Eastern Theatre Program Honored at Kennedy Center Theatre Festival

“Thread City” took the stage in the fall 2017 semester.

Written by Jolene Potter

WILLIMANTIC, CT (02/08/2018) A number of creators and performers behind Eastern Connecticut State University’s recent theatre productions were awarded at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region 1. Held from Jan. 30 to Feb. 4 at Western Connecticut State University, the annual festival was attended by more than 1,000 students and faculty from colleges across the Northeast.

Eastern’s Performing Arts Department’s fall 2017 production “Thread City” was widely praised, receiving three merit awards. Ted Clement, the KCACTF regional festival co-chair, said that “Thread City” was the most visually spectacular and moving production of the many college productions throughout New England and New York he has seen this year.

Directed by theatre professors Alycia Bright-Holland and Kristen Morgan, “Thread City” explored the ever-relevant topic of immigration with a dialogue-free play that blended choreographed movement, visual projections and folky-electronic soundscapes to convey a heartfelt and historically representative tale of immigration in America. “Thread City” is the popular name of Eastern’s hometown of Willimantic, CT, which is known for its rich history as the largest thread-manufacturing city in the United States in its heyday.

The creative team of “Thread City” included several students and adjunct faculty members Travis Houldcroft and Jen Rock, who received merit awards in the categories of Conceptual Collaboration, Excellence in Original Music Composition and Exceptional Choreography. Theatre Professor Anya Sokolovskaya was also acknowledged for her costume design for “Thread City.” “It was Anya’s costumes that so beautifully placed our actors in time and grounded our often-surreal production into a plausible reality,” said Chase Rozelle, professor of theatre.

“Two Gentlemen of Verona” took the stage in the spring 2017 semester.

Also achieving success at KCACTF was Eastern Professor David Pellegrini, whose spring 2017 production of “Two Gentlemen of Verona” received three awards. The production was a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s early comedy about young people exploring love, friendship and the temptations of city life.

Students took the lead on many design and management aspects of the production, including set, lighting and costume design and as a result three Eastern students were honored for their contributions to the production. Eastern student Troi Barnham received a merit award for her coordination and staging of the fashion show scene, student Hannah Garrahy received a merit award for her work regarding the production’s Live Feed Videography and commercial and student Sinque Tavares received a merit award for his work as Assistant Choreographer and Lead Dancer.

Among the Eastern students recognized at the festival was Kerri McColgan, who won a scholarship to attend the Stage Craft Institute of Las Vegas for her hand-operated alligator winch, which was used in “Thread City.”

Additionally, a number of Eastern students were also awarded scholarships, served as technical interns for the festival and competed in the festival’s Technical Olympics. Eastern student Kerri McColgan won a one-week scholarship to attend the Stage Craft Institute of Las Vegas for her hand operated alligator winch in “Thread City.” McColgan made a winch suitable for use in the movement of rolling stage scenery components. The device allows the frames to open similarly to how an alligator’s mouth opens. “Thread City” Stage Manger Katerina Mazzacaine also received a $1,200 scholarship for her presentation on her experiences in “Thread City” as well as for her service in the festival’s Stage Management Fellowship program.

“We’ve all had very rewarding experiences here. Faculty and students alike have found profound opportunity and fellowship,” said Rozelle. “I can’t truly describe what it’s like to be a member of a 500 plus audience made up of only patrons who are also all theatre practitioners passionate about their work without the use of cliché: It’s thrilling, affirming and hugely inspirational.”

KCACTF recognizes and celebrates the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theatre programs. Eastern Connecticut State University congratulates all Eastern students and faculty for their contributions to performing arts and for their tremendous success at this year’s KCACTF.

Eastern Music Program to Host 4 February Concerts

Eastern Makes “College Consensus” List of Top Colleges in Connecticut

Written by Ed Osborn

WILLIMANTIC, CT (01/26/2018) College Consensus, a unique new college review aggregator, has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its ranking of “Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18.” Eastern was ranked in the top 10 schools in Connecticut, and was one of only two public institutions chosen, the University of Connecticut being the other.

