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.

Eastern Named a 2018 College of Distinction

WILLIMANTIC, CT (06/18/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University has been recognized as a 2018-19 College of Distinction by the college-guide/ranking organization Colleges of Distinction.

The organization praised Eastern for its student-centered approaches and high-impact educational practices. High-impact practices of note include Eastern’s community-based learning programs, intensive writing courses, living-learning communities for residents, undergraduate research, internships and other hands-on learning experiences.

“We are absolutely thrilled to recognize Eastern Connecticut State University as a College of Distinction for its effective dedication to student success,” said Tyson Schritter, CEO for Colleges of Distinction. “Colleges of Distinction is so impressed with Eastern’s curriculum, which is enriched with the kind of high-impact educational practices that are most crucial for student development. Such innovative engagement is preparing the next generation of young adults to thrive after college.”

Colleges of Distinction’s selection process consists of a review of each institution’s freshman experience and retention efforts alongside its general education programs, alumni success, strategic plan, student satisfaction and more. Schools are accepted on the basis that they adhere to the Four Distinctions: Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community and Successful Outcomes.

“Colleges of Distinction is far more than a ranking list of colleges and universities,” said Schritter. “We seek out the schools that are wholly focused on the student experience, constantly working to produce graduates who are prepared for a rapidly changing global society. Again recognized as a College of Distinction, Eastern Connecticut State University stands out in the way it strives to help its students to learn, grow and succeed.”

Top U.S. Mental Health Official Speaks at Eastern’s 128th Commencement

                                                                            Eastern Graduates 1,200 Students at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

Elinore McCance-Katz

Hartford, CT — Eastern Connecticut State University alumna Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), told the graduates and their families at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 128th Commencement exercises that the current opioid crisis facing the United States is “the nation’s greatest medical challenge since the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s. It is a tragedy of major proportions, and we need to work together to help those addicted get treatment and recover from this disease.”

Eastern’s annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 15, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,105 undergraduates and 85 graduate students received their diplomas.

McCance-Katz told the audience that Eastern had grown from a small college when she attended Eastern Connecticut State College in the 1970s to become “a comprehensive university that has flourished.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises.  She graduated magna cum laude from Eastern in 1978 with a degree in biology. Following a sterling career in medicine, psychiatry, academic achievement and public administration, McCance-Katz’s DHHS appointment in August 2017 made her the first assistant secretary-level director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

After earning her degree from Eastern, Dr. McCance-Katz went on to earn a Ph.D. at Yale University in Infectious Disease Epidemiology in 1984, and then received her M.D. from the University of Connecticut in 1987. 

After completing a residency in psychiatry, she held teaching positions at the Yale School of Medicine, Brown University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of California in San Francisco, the University of Texas and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Prior to her HHS appointment, McCance-Katz was Chief Medical Officer of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals from 2015 to 2017, and served as professor of psychiatry and human behavior and professor of behavioral and social sciences at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University.

Describing how her professional journey had taken her from treating AIDS patients in the 1990s to her current national leadership role in treating substance abuse and mental illness, McCance-Katz described federal and state efforts to develop new recovery services and support services.  “We will turn the tide on this epidemic,” she said, urging graduates to get involved as medical professionals, nurses, counselors and social workers.

 “Be adventurous. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Be an advocate for those who have not had the advantages you have had.  There is no greater satisfaction than helping others.”

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Yvette Meléndez, vice-chairof the Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State College and Universities System. Additional members of the platform party included Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Father Laurence LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

Núñez told the graduates their liberal arts education at Eastern was highly prized by American employers.  “In five separate surveys conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities over the past decade, the vast majority of employers — over 90 percent! — say they are less interested in specialized job proficiencies, favoring instead analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills — the wide-ranging academic and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.”

Núñez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, saying, “I know that the majority of our seniors have found ways to donate their time and good will to making our community a better place to live.  Wherever you end up — in Connecticut or beyond — make sure you continue to give a portion of your time to make a difference in your community.” 

Lastly, Núñez encouraged the Eastern seniors to be active citizens as they participate in the American democratic system of self-governance. She quoted New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who has written that disagreement is “the most vital ingredient of any decent society. It defines our individuality, gives us our freedom, enjoins our tolerance, enlarges our perspectives, makes our democracies real, and gives hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere.”

“So never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else,” said Núñez. “Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

More than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 163 of the state’s 169 towns. Approximately 85 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Senior Class President Charlotte MacDonald presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2018 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. Recalling the Eastern tradition where freshmen toss a penny into a fountain on campus as they make a wish — presumably to graduate in four years — MacDonald shared her own three wishes with her classmates. “My first wish is that you go confidently in the direction of your passions . . . the education you have received at Eastern has prepared you for this.  My second wish is for you not only to better yourself but others around you. Contribute to your community, offer things you no longer use to those in desperate need, volunteer your time . . . My last wish is that you find a path to happiness. . . your willingness to conquer challenges is what will separate you from the majority.”

Meléndez, former vice president of government and community alliances for Hartford Hospital, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, expressing gratitude to all who had supported Eastern’s graduates — parents, family, friends and especially Eastern’s faculty. “Their commitment to your success is what makes this university so special. Today is a significant milestone.  We hope today is merely a catalyst for a fulfilling life as each of you pursues your goals.”

