy B. Libby, PhD, who has served as Stetson’s president since July 2009 and had announced her retirement last February.

Roellke is also past president for the Association of Education Finance and Policy, a 2014 Fulbright Scholar, and the founder and fundraiser of Vassar College’s Urban Education Initiative.

“The Board of Trustees has unanimously elected Dr. Roellke to lead Stetson into the future as our university’s 10th president,” said Joe Cooper, the Stetson Board of Trustees Chair, in a press release. “The board’s presidential search framework and process brought forth many highly qualified candidates, and we thank them all. Dr. Roellke is bringing an outstanding record of energetic leadership in higher education and a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities Stetson University faces. The board is thrilled to welcome him as president-elect.”

Roellke called the appointment “the greatest honor and privilege of my professional life,” noting Stetson’s “deep commitment to the traditions of liberal learning and globally engaged citizenship.”

A government major at Wesleyan, Roellke earned his doctorate at Cornell. As dean of the college at Vassar, he was one of three tenured faculty members on the president’s senior leadership team and oversaw the dean of studies, dean of students, campus life and diversity, and career development, as well other administrative and academic areas.

Psychology Faculty, Students, Alumni Present Research at CDS Meeting

Professor of Psychology Hilary Barth and Kerry Brew BA '18, MA '19 were among a large group of Wesleyan faculty, students, and alumni who recently presented research at the 2019 CDS Biennial meeting.

Professor of Psychology Hilary Barth, right, and Kerry Brew ’18, MA ’19, left, were among a large group of Wesleyan faculty, students, and alumni who recently presented research at the 2019 Cognitive Development Society biennial meeting.

Numerous students, alumni, and faculty from Wesleyan’s Cognitive Development Labs recently presented their research at the 2019 Cognitive Development Society biennial meeting, held Oct. 17–19 in Louisville, Ky. The labs are led by Professor of Psychology Hilary Barth and Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman.

Barth and Kerry Brew ’18, MA ’19 presented their poster, “Do Demand Characteristics Contribute to Minimal Ingroup Bias?” The work was done in collaboration with lab alumni Taylar Clark ’19 and Jordan Feingold-Link ’18.

Sophie Charles '20, former lab coordinator Alexandra Zax, and lab coordinator Katherine Williams presented their poster on "The Role of Digit Identity in 5- to 8-year-olds' numerical estimates."

Sophie Charles ’20, former lab coordinator Alexandra Zax, and lab coordinator Katherine Williams presented their poster on “The Role of Digit Identity in 5- to 8-year-olds’ numerical estimates.”

Sophie Charles ’20, lab coordinator Katherine Williams, and former lab coordinator Alexandra Zax presented their poster, “The Role of Digit Identity in 5- to 8-year-olds’ numerical estimates.” Barth also contributed to this work.

In addition, many alumni of the Cognitive Development Labs presented at the conference, including Vivian Liu ’18 (now at New York University); Dominic Gibson ’10 (now at University of Chicago); Rebecca Peretz-Lange ’13 (now at Tufts University); Andrew Ribner ’14 (now at University of Pittsburgh); Julia Leonard ’11 (now at University of Pennsylvania); and Ariel Starr ’07 (now at University of Washington). Former lab coordinators Jessica Taggart, Talia Berkowitz, Ilona Bass, and Sona Kumar, and former postdoc Emily Slusser also presented work.

 

 

King ’97, Perez ’98, Santana ’98 at 27th Dwight L. Greene Symposium

Allison Williams at the podim introducing the speakers

On Nov. 2, the 27th Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium presented “Changing the Narrative: Women of Color Impacting Culture through Storytelling.” Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX Officer Alison Williams ’81 introduced the panel. “Our topic today is near and dear to my heart. Telling our stories, changing the narratives, and women of color telling their stories and impacting culture through storytelling.” (Photos by Rich Marinelli)

Alumni speakers on stage

From left to right: Maria Santana ’98, New York-based anchor and correspondent for CNN En Español and frequent contributor to all CNN networks and platforms; Chrishaunda Lee Perez ’98, writer, producer, and orator best known for her popular debut novel, We Come as Girls, We Leave as Women; and moderator Kimberly King ’97, chair of the Alumni of Color Council and a marketing professional. This is not the first time these three women have come together to hold a dialogue in front of an audience: the first iteration of their panel was organized by Perez two years ago in New York City. With photos from their undergraduate days projected behind them, King opened the dialogue by asking, “What better way to talk about storytelling, than to start with a story?” According to King, “My narrative never looked like anyone else’s and I was able to find a space for myself when I was at Wesleyan.” Noted Santana, “If something doesn’t exist at Wesleyan, you create it.”

