Eastern to Present ‘Convergence’ on Oct. 24-27

Eastern Connecticut State University’s Theatre Program will present “Convergence” from Oct. 24-27 in the Proscenium Theatre of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. This biannual concert of Eastern’s Dance & World Performance concentration will feature choreography by Eastern faculty, alumni and guest artists.

Choreography will be presented by Professor Alycia Bright-Holland, guest artist Charles Anderson and four alumni-Alexis Tribble-Bryant ’17, Shatima Cruz ’17, Charliece Salters ’18 and Sinque Tavares ’17. The show will feature individual and collaborative pieces, reflective of the choreographers’ influences and interpretations of modern dance.

The shows on Oct. 24-26 will take place at 7:30 p.m. and the Oct. 27 show is at 4 p.m. 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 general public. To purchase tickets online, visit http://easternct.showare.com/convergence/.

Eastern Named to Princeton Review’s 2020 ‘Best Colleges’ Guide

Eastern Connecticut State University has been recognized by in the Princeton Review in its “2020 Best Colleges” guide for the Northeast region. Featured schools were chosen based on survey results from 140,000 students across the country. Eastern was praised for its small class sizes, close-knit campus community and affordability. 

Home to 5,200 students annually, Eastern students come from 160 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, along with 29 other states and 20 other countries. The 16:1 student to faculty ratio encourages group discussions and teamwork. Eastern offers 41 majors and 59 minors, with a liberal arts curriculum that’s rooted deep in the school’s mission to provide students with a well-rounded education. Eastern was also ranked among the top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2020 Best College ratings.

Eastern also offers 18 NCAA Division III sports teams, more than 90 registered student organizations and 17 honors societies. Eastern’s athletic mission is to emphasize values such as diversity, sportsmanship, health, wellbeing and equity. Eastern hosted its annual President’s Picnic and Student-Club Fair. In spring of 2019, more than 50 percent of Eastern students participated in at least one club. Clubs with the highest membership last semester were Eastern Outdoors Club, Freedom at Eastern and People Helping People. Eastern is also home to student services such as the Womens Center, LGBT support groups and minority support groups. Eastern was awarded the ‘Green Campus’ Status by Princeton Review for the ninth year in a row in fall 2018.

Written by Molly Boucher

Courant Names Eastern a ‘Top Workplace’

For the eighth time the Hartford Courant has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its “Top Workplaces” survey. With almost 1,000 employees, Eastern ranked 10th in the “large” category, and was the only public higher education institution recognized among 60 organizations in Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London counties. Results were published on Sept. 22 in the Hartford Courant.

“We are honored to be recognized once again as a top workplace in Connecticut,” said Eastern’s President Elsa Núñez. “Even though Eastern was recognized in the large organization category, our university has always prided itself on being a close-knit community and a welcoming, inclusive campus for students, faculty and staff. The Courant’s announcement reminds us that Eastern is a stable, inspiring place for our faculty and staff to come to work each day, and a supportive learning environment for our students. I am very pleased that we were among those recognized.”

Surveys were administered on behalf of the Courant by Energage, LLC, a research and consulting firm that has conducted employee surveys for more than 50,000 organizations. Rankings were based on confidential survey results completed by employees of the participating organizations. This year’s Courant survey surveyed 29,000 employees across the state.

The survey included 24 statements, with employees asked to assess each one on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Topics included organizational direction, workplace conditions, effectiveness, managers and compensation. Each company was assigned a score based on a formula.

To honor all “Top Workplaces,” The Hartford Courant held its annual awards program on Sept. 19 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville, CT, where it announced the top workplaces in each category.

Written by Vania Galicia

Eastern Presents ‘Africa to America: A Celebration of Who We Are’

 

After a successful one-off performance in March 2019, the Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University presented three encore performances of “Africa to America: A Celebration of Who We Are” on Sept. 17-19 in the Proscenium Theatre. The play was written by Wendy Coleman, chair of the Department of Theater Arts at Alabama State University, and re-imagined and directed by Deron Williams, theater professor at Eastern.

“Africa to America” chronicles the heritage and legacy of African Americans throughout history. The play opened with “Movement 1: Reigning in Africa,” which illustrated the previous lives African Americans had as kings and queens. Next came “Movement 11: Suffering Towards America,” which portrayed the brutal slave voyages to the Americas. The play continued with depictions of slavery, segregation and the Civil Rights Movement, journeying chronologically through the trials and tribulations that African Americans have faced through the years.

Screenwriter Coleman stated, “Americans would not be who they are today had it not been for the contributions that were made, often at great cost, by people of African ancestry. This play sheds a light on our ancestors’ passions, strengths and courage.” Director Williams added, “This piece is very timely, particularly because August marked the 400th anniversary of the first ship’s arrival on the coast of Virginia carrying 20 enslaved Africans.”

Components of the play included special effects, music, dance and speeches by iconic African-American figures. Visuals included moving waves symbolizing the voyage from Africa to America, and plantation fields depicting the sites where slaves endured forced labor. Overhead projections also showed pictures of inspirational figures such as abolitionist Harriet Tubman and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Students vocalized famous speeches and reenacted pivotal events, such as the escape of slaves and the Selma March. African beats and spiritual songs sung by student performers filled the theatre and emphasized the hardships and resilience of African Americans.

Bobbi Brown

‘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

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