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

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

43 Strong, Eastern Represents in Georgia at National Conference

With 43 student presenters, Eastern was among the top 20 schools nationwide for NCUR participation, and the only school from New England to make the list.

Forty-three students from Eastern Connecticut State University traveled to Georgia on April 11-13 to present original research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). The 2019 conference occurred at Kennesaw State University and featured hundreds of undergraduate students from across the country.

Eastern was among the top 20 schools nationwide for NCUR participation this year – the only school from New England to make the list – and one of the few with a student population of less than 6,000.

Eastern students from a range of majors presented artwork, music performances and oral/poster presentations. Research questions probed topics such as the microbiome of scorpions, the link between casual sex and online dating, pop-culture glamorization of eating disorders, and much more.

Adella Dzitko-Carlson presents “Finding Faith in the 21st Century: The Search for the Sacred in John Luther Adams’ “In the Name of the Earth.”

Music major Esther Jones ’20 commented on the experience of performing a lecture-recital. “This experience at NCUR was a milestone in my life because I didn’t think that I could actually do it when the time finally came around. I thought that I would be trembling so badly that my mind would go blank.”

Jones’ piano performance was titled “‘Theme and Variations on an Egyptian Folksong’ by Gamal Abdel-Rahim.” She added, “This experience helped to boost my confidence and has given me courage to face new challenges.”

“One of my greatest takeaways from this conference is how it pushes you and makes you a better academic,” said Michael Tuttle ’19, who majors in psychology and mathematics.

“Presenting at a conference subjects your research to a higher level of scrutiny, challenging your thoughts and ideas. When audience members ask questions and offer suggestions, it pushes you to think critically and creatively.” Tuttle’s presentation was titled “Overconfidence and Impulsivity of College Students in a Cognitive Reflection Task.”

Theresa Parker presents “Echo Chambers in Social Media: Why do People Seek or Reject Opposing Viewpoints.”

Biology major Chris Shimwell ’20 presented “Molecular Identification of the Scorpion Telson Microbiome.” He said, “Presenting at a national conference is a valuable experience because it allows you to synthesize information into an audio-visual format and present it to others who are highly educated and knowledgeable about your field.”

Jacob Dayton ’19, a biology major who presented two projects – one on the genetic diversity of a migratory bird group and one on the behaviors of strawberry poison-dart frogs – added that the value of presenting at national conferences is threefold.

“One, it provides students with the opportunity to practice communicating their research to a diverse audience. Two, questions and comments from audience members challenge students to defend and/or expand their thinking. And three, it provides the opportunity to publicize Eastern and the quality research that its students are conducting.”

Students also cited being exposed to new research questions during others’ presentations, interacting with peers from across the country, and sharing the NCUR experience with their Eastern friends as highlights of the conference. Psychology Professors Carlos Escoto and James Diller and Biology Professor Patricia Szczys accompanied the Eastern group.

NCUR was established in 1987. From a pool of several thousand applicants, students are accepted into the conference if their research demonstrates a unique contribution to their field of study. NCUR offers undergraduates the opportunity to present their research findings to peers, faculty and staff from colleges and universities across the nation, providing a unique networking and learning opportunity.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern to Present ‘To Damascus’ Immersive Theatre Experience

The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present “To Damascus” from April 23-28. Based on August Strindberg’s seminal trilogy “The Road to Damascus” and adapted/directed by Theatre Professor David Pellegrini, “To Damascus” is an interactive theatre experience that traverses venues throughout the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC).

The show follows a man on a fascinating and sometimes terrifying spiritual journey. Small groups of viewers will follow the journey and be taken through scenes in multiple settings throughout the FAIC – including the building’s three performance venues, main lobby and select classrooms.

Speaking to the traveling, multi-venue format of the play, Pellegrini explained, “In this adaptation, we attempt not only to actualize the spatial-temporal conditions of the medieval-cycle plays (a medieval format of theatre) – where spectators would visit various ‘stations’ all over town in much the same way as present-day theme parks – but we also extend the palindromic structure to the entire trilogy.”

The “palindromic structure” of the play is such that the protagonist passes through several “stations” on his journey, and then returns to each in reverse order before concluding at his starting point.

The cast and crew of “To Damascus” are 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.

“To Damascus” will run at 8 p.m. on April 23, 24, 26 and 27; at 7 p.m. on April 28; and at 11 p.m. for a special late-night performance on April 26. Tickets are free for Eastern students; $5 for other students and groups of 10 or more; $10 for senior citizens; $12 for Eastern faculty, staff, and alumni; and $20 for the public.

