‘Pluto’ Takes the Stage, Eastern Theatre Represents at KCACTF

Prior to the KCACTF performance, “Pluto” showed at Eastern in the fall 2018 semester

Eastern’s rendition of “Pluto” took center stage at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) earlier this month. “Pluto” was one of only three productions featured at the Region 1 festival, which includes colleges and universities from all over New England and New York, including New York City. The festival occurred from Jan. 29-Feb. 2 at Cape Cod Community College and included an awards portion and theatre workshops.

Written by playwright Steve Yockey and directed by Eastern Theatre Professor Chase Rozelle, “Pluto” follows a mother who is desperately attempting to connect with her withdrawn son in the aftermath of a local school tragedy. Set entirely in the kitchen during breakfast, the play uses humor, fantasy and raw emotion to tackle a troubling present-day issue.

“Pluto follows a rather traditional plot structure, in that the action leads to one big scene, one climax, where all the themes and conflicts come together,” said Kaileen Langlois ’19, the play’s dramaturg. “The purpose is to thrust audiences immediately into the action and catch them up on details as the story progresses.”

In the control booth prior to the KCACTF performance of “Pluto”: alumna Cat Foley ’17, guest-artist lighting designer; Rebecca Figueroa ’20, KCACTF tech intern; SJ Reynolds ’20, stage manager; and MK Cannon ’20, sound board operator

KCACTF adjudicators first saw “Pluto” when it was performed at Eastern in fall 2018. Impressed by the merits of the production, they invited the cast and crew to remount “Pluto” at the festival – one of only three selections festival wide.

Speaking to the disturbing yet culturally relevant subject matter, Rozelle wrote in his director’s notes: “Art has a responsibility to be relevant. Art should explore what it means to be human and should be a reflection of the issues of our society.”

More than 1,000 college theatre students, faculty and professionals from across the Northeast attended KCACTF, with hundreds packing the audience to see “Pluto.”

“This was the first time the cast performed for an audience of more than 600 seats, and it was electrifying,” said assistant director Matt Bessette ’19. “Combine the size of the audience with the fact that they were mostly college theatre majors and you get a crowd whose energy you won’t see in many other places.”

The performance received a standing ovation and Eastern students were praised throughout the duration of the multi-day festival. During the closing ceremony, “Pluto” was awarded the “Golden Hammer” for being the smoothest running show over the course of the week.

In addition to the feature performance of “Pluto,” other Eastern students also represented during the awards and workshop portions of the festival. Merit awards went to Katrina Kirby ’19 for make-up design in spring 2018 production of “Awakenings: Youth and Chitra”; Eumir Abela ’19 for sound design in “Pluto”; and the cast of fall 2018’s “Cabaret” for ensemble work.

The “Pluto” cast and crew stand before a van full of set pieces. For the KCACTF performance, they broke down the very set that was used at Eastern and drove it to Cape Cod.

MK Cannon ’20 made it to the final round of the Stage Management Fellowship. Jake Buckley ’21 was nominated for the Richard Maltby Musical Theatre Award. And based on his audition at the conference, Christian Fronckowiak ’20 was selected to participated in the Music Theater Intensive this summer at the National Theater Institute.

Nominations for the Irene Ryan Acting Award went to Emily Kelly ’19 for her performance in “Awakenings: Youth and Chitra”; Erin Wallace ’21 and Zoe Czerenda ’19 for “Cabaret”; and Andrew Rich ’20 and Elizabeth Heaney ’19 for “Pluto.”

Speaking to the quality of Eastern’s theatre program, Heaney, who played the role of the mother in “Pluto,” said: “We were up against shows from all over New England, as well as New York City. Eastern theatre is expanding and improving every year. Each professor has an innovative and unique perspective, and the collaboration that goes on is beautiful. Opportunity is plentiful, technology is state of the art, resources are always available.”

Heaney remarked on the festival at large: “Not only is KCACTF an inspiring and motivating experience, it provides so many resources and opportunities for students. I took two workshops. You get the opportunity to sharpen audition material, find new works to look at, and be exposed to so much in such a short amount of time. Because there are professional theater artists as teachers, the workshops get into the nitty gritty and answer any questions you may have about your craft. KCACTF is one of my favorite experiences I’ve had at Eastern.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Theatre to Present ‘The Wolves,’ Feb. 27-March 3

The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present its first Main Stage production of the spring 2019 semester, “The Wolves,” from Feb. 27-March 3. Written by Sarah DeLappe and directed by Eastern professor Kristen Morgan, the play will follow a girls’ soccer team as they struggle to adapt to new players and lifestyles. The play will be shown in the Del Monte Bernstein Studio Theatre in Eastern’s Fine Arts Instructional Center.

