From Delirious Naples to Citi Field, from A Ride on the Underground Railroad to Rent – Hofstra’s 2011-2012 cultural events reached a wide range of audiences. All of Hofstra’s theaters and lecture halls were bustling with concerts, performances, discussions, seminars and celebrations.
Keeping the campus buzzing with activity were old traditions – such as the Shakespeare Festival and Joseph G. Astman International Concert Series – as well as newer experiences like Fall Festival and the “Great Writers, Great Readings” Series.
Perhaps the newsmaker of the year for the Hofstra Cultural Center was the 50th Anniversary of the New York Mets conference, presented April 26-28 and co-directed by Richard Puerzer, professor of engineering and chair of the Department of Engineering, and Paula Uruburu, professor of English and vice dean of the School for University Studies.
The conference featured panel discussions, a meet-and-greet, exhibitions and performances. There was a “bullpen” of Mets bloggers, and speakers included famous sportswriters, baseball historians and former players, including Ed Charles, Bud Harrelson, Ed Kranepool, Skip Lockwood, Joe Pignatano, Art Shamsky, and Rusty Staub.
Amid the nostalgia was a bittersweet note. The conference was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Dana Brand, professor and former chair of the Department of English. A lifelong Mets fan, Dr. Brand began planning the conference with Dr. Puerzer back in 2009, and just as all the plans and details were coming together, Dr. Brand passed away suddenly over the summer of 2011.
Reflecting on the conference, Dr. Puerzer believes the event lived up to Dr. Brand’s expectations. “I am sure that he would have enjoyed meeting the former players and journalists, but I think that he would have most enjoyed meeting the scholars and bloggers with whom he had interacted over the years leading up to the conference.”
Dr. Uruburu agrees. “Since I had been having frequent conversations with Dana about the conference in the months before he passed away – he was teaching an Honors class in a room next to my office – I know how he had envisioned the conference, and I believe he would have been very happy with the wide range of panels and special sessions and presentations as well as the range of people involved – from the historian of Major League Baseball, John Thorn, to the head librarian at the Baseball Hall of Fame, Jim Gates, to both academics and fans of the team and baseball in general.”
The Department of Drama and Dance launched the year with Christopher Durang’s The Marriage of Bette and Boo, directed by Royston Coppenger. An October 29 concert by Anthony Rapp, the original star of the off-Broadway and Broadway productions of Rent, highlighted a Hofstra production of Rent at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse, directed by Cindy Rosenthal. Fall performances continued with Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (directed by Peter Sander) and the Fall Dance Concert, featuring special guest choreographer Cathy Young, the newly appointed director of the dance division for the prestigious Boston Conservatory.
In the spring, Jean Dobie Giebel’s new imagining of Much Ado About Nothing, set on the North Shore of Long Island at the close of World War I, was the featured production of the 63rd Annual Shakespeare Festival. The Shakespeare Festival tradition also includes the Festival Musicale and a companion play. This year the Festival Musicale was “2 Bs or Not 2 Bs,” performed by the Hofstra Collegium Musicum, a student ensemble that presents concerts of early music, directed by Professor of Music William E. Hettrick. The companion play was a new one-hour Hamlet titled Hamlet: A Bare Bodkin, abridged and directed by Ed Elefterion. For the past five years, Hofstra’s Shakespeare Festival has featured one-hour adaptations of famous Shakespearean plays, to introduce young theatergoers to the works of the Bard. Hofstra drama students take the abridged plays on the road and perform them at local high schools.
Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (directed by James J. Kolb) played next at the Black Box Theater, and the Spring Dance Concert featured works by guest choreographers Doug Varone and Jody Sperling.
Fresh from receiving the 2011 Arty Awards from the Long Island Arts Council in September, Hofstra Professors Blanche Abram and Naomi Drucker, founders of The American Chamber Ensemble, a professional musical group in residence at Hofstra, performed three concerts on campus. The academic year also featured numerous student recitals and the traditional performances by the Hofstra String Quartet, Hofstra Jazz Ensemble, Hofstra Chorale, Hofstra Chamber Choir, Hofstra Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, Hofstra University Choir and Hofstra String Orchestra.
In November the Hofstra Symphony Orchestra, directed by Professor David Ramael, teamed up with the Long Island Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect (CCAN) to present a concert that was a celebration of children and the healing power of music. The performance included two famous child-themed compositions, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Gustav Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn. In the spring, Dr. Ramael was the guest conductor for the United States premiere of the Festival Brass Band, presented by Hofstra Entertainment. The Festival Brass Band is one of the premier brass bands in Europe, known for its unrivaled virtuosity and richness of sound.
