Arts & Culture

Theater’s Oliveras Performs in World Premiere of Kiss My Aztec!

Desiree Rodriguez and Maria-Christina Oliveras in Kiss My Aztec! (Photo by Kevin Berne)

Desiree Rodriguez and Maria-Christina Oliveras in Kiss My Aztec! (Photo by Kevin Berne)

This summer, award-winning actor, singer, producer, and new assistant professor of theater Maria-Christina Oliveras acted in the world premiere of Kiss My Aztec, a new musical on Latino history.

Written by John Leguizamo and Tony Taccone, winners of the 2018 Special Tony Award for Latin History of Morons, the musical debuted May through July at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Performances will continue at La Jolla Playhouse starting Sept. 8.

Oliveras became involved in the musical’s developmental process in 2014, when it started out as a play and evolved over time.

“I am a new works junkie. There is nothing like ‘brain-childing’ a piece from its inception,” Oliveras said in a recent interview with Broadway World. She described the show as a “non-traditional epic musical comedy with teeth. It is brash, bold, hilarious and vulgar. An Aztec take or retake of history in the vein of Spamalot or Book of Mormon. We are not aiming for historical accuracy. And we are ‘equal opportunity offenders.'”

Wesleyan in the News

In 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. Inside Higher Ed: ‘Safe Enough Spaces’

President Michael Roth is interviewed about defending free speech, inclusion on campus, and affirmative action, among other topics, in connection with the forthcoming publication of his new book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses, due out Aug. 20 from Yale University Press.

2. The New York Times: “The World’s Smartest Chimp Has Died”

William Griffin Professor of Philosophy Lori Gruen writes in this op-ed about the legacy of the “world’s smartest chimp” Sarah, who died recently in her 50s after a long career working with researchers. Sarah taught the world about animal cognition, including chimps’ understanding of the thoughts and desires of others. Her career showed us that “not only do chimpanzees have complex thoughts, but also distinct personalities with strong preferences and prejudices,” Gruen writes.

Wesleyan in the News

In 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 Hill: “Advice on Climate Policy for the 2020 Presidential Candidates”

In this op-ed, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, Emeritus Gary Yohe and his coauthors write that they are encouraged by the “unprecedented attention being given to climate change among those vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination” and offer words of advice for creating an ambitious but credible climate policy.

2. AINT — BAD: “Isabella Convertino”

The photography of Isabella Convertino ’20 is featured on this website, an independent publisher of new photographic art. According to the article, “Her work has been published by ROMAN NVMERALS press, and was recently acquired by the MoMA library. Convertino’s images speak to the complications of adolescence, compounding memory and trauma as points of departure. Interested in the interplay between familial and gender structures, her work probes modes of power-inheritance and the potential devastation of genetic happenstance.”

3. EOS: “Resurrecting Interest in a ‘Dead’ Planet”

Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, is quoted in this article on new research suggesting that, contrary to popular belief, the surface of Venus actually may be quite active today. “Venus is an Earth-sized planet and now—who knew?!—there are Earth-sized planets all over the galaxy,” said Gilmore. “So now, Venus is even more relevant for that reason.”

4. The Middletown Press: “High School Students from Around World Take Part in Wesleyan Summer Arts Camp”

Sixty-eight Center for Creative Youth (CCY) participants from around the country and the world recently demonstrated the skills they had learned in just a week of intensive art study during a community share day. Wesleyan assumed leadership of CCY in fall 2018 as an official University program, and this is the first time the camp has been offered under Wesleyan’s management.

Jenkins Analyzes 200-Year-Old Theatrical Tradition in New Bilingual Book

Ron Jenkins, pictured second from left, celebrated his new book in a garden of an 18th century villa with performances of the play that is the subject of his book, Resurrection of the Saints: Sacred Tragi-Comedy in Venafro. He's pictured with actors, from left, Adriano Cimino, Gianni Di Chiaro, and Emanuela Paolozzi along with the translator of the Italian version of the book, the poet Maria Giusti.

Ron Jenkins (pictured second from left) celebrated his new book in the garden of an 18th-century villa with performances of the play that is the subject of his book, Resurrection of the Saints: Sacred Tragi-Comedy in Venafro. He’s pictured with actors (from left) Adriano Cimino, Gianni Di Chiaro, and Emanuela Paolozzi, along with the translator of the Italian version of the book, the poet Maria Giusti.

Ron Jenkins, professor and chair of theater, is the author of a new book titled Resurrection of the Saints: Sacred Tragi-Comedy in Venafro published by Bulzoni in July 2019 as part of the company’s international series on “Theater and Memory.” The volume is in dual languages; the first part is in Italian, the second translated into English.

Resurrection of the Saints is an analysis of a 200-year-old theatrical tradition in the Italian village of Venafro, where the citizens still perform an 18th-century play that recounts the martyrdom of their patron saints in the third century. In 1792, Giuseppe Macchia wrote the play, “Religion Triumphant” and labeled it “a sacred tragicomedy.”

The book includes Jenkins’s translation of the play and interviews he conducted with the performers, whose professions include nurse, architect, graphic designer, and art restorer.

“Framed as a battle between an angel and a devil for the souls of the saints, the play is a lost link between the medieval traditions of sacred theater and the modern comic masterpieces of the late Italian Nobel Laureate, Dario Fo,” said Jenkins, who has translated Fo’s works for performance at the Yale Repertory Theater, Harvard’s American Repertory Theater, and other venues.

“My experience working with Fo helped me to capture the comic theatrical rhythms of Macchia’s play,” he said. “Anyone interested in the power of the arts to unite a community and preserve the traditions that define its cultural identity would enjoy the play and this book.”