Photos of three alumnae on stage

Perez called Wesleyan “the best place to explore your ideas, and everybody is supporting you—that’s the school I remember.” Despite her deep interest in developing a career in fashion, she chose to attend Wesleyan rather than art school. “I told my mother, I want to meet future dentists; I want to meet future physicians. And I can dress everybody!” Drawing from friends pursuing majors across the curriculum, Perez was able to assemble a group around her interests, even holding her “very first fashion show.”

Women on stage

Santana recalls that she was shy when she arrived on campus, but at Wesleyan she learned to “figure things out by myself.” She and seven other Latinx students formed a dance group, Caliente, which would perform at La Casa house parties. With an appearance onstage at the all-campus talent show, Caliente gained popularity and grew to include about 35 multicultural members. “Seeing what it started out as and what it became was an obsession for me,” says Santana. “This group was where I gained a lot of confidence.” Noting her current career in front of a television camera, she says, “Wesleyan is the place that made it all happen.”

1960s Football Celebrated at Homecoming

1960s Alumni Athletes and Athletic Director stand on the field

Athletic Director Mike Whalen ’83, far right, welcomes the 1960s alumni onto Andrus Field at Homecoming halftime on Nov. 2. (Photo: Steve McLaughlin)

This football season marked the 50th anniversary of Wesleyan’s undefeated football season of 1969. It was a year that garnered a number of individual and team honors. The team was named the UPI New England College Division Champions and they shared the Lambert Cup with the University of Delaware as the East’s top-achieving college division team. Individually, the late Dave Revenaugh ’72, MALS ’98 was ranked sixth in New England for scoring, and the late Peter Panciera ’71 was ranked ninth in New England for passing.

The Athletics Department hosted a dinner to honor the team on the Friday evening of Homecoming weekend.

Also invited to the dinner was the 1960s All-Decade Team, a group nominated and elected by their peers. This year, 26 alumni who played during that decade were selected, with Coach Don Russell as the All-Decade 1960s coach.

Williams and Wesleyan face off for the coin toss, with alumnus Jeff Diamond ’70 at center, doing the toss.

Captain of Wesleyan’s 1969 undefeated team Jeff Diamond ’70 tosses the coin to begin the 2019 Homecoming game between Wesleyan and Williams. The game ended in a Little Three victory for Wesleyan in overtime. (Photo: Steve McLaughlin)

The Undefeated Team of 1969 and the 1960s honorees were invited onto Andrus Field at halftime and introduced to the large Homecoming crowd.

The gentlemen of 1969's undefeated football team, 50 years later.

The men of Wesleyan’s 1969 undefeated team were honored at a dinner during Homecoming Weekend. (Photo: Wes Stover, Plotline Video Productions, LLC)

The 1969 Undefeated Team included: Bob Allen ’70; Blake Allison ’71, P’06; Bob Bastress ’71, P’01; Lex Burton ’72, P’04; Gary Burnett ’72; Jeff Diamond ’70; Greg Forbes ’71; George Glassanos ’70; John Glendon ’72; Don Graham ’71; Brian Hersey ’72; Charlie Holbrook ’70; Mike Kishbauch ’72, P’07; Jim Lynch ’71, P’13; Mike Mastergeorge ’70; Bob Medwid ’72, P’00; Jack Meier ’69; Alex Tucci ’71; Gary Walford ’71; and Frank Waters ’70.

The football players at the 2019 Homecoming game, selected from the 1960s teams.

