A showcase of arts department news

Arts Heat Up this Winter

Winter is no time for hibernation in the Arts Department. Students are busy rehearsing, creating, and learning new techniques, and a raft of performances and exhibits will give them a showcase for their talent and hard work.

Speaking of talent and hard work, Mark Wei ’17 received the Williston Working Artist Award, bestowed to those who go above and beyond in effort and achievement in the arts. This fall, Mark returned to campus after a summer internship at a Beijing studio determined to become a photographer. “It’s obvious that Mark has found his passion,” said photography teacher Ed Hing ’77. “He spends most of his waking hours in the Photo Lab thinking, creating, and making images. He aims for perfection in pursuit of his vision. The results have been exceptional and inspiring.” Congratulations, Mark!

On the heels of a daylong visit from Berklee College of Music student a cappella singers Pitch Slapped (read more here), Williston welcomed pianist Aaron Diehl. Diehl is one of the most sought after jazz virtuosos, consistently playing with what the New York Times describes as “melodic precision, harmonic erudition, and elegant restraint.” Diehl’s meticulously thought-out performances, collaborations, and compositions are a leading force in today’s generation of jazz contemporaries, spearheading a distinct union of traditional and fresh artistry. He was on campus to deliver a master class to Mario Flores’ instrumental students before his performance at the UMass Fine Arts Center with Grammy-winning vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant and fellow pianist Adam Birnbaum, playing songs by Jelly Roll Morton and George Gershwin. Read more about his visit here.

But there is still more to look forward to!

  • Artist Bill Mead is showing paintings through the end of February in the Grubbs Gallery.
  • Winter Choral Coffee House on February 16 will feature singers from Williston’s many choral groups at 7:30 in the Chapel.
  • Williston’s dancers will perform their winter moves during a show on February 27 at 4:30 p.m..
  • Theater Lab, featuring one-act plays of experimental theater, takes place on February 23 to 25 at 8 p.m. Read more about the plays and buy tickets here.

Jazz Pianist Aaron Diehl Gives Master Class at Williston

Aaron Diehl listens while Derrick Zhao '18 plays.
Aaron Diehl listens while Derrick Zhao ’18 plays.

Mario Flores’s instrumental students got a treat yesterday when acclaimed pianist Aaron Diehl stopped by campus and delivered an impromptu master class. “It was a fantastic opportunity for our students!” said Flores, who leads the Williston’s orchestral and jazz programs and teaches music here.

Diehl is a sought-after jazz virtuoso, playing with what the New York Times describes as “melodic precision, harmonic erudition, and elegant restraint.” He will perform tonight at the UMass Fine Arts Center with Grammy-winning vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant and fellow pianist Adam Birnbaum, playing songs by Jelly Roll Morton and George Gershwin.

“We had four students play and work with him,” Flores said. Students brought a piano piece they were working on, either already learned or just beginning to master. Diehl listened and then provided feedback and suggestions about everything from expression of emotion to concrete advice about fingerings and hand position. “It was a casual but professional learning moment for our kids,” Flores said.

 

 

Cig Harvey, Maker of Mysterious Images, Continues Photographers’ Workshop Series

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Photo by Sam Adler

For our second installation of the 2017 Photographers’ Lecture Series, we welcome acclaimed photographer Cig Harvey, maker of odd, off-kilter images from which one can’t look away. She will speak in the Dodge Room of Reed Campus Center on Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m.

Harvey’s photographs and artist books have been widely exhibited and remain in the permanent collections of major museums and collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; the Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine; and the International Museum of Photography and Film at the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York. Harvey began working in a darkroom at 13 and has been dedicated to photography ever since. She grew up in the deep valleys of Devon in the UK, and came to the States for her MFA in 1999, after years spent living in Barcelona and Bermuda.

Her first monograph, You Look At Me Like An Emergency (Schilt Publishing, 2012,) is a collection of 10 years of pictures and written vignettes. It sold out in all printings and was named one of PDNʼs Best Books of the Year 2012. Harvey had her first solo museum show at the Stenersen Museum in Oslo, Norway, in conjunction with the release. The book was well reviewed in a number of publications, including The Independent, Aesthetica, the Boston Globe, Blink, PDN, and Pro Photographer.