To identify the Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18, College Consensus averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems, including U.S. News and World Report among others, along with thousands of student review scores, to produce a unique rating for each school. Read about the organization’s methodology at https://www.collegeconsensus.com/about.

“Congratulations on making the list of Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18,” said Carrie Sealey-Morris, managing editor of College Consensus. “Your inclusion in our ranking shows that your school has been recognized for excellence by both publishers on the outside and students and alumni on the inside.”

Part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, Eastern began its life in 1889 as a public normal school. Today the University is recognized as one of top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News & World Report, and has been named one of the nation’s Green Colleges eight years in a row by the Princeton Review.

Eastern is Connecticut’s public liberal arts college, with a student body of 5,300 students; more than 90 percent of Eastern’s students are from Connecticut. Eastern’s size gives its students an uncommon degree of individualized attention, aided by a 15:1 student/faculty ratio and a strong commitment to student success.

In addition to a strong liberal art foundation, Eastern has many opportunities for students to engage in practical, hands-on learning, ranging from internships to study abroad, community service and undergraduate research. For instance, Eastern has sent more student researchers to the competitive National Conference on Undergraduate Research in the past four years than all the other public universities in Connecticut combined. In 2018, 41 of the 44 students from Connecticut who will present their research at the conference in April are from Eastern.

With its history, Eastern is also one of Connecticut’s foremost educators of teachers, and its professional studies and continuing education programs have made it an important institution for Connecticut’s working adults.

To see Eastern’s College Consensus profile, visit https://www.collegeconsensus.com/school/eastern-connecticut-state-university.

‘Amahl, Night Visitors’ Visit Eastern

Amahl and the Night Visitors Cast

Amahl and the Night Visitors Cast

Written by Jolene Potter

A talented cast of Eastern Connecticut State University students, alumni, faculty and staff recently performed in “Amahl and the Night Visitors” on Dec. 2 to celebrate the holiday season. Composed by Gian Carlo Menotti, the opera tells the story of the Magi from the point of view of a young disabled boy named Amahl and his widowed mother.

Among the cast was Samantha Price ’19 of Cheshire. Price majors in Visual Arts and English.

The production was directed by Emily Riggs, professor of music and voice, and Pete Perreira.

The first opera ever commissioned for television, “Amahl and the Night Visitors” made its world premiere on Christmas Eve 1951 on NBC. Menotti drew heavily from his childhood in Italy when composing the production, stating in an interview, “This is an opera for children because it tries to recapture my own childhood. You see… when I was a child I lived in Italy, and in Italy we have no Santa Claus… Our gifts were brought to us by the Three Kings, instead.”

Performed in Eastern’s state-of-the-art Fine Arts Instructional Center Concert Hall, the production captured the wonder of the hoiday seasons and entertained Eastern students, faculty, staff and community members.

Amahl, a poor, disabled boy from just outside of Bethlehem sees a large bright star in the sky one night and tells his mother. However, as he is known for his vivid imagination and tall tales, Amahl’s mother dismissed his claims.That night, three kinds stop to rest in their home for the night, as they have traveled a long way following the star that Amahl saw in the sky. The three kings show Amahl the jewels and gifts they are bringing to the new born king and Amahl goes to sleep for the night. Poverty-stricken and hoping to improve Amahl’s quality of life, Amahl’s mother tries to steal some of the valuables brought by the three kings but is caught. Despite the kings generous offer for her to keep the gold, she returns it after hearing about the child that will need nothing but love to rule his kingdom. Amahl, hoping to offer an additional gift to the child, offers his most prized possession, his crutch. However, he finds shortly after offering his crutch that he is able to walk.

Eastern Jazz Ensemble Performs!

Jazz Ensemble

Jazz Ensemble

Written by Jolene Potter

Jazz music is in the air at Eastern Connecticut State University. Two concerts featuring student performers hit the main stage this December, including the Jazz Ensemble and 3 O’Clock Band, which performed on Dec. 1 and Dec. 4 respectively. Both concerts took place in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Concert Hall.

Michael Della Valle ’19 of North Haven, who majors in Accounting, played bass in the Eastern Jazz Ensemble.

