Barbara Fenig ’11 reviews Dewey Dell’s “Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti”

Barbara Fenig ’11 reviews Dewey Dell’s “Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti”.

Dewey Dell: Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti. (Left to right): Sara Angelini, Agata Castellucci, and Teodora Castellucci. Teatro Palladium, Rome, Italy. October 2010. Photo by Demetrio Castellucci.

The final performance in Dewey Dell’s two-week residency at Wesleyan University concluded with the American debut of Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti. The title, which translates to “Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties, and Shrieking Sixties”, evokes the names of three westerly winds that haunt the Antarctic seas. The piece charts the story of a ship as it becomes cloaked by the winds. Against the silver and black backdrop of the set, which depicts the depths of the ocean, the ship grows into an enormous organism whose borders are blurring, corresponding with the winds, the sea, and the world as prescribed by Dewey Dell’s trio of dancers.

Dewey Dell’s creativity was well received by the packed audience at the sold out show. Siblings Teodora, Demetrio, and Agata Castellucci along with Eugenio Resta formed Dewey Dell in 2007. Teodora serves as the group’s choreographer, Demetrio as the composer, Eugenio as the light and set designer, and Agata as a leading dancer. As the performance progressed, Teodora, Agata and guest performer and friend Sara Angelini became representations of the boat, enveloped by their environment: their bodies synonymous with the elements as they danced around the Center for the Arts Theater stage.

Sponsored by the Center for the Arts and the Theater Department as an Outside the Box Theater Series event, Dewey Dell’s performance created a striking portrait of the world of the sea. The dancers wore costumes, which affirmed them as ethereal beings—a mirage of black costumes and white face paint, framed with black squares on the core of their faces—hiding their identities. The trio wore padded voluptuous hips, a confirmation of their feminine connection with nature, and thus the cinquanta urlanti quaranta ruggenti sessanta stridenti. In the question and answer following the performance, the trio also remarked that their authoritative hips remind them of the form of the boat and the temptation of sea sirens.

The performance’s electronic music was symbiotic with its commentary about nature as it replicated waves crashing, reacting to the boat, and the overall power of nature. The music’s aggressive vibrations mimicked the deadliest of waves, which were followed by the shrieking crew, cracking wood, and the buzzing hum of the moments between each dramatic wave, which provided melodic reprieves for the audience. Each time a wave would strike, it ripped the dancers back into the swirl of nature’s power.  The performance maintained a constant comparison between the bellowing of the crew and the murmur of the ocean.

During Dewey Dell’s residency, I heard about the brilliance of the group: how they were interacting with Wesleyan students, generously cooking Italian meals in Juniors’ LoRise apartments, roaming around campus, and teaching bits of Italian. This intriguing contrast is evidenced in Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti as Dewey Dell is at once burgeoning talent and prophetic genius.

Sarah Wolfe ’12 previews “The Last Five Years”

Sarah Wolfe ’12 interviews Sara Schineller ’12 about Second Stage’s “The Last Five Years”.

This weekend Second Stage presents its first full production of the season, The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown. In a semester with a high quantity of musicals, Brown’s piece offers us a different take on musicals. The story follows two people, a man and a woman, traveling in reverse directions through the course of their relationship. The woman, Cathy, played by Sara Schineller ‘12, starts at the end of the relationship and the man, Jamie, played by Spencer Hattendorf ’12, starts at the beginning. They only meet once in the show, at the midpoint. Instead of glitz, glamour, or high kicks, Brown simply tells story of a relationship, using his wonderfully courageous music to illustrate the emotional ups and downs.

I spoke with Schineller last week about the show and the process so far. The senior, a double Theater and Psychology major, has dreamed of doing this show the entire time she’s been at Wesleyan.

“I had been waiting, hoping, fingers crossed that someone would do this show before I graduated. Senior year comes around, and there is no show yet.” So she decided to take matters into her own hands. She has been passionate about the show for eight years, claiming that the incredible soundtrack has served as her music of choice through almost any period of her life. Realizing that it would be difficult to make the production work as a Senior Thesis project for either major, she decided to take advantage of Second Stage and the amazing student talent on campus.