Harvey’s second monograph, Gardening at Night (Schlit Publishing, 2015,) was published in conjunction with solo shows at Robert Mann Gallery, New York; Robert Klein Gallery, Boston; and Paul Kopeiken Gallery, Los Angeles. The book received critical acclaim with features and reviews in Vogue, The Telegraph, the International Wall Street Journal, the International New York Times, and Aesthetica, among others.

The International Wall Street Journal said of the series, “Though the subjects and setting are familiar to us, we cannot help but feel that Cig Harvey has led us through the looking glass to a world of wonder. In the way that twilight is not quite day and not quite night, the photographs of Gardening at Night are stories not yet fully developed, while still capturing the unexpected yet oddly harmonious moments that surround us daily.”

Harvey’s work has been displayed at Paris Photo, Art Miami, and AIPAD every year since 2006. She has been a nominee for John Gutmann fellowship and the Santa Fe Prize, and a finalist for the BMW Prize at Paris Photo and for the Prix Virginia, an international photography prize for women.

Her devotion to visual storytelling has lead to innovative international campaigns and features with New York Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar Japan, Kate Spade, and Bloomingdale’s. Harvey teaches workshops and regularly speaks on her work and processes at institutions around the world. She is known for her high energy, sense of humor, and creativity. She brings a profound sense of optimism to all that she does.

Ed Hing ’77, Williston photography teacher and organizer of the series, said he asked her to speak here because of her creativity and enthusiasm about image-making. “Her work is sensitive and mysterious,” he said. “I always want to know more about the image after I’ve looked at one.”

Award-Winning A Cappella Group Visits Campus

32858865676_2b07eff412_zWilliston recently presented our second iteration of the Grum Project, which brings multi-disciplinary artists to campus, and is funded by a generous alumna.

Pitch Slapped, a co-ed a cappella group based at Berklee College of Music in Boston, performed at assembly and lead workshops with singers in the Middle School and Upper School on Feb. 10. See photos of the visit here.

Founded in 2006, the group enjoyed a rapid climb to fame, appearing on NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” twice winning the International Competition of Collegiate A Cappella Championship at Lincoln Center in New York City, and appearing on “America’s Got Talent.” Their YouTube video has gotten more than two million views.

Named one of the Top 5 best a cappella groups in the country by USA Today College, Pitch Slapped has toured the U.S. multiple times and won numerous awards for their snappy singing style that combines unique arrangements and incredible vocal virtuosity. Their repertoire contains of a variety of styles ranging from pop, to rock, to R&B.

The team will perform during an assembly, work with the Middle School chorus in the morning, and lead a workshop with Upper School choral groups in the afternoon. For a sample of their tuneful style, check out this video.

Gabby Record ’17 Nets Working Artist Award

Gabby Record '17 belts out a song at the Winter Choral Concert.
Gabby Record ’17 belts out a song at the Winter Choral Concert.

At a recent assembly, Visual and Performing Arts Department Head Natania Hume presented this year’s third Williston Working Artist Award to Gabby Record ’17.

Visual and Performing Arts Teacher Steven Berlanga, who leads choral music at Williston, said this about Gabby in nominating her: “Obviously she is a good musician and singer, which she is able to demonstrate at concerts and in rehearsal.

“She deserves this award because of what she does for the ensembles and the community beyond the classroom. She is president of our newly formed (still forming) Williston Student Choir Board, where she oversees the planning and execution of student events and concerts, as well as takes a leadership role in the ensembles.

“She writes and arranges music for our concerts. She is the director of the Wildchords a cappella group, which she does with little to no help from me. She jumps at every opportunity that is even hinted upon to sing and perform. She continues to be a leader in the classroom. She understands the importance of music making so much, that it doesn’t matter what type of music it is. She will give it her full attention and support because she recognizes music, not just by style and popularity, but by quality.

