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11th annual Vassar College Modfest to celebrate the contemporary performing, visual, and literary arts

  |   January 21, 2013  |  Comment

Modfest, now in its eleventh year, is Vassar College’s exploration of the arts in the 20th and 21st centuries. Dance, drama, visual art, film, literature, poetry, and music will be celebrated in a series of events taking place across campus from January 24 to February 8. Participants in Modfest 2013 include Vassar students, faculty, alumnae/i, and guest artists, as well as students from Poughkeepsie area schools.

All events are free and open to the public. No reservations are necessary, unless otherwise noted All seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Note that all events are subject to change.

Among its varied features Modfest 2013 will explore the theme of censorship and the arts, particularly the impact of McCarthyism and the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee. For example on January 27 soprano Karyn Levitt accompanied by pianist Eric Ostling will sing “Eric Bentley’s Brecht-Eisler Song Book,” in an afternoon cabaret that showcases Bentley’s English adaptations of the musical collaborations between blacklisted Hollywood [RW2] composer Hanns Eisler, poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht, and other poets.

Expanding on this subject, students from the Vassar drama group Philaletheis will present dramatic readings of selected testimonies from the HUAC and McCarthy hearings on January 31. On February 2 Professor of Political Science Sidney Plotkin will discuss HUAC and McCarthy in an evening presentation featuring video and more live dramatic readings of HUAC actual testimonies. Then on February 3 celebrated multimedia artist Martha Rosler and writer/producer Stephen Squibb (a Vassar alumnus) will discuss politics and the arts.

A January 26 concert of varied works by three Vassar music faculty composers will draw on themes of political and personal persecution. The program will include the first act[RW3]  of Dean of the Faculty Jonathan Chenette’s opera Eric Hermannson’s Soul, based on a Willa Cather short story about a violinist being persecuted by a zealous minister; soprano Susan Botti’s operatic soliloquy drawn from Shakespeare Telaio: Desdemona, to be performed by Botti with a string quartet, harp, piano, and percussion; as well as a new clarinet quintet by pianist/composer Richard Wilson. OPERA magazine called Botti’s work “striking emotional music.”

A concert on February 2 will feature the world premiere of special guest composer Tarik O’Regan’s Night City, a setting of Vassar alumna Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “Night City (From a Plane).” commissioned for the Vassar College Choir and Women’s Chorus. This concert will also feature the Vassar College Orchestra performing Three Letters by Harold Farberman, and performances by the Vassar Mahagonny Ensembles.

Tarik O’Regan is a prolific British composer who has been hailed by the London Telegraph as “one of the great hopes for British music in the 21st century,” and whose recent work, the one-act chamber opera Heart of Darkness, has been acclaimed in both the British and U.S. press. Before Modfest premieres his Night City on February 2, O’Regan will discuss Heart of Darkness in an afternoon presentation. Also special to Modfest, O’Regan will participate in an open rehearsal on January 31, and on February 1 he and Vassar faculty members will hold an open composition class on setting words to music.

Among many other Modfest events this year will be  a perennial favorite: readings of poetry in nine different languages and in translation by Vassar language fellows (1/30). Other readings programs during the festival will include plays in progress by students of the Drama department (1/29), The Cripple of Inishmaan by senior Martin McDonagh (1/30), and Wolf-Man by Liz Egloff, visiting instructor of playwriting (2/8).


Modfest was begun in 2003 to draw attention to and make connections among the range of artistic activities on the Vassar campus, placing special emphasis on contemporary arts. Programming is designed each year to showcase various college departments and the interrelationships between music, dance, film, literature, poetry, and visual arts in the 20th and 21st centuries. Vassar music graduate Adene Wilson founded Modfest with her husband Richard Wilson, composer and Vassar professor of music, and Adene Wilson continues to direct the festival.

“Each year we find that Modfest provides a special opportunity for students in each of the disciplines to share their work with one another,” noted Adene Wilson. “A key reason we started Modfest is to provide a microcosm of what goes on year-round at Vassar.”

Modfest 2013 is organized by the Vassar College Department of Music in collaboration with the Departments of Art, Chinese and Japanese, Dance, Drama, English, and Film, the programs in Africana Studies, French and Francophone Studies, German Studies, Hispanic Studies, and Russian Studies, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and the Vassar College Bookstore.

A campus-wide celebration, Modfest events will be held at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Kenyon Hall, Main Building, James W. Palmer III Gallery in the College Center, Skinner Hall of Music, and the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film.

Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage (http://www.vassar.edu).

Vassar College is located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, and directions to the campus can be found at http://www.vassar.edu/directions.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.

