Arts & Culture

Wes Press Authors Nominated for 2018 Book Awards

Four Wesleyan University Press–affiliated authors were nominated for book awards this month.

Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Rae Armantrout is one of 10 contenders for the National Book Award for Poetry. Her collection, Wobble (Wesleyan University Press, 2018) was named to the award’s longlist on Sept. 13. Finalists will be revealed on Oct. 10.

Teetering on the edge of the American Dream, Armantrout’s Wobble seeks to both playfully and forcefully evoke the devastation of a chaotic, unstoppable culture.

Two authors were named 2018 CT Book Awards Finalists by the Connecticut Center for the Book, a Connecticut Humanities program. The awards recognize and honor authors and illustrators who have created the best books in or about Connecticut in the past year.

Between three and five finalists have been selected in each of five categories: Fiction; Nonfiction; Poetry; Young Readers—Young Adult; and Young Readers—Juvenile. Five distinguished judges per category read each entry and reviewed works using rigorous criteria. A total of 140 books were submitted this year.

Middletown, Conn., resident Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology; professor, feminist gender, and sexuality studies; was nominated in the Poetry category for her book, Because When God Is Too Busy: HAITI, me & THE WORLD (Wesleyan University Press, 2017).

And Chester, Conn., resident David Hays, Hon. ’86, was nominated in the Nonfiction category for his book, Setting the Stage: What We Do, How We Do It, and Why (Wesleyan University Press, 2017).

Winners will be announced at the 2018 Connecticut Book Awards ceremony on Oct. 14 at Staples High School in Westport, Conn. Okey Ndibe, the 2017 Connecticut Book Award winner for nonfiction, will deliver the keynote speech. A reception and book signing will follow, and all finalists’ and winners’ books will be available for purchase.

In addition, Wesleyan University Press author sam sax is the recipient of a 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from The Poetry Foundation. The $25,800 fellowship is among the largest and most prestigious awards available for young poets in the United States.

sax is the author of bury it (Wesleyan University Press, 2018), winner of the 2017 James Laughlin Award given by the Academy of American Poets.

Ponsavady’s New Book Examines the Development of French Transportation Systems

Stéphanie Ponsavady, assistant professor of French, is the author of a new book titled Cultural and Literary Representations of the Automobile in French Indochina: A Colonial Roadshow, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018.

In the book, Ponsavady aims to answer the question: How are the pleasures and thrills of the automobile linked to France’s history of conquest, colonialism, and exploitation in Southeast Asia?

Ponsavady addresses the contradictions of the “progress” of French colonialism and their consequences through the lens of the automobile. She examines the development of transportation systems in French Indochina at the turn of the 20th century, analyzing archival material and French and Vietnamese literature to critically assess French colonialism.

Students Go “ON DISPLAY” During Common Moment

New Student Orientation for the Class of 2022 concluded Aug. 31 with the annual Common Moment, an event where members of the incoming class are brought together through music and performance.

This year, the students worked with choreographer Heidi Latsky to create her installation ON DISPLAY, a performance art investigation of the body and the gaze. In a large-scale, participatory version of Latsky’s touring work, the first-year students performed the roles of both seer and seen on Andrus Field and discussed their personal experiences of these roles. Students were challenged to commit to the exercise without judgment, to trust both their individuality and the group, and to experience profoundly the act of seeing and being seen.

The Common Moment’s theme is tied to Wesleyan’s First Year Matters program, through which first-year students are collectively reading A Body Undone by Christina Crosby, professor of English, professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. ON DISPLAY relates not only to Crosby’s narrative about body and ability but also to the near-universal process of constructing/curating a self-image for the gaze of social media.

The event was cosponsored by the Center for the Arts, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, and Office of Student Affairs.

View photos of the Common Moment below: (Photos by Sandy Aldieri)

Center for the Arts 2018–2019 Events Feature Urban Latin Dance, Court Dancers and Musicians of Yogyakarta

In conjunction with a visit from Hamengkubuwono X, the Sultan of Yogyakarta in Indonesia, the Center for the Arts (CFA) will host a performance by the court dancers and musicians of Yogyakarta, featuring the instruments of the Wesleyan gamelan on Nov. 9.  “Music and Dance of Yogyakarta” is one of several upcoming performances hosted by the CFA in 2018–19.

Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts announces the highlights of the 2018–2019 season, including two world, two New England, and four Connecticut premieres.

