‘Africa to America’ Back by Popular Demand

The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present three performances of “Africa to America: Perspective, Pride and Power” on Sept. 17-19 in the Proscenium Theatre of the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

On Sept. 17, the curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m.; on Sept. 18, the performance opens at 3 p.m.; and a special matinee performance on Sept. 19 will take place at 11 a.m.

Back by popular demand, the production is directed by Eastern Theatre Professor DeRon Williams and written by Wendy Coleman, chair of theatre arts at Alabama State University.

This interdisciplinary performance chronicles the involuntary voyage from Africa to the unknown lands of America through the use of oration, music, dance and multimedia. “This rich and powerful experience depicts the struggles, determination and triumphs as seen through the eyes of many African ancestors and descendants,” said Williams. “The audience will also learn of the history, culture, heritage and legacy of African Americans from some of the nation’s most notable icons in the freedom struggle: Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Rosa Parks and former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.  

Tickets are $5 for the general public and free for Eastern students on a first-come, first-serve basis. For group or school pricing, or for more information, please contact the Fine Arts Box Office at (860) 465-5123 or email theatreboxoffice@easternct.edu. Walk-ins will be accepted as tickets remain available.

By Dwight Bachman

Eastern a Top 25 Public Regional University in U.S. News and World Report

The class of 2023 gathered for a group photo during the Fall 2019 Warrior Welcome weekend–Eastern draws students from 160 of Connecticut’s 169 towns

 Eastern Connecticut State University is again the highest ranked institution among Connecticut’s four state universities in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s edition of “Best Colleges.” The 2020 rankings were released on Sept. 9.

This is Eastern’s highest ranking ever as it was ranked 21st among public universities in the North Region. Eastern moved up five spots among public institutions over last year’s rankings and moved up 13 spots when both public and private institutions were considered.

Under the mentorship of Biology Professor Vijaykumar Veerappan, Roshani Budhathoki ’19 was selected for an undergraduate fellowship by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB).

.The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, and is known as the most competitive among the four regions that make up the U.S. News and World Report ranking system.

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked based on 15 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, class size, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.

“Given the uncertain times facing the higher education community, I am delighted to see Eastern achieving its highest ranking ever,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “This is a testament to our commitment to high standards and the faculty and staff’s focus on providing students with personal attention. Our improved ranking this year is due to our rising graduation and retention rates as well as the continued quality of our incoming classes.

 Environmental earth science students traveled to the mountains of Wyoming and Idaho this summer for a geology field course led by Eastern faculty.:

“Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college. These newest rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a relevant and high-quality education on our beautiful residential campus.”

This year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of upwards of 1,400 schools nationwide and are available at www.usnews.com/colleges. They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2020 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 15.

For the past 35 years, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which group colleges based on categories created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, have grown to be the most comprehensive research tool for students and parents considering higher education opportunities.

Written by Ed Osborn

Adella Dzitko-Carlson Completes Music Fellowship

Eastern Connecticut State University student Adella Dzitko-Carlson ’19 devoted three weeks this summer to mastering the clarinet and analyzing music scores. As part of an on-campus fellowship that concluded this August, she worked with her faculty mentor, Professor Christopher Howard, to strengthen her performance skills and obtain a better understanding of her role as a musician.

Her intensive schedule included playing the clarinet for six hours a day and studying score sheets for three hours a day. She also took the time to begin preparing her repertoire for graduate school auditions and her senior recital. Howard noted that the goal of the fellowship was for Dzitko-Carlson to understand the clarinetist’s role in a broader sense.

When studying the scores, she also analyzed the roles of other instruments in a composition. “I allowed the pieces to inform my decisions on dynamics,” she said. “I also thought about what other instruments can do when applied to playing with the clarinet.”

Dzitko-Carlson plays the clarinet throughout the year, but she hadn’t had the opportunity to fully immerse herself in her playing. “It was nice to have extended periods to focus only on practicing,” she said.

Howard noted that she was not only playing music and analyzing it but gaining experience few ever get. “One of the more invaluable skills that Adella was able to get out of this experience is learning how it feels to be completely enveloped in a regimen that’s as intense as she went through for the past three weeks.”

In addition to playing the clarinet and studying score sheets, Dzitko-Carlson also had writing assignments in which she reflected on the new perspectives and knowledge she was gaining as a musician.

Professor Chris Howard and Adella Dzitko-Carlson.

One of the obstacles she faced was keeping up with the challenging schedule. “A big challenge was definitely building up mental endurance; it took a lot to get through the long days while remaining focused and productive the entire time.”