Purchase tickets online at http://easternct.showare.com/todamascus/. Contact the box office at (860) 465-5123 or theatreboxoffice@easternct.edu.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Annual CREATE Conference to Showcase Student Art, Research

 

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/08/2019) Eastern Connecticut State University will host its premier academic and artistic conference of the year on April 12. CREATE – Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern – will take place from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Student Center and surrounding venues. An award ceremony with remarks by Eastern President Elsa Núñez will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center.

Hundreds of student researchers, artists and performers will present their talents at CREATE. Students from all majors will lead oral and poster presentations, participate in panel discussions, showcase music and dance performances, exhibit their art and photography, and present documentary films and more.

Registration will take place at 8 a.m. at the Student Center Café. President Núñez will present two undergraduate awards and two mentor awards to outstanding students and faculty members at the 12:30 p.m. award ceremony.

For more information, visit http://www.easternct.edu/create/, where you can view the day’s agenda and download the event’s cell phone app for iPhone and Android.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Annual CREATE Conference to Showcase Student Art, Research

Eastern Connecticut State University will host its premier academic and artistic conference of the year on April 12. CREATE – Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern – will take place from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Student Center and surrounding venues. An award ceremony with remarks by Eastern President Elsa Núñez will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center.

Students present research during the poster session of the 2018 CREATE conference.

Hundreds of student researchers, artists and performers will present their talents at CREATE. Students from all majors will lead oral and poster presentations, participate in panel discussions, showcase music and dance performances, exhibit their art and photography, and present documentary films and more.

Registration will take place at 8 a.m. at the Student Center Café. President Núñez will present two undergraduate awards and two mentor awards to outstanding students and faculty members at the 12:30 p.m. award ceremony.

For more information, visit http://www.easternct.edu/create/, where you can view the day’s agenda and download the event’s cell phone app for iPhone and Android.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Theatre to Present ‘Africa to America’ on March 24

The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present two performances of “Africa to America: Perspective, Pride, and Power” on March 24 at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Proscenium Theatre of the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

Directed by Eastern Theatre Professor DeRon Williams and written by Wendy Coleman, chairwoman of theatre arts at Alabama State University, the performance chronicles the history, heritage and legacy of African Americans through oration, music and dance.

This rich and powerful experience depicts the struggles, determination and triumphs of African ancestors and descendants who survived the voyage from Africa to America. The audience will see representations of some of the most notable icons of the civil rights movement, including Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Rosa Parks and the first African-American president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama.

The March 24 performance will feature original poetry and choreography by Eastern students. A post-show discussion with Coleman and Williams will follow the 4 p.m. performance.

Tickets are free; however, guests are encouraged to reserve tickets in advance by visiting http://easternct.showare.com/africatoamerica/. Walk-ins will be accepted as tickets remain available.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Theatre Presents ‘The Wolves’ with All-Female Cast

The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University presented “The Wolves” as its first production of the spring 2019 semester. Running from Feb. 27-March 3 in the DelMonte Studio Theatre, “The Wolves” is a coming-of-age story that takes place on the turf of a local indoor soccer field.

The play was performed by an all-female cast, directed by Theatre Professor Kristen Morgan and written by award-winning playwright Sarah DeLappe.

The Wolves are a highly competitive indoor soccer team composed of nine teenage girls. Each scene depicts the girls on the artificial turf warming up before their weekend game. The play spans a variety of themes pertinent to modern society, told candidly from the perspectives of nine passionate young women growing up in America.

“Anyone who identifies as female can tell you that growing up in America can feel like one batter after the other,” said Morgan, pointing out the unique pressures women feel about body image, sexuality and social obedience. “Athletics can mean freedom for girls and women. When you’re on the field, everything else may fall away… there are moments of overwhelming strength, as if you could do anything, like you are free.”

The girls who make up the Wolves are at a turning point in their lives; they’ve grown up playing together and know all about each other’s bodies and personality quirks, but adulthood is beckoning. Into their fragile mix comes a new player, drivers license’s, college scouts, weekend ski trips and other challenges.

As the girls stretch, run drills and kick the soccer ball among each other, their conversations explore abortion, immigration, eating disorders, sexual assault and other difficult topics.

Contrary to most theatrical productions, “The Wolves” features an all-female cast. “This is an important play for today’s world because it shows teenage girls in a different light than how you typically see them,” said Sara Lafrance ’19, who played #25. “They’re not portrayed as boy-crazy, catty or overemotional. They’re portrayed as intelligent, athletic, strong, funny young women. It shows how teenage girls can work through conflict and maintain a strong bond.”

“I think this play gives a semblance of what it means to be a young woman in high school with strengths and weaknesses and fears of the future,” said Onyae Randall ’19, who played #2. “The play can be re-evaluated and reimagined so many times because of the playwright’s use of nuance. It’s the type of story where you learn something new each time you see it. This is the kind of work we all need to expose ourselves to.”

Written by Michael Rouleau