Campus News & Events

Kim, Johnson ’18, Rothschild ’19, Coauthor Study on Self-Related Memory Advantage

Kyungmi Kim

Kyungmi Kim, assistant professor of psychology, is the coauthor of a paper published in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review on Aug. 8. Jenne Johnson ’18 and Danielle Rothschild ’19 also contributed to the article.

The paper is titled “Merely presenting one’s own name along with target items is insufficient to produce a memory advantage for the items: A critical role of relational processing.”

Many studies have shown that information processed in relation to our “self” vs. someone else has an advantage in memory, termed the self-reference effect (SRE). Early studies of the SRE used tasks in which participants made explicit self-referential (Does the word nice describe you?) or other-referential judgments (Does the word friendly describe Angelina Jolie?) of target items at encoding, highlighting the memory benefit of explicit semantically-based associations between self and target items. However, an important subsequent finding was that even in the absence of any explicit task demand to make self-referential judgments, there is a memory advantage for target items presented simultaneously with self-relevant (e.g., one’s own name) vs. other-relevant (e.g., another person’s name) information at encoding.

In the study, Kim and her colleagues aimed to clarify the processes underlying this “incidental” self-memory advantage assessing two possibilities: an incidental SRE arises due to a mere co-presentation of a target item with self-relevant information or a relational processing between a target item and self-relevant information at encoding.

During encoding, words were presented in two different colors either above or below a name (the participants’ own someone else’s). Participants performed either a relational encoding task (i.e., a location judgment task, “Is the word above or below the name?”) or a non-relational encoding task (i.e., a color judgment task, “Is the word in red or green?”). In the subsequent surprise memory test, the researchers found a self-memory advantage for both items and their associated source features (name, location, and color) under a relational encoding context but not under a non-relational encoding context. These findings add to the current understanding of how the self affects long-term memory by providing clear evidence for a critical role of relational processing between target items and self-relevant information in eliciting a self-memory advantage. By demonstrating the modulation of an incidental self-memory advantage by encoding contexts, these findings further suggest that the impact of self on cognition is more dependent on processing context than previously assumed.

Kim, a cognitive psychologist, is an expert on learning and memory, and the role of self in cognitive and affective processing. The research in her lab aims to identify psychological mechanisms through which the mind subjectively construes the external world.

This fall, she’s teaching courses on Research Methods in Cognition and Advanced Research in Learning and Memory.

McAlister in The Conversation: For Some Catholics, It Is Demons That Taunt Priests with Sexual Desire

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, writes about a lesser-known factor contributing to the abuse of children uncovered in the Catholic Church: In some strands of Catholic thought, priests who abuse children have succumbed to temptation by demons. McAlister is also chair and professor of African American studies, director of the Center for African American Studies, professor of American studies, professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, professor of Latin American studies.

For some Catholics, it is demons that taunt priests with sexual desire

A Pennsylvania grand jury recently released a report on the systematic ways Catholic priests aided and abetted one another to sexually abuse children for 70 years.

It reveals once again how the strict patriarchal hierarchy of the Catholic Church gives rise to conspiracies of silence and allows for routine cover-up of crimes. Cover-ups are also encouraged by clericalism – the belief that ordained priests are inherently superior and closer to God than the laity. This much has been demonstrated by countless observers.

But there is another, lesser-known factor contributing to the abuse, that I want to point out as a scholar of spiritual warfare in some forms of Christianity. This factor lies in the realm of belief: In some strands of Catholic thought, when priests abuse children, it is because they have been tempted by demons, and succumbed.

History of demon beliefs

The Catholic Church invites priests to view sexuality as a battle in the war between good and evil. Spiritual warfare is one name for this view of the world and it has a long history in Catholic teachings.

The idea of demons has been around since antiquity – in the Mediterranean world, the Middle East and elsewhere. In Christianity, preoccupation with demons reached its peak in the Middle Ages. Demons were explicitly defined by the church in 1215 under Pope Innocent III.

Theologians worked to identify classes and ranks of demons who operated under the authority of the devil himself. Demons were seen as fallen angels who disobeyed God and worked to subvert God and goodness.

