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 Music Program to Hold 7 December Performances

The Percussion Ensemble at a prior performance in the Concert Hall.

WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/28/2018) The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will host seven programs in early December to enrich the cultural life of the campus and local community. Events will range from holiday concerts to family friendly productions, and will be held in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Concert Hall. Admission for all concerts is free; donations are gratefully accepted at the door.

On Dec. 1 at 2:30, Eastern Opera Workshop and Chamber Singers will collaborate to host “Songs of Hope” in recognition of World AIDS Day.

On Dec. 2 at 2:30 p.m., Eastern’s percussion ensembles will collaborate in concert. The Percussion Ensemble, Chamber Percussion Group and World Percussion Ensemble will provide a diverse program of works from Western and non-Western traditions.

On Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern Jazz Ensemble and 3 O’clock Band will present a wonderful evening of jazz. The concert will feature musical arrangements of contemporary popular music as well as classics from the ’30s and ’40s.

On Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern music students will present a concert of chamber repertoire from the Baroque period. The concert will include performances by both instrumentalists and singers enrolled in Chamber Music Repertoire.

On Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m., join the Eastern Concert Band in a celebration of the “Sounds of the Season.” Selections such as “Carol of the Bells,” “A Christmas Festival” and “Rhapsody for Hanukkah” will get audience members in the holiday spirit.

On Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m., faculty members Chris Howard (clarinet) and David Ballena (piano) will present an evening of favorites from the clarinet and piano repertoire as part of the Faculty Recital Series. The evening will feature works by Johannes Brahms.

On Dec. 9 at 2:30 p.m., a talented cast of Eastern students, alumni and faculty will collaborate to present “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” This 50-minute opera tells the story of the Magi from the point of view of a young boy, Amahl, and his widowed mother. Eastern’s fully staged and costumed production of this holiday classic captures the child-like excitement and mystery of the season and is great for children and families. Donations of new and unwrapped toys and games will be accepted at the door and donated to a local toy drive.

Written by Jolene Potter

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.

November Music Events in Review

The Nov. 19 performance featured several vocal and instrumental ensembles.

The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University sponsored several performances during the month of November, ranging from faculty recitals to guest ensembles. All performances occurred in the Concert Hall and other venues within the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

S.O.Y. Piano Trio at “Night Reflections.”

The Faculty Recital Series presented “Night Reflection: S.O.Y. Piano Trio Multi-Media Concert” on Nov. 2. Collaborating with Eastern theatre and visual arts faculty members, the trio (violinist Seulye Park, pianist Okon Hwang and cellist YunYang Lin) presented compositions inspired by, and evocative of, Ernest Bloch, Reynaldo Hahn, Astor Piazzolla and Gaspar Cassado.

The Faculty Recital Series continued on Nov. 3 with a performance by Eastern woodwind faculty. Faculty members Amanda Baker (flute), Christopher Howard (clarinet), Joshua Thomas (saxophones) and David Ballena (piano) presented an evening of music by American composers, including Simeon Bellison, Neil Thornock, Robert Muczynski and Arthur Kreiger.

“Music Still Speaks” was a choral concert that featured two guest ensembles as well as Eastern Concert Chorale (depicted here).

Eastern Concert Chorale and Chamber Singers hosted a choral concert titled “Music Still Speaks” on Nov. 4. Joined by Choir Matrix Women’s Ensemble and Consonare Youth Chorus, the concert featured performances by each ensemble and a final selection performed by all four choirs.

The Charter Oak Brass Band celebrated their 30th anniversary season on Nov. 10 with a concert featuring highly anticipated new works. The band is a 28-piece musical ensemble whose distinctive sound comes from its all-brass instrumentation.

Eastern hosted the Willimantic Philharmonic Orchestra on Nov. 11. The orchestra is a non-profit community orchestra dedicated to the performance of symphonic orchestral music.

Night’s Blackbird worked with Eastern music students in the Concert Hall.

The Nov. 19 performance featured several vocal and instrumental ensembles.

The Music Program presented guest ensemble Night’s Blackbird on Nov. 16. Night’s Blackbird is an early-music ensemble based out of Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. Members of the ensemble also worked with Eastern voice students on the interpretation and presentation of several lute ayres.

November performances concluded on Nov. 19 with a major performance by the Concert Chorale, Chamber Singers and Eastern Wind Ensemble. The concert also featured the work of several student conductors.