“This season we are taking a cue from CONTRA-TIEMPO, whose new work ‘joyUS justUS’ posits that the expression of joy is the greatest act of resistance,” said Sarah Curran, director of the Center for the Arts. “During the 2018–2019 season, we claim joy and expressive freedom, through which we represent, create, and expand our community. We are particularly excited about presenting the first solo exhibition in New England by up-and-coming multimedia artist Kahlil Robert Irving, including a number of new pieces commissioned by the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery.”

The 2018–2019 season includes:

On Sept. 12, the exhibition “Chado: The Way of Tea” opens. The exhibit explores the prominent role and significance of the tea ceremony as an art and spiritual practice in China and Japan. Objects displayed have been selected from the College of East Asian Studies collection and loaned by tea enthusiasts in the Wesleyan community. Several media are represented, including ceramics, lacquerware, bamboo, wood, iron, textiles, and calligraphy. In addition, photographs from National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita ’71 will be featured.

  • Sept. 7: Ninth annual “Bach to School” organ concert by Artist-in-Residence Ronald Ebrecht marks the start of a celebration of 30 years of his teaching at Wesleyan
  • Sept. 8: Seventh annual “The MASH” festival highlighting Wesleyan’s student music scene, inspired by Fête de la Musique (also known as Make Music Day)
  • Sept. 12–Nov. 30: “Chado—The Way of Tea” exhibition at College of East Asian Studies Gallery, including photographs from National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita ’71
  • Sept. 21: “Point of Interest” featuring a series of solos, duets, and quintets set to soundscapes by hip-hop dancer and breaking artist Raphael Xavier
  • Sept. 26–Dec. 9: “Street Matter — Decay & Forever / Golden Age,” first solo exhibition in New England by Saint Louis–based multimedia artist Kahlil Robert Irving
  • Sept. 30: Kitchen Ceilí—Private Lessons Teacher Stan Scott PhD ’97, Dora Hast PhD ’94, and George Wilson—joined by the Rangila Chorus and vocalist/guitarist Sam Scheer
  • Oct. 5: Connecticut premiere of “They, Themself and Schmerm,” a disturbingly hilarious personal tale by New York City–based trans actor Becca Blackwell
  • Oct. 7: “This Is It!” The Complete Piano Works of John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Neely Bruce: Part XVI, including world premiere of composer’s 12-tone piece “Homage to Aronchik”
  • Oct. 11–14: 42nd annual Navaratri Festival of Indian music and dance, including the Connecticut debut of Bharata Natyam dancer Mythili Prakash
  • Oct. 26: “The River,” a collaboration between adventurous string quartet ETHEL and Grammy Award-winning Taos Pueblo flutist and Native American instrument maker Robert Mirabal
  • Oct. 26–27: Fall Faculty Dance Concert to feature new visiting assistant professors Julie Mulvihill and Joya Powell in collaboration with other Dance Department faculty and guest artists
  • Oct. 28: The Castlefield Trio performs original jazz and blues tunes, including world premieres by torch heartbreaker Sarah LeMieux and drummer Andy Chatfield
  • Nov. 9: Music and Dance of Yogyakarta, copresented with Yale University and the Asia Society in conjunction with a visit from Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, featuring the Wesleyan gamelan
    Kitchen Ceilí and Friends will perform free of charge Sept. 30. Formed in 1993, Kitchen Ceilí features Private Lessons Teacher Stan Scott PhD '97 on vocals, guitar, mandolin, and banjo; Dora Hast PhD '94 on vocals, tin whistle, and recorders; and George Wilson on vocals, fiddle, banjo, and guitar. The group returns to The Russell House to perform original and traditional music from Ireland, America, England, Scotland, and South Asia.

    Kitchen Ceilí and Friends will perform free of charge Sept. 30. Formed in 1993, Kitchen Ceilí features private lessons teacher Stan Scott PhD ’97 on vocals, guitar, mandolin, and banjo; Dora Hast PhD ’94 on vocals, tin whistle, and recorders; and George Wilson on vocals, fiddle, banjo, and guitar. The group returns to The Russell House to perform original and traditional music from Ireland, America, England, Scotland, and South Asia.