The Eastern Jazz Ensemble is composed of students who play traditional jazz instruments including saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, guitar and drums. The ensemble performs works from the standard and modern Big Band repertoire.

Conducted by Bryce Call, the ensemble performed several selections from Duke Ellington. Ellington, who called his music “American Music” rather than jazz, remains one of the most influential figures in jazz and is widely considered as one of the twentieth century’s best-known African American composers. The ensemble also performed selections from Benny Carter and Marty Paich, providing a unique and entertaining show.

The Jazz Ensemble came out strong with an opening performance of “C Jam Blues,” an Ellington staple written in 1942 that features several improvised solos. The ensemble also performed Benny Carter’s “Vine Street Rumble,” a traditional Big Band jazz piece with extensive solos for tenor saxophone and piano.

This traditional ensemble entertains Eastern students, faculty and community members with music from a wide variety of styles and eras in the jazz idiom. In addition to performing compositions from traditional and contemporary jazz composers, the ensemble also enjoys improvisation.

The 3 O’Clock Band is a variable-sized ensemble that provides the student with a small-group experience. Students play classic jazz tunes from a variety of eras, ranging from standards and bebop to recent jazz and rock. Similarly to the Jazz Ensemble, the 3 O’Clock Band values experience in improvisation, a staple in jazz music.

The 3 O’Clock Band was featured in the Dec. 4 concert that highlighted significant figures in the jazz idiom, as well as musical compositions seen as highly influencial in the progression of jazz improvisation from the mid 1940s to present day. Composers featured in the concert included Jaco Pastorius and Charlie Parker. Pastorius was bass player known primarily for his highly advanced techniques on the bass. Charlie Parker was one of the first to introduce Bebop to the world, as well as adding to the style of improvisation.

Among the performed pieces by the 3 O’Clock Band was Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child,” a timeless jazz piece that originated from an argument between Holiday and her mother.

Eastern Percussionists Perform!

Percussion Ensemble

Percussion Ensemble

Written by Jolene Potter

Talented percussionists at Eastern Connecticut State University recently entertained audiences that included Eastern students, faculty, staff and local community members at Eastern’s state-of-the-art Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Concert Hall.

The concerts included performances by Eastern’s Percussion Ensemble, Percussion Group, World Percussion Ensemble, Korean Samul Ensemble and students in the Music Cultures of the World class.

The concerts, which were presented on Dec. 3 and 7, were comprised of diverse and entertaining musical selections that featured timpani, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, triangle and tambourine.

The Eastern Percussion Ensemble, Percussion Group and the World Percussion Ensemble presented a winter concert on Dec. 3. The ensembles performed a broad spectrum of musical styles from the original and transcribed works of the percussion and marimba ensemble repertoire. The Percussion Ensemble performs large ensemble works while the Percussion Group and World Percussion Ensemble perform smaller works and chamber repertoire.

Conducted by Jeff Calissi and Matt Bronson, the ensembles performed seven selections from a variety of composers and styles. The World Percussion Ensemble came out strong with an opening performance of “Samba Batucada,” a traditional parade music selection from Brazil that entertained the audience with synchronized musical phrases and choreographed movements.

The Eastern Percussion Group performed “Triskaidekaphobia” by Josh Gottry. The title of the piece is the term for a phobia of the number 13. Despite the perceived triviality of that phobia, the composer noted how there is often no labeled 13th row on most airplanes or 13th floor in many hotels in order to make people feel more comfortable. The song is a tribute to those who cast off unusual fears and superstitions. The unique song provides an exciting and energetic look at the number 13, featuring 13 instruments and 13 pulses in every pair of measures.

The Eastern Percussion Ensemble performed “Three Brothers,” a very early contribution to chamber music for percussionists composed in 1954. Written for snare drum, bongos and timpani, the three instruments serve as “brothers” throughout the piece. The ensemble also performed “Peril of the Bells” by Rick Dior, a take on the Christmas song “Carol of the Bells.” The arrangement included aspects of African and Brazilian drumming, as well as extensive mallet percussion parts. The beautiful rendition used a wide range of ethnic percussion intstruments such as congas, bongos and djembe, a West African skin-covered goblet drum played with bare hands.

