In an audience question-and-answer period, featured in the video below by Jon Hendel, Hilary Jacobs Hendel explained the usefulness of core emotions—including anger—and offered suggestions for nonthreatening ways that a reader could begin to talk about emotions with family and friends:
by Cynthia Rockwell •
A game show where three contestants compete for the grand prize—immediate citizenship to the U.S.A.—and the audience decides who wins. That’s the premise of American Dreams, the newest work by actor/playwright Leila Buck ’99, which just completed its world premiere at Cleveland Public Theatre on March 3rd.
In this participatory theater piece, each night the contestants—a Mexican-American medic and Dreamer, a Pakistani cartoonist, and a Palestinian chef—compete in five rounds: How America Works (a buzzer-style quiz with questions from the U.S. citizenship test); America’s Favorites (audience volunteers help contestants answer questions from national surveys about Americans’ “favorite things”); Aliens with Extraordinary Skills (contestants pit their talents against each other to see who can most contribute to American society); American Dreams (contestants share their dreams and plans for life in the United States); and The Hot Seat (audience members and hosts interrogate contestants before deciding who should be their newest neighbor).
The audience is invited to participate and to vote throughout the play in various ways, and whoever accrues the most points in all five rounds, wins. The winner (potentially different each night) then swears the Oath of Citizenship as the grand finale of the show—until an unexpected turn of events asks those on stage, and the audience, to question what happens to those who don’t win.
Buck began imagining this piece with her director and co-creator Tamilla Woodard during the summer of 2016, with the presidential election still ahead and questions of immigration and citizenship top-of-mind in the national consciousness. Meeting regularly with Woodard throughout that year, Buck says, “We wanted to create something that would invite audiences to engage with what it means to them to be and to become a citizen of this country.”
And in a moment that she calls typical of their process, they seemed to come to the same idea at the same time: “It’s a game show!”—and the real creative journey began.
The nascent idea was chosen for workshops at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center and Queens College. “They each gave us a budget, time and space to see what this might look like on its feet,” says Buck. Raymond Bobgan, the executive artistic director of Cleveland Public Theatre, came to one of their workshop presentations at LaGuardia, and immediately asked how to bring it to his venue—and American Dreams headed westward.
by Olivia Drake •
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Hilary Jacobs Hendel ’85, P’18, a licensed psychoanalyst and certified Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) therapist and supervisor, is the author of It’s Not Always Depression (Random House and Penguin UK, 2018). She’ll be speaking at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, at 7 p.m. on March 1, about a psychotherapeutic tool she calls the Change Triangle, a guide to carry people from a place of disconnection back to their true self. It’s a step-by-step process to work with emotions to minimize stress and move toward authentic living. Through moving, persuasive stories of working the Change Triangle with her own patients, Hendel teaches us how to apply these principles to our everyday lives.
In this Q&A, she discusses the book:
Q: Your book is titled “It’s Not Always Depression”—then what is it?
HJH: It’s the effect that adverse life experiences have on us.
Traumas, adversity or just feeling alone or different from others—poor, gay, transgender, from another country, disabled—can overwhelm us and evoke emotions that we can’t process. For instance, if we feel anger about our difficult experiences, but that emotion is too much to bear, we block it and turn it inward, so we feel it as depression or anxiety.
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
Garth Taylor ’12 is branching out. Over the past five years he has witnessed his Wesleyan band, The Rooks, expand beyond raucous campus concerts. Since graduation, they’ve relocated to New York City and to shows at larger and more established venues. His confidence and skills have grown in tandem with his band’s. And now he feels ready for a new challenge—a solo career, with the song “Human Nature.”
“It was a slow decision. In fact, I don’t even know if it was a decision,” he says. At first he didn’t feel very confident. But the city, so full of creative energy and collaboration, seemed to push him to expand his artistic limits. After arriving, he began to pursue background singing to broaden his skills and to adapt to the music industry.
But of course, he also sang out of necessity: “I’m an artist and I live in New York City—you have to pay some bills, here!”
In 2014, around the same time he took up background singing, he also began to collaborate with a friend from Toronto who had stayed with him in the city. “It was with him that I wrote my first solo song,” he recalls. The two traded tracks and Taylor began to find his own style, drawing upon the R&B and Neo Soul sounds. Some inspirations include D’Angelo, Frank Ocean and Solange.
by Olivia Drake •
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Lyricist for the Grateful Dead and cofounder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation John Perry Barlow ’69 died Feb. 7, 2018. He was 70.
A College of Letters major as an undergraduate, he collaborated with his friend from high school, Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, on lyrics for songs that included “Cassidy,” “Mexicali Blues” and “Black-Throated Wind.”