Demons are malevolent beings who lord over specific domains of sin. Christians are called to battle evil, including evil that comes by way of the demonic. The more pious one is, the more intense will be the attacks from the demons.

After the Second Vatican Council of 1964, demons faded out of focus and exorcisms were rare. But my research shows that the spiritual warfare world view is on the rise in the Catholic Church. This is despite the fact that demons and exorcisms are largely viewed by most American Catholics as remnants of a medieval past.

The return of demons and exorcisms

In 1999, Pope John Paul II brought back a focus on the formal rites of exorcism – the official ritual that priests use to rid a person from demonic affliction or possession. The pope later recommended that every diocese in the Catholic world appoint and train an exorcist.

The Catholic Church in the United States took up the call and in 2012 founded the Pope Leo XII Institute in Illinois to support “the spiritual formation of priests to bring the light of Christ to dispel evil.” To this day it serves as a “school for exorcism and deliverance” of the laity from demons.

The institute offers workshops for clergy such as “Angels and Demons, Natures and Attributes.”

Under this belief system, in the battle for souls, demons can establish relationships with people who open the door to them through sin and disobedience to God. If someone masturbates, for example, which is a mortal sin, they are opening the door wider to demons of more serious sexual perversion.

Such demons include figures mentioned in the Bible such as Baal, the ancient Phoenician sun God, and his consort Ashtoreth, now viewed as a force of sexual immorality and perversion. Jezebel, the ninth-century B.C. Phoenician princess, lives into the modern era as a demonic personality who encourages illicit sexual acts, violence and rape.

Devil and role-play in one church

Writing for Commonweal, an American Catholic journal, one ex-seminarian described a formation, or training, workshop sponsored by his seminary. He described how participants were given nametags with the names of demons on them and asked to play the role of demons to tempt one another. He explained how they would choose one person and “hiss and curse” to entice him to “watch pornography” and “masturbate.”

The point, of course, was to train the participants how to choose chastity and to stand strong against sexual desire.

To be clear, this is only one documented instance. However, I would argue that it points to the Church’s current preoccupation with evil spirits and the need for priests to ritually remove that evil.

It is sobering that one seminary should choose to offer those training for a life of service and celibacy, a role-play of hissing demon impersonators, as a way to govern their conduct.

Medieval practices in today’s church?

Ascribing sexual desire to demonic temptation takes away the blame from the perpetrators. It puts the cause, the consequences, and questions of accountability into an invisible world populated by angels and demons, sin and repentance.

Suggesting that the offending priests were afflicted by demons is a version of “the devil made me do it.”

There is a second heartbreak. Many of the abused report feeling guilty, as if they had sinned themselves. I have heard from my own research participants that because sinning opens the door to more demons and more sin, then some abuse survivors think of themselves as being in relationships with personal demons and more vulnerable to demonic attack.

As investigations continue into the institutional factors allowing for this horrific abuse, it may also be pertinent to look into some of the intellectual and theological elements at the heart of the Catholic tradition.

For some branches of the Church, this includes the medieval world of demons.

Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, Wesleyan University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Center for Prison Education Hosts First Graduation for Incarcerated Students

Clyde Meikle shares a hug with Giulio Gallarotti, professor of government, co-chair of the College of Social Studies, following Meikle’s graduation Aug. 1 at the Cheshire Correctional Institution. Gallarotti is one of several Wesleyan faculty who teach classes through Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

It was a typical graduation on Aug. 1, 2018: tasseled mortarboards and academic gowns, faculty in academic regalia, proud family members, the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance,” speeches—some recalling challenges; others looking toward further success—diplomas, handshakes, smiles for the cameras, and bear hugs of congratulations.

It was a graduation like none other: held in Cheshire Correctional Institution, it was the first time 18 incarcerated students in the maximum security prison received associate’s degrees through an innovative collaboration between Wesleyan University’s Center for Prison Education and Middlesex Community College.

A week earlier, a similar graduation had taken place in York Correctional Institution, with six women donning caps and gowns to receive their associate’s degree diplomas.

