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Jack Chelgren ’15 interviews cellist Joshua Roman to discuss his upcoming performance at Crowell Concert Hall on Friday, November 18.

Joshua Roman (Photo by Jeremy Sawatzky)

This Friday night at Crowell, wunderkind cellist Joshua Roman will play his début concert at Wesleyan, performing works by Debussy, Brahms, Astor Piazzolla, and contemporary composer Dan Visconti.  Lauded by critics as “a musician of imagination and expressive breadth” and touted by Yo-Yo Ma as an “[exemplar] of the ideal 21st century musician,” Mr. Roman has quickly become one of the most important and celebrated young figures in classical music.  After winning a spot as principal cellist in the Seattle Symphony at the age of 22—the orchestra’s youngest principal in history—he went on to launch a successful career as a soloist while continuing to work in chamber and symphonic settings on the side.  In 2007, he became the artistic director of Town Hall Seattle’s chamber music series, TownMusic, and in 2009, he participated in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, where he was the only artist featured as a soloist during its premiere at Carnegie Hall.  Yet Roman isn’t one to keep music confined to the concert hall, but has been extremely active in working to make music accessible to an immense variety of people, from Chinese President Hu to victims of HIV/AIDS in Uganda.  Just this past year, he was named a TED Fellow in recognition of his unprecedented achievements and his contributions to the ongoing vitality of the art form.

I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Roman over the phone this week, and peppered him with questions about a multitude of topics, ranging from the experience of being the youngest performer in the Seattle Symphony to his views on making distinctions between musical genres.  I came away with an impression that corresponds exactly to Yo-Yo Ma’s assessment of Roman as a musician who is “deeply grounded in a classical tradition,” but also “a fearless explorer of our world.”  In Roman, I learned, there lies a singular balance between a progressivist and a purist; he’s the kind of artist who’s interested in new ideas and forms but still retains a deep regard for the foundations of his tradition.  Which isn’t so strange, for as he sees it, the two are not so different.  “It doesn’t feel like a stretch,” he told me, when I asked him about the challenges of working in both current and more archaic idioms.  Indeed, Roman isn’t so much concerned with genre—or anything, really—as with the unique character of a work itself.  “There has to be something I connect to,” he explained.  “It comes down to certain qualities: A balance of emotion, content, and message; interesting structure, and creativity in form,” all of which are features that piece from any era or background might have.  “We love to categorize,” he went on, but noted how most categorizations of music are based on rudimentary aspects like characteristic beats or instrumentations.  Instead of this, Roman suggests, we might try categorizing music based on its emotional message, which often speaks to the essence of a piece better than any particular musical element.  “There might be more differences between Bach and Stravinsky than between Debussy and Miles Davis,” he concluded.

It is this same ethos—one that favors grouping works by their emotional timbre instead of by accepted genre distinctions—that Roman adopted when designing the program for Friday night’s concert.  Taking Dan Visconti’s Americana as his starting point, he sought out works of a highly nationalistic character to accompany it, for Visconti’s piece, as its title suggests, is an exploration of American style and influence.  He chose these pieces for their similarities to Americana; by associating the piece with such familiar masterworks, Roman hopes to demonstrate Visconti’s deep comprehension of classical form, his talent for crafting musical narratives.  Accompanied by pianist Andrius Zlabys, Roman will perform cello sonatas by Debussy and Brahms, Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango, and the middle three movements of Americana.  This is not a night to miss.

Click here to watch Roman collaborating with DJ Spooky on a cover of Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place.”  The performance was realized as a part of the Voice Project, a benefit for women war victims in Northern Uganda.

Katherine Clifford ’14 interviews Bebe Miller, Artistic Director of the Bebe Miller Company. The Bebe Miller Company will present “History” this weekend: Friday, November 18 at 8pm; and Saturday, November 19 at 2pm and 8pm.

Q: What is History about? What does the piece seek to accomplish and what do you hope the audience gains from it?