In the 1980s Barlow was active in an early online community. Then in 1990, with John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor, founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). In the summer 1994 issue of Wesleyan, an article, “Cognitive Dissident,” written by Lisa Greim ’81, profiled his journey.
“To the surprise of many who know him, John Perry Barlow ’69 has become respectable,” wrote Greim.
“In the last ten years, Barlow, 46, has evolved from a Wyoming cattle rancher into one of the nation’s most outspoken computer experts and defenders of the right to electronic freedom….
‘I don’t know anyone else who is welcome at the White House, backstage at a Grateful Dead concert, at CIA headquarters and at a convention of teenage hackers,’ says Howard Reingold, author of The Virtual Community.”
In a statement released by the EFF, Executive Director Cindy Cohn said of Barlow: “He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.”
To read the article from the 1994 issue of Wesleyan, click this link: JPBarlow_WesMag1994.
by Laurie Kenney •
Award-winning author Amy Bloom ’75, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, will release her latest novel, White Houses, on Feb. 13. The book centers on First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s love affair and friendship with reporter Lorena “Hick” Hickok. Told from Hickok’s point of view, White Houses covers everything from the inner workings of the Roosevelt administration to Hick’s own brutal upbringing in rural South Dakota.
Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review, says, “Bloom elevates this addition to the secret-lives-of-the-Roosevelts genre through elegant prose and by making Lorena Hickok a character engrossing enough to steal center stage from Eleanor Roosevelt.” While Publishers Weekly says, “Cleverly structured through reminiscences that slowly build in intimacy, Bloom’s passionate novel beautifully renders the hidden love of one of America’s most guarded first ladies.”
Bloom will embark on a book tour in support of White Houses later this month, starting at R.J. Julia in Madison, Conn., on Feb. 13. A full list of events, including several additional Connecticut appearances, can be found on Bloom’s website.
We caught up with Bloom to ask about her experience writing White Houses.
Is this your first time attempting such a novel, based on historical figures and events? Why this story, in particular? And what were the biggest challenges involved?
Every novel is, for me, an attempt to do something new. The Roosevelts were fascinating: great leaders, complicated people. The story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok was a love story not just lost to history but literally torn out of the history pages. (Lorena was routinely cropped out of White House photos.) The greatest challenge was pretty much what it always is: Who are the people, how to the tell the story and who is telling the story. With the added burden that periodically a little voice would yell: These are real people!
How was this process different than creating characters sprung from your imagination (even if based on real people)?
The characters inevitably, even when based on fact and history, are products of my imagination, of empathy, of research and of a certain hard-to-describe leap.
How did you begin the process? Did you read the letters first and then decide to write a novel based on the relationship? Or were you always interested in exploring the genre?
I read Blanche Weisen Cook’s wonderful biography of Eleanor Roosevelt in which she mentions the 3,000 letters between Eleanor and Lorena and writes a bit about who Lorena was—crack reporter, first woman to have a byline in The New York Times, author—and about the love affair between them. Cook was pilloried for asserting that it seemed very likely there had been a love affair, until other historians finally read the letters and, slowly, too slowly, and privately, apologized and acknowledged that it was obvious from the letters that this had not been a schoolgirl crush on either side—between women in their 40s!—but a love affair that laid the foundation for a lifelong friendship.
How much did you know about the relationship, and about “Hick,” specifically, when you began writing? What additional research did you do, and how did that additional research inform your writing?
Research always offers one new rivers to follow, new gardens to visit. There have been tons of books about Eleanor Roosevelt and a few about Lorena Hickok in relation to Eleanor. I read an awful lot.
What did you find most interesting about (and what were the challenges involved in) inhabiting the mind of, and creating a voice for, Hick?
I struggled to find my narrator and there were parts of Hick I did not admire, but the Hick that I created from her letters and from her professional work is funny, frank, tough, clear-eyed, impulsive and a hell of a storyteller.
What about this story spoke to you—and what did you learn along the way that will stay with you?
Two things: A life of pretense is a death sentence, and love is not wasted, even when it ends.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Kyla Donnelly Pearce ’08, a government major at Wesleyan with a certificate in international relations, is now senior director of the LoveYourBrain yoga program, an outgrowth of the work her husband and the Pearce family are doing for those who suffer from traumatic brain injury. Their journey began after snowboarder Kevin Pearce, Kyla’s brother-in-law, was injured in a training accident in Utah on Dec. 31, 2009, as he prepared for the Olympic trials. The previous year he had won three medals at the 2008 Winter X Games XII in Aspen, Colo. He spent the first six months of 2010 in rehabilitation hospitals with brother Adam (Kyla’s spouse) at his side, before returning home to Vermont to continue healing.