Since 2009, CPE has offered accredited Wesleyan courses to students at Cheshire Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison for men. Wesleyan faculty teach courses ranging from English to biology to philosophy, which have the same rigor and expectations as courses on Wesleyan’s Middletown campus. About 50 Wesleyan students volunteer in the program each semester, working in study halls at the prison or on campus filling research requests and serving as project assistants. The program was expanded to serve incarcerated students at York Correctional Institution in spring 2013.

Shasha Seminar 2018: Suicide and Resilience: Finding the Words

Professor Emeritus of Psychology Karl Scheibe and Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Jennifer D’Andrea PhD are codirectors of this year’s Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, Sept. 14–15.

This year’s Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, “Suicide and Resilience: Finding the Words,” will be held Sept. 14–15. It will begin with opening remarks by Leslie Shasha ’82, PhD, in Memorial Chapel at 4 p.m., followed by the keynote address by author and suicide loss survivor Eric Marcus on “Resilience in the Aftermath of Suicide.”

The Shasha Seminar, an annual educational forum for Wesleyan alumni, parents, and friends, explores issues of global concern in a small seminar environment. Endowed by James Shasha ’50, P’82, the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues. Last year’s seminar for example focused on Guns in American Society.

Karl Scheibe

This year’s codirector, Professor Emeritus of Psychology Karl Scheibe, spoke with the Connection about the preparation, the program, and his hopes for what this might bring to the campus.

Q: How did you come to be codirector of the Shasha Seminar this year?

A: It came to me as an invitation. It’s like a lot of things; it grows out of your history. Having been at Wesleyan a long time, I taught a lot of students, and many of them have gone on in psychology. Occasionally, one of those former students will have an assignment for me that, as a teacher, makes sense. Leslie Shasha ’82 is a psychologist, and she wanted to have a Shasha program focus on suicide: suicide awareness, suicide prevention, treatment for people who are suffering from loss, and a whole host of related problems.

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.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The New York Times: Defending Conservatism, and Seeking Converts

President Michael Roth ’78 reviews Roger Scruton’s new book on Conservatism, which he writes provides an “enlightening” background on a variety of important conservative thinkers, but stoops to scapegoating Muslims to “rally the troops.”

2. Hartford Courant: First Group of Students Graduates from Wesleyan’s Prison Education Program

The first-ever Wesleyan Center for Prison Education Program graduation ceremonies, held in partnership with Middlesex Community College at York and Cheshire correctional institutions on July 24 and Aug. 1, respectively, was also featured in The Washington PostABC News, Fox News, among other publications.

Kilby Remembered for His Dedication to the College of Social Studies

Peter Kilby

Peter Kilby, professor of economics, emeritus, died Aug. 2, 2018, at the age of 83.

Kilby received his BA from Harvard University, his MA from Johns Hopkins University, and his DPhil from the University of Oxford. He worked with USAID as an Industrial Economist in Nigeria for two years before arriving at Wesleyan in 1965.

He was an economist whose work focused on economic development, particularly in Africa. Over his career, Kilby held appointments as a Fulbright Fellow, a Ford Foundation Foreign Area Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Guggenheim Fellow. He was a Senior Advisor of the ILO World Employment Programme in Geneva, a member of the Ciskei Commission in South Africa, and served as a consultant for the governments of Malaysia and Tanzania, the World Bank in Kenya and Nigeria, USAID, the U.S. State Department, and the Food & Agricultural Organization, among others.

“Peter Kilby was a respected scholar and beloved teacher with a wide range of friends at Wesleyan not only among those of us in the Social Sciences but throughout Wesleyan’s three divisions. He was one of the stars of CSS,” recalled Mike Lovell, the Chester D. Hubbard Professor of Economics and Social Sciences, Emeritus.

“Much of the success of the CSS is the result of Peter Kilby’s astonishing dedication to the CSS as an institution and to his CSS students,” said Cecilia Miller, professor of history, co-chair of the College of Social Studies, professor of medieval studies.

Kilby is survived by his wife, Marianne Kilby, his three children, Damian, Christopher, and Karen, and his six grandchildren.