Hofstra Opera Theater presented an ambitious winter production of Handel’s romantic and magical opera Alcina (direction by Isabel Milenski and musical direction by David Ramael) at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse. In February new Music Department faculty member Nkeiru Okoye took audience members for A Ride on the Underground Railroad, a concert starring the vocal talents of Hofstra and Hempstead High School students, professional singers and noted musicians, and music from Dr. Okoye’s original opera, Songs of Harriet Tubman. There were also musical selections centered around themes of freedom and courage, such as Wade in the Water, arranged by Hofstra Professor of Music Chandler Carter; the world premiere of a piece by composer and conductor Julius Williams; and a Joplin rag performed by pianist and composer Roy Eaton.
Making its Hofstra premiere in March was The New York Saxophone Quartet (NYSQ), featuring new compositions and works by David Matthews, Jean Baptiste Loeillet and George Gershwin. NYSQ, formed in 1959, is dedicated to commissioning new works for the saxophone ensemble and performing contemporary cutting-edge repertoire in both the classical and jazz fields. Hofstra instructor Steve Kenyon, tenor saxophone and woodwind player and composer, and lead saxophonist and clarinetist with the Broadway production of Porgy and Bess, is one of NYSQ’s current members.
Another musical first out of the Department of Music was the D’Addario Community Music Appreciation Concert on May 5, coordinated by Dr. David Lalama. The outdoor music festival showcased an eclectic mix of jazz, classical music and new compositions by Hofstra students and alumni. This first “Concert on the Quad” was sponsored by the D’Addario Community Music Appreciation Initiative, a multifaceted program designed to increase knowledge and appreciation for all types of music among a broad range of young people.
Hofstra Entertainment and the Joseph G. Astman International Concert Series brought talent from all over the world to the Hofstra campus. Concerts included musical tributes, rare appearances by noted musicians and world premieres, including All The Things You Are: The Life of Tony Bennett, a performance and discussion led by Bennett biographer David Evanier; Songs for the Beloved: The Sacred Repertoire from the Sikh Guru’s Tradition, performed by Dr. Gurnam Singh; Newpoli, a musical ensemble dedicated to authentic Neapolitan music; a staged reading of Eduardo De Filippo’s Christmas in Naples; The Wild Women of Song – Great Gal Composers of the Jazz Era; Baseball Swings, presented in conjunction with the Hofstra Cultural Center’s Mets conference; and a Bronx Opera Company performance of Hansel & Gretel.
Also adding to the University’s musical schedule was Hofstra University Honors College, which teamed with the Irish Studies Program to present Larry Kirwan, playwright, author, and lead vocalist and guitarist for New York City-based Celtic rock band Black 47, who performed songs and read from his latest novel, Rockin’ the Bronx. The Gray Wig, Hofstra’s alumni theater group, presented The Manhattan Dolls in a concert of music from the 1930s and ’40s, and a Gershwin showcase titled Rhapsody in Gershwin. School for University Studies again presented Hofstra Instructor Joshua Greene, The Godfrey Townsend Band and musicians from the Alan Parsons Project in Here Comes the Sun, a tribute to George Harrison (watch the Hofstra website for news on SUS’s October 2012 Eric Clapton tribute concert).
In the Galleries
Themes of culture, conservation and the human spirit were at the forefront of the Hofstra University Museum’s 2011-2012 art exhibitions. The year began with From the Hand: Drawings From the Hofstra University Museum Collection, at the David Filderman Gallery, featuring 20th-century figurative, landscape and abstraction drawings. Works in Burton Silverman: The Humanist Spirit, at the Emily Lowe Gallery, used ordinary working people as primary subjects to examine the commonalities of existence of “everyman.” B. Amore: Naples–New York, at the Filderman Gallery, focused on the cultural and historical ties between Naples, Italy, and New York City.
Spring 2012 featured an exhibition at Emily Lowe Gallery by media artist, poet and active conservationist Barbara Roux, whose work focuses on the forest and covers where she lives on the North Shore of Long Island. Similarly, the David Filderman Gallery was the site of The Disappearing Landscape: Selections From the Hofstra University Museum Collection, featuring 27 drawings, spanning the early 19th century to the 21st century, illustrating the artistic need to capture our ever-changing and disappearing global landscape.