“She deserves this award, not because of the quality of musician that she is, but because of the quality of person that she is and her willingness to support the music making of others.”

Congratulations, Gabby!

Wildlife Photographer Melissa Groo Kicks off Photographers’ Lecture Series

Melissa Groo will be on campus on January 19.
Melissa Groo will be on campus on January 19.

Award-winning wildlife photographer, writer, and conservationist Melissa Groo on January 19 will kick off Williston’s 2017 Photographers’ Lecture Series, which brings notable photographers to the Williston campus for a public lecture and in-depth classroom instruction for Williston students.

Groo began her career as a photographer after working in a number of diverse fields, including banking, education, modeling, and silversmithing. A passionate advocate for wildlife and an accomplished technical photographer, she quickly won prestigious assignments for leading photography magazines. She has completed three for Smithsonian Magazine, covering the great sandhill crane migration in Nebraska (March 2014), the rare spirit bear in Brittish Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest (September 2015), and the endangered Rothschild’s Giraffe in Uganda (forthcoming cover story, March 2017).

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Snowy egret, Photo by Melissa Groo

Her photographs have been published in many magazines, including Smithsonian, Audubon, Outdoor Photographer. Groo has received awards and honorable mentions in national and international photography competitions, including Audubon (Grand Prize winner 2015), Nature’s Best, NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association), Festival de L’Oiseau, Birds as Art, the HBW World Bird Photo Contest, and Nature Photographer Magazine. She shows regularly and her prints are in personal and corporate collections. Her winning Audubon photos were exhibited in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., from 2015-2016.

groospiritbears
Spirit bears, photo by Melissa Groo

All of Groo’s photographs are taken in the wild, without any baiting. She feels strongly about the use of ethical practices in the photography of wildlife, and tries her best to disrupt her subjects as little as possible. She created Audubon’s Guide for Ethical Bird Photography with Kenn Kaufman, and she’s advised National Wildlife Magazine and NANPA, as well as the National Audubon Society, on guidelines for ethical photography. She is also a judge for the National Audubon Society and the BigPicture Natural World photo contests.

She writes for several nature photography magazines and teaches photography, as well as maintaining involvement in organizations that promote conservation and ethical photography.

Groo has recently been named recipient of Audubon Connecticut’s 2017 Katie O’Brien Lifetime Achievement Award, which annually recognizes a person who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and commitment to the conservation of birds, other wildlife, and their habitats. She will also receive North American Nature Photography Association’s 2017 Vision Award. This award is given to a photographer every two years in recognition of early career excellence, vision and inspiration to others in nature photography, conservation and education.

Wood duck, photo by Melissa Groo
Wood duck, photo by Melissa Groo

Groo worked for years at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, on elephant communication in their Bioacoustics Research Program. She was a research assistant for scientist Katy Payne with The Elephant Listening Project, and spent field seasons in the rainforest of central Africa studying forest elephants in the wild.

“Melissa’s respect, love, and admiration for her animal subjects comes through in work that is stunningly beautiful,” said Williston Visual and Performing Arts Teacher Edward Hing ’77, who coordinates the series. “She brings passion and professionalism to her craft, with the goal of making a positive impact on our dwindling wild places.”

The Photographers’ Lecture series features internationally acclaimed photographers who present and discuss their work to the school and community. Advanced photography students will have the opportunity to participate in a class taught by the photographers preceding the public lecture. Past visiting photographers have included Steve McCurry, known for his National Geographic magazine cover of the girl from Afghanistan, and award-winning sports photographer Damian Strohmeyer.

The free public lecture will take place in the Dodge Room in the Reed Campus Center from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Winter an Active Time for Williston Arts

Students are creating compelling abstract black and white compositions.
Students are creating compelling abstract black and white compositions.

Question: In this interstitial season when the fall play and concerts are complete and spring shows are a long way off, what’s going on in the the arts at Williston?

Answer: The arts are bustling in this “off” season!

