All posts by dcrommett

Spring Arts Events Kick off End of School Year

May is Arts Month at Williston, and it’s been busy! Over the past few weeks we’ve featured our sold-out Spring Musical, In the Heights (see photos at our Flickr page) and our Spring Instrumental Concert (photos coming soon!). As the year comes to a close, several more fantastic student performances are coming right up, so mark your calendars! 

  • Friday, May 20, and Saturday, May 21: Spring Dance Concert, “Music Made Visible,” Williston Theatre, 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 24: Spring Choral Concert, “Songs of Love and Betrayal,” Phillips Stevens Chapel, 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 25: Williston Scholars Artists Reception, Grubbs Gallery, 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 26: Eight Grade Art Show and Shakespeare Performance, Williston Theatre, 6 p.m.

Spring Dance Concert: Music Made Visible

On Friday, May 20 and Saturday, May 21, Williston students present “Music Made Visible,” the spring dance concert,  at 8:00 p.m. in the Williston Theatre.

After finishing a sold-out run of the Williston musical In the Heights, many participants in that show are dancing on and gearing up for a spectacular Dance Ensemble Spring Concert called Music Made Visible, directed by artistic director, Debra Vega.

This concert will feature the work of two local guest artists: Noel St. Jean-Chevalier and Charles Markham. Additionally, there will be six original pieces by students, including two senior solos as they dance their swan song on the Williston Stage, and the debut of a dynamic duet by an eighth-grade pair. Ms. Vega is offering three pieces this concert, including original choreography from the quintessential musical about dance, A Chorus Line, and a recreation of original Bob Fosse choreography to the big band hit “Sing Sing Sing.”

The performance will feature a range of styles, such as tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary, musical theater, and hip-hop. The Williston Dance Ensemble consists of students from both the middle school and high school, all who possess amazing sparkle and talent. Come support them as they “kick off” the end of the school year.


Williston Theater presents Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights

Students to perform the hit musical from the creator of the Broadway sensation Hamilton, after first conducting immersive field research in New York City

by Jon Adolph

Before he revolutionized Broadway with Hamilton, the musical that mashed hip hop with American history, playwright and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda launched his remarkable career with another genre-redefining musical, In the Heights. That production, set in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, explored Latino and immigrant culture and won four Tony Awards in 2008, including Best Musical. Miranda’s music and lyrics for the show, which combine elements of Latin salsa and hip hop, also won the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.

So it’s not surprising that Williston Northampton School theater director Emily Ditkovski calls In the Heights “one of my favorite musicals of all time. I was dying to do it.” She gets her chance, April 28, 29, and 30 and May 5, 6, and 7, when the Williston Theater brings the Broadway smash to Easthampton.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” Ms. Ditkovski says, and she means that in all senses of the phrase.

To help her cast better understand the origin of the production, she traveled in January with her students to New York City, where they met with faculty and staff of City University of New York’s Dominican Studies Institute and got to hear firsthand about the play’s development over lunch with members of the original Broadway cast (see The students then toured the real-life setting of the play, Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan, which also happens to be where Ms. Ditkovski taught in early 2000s. “I took the students by my old school and the bodega my students would go to on their way home,” she says. “It was a pretty amazing experience.”

But preparing for the play has also been a journey of discovery for her students, as they immersed themselves in new cultures to better understand the context of the musical. “We hosted a panel of Dominican and Puerto Rican community leaders in Holyoke, who spoke of their experiences, and we have been working with [local music director and teacher] Heshima Moja, who has not only been our dialect coach but our cultural consultant,” she explains. “With each line of Spanish, Moja teaches us not only the translation, but the cultural importance of the phrase.” The cast also met with Wane Peterkin, a graffiti artist, who discussed the importance of graffiti in New York City, and beyond. (Graffiti plays a key role in the musical’s plot.)

In the Heights tells the story of Usnavi, a bodega owner (named for what his parents first saw upon arriving in America: a U.S. Navy ship), and other residents of the largely Dominican American Washington Heights neighborhood. Usnavi has his eye on Vanessa, who works in the neighboring beauty salon, and he dreams of winning the lottery and returning to his native Dominican Republic. Over the course of three eventful days, Usnavi and others in his community experience heartbreaks, make sacrifices, and celebrate triumphs as they face changes in their neighborhood and in their personal lives. Ultimately, the play becomes an exploration of timeless human values, with lessons that apply to audiences and communities everywhere.

Miranda, the show’s creator, has made a point of encouraging high schools all over the country to perform the work, citing how valuable theater was to him when he was in high school. Ms. Ditkovsi needed little persuasion, but she also understood the challenges.

“Playing another culture, as we will be doing with In the Heights, is complicated—especially with the history of our nation and the history of white-dominated storytelling on Broadway,” Ms. Ditkovski explains. “I wanted to do this as best I could and make this project more than just a play but a holistic learning opportunity.”