Opportunity and Impact: Works by Émigré Artists at the Filderman Gallery looked at the influence of artists who arrived in America from Europe during the early 20th century to present-day émigrés from Cuba and South America. American art traditions and directions have been profoundly influenced by the contributions of these artists. The academic year closed with Yonia Fain: Remembrance at Emily Lowe Gallery. Works by Fain, a retired Hofstra professor of art history and humanities, pay tribute to the memories of those lost during the Holocaust, employing powerful visual imagery and messages that simultaneously relate the Holocaust’s despair and atrocities while expressing key themes of survival and hope.
In addition to shows sponsored by the Hofstra University Museum, there were other art showcases, presented by the Department of Fine Arts and Art History and the Department of Special Collections. The Rosenberg Gallery at Calkins Hall presented Re-Interpreting Nature, New Work by Cui Fei, an artist who uses natural objects like tendrils, twigs and thorns in her work. In the spring, the fine arts students presented their best works at the Student Art Show.
As part of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Department of Special Collections presented an exhibition of 18 photographs titled Hope and Healing, which featured images of the devastation and destruction in New York City, as well as photos of memorials set up around Long Island.
More News in Conferences and Culture on Campus
The Annual Italian, Irish and Dutch Festivals continue to attract thousands of visitors to the Hofstra campus. The festivals celebrate the arts and culture of other countries and their influence in the New York area. Craft and food vendors and live entertainment highlight each event. The 2011 Italian Experience Festival featured the vocal talents of international recording artist Filippo Voltaggio. The Dutch Festival, which celebrated its 29th year in 2012, is starting to move toward an outdoor music showcase format. This year’s Dutch treat featured the Long Island premiere of the urban country band Shotgun Wedding, featuring Hofstra alumnus Dennis DelGaudio ’91, lead guitarist in the Broadway show Movin’ Out and later a touring member of Billy Joel’s band.
Delirious Naples – A Cultural, Intellectual and Urban History of the City of the Sun, an interdisciplinary conference in November, brought together artists, scholars and performers for four days of animated discussion, concerts and staged and poetic readings. The conference explored all dimensions of Neapolitan culture. The conference was directed by Pellegrino D’Acierno, professor of comparative literature and languages, and Stanislao Pugliese, professor of history, served as conference advisor.
From Brown (1954) to Brown (1963) and Beyond: The Challenges to Advancing Race Relations in Schools and Society was an October 27 symposium aimed at examining not only the legal, political and policy implications of school desegregation, but also the personal stories of the children who were named plaintiffs in such lawsuits since the Brown decision. Dr. Millicent E. Brown, a history professor at Claflin University, led a panel of speakers who, as children, were named plaintiffs in post-Brown desegregation lawsuits. Brown, who was a visiting professor at Hofstra in the 2010-11 academic year, was a seventh-grader in Charleston, South Carolina, when she became the named plaintiff in a lawsuit decided in 1963.
“Great Writers, Great Readings” Series, presented by the English Department and the M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program, presented well-known authors, poets and playwrights, including John Edgar Wideman, Gerald Stern, Alice McDermott, Tom Sleigh and Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire. This literary series, now entering its ninth season, presents free readings and book signings by guest authors, who meet with small groups of Hofstra students to discuss their careers and craft.
The School of Communication aired the 100th episode of For Your Island (FYI), the University’s longest-running show, on December 5. Now in its 25th season, FYI is an award-winning, 30-minute television magazine show focusing on the arts, culture and entertainment of Long Island. Stories are pitched, written and produced entirely by television production seniors working in teams of two, under the guidance of faculty advisors and Department of Radio, Television, Film Professors Peter Gershon and James N. Cohen.
The LGBT Studies Program and the Hofstra Cultural Center presented the Fifth Annual LGBT Studies Symposium on Queer Rhetoric, a relatively new field situated at the intersection of LGBT studies, queer theory, rhetoric and cultural studies. Queer rhetoric seeks to uncover the symbolic and performative strategies whereby queer identities have been and continue to be constructed in different times and places. Scholars working in this field locate the heteronormative occlusion of queer voices within a given cultural and social context and describe how queer voices develop a battery of technologies that offer a means of resistant expression. The March 16 and 17 symposium was the first ever devoted entirely to the subject of queer rhetoric.