Williston is fortunate to have many student artists who are deeply engaged in, and passionate about, the visual and performing arts. In a recent assembly, members of the arts faculty presented a new honor, the Williston Working Artist Award, to two students who pushed themselves beyond their teachers’ expectations to develop unique artistic voices. The first recipients are Rio Oshima ’19 in dance, and Kevin O’Sullivan ’18 in theater.
Natania Hume, visual and performing arts department head, described the students’ commitment. “Their passion has led them to express their own visions and perspectives through their art,” she said. “With hard work, imagination, and extraordinary effort they have made significant creative contributions, which strengthen our artistic and school communities. They are leaders and collaborators who excel in their art and are deeply invested in creative communication.”
Oshima, according to dance teacher Debra Vega, “practices hip-hop every single day. He arrives early to rehearsal and stays late. Sometimes I have to remind him to go eat dinner.” She added that when he has free time, he practices dance moves in the hallway of Reed on a little carpeted area. “Perhaps you have seen him?” she asked. Most on campus would say, yes, we’ve seen him in a roughly three-foot by three-foot space, out of the foot-traffic flow, making subtle shifts in his body, dancing to an internal soundtrack.
“And what you might not know,” Vega continued, “is that Rio, on his own time, travels to New York City to participate in hip-hop dance battle competitions, competing with some of the best hip-hop dancers in the world. I think this is a very brave thing to do for a sophomore in high school and a student who has only been dancing for two years.”
In introducing O’Sullivan, Director of the Williston Theatre Emily Ditkovski began by talking about collaboration. “Collaboration is at the heart of what we do as theater people. In improvisation, this idea is called ‘yes, and….’” The fall production, The Comedy of Errors, required an extraordinary amount of saying “yes, and…,” Ditkovski said, and described O’Sullivan as being “relentlessly collaborative.”
“Using the tools at his disposal: a tambourine, slide whistle, even a washboard, he provided a new layer of humor, depth, and magic to our show. He watched each scene over and over, experimenting with sound effects until they were perfect. He loved getting ideas from his fellow actors and took time to teach his collaborators the ins and outs of how to do the effects just right. Whatever crazy note I gave him, he took. ‘We need a sound there. Fix that other sound, it’s not working. Learn the ukulele.’ With a zest and joi de vivre all his own, he didn’t just say ‘yes,’ he said ‘yes, and….’”
Congratulations to Rio Oshima and Kevin O’Sullivan!