Category Archives: Williston Theatre

Two Students Receive Inaugural Williston Working Artist Award

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.”

Rio Oshima '19 brought down the house at a recent Fall Family Weekend assembly.
Rio Oshima ’19 brought down the house at a recent Fall Family Weekend assembly.

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.”

Kevin O'Sullivan '18 on the slide whistle during a dress rehearsal of "The Comedy of Errors"
Kevin O’Sullivan ’18 on the slide whistle during a dress rehearsal of “The Comedy of Errors”

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!

Lots to Do at Williston’s Family Weekend

Damp snow Thursday night didn’t keep parents and families away from Fall Family Weekend.

Despite a snowy start, Williston Northampton School’s Family Weekend was a big success, drawing nearly 300 family members from around the corner and across the country. (See photos here.)

During the two-day event, families met with their students’ teachers, listened to a cappella music and watched previews of dance and theater productions in a special all-school assembly, and heard a state-of-the-school update from Head of School Robert W. Hill III and Dean of Students Kathy Noble.

An international family reception was held on a snowy Thursday night at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Hill. On Friday afternoon, around 100 parents and family members joined the Hills for a reception at their home. Families watched a rollicking production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors on Friday and Saturday nights (read more here).

Parents of international students gathered at the home of Head of School Robert Hill.
Parents of international students gathered at the home of Head of School Robert Hill.

Spectators witnessed Wildcat play in several sporting events on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon (see athletic results here and athletics photos in our Flickr albums). Williston’s Shaler Invitational cross-country race drew 17 teams—more than 550 runners—from around New England. Williston’s boys team came in fourth out of 14 and the girls team came in fifth of 13.

For many parents, attending a panel hosted by the Williston College Counseling Office helped start (or continue) the search for the higher education institution that will be the perfect fit for their child. The panel, introduced by Williston Director of College Counseling Catherine McGraw, included Matt Malatesta, vice president for admissions, financial aid, and enrollment at Union College; Gil J. Villanueva, associate vice president and dean of admission at the University of Richmond; and Michael Geller, the New England regional director of admissions/associate director for regional programs at the George Washington University.

Boys cross-country teams at the starting line up
Boys cross-country teams line up at the Shaler Invitational.

Malatesta taught high school social studies at independent schools in New York and Pennsylvania before taking a turn toward admissions. He was director of financial aid at Hamilton College before returning to work for his alma mater, Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.

“There’s great success to be had out there,” Malatesta told the audience, and encouraged students and their parents to look for “programs, philosophy, and opportunities” that line up with their needs and values.

Before joining the University of Richmond, Villanueva served as dean of admission and chief admission officer at Brandeis University. He previously worked at Bucknell University and Harvey Mudd College.

Matt Malatesta of Union College, Gil J. Villanueva from the University of Richmond and Michael Geller of the George Washington University talked college admissions.

Villanueva talked about the three Rs of the college search process: reflection, research, and resources. He added, when visiting schools, don’t pack too many visits in a single day. Seeing one college or university per day will allow a prospective student to really take in the atmosphere of an institution.

Before George Washington University, Geller worked in the Admissions Office for 16 years at Wheaton College. His message was that admissions officers look beyond grades to what those grades actually mean in context. How rigorous were the classes, how ambitious the schedule? “What we want to see is that students have taken a curriculum that appropriately challenges them,” he said. “Just hearing ‘3.5 GPA’ doesn’t tell the whole story.”

McGraw said she was delighted by the high turnout to the panel, which had to be moved to a larger venue to accommodate everyone who signed up to attend.

“We were so excited by the level of parent engagement in the college-search process,” she said, adding she appreciated both the honesty and the levity expressed by the panelists. “We definitely anticipate holding this event every year,” she said.

Genetic Update Conference Returns to Williston

The topics this year are common genetic conditions and stem cell therapies

A speaker who takes the latest breakthroughs from the field of genetics and translates them into relatable presentations will return to the Williston Northampton School for a public presentation. Sam Rhine’s Genetic Update Conference (GUC) will take place in the Williston Theatre on Thursday, October 29 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

Mr. Rhine has brought his engaging presentation to the Williston campus for the past three years and has been offering similar half-day conferences to high school students across the globe for the past 30 years. His presentations cover genetic advances, the latest research, and career opportunities.

According to his website, conference this year will include updates on such topics as Genome-Wide Association Studies and induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs).

“Sam will explain the strides made in understanding, treating, and possibly curing conditions, such as diabetes, Parkinsons, Huntingtons, autism, Lou Gehrig’s, multiple sclerosis and many others,” the website notes. “It is an exciting time to be studying human genetics!”

Mr. Rhine received a B.A. and an M.A. from Indiana University, was a doctoral candidate at Indiana University School of Medicine, and was a Lalor Foundation Fellow at Harvard Medical School. He received the Distinguished Hoosier Scholar Award, given to a native Hoosier for outstanding commitment to science education, by the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers (HASTI) in 2007.

Tickets for the conference are available at

Williston to Host Youth Genetics Conference

The latest breakthroughs in the field will be the focus of the day on Friday, September 27 when Williston Northampton hosts a Genetic Update Conference (GUC) presented by Sam Rhine. The external event, which will take place in the Williston Theatre from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., is open to the public and tickets are available at

Mr. Rhine received a B.A. and an M.A. from Indiana University, was a doctoral candidate at Indiana University School of Medicine, and held the Lalor Foundation Fellowship at Harvard Medical School. Mr. Rhine was awarded the Distinguished Hoosier Scholar Award, given to a native Hoosier for outstanding commitment to science education, by the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers (HASTI) in February 2007.

For the past 30 years, Mr. Rhine has spoken to high school students across the country and around the world about the field of genetics. His expertise is taking biology out of the textbook and applying it to real life. During one-day GUCs at schools like Williston, Mr. Rhine presents on, and holds discussions concerning, genetic advances, hot-topic research areas, and career opportunities.

Williston Children’s Theater Presents Kabuki Theater

Beginning February 18 the Williston Theatre program presents Wondrous Tales of Old Japan.  Written by David Furumoto, the play consists of four folktales told in the theatrically magical style of Japanese Kabuki theater.

The tales told in Wondrous Tales of Old Japan include the story of a boy born from a peach, a fisherman who goes on an undersea journey with a turtle, why cherry trees blossom so early, and the transformation of the Snow Woman.

“Our characters spring to life in front of your eyes and will be walking so close that you could reach out and touch them,” said Theatre Technical Director Charles Raffetto.

Wondrous Tales of Old Japan is produced by special arrangement with Plays For Young Audiences, a partnership of Seattle Children’s Theatre and Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis.

Wondrous Tales of Old Japan by David Furumoto
February 18-23, 2012 at 3:30 pm
Tickets: $7 students/seniors, $10 adults and can be purchased here:

Williston students, faculty, and staff are free.
The Williston Theatre
18 Payson Avenue, Easthampton

Illustration designed by Rob Kimmel,