Arts & Culture

Richardson ’60 Publishes Bio of Urban Development Pioneer Shepherd

Alexander Robey Shepherd, by John P. RichardsonAlexander Robey Shepherd: The Man Who Built the Nation’s Capital, by John P. Richardson ’60 (Ohio University Press, 2016), tells the story of urban development pioneer and public works leader Alexander Robey Shepherd, who was instrumental in building the infrastructure of the nation’s capital when it was knee-deep in mud and disrepair after the Civil War. In fact it was Shepherd’s leadership, says Richardson, that made it possible for the city to finally realize the vision of French architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant, some 80-plus years after George Washington appointed L’Enfant to plan what was then known as the new “Federal City.”

“Shepherd did not build the buildings, but he built the infrastructure that made it possible to develop the city we see,” says Richardson, a retired intelligence officer and Middle East specialist who spent more than 30 years researching Shepherd before writing his book. “Much of Shepherd’s work is below the ground but critical to a modern city.”

Alexander Robey Shepherd was born in Washington in 1835. After his father’s early death, Shepherd left school at the age of 13 and worked his way up from apprentice to owner of a plumbing company. After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, he started a second career—in politics.

Brazilian Play on Cannibalism, Translated by Jackson, to Make American Debut

Elizabeth Jackson

Elizabeth Jackson

A Brazilian play, translated by Wesleyan’s Elizabeth Jackson, will make its American premiere at The Yale Cabaret in early February.

“The Meal: Dramatic Essays on Cannibalism” tells three stories about people consuming — and being consumed. This poetic piece by Newton Moreno, one of Brazil’s leading contemporary playwrights, was translated into English by Jackson, adjunct associate professor of Portuguese for Wesleyan’s Romance Languages and Literatures Department.

Jackson’s translation of “The Meal” first appeared in Theater, Yale’s journal of criticism, plays, and reportage (Vol. 45 No. 2, 2015). “The Meal” is one of four texts by different playwrights that Jackson translated for the journal. In addition, Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, professor of theater, co-edited this special issue on contemporary Brazilian plays.

“The Meal” will be performed at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Feb. 2-4 at The Yale Cabaret. Tickets can be purchased online.

Sweren-Becker ’06 Creates a Brave New World in New Book

Daniel Sweren-Becker ’06

Book by Daniel Sweren-Becker ’06.

In The Ones, Daniel Sweren-Becker ’06 creates a vision of a not-so-distant future world in which a random group of babies is chosen each year to be the smartest, best looking, most athletic members of society. “The Ones,” as they are called, short for the chosen ones, enjoy the privilege of membership in this exclusive group during the genetic engineering program’s 20-year history until a society-wide backlash marginalizes their status and threatens to even outlaw their existence. Sweren-Becker’s fast-paced YA novel follows two of The Ones (or are they?): 17-year-old Cody and her boyfriend, James, who are forced to decide whether to stand up for their rights…and how far they’re willing to go to do so.

The Ones (Imprint, 2016) is Sweren-Becker’s literary debut. A television writer and playwright in Los Angeles, he originally conceived the book as a television series. “When I decided to switch gears into a series of books [the second is due in September], it felt natural to pick YA [Young Adult] because the main characters were teenagers,” he says. “I think this genre is read so widely because we’ve reached a point where these books are fun and accessible but also deal with really sophisticated issues that attract a more mature audience.”

Smith ’82 Explores How Fear Distorts Reality in First Novel

Book by Patricia Smith ’82.

Book by Patricia Smith ’82.

“At seven thirty, with SJ still asleep, Deirdre Murphy left the house for school. She walked side streets shaded by trees in their glory—pale autumn reds, yellows the color of honey. She scuffed through piles of leaves, each whoosh a reminder of every other autumn and every other beginning of the school year, the only way Deirdre knew how to mark time. She kept track of events based on the girls she taught: the drama queens, the freaks, the year they were all brilliant. This year, Deirdre could already tell after a week of classes, was the year of the needy girls.”

So begins The Year of Needy Girls, the debut novel from Patricia Smith ’82. The book is published by Kaylie Jones (’81) Books, an imprint of Akashic Books, headed by publisher and editor-in-chief Johnny Temple ’88.

The Year of Needy Girls tells the story of Deirdre, a dedicated private school teacher from a working class background, and her partner, Sara Jane (SJ), who live in a tolerant New England town, divided by a river and by class, until the murder of a 10-year-old boy changes the way the townspeople look at themselves…and at others. Publishers Weekly says, “Smith’s crisp prose and dedication to moralistic ambiguity make for a provoking read,” while Library Journal notes, “Smith’s first novel successfully builds tension and a sense of dread among the picture-perfect New England fall.”

Register Children for Green Street’s AfterSchool Spring Semester Program

This spring, AfterSchool Program participants can take classes in hip hop, scrapbooking, creative movement, environmental art, African drumming, art and science, and more. 

This spring, AfterSchool Program participants can take classes in hip hop, scrapbooking, creative movement, environmental art, African drumming, art and science, and more.