This piece is a way to look at the history of this particular group of collaborators. Most audiences see the piece that’s created as a record of the research process, ideas and the exchange between collaborators. On the inside, we know that what is lost for the audience is the continuing creative conversation that goes on between pieces. This piece is an attempt to bring our history forward and to show creative interplay, which is something we can all recognize of anyone who is trying to make something with other people. In sum, this piece is about how our dance company functions: the kinds of ideas, the exchange of physicality, and the interactions between our two company dancers, Angie Hauser and Darrell Jones. I hope that the audience walks away with the sense of the complexity of the process of two people trying to figure something out while moving through periods of history over a 10-year span. All in all, this piece is an exchange about a creative process and about friends over time.

Q: How does media play into the dance and the collaborative process?

You’ll see the dancers wearing headphones through a lot of the piece. They are listening to and then retelling conversations and stories that we’ve mined from our archives that give another kind of window into what it is we’re doing. Not only are we seeing them as these two people whose bodies hold the information of dance-making, but we get to share it in another way as well. I’m interested in these levels of interchange, the incoming of technology as a step towards and a step away from something. We’re also working with a video artist who is representing her sense of what we do.

Q: In dance, there seems to be a distinction between representation and meaning versus aesthetics for purely visual appeal. As a choreographer, what do you focus on, and how do you reconcile the two?

As a human condition, we pass in and out of meaning. As a choreographer, I’m not there to demonstrate a meaning, but I want to take it on and live through it and digest it that way. You carry the context with you and that’s the lens through which you start making something. Instead of showing the story of our history, we look at our history and figure out what it is saying to us, what it feels like, what is really happening physically between Darrell and Angie that is both abstract and completely human. We get to understand something about their familiarity as well as look at what their bodies are doing. I feel like the aesthetics of our piece reveal something about how our human condition.

Q: Can you talk about the choreographic process?

This is research. I’m asking questions that I don’t know, rather than trying to show you something that I already understand. On good days, it’s not so much the flow of answers, but some really good questions come up. It’s helpful to think that we’re figuring it out in front of you.

The Bebe Miller Company presents “History” on Friday, November 18 at 8pm, and on Saturday, November 19 at 2pm and 8pm in the Patricelli ’92 Theater as part of the Performing Arts Series at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts.

This weekend Wesleyan’s Theater Department presents “The Great God Brown” by Eugene O’Neill, directed by Associate Professor Yuriy Kordonskiy. The play follows the life and conflicts of two men, Dion Anthony and Billy Brown, who are friends and rivals throughout their lives. Originally written for four actors, Mr. Kordonskiy has cast ten actors to portray the complexity of the relationships. Earlier this week, Sarah Wolfe ’12 sat down with Nicholas Orvis ’13, who is the Stage Manager for the show, to talk about the experience so far and what to expect this weekend.

Q: What do you think about Eugene O’Neill’s original play?

I think it’s a brilliant show. It’s a good chance for people to come see some of Eugene O’Neill’s edgier work. I actually have not liked most of the Eugene O’Neill I’ve read because a lot of it, especially Long Day’s Journey Into Night, I found dull and dragging. This one is a fast two and half hours (and that was after we cut 40% of the text). But it’s really a show where he took a lot of risks and created a really exciting, controversial, not simple piece of theater. It’s definitely not classroom Eugene O’Neill.

Q: Can you talk about how you’re doing this four character play with a cast of ten?

A lot of what the play deals with, is the idea is that we have multiple personas that we put forth. The way you act with your family is different than the way you act with your friends, and so on and so forth. O’Neill originally did this with the use of masks, which we are also using. But one thing we talked about in developing the play is that we think the idea that we have only two of these personas, our public one and our private one, is kind of an old fashioned, limited idea. So we decided to have multiple actors playing the same part. We have three men who are playing Dion. We have two women who are playing Margaret [the love interest], two women who are playing the fourth character, Cybel, who is a prostitute/mother figure to both of the men. And Billy Brown is played by one performer in the first half of the show and in the second half – I won’t spoil anything substantial by saying he begins to deteriorate and as he deteriorates we add more and more performers, so that by the end he is actually being played by five people simultaneously.

Q: Talk about the use of masks, and how that’s been in the rehearsal process with people who have used masks very little or not at all?