  • Nov. 15: Artist-in-Residence Ronald Ebrecht performs works for harpsichord to welcome a marvelous Frank Hubbard harpsichord to campus
  • Nov. 16–18: Theater Department production of “Mr. Burns, a post-electric play,” written by Anne Washburn and directed by Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater Pirronne Yousefzadeh
  • Nov. 30: Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music and puppeteer Sumarsam and Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble directed by Artist-in-Residence I.M. Harjito present a wayang kulit (Javanese puppet play)
  • Feb. 8, 2019: New England premiere of “joyUS justUS,” a participatory urban Latin dance theater experience by Los Angeles–based CONTRA-TIEMPO
  • Feb. 28–March 2, 2019: Connecticut premiere of “The Fever” by Brooklyn-based theater artists 600 HIGHWAYMEN, the duo of Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone
  • March 29, 2019: Connecticut debut of Alsarah (Sarah Mohamed Abunama Elgadi ’04) and The Nubatones’ lavish, joyful East African retro-pop, full of Arabic-language reflections on identity and survivalTickets are available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., by phone at 860-685-3355, or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center.

    Tickets may also be purchased at the door beginning one hour prior to each ticketed performance during the season, subject to availability. The Center for the Arts accepts cash, checks written to “Wesleyan University,” and all major credit cards. Groups of ten or more may receive a discount to select performances. No refunds, cancellations, or exchanges. Programs, artists, and dates are subject to change without notice. For more information on any of the events, visit the CFA website.

Director Becker ’12 Brings bad things happen here to Edinburgh Fringe

Lila Rachel Becker ’12, an MFA student at the University of Iowa, directed playwright Eric Marlin’s bad things happen here at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer. (Photo by Ryan Borque)

This summer, bad things happen here, a play directed by Lila Rachel Becker ’12, was featured at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

An MFA student at the University of Iowa, Becker has been paired to work with Eric Marlin—whom she calls “an incredible playwright, a brilliant collaborator”—since she began her graduate work in 2017. She is drawn, she says, to “incendiary” plays—and after producing this one in Iowa last November, a few professors encouraged the partnership to take it around to festivals. Noting that the spare design of bad things happen here made it easy to bring across the ocean to the eclectic theater spaces of the Fringe Festival, Becker adds: “Edinburgh is this huge platform for international theater artists. We were both particularly excited about that aspect of it.”

Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble Participates in Indonesian Festival

Members of Wesleyan’s Gamelan Ensemble participated in the 2018 International Gamelan Festival in Solo, Java, Indonesia, Aug. 9–16. The annual festival is sponsored by the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture and the Provincial Government of Solo and features various programs honoring gamelan—not only for music but also as historical and cultural artifacts.

During the conference, Sumarsam, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, delivered a keynote address titled  “From Texts to Mantra: Imparting Meaning to Javanese Wayang Puppet Play.” He also led a discussion about his new book, written in Indonesian, titled Imparting Meaning to Wayang Puppet Play and Gamelan: Java-Islam-Global Intersection.

Artist-in-Residence I.M. Harjito of the Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble performed classical Javanese gamelan pieces.

In addition, the Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble performed three experimental compositions, including Paula Matthusen’s or say the day is jeweled and burning (2018), Alvin Lucier’s Music for Gamelan Instruments, Microphones, and Amplifiers (1994), and Ron Kuivila’s The Fifth Root of Two (2018). Matthusen is the chair and associate professor of music; Lucier is the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, and Kuivila is professor of music and director of Wesleyan’s electronic music and recording studios. Matthusen and Kuivila also attended the Gamelan Festival.

Other members of the Wesleyan group who participated in the festival included Alec McLane, music librarian and director of the World Music Archives; Jennifer Hadley, library assistant for scores and recordings and World Music Archives; music graduate students Katrice Kemble; Gene Lai, Christine Yong, Feiyang Xu and Ender Terwilliger; alumni Maho Ishiguro MA’12, PhD ’18, Aloysius Suwardi MA ’97, Joseph Getter MA ’99, Leslie Rudden ’77, Carla Scheele ’78 and Peter Ludwig ’99; and community members Darsono, S. Pamardi, Urip Sri Maeny, Denni Harjito, Anne Stebinger, and Anton Kot.

Wesleyan has an emerging synergy with the performing arts of Indonesia, specifically the region of central Java. A Javanese gamelan study group has been in existence at Wesleyan since the late 1960s, and in 1984 a court gamelan from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, was donated to Wesleyan.

