Tag Archive for alumni

Kail ’99 Directs Broke-ology at Lincoln Center

Francois Battiste, Wendell Pierce and Alano Miller in Broke-ology. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Francois Battiste, Wendell Pierce and Alano Miller in Broke-ology. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Thomas Kail ’99 is the director of a new play, Broke-ology, by Nathan Louis Jackson, which opened on Oct. 5 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City. This touching and often humorous play concerns two African-American brothers who care for their ailing widowed father in Kansas City, Kansas, as they face their own responsibilities. Kail elicits first-rate performances from the four-person cast, which includes Wendell Pierce  (The Wire), Crystal A. Dickinson, Francois Battiste, and Alano Miller.

Thomas Kail '99

Thomas Kail '99

The play opened to several positive reviews. In his review in The New York Times, Charles Isherwood wrote:  “Mr. Jackson writes easygoing, believable dialogue, and the play is moving in its exploration of how time and circumstance — and the hard fact of poverty — can diminish hope, divide loving siblings and ultimately extinguish life itself.” Isherwood also singled out Kail’s “sensitive direction.”

Kail directed the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights on Broadway, and he recently directed a production of The Wiz at New York City Center.

Broke-ology runs through November 22, 2009. For tickets, visit www.telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200.

Filmmaker Longley ’94 Receives MacArthur Grant

James Longley ’94

James Longley ’94

Documentary filmmaker James Longley ’94 has been awarded the prestigious $500,000 MacArthur grant, along with 23 other recipients. Longley’s low-budget, self-financed films are intimate portraits of people in politically volatile countries in the Middle East. While working on his documentaries, Longley lived among ordinary families and gained access to individuals living in places rarely recorded by Western filmmakers.

Two of Longley’s works, Iraq in Fragments (2006) and Sari’s Mother (2006), were nominated for Academy Awards. Iraq in Fragments chronicles life in war-ravaged Iraq through the eyes of an abandoned young boy on the streets of Baghdad, the collective energy and obsession of Moqtada al-Sadr’s followers, and the agrarian solemnity of Kurdish family farmers. The short film Sari’s Mother deals with a family struggling to navigate the labyrinthine health care system in Iraq.

In 2002, Longley founded Daylight Factory, a production company committed to creating documentary films about international subjects. His current projects focus on Iran, India, and other countries in the region.
Link to James Longley biography on MacArthur Foundation site:

Alumni Films Shown at Toronto International Film Festival

Michael Cera in Youth in Revolt, directed by Miguel Arteta '89.

Michael Cera in Youth in Revolt, directed by Miguel Arteta '89.

Several Wesleyan alumni-related films were part of the recent program on view at the Toronto International Film Festival, which was held Sept. 10–19. The festival has become the launching ground for films from around the world as well as for films that go on to win prominent awards.

Among the films shown were Youth in Revolt, directed by Miguel Arteta ’89 (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl), a very funny comedy based on the cult novels by C. D. Payne about the misadventures of a sex-obsessed 14-year-old Nick Twisp with a French alter-ego who inspires him to misbehave. Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad) gives one of his best comic screen performances as Twisp.

Paul Schiff ’81 is the producer of Solitary Man, which features an excellent performance by Michael Douglas as a 60-year-old car dealer who faces a family and career meltdown. The film, which also stars Susan Sarandon and Mary- Louise Parker, has a sharp-edged, character-driven screenplay by Brian Koppleman who co-directed the film with David Levien.

Natalie Portman and Charlie Tahan in Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, based on a novel by Ayelet Waldman '86.

Natalie Portman and Charlie Tahan in Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, based on a novel by Ayelet Waldman '86.

Other films screened at the festival were Down for Life, the gripping and grim movie about a day in the life of a Latina teenage gangsta in Los Angeles, directed by Alan Jacobs ’80; and Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, written and directed by Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex, Happy Endings) and based on a novel by Ayelet Waldman ’86. The latter film has a fine ensemble cast, with a powerful performance by Natalie Portman as a difficult and abrasive Manhattan young lawyer who grieves for the death of her baby daughter as she also tries to bond with her stepson, whose real mother, played by Lisa Kudrow, finds her incompetent.

Weiner ’87 Honored with 2 Emmy Awards

Matthew Weiner ’87, the creator of the TV series “Mad Men” won two Emmy awards at The Emmy Awards ceremony Sept. 20. Weiner won for best drama and writing.