The alumni football players elected to Wesleyan’s 1960s All-Decade Team were also honored during Homecoming Weekend. (Photo: Wes Stover, Plotline Video Productions, LLC)

The 1960s All-Decade Team, which was nominated and voted on by their peers, honored Coach Don Russell, as well as Stu Blackburn ’69; Dick Crockett ’63; Jeff Diamond ’70; Bill Dibble ’67; Dirk Dominick ’67, MA ’68; Jim Dooney ’63; Kevin Dwyer ’68; Pat Dwyer ’67; Al “Red” Erda ’63, P’91; Walt Filkins ’70; George Glassanos ’70; Thomas Gulick ’66; George “Jeff” Hicks ’67; Charlie Holbrook ’70; Jeff Hopkins ’66; Rick Ketterer ’69; Darcy LeClair ’69; Mike Mastergeorge ’70; Steve Pfeiffer ’69, Hon.’99, P’99, ’05, ’08, ’13;  Phil Rockwell ’65, MALS ’73, P’11; Dom Squatrito ’61; Paul Stowe ’67; Warren Thomas ’65; Frank Waters ’70; Gary Witten ’65; John “Viv” Zywna ’66.

Similar celebrations of all-decade teams are planned for future Homecoming Weekends.

 

 

Annual Liberal Arts + Forum Highlight of Recent Trip to Asia

At the second annual Liberal Arts + forum in Beijing on Oct. 19, from left, Richard Adelstein, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, and Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, spoke on a panel moderated by Julia Zhu '91 about Wesleyan's unique interdisciplinary approach to teaching economics and environmental studies.

At the second annual Liberal Arts + forum in Beijing on Oct. 19, Richard Adelstein, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, left, and Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, center, spoke on a panel moderated by Julia Zhu ’91, right, about Wesleyan’s unique interdisciplinary approach to teaching economics and environmental studies.

In October, President Michael Roth and other Wesleyan faculty and staff traveled to Asia to meet with alumni, parents, prospective families, and others. The trip included visits to Seoul, Beijing, and Taipei.

A highlight of the trip was Wesleyan’s second annual Liberal Arts + Sustainable Economic Development Forum, which took place in Beijing on Oct. 19. Last year, Wesleyan held the inaugural Liberal Arts + Forum in Shanghai, which highlighted film education and US-China collaborations. (Read the story here.)

Over 100 people attended this year’s forum, including prospective students and families, current parents, counselors, and alumni. The day started with an “admission 101” workshop by Associate Dean of Admission James Huerta that provided invaluable insights for prospective families preparing for the college admission process.

Attendees regrouped in the afternoon for Roth’s opening remarks, which highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary learning and how a liberal arts education equips students with a lifetime of important skills. This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Julia Zhu ’91, entrepreneur and CEO of Phoenix TV Culture and Live Entertainment Company, Richard Adelstein, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, and Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies. The speakers discussed Wesleyan’s unique interdisciplinary approach to teaching economics and environmental studies. Later, Tian Ai ’06 and Yinghai Xie ’97, alumni working in the financial services industry, shared their insights into the value of a liberal arts education in personal growth and careers in the second panel, moderated by Ted Plafker ’86, P’17, ’18.

Forum attendee and volunteer Tianhua Shao P’21 commented, “It’s such a privilege to serve as a parent volunteer. Although the forum took a day, I had the valuable opportunity to talk with President Roth, professors, and alumni, and enhance my understanding of liberal arts education and Wesleyan. As a transfer, my daughter is taking full advantage of Wesleyan’s open curriculum and thrives at Wesleyan each and every day!”

“You Just Have to Read This…” 3 Books By Wesleyan Authors: Abramowitz ’76, Hill ’93, Rotella ’86

In the fifth of this continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

Jay Abramowitz ’76 and Tom Musca, Formerly Cool (Jerome Avenue Books, July 2019)

Warren Brace may want to write funny television, but it seems that his reality could be a sitcom in itself, with all the jokes at his expense. In this subversive take on Hollywood culture, Jay Abramowitz and Tom Musca team up to provide a witty and laugh-out-loud window into the absurdities of the television industry. As it takes on family relationships, celebrities, and the commodification of storytelling, Formerly Cool is sharply funny, with a humor that also delivers poignant insights into what it means to navigate human relationships in an irrational business. For people with and without experience in the film world, Warren Brace’s plunders and wins will keep you laughing with sympathy, and also with recognition.