“I was talking to Dylan Zwickel [‘14], and she was looking to direct a small cast musical for the fall.” Zwickel, a member of Second Stage, is a first time director, and Schineller says her enthusiasm and dedication to the piece has been inspiring. With Zwickel on board, they quickly assembled a team including Hattendorf, Brianna Van Kan ’12 as the Stage Manager, Brian Lee ’13 as the Music Director, Evan DelGaudio ’12 as the Set Designer and Ross Firestone ’12 as the Lighting Designer.

The singers, Hattendorf and Schineller, spent the summer learning the music so that they could immediately jump into rehearsals. With only four weeks between the first rehearsal and opening night, Schineller says that the process has been intense, but incredibly rewarding. With a small cast and crew, the rehearsals have been collaborative and open to feedback from all parties, while still relying on the crucial outside eye of the director.

Schineller views this show as something of a capstone project for her time at Wesleyan, and has been able to use her experiences at Wesleyan to help her character, and the show, come to life.

“I feel like for a Theater and Psych major this show is sort of a gold mine,” she quipped. Though her acting classes are obvious contributors, the senior also credited her ability to analyze aspects of the marriage and how each character holds fault in different ways to her various classes in the Psychology department.

At the end of our interview I asked Schineller if there was one thing she would say to Jason Robert Brown, given the opportunity. She responded, “I would probably tell him (aside from being a God among men) how much something that he wrote has meant to me. It’s got heart. I think that’s the thing, is that it’s very real. So I would tell him thank you.”

“The Last Five Years” by Jason Robert Brown goes up at the ’92 Theater on Thursday, September 29 and runs through Saturday, October 1 at 8pm. Tickets are FREE and available the day of the show at the Wesleyan University Box Office.

Katherine Clifford ’14 reviews Dewey Dell’s “Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanti Stridenti”

Katherine Clifford ’14 reviews Dewey Dell’s “Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanti Stridenti”

Dewey Dell's "Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanti Stridenti"

Dewey Dell’s performance, Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanti Stridenti, or Roaring Forties Furious Fifties Shrieking Sixties, was a fascinating mélange of movement, sound, and conceptual complexity.

Dewey Dell is an Italian theater troupe, which was founded in 2007. They spent two weeks at Wesleyan, gave two performances, and engaged with students in the Italian, theater, and dance departments during their stay.

Their performance last Friday night, September 16, fell somewhere in the spectrum between dance and theater, encompassing and overlapping with both performing art forms. Indeed, while the Wesleyan Theater Department sponsored this event, I felt like I was watching a dance performance, yet a very theatrical one. Their movements were not for the sake of pure aesthetic appeal, but they were symbolic and representative of the themes throughout the piece.

The idea of the piece was to portray the storms and seas in a region in the Antarctic defined by the latitudes known as The Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties, and Shrieking Sixties. In the piece, three dancers are on a ship in these tumultuous seas; yet as the piece progresses, they are no longer characters, but they become representations of their environment. They become the ship, the ocean, and the winds, until everything merges into one blurred and entwined vision.

The dancers were dressed identically in black, each with a black circle painted on their face, effectively erasing their identities. The white outline around the blackened features of their faces and their exposed lower arms provided a contrast to their black enrobed bodies and the bleak, black and grey backdrop. Although the three dancers were sans identity so that they could merge into the intricacies of their surroundings, their hips were padded in order to accentuate their femininity, perhaps to show the feminine power of Earth’s natural elements. The bleakness of the color palette reflected the music, which was jarring, loud, and at times, terrifying. Sounds such as the creaking of wood, the wind and waves, and screaming voices realistically depicted the nautical setting. In sum, the music in conjunction with angular and geometric movements encapsulated a visceral feeling of inner turmoil and commotion.