Howard added, “Playing the clarinet is not something that many people realize can be as physically taxing as it is. Something we had to be careful about was performance injuries. We had to be aware of things like hands and facial muscles.”

Howard commented on how much work and effort it took from Dzitko-Carlson to get through the three weeks. “This is not something that is suited for every music student; it takes a very special type of student to do what she did. Adella is one of the hardest working students I’ve ever worked with; she completely took the challenge and ran with it.”

Dzitko-Carlson plans to continue playing the clarinet and obtaining her master’s degree in performing arts after graduating from Eastern.

Written by Vania Galicia

STEP/CAP Students Perform Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls”

Lefto to right,Tatiana Stokes, Tyanna Soto, Jackie Verian, Myrdline Nourrissant, Liddy Siggia, Tajmarnie Appolon, & Norine Andrade

Eastern Connecticut State University STEP/CAP students performed a staged reading of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls” on Aug. 9 in the Fine Arts Instructional Center’s Proscenium Theater. The Summer Transition at Eastern Program and Contract Admissions Program (STEP/CAP) was designed to help prospective Eastern students prepare for the rigors of college coursework the summer prior to beginning college.

Center, Jackie Verian; left to right:. Tajmarnie Appolon, Tatiana Stokes, Myrdline Nourrissant, Norine Andrade, Liddy Siggia, & Tyanna Soto

Students in the STEP/CAP program worked with Eastern’s performing arts staff for four weeks to rehearse pieces from Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.”

Left to right, Chasidy Eubanks Perry, Brooklyn Ortiz, Jahney Dudley, Myrdline Nourrissant, & Tatiana Stokes

“For Colored Girls” is a choreopoem made up of a series of poetic monologues that follow the stories of seven women who have faced oppression in a racist and sexist society. The series of poems address issues such as rape, abusive relationships and racism.  Some of the poems that students performed included “Dark Phrases”, “No Assistance”, “I’m A Poet Who”, “Latent Rapists’”, “Somebody Almost Walked off Wid Alla My Stuff”, “Sorry”, “A Nite with Beau Willie Brown” and “A Laying on of Hands.”

The final show highlighted African and Hip Hop dance performances choreographed by senior, Jaqueline Verian ‘20.  Professor DeRon S. Williams, who directed

Left, Tatiana Stokes and Myrdline Nourrissant

and also choreographed pieces, expressed how instrumental Verian was in the process. “Initially Jaqueline was merely providing an outlet for students to free themselves from the stresses of the STEP/CAP program, but Professor Morgan and I thought I thought it would be a robbery to not showcase Jackie’s outstanding work, leadership and passion.”

The students rehearsed several days a week for four weeks prior to the performance. Rehearsals consisted of learning choreography, stage directions, designing lighting and projections for the performance. One of the challenges students faced was getting the right pronunciation for the poems, but they practiced on their own time and helped each other get the pronunciations down in time for the performance.

Professor Kristen Morgan, who helped design the performance, noted that the students involved grew immensely in a short period of time. “They accepted the challenge of working with a script that was new to all of them and it was rewarding to see their confidence improve,” she said. “Their relationships with each other also grew, and their creative sparks were ignited.”

Williams, also commented on the changes students experienced by the end of the four weeks. “From day one, the students were a bit shy and reserved, but throughout the process, I witnessed their growth as individuals and the development of their confidence,” he said.

Students also commented on how performing the pieces allowed them to grow and feel more empowered. Liddy Siggia ’22 said, “Performing these pieces felt empowering and it was also a good way to spread the message to everyone, both men and women, that these are common struggles that women face every day.”

Tyanna Soto

Tatiana Stokes ‘22, who was also a part of the performance commented on the experience. “The play itself was something that stood out to me because I had never heard about it before, but by the end of it, it had affected me in an enlightening way that left me surprised.”

Jaqueline Verian ’20, who took part in several pieces commented on how the pieces allowed her to connect with other women’s experiences. “I appreciate the fact that these poems realigned my understanding of abusive relationships,” she said. “They also showed me how manipulative and misconceiving abusive relationships can be to an outsider’s eye.”

Verian said that by the end of the experience she felt more empowered and prepared to start the new school year. “Since I am a new actor, being involved in these strong and very powerful pieces helped influence me to push myself,” she said. “These performances became both learning experiences and releases of emotions. I wish I could personally thank Ntozake Shange for her work.”

Written by Vania Galicia

New Media Students Participate in Prague Quadrennial Festival

PQ was held at the Prague Industrial Palace and Exhibition Grounds.