The Dec. 7 concert featured performances by the the Korean Samul Ensemble, World Percussion Ensemble and students from the Music Cultures of the World Class. The concert showcased a variety of different cultures merged musically in order to provide a unique and entertaining show.

The Korean Samul Ensemble performed a traditional Korean piece of the Samul nori genre titled “Beonyeok!” that was originally designed to entertain villagers in a agricultural community on holidays or other celebratory events.

The World Percussion Ensemble performed “Guaguanco,” a rhythm derived from a traditional Cuban rhumba. The piece included conga drums and different patterns and tones to create an interlocking melody throughout the ensemble. The ensemble also performed “Rhythm Chant 2 + 10,” a piece for a variety of traditional ethnic instruments from around the world. The piece provided the audience with an ambient and relaxing soundscape of different cultures.

Students in the Music Cultures of the World class also performed at the Dec. 7 concert. With many of these performers having no prior playing experience, their performance of “Small Disturbances” by Mitchell Mollison demonstrated the immense amount of skill they acquired during the fall 2017 semester course. The piece uses two similar pitches played together to create small disturbances to the sound, like ripples in a pond.

Percussion studies at Eastern provide the opportunity to explore all facets of percussion performance and education. Students are provided with a variety of enriching musical opportunities regardless of major.

‘Sounds of the Season’ at Eastern

Concert Band

Concert Band

Written by Jolene Potter

Talented musicians of the Eastern Wind Ensemble and Eastern Concert Band presented a joint winter concert designed to capture the beauty of the winter season on Dec. 6 in Eastern’s Fine Arts Instructional Center Concert Hall.

Conducted by Kelly Watkins, adjunct professor of music, both the Wind Ensemble and Concert Band presented four selections at the combined concert.

The Eastern Wind Ensemble is the newest instrumental ensemble at Eastern and is designed to provide students with a unique, student-centric instrumental playing experience. Wind Ensemble is open to any student at Eastern who plays a woodwind/ brass or percussion instrument with previous playing experience. This ensemble performs music from the wind ensemble and chamber winds repertoire as well as more contemporary works.

Wind Ensemble

Wind Ensemble

The Wind Ensemble opened the show with Shelley Hanson’s “Patapan” (or “Pat-a-pan”) a French Christmas carol about the birth of Jesus Christ. The piece is told from the perspective of shepherds playing flutes and drums which are meant to mimic the sound of a drum. This rhythmic piece brought energy to the start of the concert.

The ensemble also performed the bright and classic “Bugler’s Holiday” by Leroy Anderson, one of the most famous trios for trumpet ever written. Despite being originally scored for a trumpet trio and orchestra, it has been performed by groups of nearly every instrument imaginable.

Eastern Concert Band is a unique blend of over eighty musicians comprised of Eastern Connecticut State University students, faculty, alumni, local music educators, and talented musicians from the greater Eastern Connecticut area. Performance repertoire includes classic band literature as well as challenging works from contemporary composers.

The Concert Band opened their portion of the show with a rich and energetic rendition of “Festive Fanfare for the Holidays” by James Curnow. This piece was based on the carol “Joy to the World” and brought added energy and joy to the holiday-themed program.

The ensemble also wowed the audience with their performance “Silent Night in Gotham” by Franz Gruber, a unique and colorful version of the classic “Silent Night.”

The Music Program presents a full season of concerts and recitals designed to entertain audience members to a diversity of styles and eras.

Eastern Presents ‘Little Women’

"Little Women" occurred in the smaller venue of the studio theatre.

“Little Women” occurred in the smaller venue of the studio theatre.

Written by Michael Rouleau

The theatre program at Eastern Connecticut State University presented the holiday classic “Little Women” from Nov. 28-Dec. 3. The play took place in the intimate venue of Eastern’s DelMonte Bernstein Studio Theatre, with a special emphasis on being “sensory-friendly” for audience members with spectrum disorders.

