Out and About

For a poet to be mentioned in the same breath as Wallace Stevens, the great American poet of the 20th century Modern period, is a rare honor. For poet Elizabeth Hamilton – a graduate of Southern’s MFA in creative writing program and an adjunct professor in the English Department – having her poems share the bill with Stevens’ work at a February 20 event at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford seems a bit surreal. At “Voices of Connecticut Poets: Wallace Stevens and Elizabeth Hamilton,” the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra (HICO) will perform a celebration of these two poets in in a concert of contemporary chamber orchestra music. Hailed as “an invaluable addition to the Hartford musical scene” by composer-critic Robert Carl, HICO will present the music of Thomas Albert and premiere a commission by composer Jessica Rudman. Albert’s music uses Stevens’ poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird,” and Rudman’s piece uses Hamilton’s poetry.

Poet Elizabeth Hamilton, MFA, '14
Elizabeth Hamilton, MFA, ’14

Hamilton graduated from the MFA program in 2014, and over the past year and half has collaborated with Rudman after the two met during a three-week artist residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna, Florida. Hamilton was chosen by the poet Richard Blanco to participate in that residency; Blanco is perhaps best known for reading his poem “One Today” at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.

Hamilton applied for a writing residency at The Center after finishing her MFA. She explains that the poet in residence at The Center chooses the poets for the three-week residency, and Blanco was poet in residence at the time. He chose Hamilton and a few other poets, and during her three weeks in residence, Hamilton worked on her writing with Blanco and says “he was such a help to me. I can’t say enough about him.” While in the MFA program at Southern, she worked closely with Jeff Mock and other members of the creative writing faculty, all of whom she says were great to work with.

While in residence at The Center, Hamilton explains, “I was there with other artists of various disciplines. We all hung out together and learned about what each other was doing with our work.” At the beginning of the three weeks, each artist had to present his or her work to the group. “This is instrumental in building relationships with other artists,” says Hamilton. For her presentation, she chose to read poems she had written for her MFA thesis. Afterward, a few of the artists approached her and asked if she would consider collaborating with them. Of these artists, composer Rudman was most persistent in following up with Hamilton. She, like Hamilton, is from Connecticut, and she has a relationship with the Hartford Chamber Orchestra.

Following the residency, after they had both returned to Connecticut, Rudman contacted Hamilton, and they began to meet to work out the details of their collaboration.

“She’s been busy composing and I’ve taken a full-time job,” says Hamilton, “so I haven’t yet had a chance to hear the work.” A vocalist will sing her poems verbatim, she says, and the piece will be performed for the first time alongside Albert’s piece based on Stevens’ famous poem. Hamilton says she still can’t quite believe it when she sees her name paired with Stevens’.

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are available by calling (860) 247-0998.

The university has entered into an exciting partnership with The Elm Shakespeare Company (ESC) that promises to bring new energy to the Theatre Department and the entire university community.

The Elm Shakespeare Company, recognized as the premiere Shakespeare company in Connecticut and one of the very best in New England, has been offering free professional outdoor Shakespeare performances in New Haven for 20 years. Southern and Elm Shakespeare recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that brings Elm Shakespeare onto campus and integrates it into Theatre Department activities and facilities.

Under the MOU, ESC is officially “in residence” at Southern Connecticut State University. For two decades, ESC has rehearsed its actors and built the sets for its productions at Lyman Center; the MOU formalizes this relationship. As part of the agreement, ESC will reserve three non-union acting or technical positions for Southern students in its summer season; provide a member of its artistic staff to teach a Shakespeare workshop (THR 228) every semester; and offer additional free workshops to SCSU theater students. In addition, when available, a member of the ESC artistic staff will direct agreed-upon Theatre Department productions, and the company will provide formal fieldwork opportunities for qualified Southern students interested in theater education. The university, for its part, will provide office, classroom, and rehearsal space for ESC; allow access to the costume shop and scene shop; and offer the opportunity for qualified ESC staff to teach, direct or design in Theatre Department courses or productions. Both organizations will acknowledge the partnership in their advertising literature and publications.

Steven Breese, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, says of the new partnership, “We are delighted that Elm Shakespeare will be taking up residency at Southern. Our artistic and educational missions are deeply interconnected and, like any good partnership, we strengthen one another by joining our forces.

“While SCSU has, for many years, had a strong relationship with Elm, having the company and its artistic staff ensconced on our campus and interacting with students and faculty every day will be a ‘shot’ of creative adrenaline — something that all artists need and welcome.”

Rebecca Goodheart, Elm Shakespeare’s new Producing Artistic Director, says, “We at Elm Shakespeare are so excited to solidify our long-time working relationship and become the theater company in residence at Southern Connecticut State University. This partnership is the best kind of collaboration. Together we will create more classical performance at the highest standards, and more opportunities for students than ever before. Together, we will ensure that everyone in this great community and beyond has access to world-class arts and education. Together, we will be the example of what is possible in New Haven.”