(JANUARY 24 – FEBRUARY 8, 2013)

The 11th annual Vassar College Modfest will celebrate art, dance, drama, film, literature, prose and poetry, and music of the 20th and 21st centuries.

All events are free and open to the public without charge (unless noted)[RW4] . No reservations are necessary, unless otherwise noted[RW5] . All seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Note that all events are subject to change.

For additional information, call (845) 437-5370 or visit http://arts.vassar.edu.

BEGINNING JANUARY 24 (and ongoing)

Thompson Library Exhibition. The Artist’s Book in Wales: Shirley Jones and the Red Hen Press, 1983-2013. On view through May 15.
Thompson Memorial Library

Music Library Display:  The Vassar College Music Library presents a display highlighting Modfest music activities and musicians, curated by Sarah Canino, music librarian. On view through February 8. Open daily.
Skinner Hall of Music, First Floor


Late Night at the Lehman Loeb.
Vassar College Sound Systems offers up lounge music in a coffeehouse atmosphere during this evening’s weekly extended hours at the museum. Late Night at the Lehman Loeb is made possible by the generous support of the Jane W. Nuhn Charitable Trust.
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

Presentation. Teen Art, Music, Dance, and the Spoken Word.
Features middle and high school students from arts programs in the Mid-Hudson Valley: Mill Street Loft’s LitClub, an outreach program for girls in the Poughkeepsie Middle School, the Vivace ensemble of the Stringendo Orchestra School of the Hudson Valley, and dancers from the New York Academy of Ballet. Dual Visions Lens 1, an exhibit of artwork by students from Mill Street Loft Art Institute program will also be on view in the James W. Palmer Gallery (through January 28)
Presentation: Villard Room, Main Building
Exhibit: James W. Palmer III Gallery, Main Building


Exhibition Special Event. Lecture and Reception for Recent Acquisitions: Works on Paper.
The evening begins with a panel presentation, “Collectors, the Market, and the Art Museum: An Aesthetic Ecosystem.” Moderated by James Mundy, director of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, this panel of three guest speakers focuses on the interactions between curators, collectors, and gallery dealers in building art collections. A reception follows in the atrium of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. The exhibition features highlights of the drawings, prints, photographs, artists’ books, and films acquired by the museum since 2007, and ranges from the Italian Renaissance in the sixteenth century to Manhattan in the twenty-first century. Artists represented include Giorgio Ghisi, Henri Matisse, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jacob Lawrence, Nan Goldin, and Andy Warhol. Recent Acquisitions will be on view through March 30, 2013.
Exhibit and Reception: The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
Panel Presentation: Taylor Hall, Room 203

Concert. Vassar Jazz Combos.
Vassar Jazz Ensembles Director James Osborn leads student groups a colorful variety of jazz styles.  James Osborn, director of the jazz ensembles.
Villard Room, Main Building


Open Rehearsal.
Operatic works of Vassar faculty composers Susan Botti and Jonathan Chenette.
Skinner Hall of Music

Concert. Vassar Faculty Composers.
Music of Susan Botti, Jonathan Chenette, and Richard Wilson.  Program to include the first scene of Jonathan Chenette’s opera Eric Hermannson’s Soul, a monodrama of a self-righteous minister persecuting an artist.  Also featured will be Susan Botti’s Telaio: Desdemona, an operatic soliloquy and character study drawn from Shakespeare. Completing the program will be Richard Wilson’s new clarinet quintet.  Performers include Thomas Meglioranza, baritone, Rachel Handman, violin, Moran Katz, clarinet, and a quartet from The Declassified music society[RW6] , as well as Vassar music faculty members Ashley Jackson, harp,[RW7]  Miriam Charney, piano, and Frank Cassara, percussion.
Skinner Hall of Music


Concert.  An Afternoon of Cabaret.
“Eric Bentley’s Brecht-Eisler Song Book,” sung by Karyn Levitt, accompanied by pianist Eric Ostling. Poems and songs by Bertolt Brecht and other poets adapted into English versions by Eric Bentley and set to music by Hanns Eisler.  Preconcert talk at 2:30 by Michael Pisani, professor of music.  Cosponsored by the music and German departments.
Mary Anna Fox Martel Recital Hall, Skinner Hall of Music


Dramatic Reading. Plays in Progress.
Works from the master class in playwriting in the Drama department. Excerpts will be presented from several new plays. Limited seating on a first come first served basis. Call the Drama department box office for more information: (845) 437-5599.
The Streep Studio (Room 110), Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film