Visual and Performing Arts Department Head Natania Hume notes that there is a buzz of activity right now in the arts. Documentary photo students recently took a field trip to MAP Gallery to meet with photographer Tracey Eller. The Caterwaulers, Williston’s male concert chorus, now has a critical mass of 30 voices and with all those basses can hit the low notes (the New Grove Dictionary of Opera defines the bass range as the E below middle C to the E above middle C). Winter dance revs up with student choreographers creating compelling and relevant work, including one celebrating the legacy of Black dancers and choreographers. And visual artists are hard at work starting with compositions in black and white.

“This in-between season is a ripe one for making art at Williston,” said Ms. Hume. “I always think of winter as a time when artists go inward and hunker down to create in earnest.”

The Caterwaulers are ready to sing low.

 

 

 

 

 

COMEDY OF ERRORS: Meet the Characters

There’s no denying it– Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors is pretty confusing. Two sets of twins lead to mistaken identities and everyone (characters and audience alike) ends up a little lost. Our production makes things more confusing because almost all of the actors play more than one role. And to add one more layer to the production…all of our actors are playing actors in a theatre troupe that is putting on The Comedy of Errors (anyone who can guess why we made this choice will earn my undying respect for all time). When the theatre opens before each performance, you will have the opportunity to see the troupe warm up, set the stage and may even get a chance to take a picture with them in The Comedy of Errors photo booth.

We want our audience to enjoy this production and have faith that any confusion will ultimately be cleared up. But if you are someone who likes to know what’s going on– we’ve got you covered! Read below to learn more about the characters!

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE and ANTIPHOLUS OF EPHESUS

These two are twin brothers who were separated at birth by a sea-storm. Both are wealthy and high-status men. One day Antipholus of Syracuse comes to do business in Ephesus which, unbeknownst to him, is the hometown of his twin-brother. This leads to the central plot of the play– everyone mistaking Antipholus of Syracuse for his brother, Antipholus of Ephesus.

Antipholus of Syracuse (Richard) and Antipholus of Ephesus (Harrison)
Antipholus of Syracuse (Richard) and Antipholus of Ephesus (Harrison)

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE and DROMIO OF EPHESUS

These two (surprise!) twin brothers are each servant to their respective Antipholus. Their entire job is to do the bidding of their masters. The Dromios complicate the plot by each interacting with the wrong master, infuriating everyone. The Dromios are repeatedly beaten throughout the play. While the stage violence was played for laughs and set the stage for the slapstick comedy of Charlie Chaplin and the Three Stooges there were, in the original production, some subversive ideas about the complicated relationship between servant and master.

Dromio of Syracuse (Simone) and Dromio of Ephesus (Sarah)
Dromio of Syracuse (Simone) and Dromio of Ephesus (Sarah)

LUCIANA and ADRIANA

Adriana is Antipholus of Ephesus’ wife. She (rightly) suspects him of marital infidelity and is irate about the inequity between the sexes. At the start of the play she is waiting for her husband to come home to eat and ends up bringing the wrong man home to dinner. Luciana is Adriana’s sister and much more content to let power dynamics between the genders alone. Antipholus of Syracuse falls in love with her, although Luciana is convinced her brother-in-law has made a pass at her. Scandal ensues!

Luciana (Neha) and Adriana (Alara)
Luciana (Neha) and Adriana (Alara)

EGEON and EMILIA

Egeon is the father of our Antipholi. He raised Antipholus of Syracuse and has been searching for his other son for seven years. We meet him upon his arrival in Ephesus, where the Duke (see below) threatens to put Egeon to death because the towns of Ephesus and Syracuse are mortal enemies. Emilia is the Abbes in the Priory we see during the last scene of the play. She has a secret that saves the day!

Emilia (Nina) and Egeon (Henning)
Emilia (Nina) and Egeon (Henning)

THE DUKE and THE COURTESAN

The Duke is the leader of Ephesus. Despite sympathy for Egeon, he has to carry out the order to kill him. Typical for Shakespeare’s comedies, The Duke also restores order and balance by the end of the play. The Courtesan is a wealthy, eccentric woman who is the object of Antipholus of Ephesus’ roving eye. She stumbles upon Antipholus of Syracuse and demands a ring he (actually, his brother) stole from her.

