Tag Archive for Class of 1999

Theater Director Kail ’99 Leads Alumni Career Conversation

On March 11, Tony-winning director Thomas Kail '99, presented a fireside chat-style career conversation with the Wesleyan community. Kail's Broadway directing credits include Hamilton, In the Heights, Freestyle Love Supreme, Lombardi, and Magic/Bird. Off-Broadway selected directing credits include Hamilton, Dry Powder, Tiny Beautiful Things, The Wrong Man, In the Heights, Broke-ology, When I Come to Die, and Daphne’s Dive. Broadway producing credits include Derren Brown: Secret and Freestyle Love Supreme. He's also produced shows for television including Fosse/Verdon on FX and Grease: Live on Fox.

On March 11, Tony-winning director Thomas Kail ’99, presented a fireside chat-style career conversation with the Wesleyan community. Kail’s Broadway directing credits include Hamilton, In the Heights, Freestyle Love Supreme, Lombardi, and Magic/Bird. He has also produced shows for television, including Fosse/Verdon on FX and Grease: Live on Fox.

Wesleyan theater majors Milton Espinoza Jr. '22 and Vianca Pérez '22 moderated the event. Nicole Stanton, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs introduced Kail to the audience.

Wesleyan theater majors Milton Espinoza Jr. ’22 and Vianca Pérez ’22 moderated the event. Nicole Stanton, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, introduced Kail to the audience. The event was coordinated by the Gordon Career Center.

Milton

Milton Espinoza Jr. ’22, of Newark, N.J., is studying theater and film. On campus he is known for his activism and artwork for the People of Color (POC) community. He’s directed the Second Stage and Shades’ production of In the Heights and has acted in and produced a variety of different shows and films on campus.

Vianca

Vianca Pérez ’22, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, is double-majoring in theater and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. She has performed in multiple theater, dance, and film productions and co-leads WesInterpreters, a group that provides legal translation and interpretation services to local schools and organizations.

kail

After a 45-minute conversation, Kail welcomed questions from the audience.

Below are comments made by Kail during the conversation:

On working with others: “I work with my best friends. What’s better than that? So I get to go and spend time—10 to 12 hours a day—with the people I respect the most, admire the most. . . . I like to keep a core of people that I have a relationship with in a shorthand and then add 10 new people to the fold to keep on growing. I love meeting new designers, working with new writers, and I’ve done primarily new stuff. I like being in rehearsal. I like being around people that are looking hard at what they do.”

On getting started after college: “There was a friend of mine from Wesleyan who told me about this little theater in New Jersey called the American Stage Company, and I applied to be an ASM (assistant stage manager). . . . I applied to this job and . . . he said, ‘Here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re going to drive the van and go pick up the actors. You’re going to sweep the stage. You’re going to help us write the program. You’re going to be backstage running props. You’re going to do anything that needs to be done. How does that sound?’ I said, ‘It sounds like what I need.’ And so I took this job. I got paid $84 a week after taxes. I was living in a basement apartment. I worked six days a week, 18 hours a day. Soup and tuna fish. I can’t get either of them now. . . . I just sort of soaked it all up.”

On theater being economically viable: “Especially early on your career . . . [there’s] no one hiring you but yourself. Can I see myself spending years working on this? Does it give me energy? Does it give me joy? Can I balance that with practicality? You just have to talk to yourself honestly. What are your weekly operating costs as a human wherever you live? You [might have] to wait tables or have some other kind of gig, but it allows you to do the thing that fills you up. Then it’s how long can you sustain that balance, and that’s the question every artist has to ask himself constantly. So it’s really an essential question and one that keeps on coming back. And I think it needs to keep coming back. . . . I had two jobs: I worked as a personal assistant for five years until I felt like I was ready to make the leap and I was able to support myself as a director. But that really didn’t happen until my late 20s—I was almost 30 years old. So it’s also just being aware of what’s necessary to get you to each of those next places. Making a living in the theater is absolutely possible but usually has to be supplemented for some period of time, years and years of your life.”

