Tag Archive for theater

Shaw Expert on Contemporary ‘Chitlin Circuit’ Theater

Rashida Shaw '99, instructor of theater, recently completed a four-year ethnographic study of black audiences attending contemporary Urban Circuit productions in Chicago.

Wesleyan alumna Rashida Shaw ’99 returned to her alma mater this fall as an instructor of theater.

Shaw, who graduated with a bachelor of arts in sociology and theater from Wesleyan, also has a master of arts in theater from Northwestern University. She will receive an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in theater and drama from Northwestern’s Theater and Drama Program in Spring 2011.

Upon completion of her dissertation, titled “Theatrical Events and African American Audiences: A Study of Contemporary ‘Chitlin Circuit’ Theatre,” Shaw will become a tenure-track assistant professor of theater at Wesleyan (view video below).

5 Questions With . . . Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins

At left, Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, focuses his new book on the acclaimed Balinese painter Nyoman Gunarsa (pictured at right).

This issue, we ask “5 Questions” to Ron Jenkins, professor of theater. Jenkins is an expert in Balinese theater, international traditions of comic performance, and directing and translating the plays of Italian Nobel Laureate Dario Fo. He was awarded a residency at the Bellagio Center by the Rockefeller Foundation next spring. He is a former Guggenheim fellow whose research in Bali over the past 30 years has been supported by fellowships from the Watson Foundation, the Asian Cultural Council of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Fulbright Fund.

Q: Professor Jenkins, you’ve been teaching theater at Wesleyan for 11 years, specializing in international theater translation and prison arts programs. You directed the student/inmate play, “Unexpected: Voices of Incarcerated Woman” last spring. How, and when, did you acquire these interests?

A: I began my professional theater career as a clown and juggler in the circus, where I enjoyed having direct contact with large and diverse audiences, but I had to spend time in other cultures to discover clown and theater traditions with a deeper sense of social responsibility. I lived for a year in a Balinese village where I apprenticed with a troupe of temple performers who combined slapstick,

Jenkins Awarded Residency to Write about Directing Theater at Correctional Facilities

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater

The Rockefeller Foundation awarded Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, with a residency at the Bellagio Center in Italy during his sabbatical next spring.

Between March and April 2011, Jenkins will be working on a book about prison theater projects that he’s been directing at correctional facilities including his most recent work at a prison in Indonesia.

Jenkins has been collaborating with incarcerated individuals on staging their adaptations of classic texts by Shakespeare and Dante and other authors.  These projects have grown out of work done with Wesleyan students in Connecticut correctional facilities.

The specific texts include Shakespeare’s Tempest, Dante’s Inferno and the Mahabhrata.

“The personalized adaptations give incarcerated individuals the opportunity to tell their own stories by making connection between their experiences and the experiences of classical literary characters, with special emphases on life-changing turning points,” Jenkins explains.

To read more about Jenkins and to see a Wesleyan video on him, click here.

Jenkins Publishes Book on Balinese Painter

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, is the author of the 330-page book, Rua Bineda in Bali: Counterfeit Justice in the Trial of Nyoman Gunarsa, published by the Indonesian University of the Arts, 2010. The book focuses on how a Balinese painter, puppet-master and a Brahmin priest perceive a landmark court case involving art forgery and identity theft. Read more about this book in a “5 Questions With . . .” profile at http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2010/09/02/5-questions-with-professor-of-theater-ron-jenkins/.

Nascimento’s Book Praised in Theatre Journal

Book by Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento.

A book by Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, associate professor of theater, received positive reviews in the March 2010 issue of Theatre Journal. The book, Crossing Cultural Borders Through the Actor’s Work was published by Routlege in 2009.

According to the review: “Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento asserts that much critical attention given to intercultural performance tends to appraise the production as a whole, typically assessing the work of the director— especially Eugenio Barba, Ariane Mnouchkine, Peter Brook, and Jerzy Grotowski—while discounting the role of the intercultural actor, her training, commitment, and contribution made in collaboration with the director. Shifting focus toward the intercultural actor’s training as a ‘cultural border-crosser,’ Nascimento offers ‘an examination of the intercultural actor’s process that acknowledges her autonomy and agency as an artist’ transgressing a critical bias where the actor is often viewed as subservient to the director’s

Professor Emeritus William Ward Remembered for Set Design

William Ward (photo by Bill Burkhart)

William Ward, professor of theater and design emeritus, died June 14, 2010. He was 79 years old.

Ward came to Wesleyan in 1956, as an instructor in art, and he taught at Wesleyan for 42 years, becoming professor of theater and design in 1969. He retired in 1998. Ward designed sets for more than 100 plays and concerts at Wesleyan, and he also created graphical and other design work for more than 25 exhibitions and publications.  Ward was one of the principal faculty involved in proposing the Center for the Arts complex, for which he served as design consultant.

In a 1995 interview, he explained that his vision for the CFA had the pedagogical goal of fostering conversation: “We wanted a cluster of buildings that would surround a central area of interaction, where to walk to the Music Department you would run into art people because they would be out in the middle as well.”