According to a Sept. 21 New York Times article, Weiner attributed the success of his show to the lack of interference from the businessmen who finance it. (AMC, a cable channel, only recently began scheduling original series.) “I may be the only person in this room who has complete creative freedom,” he said in accepting the award.

Documentary by Montero ’98 Nominated for Emmy

David Montero ’98 has been nominated for an Emmy for “Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story in a News Magazine.” The nomination recognizes his Frontline documentary titled “Pakistan: State of Emergency,” which explores the volatile Swat Valley.

At the foot of the Himalayas in the border area with Afghanistan, the Swat Valley is an impoverished area that has provided a fertile ground for conflict between Taliban forces and Pakistani troops.

In a Frontline interview, Montero said, “I first went to Swat in May 2007. Maulana Fazlullah, a radical cleric in the valley, had begun to become a problem for the Pakistani government. All the newspapers were writing about him. Editorials were coming out in the press about him because

Miranda ’02 Appears on Season Premiere of House

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, left, on House. (Photo by Mike Yarish/FOX)

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, left, on House. (Photo by Mike Yarish/FOX)

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 was featured prominently on the two-hour season premiere of the highly popular medical series House, which aired on September 21, 2009 on Fox. On this episode, Dr. Gregory House, played by Hugh Laurie, checks himself into the Mayfield Psychiatric Institute, to recover from a Vicodin addiction and other bad behavior. The well-written premiere introduces several intriguing new characters who viewers are likely to see again this television season.

Miranda plays Laurie’s roommate, Alvie, and becomes his co-conspirator at the hospital. Near the end of the show, Alvie and House perform a rap number together. Miranda is scheduled to appear in upcoming episodes of House.

Link to Wall Street Journal article about House:
http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2009/09/22/house-season-6-premiere-tv-recap/

Drennan ’09 to Play Professional Volleyball in Denmark

Lisa Drennan ’09 will play for a team in Brondby, Denmark for the 2009 season.

Lisa Drennan '09 will play for a team in Brondby, Denmark for the 2009 season.

Lisa Drennan ’09 signed a professional volleyball contract in Europe and will play for a team in Brondby, Denmark for the 2009 season.

Drennan closed out her Wesleyan volleyball career in 2008 with her second NESCAC Player of the Year honor as well as second-team AVCA Division III All-America laurels.

Also named a second-team CoSIDA/ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American in 2008, Drennan ranked among the top five players in Division III for average kills per set for three straight seasons (2006, 2007 and 2008) while leading the NESCAC each of those years as well.  She ended her Wesleyan career ranked second all-time at the college for kills with 1,865 while holding down the top spot for average kills at 4.92.  She averaged 4.70 in 2008 to rank third nationally.  She had a .298 career hitting percentage and averaged 2.73 digs, 0.68 blocks and 0.46 aces per set over her four years.

Drennan is one of three Americans on the Brondby Elite roster, joined by 6-5 middle hitter Jolene Baptiste out of the U. of Arizona, and outside hitter Crystal Ames from Central Washington U. In total, 12 players are listed on the Brondby roster and the average height is 6-2.  Drennan is one of the smallest players, standing 5-11.  She was selected, as noted on the Brondby team web site, not just for her hitting ability but also for her receiving talent.

Brondby is scheduled to play a 21-match season this fall, all against other Danish teams, with the first match slated for Sunday, Sept. 13.  Many players for the Danish National Team are on the rosters of teams in the Elite Division.

(By Brian Katten, sports information director)

Ginsburg ’78 Develops New Genetic Test for Infections

Dr. Geoffrey Ginsburg ’78 of Duke University and his colleagues have developed an experimental genetic test that can detect common infections before people know they are sick, according to an article in USA Today.

The test can distinguish between bacterial and viral illnesses, which may help physicians determine when they first see a patient whether giving antibiotics to a person will be helpful.

Unlike existing diagnostic tests, which typically detect either the germ itself or antibodies, the new approach detects the activation of genes that govern an immune response. It requires no more than a finger-prick of blood.

USA Today quoted Ginsburg as saying, “This is the first major step in using a person’s individual response to a viral or bacterial infection to lead to better diagnostics for infectious disease.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded the work in hopes of identifying soldiers who are sick before they infect others. Ultimately, says Ginsburg, the method could valuable in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices as an early indicator of infection.