Exploring the unique dynamics of a girls’ athletic team, “The Wolves” observes the complex social navigation required for high school. “From the safety of their afternoon exercise routine, the team wonders about big questions and wages tiny battles with all the vim and vigor of a pack of adolescent warriors,” writes the publishing company Samuel French. “This is a portrait of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for nine American girls who just want to score some goals.”

DeLappe describes her play as “a portrait of teenage girls as human beings – as complicated, nuanced, very idiosyncratic people.” Since its publication in 2016, “The Wolves” has garnered critical acclaim and numerous accolades, including being a finalist in the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and winning the 2015 Relentless Award for Playwriting.

“The girls in ‘The Wolves’ are at a turning point in their lives,” writes Morgan in her director’s notes for the play. “These girls have grown up playing together, and have shared all the emotional weight that comes with it. ‘The Wolves’ is a meditation on growing up female in America and the meaning that girls make for themselves in a society that still doesn’t have any idea what to do with them.”

“The Wolves” will be performed on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, Feb. 28 at 5:30 p.m.; Friday, March 1 at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, March 3 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. For tickets and more information, call the box office at (860) 465-5123 or visit http://easternct.showare.com/thewolves/.

Written by Raven Dillon

Windham Textile & History Museum to Feature Work of Remarkable Dressmaker

WILLIMANTIC, CT (02/01/2019) The remarkable life of Sidonia Perlstein, Holocaust survivor and clothing designer, will be on display at the Windham Textile and History Museum from Feb.8-April 28. “Sidonia’s Thread: Crafting a Life from Holocaust to High Fashion” will showcase up to 50 garments created by Perlstein during her years in America. The exhibition will also display information about Perlstein’s personal history through narrative text and family photographs.

Perlstein’s daughter, Hanna Marcus, will make several appearances and give talks on the exhibition and her mother’s remarkable life. Marcus will be at the museum on Feb. 9 from 2-4 p.m.; Feb. 21 from 1-4 p.m.; Feb 24 from 2-4 p.m. (book talk and signing); March 10 from 1-4 p.m.; March 23 from 10-1 p.m.; April 7 from 1-4 p.m.; and April 28 from 2-4 p.m.

She will also speak at Eastern Connecticut State University on Feb. 13 from 3-4 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre and at the Mansfield Library on March 23 at 2 p.m.

Anya Sokolovskaya, assistant professor of theatre and costume design at Eastern Connecticut State University, collaborated with Marcus to bring the exhibition to life. Sokolovskaya learned of Perlstein’s fascinating life in 2017, at a book talk delivered by Marcus, who is an author and social worker.

“That’s when I learned that Hanna (Marcus) is in possession of a garment collection that was made by Sidonia (Perlstein),” said Sokolovskaya, who is also working with Eastern students on the project.

Garments from the collection will be placed on mannequins to help tell the story of their creator. Other items will illuminate the historical context of the exhibition and explore themes of humanity, including the role of immigration, the effects of Holocaust survival, single parenthood, family loss, and the role of textiles in the development of New England. Audio recordings of stories about Perlstein, narrated by her daughter, will be presented as well.

This project is funded by the Hochberg Committee for Holocaust and Human Rights Education at theTemple Bnai Israel; Connecticut Humanities, a nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Windham Textile and History Museum; and the CSU-AAUP 2018-19 University Research Grant.

The Windham Textile and History Museum is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. General admission is $7; students and seniors (62+) pay $5; and free for museum members, children under 5 years old, and Eastern students. For more information, contact themillmuseum@gmail.com or sokolovskayaa@easternct.edu.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Graduates First Dance Student, Charliece Salters

Charliece Salters ’19 is the first Eastern student to graduate with a concentration in the Dance and World Performance.

A week before her final exams, senior Charliece Salters stood alone on stage in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. She cued up a mid-tempo R&B song and then performed a series of impressive leaps and dance sequences before sitting down to reflect on her time at Eastern. 

Salters is the first Theatre major to graduate with the relatively new Dance and World Performance concentration. “I thought I would dance on my own time in college, but I never considered it as more than a pastime,” explained Salters, who attended the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School in New Haven with a focus on dance before enrolling at Eastern. 