Ward relished teaching, saying that it kept him young

2 Students Perform Entire “Mystery” Play

Wesleyan’s Theater Department presented “The Mystery of Irma Vep” April 9-10, April 10 in Patricelli ’92 Theater. On a stormy night at Mandacrest estate, Lord Edgar Hillcrest and his new bride Lady Enid are haunted by the memory of the Manor’s first mistress—Irma Vep. The play was written by Charles Ludlam and directed by Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, associate professor of theater. Mark McCloughan ’10 played Lady Enid, Nicodemus Underwood, Alcazar and the Egyptian Princess Pev Amri. Jaime Maseda ’12 played Lord Edgar, Jane Twisden and the Intruder.

Student Play Based on Female Prisoners’ Lives

The play, Unexpected: Voices of Incarcerated Women, was written by former inmates at the York Correctional Institute in Niantic, Conn.

The play, Unexpected: Voices of Incarcerated Women, included pieces written by former and current inmates at the York Correctional Institute in Niantic, Conn. Photo by Bill Burkhart.

The debut of Unexpected: Voices of Incarcerated Women, a new play directed by Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins, was shown to full crowds in the Center for the Arts Hall on Feb. 25 and 26.

In Unexpected, stories written by women formerly and presently incarcerated at the York Correctional Institute in Niantic, Conn., were performed by the former prisoners and Wesleyan students who have collaborated with them in Jenkins’ service learning course.

Jenkins has been leading a theater outreach class at York since 2008, which predates the Center for Prison Education at Wesleyan, founded in 2009. However, through the Center for Prison Education, Wesleyan students are currently volunteering at the prison.

“The mission of the Center for Prison Education program is to practice Wesleyan’s civic engagement by offering college courses to incarcerated individuals, in order both to enrich the lives of those who are systematically denied access to educational opportunities and to enhance Wesleyan’s academic community. We believe that the work done by Ron Jenkins and our activities complement one another well,” explains program manager Cathy Crimmins Lechowicz, director of community service and volunteerism.

The Feb. 25 performance included a reading by novelist

Hand-Made Puppets, Costumes in Theater Department’s Skriker

The Skriker at Wesleyan University. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett Drake)The Wesleyan Theater Department presented Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker Nov. 19, 20, 21 and 22 in the Center for the Arts Theater.

The play was directed by Bob Bresnick, visiting assistant professor in theater with costume designs and puppet designs by Leslie Weinberg, artist in residence in theater.

Churchill describes the title character in The Skriker as a “polluted, not-believed-in nature spirit who comes up to the world to get love, attention and revenge.” The Skriker tries to enlist the help of two friends: one pregnant and one who has killed her child. With tragic poetry and stunning linguistic pyrotechnics, the play examines the disturbing forces that have led us to the brink of ecological destruction.  

The production used puppet and dance theater, and was constructed from post-Wesleyan consumer waste.

The chorus included a black dog, green ladies, a horse, piglike-men and women, “Rawheadandbloddybones,” and other characters who dance, sing, throw rocks and perform with puppets.  The Skriker appeared as a mental patient, homeless woman, American woman, pink fairy, child, young man, school chum, older man and hospital patient.

Photos of The Skriker below. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett Drake)

Jenkins Talks about the Importance of Laughter in ODE Magazine

jenkinsmagazineRon Jenkins, professor of theater, was featured in the June 23 issue of ODE Magazine in an article titled “Laughter can set people free.” Jenkins argues that laughter is a survival tactic for people under siege. “For ages, comedy has been used as a liberating tool for people, especially in oppressive regimes, to confront, ridicule and criticize the powerful,” Jenkins says in the article.

Jenkins recalls how he began his study of laughter: “When I was in pre-medical school, I was trying to help a child with autism who never made eye contact and who never spoke, [except to] repeat words spoken to him. My comical, silly, joking gestures broke though a barrier and he started looking in my eyes and initiating words. That’s when I knew I would not learn how to make people laugh in medical school. I decided to become a circus clown.”

Kordonskiy, Nikolchev ’08, Martin ’09 featured in Tribune

The Chicago Tribune reviewed Look, What I Don’t Understand, a solo-performance by Anthony Nikolchev ’08, co-directed by the Assistant Professor of Theater Yuriy Kordonskiy, lighting design by Anna Martin ’09.

The production was originally developed as a student show at Wesleyan and moved to its four-week professional run at the Chicago Athenaeum Theatre in January 2009. This one-man drama draws upon historical narratives experienced by Nikolchev’s family during their 1960s escape from the totalitarian hostility of communist Bulgaria to detainment in America, challenging himself and audiences to comprehend the experience of past generations through the perspective of present generations.

Other feature reviews include The Windy City Times, The Urban Coaster and The Latest and Greatest art blog. In April 2009, the production is invited to participate in the ArmMono, a festival of solo-performances in Yerevan, Armenia.