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Breese acknowledges the efforts of Goodheart and Kaia Monroe, Theatre Department Chair, for the work they have done to bring this partnership to fruition, adding, “It represents a giant step forward for our theater program, while offering a secure home for one the region’s most respected professional Shakespeare companies.”

An official signing of the MOU will take place on March 2, at 4:30 p.m. in the Lyman Center lobby. The signing will coincide with Elm Shakespeare’s announcement of its 2016 season. For more information about Elm Shakespeare, visit its website.

 

Laos

In terms of diversity of and access to faculty-led study abroad programming, Southern is now “walking the walk,” says Erin Heidkamp, director of international education. With the recent addition of five new study abroad programs, destinations now range from Liverpool to Laos, and program fees are affordable compared to other institutional and third-party programs study abroad programs outside of Southern.

New programs this year include Amsterdam (sociology), China (nursing), Guatemala II (special education), Laos (English), and Liverpool (recreation and leisure). These programs join the university’s existing programs in Belize (biology), Bermuda (the environment, geography, and marine sciences), Guatemala I (public health), Iceland (the environment, geography, and marine sciences), Rome (English), Spain (world languages and literatures) and Tuscany (world languages and literatures).

Heidkamp says, “The publication of our new 2016 faculty-led program abroad booklets has sparked tremendous interest among faculty interested in establishing their own programs. We couldn’t be more excited about the growth in this area of OIE (Office of International Education) services. It’s the direct result of having defined the direction in which we, as a university, want to move.”

A key part of Southern’s mission as an institution of higher learning is “preparing our local students for global lives,” and each year, a significant number of Southern students study abroad. Last year, the university joined 240 institutions nationwide in the Institute of International Education’s Generation Study Abroad initiative to double the number of American students who study abroad by the end of the decade.

Amsterdam

The Amsterdam program (July 7 – August 7) will address social problems in The Netherlands, especially as they relate to crime, drug culture, sexuality and social control. These and other topics will be covered in courses taught by experts on Dutch social policy and field experiences led by activists, policy makers, and scholars from the University of Amsterdam.

China

The 2016 China program (March 17 – 26) will provide nursing students a unique opportunity to study global healthcare abroad within a developing, culturally diverse population. Students will identify how cultural issues and global diversity impact the delivery of healthcare and will work collaboratively with Chinese nursing students from Central South University in Changsha, China, to explore, understand, and appreciate these differences as well as identify, assess, and plan interventions from a global perspective.

Guatemala

The special education field study in Guatemala (July 31 – August 14) will provide students with a unique opportunity to learn about special education in a developing country through interactions with children, teachers and families; discussions with in-country experts; community observations; and visits to schools, residential facilities and other agencies serving children with disabilities. Students will examine special education policies and services with attention to availability, accessibility, assessment, professional preparation, and resources. Topics such as cultural and linguistic diversity, literacy, school attendance and completion, and successful post-school transitions will be explored.

Laos

In the Laos program (May 30- June 16), students will take a course that introduces and teaches travel writing while offering intensive practice in multiple forms within the genre, making it suitable for seasoned as well as aspiring travelers and writers. Students will use their daily interactions with Lao culture, food, historical sites, and people to inform their written reflections on what it means to be a foreign person traveling through an unfamiliar country.

Liverpool

The Liverpool program – “Atlantic Crossing!” (April 3-12) — will provide students with the opportunity to meet like-minded students at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), and learn about the shared historical and cultural roots of two significant coastal cities that played a major role in the international economic and cultural development of the United States and England. The program may also serve as a practicum experience for a student in the Tourism, Hospitality and Event concentration, with student involvement in the planning and logistical management of the program. Students will be required to attend face-to-face meetings with RLS faculty, online meetings with LJMU counterparts prior to departure, and develop a research project linked to their current course work and concentration.

For more information about any of these programs, including fees and contact information, visit the OIE website.

To hear study abroad alumni speak about their experiences with international study, don’t miss the Global Ambassador Symposium on February 24 at 12 p.m. in Engleman A120.

Almost Maine, Theatre Department

For the second year in a row, a Theatre Department production has been selected for presentation at the John F. Kennedy Center American College Theater Region I Festival (ACTF). The December production of “Almost, Maine” is this year’s New England Region I winner and will be staged at the festival in late January 2016 at Western Connecticut State University. Directed by Theatre Professor Sheila Hickey Garvey, “Almost, Maine” was one of six productions selected for presentation out of almost 150 submissions entered from colleges across New England and New York.