A group of Eastern students traveled to the Czech Republic from June 3–17 for the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space (PQ). The global field course titled “Theatre on Tour” exposed New Media Studies and Theatre students to some of the ground-breaking developments happening in the world of performance space and design. The two-week course was led by Professors Kristen Morgan and Anya Sokolovskaya. 

PQ was established in 1967 to showcase the best in performance design, scenography and theatre architecture. This year’s festival took place at Prague’s Industrial Palace and Exhibition Grounds, where students watched and participated in performances, discussions, lectures and workshops with fellow artists from 79 countries.

The Eastern group poses for a photo by the John Lennon Wall.

A highlight for Olivia Wronka ’22 included the performance titled “Vertical Dance,” which consisted of choreographed dancers moving along the side of a building. “It was an awe-inspiring performance and the first to make me feel emotional,” she said. “This field course opened my eyes to the incredibly advanced artistry that is out there.”

Students attend the PQ Talk on the field of new media.

Cody Motivans ’19 was struck by the performance “Morning, Afternoon, Evening, Night,” which involved actors portraying a feuding couple. Viewers were given headsets with dialogue saying what the couple was thinking but not saying out loud. “It was fascinating to watch, and showed how we filter ourselves,” he said. “It would be an incredible element to incorporate into a show at Eastern.”

Certain performances left the students puzzled. For example, Denmark’s presentation of “The Virgin” consisted of a man spinning slowly in a glass box. At 2 p.m. each afternoon, blood was drawn from him and put up for raffle. “It was one of the most bizarre and unique art works I have ever witnessed,” said Motivans. “This study experience showed me that art doesn’t have any limits. I was left stunned with a reality check of what art means.”  

Monique Allen ’20 echoed that sentiment. “This field course showed me how far new media can be expanded. I will take what I learned to further my own experiences and future projects.”

The opening night of “Blue Hour,” which Eastern student Sierra Reynolds helped run.

Sierra Reynolds ’20 was able to volunteer behind the scenes on the production “PQ 360/Blue Hour.” The interactive virtual reality exhibition wound up being short staffed the night before its opening show. She eventually served as floor manager after volunteering for multiple days, and was presented with a certificate of exemplary service at the conclusion of the festival.  

“I decided to stick around to learn how to operate the system,” she said. “I was lucky to be a part of the production, especially considering my concentration is production/stage management — my skill set fit the bill of what they needed.”

Reynolds added, “This field course allowed me to see what professionals and students are bringing to the field. Also, my classmates and professors were there to ground me and push me forward. There was a support system that wouldn’t have been established if I had gone to Prague by myself.”

Professors Morgan and Sokolovskaya, along with Eastern Theatre Professor Alycia Bright-Holland, also presented at the festival. They discussed “Designing Thread City: Performance as Public Dialogue” at the PQ Talks session.

In addition to immersing in PQ and meeting industry peers and professionals from across the world, the Eastern group spent time exploring Prague’s sites and historical heritage. Highlights included the David Czerny sculpture walk, a guided tour of the Prague Palace and a tour of the Jewish Quarter.

Written by Vania Galicia and Michael Rouleau

Eastern Alumna Salutes Inclusive Excellence Award Winners

On May 9, Eastern recognized more than 100 students with a 3.5 cumulative grade point average or higher, and an additional 11 students who have demonstrated exemplary co-curricular engagement at the University’s Seventh Annual Inclusive Excellence Student Awards Ceremony. The ceremony recognized the achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students at Eastern.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez said the ceremony was not just about inclusion, but also spoke to the University’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, social responsibility, engagement and empowerment. “It is important for each of you to stand tall and be proud of who you are and what you are capable of. Never, ever, ever let anyone attempt to diminish your worth or your talents.

“Today’s honorees join thousands of other successful Eastern alumni who are making their own personal contributions out in the real world, including our guest speaker today, Dr. Kawami Evans. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  Thank you for being part of this celebration; to our honorees, congratulations.  We are very proud of you.”

Keynote speaker Evans ’97 serves as associate director at the Center for African Diaspora Student Success at the University of California at Davis. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and social science at Eastern, her Master of Education in educational policy and research administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a doctorate in educational management and leadership from Drexel University.

Evans encouraged the students to use their curiosity and optimism to persevere through unseen psychological struggles that can become their staunchest challenges. She said many high- achieving students fall prey to chasing individual achievements, accolades or material gain as their goal, even confusing their self-worth with what they can accomplish.