Dance started to become a priority during her freshman year when a fellow student encouraged her to join the Fusion Dance Crew student club. In her sophomore year, dance once again took on a central role in Salters’ life. “I was a child psychology major, but I wanted to change majors,” she said. “My advisor asked me what I liked to do, and I said dance.” 

Salters visited Alycia Bright-Holland, assistant professor of theatre, who was launching the Dance and World Performance concentration, and became the concentration’s first major. She worked with Bright-Holland to grow the program, which offers dancers opportunities ranging from choreographing their own dances, to networking and collaborating with other art forms. “I definitely feel like I’ve grown,” said Salters. “My knowledge wasn’t as broad and my love for dance is stronger.”  

Salters was also asked to step out of her comfort zone that same year when she was named captain of the Fusion Dance Crew. “I knew I had leadership qualities, but I had never choreographed hip hop before.” 

Being named captain, a position she maintained through her senior year, gave Salters a new sense of purpose. Choreographing, teaching and helping other dancers grow and push themselves has become her passion. “It’s not just a club. I really care about everyone that’s been on the team. I hope I gave them something.”

A final challenge for Salters came this fall when she took on the role of assistant choreographer for the Theatre Program’s production of “Cabaret” for her senior project. She was tasked with critiquing the dancers and choreographing the comical and raunchy “Two Ladies” dance number.

“Musical theatre is far out of my comfort zone,” she said. “It was challenging but I love the outcome.” Looking forward, Salters plans to return to New Haven and look to local dance studios to get her feet wet. She also intends to continue her dance training in New York City and in a few years dance professionally.

“Now I can play a song and just move and be confident in what I’m doing,” said Salters.  “I’m thankful for whom I’ve met here and the people who helped me get through, especially Alycia, David Pellegrini and my best friend. I appreciate being here.”

Written by Meghan Carden

Windham Textile & History Museum to Feature Work of Remarkable Dressmaker

Eastern Theatre to Present ‘Pluto’ Nov. 28 – Dec. 2.

Written by Sheila RuJoub

WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/27/2018) The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present “Pluto” from Nov. 28-Dec. 2 in the Proscenium Theatre of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. Written by playwright Steve Yockey and directed by F. Chase Rozelle III, “Pluto” is the second Main Stage production of Eastern’s fall 2018 semester.

The play follows single mother Elizabeth Miller as she attempts to connect with her son Bailey over breakfast, despite his best efforts to avoid her. Meanwhile, a talking dog, an upside-down cherry tree and a violent refrigerator conspire to steer her beyond a reality frozen at 9:30 a.m. – a reality that she may never be ready to face.

“Pluto” poses the idea that things are often not as they seem at first glance, using humor, fantasy and tragedy to tackle a difficult present-day issue. Playwright Steve Yockey is no stranger to addressing fraught social issues through the lens of fantasy, such as his depiction of AIDS as a sea monster in the play “Octopus.”

Director Rozelle, a faculty member in Eastern’s Theatre Program, said his favorite parts of the production process have been “sitting around a table discussing the play’s rich subtext with the members of this team.” He continued, “It’s an important topic and I believe this particular bit of theatre is an excellent way to explore this subject.”

“Pluto” will be presented in the FAIC Proscenium Theater on Nov. 28, 29, 30 and Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m., and Dec. 2 at 4:00 p.m. Post-performance talk-back sessions will be held on Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 and offer audience members the opportunity to discuss the play’s themes in further detail with the cast and crew.

Tickets are free for Eastern students; $5 for other students and groups of 10 or more; $10 for Eastern faculty, staff, alumni and senior citizens; and $20 for the general public.

Please be advised that “Pluto” contains depictions of gun-related violence. For more information, contact the Box Office at (860) 465-5123 or email theatreboxoffice@easternct.edu.

‘Cabaret’ Swings Eastern Theatregoers back to Nazi Germany

Written by Michael Rouleau

The first theatrical production of the fall 2018 semester at Eastern Connecticut State University was “Cabaret,” the Tony Award-winning musical set on the eve of Nazi-controlled Germany. With six performances between Oct. 18 and 28, theatregoers were dazzled by a stage set in the seedy Kit Kat Klub in early-1930s Germany, a time rife with political tensions that ultimately brought Adolf Hitler to power.