Wesleyan’s Green Street Teaching and Learning Center is currently accepting applicants for its Discovery AfterSchool Program. Spring semester classes will be held Jan. 30 through May 12.

The Discovery AfterSchool Program offers a range of classes in the arts, sciences, and math for children in Grades 1- 5. The program encourages children to be curious and creative while they build self-esteem and problem-solving skills. For middle school students in Grades 6-8, GSTLC offers the Wesleyan Bound college experience class on Friday afternoons.

“Classes range from visual arts to dance, even to kung fu this semester,” said Sara MacSorley, director of GSTLC. “We offer many choices every day of the week.”

Sumarsam Attends World Class Professors Program in Indonesia

Sumarsam, pictured third from left in the top row, joined 40 scholars for the "Visiting World Class Professors" conference in December.

Sumarsam, pictured third from left in the top row, joined 40 scholars for the “Visiting World Class Professors” program in December.

From Dec. 17-24, 2016, University Professor of Music Sumarsam and other 40 diasporic Indonesian scholars were invited by the Indonesian Minister of Research, Technology, and Higher Education (Ristekdikti) to participate in a program called “Visiting World Class Professor.” The program aims at enhancing human resources of higher education in Indonesia through various scholarly activities.

After the opening of the program by the Vice President Yusuf Kalla, the Minister of Ristekdikti and its Director General of Resources, the first day of the program consisted of seminars and workshops in Jakarta, attended by university rectors and academics. Each of the scholars were then sent to one or two of the 29 universities throughout Indonesian cities, holding a series of workshops, lectures and discussion with members of the faculty of the selected university.

Sumarsam was sent to the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI) in Surakarta (his alma mater).

Watch video clips (in Indonesian) of the event’s opening and news of the program online.

Breakfast with Brian

Breakfast at O'Rourke's (Wesleyan University Press)

Breakfast at O’Rourke’s, published by Wesleyan University Press.

A Wesleyan alumnus from Chicago. A faculty film aficionado. A martial arts teacher and that teacher’s teacher, a tenth-degree black belt visiting from Germany. Four elementary school students, here as a reward for good deeds, along with their principal and school nurse.

This is breakfast at O’Rourke’s, and the scene this morning is a lot like owner Brian O’Rourke’s namesake everything-and-the-kitchen-sink breakfast: an eclectic mix of ingredients combined in ways you would never expect. You never know what you’re going to get, but it always works, and it’s always delicious.

Poswolsky ’05 Pens The Quarter-Life Breakthrough

Quarter-Life Breakthrough by Adam Smiley PoswolskyAuthor Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky ’05 talks to News @ Wes about his new book, The Quarter-Life Breakthrough: Invent Your Own Path, Find Meaningful Work, and Build a Life That Matters (TarcherPerigee/Penguin Random House, 2016). Learn more about Poswolsky’s work at smileyposwolsky.com.

What did you major in at Wesleyan and how did that influence your career path out of college? Did you always know (or at least think you knew!) what you wanted to do with your life? If so, were you surprised when that belief was challenged by your actual experience?
I majored in film studies at Wesleyan, so after graduation I moved to New York City and worked in film production for two years as a location scout and production assistant. I thought filmmaking was my calling, so I was surprised to find out that I actually wasn’t that inspired by film production. The hectic film sets, the massive trucks, the brutal hours and long nights, the stressful months of pre-production, the crew members chain-smoking on set; it seemed out of sync with why I loved studying film at Wes, which was my interest in film as a medium for social change. The film major at Wes teaches you how to make movies, but more importantly, it teaches you how to craft a compelling narrative; it teaches you about perspective and persuasion. Those are the lessons that continue to inform my work today as a writer and public speaker—it’s not the fact that I was a film major, it’s that I learned how to share my story.

Local Artist Paints Portrait of Master Drummer Adzenyah MA ’79

The artist Pierre Sylvain is joined by Chair of the Music Department, Director of the Electronic Music and Recording Studios, and Professor of Music Ronald Kuivila.

Music Department Chair Ronald Kuivila congratulates artist Pierre Sylvain on his painting of Abraham Adzenyah. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Hanging in the Abraham Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall is a new portrait of Abraham Adzenyah MA ’79, master drummer and adjunct professor of music, emeritus, painted by local artist, Pierre Sylvain.

After 46 years of teaching at Wesleyan, Adzenyah was honored during a special retirement ceremony this past May. The ceremony included a building dedication of the Abraham Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall, formerly Rehearsal Hall. Two farewell concerts followed, featuring 150 musicians in West African music and dance ensembles from across the Northeast, culminating in an all-night dance party.

Sylvain was contacted by Ronald Kuivila, chair of the Music Department, director of the electronic music and recording studios, and professor of music, to paint Adzenyah’s portrait, using acrylic paint.

Sylvain first met Adzenyah 20 years ago, and painting his portrait gave them a chance to reconnect.

Sylvain explained, “The painting was truly inspired by him and the generous person he is. I felt his spirit coming out of my brush strokes.”