The funeral service will be held at St. Lawrence Church in Killingworth, Conn. at 10 a.m., Aug. 21. A memorial service will be held on campus later this year. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made in Peter’s name to the College of Social Studies Endowment Fund, which supports many things that Peter loved including the CSS Newsletter, to the care of Marcy Herlihy, University Relations, 318 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.

Gottschalk in The Conversation: Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and Why Haven’t They Voted in 30 Years?

Peter Gottschalk

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, discusses “Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and Why Haven’t They Voted in 30 Years?” Gottschalk also is professor of science in society, director of the Office of Faculty Career Development, and coordinator of Muslim studies.

Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and why haven’t they voted in 30 years?

Pakistani cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, is all set to be the country’s new prime minister. His party emerged the single largest in recent elections.

It is only for the second time in the 71-year history of this second largest Muslim majority country that a democratically elected government, will transfer power to another after completing its full term. The nation’s military has intervened repeatedly to remove leaders and has directly controlled the country for about half of its history.

And so this recent milestone in Pakistan’s democracy has elated many citizens. However, one community boycotted the recent elections, as they have for over three decades: the Ahmadi, a religious minority.

Who are the Ahmadis and what does their boycott tell about the role religion has played in Pakistan’s nationalist politics?

The Ahmadi of Pakistan
The origin of the Ahmadi community goes back to the British-ruled India of 1889. At the time, in the province of Punjab (a region that would later be split between an independent India and Pakistan), a Muslim religious leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, became disenchanted with what he viewed as Muslim decadence that allowed for the humiliating experience of foreign rule.

Like many Indians, he wondered what needed to change in order to overcome the invaders.

Wesleyan Group Attends Field Workshop, Gathers Volcano Samples in Italy

Pictured from left, Joop Varekamp, Molly Wagner, Celeste Smith ’19, and Christina Cauley explore Italian lakes while attending the International Summer Meeting on Volcanic Lakes in June.

This summer, three Wesleyan students and one faculty member attended a field workshop in Basilicata, Italy, where they presented research, collected data, and visited an extinct volcano containing two bubbling crater lakes.

The group collected samples from crater lakes Monticchio Piccolo (foreground) and Monticchio Grande.

The International Summer Meeting on Volcanic Lakes, hosted by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior, took place June 25–29 and focused on the theme “Different perspectives and approaches to studying a volcanic lake.” Basilicata is home to the 3,350-foot-high Mount Vulture (pronounced “Vool-tor-eh”), which last erupted 40,000 years ago.

The Wesleyan attendees included Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (E&ES) graduate students Christina Cauley and Molly Wagner; E&ES and environmental studies major Celeste Smith ’19; and Joop Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, professor of environmental studies, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and professor of Latin American studies. Varekamp also is the Smith Curator of Mineralogy and Petrology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History. They joined more than 25 other participants from Italy, Germany, and Hungary.

The meeting consisted of one long day of scientific presentations in a 12th-century abbey (including talks by Smith, Wagner, and Varekamp), two days on crater lakes Monticchio Grande and Monticchio Piccolo collecting in situ data and samples, and a day of culture, with a trip to the nearby ancient town of Matera.

The group also collected materials specifically for Smith’s senior thesis, including water samples for mercury analyses and a 2.5-foot long sediment core from the most active bubbling lake.

After the field meeting, Smith went to the Institute for Ecosystem Studies at Lago Maggiore near the Swiss border to section her core samples, and then went on to Potsdam, Germany, to subsample an existing sediment core from these lakes.

“Celeste’s thesis topic is to obtain mercury degassing records of this dormant volcano over thousands of years, which will help to establish the natural background mercury flux into the ambient world,” Varekamp explained.

Kleinberg to Study Anarchy in History as Visiting Professor in Germany

Ethan Kleinberg

Ethan Kleinberg

Professor of History and Letters Ethan Kleinberg is the recipient of the Reinhart Koselleck Visiting Professorship at the University of Bielefeld in Germany, a high honor accorded to world-renowned historians whose work is “of outstanding significance” for theoretical reflection and further development.