The Kit Kat Klub is a promiscuous nightclub whose patrons seem happily oblivious to the shifting culture and crumbling society outside. Cliff Bradshaw (Harold Gagne ’20) is an American writer seeking inspiration. He finds his way into the ‘klub’ and becomes enamored with one of the dancers, Sally Bowles (Zoe Czerenda ’19). Cliff is quick to notice the rising Nazi movement, but Sally and her Kit Kat patrons would rather not think about politics.

Eastern’s rendition of “Cabaret” was directed by Eastern alumna and adjunct faculty member Nichola Johnson ’05. In her director’s notes, Johnson describes 1932 Berlin as a city in chaos, with economic hardships that severely stratified the country since the end of World War I.

“With German citizens hungry, out of work and hopelessly dreaming of a better future, a rising extremist movement calls for hatred of the ‘other,’ the ‘other’ including Jews, African immigrants and gay people,” writes Johnson. “The rising populace is schooled to believe in a gloriously revived Germany, a Germany that returns to the purity of its roots.”

Further describing the cultural context of early-1930s Germany, Johnson mentions the rising condemnation of artists and intellectuals, misogyny and ethnic intolerance. “It is deeply disturbing,” she writes, “that almost a century later, we are locked in the same struggles for acceptance and human rights, newly made acute by waves of populism taking hold all over the world.”

“I’m grateful to have had the honor to participate in such a culturally relevant show,” said Edward Lorsin ’21, who played Max, the owner of the Kit Kat Klub. “The themes within this decades-old musical highlight societal struggles that people continue to deal with today.”

Showcased in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern’s Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC), the set for “Cabaret” featured an elevated platform from which a band of contracted musicians played jazz and swing music. On either side of the platform were stairs leading down to the stage, which served as swanky staircases for the Kit Kat girls to dance on.

Staying true to the form of theatre that is “cabaret,” the play featured a flamboyant emcee (Jacob Buckley ’21) and risqué musical numbers and choreography, including an act where the ensemble dressed and danced in drag.

“The choreography was so different from what I’m used to,” said Hannah Avena ’21, who played a Kit Kat girl named Helga. “We had to make contorted shapes with our bodies. To act in a play from a different time period – the way the people dressed and conveyed themselves – was fascinating to me.”

“Cabaret” was originally a book by Joe Masteroff, based on the play “I Am a Camera” by John Van Druten, which was adapted from the novel “Goodbye to Berlin” by Christopher Isherwood.

“Most of the characters are based on real people,” explained Hannah Zammarieh ’20, the play’s dramaturg. Cliff Bradshaw, for instance, is based on Christopher Isherwood himself, who lived in Berlin from 1929-1933 for the purpose of writing a novel: “Goodbye to Berlin.”

“While there are no exact dates for the timeline of the show, based on the time that Isherwood was in Berlin, it can be assumed that the action of the musical takes place during the time when Adolf Hitler was just coming into power,” said Zammarieh. By 1934, one year after Isherwood’s departure from Germany, Hitler had named himself fuehrer (leader) of Germany.

Musical direction for “Cabaret” was provided by Anthony Pandolfe. In addition to an extensive musical career as a freelancer who has performed in such prestigious locations as the Vatican, Pandolfe is director-of-bands at Edwin O. Smith High School in Mansfield. Director Johnson also served as choreographer. In addition to being a lecturer at Eastern, she is the founder of The Complex Performing and Creative Arts Centre in Putnam, CT.

Eastern Theatre Presents ‘Cabaret’ Musical

Written by Jolene Potter

WILLIMANTIC, CT (10/02/2018) The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present the Tony Award-winning musical “Cabaret” from Oct. 18 to 29 in the Proscenium Theatre of the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC). Directed by Nichola Johnson with musical direction by Anthony Pandolfe, “Cabaret” is a love story set in the turmoil of pre-World War II Germany.

This iconic musical takes place in the world of the “Kit Kat Klub” in 1932, on the eve of Hitler’s rise to power, and tells the story of Cliff Bradshaw, a young American writer newly arrived in Berlin, who falls in love with cabaret singer Sally Bowles.

Speaking to the conflicts facing the world during the 1930s, Jonson said, “It is deeply disturbing to recognize that almost a century later, we are locked in the same struggles for acceptance and human rights, newly made acute by waves of populism taking hold all over the world.

“Cabaret has always been one of my favorite plays,” said Johnson. “It forces the viewer to take off the ‘rose-colored glasses’ and wake up. Through the lens of the Kit Kat Klub, everything is beautiful, but is it real?”