It’s been really great to watch. We began working with neutral mask (developed by Jacques LeCoq) while we were still reading the text. For a while we had parallel work with just the mask theory work and the text and discussion of the characters. At a certain point we merged them and began working with sketches of the character masks.

Q: Talk about working with Professor Yuriy Kordonskiy as a director.

Yuriy’s phenomenal. Watching him work with a cast is very rewarding. He has the ability to see choices in the text that make perfect sense but aren’t necessarily highlighted, but as soon as he suggests them, we all go “Ohh!” So that’s very exciting.

It’s been a little hectic too. He is a very well known director in Romania and there was actually a week in our rehearsal process where he was in Romania, opening a play that he had directed there over the summer. It was a good experience for all of us in the production, because it pushed us to work ourselves and to develop the material ourselves. At the same time it was a little bit terrifying because we thought, “What if he comes back and everything we’ve done is wrong? And then we’ve just lost the whole week of rehearsals!”

Q: What’s your favorite part of the rehearsal process been, do you think?

There’s always a point where it starts to come together in a way that it hasn’t before. When we cast the show, we didn’t put any of them in roles. So we spent a couple weeks working as a group with the text. We’d be switching roles around, we’d be doing multiple scenes at the same time with different size groups of people. Several weeks into the rehearsal process, Yuriy solidified the casting. That was the point where things really kicked into high gear.

Q: Has there been a particularly challenging part of the process, either for you or for the cast?

It is hard, because we have no one [in the cast] who has intensively worked with mask before, and mask is a very demanding aesthetic style. It’s very physically demanding, and there are also a lot of technical challenges. Making yourself heard is much harder when you’re wearing a full-face mask. So that’s been a challenge but they’ve risen to it beautifully.

Come see “The Great God Brown”, this weekend in the CFA Theater. Tickets are on sale now and selling fast. This exciting show is not one you will want to miss.

In addition to Orvis, the ensemble includes Bennet Kirschner ’13 as Assistant Director, Mandy Goldstone-Dahlin ‘12, Emily Hunt ‘13, Jake Hunt ‘12, Zachary Libresco ‘13, Paulie Lowther ‘13, Cat Lum ‘12, Joey Mehling ‘14, Julian Silver ‘12, Anna Sproule ‘14, and Eli Timm ’13. Performances are 8pm on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday; and 2pm and 8pm on Saturday.

Katherine Clifford ’14 reviews the Fall Faculty Dance Concert, “Probin’.”

“Probin’,” this years’ Fall Faculty Dance Concert, was an exhibition of dance as a story-telling form and probed into the concept of how environment shapes identity. Iddi Saaka, Artist in Resident and West African Dance instructor, and Clyde Evans, Visiting Instructor of Hip-Hop dance, were the two faculty members whose choreography was featured in the performance. Iddi Saaka performed on Friday and Saturday night along with Wesleyan student, Rachel Fifer ’12 and grad student Menherit Goodwyn. Clyde Evans performed in the Saturday night performance only, but fellow Hip-Hop dancers from his Chosen Dance Company of Philadelphia were featured both nights.

Iddi Saaka’s use of media, props, and costumes in his piece, “Out of Place, was particularly strategic. This led to a rounded piece that was grounded in reality, while layered with metaphor and myth. Saaka used film footage from his village in Ghana to introduce different aspects of his dance and their underlying meanings. His message was a political and economic one; through interviews of people of his village and the manifestation of their ideas through movement, Saaka explored the disparity in wealth between Ghana and the West.

According to Ghanaian myth, at the beginning of civilization, Africans were distributed wealth by God in a hat, whereas Westerners received their allotment of wealth in a large burlap sack. Saaka portrays this myth through dance, demonstrating the large economic disparity, which results in feelings of resentment and competition. It ultimately leads to the exploitation of the Africans by the Westerners who insert themselves into and dominate African commerce and business. Rachel Fifer, who represents Western business, carries an abundance of metaphorical wealth in a huge burlap sack that is too heavy for her to carry. Fifer exploits Saaki and Menherit Goodwyn, who are desperate for money, to carry the bag for her. Fifer’s dance style is more lyrical than the others’; she moves freely in her prosperity while Saaki and Goodwyn move tightly and rhythmically, weighed down by the burden she has created for them until they finally collapse under the weight. This was a fun dance set to upbeat and rhythmic music, but it was similarly laden with heavy meaning. There were two major threads: the exploration of the connections between the West and Ghana economically and politically, and Saaka’s own struggle with identity as he moves from Ghana to America.

