Wesleyan Baseball Little 3 Champs!

So many things happening on campus during these last weeks of the semester. Conferences, lectures, musical and theatrical performances…. Faculty, staff and students are getting in whatever they can before the end of term. And all this while finals loom in just a few weeks!

On those chilly days when we’re all running for shelter, and on those lovely Foss Hill afternoons when we try to catch some rays, the Wesleyan baseball team is out there on Dresser Diamond taking batting practice, chasing down fly balls, acting as if it really were a warm spring day. Well, this past weekend the team shut out the Amherst squad in consecutive games, winning the Little Three Championship for the third year in a row! The guys were undefeated against Williams and Amherst, the first time that’s happened in over thirty years! Coach Mark Woodworth and the team have added yet another accomplishment to their great track record, and there are still more games to be played this year!

Speaking of track records, we should all be proud of LaDarius Drew ’15 for yet another strong season. At the NESCAC championships he bested the field in the 100 meters, and also earned first place in the long jump. His jump was almost a foot longer than the 2nd place finisher! Speaking of dominating wins, Evan Bieder ’15 was triumphant in the 5k NESCAC championship race. His closest competitor was more than 30 seconds behind! UPDATE: Ellie Martin ’16 won the conference crown in the 400m race.  Ellie also was part of Wesleyan’s 4x400m relay, joined by Melissa Luning ’15, Ananya Subrahmanian ’18 and Sarah Swenson ’18, for a second-place finish in a Wesleyan-record time of 3:53.64, about three seconds under the previous program record.

There has been no shortage of dominating performances in tennis this year. Let’s just mention Eudice Chong ’18 who is now 10-0 in singles play and combined with Helen Klass-Warch ’18, has amassed a 9-2 doubles mark. Eudice and Helen are leading a superb tennis squad — and the men’s team is similarly on a roll.

I’ve focused on athletic achievements here, but there were plenty of other stand out performances I’ve heard about this weekend.  A group of talented professors gathered together to discuss issues in “queer/art/poetics.” A highlight, I’ve heard, was Wesleyan English professor Christina Crosby’s reading from her new book, Body Undone: Living On After Great Pain. Meanwhile, the Theater Department’s production of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano brought out the best in the students’ understanding of the theater of the absurd. A great group of Wes actors went a more traditional route in bringing Shakespeare to the campus with their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Just before the weekend began, Kari, Sophie and I were treated to a spectacular production of Into the Woods at the Patricelli ’92 Theater. This complex, wonderful musical was executed with panache by a dedicated, talented group of students. It was a joy.

And April continues!

Lin-Manuel’s Historical Rhymes and Rhythms

Our expectations were high this week when Kari and I headed into New York to catch Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (’02) new musical Hamilton. We had seen In the Heights with a raucous Wesleyan crowd several years ago when the show was having its Tony awarded season on Broadway — and we were blown away. Now we’ve been hearing all the great buzz about the new show. The New York Times ran a substantial article about it on Sunday, and The New Yorker published a long profile of Lin last week. My favorite line in this piece about his days at Wes: At Wesleyan, you can find resources for whatever cockamamie idea comes into your head. Lin will deliver the Commencement Address when he receives an honorary doctorate on May 24.

The show is spectacular — I never realized American history could be so cool. An early song, “I am not throwing away my…shot” knocks you back in your seat. The musical plea for forgiveness near the show’s end makes you want to drop down on your knees. Tickets for the Public Theater performances are now sold out, I’m told, but we’re rooting for a return to Broadway!

Who Tells Your Story?
Who Tells Your Story?

Theater and music around campus this weekend: In the Patricelli ’92 Theater Friday and Saturday you can find  “Almost, Maine” and at Crowell tonight you can hear “Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars” raising the roof.

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.


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!


Theater and Music Theses Enliven the Campus

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing one of the many fine student productions presented by the Theater Department at the Patricelli ’92 Theater. Claire Whitehouse ’14 adapted Matilde Mellibovsky’s Circle of Love Over Death and created A La Ronda, a play that focuses on the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. Claire spent months in Argentina and was deeply impressed by the women who refused to forget “the disappeared,” and showed amazing resilience and courage in their struggle for social justice. The ensemble (Connie Des Marais ’17, Helen Handelman ’16, Grace Herman-Holland ’15, Aileen Lambert ’16, and Dominique Moore ’14) was terrific in this moving portrait of the will-to-remember and the effort to turn individual mourning into collective action. The faculty, Stage Manager (Alma Sanchez-Eppler ’14 — who recently presented her own production) and production team must be very proud. Bravo to all! The play continues through Saturday night… And stay tuned for great thesis theater through the rest of the semester.

Nathan Repasz ’14 will be giving a recital tonight at 7 pm as part of his senior thesis. Drums will be at the core of the concert. Throughout the semester there are powerful recitals by our amazingly talented students, and I only wish I could attend more of them.