Winner of multiple Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, the show’s musical numbers include “Money,” “Willkommen,” “Maybe This Time” and the title hit “Cabaret.”

“Cabaret” will be presented in the FAIC Proscenium Theater on October 18, 19, 26 and 27 at 7:30 p.m., October 21 and 28 at 4 p.m. and October 25 at 5:30 p.m.

Tickets are free for Eastern students; $5 for other students and groups of 10 or more; $10 for Eastern faculty, staff, alumni and senior citizens; and $20 for the general public. For reservations, phone the box office at (860) 465-5123 or email theatreboxoffice@easternct.edu.

 

Eastern to host Annual Dance Awareness Day

Modern Movement, a dance club at Eastern Connecticut State University, will host its second annual Dance Awareness Day on Sept. 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC). A number of dance classes will be offered in a variety of styles and levels.

Registration is from 8:30–9:30 a.m. Classes are $5 each for non-Eastern students. Eastern students get one class free (with Eastern ID); additional classes are $5 each. Classes will occur in rooms 117, 215 and 219 of the FAIC.

Classes are led by Modern Movement members, Eastern alumni and faculty members in Eastern’s Dance and World Performance concentration. Multiple classes will occur simultaneously during certain timeslots.

The schedule is as follows: 9:30-10:30 a.m. yoga/Pilates; 10:30-noon beginner ballet, intermediate/advanced contemporary-modern dance or intermediate/advanced Afro-modern dance; 1-2:30 p.m. intermediate/advanced lyrical dance, intermediate/advanced hip-hop or musical theatre; 2:30-4 p.m. West African dance and drum or beginner tap dance.

Modern Movement is Eastern’s pre-professional dance company. Although there is a focus on modern dance, Modern Movement creates and performs choreography in a wide variety of dance styles. Money raised at Dance Awareness Day supports Eastern’s Dance and World Performance concentration.

Written by Michael Rouleau

English Students Study in Italy

Eastern’s Creative Writing Abroad group at Piazzale Michelangelo, overlooking Florence.

Written by Dwight Bachman

A group of Eastern students, under the guidance of Professor Christopher Torockio, recently traveled to Italy to participate in the Creative Writing Abroad course. The students spent five weeks, from June 25 to July 31, writing fiction stories inspired by their travels and experiences at the Studio Arts College International (SACI) in Florence.

A quick break from one of our class workshops, which were held in the beautiful garden of Studio Art College-Florence’s main building, Palazzo dei Cartelloni, a Renaissance-era palazzo that was remodeled in the 17th Century as a residence for the mathematician Vincenzo Viviani, who had been a pupil of the astronomer and scientist Galileo Galilei.

 Michael Merrow, a junior majoring in Communications, was one of the students who used Italy’s Tuscan views, scenery, art and architecture to inspire their writing. “The creative writing study aborad course is an amazing way to gain cultural perspective,” said Merrow. “The art and lifestyle of Florecne provided great inspiration. This was truly a life changing experience.”

Colleen Deely, a junior majoring in Psychology, agreed: “Since taking this creative writing course, I’ve explored not only a new and beautiful place, but a different, more creative side of myself. Through my classmate’s inspiring stories and breathtaking surroundings, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation and greater knowledge for Italian culture. This trip has really encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and travel more!”

The group took intensive, creative writing workshops in the lovely Renaissance-era palazzo garden at SACI, where they also critiqued and edited each other’s original works of short fiction.

Somewhere in Tuscany.

“Florence is a great location for creative writers, as it’s not only a beautiful, historic and artistically rich city,” said Torockio. “Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance, and is also centrally located in Italy, allowing the students to take lots of day trips almost anywhere throughout Italy.”

Abby Murren, a junior majoring in English, said the course was the one of the best adventures she will ever take: “As an English major with a concentration in creative writing, this course gave me the perfect opportunity to improve my writing while experiencing one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The amount of inspiration I had from experiencing Florence’s people, culture, and history only strengthened my love for writing, and I’m beyond grateful to have had that opportunity.”


Hiking-from-Vernazza-to-Monterosso

Guided by SACI art historians, the students also visited Italian destinations ranging from Fiesole to Siena, Venice, San

Gimignano, Lucca, Pisa the Amalfi Coast and the Colosseum in Rome. Trips to other European destinations included Barcelona, Dublin, Amsterdam and more, where the students visited museums, galleries and other cultural landmarks.