Shepard ’97 Produces New Documentary About Vogue Editor

Anna Wintour, wearing sunglasses, in <em>The September Issue</em>. (Photo by Roadside Attractions)

Anna Wintour, wearing sunglasses, in The September Issue. (Photo by Roadside Attractions)

Sadia Shepard ’97 is one of the producers of the new documentary The September Issue, directed by R. J. Cutler, which opened in movie theaters on August 28 to positive reviews. The movie focuses on the world of Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, and her influence on the fashion industry. Wintour was also the inspiration for the novel and movie The Devil Wears Prada.

In his review of the film in Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman writes:  “… we observe the process by which Wintour and her vast army of editors, designers, photographers, models, and gofers labor, throughout the summer of 2007, to assemble Vogue’s massive September issue, a plush treasure chest of ads, photo spreads, and gilded dreams. It’s through Vogue that Wintour, more than any other figure, reigns over the decisions — of taste, aesthetics, economics — that shape the $300 billion-a-year fashion industry. The September issue is more than a magazine. It’s a major motion picture stuffed between glossy covers, with Wintour as its all-knowing, all-dictatorial producer.”

Link to Entertainment Weekly review: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20300268,00.html

NYT Features Stephens ’07 Among China-Bound Grads

A recent New York Times story noting that Shanghai and Beijing are “new lands of opportunity for recent American college graduates” featured Joshua Arjuna Stephens ’07, who took a temporary job with China Prep, an educational travel company.

Stephens told the Times that he new little about China and didn’t speak the language, but he wanted to “do something off the beaten track.”

Now, two years after leaving for China, his is fluent in Mandarin and works as a manager for XPD Media, a social media company based in Beijing that makes online games.

Young Americans are attracted by the entrepreneurial boom in China, according to the Times. Part of the draw is that they often find that they can climb the career ladder much faster in China than they would in the United States, and that starting a business can be very inexpensive.

Miller ’99: A Top 20 Canadian Film Maker

Garfield Lindsay Miller '99 is the writer/producer of <em>The Last New Year</em>, which debuted at the Victoria Film Fest as the Canadian Gala Film. (Photo by Kerry Haynes/North Shore Outlook)

Garfield Lindsay Miller '99 is the writer/producer of The Last New Year, which debuted at the Victoria Film Fest as the Canadian Gala Film. (Photo by Kerry Haynes/North Shore Outlook)

Garfield Lindsay Miller ’99 is featured in a July 29 article titled “Dramatic Choices,” published by the BC Local News North Shore Outlook section.

Miller’s filmmaking resume includes co-writing and producing the award-winning and Gemini-nominated documentary The Fires that Burn about Sister Elaine MacInnes and co-writing Stone’s Throw, an award-winning dramatic feature film set in Nova Scotia – among many other film credits. Most recently, Miller, who is back living in British Columbia, was voted one of the top 20 Top Canadian Film Makers by a jury of his peers.

Miller’s new feature film, The Last New Year, which recently debuted at the Victoria Film Fest as the Canadian Gala Film, has already garnered rave reviews. The film explores the relationships between a group of friends who made a pact in high school to get together each New Year’s Eve.

The online article mentions how Miller transferred to Wesleyan to study English and play baseball. He signed up for the History of World Cinema and worked as a TA in Wesleyan’s Film Studies Department.

“I realized film had the potential to be an art form – I’d never realized that before, I always just though of it as entertainment,” he says in the article. “It was there that I (really) discovered film. I took more film (classes) than English (classes).”

After graduation, he returned to B.C. and got a job on a local tech TV show and wrote a screenplay, according to the article.

Gajewski ’02 Named Office of Sustainability Director

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter named Katherine Gajewski ’02 as the new director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.

According to a July 18 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Mayor Nutter interviewed several candidates as he searched for someone with political savvy and operational experience who was also a team player. Ultimately, the mayor said, “we found that person and she was just across the hall.” Gajewski was a current staff member in the office.

As an aide to the chief of staff, Gajewski oversaw two citywide “spring cleanups” and advised Nutter on appointments to city boards and commissions. Before joining the administration, she developed a sustainability policy paper as a Nutter campaign volunteer and worked for Breathe Free Philadelphia Alliance, which helped push legislation making the city smoke-free, according to the Inquirer.