Arts & Culture

Wesleyan Illuminates 2 Campus Buildings in Support of Restart Day of Action

92 theater

On Sept. 1, members of the Wesleyan community participated in the Red Alert Restart Day of Action by illuminating the Patricelli ’92 Theater and Center for the Arts Theater in red lights to show support and solidarity to colleagues in the entertainment industry. The industry has been shut down due to COVID-19 for more than four months. The purpose of the Restart Day of Action is to urge Congress to vote for the RESTART Act, led by senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Wesleyan alumnus Michael Bennet ’87 (D-Colo.), which would support an extension and expansion of benefits for independent contractors as part of a comprehensive pandemic relief package.

CFA theater

Wesleyan’s buildings were among 1,500 nationwide that were lit for the cause. Lights were provided by Northern Lights, a longtime vendor of Wesleyan University that has been hit particularly hard by the closing of theaters and canceling of events in Connecticut. (Photos by Robyn Joyce)

Potemkina Wins Orchestral Programming Award

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina. Photo by Pavel Terpelets.

Nadya Potemkina (Photo by Pavel Terpelets)

Nadya Potemkina, adjunct associate professor of music, placed third in The American Prize competition, in the category of orchestral programming.

The American Prize—Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award in Orchestral Programming—honors the memory of the great Lithuanian conductor Maestro Vytautas Marijosius, who served as the music director of the Lithuanian State Opera and the director of orchestral activities at the Hartt School of Music. The prize recognizes and rewards “the best achievement in the unique field of orchestral programming, where the selection of repertoire by knowledgeable, creative and courageous music directors builds orchestras and audiences, educates young people and adults, and enriches the community,” according to the prize’s website.

At Wesleyan, violist Potemkina directs the Wesleyan University Orchestra and Concert Choir, coaches chamber ensembles, teaches instrumental conducting and orchestral literature, and is the music director of FluteFest and AD HOC BACH, both performance and community engagement initiatives.

She’s also served as an assistant conductor of The University of Memphis Orchestras, as the music director of Mid-South Young People’s Orchestras in Memphis, Tenn., and was a founding conductor of Memphis Occasional Orchestra, an all-volunteer community outreach ensemble.

This fall, she’s teaching Materials and Design (MUSC 103), Wesleyan Concert Choir (MUSC 436), and Wesleyan Orchestra (MUSC 439).

Films, Shows by Ristov ’21, Heliczer ’93, Stone ’05 and Stone ’05, Okun ’22, Zosherafatain ’10 Released, Screened at Festivals

calling fatherA film directed by Leon Ristov ’21 was selected to be screened on demand during the Sarajevo Film Festival Aug. 14–21. The 12-minute piece, titled I’m Calling Your Father, is among only 10 films selected for the festival’s TeenArena program.

The film tells the story of Damjan, a 16-year-old who gets jumped by neighborhood hooligans. Damjan’s hard-headed mother comes up with a plan to protect him.

Ristov’s film was supported through a Gordon Career Center Summer Grant. Rent the film online here.

invisiblefatherA film directed by Thérèse Heliczer ’93 will make its world debut at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival Aug. 22–23. Titled The Invisible Father, the feature-length documentary focuses on beat poet and experimental filmmaker Piero Heliczer, who helped shape “new American cinema” in the 1960s.

Through interviews with family and friends, found photos, and archival footage, Thérèse Heliczer explores her father’s artistic legacy and the creative life of a man she never knew.

Tickets are available online here.

stone and stone '06A web series created by twin comedians Todd ’05 and Adam Stone ’05 (also known as Stone and Stone) was accepted into the Chain Film Festival and The Big Apple Film Festival in New York City Aug. 18-31.

The show, titled Going Both Ways, features Adam, who recently married and had a child, and Todd, who recently came out as gay. Going Both Ways explores their two worlds–of new parenthood and new sexual identification–and the joys, challenges, and humor that come with both lifestyles.

Watch episodes online here.

cookie cutterA screenplay excerpt by Stephanie Okun ’22 is featured as part of the virtual Irvington Arts Incubator Series this month.