Kyla Pearce’s interest in yoga has become an integral part of that healing.
“I vividly remember being in Dharamsala, India, with my 200-hour yoga teacher training program nearly completed—when I received an excited call from Adam. Kevin, he said, was finding a sense of peace, accomplishment and vitality in yoga and meditation that were unavailable elsewhere,” she recalls.
When she returned, she saw it for herself. “I noticed that he loved the feeling of accomplishment from engaging with what he deemed a fitting challenge (be it focusing his mind in meditation or holding a strength-building yoga posture), instead of assessing his progress based on some medical benchmark. When he practiced yoga, he no longer felt defined by his injury.
“The LoveYourBrain yoga program grew out of the need that my husband, Adam Pearce, saw for supporting his brother—and others affected by TBI—in the healing process.”
While it admittedly seems a circuitous path—from government major to therapeutic yoga instructor, Pearce notes it is actually more linked than it might appear. At Wesleyan, she was on a premed track with a clear goal:
“I wanted to be at the helm of delivering women’s health care services, specifically maternal health and family planning, in underserved communities abroad,” she says, noting her undergraduate interest in international relations. As for yoga during that period, she sporadically showed up in the basement of the Butterfield dorms, where her friend taught a yoga class. Pearce still keeps one track of her life back on her original health-care goals, completing an MPH at Dartmouth with a focus on women’s health. She is now midway through a doctorate there, investigating the quality of abortion care in the United States. On the other track, yoga has come into prominence.
by Laurie Kenney •
The Broadway cast recording of the Tony Award–winning musical Dear Evan Hansen won the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album on Jan. 28. The album was produced by Atlantic Record’s President of A&R (artists and repertoire) Pete Ganbarg ’88, along with music supervisor and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire, creators Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and Broadway producer Stacey Mindich.
“What a great weekend for Wes!” said Ganbarg. “I was so thrilled to be surrounded by so many amazingly talented alums. Got to finally meet Grammy winner Gail Marowitz ’81, be in the room where it happens when Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 won his latest Grammy for Moana and also had a lovely conversation with Beanie Feldstein ’15. She is awesome. And as an added bonus this year, so excited to have my boss Atlantic Records Chairman/COO Julie Greenwald P’21, join the Wes family. Julie’s leadership helped Atlantic win an industry-best 13 Grammys this year! Go Wes!!”
“The win gives Ganbarg his second Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. Ganbarg won in the same category for Hamilton, created by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15, and directed by Thomas Kail ’99.
Lin-Manuel Miranda received the Grammy award for Best Song Written for Visual Media for “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s Moana. The win marked Miranda’s third Grammy. He previously won the award for Best Musical Theater Album in 2015 for Hamilton and in 2008 for In The Heights.
In addition, Gail Marowitz ’81 received a Grammy nomination Best Recording Package for singer-songwriter Jonathan Colton’s Solid State. The nomination marked Marowitz’s third nomination. She won a Grammy in the same category in 2006.
For more on Pete Ganbarg ’88 and his career in the music industry, read “Ganbarg’s Greatest Hits” in Wesleyan magazine.
For more on Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 and Thomas Kail ’99, read “A Musical Revolution on Broadway” in Wesleyan magazine.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
For two hours every Saturday—and any early morning or late night shift available—Middletown resident Franco Liseo fills the airwaves of WESU 88.1 FM, with Italian music. His specialty is the sounds from the ’60s and ’70s; “Love songs,” he says. “When I left Italy, I left with the music”—and he’s been doing this for 30 years.
The Saturday show is special; he broadcasts with a co-host, the daughter of a childhood friend, Lucilla Caminito, who Skypes in from Melilli. These shows feature contemporary music that Caminito chooses and sends to Liseo—whose DJ name is “Francaccio”—via the internet, YouTube or on a CD. “She’s prepared for this music; it’s more rap sounds now, the new generation,” he says.
Between songs, the two talk on air in rapid-fire Italian, smiling always and laughing frequently—never with a script—until it’s time for Francaccio to announce, “WESU Middletown,” and push the buttons for another song for their listeners throughout Connecticut and in his native Italy. Then he relaxes, continuing a conversation in Italian with Lucilla and in English with any visitor to the Broad Street location above Red and Black Café.