The Courtesan (Trixie) and The Duke (Maddie)
The Courtesan (Trixie) and The Duke (Maddie)

DR. PINCH

After Adriana comes to the conclusion (with help from the Courtesan) that the only excuse for her husband’s behavior is madness, she hires Dr. Pinch to perform an exorcism. It doesn’t work and Ephesus is arrested.

Dr. Pinch (Nina)
Dr. Pinch (Nina)

BALTHAZAR,  ANGELO, SECOND MERCHANT

Balthazar is the owner of a tavern where Antipholus of Ephesus dines. After Ephesus is locked out of the house, Balthazar implores him to act calmly so he does not ruin his reputation. Angelo is a local merchant who owes money to the Second Merchant. He has made a chain for Antipholus of Ephesus which he accidentally gives to, you guessed it, Antipholus of Syracuse. This leads to more confusion, jealousy, and arrests.

Balthazar (Glede), Angelo (Maddie), Second Merchant (Yael)
Balthazar (Glede), Angelo (Maddie), Second Merchant (Yael)

MUSICIANS

While not written into Shakespeare’s play, we’ve added musicians to our production to enhance the wackiness of the story. Some characters have instruments closely connected to their characters, some instruments are used to help make the stage combat evenmore silly. Without a doubt, though, the musicians have grown into a critical part of our telling of the story.

Our musicians (Nina and Kevin) with their favorite instruments.
Our primary musicians (Nina and Kevin) with their favorite instruments.

 

 

COMEDY OF ERRORS: Tech Week Begins

I mentioned collaboration in my last post. This is, truly, one of my favorite parts about being a theatre person. Tech Week for The Comedy of Errors began on Saturday and the power of collaboration was on full display.

For weeks the actors have  been rehearsing, the technicians have been building the set, and lighting designer Charles Raffetto and Costume Designer Ashley Tyler have been creating unique looks for the show. While we were working separately all of us had our eyes on the same prize: creating a cohesive, outlandish, ridiculous production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. Our job was to stay true to Shakespeare and his influences, while bringing something new and fun to the table. Yesterday we got to see if our individual work came together in all the right ways. Needless to say, when I saw Ashley Tyler’s costume designs on the set Charles Raffeto designed, with the lights hung by tech theatre students, I did another happy dance.

Assistant Stage Manager Risa looks over the prop table with crew members Britanie and Ha.
Assistant Stage Manager Risa looks over the prop table with crew members Britanie and Ha.

 

As blog readers know, Shakespeare was influenced by the Italian Comedy which  also heavily influenced our production. Charles Raffetto wanted to bring the “town square” feeling of a commedia performance to our theatre and created an open playing space ready for a modern-day commedia troupe.

The town square waiting for the actors to arrive.
The town square waiting for the actors to arrive.

We thought long and hard about what present-day actors would be in such a travelling troupe and came to one conclusion: hipsters. You will see that influence in the base costumes Ashley Tyler has given each actor. Prepare yourselves for vintage hair, lots of scarves, and at least two pairs of suspenders. Layered on top of our base costumes are character-specific pieces. Commedia was an art form of survival– troupes got by with very little. Ms. Tyler took this idea and ran with it, crafting her outlandish costumes with found items like coffee filters and post-office envelopes.

Dr. Pinch, Antipholus of Ephesus, and Luciana's costumes wait in the wings for their entrance.
Dr. Pinch, Antipholus of Ephesus, and Luciana’s costumes wait in the wings for their entrance.

All of this is to say that we hope to bring the same energy to our production as there was the night Comedy was first performed. While we don’t want our audience to riot like that night in 1594, we hope you do have a riotous good time. This will be thanks, in large part, to the “theatre magic” created through the work of our designers.

Nina and Glede apply Ashley Tyler's wacky make-up designs.
Nina and Glede apply Ashley Tyler’s wacky make-up designs.