Cookie Cutter follows Debbie, a 40-something who recently left a fulfilling, flourishing career in journalism to take care of her children and now must navigate the consequences of that choice. Debbie got married straight out of college, but she’s a different woman now.

Okun wrote the play last semester at Wesleyan while taking the Advanced Playwriting course taught by Assistant Professor of the Practice in Theater Edwin Sanchez. Sanchez narrates the film, and Alex O’Shea ’19, Bryce Jenkins ‘21, and six others act in the play.

trans in trumpIn addition, Tony Zosherafatain ’10 is the director of a forthcoming documentary series called Trans in Trumpland.

Trans in Trumpland investigates the impact of anti-trans policies on the lives of four transgender Americans navigating life under President Donald Trump’s administration. Told through a road trip narrative across remote parts of the United States, the film explores the transgender experience in politically hostile states.

Production was completed in 2019, and the film will premiere on streaming platforms next fall.

Zosherafatain is the co-founder of TransWave Films, a New York City-based production company.

The series was recently featured in Variety and on NBC News after signing actress Trace Lysette as an executive producer. The film also received coverage in The Daily Beast.

Bergmann ’76 Designs Monumental Women Statue for Central Park

Bergmann

Artist Meredith Bergmann ’76 sculpted a Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument, pictured here as a clay model, that will be debuted to the public on Aug. 26. (Photo by Michael Bergmann)

In honor of the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, when women won the right to vote, New York City will welcome a Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument to its grounds on Aug. 26.

Designed and sculpted by nationally-known artist Meredith Bergmann ’76, the statue depicts and honors women’s rights pioneers Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Meredith Bergmann '76

Meredith Bergmann ’76

The statue will be located in Central Park and will be the first statue depicting real women in the park’s 166-year history. Currently, there are 23 statues of real men in Central Park; women are “represented” through fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland, Mother Goose, and Juliet (with Romeo).

“Like the women I’m portraying, my work is meant to raise questions and to provoke thought,” Bergmann said. “My hope is that all people, but especially young people, will be inspired by this image of women of different races, different religious backgrounds, and different economic statuses working together to change the world.”

Bergmann, who also created the Boston Women’s Memorial and the September 11th Memorial at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, depicts the women working together at a table, each representing an essential element of activism: Sojourner Truth is speaking, Susan B. Anthony is organizing, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is writing.

2 Students of Color Receive Tokita Prize for Literature

Jade Tate '22 and Jake Kwon '21

Jake Kwon ’21, top, and Jade Tate ’22 are recipients of the Shu Tokita Memorial Prize.

Jake Kwon ’21 and Jade Tate ’22 are the recipients of the 2020 Shu Tokita Memorial Prize, which is awarded annually to a student of color majoring in literature or language with a focus on literature, who demonstrates financial need.

The award, which comes with a $1,500 prize, was established 20 years ago by the friends and relatives of Shu Tokita ’84, who passed away in 1989 from leukemia. He had received a BA in English literature from Wesleyan and an MA in Japanese literature from Tsukuba University. The prize seeks to reflect Tokita’s interest in literature and is focused on supporting students of color, for whom the study of literature, Tokita’s family and friends felt, is often considered a “luxury.”

Applicants may be affiliated with the following departments: English, College of Letters, other language/literature departments, or related studies in East Asian studies concentrating on Chinese or Japanese literature.

Tate and Kwon received the prize during a virtual awards ceremony on June 30. The selection is based on the submitted 750-word essay and on financial need, and not on academic standing.

Kwon, a biology and English double major, had a lifelong struggle with literature as a person of color. POC voices, he says, were undermined in the American education system.

Podcasts by Magruder ’17, Smith ’92, Trufelman ’13 Receive Webby Honors

Three Wesleyan alumnae are the producers of podcasts that recently received 2020 Webby Award honors. The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet.

daily breath podcastJulie Magruder ’17 was one of the co-producers and David Shadrack Smith ’92 is the executive producer of Daily Breath with Deepak Chopra, which won a Webby Award in the Health and Wellness category.

In Daily Breath, listeners expand their minds by exploring impactful ideas and themes. According to the show’s description, “Together we will delve into topics such as happiness, gratitude, love, sex, the true self, physical well-being, death and more. This is a space to build mindfulness into your daily routine and to end your week peacefully with a complete 10-minute meditation every Friday. Join us and BREATHE . . .”

