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

Korean Ensemble Delights Audiences Everywhere

People around the world believe music is a universal language that everyone understands. Louis Armstrong, American trumpeter, composer, vocalist and occasional actor, considered to be one of the most influential figures in jazz, said it well—“I know two languages; English and music.” Another observer put it this way—“You don’t need to understand the words of every culture. Music does the talking for us.”

Internationally acclaimed Music Professor Okon Hwang

Eastern’s Samul Jeonsa (Samul Warriors) Korean Ensemble, founded in 2014 and dedicated to performing a traditional Korean music genre known as samulnori, perfectly reflects this notion that music, wherever and however it is created, connects people.

Each semester, Samul Jeonsa, a diverse group of students under the tutelage of internationally acclaimed Music Professor Okon Hwang, go through a collective compositional process of performing highly sophisticated art form that layers  traditional Korean folk music, and creates new rhythms and works as well. In doing so, students learn the history and culture of Korea and much more about their own potential as well.

Left to right, Venlo Odom ’20, majoring in music; Josh Perry ’19, music major; and Ryan Michaud ’19,  music major.

Samul Jeonsa performers include David Annecchiarico ’19, Emily Kennedy ’21, Ryan Michaud ’19, Venlo Odom ’20, Lanitza Padilla ’21, Safiya Palmer ’22, Joshua Perry ’19, Antonia Reynolds’19 and Skye Serra ’21.

“Talented and curious-minded students learn to play four different Korean percussion instruments to create pieces that are firmly rooted in Korean musical tradition, while constantly pushing the limits of what is possible by incorporating contemporary references as well as individual flares,” said Hwang.

Left to right, Lanitza Padilla ’20 music major, and Emily Kennedy, music major.

Hwang said the instruments derive from the Korean words “sa” and “mul” mean “four things” and “nori” means “play.” The four instruments—the buk (a barrel drum) and the janggu (an hourglass-shaped drum) are leather instruments, and the jing (a large gong) and the kkwaenggwari (a small gong) are brass instruments.  Each of these four instruments is said to represent different elements of weather: the buk symbolizes clouds, the janggu rain, the jing wind and the kkwaenggwarri thunder.

Left to right, Skye Serra ’20, music major and Antonia Reynolds ’19, music major.

Despite the Ensemble’s short history, the group has been invited to perform across the state and around the nation, including performances in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. 

Perry originally got involved with the group to learn and practice percussion skills. Hwang took him to another level. “This Ensemble is great because of its accessibility. Very little previous musical skill or knowledge is required. Dr. Hwang did a fantastic job of introducing me to the genre during the class’s very first session. I quickly became interested in the cultural source materials that formed the genre of Samul Nori, as well as mastering the instruments. There is a great depth to explore when composing and performing. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible.” 

Left to right David Annecchiarico ’19, music major, and Sky Serra, ’20 majoring in music.

“Participating in Samul has been wonderful,” said Kennedy.  I have expanded my music abilities and

Internationally acclaimed Music Professor Okon Hwang

culturalunderstanding. I’ve grown close to the students in the ensemble and to Dr. Hwang. It is a wonderful space to expressyour musical opinions or ideas.”

A native of Seoul, Korea, Hwang came to the United States to further her study in various graduate schools and pursue her creative/research interests. She performs regularly as a soloist and a chamber musician, and is also a member of the S.O.Y. Piano Trio.

As an ethnomusicologist, Hwang has studied the intersection of Western art music and Korean cultural identity, as well as various aspects of popular music in Korea. She has received numerous research grants, and delivered papers at regional, national and international conferences.

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern’s Music Program to Host 2 March Concerts

All March concerts will occur in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will host a variety of performances in March, representing a range of genres and style periods. All concerts and recitals will be performed in the Fine Arts Instructional Center’s (FAIC) Concert Hall. Admission is free – donations are gratefully accepted at the door in support of music student scholarships.

On March 1 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern faculty members Emily Jo Riggs, soprano, and David Ballena, piano, will present “Voices of America.” From the raucous to intimate, the program will explore the range of emotions captured in the words and music of some of America’s greatest poets and composers. This recital is presented as part of the Music Program’s Faculty Recital Series, which was established to raise scholarship funds for current and incoming Music Program students. All donations received at the door will go directly to supporting these scholarships and awards.

On March 3 at 3 p.m., the Willimantic Orchestra will present their Winter Concert, featuring the Academic Festival Overture by German composer Johannes Brahms and Symphony No. 96 “The Miracle” by Austrian composer Joseph Haydn. Claude Debussy’s “Danses sacrée et profane,” written for the chromatic harp and string orchestra will feature Megan Sesma on the harp.

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

Daughter of Historic Dress Maker Explains ‘Sidonia’s Thread’ Exhibition

Hanna Marcus, daughter of dress maker Sidonia Perlstein, spoke at Eastern on Feb. 13 about her mother’s life and exhibition currently on display at the Windham Textile and History Museum.

Author and social worker Hanna Pearlstein Marcus came to Eastern Connecticut State University on Feb. 13, to promote the exhibition “Sidonia’s Thread: Crafting a Life from Holocaust to High Fashion,” which is open at the Windham Textile and History Museum until April 28.

Organized by Eastern Theatre Professor Anya Sokolovskaya, the exhibition showcases the life of Marcus’ mother, Sidonia Pearlstein, who survived the Holocaust and fled to the United States at the conclusion of World War II. It also highlights Sidonia’s legacy of becoming an accomplished clothing designer in Western New England after overcoming a difficult period in her life.

Garments from the ‘Sidonia’s Thread’ exhibition.

Marcus’s book, “Sidonia’s Thread”, spotlights her childhood growing up with her mother and the creative yet secretive life they shared with each other, which Marcus says was the primary nature of their relationship.

The Windham Textile Museum exhibition features garments by Sidonia, which tell stories of how survival, family and other trials and tribulations inspired the remarkable clothing designer.
Marcus provided Eastern students many insights about her biography, making sure to capture her mother’s resilience while emphasizing her ability to handle a needle and craft beautiful garments.

“My mother had a special gift, a gift that saved her in the holocaust and made a living for her in America,” said Marcus. “She had golden hands that could create the most beautiful head turning garments.”

One piece of advice from her mother that Marcus taken into adult life is: “Stand up straight in both fashion and life.” Marcus explained, “It means having self-confidence and a good self-image.”
The exhibition was organized by Anya Sokolovskaya, assistant professor of theatre and costume design, who enlisted the help of several students to bring the exhibition to life.

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; admission for museum members, children under 5 years old, and Eastern students is free.

Written by Bobbi Brown

‘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