Eastern Hosts Concert to ‘Remember and Reflect’ Sandy Hook

Written by Raven Dillon

WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/13/2018) On Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Instructional Center Concert Hall, the Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will host a concert titled “Remembrance and Reflection.” The concert is dedicated to Victoria Soto’s memory and the other victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting in December 2012. Soto graduated from Eastern in 2008. All donations at the door will go to the Victoria Soto Scholarship fund.

The Eastern Concert Chorale and Chamber Singers, conducted by David Belles and accompanied by Eric Ouellette on the piano, will perform alongside the Eastern Wind Ensemble, which will be conducted by Kelly Watkins.

The concert will explore themes of birth, life and ultimate peace, showcased through pieces such as “In the Bleak Midwinter,” a Christmas carol based on a poem by Christine Rossetti, a 17th century poet. “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace” will also be featured as a reflection on the peace and resting place through the ultimate sacrifice of giving one’s life.

“Into the Silent Land,” composed by Steve Danyew, will also make its regional premiere at this concert. Danyew, who grew up less than a mile from Sandy Hook Elementary School, was moved to create a piece of remembrance for the victims and their families.

On this piece, Danyew writes, “Through the simple idea of remembering-not forgetting that this happened, not forgetting these children, not forgetting the grief that their families must feel-I realized this is when I wanted and needed to communicate through music.”

 

Eastern Celebrates Veterans Day 100 Years after WWI

Speakers at this year’s ceremony included, left to right: VP of Student Affairs Walter Diaz, VET Center Coordinator Rebekah Avery, Brigadier General Ralph Hedenberg, Father Laurence LaPointe and President Elsa Núñez.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Connecticut State University held its annual Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 9 in the Student Center. Two days before the 100th anniversary of the close of World War I (Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918), the ceremony featured remarks by Eastern dignitaries as well as distinguished guest Brigadier General Ralph Hedenberg.

The Natchaug River Young Marines.

Following the Presentation of Colors by the Natchaug River Young Marines and the national anthem by Eastern’s Chamber Singers vocal ensemble, Father Laurence LaPointe of the Campus Ministry shared his reflections.

“There are none of us left who remember that day 100 years ago,” he said of the first Armistice Day. “The horrors of WWI, the horrible loss of life, 37 million people died… Because of the valor of those who died, the sacrifice that nations make to give up their young is why we cherish those who come home.

“As they grow old,” he said of combat veterans, “they often are reluctant to tell their stories. We must never forget the devastation of war.”

Vice President of Student Affairs Walter Diaz shifted the focus of the ceremony to Eastern’s campus. “Today we celebrate the vets who live, work and study on this campus. We enjoy a true democracy because of their sacrifice.

“Reflect on this past Tuesday, Nov. 6, voting day,” he continued. “You were able to vote – Democrat, Republican, independent and any other party – because of this democracy.”

President Elsa Núñez called attention to Eastern’s distinction as one of the “Best Colleges for Veterans” in the North by U.S. News and World Report.

“We have nearly 150 active-duty military and veterans enrolled at Eastern this semester,” she said. “The VETS Center, under the leadership of veteran Rebekah Avery ’94, not only offers a unique space on campus, but also the expertise to help veterans access the services and support they’ve earned and deserve.

“To me, our military represents the great diversity of America itself, and reflects how we are evolving as a nation and as a people,” continued Núñez, referring to Pew Research Center data that shows 40 percent of active-duty military personnel in 2015 were made up of ethnic minority groups. “They all took the same oath: ‘To support and defend the Constitution of the United States; to bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and to obey the orders of the president of the United States.'”

Conducted by Music Professor David Belles, the Eastern Chamber Singers sang the national anthem as wells the hymn “We Shall Walk through the Valley in Peace.”

Brigadier General Hedenberg delivered the ceremony’s keynote address. A decorated veteran himself, Hedenberg is currently director of the joint staff of Joint Force Headquarters, Connecticut Army National Guard.

“There are approximately 190 militaries around the world, but we are the only one that takes an oath to an ideal – the Constitution – not to a monarch,” he said.

“Our understanding of Veterans Day has evolved over the years. Armistice Day 100 years ago was a day of remembrance for those who died in WWI. That was meant to be the ‘war to end all wars,’ but we’ve fought many since.

“After WWII, our veterans came home as heroes,” he continued. “The holiday became more festive; a celebration of success. The day commemorated both World Wars.

“Then came the Korean War, which some call the forgotten war; that’s unfair, as those soldiers fought hard as any. The Vietnam War was one of social unrest and protest, but those soldiers fought hard nonetheless.”