Comedy of Errors: The Ab Fab Collab

Theatre is an inherently collaborative genre. There is, quite literally, no way to do theatre alone. It’s only natural that the author of this blog post, Emily Ditkovski, Director of the Williston Theatre, would seek collaborators wherever she can.

The source material for our fall play, The Comedy of Errors, comes from two comedies by the Roman humorist Plautus, primarily The Menaechmi (cue Latin teacher Ms. Cody). The play is also heavily influenced, as devoted blog readers know, by commedia dell’arte (cue AP European History teacher Mrs. Klumpp). I reached out to my colleagues last spring  to see if we could work together. They agreed (cue Ms. D doing a happy dance.) Ms. Cody, an expert wordsmith, named this project The Ab Fab Collab(oration) and thus something truly exceptional was born.

After some great and entertaining conversation, Mrs. Klumpp, Ms. Cody, and I decided that it would be most powerful for our students to teach our community about commedia and Plautus. Ms. Cody’s Latin IV Honors students read The Menaechmi (parts of it in Latin, ladies and gentleman!) and planned a lesson to teach the cast of the play.

A few weeks back Ms. Klumpp generously invited Ms. Ditkovski to her AP European History classes to introduce commedia dell’arte and discuss it’s influence on Western comedy. Some of you might have noticed me crossing campus with a vintage suitcase and wooden sword wondering what I was up to. Well, you are about to find out! Inside said suitcase were various props relating to commedia: a slapstick, a pair of pants, Barbie and Ken (delightfully dressed for a day at the beach), a bucket full of coins, among a few other things. Acting as detectives, students needed to connect the objects to commedia. At the end of the class they were given the opportunity to try on the body language of a few stock characters. The point of this exercise was to entice them to learn more about commedia so they can, ultimately, teach the entire Williston community a thing or two about the famous art form. I don’t want to give away Mrs. Klumpp’s secrets, but I know she is planning an AP Euro takeover of the Willistonian’s Instagram and perhaps a commedia board game or two available at the dining hall. Judging by their enthusiasm during my visit, I think we’re in for a good time!

The famous suitcase full of props.
The famous suitcase full of props.
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AP Euro students decipher the connection between commedia, an apron, and a slapstick.

After tackling The Menaechmi in class, Latin Scholars planned a visit to a rehearsal for The Comedy of Errors . Last Friday the night of their visit arrived.  After describing the characters and plot of The Menaechmi with gusto (and props!), the Latin students helped us played a little Kahoot to test our knowledge of the plot.

I was so impressed with the notes that the Latin IV Honors students made I had to take a picture!
I was so impressed with the notes that the Latin IV Honors students made I had to take a picture!

It was incredible to hear about how much Shakespeare was inspired by Plautus. Perhaps inspired is too generous a word…he essentially stole every major plot point from The Menaechmi. (Before we get upset and start calling Shakespeare a plagiarist, we need to understand that this kind of lifting from source material was a wide-spread practice back in the day.) In both plays we have twins separated at birth, a jealous wife, a husband accused of cheating, a man locked out of his house, and more. What Shakespeare adds to his play, however is all his own. In the scene-by-scene breakdown given to us by the fantastic Latin scholars, we see a  that Plautus was playing exclusively for laughs. Shakespeare, never content with superficiality, endows The Comedy of Errors with existential questions of belonging, family, and identity. Shakespeare’s gift for storytelling was truly brought home by the visit with Ms. Cody’s students. (No offense, Plautus.)

The Latin IV Honors students give us a scene-by scene breakdown (props included!).
The Latin IV Honors students give us a scene-by scene breakdown (props included!).

Why all of this collaboration, you ask? Besides the fact that it is just fun for us teachers who usually work solo in the classroom,  collaboration brings home how interconnected we are. Plautus wrote in Ancient Rome, commedia’s big moment was in the Renaissance, and here we are hundreds and thousands of years later thinking about these works of art and the themes they raise like class inequity and sexism. We stand to learn a lot by looking backwards in time from every angle that we can: theatre, Latin, history.

Latin scholars and the cast of The Comedy of Errors.
Latin scholars and the cast of The Comedy of Errors.