Garvey describes the play as “a delightful comedy/romance with cosmic overtones” and says the invitation to perform at the festival is “a great honor.” Written by playwright and actor John Cariani, the play has a small cast of eight and a minimal set, designed for the SCSU production by Theatre Professor John Carver Sullivan, who also designed the costumes. There will two performances of “Almost, Maine” at the festival on Friday, January 29, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Almost Maine

The play portrays 20 different residents living in a tiny mythical community located in Northern Maine. At 9 p.m. on December 21, during an occurrence of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights, select community members are mystically gifted with a very special opportunity, one that affords them the chance to renew their lives and live them with an open heart.

“Almost, Maine” was developed at the Cape Cod Theater Project in 2002, and received its world premiere at Portland Stage Company, where it broke box office records and garnered critical acclaim. It opened off Broadway in the winter of 2005-2006 at the Daryl Roth Theatre and was subsequently published by Dramatists Play Service. To date, “Almost, Maine” has been produced by over 2500 theater companies in the United States and by over a dozen companies internationally, making it one of the most frequently produced plays of the past decade.

If you would like to support the Crescent Players’ performance at the ACTF, visit this page and in the dropdown menu next to “I would like to support the,” choose “Other,” then type “Crescent Players Fund” in the box to indicate the fund name. Thank you for supporting Southern students!

Tony Fusco

SCSU Graduate Student, A West Haven Resident, Wins Prestigious Poetry Prize

Overnight success isn’t usually what it appears to be—it’s often preceded by years of patient, persistent work. Such is the case of West Haven resident Tony Fusco, a graduate student in creative writing at Southern Connecticut State University, who recently won first place in the prestigious 2003 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival Competition, which is co-sponsored by Farmington’s Hill-Stead Museum and The Hartford Courant’s “Northeast” magazine. As first-place winner, Fusco will read two of his winning poems in the poetry festival on Aug. 20, and the CSU literary journal Connecticut Review will publish the poems—“The Guest Upstairs” and “The Litany of Streets”—in its fall 2003 issue.

Fusco has been writing poetry for years, and he has worked hard for this recognition. The Sunken Garden festival takes place during the summer months on the Hill-Stead grounds, and it is, says Fusco, “the biggest and best venue for poetry in Connecticut. I’ll get to read two poems there, and two or three thousand people listen to you read, plus it’s on public radio. That many people coming out to hear poetry is wonderful.”

This year, Sunken Garden is linked for the first time with Connecticut Review, which is edited by SCSU English Professor and poet Vivian Shipley. Shipley and Sunken Garden Director Alison Meyers have joined forces so that winners of this year’s Sunken Garden competition will be published in the fall issue of Connecticut Review, after reading their winning poems at the festival.

Shipley, a widely recognized poet and editor, says she is “really thrilled” that Fusco won the competition, saying, “This is a major thing he’s won.” Shipley adds, “It’s prestigious to get to read there. They have national figures come to read.” She describes Fusco as being very active in the graduate writing program and in the Connecticut poetry world. “Poetry shapes so much of what Tony does.” He is, she says, “an example of an older student who returns to school and can achieve. He’s a mature writer who’s been working at this for years.” Fusco is 52.

As an undergraduate at SCSU—he graduated in 1973—Fusco was the editor of the undergraduate newspaper and majored in social work. He started writing poetry in high school. Before entering SCSU’s graduate English program, Fusco participated in a number of workshops and writers’ groups and won some awards for his writing. He came to SCSU “to take it to the next level. The reason I came here is to take a workshop with Vivian Shipley.”

In addition to working with students, Shipley regularly brings poets and editors to SCSU to meet with students and discuss their work with them. Fusco says, “That kind of stuff is invaluable—you get to network, and the editors workshop your work and give you constructive criticism. Everyone is encouraged. Everyone gets positive criticism.”

Fusco describes his poems as narratives about his family and his memories of growing up in West Haven. “I used to write about mythology and more esoteric subjects. Vivian told me to concentrate on my family and my background as subjects because I do them well.” Shipley says that she has worked with Fusco on writing about what he knows best, and now in his writing he is “detailing and preserving his heritage. I’m really proud of the work that he’s done.”

Fusco is also a freelance photographer and writer for local newspapers, a cartoonist and a pen and ink and multimedia artist. He works at the Yale Medical Group in New Haven and created the Yale Physicians Building Art Place Web site and the documentary “Art Place: The Quilters @ Yale,” which was broadcast by Citizen’s Television. Fusco does videography and has a public access television show, “West Shore Poets.”

Fusco has been working on his M.A. degree for about three years, taking one class a semester. He will graduate in January. His thesis, a book of poems, has been recommended for distinction, and he plans to publish it. Shipley says that he is already actively pursuing leads as to where to get the book published.

“He’s worked hard and persevered, and he’s talented, says Shipley. “Sometimes the development of talent takes some time.”