On meeting Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15: “My friends [and I] worked on shows—a series of shorts—that we did in the Fayerweather Gymnasium, which exists in a different form now, and that’s actually when I first heard about Lin because Lin was doing the show as a freshman. I don’t know about everybody else, but I was not talking to freshmen. I heard about some kid who was borrowing our lights. So we had to share lights with some kid? I was like, who is this? It probably was the first time I heard his name and I cursed his name. Little did I know that [he’d be part of] the next two decades of my life. . . . [Now], if I see Lin digging, and I’m walking by, I don’t ask what he’s doing, I just jump down there and grab the shovel. We’ve never led each other astray. We’ve always been so in sync, and being with him is joyful and we get to make things together.”

On non-directing theater jobs: “I came up a stage manager. I know how hard that job is. I know how hard it is to run the props department or to be backstage. I have an appreciation for my collaborators, and you know, there’s always more to learn, and the best way that I learn is from people. How do you continue to evolve? Put yourself in situations where you don’t go in knowing all of the answers. If you know all the answers then it’s probably time do something else. And so I think if you look at some of the patterns of my career, even though thematically, I think there’s some things that make up [patterns], I tend to not do the same thing twice and occasionally. . . . [W]hat happens often is if you do something pretty well, people say ‘Great, now do it again.’ And I would try to take those opportunities to do something quite different. And I thought that allowed me to continue to expand.”

On bringing diversity and inclusion into the theater industry: “I think it’s the fundamental question of the day, and I think it’s one that we just have to keep way more in the foreground . . . and that includes anybody in any position, whether to a leadership position or not. So the conversations now, as we make new versions of Hamilton with new companies, we’ll talk more directly about what it means to be Black and Brown and telling the story. Embracing the fact that it doesn’t have to be comfortable, but it needs to be respectful and open and truthful, and those are the things that I think matter within the room. . . . So what’s the next evolution of thought for this next generation of storytellers? . . . Stories that have been reaching as diverse an audience as possible.”

On working in theater: “The hard thing is, in theaters, you’ve got to do it every day. No one cares on a Wednesday matinee how good the Tuesday night show was. All they have now is expectations. So you’ve got to deliver. I always think theater is like running a restaurant. You’ve gotta make the meal every time because, ‘I hear the soup’s good,’ so you better make good soup.”

On what he’s watching now: “The thing that is giving me life is on Amazon and it’s Steve McQueen’s Small Axe. It’s five movies about the immigrant experience in London, basically in the late ’60s to 1980s. You can watch one of them, or you can watch them in a row. It’s the most beautiful thing that I’ve seen in the last year.”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Beware the Doyens of Disruption”

In this op-ed, President Michael Roth ’78 responds to predictions that COVID-19 is going to “change everything” in higher education with a reminder that “the desire of bright young people from all over the world for an on-campus education remains strong.” He writes, “It’s because the connectivity among people and practices that takes place in person intensifies the learning experience.”

2. HxA Podcast: “Michael Roth, Safe Enough Spaces”

President Michael Roth ’78 is interviewed on the Heterodox Academy’s podcast about his book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. Heterodox Academy recently chose Safe Enough Spaces as the subject of its first ever book club. Roth was also recently interviewed on “The Way We Live Now,” a podcast from Dani Shapiro P ’22.

3. The Wall Street Journal: “Noted: Class of 2020”

The Wall Street Journal featured remarks by Caroline Bhupathi ’20 delivered at Wesleyan’s virtual commencement ceremony on May 24.

4. TLS: “Respect New Haven”

Assistant Professor of English Hirsh Sawhney reflects on the past, present, and politics of New Haven as he takes long, rambling walks through his city with his dog Pinky, a tiny chihuahua-dachshund mix.

5. PIX11: “College Students Create Program Connecting Young People with Senior Citizens in COVID-19 Isolation”

Marysol Castro ’96 features “Support a Pal,” a program created by Walker Brandt ’22 and Lars Delin ’22 to form connections between college students and elderly people in order to combat social isolation during the pandemic.

5. NJ.com: “‘A Smile Never Left His Face’: Steve Pikiell’s Forgotten Season Leading a Division-3 Underdog, 20 Years Before Rutgers”

Wesleyan alumni recall Steve Pikiell’s brief but memorable time as head coach of Wesleyan’s basketball team, long before he became head coach of Rutgers’ men’s basketball team. “I needed a guy like that in my life when he came along,” said Josh Schaer ’96, one of the senior captains on the team. “He had this infectious energy about basketball. He made me love the game again. He was just able to give us a boost. He lived up to expectations. He was a breath of fresh air. A smile never left his face. He loved where he was and he loved what he was doing.”