Clyde Evans’ pieces were interesting stylistically in conjunction with Saaka’s dance. Although from two different dance backgrounds, the two artists share a similar personal story of immigration to the U.S. (Evans is originally from Trinidad), which shapes their conceptualization of identity, and subsequently, their choreography. Evans’ “Egyptian Ballet” was a fun piece that merged cultures and styles of movements, inserting poses inspired by Egyptian Hieroglyphics into a Hip-Hop number. His work “Bros. Duet” exhibited two friends dancing together, representing the spontaneity, improvisation, and collaboration in Hip-Hop. “Don” ended the show with an explosion of pure, fun movement, showing the athleticism, creativity, and freedom of movement in freestyle dance.

 

Sarah Wolfe ’12 speaks with Will Levitt ’12 and Damiano Marchetti ’12 about their Wesleyan Farmer’s Market venture, DW Sandwiches.

I sat down earlier this week with the two seniors who make sandwiches at the bi-weekly Farmer’s Market. Their sandwiches, ranging from Beet Tzatziki and White Bean to Sweet Potato and Coleslaw to Roasted Cauliflower with Quick Pickled Carrots and Leek Mayonnaise, are both diverse and incredibly tasty, speaking as someone who has sampled every single one. Each time the ingredient list surprises me, and yet each time I walk away satisfied, satiated, and impressed.

Will Levitt ’12 and Damiano Marchetti ‘12 have both been cooking since they were young and have continued to make cooking a priority while at Wesleyan, from using the tiny, cramped Nicolson kitchen to finally having their own full kitchen as seniors.

Levitt, originally from Boston, MA, began cooking with his childhood friend. When their passion for food became apparent, Levitt’s mother invited them to cook a large dinner she was having. The middle schoolers cooked cod, salmon, mashed potatoes and a few other dishes to rave reviews. This dinner led to another catering request which led to Levitt’s first small time catering business – as a seventh grader. He’s been cooking ever since, as well as writing about food on his blog, called The Dorm Room Dinner.

Marchetti doesn’t necessarily plan to make food his career, but has inherited the values of home cooking from a life time of helping cook family dinners at his home in Napa, CA. He continues to enjoy home cooked meals and the excitement of cooking from scratch. Recently his specialties have branched out to desserts, making a variety of homemade ice creams (Caramel and Chamomile Raspberry to name a couple) and delicious cakes.

When they met freshman year, the two bonded over their mutual love of homemade pasta, fresh baked bread and essentially anything else they could craft in a kitchen. Living together in Hi-Rise last year, they started to cook dinner for themselves and friends almost every night of the week. Feeling cramped in the narrow, windowless kitchen, they decided to expand their cooking repertoires and invite the world to experience their home-cooked, inventive recipes.

For the sandwiches, they wanted to support local farms and businesses, as well as making sure their produce was fresh and largely organic. In that vein, for every sandwich they make, they travel to a number of local farms, picking produce that is in season to craft their next sandwich around. The sandwiches are often on baguettes made by a local baker, Howard of Chester, CT. With all the travel, including the time it takes to test recipes and actually prepare the sandwiches at the market, the venture is truly a labor of love and proof of their dedication to their kitchen-based craft.

Next time you wander through the Farmer’s Market, be sure to stop at the newly named DW Sandwiches. Levitt and Marchetti will be there, serving up delicious combinations of fresh, local veggies on fresh, local breads!

A video interview with Henry Kiely  ’11 about his senior thesis project.

Henry Kiely: “Paraphernalia Paintings”

Swerved is an online communal database of Wesleyan creativity, and starting this November 7 they will be hosting an exhibition at the Zilkha Gallery. Students are encouraged to submit any kind of art for the show. All forms of creativity are welcome, such as video and sound, 2D/3D art, photography, prose and poetry. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday October 26. You can enter by submitting your work to the Swerved website, at which point it will be automatically considered for entry.

