Lafayette’s campus hummed with creativity Saturday during an Open House that celebrated the College’s commitment to the arts through edgy dance and theater performances, poetry writing, student film screenings, and improvisational music that inspired feet tapping and wide smiles. As part of Lafayette’s Homecoming Weekend, hundreds of people roamed the Williams Arts Campus on North Third Street, and uptown facilities like the Williams Center for the Arts and Experimental Printmaking Institute.
More than 20 events were held throughout the day, many of them at the downtown campus where the newly constructed William C. Buck Hall, which houses a 180-seat cinema and black box theater, looms in glass and chrome against the city skyline. There, food trucks lined the street and bouquets of multi-colored balloons adorned lampposts.
Taking a fresh approach to Elizabethan theater, members of the College’s theater department opened the day by entertaining a receptive audience through riotous interpretations of such Shakespeare classics as Henry IV, Hamlet, and King Lear.
In honor of the opening of the Weiss Theater at William C. Buck Hall, Michael O’Neill, head of theater, wrote and directed “A Shakespeare Cabaret,” a spirited, mischievous blend of physicality, music, and wordplay. The one-time performance included a 15-minute Hamlet and a Shakespeare quote quiz with audience participation.
Moving frenetically from one play to another, a troupe member shouted “why can’t Shakespeare be more like sports?” His challenge kicked into motion a gridiron take on Henry IV, replete with a handoff from the quarterback to the hunchback and an offensive charge culminating with a murder at the five-yard line.
“Shakespeare is a great way to launch a new theater,” says O’Neill.
The black box theater calmed down with a preview of The Secret Garden, a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical as seen from the adult characters in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel. Directed and choreographed by Mary Jo Lodge, associate professor of English and theater, the performance opens Oct. 26 and runs till Oct. 30 at the Weiss Theater.
People wrote stories related to water. At least they were supposed to. They could only use six words. The stories were written on cards. They were attached to a rack. Watery words flowed on a ribbon. (Professor Nestor Gil wrote that one.) The idea came from Michiko Okaya. She is director of Lafayette galleries. She partnered with the English Department.
Author Ernest Hemingway inspired the form. Here are some of the best.
Paramedic finished her text, “Love you.”
Buy orphan, get 2 free
Middle age. She grew wings, soared
Found: Two swimsuits next to river
Dancers perform "Breach: Left Behind."
A group of dancers, including Professors Nandini Sikand, and Carrie Rohman performed Breach: Left Behind, a site specific production that explored the questions: What is left behind after a natural disaster? How do we define and determine what has value, what matters? The black-clad dancers evoked the trembling of levees about to collapse by forcefully hitting gallery walls smeared with mud from the Bushkill Creek. The performance was in collaboration with sculptor and visual artist Alison Saar’s Breach exhibit, which focuses on the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, the worst recorded river disaster in U.S. history.
The Johnny Gossik Quartet
The animated music of the Johnny Gossik Quartet bounced off metal, masonry, and glass, an acoustically vibrant outdoor space that took on an almost Beale Street dynamic.
“We’re just excited about this new space,” says Gossick ’18, who’s majoring in music and anthropology & sociology. He says his quartet — Tyler Schwartz ’19, Kentaro Mori ’19, and Benjamin Gordon ’19 — brings together each members’ cross disciplines in the performing arts, sciences, and engineering.
“It influences a lot about how we make music, and how creativity is enhanced by different backgrounds,” says Gossick, who plays keyboard. “We come out of the jazz tradition, emphasizing its social side with improvisation on contemporary melodies.”
Have a listen.
Checking out the College's TV studio
Visitors toured the College’s new home for its film and media studies program, which features a TV studio, editing suites, and media labs.
Siblings Osaze and Thulani Williams, ages 10 and 8 respectively, hopped on chairs behind the cameras and practiced interviewing each other while their mother, Bonnie Woodring Sachs observed their budding talent.
Campus documentaries about the Lehigh Valley Dance program and Choreographers on Campus looped for guests throughout the day, highlighting the College’s expanding performing arts presence in Easton and regionally.
Funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Choreographers on Campus brings choreographers and dancers to the Lehigh Valley to engage in collaboration artistic creation.
Exploring the visual arts
Students’ large colorful paintings were displayed on easels throughout the second floor of the building to the delight of 9-year-old Kennedi Washington of Easton, who was accompanied by her mother Leonore Gonzalez.
Kennedi explains the two had a free day and decided to spend it browsing art at the open house. “I love to paint and draw,” she says.
When asked if she’d like to attend Lafayette one day, Kennedi nods and says: “It seems like a good place for art.”