Kleinberg will spend the summer term of 2019 at Bielefeld with the intention of beginning work on a project titled “Temporal Anarchy in History.”

Candidates for the professorship do not apply for the honor; the Centre for Theories in Historical Research at Bielefeld selects recipients based on the example set by Reinhart Koselleck, one of the most renowned historians of the 20th century. Koselleck’s “pioneering ideas and work on conceptual history, historical theory, and political iconography stimulated historical science as well as other humanities and cultural studies,” according to the center. “He is thus the perfect example of how historical research can reflect on and react to its own ‘theoretical needs.’” Kleinberg’s work at the intersection of history of ideas, historical theory, and the social negotiation of time strongly resonates with the faculty at Bielefeld: “His presence will facilitate a deeper understanding of the various ways in which theory permeates historical practice, and how this practice influences and is influenced by the social conditions of our times.”

The Koselleck Visiting Professor stays for two months, with full involvement in the academic life of the university. Kleinberg will offer a seminar for students, present a workshop for doctoral candidates, and give a public lecture.

Kleinberg says he is greatly looking forward to contributing to the Centre for Theories in Historical Research in its mission to make theory of history a core aspect of every history department and, especially, to working with the faculty and graduate students. He is also eager to solidify and expand the partnership between Wesleyan and Bielefeld.

Kleinberg is editor-in-chief of History and Theory and an authority on the intellectual history of Europe in the 20th century, the history of philosophy, and the philosophy and theory of history.

Wesleyan Faculty, Students Teach Local Girls about Science

astronomy graduate student Jessica Klusmeyer assisted the Wesleyan faculty with the lessons and experiments.

Astronomy graduate student Jessica Klusmeyer works with Girls in Science camp participants Aug. 7 at Macdonough Elementary School. Klusmeyer taught the girls how to use microscopes to examine different traits in the eyes of three groups of flies. The program is celebrating its fifth year this summer.

Four girls squint one eye and with the other eye gaze intently into a microscope. One says she sees caterpillars or string or pink spaghetti. Another says she sees small frogs.

“You’re actually looking at tissue that’s been smashed,” says Ruth Johnson, associate professor of biology. “Do you see those dark spots? Those are chromosomes.”

Johnson, a developmental biologist who studies how tissues and organs are shaped during development, is one of five Wesleyan faculty who taught workshops during the fifth annual Girls in Science Summer Camp, Aug. 6–10. The camp is open to all girls in grades 4, 5, and 6. The campers and instructors spent three days at Macdonough Elementary School and two days on Wesleyan’s campus learning about scientific theory, bacteria, planetary science, solar cars, nanoparticles, chromosomes, bubbles, and DNA. They also toured multiple labs and worked with college student mentors and learned about science careers.

Wesleyan Students Help Area Kids Get a Kickstart on Kindergarten

Amy Breitfeller ’19 interacts with Mohammed, 2 1/2, and his sister, Dania, 1 1/2, during a playgroup July 31 at Russell Library. Breitfeller was using a sand mixture to help children improve their sensory and physical development.

This summer, three Wesleyan students are helping local children prepare for a successful transition into kindergarten.

Through the five-week Kindergarten Kickstart program, Cara Bendich ’19, Amy Breitfeller ’19, and Emma Distler ’19 are working with area youth at four locations to improve their school readiness skills through the research-based, high-impact, low-cost innovative and nurturing preschool program. Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman and three of her students first launched Kindergarten Kickstart in summer 2012.

For the summer 2018 session, students are hosting the Kickstart program at Middletown’s Bright and Early Children’s Learning Center, Town and Country Early Learning Center, and the Middlesex YMCA preschool. On Tuesdays, the students hold an additional playgroup at Russell Library for anyone in the community.

“Today we’re playing with moonsand, which is a mixture of flour, glitter, and baby oil,” Breitfeller said during a July 31 gathering at the library. “The children can feel and play with the sand, which promotes physical development and also aids in social skills with other children.”