To submit, email your work to hello@swerved.org or to emailSWERVED@gmail.com. They ask that submissions be under 10MB and that your include your name, class year, the dimensions of the piece, the title and the medium. Submitters whose work is chosen will be informed by email, and a hard copy will be requested for display.

 

Sarah Wolfe ’12 talks with Julian Silver ’12 and Michaela Swee ’12 about their Second Stage experiences.

If you like to get involved in theater on campus, Second Stage’s presence is exciting and vibrant. Starting the first week of each semester, Wesleying is flooded with audition notices and calls for Stage Managers, Board Ops, Technicians, and Musicians. Some look by these and wait for opening night to see what Second Stage has decided to offer up this week, but there are some who make a point of never missing an audition. Earlier this week I sat down with Julian Silver ’12 and Michaela Swee ’12, two seniors who claim to have a “why not?” attitude when it comes to auditioning for shows.

“You don’t end up doing it all obviously, but the experience of auditioning is just priceless,” says Silver, and Swee agrees wholeheartedly. But for two who claim to not “do it all”, they’ve had an impressive run of shows in their time at Wesleyan. If you’ve gone to see Second Stage shows in the last three and a half years, you’ve undoubtedly seen one or both of them, featured in shows ranging from Comedy to Mystery to Musical.

Swee, a Psychology major, has been in seven shows, while Silver has been in a whopping eleven (with at least one more planned for the spring).

The two made an effort since becoming friends freshman year to perform together as much as possible. That wish became a reality in How to Be a Man in West Belfast (written and directed by Ben Firke ’12), Glass Menagerie(A Performance Project dir. Bennett Kirschner ’13), Black Comedy (dir. Shelby Arnold ’12  and Samantha Melvin ’12) and the recent production of Dog Sees God, which marks Swee’s last performance at Wesleyan, as she is graduating in December.

Both of them noted The Glass Menagerie as one of the most interesting experiences they’ve had at Wesleyan.“[It] was a pretty insane experience,” mused Swee. “I think that was the most frightening experience I’ve ever had as an actor.”

The reason for this was simple: the actors, under the direction of Kirschner, were told at the beginning of the process that they were not going to rehearse with each other. Instead, they rehearsed individually with Kirschner and had improvised family dinners between the actors playing Amanda (Ariela Rotenberg ’10), Tom (Silver) and Laura (Swee). Swee and Matt Alexander ’12, who played Jim (her gentleman caller) were not even allowed to see each other outside of rehearsals. The first time they interacted was in the play, on opening night, creating a very real environment of new interactions between the four characters.

Though both of them related the doubts they had at the beginning of the process, they came to value this production as one of the “most productive” in their careers here, simply for the challenges it offered.  “That is a testament to Wesleyan, and Second Stage in particular,” noted Silver. “It offers the opportunity to people to offer themselves. Some freshman can come up and say, I don’t want to rehearse the cast with each other!”

Beyond Glass Menagerie, Swee’s favorite productions at Wesleyan were Songs for a New World (dir. Elizabeth Trammell ’10) and Dog Sees God. The two shows are a good representative of the variety that Second Stage presents. One is a musical cabaret of sorts, filled with haunting, beautiful, occasionally comic and often tragic songs and no dialogue. On the other hand, Dog Sees God is an often funny, sometimes darkly disturbing glimpse into what could happen if the characters from the beloved comic strip “Peanuts” were to grow up and go to high school. Swee’s experiences could have been polar opposites. Yet in both her strongest memory is the joy of rehearsal – for Songs for a New World it was getting to sing with and look up to some of Wesleyan’s finest singers, and for Dog Sees God it was discovering the joy of a silly, over the top character who enlivened her fellow actors throughout the rehearsal process.

For Silver, a particularly notable experience was Dead Sharks (written by Will Dubbs ’14, dir. Dakota Gardner ’11) in which the cast traveled to New York City to perform the play as part of Manhattan Reperatory Theater’s Winterfest 2011. “We all got to go to New York and take the train every weekend with each other, so that was a cast bonding experience like one I’ve never experienced before. And it was semi-professional. That was one of the first times I walked out into the audience and I didn’t know anyone except a couple people.”