Magruder also produced Deepak Chopra’s Infinite Potential (2019). In the 17-episode podcast, Chopra speaks with Jane Goodall, Russell Brand, Christopher Wylie, Jean Houston, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and others who have paved new paths for understanding our present and future.

She’s currently producer of HISTORY This Week (2020). This Week “turns back the clock to meet the people, visit the places, and witness the moments that led us to where we are today. Every week, the show magnifies something that happened that very week in history, that we should all know about,” Magruder explained.

nice tryA podcast hosted and produced by Avery Trufelman ’13 was named a 2020 Webby Award Nominee in the Arts and Culture category.

Nice Try! (2019) is a nine-episode podcast that explores stories of people who tried to design a better world—and what happens when those designs don’t go according to plan. Season one, Utopian, is about the quest for the perfect place.

Trufelman is also the producer of two other podcasts: 99% Invisible (2020) and Articles of Interest (2019).

Read more about Trufleman in this Wesleyan Magazine article.

Established in 1996 during the web’s infancy, the Webby Awards are presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS)—a judging body of more than 2,000. The Academy is comprised of executive members—leading internet experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries, and creative celebrities—and associate members who are former Webby winners, nominees, and other internet professionals.

Sumarsam Participates in “Reflections from Quarantine” Conversation

Sumarsam

Sumarsam demonstrated how to use a Wayang Kulit puppet during his “Reflections from Quarantine” interview with the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale.

sumarsam song

Sumarsam concluded his reflection by singing the Indonesian songs “Guardian at Night” and “The Song of Disposal.”

Sumarsam, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music at Wesleyan and a Fellow at Yale Institute of Sacred Music, is an expert on the history, theory, and practice of Indonesian music and theater, and a performer of Javanese gamelan and puppetry.

Sumarsam’s presentation was part of ISM’s “Reflections from Quarantine” series. He was interviewed live through the Zoom platform by ISM Fellows Program Director Eben Graves.

Sumarsam explained that his current research focuses on how “people—commoners—use performing art, and life of passage rituals for practicing their religion in their everyday lives.” From that angle, he looks at the early existence of performing arts during the period of Hinduized Java from the 9th to 15th centuries, and then proceeds to Islamized Java from around the 15th century onward.

In his reflection, Sumarsam explained the characters in a Wayang Kulit shadow puppet play: The demon is a sensual image of raw nature; the prince and princess are elements of traditional Java; gods and goddesses show a cosmological element of power; and clowns are used as a modern pragmatic element of survival. Sumarsam ended his interview with prayer incantation through song poetry.

Theater Department Produces, Livestreams The Method Gun

method gun

The cast and crew of the Theater Department’s production of The Method Gun answered questions from the public following their livestreamed performance on May 2. Speaking (highlighted in yellow) is the show’s director Katie Pearl, assistant director of theater.

The shows must go on.

Rather than allowing the COVID-19 pandemic to force a final curtain call on theatrical productions, Wesleyan’s Theater Department pivoted to an online format. On May 1, and again on May 2, the department offered livestreamed performances of The Method Gun, featuring 10 student-actors.

A replay of the Saturday performance is available for viewing on The Method Gun @ Wes website.

After countless hours of line rehearsals, overcoming technical frustrations, and learning how to act and teach theater in a virtual world, show director and Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl breathed a sigh of relief during the Thursday night dress rehearsal.

“I almost can’t believe what we pulled off,” Pearl said. “It was super down-to-the-wire. We were cutting and rewriting scenes up until the last minute and wrestling with livestreaming software, but it all came together on Thursday. For the first time, it really worked. And all of us just wept afterwards. Because we’d made a thing. We’d transcended what felt like an impossible situation, and stayed committed to each other and the process to create something that really meant what we wanted it to mean.”

Portraiture Photography Class Shifts Focus During COVID-19 Pandemic

This spring, Graduate Liberal Studies student Kristen Cardona enrolled in her first-ever photography course, ARTS 613: Studies in Portraiture and Self-Portraiture. While learning how to better use a camera, she practiced taking images of herself, family, friends, and neighbors.