“This is dangerous; it can lead to anxiety and depression. Don’t let this be your reality or focus,” said Evans. “Who you are is what we are celebrating today. All the earned accolades you are receiving are but a byproduct of the brilliance within you . . . You are the promise of our ancestors’ prayers and walk with the wisdom and swag of those who have grit, resilience, the social and emotional intelligence, curiosity and hope.”

Evans told the students the most important element they need to resurrect in discussing their future success is their spirituality, ways in which students discover their destiny — answers to the big questions of who they are, what is their life purpose and how do they make difference in the world.

“Much of the world right now is relegated to systems and polices. We have to raise the bar with our vision of what’s possible,” Evans said. “It will take hard work, community, love, bravery, unrelentless effort and celebration.  I sincerely believe that we can create a world that works for all.”

A total of 280 students qualified for an Academic Excellence Award with a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher, and more than 100 of them were able to attend the May 9 event. During the ceremony, several students received service awards. Adrianna Arocho and Mayra Santos Acosta was presented the Volunteer Service Award; Aiyana Ward, the Athletic Excellence Award; Kimberly Allen and Sommer Bachelor, the Career Development Award; Jenilee Antonetty, the Resident Assistant Diversity Impact Award; Rafael Aragon, the Residential Community Leadership Award; Tristan Perez, the Social Justice Advocacy Award; Emma Costa, the Inspirational Leadership Award; Ishah Azeez, the Resilient Warrior Award; Kimberly Allen and Vishal Jungiwalla, the Advisor’s Choice Award; and the Freedom at Eastern Club, the Building Bridges Award.

By Dwight Bachman

Students Honored at Library Research Awards

Winners of the J. Eugene Smith Annual Library Research Awards, left to right, are Jackson DeLaney, Emily Miclon and Cassaundra Epes

On May 15, Library Director Janice Wilson announced the selection of three Eastern Connecticut State University students as winners of the Ninth Annual Undergraduate Student Library Research Award. The prize was established to recognize and celebrate exemplary student research projects that demonstrate the ability to locate, evaluate, select and apply information from appropriate resources. Primary emphasis is placed upon the creative and effective use of library resources, services and collections encompassing print, microform and online databases.

Jackson DeLaney ’21, a political science major from Southbury, won the $350 prize in the freshman/sophomore category for his paper “The Influence of Political News Consumption on Voting Behavior.” Political Science Professor Nicole Krassas provided the faculty statement of support.

Emily Miclon ’19 a music major from Enfield, won the $350 prize in the junior/senior category for her paper titled “La Musique en Plein Air: Debussy’s Open Air Emplacement.” Timothy Cochran, assistant professor of music, provided the faculty statement of support.

Cassaundra Epes ’19, a history major from Baltic, received Honorable Mention in the junior/senior category for her paper on “The Ideal Woman: Sexology, Sex Reform, and Engineering Marriage in Weimar Germany.” Scott Moore, assistant professor of history, provided the faculty statement of support.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez congratulated the winners saying,Today, knowledge on this planet doubles every 12 hours—12 hours!—and within that mass of information exists detailed information on every conceivable topic.  There has never been more information available, yet the task of locating and synthesizing information continues to be a skill unto itself.”  She said academic success and the intellectual growth of student scholars “speak to the scholarship on our campus, the relationship between student scholars and their faculty mentors, and of the importance of having a vibrant library in the 21st century academy.” 

Librarians and teaching faculty comprised the committee that read the research of all the applicants and selected the award winners. “Each year, we are pleased to receive applicants from students showing the product of their extensive research and inspired use of library resources,” said Library Director Janice Wilson. “This year was no exception, as we received an above average number of entries and decided to recognize a deserving paper as Honorable Mention.”

By Dwight Bachman

Eastern Theatre Takes Spectators on a Journey ‘To Damascus’

“Here, Strindberg’s vision is closer to a nightmare,” writes Director David Pellegrini of the author. “This is particularly evident in the horror-tinged scenes in the first part (of the trilogy).”

Eastern Connecticut State University’s fine arts building was transformed into a performance venue at large as “To Damascus” brought spectators on a stage-hopping journey from April 23–28. The main-stage production was based on August Strindberg’s seminal trilogy “The Road to Damascus” and adapted/directed by Theatre Professor David Pellegrini.

The show follows a man on a fascinating and sometimes terrifying spiritual journey. Small groups of viewers followed the journey through scenes in multiple settings throughout the Fine Arts Instructional Center — including the building’s three performance venues, main lobby, rear loading dock and select classrooms.

The traveling, multi-venue format of “To Damascus” mimics the approach of medieval-cycle plays (a medieval type of theatre), in which theatregoers visited “stations” throughout town. The play also extends the palindromic structure — in which the protagonist passes through several settings, then returns to them in reverse order —  to the entire trilogy.