Written by novelist Louisa May Alcott in the 1860s and adapted by playwright Marisha Chamberlain, “Little Women” follows four sisters with a father who is off to war during the Christmas season. The March girls face a number of challenges on their New England home front: Jo desperately wants to fill the void left by the man of the house; Beth struggles with the shyness that keeps her close to home; a secret admirer watches Meg from afar; and no force on earth will keep Amy from her destiny.

“Generations of ‘little women’ have found themselves relating to each of the four girls,” said Molly Bagley ’20, who played Beth and served as the play’s dramaturge. She explained that the play is loosely based on Alcott’s upbringing. “We find solace in their progress and struggles, and the shortcomings they must overcome in order to achieve their dreams.”

Beth, performed by Molly Bagley '20 of Glastonbury

Beth, performed by Molly Bagley ’20 of Glastonbury

Unlike most Main Stage productions at Eastern, which take place in the Proscenium Theatre, “Little Women” occurred in the smaller venue of the studio theatre. “As a family-driven script, we wanted audiences to feel embraced by the warmth of the March home, and the studio theatre is more conducive to that,” said the play’s director and Theatre Professor J.J. Cobb, reflecting on the venue with seating immediately adjacent to the stage.

“The biggest challenge was watching out for those few audience members who rested their feet on the set,” said Matthew Bessette ’19, who played Brooke (Meg’s suitor), adding that the borders of the set were less than a foot from the audience at certain points.

“An opportunity for this style of theatre was learning to adapt one’s acting style to match the space,” he added. “Because the seats are so much closer, performing becomes less about conveying emotion to someone a hundred feet away and more about toning down that emotion so that it’s more realistic when seen nearby. In other words, the dangers of overacting are much more present in such a space.”

Mr. Laurence, performed by Edwards Lorsin '21 of Hamden, and Aunt March, performed by Ashlyn O'Boyle '21 of Killingworth

Mr. Laurence, performed by Edwards Lorsin ’21 of Hamden, and Aunt March, performed by Ashlyn O’Boyle ’21 of Killingworth

For Edwards Lorsin ’21, who played Mr. Laurence (elderly, protective neighbor of the Marches), being so close to audience members and seeing their reactions felt uncomfortable at first, but the seating arrangement brought another advantage. “Positioning our bodies was easier,” he explained. “We weren’t concerned about not facing the audience correctly because they were surrounding us. It allowed for a more three-dimensional space for the action to take place in. What happens on a more traditional stage appears to be more ‘flat’; actors often have to position their bodies to face the audience.”

Eastern’s rendition of “Little Women” was meant to be accessible to audience members with spectrum disorders – any mental condition that occurs on a “spectrum” and manifests at different degrees of severity. “Often people with these conditions are unable to attend live theatre,” explained Cobb, adding that the production’s sensory-friendly components included adjustments to the lighting, sound and seating arrangements.

While the actors didn’t necessarily change their acting approach for the sensory-friendly performance, which occurred on Dec. 2, Lorsin said: “I feel that having a show that is sensory-friendly is a good way to promote inclusivity and accessibility for audiences that wouldn’t otherwise attend performances on this campus.” This is important, concluded Bessette, “especially for a play that preaches acceptance and family values.”

Eastern to Present 6 Music Concerts

Concert band for blog Written by Jolene Potter

The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present six concerts in the month of December. Concerts will range from student-only instrumental ensembles to seasonally themed collaborations with alumni musicians and community members. The performances are free and open to the public and will take place in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. Donations will be gratefully accepted at the door.

“These performances highlight the variety of music study occurring on our campus every day – in our studios, practice rooms and rehearsal halls,” said Emily Riggs, professor and chair of the Music Program. “From opera to global percussion, whatever your interests, you are certain to find something on our calendar that excites you!”

On Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m., the Eastern Jazz Ensemble will perform a variety of big band music featuring student soloists. The Eastern Jazz Ensemble is composed of students who play traditional jazz band instruments, including saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, guitar and drums. The traditional big band plays music from a wide variety of styles and eras in the jazz idiom, focusing on traditional jazz composers, but also contemporary composers as well.