Michele Bacholle, Distinguished Professor of the Year

 

Ojakian also offered remarks, commending Eastern President Núñez, her administrative team and “an exceptional faculty that guided you onyour journey to get to today.  The journey is now yours. It is your own path and your own truth that will motivate you . . .  Trust your instincts . . .  You have an obligation to leave this world a better place.  Take charge!”

This year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions, ranging from the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet. University Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Halie Poirier, Michael Beckstein and Hannah Bythrow sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Nathan Cusson gave the invocation; and French Professor Michèle Bacholle was recognized as the 2018 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

CREATE Conference Shows Breadth and Depth of Eastern Students

Written by Michael Rouleau

Displays of research and creativity filled the Student Center at Eastern Connecticut State University on April 13 for the annual CREATE conference. CREATE stands for “Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern,” and is the University’s premier undergraduate conference of the academic year.

CREATE featured more than 200 students of all majors who led oral and poster presentations, panel discussions, music and dance performances, art and photography exhibitions, as well as documentary viewings and new-media demonstrations.

Students give a musical performance.
A student gives an oral presentation.
Conference patrons peruse the CREATE art gallery.
Students give a theatrical performance.

 

“This conference really cements our slogan that Eastern offers a ‘liberal arts education, practically applied,’” said Brian Oakley, conference co-chair and professor of environmental earth science. “It’s evident when you look around and see the breadth and depth of the work being done by our students.”

“There is no event on campus more important than CREATE,” affirmed Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Some of the work on display represents three or four years of problem solving, testing and intellectual pursuit. This event is more than a source of pride; it’s a validation of our university’s mission.”

Midway through the conference, two students and two faculty members received awards for undergraduate research and faculty mentorship.

Julie Underhill ’18, who majors in labor relations and human resources management, and Tess Candler ’18, who double majors in political science and economics, received the undergraduate research awards. The faculty awards went to Underhill and Candler’s mentors, respectively: Business Administration Professor Niti Pandey and Political Science Professor Courtney Broscious.

Award recipients Julie Underhill (middle) and Niti Pandey (right) with Provost Dimitrios Pachis.
Award recipients Courtney Broscious (middle) and Tess Candler (right) with Provost Dimitrios Pachis.

 

“Without the professors we cannot celebrate the success of the students,” reminded Provost Dimitrios Pachis, “and without the students we cannot celebrate the success of the professors. This is how the world works, the yin and the yang. With this sort of partnership, we create the future.”

The CREATE conference advances Eastern’s strategic plan by reinforcing high-impact practices such as mentored research and creative projects; increasing the percentage of students who present scholarly work; raising awareness of the accomplishments of Eastern students; and contributing to the intellectual richness of the campus community.

Eastern to Present ‘Body+Image’ Dance Concert

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/20/2018) The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present “Body+Image,” a spring dance concert, from April 27-29 in the Proscenium Theatre of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. The Friday and Saturday shows will occur at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday’s show at 4 p.m.

“Body+Image” is an evening-length dance concert featuring originally composed dance choreographies and musical compositions by Eastern students, alumni and faculty. The two-act show will feature 10 multimedia dance and music pieces that explore themes related to “body and image.”

The show highlights students in the Dance and World Performance concentration as well as the New Media Studies program.

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/bodyimage/. For more information call the box office at 860-465-5123 or email theatreboxoffice@easternct.edu.

 

Eastern Drama Society Presents ‘Coldcock Cafe’

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/17/2018) The Drama Society at Eastern Connecticut State University will present its second-annual spring performance, “Coldcock Café,” on April 20 and 21 in the DelMonte Bernstein Studio Theatre of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. Both shows start at 7 p.m. and are free admission (donations are appreciated). The Drama Society is Eastern’s student-led theatre club, and “Coldcock Café” is an original feature-length production that is written, directed and performed by Eastern students.

The play follows barista Dana Green, who finds herself in control of the coffee shop while her boss is out of town. On this day, however, a freak snowstorm leaves her and several peers stranded.

“As the storm worsens and the likelihood of rescue lessens, the café becomes ideologically divided,” writes the Drama Society of the plot. “Being forced to remain in each other’s company for an extended period of time brings forth the group’s inner nature and, when pushed to the limits, their true personalities are revealed and certain schemes are put to use… as well as a wild haymaker.”

Drama Society members report that “Coldcock Café” is like the sitcom “Friends” mixed with “Lord of the Flies.”

The play is written by Matthew Bessette of Lebanon and Patrick Loller of Brooklyn, NY; directed by Samuel Boushee of Andover; and features Jake Buckley of Terryville, Harold Gagne of Storrs, Caraline Louise, Emily Kelly of Meriden, Sara Lafrance of Waterbury, Sam Nicefaro of Hamden, Ashlyn O’Boyle of Killingworth, Andrew Rich of Berlin, Alexis Schacht of Enfield, Austin Washington of Wallingford and Hanna Zammarieh of Vernon.

The Drama Society’s spring show offers students the chance to develop their playwriting, directing, acting and design skills. “Coldcock Café” is a fully staged production with a cast of characters taking place in one of Eastern’s premier performance venues. For more information, visit http://www.easternct.edu/performingarts/category/theatre/.

Written by Michael Rouleau