Poetry Readings. Translation as an Art.
Readings of Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Hebrew, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish poems in their original tongue and in their translations. Student translations and performances have been prepared with the help of the language fellows from the participating departments. Hosted by Susan Correll, Director of International Programs and Associate Dean of Studies. Presented by the departments and programs of foreign language study at Vassar, and coordinated by Vassar language fellows Helios Dominguez, Yumi Katsuyama, and Roman Kopit.
Villard Room, Main Building

Dramatic Reading.
The Cripple of Inishmaan, a play by senior Martin McDonagh. Limited seating, first come and first served. Call the drama department box office for more information: (845) 437-5599.
The Streep Studio (Room 110), Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film


Palmer Gallery Exhibition. Dual Visions 2013: Lens 2.
Artists reception for the opening of the second of two consecutive exhibitions featuring traditional and digital photography, paintings, drawings, and mixed media created by students in the Art Institute of Mill Street Loft program. Lens 2 is on view through February 13.
James W. Palmer III Gallery, College Center, Main Building

Open Rehearsal. Night City
Tarik O’Regan, composer, with the Vassar College Choir and Vassar College Women’s Chorus,
rehearse his commission Night City, a setting of Vassar alumna Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “Night City (From a Plane).”
Mary Ann Fox Martel Recital Hall, Skinner Hall of Music

Dramatic Reading/Late Night at the Lehman Loeb. Testimonies from the HUAC and McCarthy hearings, presented by Vassar’s student-run drama group Philaletheis.  Presented as part of Late Night at the Lehman Loeb, the museum’s weekly extended Thursday hours.
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center galleries


Open Class. The Setting of Words to Music.
With guest composer Tarik O’Regan and Vassar faculty members Susan Botti, Jean Kane, and Richard Wilson.
Thekla Hall, Skinner Hall of Music

Cabaret Night.
A sampling of the Great American Songbook – Gershwin, Kern, Porter, Berlin, Rodgers, Sondheim, and others.  Featuring students from the Vassar College choirs, with David Alpher at the piano.
Rose Parlor, Main Building


Open Rehearsal. Mahagonny Ensemble.
Alumnus composer William Healy  coaches the student-run contemporary classical music group in the preparation of his new work Upon Our Looking Glass.  Q&A with the composer follows. REHEARSAL: Mary Ann Fox Martel Recital Hall, Skinner Hall of Music
Q&A: Skinner Hall room 303

Presentation.  Tarik O’Regan, composer.
O’Regan discusses his opera Heart of Darkness, based on the novel by Joseph Conrad, which recently premiered at the Linbury Studio Theatre of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London.
Mary Ann Fox Martel Recital Hall, Skinner Hall of Music

Concert. The Vassar Ensembles.
The Vassar College Choir and Women’s Chorus present the world premiere of Tarik O’Regan’s Night City; the Vassar College Orchestra performs Three Letters by Harold Farberman; and the Mahagonny Ensemble present Upon Our Looking Glass(music by alumnus William Healy, rapping by alumnus Ade Raphael ), and The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs by John Cage.  Christine Howlett, Eduardo Navega, and senior Jesse Greenberg , conductors.
Skinner Hall of Music


Presentation.  Politics and the Arts – An Open Dialogue.
Martha Rosler, artist, Stephen Squibb writer and producer.  Co-sponsored by the departments of music and art and the Dean of the Faculty.
Taylor Hall , room 102


Presentation. HUAC and McCarthyism.
Sidney Plotkin, Vassar College Professor of Political Science, will discuss the House Un-American Activities Committee and McCarthy hearings. Video of actual testimonies will be shown, along with dramatic reading of testimonies.
Sanders Classroom Building Spitzer Auditorium (room 212)


Presentation. Music and Words.
Presentation of chamber music and original poetry by students from the departments of music and English.
Rose Parlor, Main Building

Screeening. Original Short Films.
A selection of student short films. followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers. Hosted by the student Vassar Filmmakers Club and the Film Majors Committee.
Rosenwald Screening Room ( Room 109), Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film


Chamber music and readings/Late Night at Lehman Loeb
Chamber music and readings of original prose by Vassar students from classes of Eduardo Navega, chamber music director, and Amitava Kumar, professor of English.
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center galleries


Drama Reading.
Wolf-Man, by Liz Egloff, visiting instructor of playwriting in the Department of Drama. Limited seating on afirst come first served basis. Call the drama department box office for more information (845-437-5599).
The Streep Studio (Room 110), Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film.

Dance Performance.
Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre performs works from their current repertory. , including Cellos by department chair and resident choreographer Steve Rooks, Glimpse by senior lecturer Kathy Wildberger, and original choreography by four Vassar seniors. Reserve tickets by calling the dance office at (845) 437-7470 or e-mailing [email protected]
The Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater, Kenyon Hall

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