Other than Dead Sharks, Silver cited Yalta (written by Elizabeth Gauvey-Kern ’11 and directed by Gauvey-Kern and Hannah Weiss ’12) as one of the most challenging for him as an actor. He played President Roosevelt in the three hour production detailing the events of the Yalta conference. On another note, he too found one of his favorites in Dog Sees God, in which he played Matt (Pig Pen). He called the process for that, as well as Black Comedy, “pure fun”.

Both Silver and Swee continually come back to the people of Second Stage when discussing their past experiences. “The plays come and go,” Silver says, “but I haven’t regretted any of the experiences just because of the people I’ve been able to work with throughout the process. It never fails – the people who work in theater who are willing to put themselves out there in Second Stage, are consistently some of the most creative people on campus.”

Their experiences, from the variety of shows they’ve been in to their own growth as performers, truly speaks to the function of Second Stage. Both Swee and Silver knew they wanted to do theater at Wesleyan, but chose not to be theater majors and to instead pursue theater in an extra curricular form. Through their excitement in the audition process and their willingness to sign on to a huge variety of performances and directors, they have created an impressive repertoire of roles. And yet in reflecting back on their years here, their joy chiefly lies in the process of putting together a show rather than with opening night or the curtain call.

Both Swee and Silver plan to somehow include theater in their lives post-college. Though Swee plans on pursuing Forensic Psychology and Silver is moving to L.A. to try his hand at the film world, they both discussed the importance of theater in their lives, and their unwillingness to let it fall behind.

“I definitely want theater, and film,” says Michaela, “to be a part of my life… It’s such a crucial part of who I am as a person that I can’t really see living a life without it.”

Shira Engel ’14 interviews Leigh Stewart ’13 on her radio show for WESU.


Tell me about your radio show.

It’s called The Smorgasboard and it is a show that combines international electronic and dance music. It’s a great excuse for me to play my favorite new releases that fall under those genres. It came up unexpectedly because my friend and I were supposed to do a show together, but she went abroad so I did the training and decided I might as well do a show by myself. I realized I have a lot in this genre. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel doing this whole solo radio thing, but I like having full reign over the playlist.

Why did you decide to start it?

I felt like I wanted to explore more how music is circulated and college radio is a very small representation. I was interested in how production works and how artists get their names out. I have several friends that are just signing onto labels and starting to DJ bigger shows. I’m interested in the progression of how a musician, and particularly a DJ, starts out. I thought it would be really interesting to look at it in terms of one really small aspect, which is radio. The College Music Journal has you record your playlist and you have to have a certain number of new releases every hour. It’s a way that they track new artists and make sure music is getting promoted through this outlet. I attended The College Music Journal’s festival, which compiles a lot of that music and at the end of the year in October, they have a festival in New York where they get over 900 bands and a lot of the stuff is funded and free or reduced prices for all these shows. I stumbled across that and wondered how these bands get here and how concerts and shows are related to radio.

How do you choose the music?

A lot of the music I want to play and that I’m interested in is actually old music from the earlier half of the decade that I have the opportunity to show to this audience. The new releases force to me to constantly expand what I am exposed to and what I expose other people to and it taught me to realize that the things I think are new for listeners maybe aren’t new at all. There are certain sounds and combinations of beats that I really like and ten or fifteen artists that I really like and I check their social media and trace that lineage to what could potentially be new music along that similar trajectory that I want to promote.

How do you prepare for it?

My show airs every other week, the seconds and fourth Wednesdays of every month from 9:30 to 11pm and it’s WESU Middletown 88.1FM and you can stream it online through their website. I use the two-week period to prepare and look for new releases so I’m constantly scouring blogs and putting them
nd go into hip hop and rap at the end. I always have extra music on hand and my playlists are always more than I think I will use in the studio. Another thing that goes into the show is beats per minute, which is matching the tempo of each song so I try to start out with each beat and mix between the song and between voice breaks. I change the tempo and move to songs that are a little bit slower or faster.

A video interview with Lucy Strother ’11 about her senior thesis project.

Lucy Strother: “The Cello Suites of Bach and Britten”

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