Audiences will be able to see the results over two weekends, April 28, 29, and 30 and May 5, 6, and 7, starting each night at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 (general admission) and $7 (students/seniors), available at

About the Williston Theater: The Williston Theatre provides the performers, technicians, and designers of the school with hands-on opportunities to practice their craft. We produce performances for the Williston community and the greater Pioneer Valley that entertain our audiences, enrich their lives, and challenge them to think about our world in a new way. In addition to our extensive extracurricular program, we offer classes in acting and directing, and Williston Scholars projects in acting, directing, playwriting, and technical theatre.





Top Sports Photographer Damian Strohmeyer to Speak at Williston Northampton Photographers Lecture Series

Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles (43) runs for yardage against the Dallas Cowboys November 27, 2014 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Philadelphia defeated Dallas 33-10. (AP Photo/Damian Strohmeyer)
Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles (43) runs for yardage against the Dallas Cowboys November 27, 2014 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Philadelphia defeated Dallas 33-10. (AP Photo/Damian Strohmeyer)

“Did I get this or not?” photographer Damian Strohmeyer recalls asking himself in the seconds after David Tyree’s famous Helmet Catch, the play in the closing minutes of Super Bowl XLII that some have called the greatest in NFL history. A security guard had briefly blocked his camera, but fortunately for football fans, Mr. Strohmeyer did indeed get the shot. His 2008 photograph would soon become yet another iconic image in a remarkable career that now spans more than two decades.

Working for Sports Illustrated, among other clients, the Boston-area photographer has covered the World Series, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four, the NBA Finals, the World Cup, the Stanley Cup, the Indianapolis 500, several Olympics and 28 Super Bowls. On March 29, however, you can see him, and hear his stories from the field, in the Dodge Room of the Reed Campus Center, as he continues Williston’s Photographers’ Lecture Series. The free event begins at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the school community and the public.

Photography and Digital Video Instructor Ed Hing, who runs the lecture series, says he had been looking to bring a sports photographer to Williston for a number of years. “Every kid is involved in sports here,” he says, “Its such a big part of campus life.” Prior to his talk, Mr. Strohmeyer will be teaching a hands-on workshop to Williston photography students, Mr. Hing noted, and will perhaps demonstrate techniques by shooting the action on the Williston athletic fields.

Mr. Strohmeyer’s list of accomplishments and accolades is considerable.

He has been honored numerous times by the National Press Photographers Association in their annual Pictures of the Year awards, as well as by The University of Missouri in their annual Pictures of the Year competition. He has been recognized by The Pro Football Hall of Fame, which also exhibits his work. He was the photographer for A March for Honor, a book chronicling small town Indiana High School basketball, written by Sports Illustrated senior writer Alexander Wolff.

His list of corporate clients includes Nike, Sylvania, The Animal Planet, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Best Buy, Ackerman McQueen, Canon, Suffolk University, and Boston University. He had done editorial photography for Bloomberg Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Web MD. But he is perhaps best known for his work with Sports Illustrated, whose editors have featured his work on the cover more than 70 times.

Mr. Strohmeyer is originally from Kansas and graduated from Washburn University in Topeka. He is married to Joanne Rathe, a photographer at The Boston Globe and has three children, Jessye, Zach, and Leah. They live in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Mr. Hing notes that the Photographers’ Lecture Series has brought in a remarkable collection of talented photographers over the years, but their work may not always have been as well-known to students as Mr. Strohmeyer’s. This talk, he notes, “is an opportunity to see a world-recognized sports photographer. I mean, 70 Sports Illustrated covers is insanely impressive.”

Winter Arts Roundup

Trimester 2 wrapped up with fantastic performances by Williston visual and performing artists:

  • From February 18-20, Williston students presented the annual Winter Theatre Lab performance, this year entitled “Fish Out of Water.” See photos here.
  • At “Songs of Then and Now,” a Winter Choral Coffeehouse, students performed a variety of songs, from pop music to madrigals. See photos from the February 26 event here.
  • Dance and choreography students presented their work in an afternoon performance in the Chapel on Monday, February 29.
  • This Thursday, March 3 in the Grubbs Gallery, the Trimester 2 Arts Walk will offer an opportunity to see student work in the Grubbs Gallery and hallways of Reed Campus Center, from 6:30 – 7:45 p.m.


Winter Theatre Lab: Fish Out of Water


Student directors have selected one-act plays dealing with characters who, in one way or another, don’t quite fit in. Theatre Lab productions will be brought to life by student teams of directors, designers, actors, and stage managers.

This year’s one-acts are directed by Alara Akisik, Makenna Hambley, Neha Nascimento, Charles Raffetto, Caleb Stern, and Trixie Willems.

Dates: Thursday, Febbruary 18 through Saturday, February 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Williston Theater. On Friday night, February 19, Williston Scholars performing arts students will present their works before and after the play.

For tickets, visit

Visit Williston’s Flickr site to see an extensive gallery of photos.