Speaking to the United States’ other conflicts, Hedenberg said that as a people we’ve learned to separate the politics of war from its participants. “People aren’t ‘in’ the army,” he said. “They ‘are’ the army. They represent themselves as well as those who came before them, and those who will come after.”

In closing the event, Avery, coordinator of the VETS Center, called attention to Willimantic’s new Veterans Coffeehouse. Starting Nov. 28, the coffeehouse will occur every Wednesday from 9-11 a.m. at the Salvation Army at 316 Pleasant Street, Willimantic. The Veterans Coffeehouse is open to all veterans to meet, socialize and discuss benefits and services.

‘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 to Present ‘Music Still Speaks’ Choral Concert

The Eastern Concert Chorale and Chamber Singers at Eastern Connecticut State University will present “Music Still Speaks” on Nov. 4 at 2:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. In addition to the two Eastern ensembles, the choral concert will feature performances by Choir Matrix Women’s Ensemble and Consonare Youth Chorus, as well as dancers from the local dance school Thread City Classical Dance.

The Consonare Choral Community is a new community-based program created to explore and cultivate a sense of consonance and community through singing together in Mansfield and surrounding areas. The community has a number of programs intended to nurture all levels of singers and allow all to participate in choral opportunities regardless of financial constraints. Choirs sponsored by Consonare include Choir Matrix Women’s Ensemble, conducted by Sarah Kaufold, and Consonare Youth Chorus, conducted by Kate Smallidge.

“Music Still Speaks” will feature choral works with compelling texts – many by living composers – to encourage and empower silenced voices to speak and sing. The concert will close with a performance featuring all four choirs.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Music Program to Hold 6 November Performances

S.O.Y. Piano Trio at a prior concert in Eastern’s FAIC Concert Hall.

Written by Jolene Potter

The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will offer six performances in November, ranging from faculty recitals to guest ensembles. All events will be held in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Concert Hall. Admission for all concerts is free; donations are gratefully accepted at the door.

On Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m., the Faculty Recital Series will present “Night Reflection: S.O.Y. Piano Trio Multi-Media Concert.” Collaborating with Eastern’s theatre and visual arts faculty members, the S.O.Y Piano Trio (violinist Seulye Park, pianist Okon Hwang and cellist YunYang Lin) will present compositions inspired by, or evocative of, Ernest Bloch, Reynaldo Hahn, Astor Piazzolla and Gaspar Cassado.

On Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern’s woodwind faculty will present a combined recital as part of the Music Program’s Faculty Recital Series. Faculty members Amanda Baker (flute), Christopher Howard (clarinet), Joshua Thomas (saxophones) and David Ballena (piano) will present an evening of music by American composers. Featured on the program will be Simeon Bellison’s “Four Hebraic Pictures” and Neil Thornock’s “Moongarden” for flute and saxophone in addition to works by Robert Muczynski and Arthur Kreiger.

On Nov. 4 at 2:30 p.m., Eastern Concert Chorale and Chamber Singers, directed by David Belles, will host a choral concert titled “Music Still Speaks”. Joined by Choir Matrix Women’s Ensemble, directed by Sarah Kaufold, and Consonare Youth Chorus, directed by Kate Smallidge, the concert will feature performances by each ensemble and a final selection performed by all four choirs.

On Nov. 10 at 2:30 p.m., the Charter Oak Brass Band (formerly “Classic Brass”) will celebrate their 30th anniversary season with a concert featuring highly anticipated new works, composed in celebration of 30 years of brass band performance in Connecticut. The Charter Oak Brass Band is a 28-piece musical ensemble whose distinctive sound comes from its all-brass instrumentation. Based on the British brass band model, the group combines cornets, trombones and tubas with less familiar instruments, such as upright tenor horns and euphoniums, to produce its unique, thrilling and dramatic sound.

On Nov. 11 at 3 p.m., the Music Program will host the Willimantic Philharmonic Orchestra, a non-profit community orchestra dedicated to the performance of symphonic orchestral music. Their upcoming concert will feature works by Bian Balmages, Frank Miholland and Antonín Dvorák.

On Nov 16, the Music Program will present guest ensemble Night’s Blackbird. Night’s Blackbird is an early-music ensemble based out of Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. Members of the ensemble will perform at 12 p.m. in room 110 of the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC), as well as work with Eastern voice students on the interpretation and presentation of several lute ayres at 1:30 p.m. in the FAIC Concert Hall.