This weekend performances are waiting for you! Don’t deny yourselves the pleasures they bring!! THIS IS WHY.

This Weekend: Super Theater and Athletic Competition

This weekend the Brooklyn-based theater collective The Assembly brings HOME/SICK to the Center for the Arts. “HOME/SICK tells the story of a handful of student activist leaders in the 1960s who, searching for justice and an end to the Vietnam War, became convinced that violence could pave the way toward peace. With ambitions to overthrow the government, they formed the Weather Underground after taking control of the Students for a Democratic Society movement in 1969.” The play combines the personal and the political, the anecdotal and the historical, and we are fortunate that this group of young alumni (and others) are staging the work at the CFA. You can read more about it here.

There is also a tide of sports events crashing into the Freeman Athletic Center this weekend. The men’s and women’s basketball teams will see plenty of action Friday night and Saturday afternoon, and the track team will be competing against a bunch of teams in another invitational. Men’s hockey is at home Saturday and Sunday…while many of our other squads are carrying the Red and Black on the road.

The semester is only just getting underway, but I suspect these artists and athletes are already at the top of their game.




Artful Wesleyan Weekend

What a weekend of arts activity at Wesleyan! Pam Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts, continues to combine campus energies with amazing performers from around the world. For me, it started out at a faculty social event at the Zilkha Gallery at the end of the day on Friday. Have you seen the alumni exhibition there yet? It’s terrific. The work repays reflection, and it also made me laugh and squirm (those rats!). The show runs through early December.

Speaking of running, there were packed houses for Abraham in Motion at the Patricelli ’92 Theater. Kyle Abraham is a force of nature, and he brought that force to Middletown big time for three sold out performances. Speaking of sold out performances, Kari and I had the great pleasure of seeing the Theater Department’s production of The Seagull. Directed by Yuri Kordonsky, the show was brilliantly staged, and we saw inspired performances by the talented cast. The show had energy and conviction, passions and ideas.

While we were taking in the Chekhov, more than 300 gathered to hear the rejuventated Wesleyan orchestra. I only wish I’d heard what I’m told was a lovely and thoughtful musical program. Congratulations to Nadya Potemkina, the orchestra’s new director.

Many of these events are the result of faculty/student collaboration, one of the great features of our artful campus. Whether pondering Kyle Abraham’s moves or Chekhov’s moods, it’s been a weekend of creativity at the highest level on campus. I just have to figure out how to be in more than one place at a time.



The Wesleyan Festival Continues

April is a terrifically busy month, and also one in which there are so many delights to behold. Take athletics — from the men’s lacrosse team’s classy triumph over Trinity to the softball teams FIRST EVER sweep of Trinity’s women. Men’s tennis is also on a roll, dispatching Hamilton and then beating Tufts FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE WW II. The crew teams are having the kinds of success that send rankings soaring, while rugby sends opponents falling. And the baseball team seems to be having almost as much fun with its winning ways as the spectators up on Foss Hill. 

From almost anywhere on campus you can hear the drummers, who have taken to lawns of the CFA, sometimes accompanied by dancers. I couldn’t help but shake a little bit as I headed for this week’s senior artist exhibition in the Zilkha gallery. What a fantastic show! From the photographs of imposters to the paintings of (photographs of) Versailles, there is lots of great art to see. Check out the amazing blend of the conceptual and the beautiful! 

There are seminars and panels, lectures, films and shows over these next few days. After witnessing Lily Haje’s ’13 amazing immersive theatrical experience last week, I am looking forward to catching Eurydice at the Patricelli 92 theater. And after catching Sam Friedman’s ’13 UNBELIEVABLE senior concert last week, I’m looking forward to some great jazz at the CFA this weekend. 

Wednesday morning I met with WesFest families bright and early. There were folks from Bangkok and Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Berkeley…even Kansas City! I reminisced with them about my student days at Wesleyan, particularly at Alpha Delta Phi. Feeling nostalgic, I headed over to the Star and Crescent for a delightful lunch. I spent many happy hours in the kitchen there when I was a student, and I felt that great Wes spirit alive and well there yesterday. But don’t believe the Facebook photos… 

I’ll be back talking about liberal arts education with parents and pre-frosh this morning. They’ll be off to a day of meeting with students, professors and staff, learning about Wesleyan. There is an especially exciting event today: 

Global Produce founder and CEO Marc Shmuger ’80 – Previously, Marc worked as CEO and chairman for Universal Pictures. He will host a special pre-release presentation of the film, We Steal the Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, at 8 p.m. in the Center for Film Studies, Goldsmith Family Cinema. 

Wesleyan in the springtime. The festival is off and running. THIS IS WHY.