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 Nation: “Edward Snowden Deserves to Be Tried by a Jury of His Peers, Just Like Everyone Else”

In this op-ed, Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti argues against the Justice Department’s decision to deny Edward Snowden’s request for a jury trial. She contends that in Snowden’s case, in which he is accused of leaking classified information from the National Security Administration in 2013, a jury trial “is not only a viable alternative to a hearing before a judge; rather, given the nature of the charges—where the defendant has supposedly acted to protect the people from the very state that would charge him with a crime—jury deliberation is the proper forum for discussion of appropriate punishment and is the bulwark against the potential misconduct of the state.”

2. Transitions Online: “Stuck in the Middle”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, and Dmytro Babachanakh ’20 explore the history of U.S. involvement in Ukraine, and call upon U.S. leaders of both parties to stop “treating lesser powers as political instruments.”

3. Tulsa World: “Save the Little Grouse on the Prairie”

Alex Harold ’20 is the author of this op-ed that calls for the lesser prairie chicken to be placed on the endangered species list to get the protections it desperately needs, as over 90 percent of its habitat has been degraded or destroyed. While many haven’t heard of this bird, Harold explains that it is an “indicator species” that “reflect(s) the health of the entire prairie ecosystem.” Harold wrote the op-ed as an assignment in E&ES 399, Calderwood Seminar in Environmental Science Journalism, taught by Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell, this semester. The Calderwood Seminars are offered in a variety of disciplines to teach students how to effectively communicate academic knowledge to the public. Read more here.

Ganbarg ’88 & Miranda ’02 Score Grammy Gold

Producers Stacey Mindich, Alex Lacamoire, Justin Paul, Benj Pasek and Pete Ganbarg ’88, winners of Best Musical Theatre Album for ‘Dear Evan Hansen.’ (Source: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images North America)

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.

Hamilton’s America, Directed by Horwitz ’02, Debuts on PBS Oct. 21

On Friday, October 21, at 9 p.m., PBS will debut Hamilton’s Americaa behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the smash musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02. The documentary is directed by Miranda’s Wesleyan roommate, Alex Horwitz ’02, and features footage from the Broadway show along with interviews with Miranda, Hamilton director Thomas Kail ’99, and an array of others, including President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Questlove, Black Thought, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Sondheim, and more.

 

Hamilton Wins 11 Tony Awards

(Photo by Joan Marcus/The Public Theater)

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15, center. (Photo by Joan Marcus/The Public Theater)

Hamilton, written by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 and directed by Thomas Kail ’99, won 11 Tony Awards, including the award for Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (Kail), Best Actor in a Musical, Best Book (Miranda), Best Original Score (Miranda), Best Featured Actor in a Musical, Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Best Costume Design of a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Lighting Design of a Musical, and Best Orchestrations, at the 70th Annual Tony Awards ceremony held at the Beacon Theater in New York on June 12.

The award-winning musical, which tells the story of the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, received a record-breaking 16 total nominations.

Hamilton Breaks Tony Award Nomination Record

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Thomas Kail ’99. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Thomas Kail ’99. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

Hamilton, written by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and directed by Thomas Kail ’99, received a record-breaking 16 Tony Award nominations on May 3, including nods for Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (Kail) Best Actor in a Musical (Miranda and Leslie Odom Jr.), Best Book (Miranda), Best Original Score (Miranda), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (three nominations), Best Actress in a Musical, Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Best Scenic Design of a Musical, Best Costume Design of a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Lighting Design of a Musical, and Best Orchestrations. The 16 total nominations broke the previous record of 15, shared by Billy Elliot (2009) and The Producers (2001). The Producers holds the current record for most Tony Award wins for a musical, with a total of 12.

The 70th Annual Tony Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, June 12, 2016, at the Beacon Theater in New York. The event will be televised live on CBS from 8 to 11 p.m. ET.

Last month, Miranda won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Hamilton.