On Dec. 2 at 2:30 p.m., Music Program alumni, faculty and current students will present a fully staged and costumed production of the holiday classic “Menotti: Amahl and the Night Visitors.” The 50-minute production will capture the child-like excitement and mystery of the winter season and is perfect for children and families.

On Dec. 3 at 2:30 p.m., the Eastern Percussion Ensembles will present a collection of works from the percussion and marimba ensemble repertoire. The concert will feature the Eastern Percussion Ensemble, Percussion Group and World Percussion Ensemble, and will feature a broad spectrum of musical styles.

On Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m., the Jazz Combo “3 O’Clock Band” will present a concert of classic jazz tunes from a variety of eras, ranging from standards and bebop to jazz and rock. The ensemble provides students with a small-group experience with an emphasis on improvisation.

On Dec. 6. at 7:30 p.m., join the Eastern Concert Band and Wind Ensemble in celebrating the “Sounds of the Season” in a joint concert perfect for children and families. Eastern Concert Band is a unique blend of more than 80 musicians consisting of Eastern students, faculty, alumni, local music educators and talented community members. The ensemble performs classic band pieces as well as works from contemporary composers. The smaller Eastern Wind Ensemble is a student wind ensemble that performs music from the wind ensemble and chamber winds repertoire as well as more contemporary works.

On Dec. 7, audience members will enjoy the World Percussion Ensemble in experiencing the rich history of drumming in Korea, India, West Africa, the Middle East and the Americas. This event is perfect for children and families! The World Percussion Ensemble is a unique opportunity for instrumentalists to perform exclusively on percussion instruments in a chamber setting.

Magnificently Mistaken at Eastern

•The ensemble rehearses for "Magnificently Mistaken

• The ensemble rehearses for “Magnificently Mistaken

Written by Michael Rouleau

The Concert Chorale and Chamber Singers at Eastern Connecticut State University will perform their premier concert of the fall semester, “Magnificently Mistaken,” on Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. Conducted by David Belles and Sarah Kaufold, the three-part performance features musical compositions that are cloaked in mystery; with misleading twists and mistakenly developed histories. Admission to the concert is free.

“An aspect of singing is the opportunity to explore the manner in which our voices respond to other voices and across physical space,” wrote the conductors. “Featuring poly-choral pieces and ambient sounds, we have the opportunity to discover how some mistakes in music can be simply magnificent.”

Part one features pieces that are focused on the concept of “home.” Among them are “I’m Going Home,” selected from the Sacred Harp (1844), followed by “Kodutee,” which speaks of bridging the gap between life and death. “Yonder Come Day” closes part one with several traditional tunes that signify the “ultimate destination and resting place.”

MagnificentlyMistaken_flyerThe second part of the concert opens with “Tres Cantos Nativos Dos Indios Kraó,” a composition of freely based melodies sung by the Kraó tribe of the Amazon forest of northwestern Brazil. The sounds of a virtual rainforest enhance the three short melodies – which happen to have unknown meanings.

Another piece, Gregorio Allegri’s “Miserere Mei, Deus,” was developed over the ages through a series of mistakes. Once considered a favorite of the Vatican, the pope forbade anyone from transcribing it. In the 1830s the pope was defied by a composer who mistakenly transcribed it at a much higher pitch, then subsequently printed it in the New Grove Dictionary. “The result was a melding of the original version with a passage of high notes, creating the most famous and moving passage of the song,” wrote the conductors.

The concert closes with a collection of choral movements by Mozart ripe with historical confusions. Three were written for historic mass ceremonies. Revolving around the selections is a “spirited controversy as to how they fit into the canon in terms of form and function.”

Chamber Singers is Eastern’s premier vocal ensemble and consists of 20-25 auditioned singers. Repertoire performed by Eastern Chamber Singers encompasses chamber music from more than four centuries.

The Eastern Concert Chorale is the largest vocal ensemble at Eastern and focuses on choral and orchestral masterworks, as well as shorter choral selections. The Music Program at Eastern supports a variety of musical ensembles, small and large, classical and non-classical. Eastern’s ensembles are open to all students, regardless of major, symbolizing the liberal arts mission of Eastern.