Jenkins is the author of numerous books and was named Honorary Member of the Dante Society of America for having performed theatrical representations of excerpts from Dante’s “Divine Comedy” in prisons throughout Italy, Indonesia, and the United States. Resurrection of the Saints is part of Jenkins’s ongoing research on theater and community.

Wesleyan University Press Author Harjo Named U.S. Poet Laureate

Joy Harjo

Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo (Photo by Shawn Miller)

Joy Harjo, an author published by Wesleyan University Press and W.W. Norton has been named the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, as announced by the U.S. Library of Congress. Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She is the first Native American to serve as U.S. Poet Laureate.

Harjo’s American Book Award–winning In Mad Love and War was published by Wesleyan in 1990. Other books include the pedagogical work Soul Talk, Song Language: Conversations with Joy Harjo, edited by Tanaya Winder; and theater work Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light: A Play by Joy Harjo and a Circle of Responses, with contributing editor Priscilla Page.

The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1937. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. Harjo will begin her new role in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary season on Sept. 19 with a reading of her work.

Harjo is a past recipient of the PEN Open Book Award, the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. Her recent honors include the Jackson Prize from Poets & Writers (2019), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation (2017) and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets (2015). In 2019, she was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Books

Books by Joy Harjo.

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 Morning Call: “Allen Student Wins ‘Hamilton’ Scholarship, Congrats from Lin-Manuel Miranda”

Anna Tjeltveit of Allentown, Penn., winner of the 2019 Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity, is profiled. She shares how her winning submission, a one-act play titled, “Five Steps,” came together at the last minute, and discusses her early career in theater as well as her plans for her time at Wesleyan.

2. WJLA: “Arlington Teen Wins ‘Hamilton’ Prize Gets a Shout Out from Lin-Manuel Miranda”

Cole Goco of Arlington, Va., who received an honorable mention in the 2019 Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity, is interviewed. He discusses his years-long work on his winning web comic strip, “Billy the Pop,” and what it felt like to have Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 congratulate him by name on Twitter.

Shapiro Translates Coran’s RhymAmusings

Norman ShapiroShapiro, Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation and Poet in Residence, is the translator of Pierre Coran’s book, RhymAmusings, published by Black Widow Press in 2019.

“These 78 amusing rhyme-vignettes by preeminent Belgian children’s poet and novelist Pierre Coran speak with an adult sophistication and endearing grace to the ‘child in all of us,’” Shapiro wrote about the book.

Among the poems are “Six Hundred Six Sour Cherries,” “The Little Goldfish,” “Why Do Potatoes Have Eyes,” “Scat, Cats,” “The Whale in My Hat,” and “The Flea and the Elephant.”

Publication of the book was aided by a grant from the Thomas and Catharine McMahon Fund at Wesleyan.

Shapiro is an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française and a member of the Academy of American Poets. His many translations have won several major awards over the last 50 years.

NEA Supports Dance Artist Yerushalmy’s Residency at Wesleyan

Netta Yerushalmy: "Paramodernities." Photo by Maria Baranova.

New York City dance artist Netta Yerushalmy will present “Paramodernities” at Wesleyan in October. Her work at the Center for the Arts is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. (Photo by Maria Baranova)

Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts recently received a $15,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the presentation and residency activities of dance artist Netta Yerushalmy, who will perform the work “Paramodernities” in October.

The Center for the Arts is one of 977 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an Art Works grant.

“Support from the National Endowment for the Arts is central to our ability to fulfill our mission to be a vibrant center for dance in the state, and to bring contemporary dance to audiences who might not otherwise be able to access it,” said Sarah Curran, director of the Center for the Arts. “We are grateful for the vote of confidence that this grant implies.”

Yerushalmy’s performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 in the Center for the Arts Theater. It’s part of the CFA’s Performing Arts Series, which features cutting-edge choreography, world-renowned dance companies, and companies pushing the boundaries of the art form, as well as a wide array of world-class musicians and groundbreaking theater performances and discussions. 

Wesleyan in the News

In 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. Inside Higher Ed: “The Need for a Recovery of the Humanities”

In this essay, President Michael S. Roth responds to the “flood of negativity” in public discourse about higher education, in general, and the humanities, in particular. He suggests that “in order to recover the trust of students and their families, we must overcome our cultivated insularity.”

2. NBC News: “Carbon Dioxide Hits a Level Not Seen for 3 Million Years. Here’s What That Means for Climate Change — And Humanity.”

Dana Royer, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, comments on new evidence that the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has climbed to a level last seen more than 3 million years ago. According to the article, shorter term impacts include loss of vegetation and sea-ice coverage, while other things, like the melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, will occur more slowly. “But these impacts are going to persist for a very long time,” said Royer. “Once that happens, we can’t really reverse it.”

“You Just Have to Read This…” 3 Books By Wesleyan Authors

In the third of this continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers this 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.

the cover for An American Summer: A boy stands with his back to us with his shirt off.Alex Kotlowitz ’77: An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago (Penguin Random House, 2019)

“Let me tell you what this book is,” Alex Kotlowitz ’77 writes. “It’s not a policy map or a critique. It’s not about what works or doesn’t work.” But it is about the stories and it is about the numbers. Over the past 20 years, 14,033 people have been killed and another 60,000 wounded by gunfire. In this vivid collection of profiles in Chicago’s most turbulent neighborhoods, acclaimed journalist and filmmaker Kotlowitz writes portraits that reflect the daily violence faced by too many Americans.

An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago disrupts the categories of criminals and victims to explore violence through empathic and unyielding reportage on the ones left standing. While this book is not a policy map, it is a must-read to understand the amount and impact of violence that does not regularly make national headlines but is nonetheless tragic. Kotlowitz approaches this tragedy with an emphasis on the humanity of his subjects, amplifying the positions of the people who, if not on either side of the gun, are witnesses to something that has become unforgivably American.