“Right here,” he says, opening his arms wide to encompass the whole studio. “I am home; the radio is me; I’m in paradise.”
by Cynthia Rockwell •
“Pattern recognition was a constant in my explorations at Wesleyan—and what I focused on afterwards,” says Benjamin Fels ’06, explaining the unity behind a seeming diversity of interests.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Organization is interested, also, in what Fels finds intriguing. The company Fels co-founded, macro-eyes, is one of 20 that the foundation selected to be a Grand Challenges Explorations winner. The project that macro-eyes proposed seeks to use their own breed of statistical machine learning, trained on supply chain and immunization data at health facilities in Tanzania. The goal is to maximize the number of children who get vaccinated and minimize vaccine wastage.
Fels and his partners believe that by adding important data, information and observations from health-care workers at the site, they will be able to train and test algorithms, which will learn to identify predictive patterns to forecast demand and recommend the optimal delivery of vaccines to each site in the program.
At Wesleyan, Fels was an art history major who wrote an interdisciplinary University Major Honors thesis with advisor Khachig Tölölyan, professor of Letters and English. “He knew the kinds of topics he was interested in and the things he liked—but the exploration of the things he liked weren’t easily available within a departmental structure,” recalls Tölölyan. “Both of us wanted to think hard in the ways we wanted to think and not worry too much about whether a single discipline could comfortably accommodate that.”
Post-graduation, Fels spent a number of years trading derivatives, which he describes as, “I sat in front of 12 computers, dense with data, looking at patterns; working with technology and people from other cultures to develop algorithms to predict what came next. I really liked the rigor and clarity of it.” After a while, though, he sought to take his interest in pattern recognition in another direction, launching his company, macro-eyes, with a chief scientist who is also a principal research scientist at MIT, and a chief design officer.
“Machine learning—data analytics, or working with large amounts of data to discern those predictive patterns—is important in other domains outside of financial markets, so I went and founded a company,” he explains. Fels and his team are convinced that macro-eyes can solve the problem of ineffective health-care supply chains by harnessing effective machine learning paired with on-the-ground human information.
Fels initially became interested in this specific application of this theory through talking with Anna Talman Rapp ’05, a program officer at the Gates Foundation, which invests heavily in the development of vaccines, a crucial component of the global health climate. At the time, macro-eyes was working with a large U.S. health-care system, exploring questions around determining the value of different devices: which produced the best outcome for the lowest price for which type of patients.
The problem of predicting need captured his imagination: “On one hand, we could celebrate the effectiveness of vaccine delivery,” he says, “because on a global scale, more and more people are vaccinated against deadly diseases—global coverage is something like 86 percent. However, as more and more people are vaccinated, there’s a greater rate of coverage that will run in parallel to a greater wastage of vaccine. The approach so far has been to accept that as the cost of doing business.”
But the cost of vaccines has skyrocketed. Additionally, the vaccines themselves are fragile, with a limited shelf life and narrow range of temperatures in which they remain viable. Over-delivery practically guarantees some will spoil before they can be used—a waste of resources. In Fels’s mind, what is worse is undersupply.
“Let’s think about this one clinic in Arusha, Tanzania, that we’re going to work with: Let’s say, I decide to take my child to this clinic to be immunized. And I spend a good portion of my day traveling from where I live to get to this site. And when I get there, I’m told, ‘Sorry, we’ve run out of those vaccines.’ Rationally enough, I’m probably not going to come back. And even more dangerously, I’m probably going to tell my community, ‘Don’t bother to take your kids to get immunized, because they’re going to tell you that there aren’t any vaccines.’”
What he proposes is to use technology to much more accurately predict demand. Growing out of data from immunization events, he believes that patterns will emerge that can be translated to quantity and type of vaccine to be delivered. “The better you get, the less waste, more opportunity you have to provide the health care to the people who need it.”
Additionally, a key element Fels sees is: “We want to engage these caregivers at the frontline, get their information—and I use that word very carefully because information is many steps up from data; it’s filtered through somebody’s brain and understanding—about the context for care. We believe that these are people who are the world’s foremost experts on the delivery of care at that clinic in Arusha; nobody else knows more than they do; they have this deeper insight into what is happening around them.”
From there he notes a connection to health care in this country: “You’ve probably read about how many doctors spend probably about half their day entering data. And you see this when you go to a doctor, typing away. That frustrates them, because they feel like, ‘That’s not what I trained to do.’ The data collection doesn’t seem important—and the reason is, it’s not flowing out and bouncing back with insights that would make their data collection worthwhile, an ‘Okay, this is why I’m making this investment.’ If we collect data, the initiative must be worthwhile for everybody.”
“I think of this health care project in terms of problems worth solving—and finding those has always interested me. I like the interdisciplinary aspect. And I would bet that everyone who goes through Wesleyan thinks in similar terms. That’s the point, right? To solve a problem that is worthwhile.”