Jay Abramowitz ’76, a psychology major at Wesleyan who earned his master’s at UCLA film school, wrote and produced a dozen situation comedies for television. He has conducted comedy-writing workshops at the American Film Institute and consulted on projects for Columbia/Tri-Star International Television. Al Jean, longtime executive producer of The Simpsons, calls this “a compelling darkly funny look inside the Hollywood of today; a Day of the Locust set in the world of sitcoms.”

Edwin Hill ’93, The Missing Ones (Kensington Books, August 2019)

In this spooky month of October, what could be better than a fast-paced, page-turner mystery? As a follow-up to Hill’s first novel Little Comfort, The Missing Ones features Hester Thursby, the Harvard librarian and sleuth, as she uses her sharp research skills to make connections and uncover crimes. When Thursby is summoned to an island off the coast of Maine by a cryptic text, she is led into a web of deception and long-held grudges, which she must untangle in order to solve a case of disappearing children. From there, she confronts ethical binds that challenge her moral convictions and force her to reconsider all that she had previously perceived to be simple. Weaving a narrative full of suspense and twists, Edwin Hill expertly crafts a mystery that will keep you guessing—not only at the core of the mystery, but also at what constitutes the right choice in ethically grey areas.

Edwin Hill ’93, whose first novel was nominated for an Agatha Award for best debut, is already at work on the third mystery in the Hester Thursby series. At Wesleyan, he majored in American studies. Joanna Schaffhausen, author of The Vanishing Season and No Mercy, called this book “a chilling mix of envy, deceit, and murder. Everyone is lying about something in this tense, stylish novel.”

Carlo Rotella ’86, The World is Always Coming to an End: Pulling Together and Apart in a Chicago Neighborhood (The University of Chicago Press, April 2019)

While writing The World is Always Coming to an End, Carlo Rotella would take a daily stroll between two houses in Chicago’s South Shore, one on the 7100 block of Oglesby and the other on the 6900 block of Euclid. “They’re not quite a mile apart . . . but to go from one to the other is to pass through distinct worlds,” Rotella writes in his introduction. In his examination of how this came to be, Rotella explores the interplay between these worlds with the care of meticulous reportage mixed with a personal perspective to the story. Informed by interviews with locals and archival research, The World is Always Coming to an End not only delves into the dynamics of one neighborhood; it also questions and investigates the very meaning of a neighborhood universally, as well as what it means to form community across divisions.

Carlo Rotella ’86,  a professor of English, American studies, and journalism at Boston College, is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine. An American studies major at Wesleyan, he earned his doctorate at Yale and is the author of Playing in Time: Essays, Profiles, and Other True Stories (2012), and others. Author Oma M. McRoberts calls this “a rich, incisive portrait of social change in Chicago’s iconic South Shore neighborhood.”

Alumni, Faculty Discuss Russia’s Return to the World Stage at Shasha Seminar

David Abramson ’87, Foreign Affairs Analyst at the U.S. Department of State, asks a question at a panel held by Wesleyan alumni on Saturday afternoon regarding Russia’s economic development, the prospects for foreign investors, and the range of careers available to graduates in Russian studies.

David Abramson ’87, foreign affairs analyst at the U.S. Department of State, asks a question regarding Russia’s economic development during the 2019 Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns.

shasha bannerRussia has returned to the world stage in dramatic fashion in recent years with military interventions and interference in elections.

What is driving this aggressive behavior? Will the current political system survive the scheduled departure of its architect, Vladimir Putin, in 2024? How should the United States deal with Russia?

On Oct. 11–12, Wesleyan alumni and faculty panelists tackled these questions and more during the 2019 Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns. This year’s theme was “Understanding Russia: A Dramatic Return to the World Stage,” with Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, serving as this year’s director. Rutland works on contemporary Russian politics and political economy, with a side interest in nationalism. (For a Q&A with Rutland, previewing the seminar, click here.)

The Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, endowed by James Shasha ’50, P’82, supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Nation: “Edward Snowden Deserves to Be Tried by a Jury of His Peers, Just Like Everyone Else”

In this op-ed, Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti argues against the Justice Department’s decision to deny Edward Snowden’s request for a jury trial. She contends that in Snowden’s case, in which he is accused of leaking classified information from the National Security Administration in 2013, a jury trial “is not only a viable alternative to a hearing before a judge; rather, given the nature of the charges—where the defendant has supposedly acted to protect the people from the very state that would charge him with a crime—jury deliberation is the proper forum for discussion of appropriate punishment and is the bulwark against the potential misconduct of the state.”