At the end of the performance, I was left slightly dazed, asking myself questions, such as “What does it mean? Who are these people? What are they trying to depict?” Fortunately, a question and answer session with the troupe after the performance helped answer these questions, shedding light onto their artistic vision in addition to providing insight into the process of collaboration within their troupe. This avant-garde form of theater-dance was unlike anything I had seen before. As I tried to make sense of what I had seen through discussions with friends, my friends’ insightful comments and interpretations made me appreciate the great power of art in its ability to resonate differently and evoke different meanings for each person.

Creative Campus at the Student Activities Fair

Want to know what arts events are happening on campus? Are you involved in arts events and want to get the word out about them? Are you creative and want an outlet for that awesome expression? Or maybe you want to offer up your fresh take on what’s happening on this very creative campus.

This past spring, the Creative Campus website started in conjunction with the Center for the Arts. It was created collaboratively with Wesleyan students, artists, and staff. It is intended for anyone who wants to know what is going on with creative life on this vibrant and inspirational campus. It is a way of aggregating and collecting the creative life on campus, across disciplines, passions, departments, and student groups.

And speaking of student groups, Creative Campus will have a table at the Student Activities Fair! Come check us out to find out how you can get involved, to promote your student group through Creative Campus, or just to say hi. Hope to see you there!

Sarah Wolfe ’12 reviews Dewey Dell’s “à elle vide”

Sarah Wolfe ’12 reviews Dewey Dell’s “à elle vide”

Dewey Dell: à elle vide. Teodora Castellucci (left) and Agata Castellucci. Cesena, Italy. 2008.

Dewey Dell’s performance of à elle vide left the audience in silence for a full thirty seconds before the applause began. Though the performance had only been twenty minutes long, it had filled the theater with its energy, through the pulsing electronic beats, at times frenzied and at times eerie, and through the beautiful and extraordinary movements of the two dancers.

Dewey Dell was formed by four young Italian artists, three siblings, Teodora (23), Agata (20), and Demetrio (21) Castellucci along with Eugenio Resta (29). But watching the performance, one would never be able to guess their youth in the maturity of the work.

à elle vide is the story of two figures, the red Rooster and the white Scorpion, each depicted by the elaborate headdress and the color of their entire body and costume, which are designed by Teodora.

“[T]he characters,” said Dewey Dell in our correspondence about their work, “come from two drawings. These drawings, once finished, shouted their desire to live. How many times, in your childhood, have you had the desire that the drawing becomes a reality?”

Rather than focusing on these two figures’ relationship, the piece instead focuses on the “void that is created between the two figures, the vacuum mentioned by the title. à elle vide. to her empty.” Teodora, as the Rooster, began the piece with a ten-minute solo in which her precisely controlled movements coupled with Demetrio’s electronic score call to mind the Rooster’s short, hyperactive motions.

Eugenio lit the piece beautifully, using dim lighting to create elusive shadows, hiding then revealing the dancers’ bodies and movements. Moving quickly through the dim light, often with her head down, we rarely saw Teodora’s face, but when we did it was shocking and constantly in tune with the rest of her frenzied motions.

On one notable occasion, Teodora turned so that she was silhouetted in profile and we saw for a brief glimpse that her chin was shaking, vibrating along to her harried internal rhythm. In another, her hands moved so fast and fluidly that it seemed as though she could actually be sprouting wings, long silken feathers growing from her fingertips.

The fury of the Rooster was entirely contrasted by the cunning and curious Scorpion, played by Agata, content to be still and silent. Agata, wearing slender white heels, processed slowly to the front of the stage, where she remained for the duration of the performance, her face a mask of innocence, almost calling to mind a young girl wearing her favorite party outfit, putting on a show of shyness and timidity. But beneath lay a sea of cunning, revealed in each curl of her slender fingers as she waits.

Though the piece culminates in what appears to be a confrontation, the artists view the animals as honoring each other rather than attacking each other, dedicating their movements to their opposite.

“It looks like dance,” says Theater Department Chair Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, “but there is something essentially theatrical about it.”

The members of Dewey Dell responded to this question about the boundaries between theater and dance in their work, saying that it was not a simple question for them. “When we go to see dance performances we get bored, and we say to each other that we don’t like the dance, but, for us, what we do – our work, we mean – is dance…Then, we could define dance also [as] the leaves of a tree in the wind and we wouldn’t be wrong.”