Conversations, Consultation and Feeling Thankful

This past weekend, the Board of Trustees was in town for its annual November meeting. Some trustees arrived Thursday to attend classes, and in the evening they met with a group of faculty over dinner to discuss skill building and career preparation. I had the pleasure of seeing a group of inspired students and Rinde Eckert in the Theater Department’s production of The Last Days of the Old Wild Boy. I went with Kari, who had been in conversation with Rinde about the human/animal distinction for the last several months. It was an extraordinary evening, the product of great teamwork, extensive preparation, and intense performance. I was so thankful to be there and to be part of a university where this kind of work takes place.

On Friday morning, a group of women on the faculty got together with the women on the Board of Trustees. I’m told that they had very productive conversations about the challenges facing women on our campus, and that they will continue to try to find ways to make our campus a place of true gender equality. During the day on Friday, trustees, along with faculty and student representatives to the Board, worked in committees on topics ranging from energy to the honor code, from fundraising for financial aid to the use of online courses to expand the reach of our educational mission. At the end of the afternoon, several board members met in an open meeting with a few dozen students to discuss financial aid. There were good questions raised, I thought, that clarified many of the issues we’ve been discussing since February. Over dinner that night, we celebrated newly elected trustees emeriti, and student, faculty and staff accomplishments. It was a joyful evening. Reading through the remarkable work that students were doing, I felt thankful that Wesleyan continues to attract and nurture such talent.

The Board concluded its work on Saturday, and we spent a good deal of time talking about the issues that had arisen at last week’s forum on diversity. We didn’t come up with a magical solution, but there was a commitment to continue to make our campus more inclusive. I headed to the gym with Sophie to get a little exercise, and then to watch the men’s basketball team (led by Derick Beresford ’13) win the Herb Kenny Tournament in convincing fashion. Dreisen Heath ’15 powered the women’s basketball team to a big win at St. Joseph’s tip-off tournament. The men host Williams tonight (Tuesday).

On Sunday evening, I was able to attend the first half of the African Students Association’s fall presentation. There were stirring performances of poetry, drumming, music and dance. I also learned a lot from the presentations. I left to attend the WSA meeting to go over our Board of Trustees discussions with the students gathered there for their weekly meeting. The student representatives spent hours (after I left) discussing key issues facing the university. We should all be thankful for their efforts.

My final meeting Sunday night was with more than 70 high school juniors and their alumni, staff and faculty parents, who are beginning the college search process. I could see the anxiety in some faces, and in some the hopeful anticipation of young people ready to begin a new stage in their lives. I extolled the virtues of liberal arts education today, and I emphasized that in our changing economy and culture this form of learning is more relevant than ever before. Looking around the room and thinking about my interaction with students over the last several days, I told the high school students that I hoped they would find a campus community where they were able to thrive, NOT because they were with people like themselves, but because they were in a diverse, dynamic and affectionate community from which they could learn. When they found such a community, I concluded, they would be very thankful. I know I am.

There will be plenty of work to do when we come back from break. For now, Happy Thanksgiving, Wesleyans!

A Campus Infused With Art

In preparing my syllabus for a seminar on photography and philosophy, I’ve been thinking about how the arts and the other academic programs intersect at Wesleyan. The recent lectures and concerts of Music and Public Life were a great example of such intersections. And in general, I’m just so impressed by the variety and quality of creative work on campus. Here’s just a sampling as we begin the week before the Thanksgiving break.

Tomorrow, Monday November 12, English Prof. Lisa Cohen will be giving a talk at the Center for Humanities entitled “Minerals Alone Escape It: Mourning Time.” She will read “from work in progress, a multi-genre project about the temporalities of friendship, illness, grief, and activism in the context of the AIDS crisis. A book in three parts and three genres, it also dramatizes three different historical moments, their echoes and discontinuities.” Lisa’s recent and very successful book, All We Know, also has three parts — delicate, incisive biographies of Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta and Madge Garland. Lisa brings art and research together in stunning ways.

Speaking of bringing art and research together, I am very much looking forward to Rinde Eckert‘s play “The Last Days of Old Wild Boy,” which presents a man who, having been raised by wolves, has “risen” to heights of culture and success. But he wants to go back to the wildnerness of his early years… What does it mean to go back to one’s animality, to one’s wild youth? Rinde is a musician, composer, playwright and (by all accounts) an extraordinary artist. This play has been commissioned by the Center for the Arts and has benefited from the involvement of students and faculty. Performances from Thursday-Saturday.

Tomorrow (Monday) night Benh Zeitlin ’04 Michael Gottwald ’06, and Dan Janvey ’06 of Beasts of the Southern Wild will be at the Goldsmith Family Cinema at the Center for Film Studies at 8 pm to talk about about their extraordinary movie. Check out the exhibition about the film in the Rick Nicita Gallery there.

And on Wednesday, New York Times jazz and pop music critic Ben Ratliff will be talking in the Daltry Room (Rehearsal Hall 003) at the CFA.

Let’s not forget the drawing workshop, a great place for those who want to develop their figure drawing practice. Students gather every Monday, 4:30-6pm in Art Workshops 105.

The arts…intersecting with almost everything we do at Wesleyan.