Heading into early March, the assignment was to photograph strangers.

And then the coronavirus pandemic struck the nation. All Wesleyan courses moved to an online format.

“This threw a huge curve ball! Obviously we couldn’t finish photographing strangers,” said Cardona, who is the program coordinator for continuing studies at Wesleyan. “People are scared. Simple requests to take a photo seem to be more pressure than many people are comfortable with during these trying times of quarantine. That shift was obvious during the semester.”

Consequentially, Cardona and many of her classmates shifted their efforts back to self-portraits. And in-person classes were rescheduled via Zoom on Wednesday evenings.

The course instructor, Marion Belanger, visiting assistant professor in liberal studies, encouraged the class to push their own boundaries and make pictures that reflected their own reality, including documenting life in quarantine.

“I told them to disregard the syllabus, and to just photograph their everyday,” Belanger said. “Documenting the everyday is also useful when photographers feel like they are in a creative limbo, or blocked in some way. I thought this could be a way to move through the fear and disruptions. How could something so dire and devasting be ignored?”

Belanger expected that each student would end the class with a cohesive body of photographs.

“Sometimes creativity thrives under restrictive requirements, and I am very impressed that each student has continued to push their photographic boundaries despite such confinement,” she said. “Some work is very much about the transition to the epidemic and I’ve seen themes of loneliness, fantasy, family portraits at home, portraits at a distance, and masked portraits.”

cardona 2

In Cardona’s self-portrait, “Unmasking Dismay,” left, the mask symbolizes “better days when masks were used for masquerade, simple playful disguises—and not for personal protection,” she says. Cardona surrounded herself with blue: “the blue room, the blue mask, my blue eyes, my blue feelings—me, enveloped in blue. [Being] dressed in black reflects how I feel isolated in quarantine. Yet there’s still an aspect of whimsy to my nature and a glimmer of hope. The sun coming through the window reminds me of hope; the cross behind my head, although blurred, reminds me of my wavering, yet ever-present faith. The wispiness of my hair reminds me that life can still be playful even during quarantine.”

Forney ’89 Creates Comical Handwashing Illustration

forney hand washing

Ellen Forney ’89 created “Hand-Washing Like A Pro!” in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

A comical handwashing illustration by author, artist, speaker, and mental wellness coach Ellen Forney ’89 appeared in the March 20 edition of The Washington Post and is used in the COVID Coach App, a mental health app from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

She’s also offering it as a free printable download from her website.

Forney says her how-to “Hand-Washing Like A Pro!” comic adheres to the the World Health Organization guidelines, but is “easier and funnier.”

“I got the idea for [the comic] after reading that people had trouble remembering the WHO-recommended method,” she said. “It’s useful because you can print it out and hang it by your sink, or give it to your grandmother or favorite restaurant to hang by their sink.”

Through six illustrations, she suggests how to rub palms like a snickering villain, rub the backs of hands like piggybacking spiders, rub palms like spiders kissing, rub backs of fingers with a kung fu grip, rub thumbs like you’re gripping a motorcycle throttle, and rub fingertips like you’re using a mortar and pestle.

In 2018, Forney curated an exhibition for the National Library of Medicine on “graphic medicine,” comics about health and healthcare.

She’s also is the author of the graphic memoir Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me, which is taught in Wesleyan’s Life Writing course by Charles Barber, associate professor of the practice in the College of Letters. She’s also spoken with his class twice, most recently during the Spring 2019 semester.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. Washington Post: “Biden Makes End Run Around Trump as the President Dominates the National Stage”

Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, comments on Biden’s unusual strategy during an unprecedented time for the 2020 presidential campaign. “There is not a ready off-the-shelf playbook for how you campaign in this environment if you are a nonincumbent, so that’s part of what you’re seeing,” she said. “We’re all being thrown into this new environment, where campaigns are going to need to reinvent, to some extent, how they go about things, how they going to go about reaching citizens.” Fowler added, “I think we’re at a stage of this event where people are starting to feel coronavirus fatigue. So it seems like to me that the local television news strategy and reaching around is probably a good one at this point.”