2. Transitions Online: “Stuck in the Middle”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, and Dmytro Babachanakh ’20 explore the history of U.S. involvement in Ukraine, and call upon U.S. leaders of both parties to stop “treating lesser powers as political instruments.”

3. Tulsa World: “Save the Little Grouse on the Prairie”

Alex Harold ’20 is the author of this op-ed that calls for the lesser prairie chicken to be placed on the endangered species list to get the protections it desperately needs, as over 90 percent of its habitat has been degraded or destroyed. While many haven’t heard of this bird, Harold explains that it is an “indicator species” that “reflect(s) the health of the entire prairie ecosystem.” Harold wrote the op-ed as an assignment in E&ES 399, Calderwood Seminar in Environmental Science Journalism, taught by Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell, this semester. The Calderwood Seminars are offered in a variety of disciplines to teach students how to effectively communicate academic knowledge to the public. Read more here.

Hill ’93 Reads from Latest Book at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

On Oct. 8, Edwin Hill ’93 presented an author’s talk and reading at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.

Hill is the author of the crime novel The Missing Ones, a follow up to his critically-acclaimed book Little Comfort. He presented his reading with Vanessa Lillie, author of Little Voices.

Hill, of Roslindale, Mass., served as the vice president and editorial director for Bedford/St. Martin’s, a division of Macmillan for many years before turning to writing full time. He has written for Publishers Weekly, the L.A. Review of Books, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, among other publications.

Photos of his talk are below: (Photos by Nick Sng ’23)

Edwin Hill '93

3 Alumni Receive MacArthur “Genius” Awards 

MacArthursThree of the 26 “extraordinarily talented and creative individuals” to receive 2019 MacArthur Fellowships are Wesleyan alumni.

Mary Halvorson ’02, Saidiya Hartman ’84, Hon. ’19, and Cameron Rowland ’11 each received a $625,000, no-strings-attached award by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Recipients of a MacArthur Fellowship, commonly known as the “genius” grant, are selected based on “exceptional creativity,” “promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments,” and “potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work,” according to the foundation.

They join 17 other Wesleyan alumni and university affiliates named MacArthur Fellow recipients. (View all.)

Mary Halvorson '02

Mary Halvorson ’02

Mary Halvorson ’02 is a guitarist, ensemble leader, and composer who is pushing against established musical categories with a singular sound on her instrument and an aesthetic that evolves with each new album and configuration of bandmates. She melds her jazz roots with elements of experimental rock, folk, and other musical traditions, reflecting a wide range of stylistic influences.

Her additional albums as a solo performer or leader include Saturn Sings (2010), Bending Bridges (2012), Illusionary Sea (2014), and Meltframe (2015), and she has performed on numerous other recordings as a side musician or co-leader. Since 2018, Halvorson has served as an instructor at The New School’s College of Performing Arts. She has performed at such national and international venues and festivals as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Newport Jazz Festival, the Berlin Jazz Festival, and the Village Vanguard, among many others.

Townsend ’90 Discusses New Memoir at Bookstore with McCrea ’21

bookstore

Professor of Letters, Emeritus, Paul Schwaber joined College of Letters alumna and author Sarah Townsend ’90, P’21, and current COL major Sara McCrea ’21 for a discussion of Townsend’s book at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.

On Sept. 19, Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore hosted a Q&A with College of Letters (COL) alumna Sarah C. Townsend ’90, P’21, author of Setting the Wire: A Memoir of Postpartum Psychosis, (Lettered Streets Press, 2019) in conversation with current COL major Sara McCrea ’21.

McCrea, who reviews alumni books for the Wesleyan Connection, had selected Townsend’s book for inclusion in the second of her recent-publications series last spring. Encouraging others to read Townsend’s work, she had written: “Bursts of sharp and vulnerable detail presented in lyrical prose display Townsend’s fearlessness as she evaluates the ways in which her own body and others’ bodies handle and inform emotion. Through its discussion of losing and finding wholeness, Townsend’s succinct and striking writing implores readers to reckon with the power and limitation of physical reflections in representing mental illness.”