 

 

 

 

Watch a series of videos from Adzenyah’s Retirement Celebration:

Sutton ’86 Nominated for Grammy with The Sting Variations

The Sting Variations, the latest album by The Tierney Sutton [’86] Band was nominated for a 2017 Grammy in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category,

The Sting Variations, the latest album by The Tierney Sutton [’86] Band, was nominated for a 2017 Grammy in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category,

Tierney Sutton ’86 has been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. The Sting Variations is a collection of Sting and Police songs reinterpreted by The Tierney Sutton Band and released on the BFM Jazz label. Sutton had previously explored the music of Bill Evans, Frank Sinatra, and most recently Joni Mitchell, with her 2013 album, After Blue.

In a September interview for Billboard, Sutton told writer Melinda Newman that the choice to explore Sting’s work was a natural one: “‘[Sting’s] autobiography is full of references to Miles and Coltrane and the Great American Song tradition.’”

The Sting Variations includes both well known songs by the artist, such as “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” and “Message in a Bottle,” as well as lesser known pieces among the 14 tracks. The first track, “Driven to Tears,” is highlighted on Sutton’s website as a video of the band performing this song.

Also this year, Tierney Sutton and her band’s co-leader and pianist Christian Jacob collaborated with Clint Eastwood on the soundtrack to the movie Sully, about the pilot, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks), who, in 2009, became a national hero after successfully executing an emergency water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. Sutton described the experience with Eastwood as “really collaborative. …very much ‘Clint joins The Tierney Sutton Band.'” The singer and actor-director have even discussed further collaboration, Tierney told Billboard. The Sully soundtrack was released in October by Varese Sarabande.

Sutton was also recently announced as a member of the selection committee for the first-ever Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity.

Shapiro Publishes Work on French Literature

Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 10.48.26 AMNorman Shapiro, the Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation, is the author and translator of Creole Echoes: The Francophone French Poetry of 19th-Century Louisiana, a new addition to Second Line Press, New Orleans’ Louisiana Heritage Series, published Dec. 1.

Shapiro also previously contributed to the Louisiana Heritage Series, New Orleans Poems in Creole and French (2013), a title, which covers almost all the French and Louisiana Creole poetry of noted intellectual Jules Choppin between 1830-1914.

Future translated works to be published by Second Line Press include, two plays of poet and playwright Victor Séjour— “The Fortune-Teller” (La Tireuse de cartes), a five act play in prose based on the celebrated Mortara Affair, and the five-act formal-verse drama, “The Jew of Seville” (Diégarias).

More details on Shapiro’s work is online here.

McCarthy ’75 Produces ‘Star-Studded’ Documentary Harry Benson: Shoot First

Stephen McCarthy ’75 is producer of the new documentary Harry Benson: Shoot First, opening this weekend.

Stephen McCarthy ’75 is partner/executive producer of the new documentary Harry Benson: Shoot First, opening Dec. 9, 2016.

Stephen McCarthy ’75, managing director at KCG Capital Advisors, is also partner/executive producer with Matthew Miele’s Quixotic Endeavors (QE) film production company, featuring corporate/individual biopics, such as Crazy About Tiffany’s (starring Jessica Biel and Katie Couric, among others) and Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorfs (starring Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen, among others). Their third film Harry Benson: Shoot First, will be in theaters—including New York City—and video on demand, starting Dec. 9, 2016.

Harry Benson: Shoot First is a 90-minute documentary on one of the most accomplished photojournalists of the past five decades. Benson’s work has captured cultural icons in defining moments of history—including Robert Kennedy’s assassination—as well as in moments of playful ease—the Beatles in the midst of a pillow fight—with compassion, elegance, and intimacy. His photographs have graced the covers of TIME, LIFE, and People more than 100 times, notes film critic Isaac Guzman in the Nov. 26, 2016, issue of TIME. In Guzman’s review, titled “A Star-Studded Tribute to a Lovable Lensman,” he warns viewers, “Don’t blink…Every flutter of an eyelid risks blocking out a wonder of the photographic world: Michael Jackson frolicking like the Pied Piper at Neverland Ranch with a retinue of children; Bill and Hillary Clinton on the precipice of a kiss on a hammock; Bobby Fisher being nuzzled by a wild Icelandic horse.”

McCarthy’s involvement in QE (“a wonderful sidelight at this stage of my career”) began almost six years ago when director Matthew Miele, one of the QE founders, approached him through a mutual friend about the Bergdorf project. “I immediately got in touch with my dear friend/late classmate Seth Gelbum ’75, a prominent Broadway lawyer from Loeb and Loeb and worked with his partners on the first two film projects.” In addition, after a Homecoming visit to campus, McCarthy brought Miele to meet Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger, “who was been interested in and supportive of their ventures,” he says.

“To date, I’m enjoying this industry from the business side, but given the breadth and depth of ‘the Wesleyan mafia’ in Hollywood, you never know whom you’ll meet to potentially collaborate on upcoming projects (like our Norman Rockwell film in the works)!” As for his thoughts on Harry Benson: Shoot First: “To my mind, the film is the equivalent of walking through a fantastic gallery and instead of just looking at the photos, you are having the entire experience curated by someone who had been there at the exact historical moment each photo was taken—it’s riveting.”