In the Heights Will Soar

Tonight Wesleyan’s Theater and Music Departments present “In the Heights,” a fabulous musical that originated here on campus before taking New York by storm.

Here’s what the departments say:

“In the Heights” tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood—a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams, and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.

With book by Wesleyan’s Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater Quiara Alegría Hudes, In the Heights is the winner of the 2008 Tony Awards for “Best Musical,” “Best Original Score” (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Theater ’02), “Best Choreography,” and “Best Orchestrations” (Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman, Music ’02). The Wesleyan production is a collaboration between the Theater Department and Music Department, directed by Associate Professor of Theater Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, with music direction by Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina, and design by Assistant Professor of Theater Marcela Oteíza (set and videos), Jiyoun Chang (lighting), Artist in Residence Leslie Weinberg (costumes), and Mike Skinner (sound).

 

Still tickets left for tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday at 8 p.m.

 

Welcoming Families!

Family Weekend comes early this year, and we anticipate a large crowd of visitors to campus. There will be lots of wonderful events, from art exhibitions featuring photographs and paintings to South Indian music, lectures and athletic contests. You can find plenty more information here.

Parents of new students are often surprised at how quickly their sons and daughters have formed intense friendships — they can sometimes feel like extended families. Whether it’s a cohort formed in sports, science labs, art studios or in a rock band… these new relationships can be profound. Some alumni remember their “Greek” experience as most important in this regard, and recently, we’ve again had searching discussions about the relationships created in these societies. We announced this week that the residential fraternities will have to work over the next three years to become fully co-educational, and we’ve already had lots of positive feedback concerning that decision. Of course, we’ve also had some strong pushback from folks who feel that fraternities represent important traditions that should be maintained. Along with the Board, I am hopeful that these traditions can find new forms as the societies welcome women members and women leaders. Sure, it will be different, as these societies are different in many ways from their incarnations in the 50s and 60s. Working together, I am confident that we can retain some of their best features while building new traditions for the future.

I think we may be creating a new tradition of launching Tony Award winning musicals. OK, we are trying. In the Heights author Quiara Alegria Hudes is now a distinguished professor of playwriting at Wes, and the creator and star of the show, Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, was back on campus this week to meet the cast of the production that will be staged this fall. By all accounts, he gave a great talk/performance Tuesday evening. Provost Ruth Weissman, Lin and I documented the evening with a selfie:

Lin, Ruth and me copy

 

The vibrancy of the art scene at Wesleyan is legendary. In recent years, we’ve added another tradition to it with The Mash, our music festival on the first Friday of the semester. This year I played a little with some friends, and I was introduced to many Wes bands and individual performers. Here’s a twelve minute sampler:

YouTube Preview Image

 

There will be plenty of music, friendships and even a little theater this weekend. It should be a great one!

Music, Theater, Athletics This Weekend!

This weekend the senior theses shows keep coming. I missed the opening this week because of NESCAC meetings, but I’m eager to see the work of the studio art seniors at the Zilkha Gallery (up through Saturday). There are recitals (e.g., Simon Riker’s ’14 musical in Beckham, Jeffrey Berman ’14 and Molly Balsam ’14 in the CFA) and plays (Lily Whitsitt ’06 production of Vatzlav), and I hear a rumor about a great musical in the 92 Theater. And I’m sure there’s more!!

There’s also plenty of sports action. The baseball team has been on a tear. Last weekend there was a very exciting sweep of Middlebury, and this weekend the Williams team comes to town on Friday afternoon. The softball team has been lead by pitching ace Su Pardo ’16, who was named Player of the Week by NESCAC after heroic efforts. In track, Kiley Kennedy ’16 has continued her record setting ways in pole-vaulting, while Sierra Livious ’14 set a school record in the hammer throw. The Women’s lacrosse team is on the road this weekend, and they are getting stronger as the season progresses. The men’s lacrosse team has excelled, and they defend their first-place record this weekend against Bowdoin. The mighty crew teams will be up at Tufts, showing how pulling together really works.

It’s such a busy time of year, and I know I haven’t listed anything like a full report on goings on. But let’s cheer on our Cardinal mates wherever we find them: on the fields, stages, galleries or vaulting with a pole!

And congratulations to all those thesis writers who finished up today. THESISWHY!

 

Wes Students Triumph over Plant that Eats Humans!

While our athletes were waging tough battles up in Williamstown, a group of (mostly) Wes sophomores were tangling with a vicious adversary — Audrey 2, the human devouring plant from outer space that is the centerpiece of the musical Little Shop of Horrors. Although I don’t know exactly what we are supposed to take away from the “don’t feed the plants” ending, the tough part is mounting a high-energy musical out of this weird story. Regen Routman’s puppeteering was marvelous, and Dan Storfer’s (the voice of the plant) “feed me!” cries were hilarious. Jacob Feder, Trina Parks, Ben Zucker, Nick Martino, Linsin Smith, Beanie Feldstein, and Sara Guernsey were all in fine voice and very funny. After a week for me of storms, stress, and travel, this musical comedy was just what the doctor ordered. My hats off to the cast, the great band, the crew and Jenna Robbins and Jiovani Del Toro Robles, who co-directed this.

Go Second Stage! Go Wes!

Performance! Now!

Yesterday afternoon I stopped by the opening of the new exhibition in Zilkha, Performance Now. What a wonderful show! The entire gallery space seems transformed, and there is so much to look at, listen to, laugh with, and be absorbed by.  The exhibition is a collaboration between Wesleyan, Independent Curators International, and Performa. Roselee Goldberg, who has long championed adventurous performance art, curated the exhibition, and was on hand yesterday to make some remarks. She’ll be back on November 17th to lecture. A group of alumni who are making performance based work (check out Liz Magic Laser ’03 in this show) will be speaking on campus October 20. Here’s a brief summary of the show from the website:

Performance Now is an exhibition that will debut at Wesleyan, and show how performance has come to be at the center of the discussion on the latest developments in contemporary art and culture. Bringing together some of the most significant artists working today, this exhibition surveys the most critical and experimental currents in performance over the last ten years from around the globe. Segments of the exhibition featuring video, film and photography, by artists including Marina Abramovic, William Kentridge, Clifford Owens and Laurie Simmons, will be showcased in Zilkha Gallery.

Throughout the semester there will be seminars, talks, and performances. And check out the very cool Film Series on Thursday in the Powell Cinema at the Center for Film Studies.

There is plenty of performance on campus every year, but there is a strange synergy brewing this term. The Center for the Humanities is focused on temporality this semester, and performance is certainly a time-based medium. I heard historian Lynn Hunt’s great talk on Monday night, and it got the series off to a strong start.  And, of course, the Music and Public Life program continues all year with great performances and reflections on them.

As I meet with folks on campus, it seems that scores of students are auditioning for plays, dances and musical groups in these first weeks of the semester.  Here’s to “call backs!”

From Wesleyan to Broadway

Lin-Manuel MirandaWhat a great event! Wesleyan alum Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, In the Heights, is a triumph on Broadway!! This is a play that started out at Wesleyan and has now worked its way to rave reviews at the Richard Rodgers Theater. I can hardly wait to see what the critics are crowing about. Maybe before the end of spring break… For now, congratulations to Lin-Manuel, director Thomas Kail ’99, and the whole crew.

Check out some of the reviews:

New York Times
Los Angeles Times

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