Through a partnership between University-based research labs, Middletown Public Schools, and local community organizations, Kindergarten Kickstart aims to bridge the research-to-practice gap. The majority of the preschoolers will attend kindergarten this fall at Bielefield School, Farm Hill School, and Macdonough School in Middletown.

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.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The Forward: Jewish Student is Youngest Woman Ever to Finish ‘American Ninja Warrior’ Course

Casey Rothschild ’20 is interviewed about her path to become, at 20, the youngest woman ever to complete the course in the popular sports competition TV show. Rothschild is also a track star, pole vaulter, circus artist, and dedicated student.

2. TIMEThe 25 Moments From American History That Matter Right Now

In this compendium of important moments in American history, Courtney Fullilove, associate professor of history, associate professor of science in society, contributed an entry about July 8, 1853, when Commodore Matthew Perry sailed his steam-powered ships into Tokyo Bay. She writes, “His insistence that the Japanese trade with the United States hinged on a belief that international commerce was a marker of civilization. He had no sense that military enforcement of this norm diminished its value, or that of the numerous American manufactures he brought as gifts.”

3. Hartford Courant: Wesleyan Janitor Facing Deportation Honored by University for Service to Students

Francisco Acosta, an employee of Sun Services, was awarded the Peter Morgenstern-Clarren scholarship for his service and impact on students.

4. The Times Literary Supplement: Don’t Listen to the Critics

In this essay, Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English, writes about the author Michael Ondaatje, whose poetry and prose have made him a bestselling author, “while also earning him the ire of literary critics.”

5. Charleston Gazette-Mail: Appalachian Scholar Project helps Charleston teens prepare for college

Students from Wesleyan have been helping African-American teenage girls get into colleges — especially prestigious, out-of-state institutions.

Recent Alumni News

  1. ESPN: Michele Roberts [’77] Elected to Another Four-Year Term as NBPA Executive Director“The National Basketball Players Association unanimously elected Michele Roberts to serve another four-year term as executive director, union president Chris Paul announced Tuesday,” wrote ESPN staff writer Tim McMahon, and quoted Roberts on “’creat[ing] a system that allowed them [the players] to really believe that I and the team we assembled were going to be interested in one … priority only, and that is the best interest of the players.'”

2. New York Times Book Review: A White House Memoir That’s Equal Parts C-Span and ‘Sex and the City’

Paul Begala, political consultant, commentator, and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, reviews From the Corner of the Oval (Spiegel & Grau, 2018) by Beck Dorey-Stein ’08. He calls it an “addictively readable memoir … that is improbable even by White House standards.”

3. The Boston Globe: This CEO Doesn’t Like to Be Cornered

A profile of Dr. David Schenkein ’79, P’08, “CEO of Agios Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Cambridge, [who] runs a biotech startup that won approval last August for its first drug, Idhifa, to treat a rare and devastating form of leukemia caused by a genetic mutation.”

4. Forbes: The Three Tactics This Radio Personality Used to Make Her Mark in Media

Angela Yee ’97, “one-third of the popular The Breakfast Club, Power 105.1’s syndicated morning radio show based in New York,” profiled by Pauleanna Reid, features mentoring advice from Yee, including ”reach back to educate.”

5. Forbes: The Founder Of Tala On Her Leap From Finance To Fundraising For Her Mission-Driven Startup

Shivani Siroya ’04, founder and CEO of Tala, talks with Forbes staff writer Tanya Klich at Forbes Women’s Summit, delineating her fundraising process in a Q&A, as well as in a backstage video.

6. New York Times: ‘Emojiland’ and a Graceful Elegy at the New York Musical Festival

The “graceful elegy” is If Sand Were Stone, reviewed by Laura Collins-Hughes, who considered it a “strong offering” of that week. (Now closed, it was at the Acorn Theater.) It also featured the talents of recent alumni. Collins-Hughes writes: “With book and lyrics by Carly Brooke Feinman [’16] and music by Cassie Willson [’17], it’s a show whose subject—a middle-aged woman’s fast unraveling from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease—risks turning off potential audience members. But as staged by Tyler Thomas, with spare yet essential choreography by Nora Thompson [’15], part of this musical’s triumph is its sensitivity and grace.”