On Nov. 9, court dancers and musicians of Yogyakarta will perform in Crowell Concert Hall and feature the instruments of Wesleyan’s gamelan. In addition, Hamengkubuwono X, the Sultan of Yogyakarta, will visit and tour the Center for the Arts, and participate in a Music Department symposium on Islam and performance.

“The Sultan has been aware that the gamelan housed in the World Music Hall originates from his court,” said Wayne Forrest ’74, MA ’77. “He has made it one of his priorities to support the understanding of the culture of his region by sponsoring tours as well as gifting instruments.”

Photos of the International Gamelan Festival are below: (Photos courtesy of the International Gamelan Festival)

Sumarsam is one of the keynotes speakers. His keynote speech entitles “From Texts to Mantra: Imparting Meaning to Javanese Wayang Puppet Play.”

Sumarsam discussed his new book titled, Imparting Meaning to Wayang Puppet Play and Gamelan: Java-Islam-Global Intersection. He also delivered a keynote talk titled “From Texts to Mantra: Imparting Meaning to Javanese Wayang Puppet Play.”

Ashkin ’11, Delany ’09, Roginski ’87 Confront White Supremacy through Dance

Brittany Delany ‘09 and Sarah Ashkin ‘11, codirectors of GROUND SERIES dance collective, rehearse for task, “depicting the hierarchy, monstrosity, and sexual tension imbued in the weaponized white woman.” Sue Roginski ’87 served as dramaturg.

Sarah Ashkin ’11, Brittany Delany ’09, and Sue Roginski ’87 premiered an evening-length dance work, task, on Aug. 17–18, as part of the summer season at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, Calif., under the umbrella of GROUND SERIES dance collective. Ashkin and Delany, codirectors of GROUND SERIES since 2012, choreographed and performed the piece, with Roginski providing dramaturgical direction. As codirectors, Ashkin and Delany describe their work as  “collaborating in using dance performance as a tool of embodied intervention and research.”

“With our shared background in critical thinking, cultural studies, and artistic risk-taking fostered by the Wesleyan Dance Department, we wanted to create a work that responded to the current political moment,” Delany says. “The culmination of our collaboration, task, is a confrontation of white supremacy through dance performance.” Treating the theater as a site in this work, Ashkin and Delany continued their research and presentations of site-specific performance with the new challenge to remap and reframe the stage as a racialized space.

In the aftermath of their premiere, the three reflected on the experience for the Connection: 

Q:  What was it like to work with other Wes grads—those you knew on campus, those from different eras. Are there some commonalities, some ways of communicating, some understanding of dance as art and dance in the world, that you all have in common?

Tyner ’13 Named Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellow

William Tyner ’13 is headed to Romania on a year-long Fulbright National Geographic Fellowship. He will create an immersive film documenting the civic-tech group, Code for Romania.

William Tyner ’13 was awarded a Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship —one of only five of such grants awarded each year

The fellowship is made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society and is a component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to participate in an academic year of overseas travel and storytelling on a globally significant theme.

Tyner, who majored in anthropology at Wesleyan and enjoyed courses in the College of Film and the Moving Image, will be working with Code for Romania. He’ll be creating a documentary series that will explore Romania’s civic technology community.

“’Civic tech’ is a nascent field in which local ‘hacktivists’ use technology to deepen democracy and increase civic engagement,” he explained in his application.

Tyner notes that he has been affiliated with Codes for America, an organization that focuses on technology as a pathway to modernize government, make it more accessible—but he wanted “to observe civic tech as a social movement, from a sociological perspective.”

Romania, he says, will be the perfect place for his lens: “Their civic tech community is emerging within a historically unique anti-corruption movement. I’m going to chronicle a story of people taking action and control in their community.”

Art by 4 Alumni Featured in Popular Michael Jackson Exhibit

Artistic creations by four Wesleyan alumni are displayed as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s landmark exhibit, Michael Jackson on the Wall.

The contemporary art exhibition, which closes on Oct. 21, explores the influence of pop-music icon Michael Jackson and spans several generations of artists across all media. The exhibition opened to coincide with what would have been Jackson’s 60th birthday, on Aug. 29, 2018.

The exhibit occupies 14 rooms and includes the works of Glenn Ligon ’82, Jonathan Horowitz ’87, Michael Gittes ’10, and Lyle Ashton Harris ’88. The Wesleyan alumni are among 48 artists who have their work displayed, including Andy Warhol,  KAWS, Candice Breitz, David LaChapelle, Kehinde Wiley, and Mark Ryden.