The difference seems to lie in the connection between execution and intention. For Dewey Dell, execution cannot be all. Intention, the honest and natural movement, must be equally as strong to create a piece that is theatrically as well as physically engaging.

Just as the red Rooster and the white Scorpion emerged out of a drawing that was necessary to bring to life, Dewey Dell begins all of their work with an idea, an image that is demanding to be shared with reality. They begin by capturing the physical characteristics and the look, feeling how this character would move, and how it can be portrayed through elements of design. But they never lose sight of the original image.

“We could never have an idea without being able to realize it.”

“We do everything to bring it to life.”

The four founding members of Dewey Dell are in the middle of a two-week residency with Wesleyan’s Theater Department, which includes a week-long workshop for Theater and Dance students. In the workshop they are developing their new work, Grave: Corpi in Caduta Libera, the first piece they have done with human characters. They will conclude their residency with a performance of Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti (“a surreal reflection on how the borders between the sailors, the ship, the wind and the sea are blurred upon leaving the harbor“) at the CFA Theater on Friday, September 16, joined by Sara Angelini. Tickets are available at the Wesleyan University Box Office: $18 general public; $15 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty and staff, and non-Wesleyan students; and $6 Wesleyan students.

Request for Proposals: Student Commission 2011-2012

The Center for the Arts is accepting proposals from Wesleyan students for the creation of a visual art work/performance connected to the Feet to the Fire: Fueling the Future theme. The proposal should consist of a project idea and timetable for a project to be created and executed by the end of each semester. One project will be awarded each semester. The Wesleyan University Creative Campus Committee will evaluate the proposals and the selection process will be based on the creativity of the submission, the connection to the Feet to the Fire theme, evidence of cross-disciplinary thinking and the feasibility of the project. Selectees will be awarded up to $250. The Center for the Arts will provide assistance in the realization of the selected projects.

Proposals should include:

  • 1-2 page written description
  • Timetable
  • Visual work should also include a visual representation of the proposed project such as a photograph or sketch (jpeg or pdf preferred)

Proposals for the fall semester are due by midnight on September 25, 2011.

Submit proposals to Program Manager Erinn Roos-Brown by email to or delivered to the Center for the Arts office (located above Zilkha Gallery).

Summer in the City

Shira Engel ‘14 checks in from New York City.

So where do Wesleyan students go once school lets out? To Kenya to work at Shining Hope for Communities? To New Orleans to research the Gulf Coast oil spill? To work at their summer camps? To Russia/the South of France/Sweden? Yes, Wesleyan students will go to all of those places this summer, but first, they go to New York City, the home of a plethora of students and the future home of many more.

This summer, as I return home to the city, I find myself reuniting with friends from school. Last week, Emily Klein ’14 and I went to explore the latest installment of the High Line, which goes from West 20th to West 30th Streets. Originally constructed in the 1930’s for the elevation of freight trains, it was resurrected in 2009 with the opening of Section 1, which goes from Gansevoort to West 20th Street. It is an elevated park that features public art and an aerial view of the city.

The High Line is known as one of the rare places where New Yorkers go to do nothing. For two Wesleyan students, it is the equivalent of Foss Hill during finals week, an oasis in the midst of chaos. And it even looks like a campus in the sky, green and fresh plants balancing out the concrete we walk on. As we crossed the newest section of the High Line, we talked about the year to come and how we didn’t know why, but the experience of how being in the relaxation epicenter of New York reminded us of being at Wesleyan, surrounded by interesting people who spend their time in some of the most creative ways possible. What a great segue from a first year on campus to a summer in the city!

Abigail Horton ’11 on Gulf Coast Experience

Abigail Horton ’11, Wesleyan Summer Session Teaching Assistant, describes her experiences in Louisiana.

The students will present an open rehearsal of their works in progress, which have developed out of their research in the Gulf, on Friday, July 1, 2011, from 1pm to 3pm in Woodhead Lounge (Exley Science Center).