 

The trilogy’s pieces are rarely produced together — even in Strindberg’s homeland of Sweden. Pellegrini writes in his director’s notes: “The trilogy contains many stylistic innovations and offers a penetrating exploration of creativity, human potential and the causes for — and possible remedies to — human suffering.

“I have long been intrigued by the possibilities of an interdisciplinary production of ‘To Damascus,’” he added, “and university theatre is perhaps the most appropriate setting for its incubation. This is, in part, due to the myriad opportunities for recontextualizing the ‘Stranger’s journey’ in light of present-day concerns, but also because it provides a potent vehicle for student actors, designers and technicians to practice nontraditional production processes afforded by new media/performance technology.”

The cast and crew of “To Damascus” are Eastern students who are enrolled in the capstone course “Experimental Theatre.” The production features theatre majors as actors, designers and technicians, as well as new-media studies students who have created the media content alongside faculty mentor-artists.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Music Program Holds Numerous Performances, Honors Recital

April Concerts

Eastern professors Anthony Cornicello and Rick O’Neal, with drummer Venlo Odom, presented a night of standard jazz repertoire as part of the Music Program’s Faculty Recital Series on April 5.
“Sounds of Korea” featured traditional and contemporary music and culture from Korea on April 6. The event included a Samul percussion ensemble, classical art music and K-pop.
On April 11, guest ensemble Cuatro Puntos present a program of Persian classical music for the santoor and string quartet written by Dr. Reza Vali.
The Eastern Concert Chorale presented “Requiem for the Living” on April 22.
The Eastern Concert Band presented a festive spring program of standards and newer music for wind band on April 24.
Eastern Jazz Ensemble will present an evening of music on April 29.

 

May Concerts

Eastern’s Brass Ensemble presented its inaugural concert on May 1.
A variety of percussion ensembles performed on May 5 during their annual spring concert.
On May 6, Eastern’s jazz combo “3 o’clock Band” presented classic jazz tunes from a variety of eras, ranging from standards and bebop to contemporary jazz and rock.
On May 7, students enrolled in Chamber Music Repertoire presented a recital of music from the Baroque period to the present.
The World Percussion Concert showcased the rich history of drumming in Korea, West Africa, the Middle East and the Americas on May 8.
Eastern professors Anthony Cornicello and Rick O’Neal, with drummer Venlo Odom, presented a night of standard jazz repertoire as part of the Music Program’s Faculty Recital Series on April 5.

 

Honors Music Recital

 

On April 14, the Music Program presented its annual honors recital and awards ceremony in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. The event featured a recital by six students who were recognized by the Music Program for their excellence in performance. This year’s honorees were Hannah Avena (trombone) ’21, Adella Carlson (clarinet) ’20, Abigail Edelman (piano) ’20, Emily Miclon (percussion) ’19, Eric Peterson (guitar) ’20 and Austin Stone (tenor) ’19.

Eastern Music Program to Present Series of Year-End Concerts

Students of the jazz combo “3 O’clock Band” perform in Eastern’s Concert Hall.

The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will host a variety of performances in May to mark the end of the spring semester. All concerts and recitals will be performed in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Concert Hall. Admission is free, although donations are gratefully accepted at the door.

On May 1 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern’s Brass Ensemble will present their inaugural concert – an evening of music for brass and percussion.

On May 4 at 2:30 p.m., Eastern Opera Workshop will present “Mostly Mozart.” This semester’s program includes scenes from Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte” and “Le nozze di Figaro,” Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta “The Mikado,” and Kurt Weill’s “Street Scene.” Ice cream will be served in the lobby following the performance.

On May 5 at 2:30 p.m., the Percussion Ensemble, Chamber Percussion Group and World Percussion Ensemble will present their annual Spring Concert.

On May 6 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern’s jazz combo “3 o’clock Band” will present classic jazz tunes from a variety of eras, ranging from standards and bebop to contemporary jazz and rock. The 3 o’clock Band and Eastern Jazz Ensemble will also present a free community concert on Saturday, May 11, at 1 p.m. at the Shaboo Stage in Willimantic’s Jillson Square.

On May 7 at 7:30 p.m., students enrolled in Chamber Music Repertoire will present a recital of music from the Baroque period to the present.

On May 8 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern’s World Percussion Concert will showcase the rich history of drumming in Korea, West Africa, the Middle East and the Americas.

On May 11 at 7:30 p.m., the Music Program will host the Willimantic Orchestra. For more information, visit www.willimanticorchestra.org.