Although the majority of the pieces are drawn from public and private collections around the world, some works were made especially for the exhibition, including an experimental video by American studies major Gittes. Gittes was honored by 43 Wesleyan alumni, students, parents, and friends in London on July 3.

Horowitz, who majored in philosophy at Wesleyan, also contributed a video to On the Wall. In 1997, Horowitz created “The Body Song,” which is a video reverse of Jackson’s “The Earth Song” music video. In the original video, disaster occurs and is undone through Michael’s healing rage. In “The Body Song,” disaster occurs and is undone through the repression of Michael’s rage.

Ligon ’82, an art major, contributed his ink drawing of “Self-Portrait at Seven Years Old.”

And Harris, an art studio major, recreated a 2017 cover of Ebony magazine on an African funerary fabric, a year after the King of Pop’s death.

Jonathan Horowitz ’87 made a single-channel video titled “The Body Song” in 1997. The video is 5 minutes and 57 seconds in duration.

Jonathan Horowitz ’87 made a single-channel video titled “The Body Song” in 1997. The video is 5 minutes and 57 seconds in duration.

Glenn Ligon ’82 created “Self-Portrait at Seven Years Old,” using ink and graphite on paper in 2005.

Lyle Ashton Harris ’88 recreated the cover of Ebony using acrylic on kente cloth in 2009.

De Visé ’89 on the Tour de France, Greg LeMond, and Heroes

In The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France (Atlantic Monthly Press, June 2018), journalist Daniel De Visé ’89 has written “a sprint through a big swatch of cycling history, focusing on racer Greg LeMond’s triumphant return from disaster,” according to Kirkus Review. In this Q&A below, he traces his path from a childhood love of the sport to Wesleyan, and through the journey of this book. Read an excerpt from his book online.

Q:  Tell us about your time at Wesleyan. What was your major?

A:  It was as much fun as I’ve ever had in my life. I had grown up in Chicago, in the city, and when I arrived on that picture-postcard campus, it felt like some kind of academic Disneyland. I lived in West College, where, on certain occasions, an entire dormitory room would be assembled upside-down on a basement ceiling. I lived on the same first-year hall as Stephen Trask ’89, cocreator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and This Ain’t No Disco. Another friend and I created a ’60s show for WESU. I majored in philosophy, but I took so many classes in history and religion that I almost ended up short of actual philosophy credits. I met my enchanting future wife, Sophie Yarborough ’88, in a history classroom. I took an extra course here and there and finished in three years (very much in the spirit of President Roth’s degree-in-three program). I used the extra cash to pay for journalism school at Northwestern.

Q:  You’ve written several biographies. What sparked your interest in the genre—and what are your favorites (authors or actual titles)?

A:  I’ve written or cowritten three books, and all have extensive biographical content, but none is pure biography. The first, I Forgot to Remember (Simon & Schuster, 2014), was the memoir of an amnesiac I’d profiled in the Washington Post as a reporter. The second, Andy & Don (Simon & Schuster, 2015), was a dual biography, chronicling the lifelong friendship of actors Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. I wrote that really for Don, who was my brother-in-law. The Comeback is more a work of narrative nonfiction, similar in structure to The Boys in the Boat or Seabiscuit—both personal favorites. It chronicles the rise of Greg LeMond, an American outsider, to the top of the European cycling sport; his near-death, in 1987, in a hunting accident; his incredible return to the top of cycling and victory in the greatest Tour de France ever staged, in 1989; and, lastly, his epic feud with Lance Armstrong, whom LeMond accused of doping, a battle that ended with LeMond’s vindication a few years ago. The book encompasses the first comprehensive biography of LeMond, and also a somewhat shorter bio of Laurent Fignon, the Frenchman whom LeMond defeated in ’89. The narrative lingers for several chapters on the spellbinding ’89 Tour.

Excerpt: De Visé ’89’s The Comeback: Greg LeMond, The True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France

As the Tour de France continues, we hope you enjoy this excerpt from the book by Daniel De Visé ’89, which chronicles Greg LeMond’s 1989 victory. Kirkus Review writes, “It’s a pleasure to ride in the peloton alongside LeMond, who emerges from this account as America’s once-and-future cycling great.” Also see our exclusive Q&A with the author.