Samuel Sontag '14 and Eli Timm '13
Samuel Sontag '14 and Eli Timm '13

Seven students of the class The Deepwater Horizon Tragedy: A Scientific and Artistic Inquiry traveled to the Gulf Coast of Louisiana to explore the Deepwater Horizon oil spill almost a year after the spill occurred. The class was structured as an investigation – a scientific, artistic, and human investigation into Louisiana’s relationship with the oil industry, how it led up to the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, and how the people of Louisiana deal with it a year after.

The students interviewed over twenty people who were involved with the oil spill: An oysterman whose ninety-year-old family business was wiped out by the governor’s actions during the oil spill. A woman who would abandon her beloved Louisiana in order to save it. One biologist who concludes that we have turned the page since the spill, and a different biologist whose experiments conclude that there are lasting effects from the oil spill. The politician who dealt directly with President Obama during the spill. The first female oilrig worker in Louisiana, and many more passionate, interesting and conflicting voices of the story that is Louisiana, the oil industry, and the oil spill.

The class explored the southern-most rural areas of Louisiana and went to the coastline that was first affected by the spill. We talked to professors and experts at Nicholls State College and Louisiana State University. In boats, the students went out to the wetlands where oil is still caked on the coastal sands, witnessing first-hand the power of the substance to destroy land. Out in the Gulf, we saw the clean-up crews still slowly working to clean the wetlands. The class got into the Gulf and helped professors from the University of New Orleans troll for shrimp and fish to take data on the ecosystem. The class explored New Orleans, and enjoyed the Gulf seafood that Louisianans are so passionate about. Through all of out explorations, we learned how deeply embedded the oil industry is with Louisiana’s history and culture and the complexity of the story.

Perhaps one of the most powerful moments for the class was when we met with a New Orleans-based artist and activist.  Her art has examined the environment, the oil spill, and how nature is trying to recover. She looks at the fragility of the landscape and humans’ role in shaping that. She told the students, “make art about what pisses you off and what blisses you out.” This artist demonstrated to the students how powerfully art can communicate the environmental issues taking place along the Gulf coast, exactly what this class is striving for.

As the teaching assistant for this course, I was able to watch the students delve into this subject with curiosity and sensitivity. As the trip went on, the students became more involved and invested and came to understand the intricacies of the science, human, and political sides of the story. It was an incredible experience for all involved and it is clear to me the students’ dedication to telling the story of the oil spill with accuracy and thoughtfulness.

Wesleyan Students Research Gulf Coast Oil Spill and Create Artistic Works

Submitted by Erinn Roos-Brown, CFA Program Manager

On June 5th, seven Wesleyan students arrived in New Orleans for a 10-day trip that will include interviews with local scientists, fishermen and rig workers. The goal is to learn from these perspectives about the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which flowed for three months in the summer of 2010. They also plan to take a boat into the bayou to see the lingering effects of the oil spill, including a location where dolphins and other wildlife were reported dead from the toxic exposure. This trip is part of a Summer Session course The Deepwater Horizon Tragedy: A Scientific and Artistic Inquiry. It’s designed to provide the students with a toolbox for exploration of the science behind the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and began that process prior to leaving by spending four days on campus learning artistic and scientific tools.

By asking the questions: what is oil? How is it processed into energy? Why is it still the leading energy source? The students will hunt for answers that will enable them to understand the science at a deeper level, and make their research more visible to an audience through their art, which will be produced at the end of the course as final projects.

The class is co-taught by the chair of the College of the Environment Barry Chernoff and playwright and director Leigh Fondakowski. Leigh was the Head Writer of The Laramie Project and has been a member of Tectonic Theatre Project since 1995. She is an Emmy nominated co-screenwriter for the adaptation of The Laramie Project for HBO. Her latest work, The People’s Temple, has been performed under her direction at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Perseverance Theater, and The Guthrie Theater, and received the Glickman Award for best new play in 2005.

This course is made possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Come back later to read more about the final projects and hear from the students about their experience!