This semester, at the bookstore event, she told those gathered, “I was in complete awe of this book’s riveting honesty and its masterful structure.”

An audience that boasted many of McCrea’s COL peers, along with University Professor of Letters Kari Weil, were seated to face Townsend and McCrea. Additionally, Professor of Letters Emeritus, Paul Schwaber, who had been director of the College of Letters as well as one of Townsend’s advisors while she was an undergraduate, was also in attendance, contributing his observations and a question to the discussion that followed the Townsend/McCrea dialogue.

Townsend began by reading from the book, tracing her experience as a new mother with a nursing infant, quickly moving into psychosis, undergoing hospitalization, and finally returning to a healthy sense of self. Yet, “this isn’t a really heavy book,” Townsend explained. “It’s joyful, actually—a love story.”

Prompted by McCrea’s questions, Townsend explored the meaning of the title: She had become fascinated by Phillipe Petit, the man who walked on a wire strung between the two towers of the World Trade Center. He had talked about the importance of properly “setting the wire”—a through line—before beginning to cross. Like Petit’s high wire, she noted, her baby’s umbilical cord had been attached off-center, in what is called a compromised attachment.

“I think our minds are natural pattern-makers, and we have that in our favor,” Townsend noted, commenting on the associations these items had brought to her consciousness. The two also discussed Townsend’s use of sound, as well as the book’s narrative shape, noting that it is unlike that of a male hero’s journey; instead, it traced out a spiral structure. The two also explored Townsend’s writing process, as well as the ways that her career as a psychotherapist had informed the work.

“I guess one of the great things about writing is that there aren’t any rules and you can just take from anywhere and see what you might do with it,” Townsend concluded, ending the formal part of the program to greet students personally and sign books.

Townsend’s debut book, Setting the Wire, is an account of postpartum psychosis and a meditation on what holds us together. Her style mixes memoir with film, music, visual art, and psychology.

The conversation touched on Townsend’s experience of fragmentation when she was a new mother.

Blaine ’92 Brings One-Woman Show and Brain Surgery/Art Tour to Campus

On Sept. 25, Jennifer Blaine ’92 performed The Vicissitudes of Travel in Usdan 108.

Hosted by the neuroscience and pre-med students of the MINDS Foundation and the Basal Gang, The Vicissitudes bridges the gap between medical science, mental health, and performance art.

In the solo show performed by Blaine and co-written with Karen Getz, Blaine’s portrayals of each member of a family comes to life against the sparse set that invites the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps. Terrified by the idea of losing her brother, “Sister” goes on a journey through her brother’s brain surgery that blends visual art, memory, and tangled neurons in an attempt to connect with “Brother” before it’s too late.

During the post-performance discussion, Blaine and the students in the audience delved into the healing journey, the creative process, and the role of art in medicine.

“Every time I perform The Vicissitudes I am amazed at what it evokes for people. People enjoy a character, find themselves laughing one moment and the next are moved by a poignant revelation,” Blaine said. “As the creator and performer it’s both terrifying and exhilarating to perform the piece for new audiences since even I don’t know what will happen. We begin the journey as strangers, but by the end of the piece we have such a deeply bonded experience that segues into meaningful dialogue and sharing that’s unique to each particular group.”

At the Wesleyan performance, Blaine was particularly struck by the insightful line of questioning and sharing.

“Students’ questions about the text unearthed things I had never even thought about,” Blaine said. “One of the missions of the performance is to connect the invisible community affected by brain issues and create a way that we can be present, listen to one another, and have more compassion. I believe we achieved that. I hope this performance can be the beginning of a dialogue with the Wesleyan community about these issues.”

The event was coordinated by Kush Patel ’20 of Wesleyan MINDS, graduate student Helen Karimi from The Basal Gang, and Meg Zocco, director of parent development.

After performing at Wesleyan, Blaine will bring The Vicissitudes to Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, where she will also hold workshops for medical students.

Photos of the performance are below. (Photos by Tom Dzimian)

Jennifer Blane