Arts Weekend Surprises Many

The 2013 Arts Weekend: The Power of Story, ran from Thursday November 14  to Sunday November 17.

It all began with Malika Ndlovu’s performance of Turning and Re-Turning at the outdoor theatre.

Malika Ndlovu delivers a powerful performance during the opening night of Arts Weekend 2013.
Malika Ndlovu delivers a powerful performance during the opening night of Arts Weekend 2013.

Lexie Kirkwood ‘14 said the performance was, “an awesome piece that synthesized demonstrations of cultural practice and her own poetry.”

Other students also enjoyed the evening’s performance. Anne Gregory ‘15 said, “I like how it was different for other head’s invites…and I liked the venue.”

However, in the cold night not everyone quite understood or connected with the, “theatrical interweaving of poetry and storytelling.”

Ana Levy ‘14 stated, “I often have trouble connecting with performance art.”

For some, the abstract nature of the performance was what was hard to interpret, not the individual performance of Ndlovu.

New faculty member, Donald Okpalugo thought the performance revealed her passion for her artistry.

I thought [the performance] was abstract. When it comes to a poetic performance or any sort of song/lyrical performance, I’d like to think that I’d be able to relate to it and get something from it. I struggled a little bit with that. Maybe it was just over my head, but I think she’s pretty cool. She’s highly creative and I’ve spoken to her outside of her performing, and she’s doing a lot of wonderful things back in South Africa, and she’s very passionate about her work, which is really all you can ask for in an artist. You really want whoever the person is to just be passionate in their art, which she definitely is.

On Friday there was a Storymakers Panel, where storytellers of all mediums were gathered on stage to discuss how and why they tell stories.

J.B. White moderates the "Storymakers Panel" on Friday night. Pictured left to right Whitney Dow, Melissa Etheridge, Suleika Jaouad, Malika Ndlovu, Bill Paxton, and Sara Thacher CdeP 2000.
J.B. White moderates the “Storymakers Panel” on Friday night. Pictured left to right Whitney Dow, Melissa Etheridge, Suleika Jaouad, Malika Ndlovu, Bill Paxton, and Sara Thacher CdeP 2000.

Panelist Melissa Etheridge said, “Your story is something that constantly changes because your perspective constantly changes because your perspective constantly changes. Storytelling is what life is.”

When sick with cancer, storyteller Suleika Jaouad realized that, “[she] could report from the frontline of [her] disease and [her] hospital bed.”

Then the panelists responded to questions from the audience.

One student asked, “What do you think is the hardest story to tell?”

To which panelist Whitney Dow replied, “Taking something you really believe in and putting it out there.”

Following the Storymakers Panel, Saturday’s workshops were kicked off by an entertaining lip-sync competition between the faculty.

Actor and current Anacapa Scholar, J.P. Manoux said, “The morning warm-up was fun and just to get the students energized.”

After that each student went to a two-hour workshop hosted by a storyteller. The previous Monday, each student signed up for one of the various workshops, which included everything from a nature hike to a Vine workshop.

Faculty member Kara Hooper, says “I have been here for twelve years, and this was the best [arts weekend] I have seen.  The theme was tightly conceived and offered a multitude of ways to explore it.”

Similarly, Mr. Okpalugo enjoyed the experience.

Honestly I was kind of going into it blindly, I had no idea what to expect but after checking out the blog I was super curious and excited just to see what it was going to be like. I was definitely pleasantly surprised.

But while some liked how the theme of storytelling was interwoven with each artist’s work, others felt it was unnecessary.

Local artist, resident, and nature lover Dennis Shives leads a group of Thacher students and faculty on a nature hike in the Sespe.
Local artist, resident, and nature lover Dennis Shives leads a group of Thacher students and faculty on a nature hike in the Sespe. Students enjoyed hiking with a naturalist and expert storyteller.

Jackson Dolphin ‘14, who attended the nature hike with Dennis Shives, agreed.

I think a lot of the art wasn’t really about telling a story, but simply art. I think by framing it as storytelling forced artists to make it about something it really isn’t.

Regardless of the theme, the wide variety of choices allowed many students to find a workshop that interested them.

In her workshop My Life Out Loud, Melissa Johnson gave insights into the reasons behind storytelling, such as “we as humans are meaning-making machines.”

Adam Silberberg ‘15 enjoyed the chance to experience something new, saying, “I liked the fact that they set aside time. It gave me the opportunity to try something else that I wouldn’t usually try with the busy Thacher schedule.”

But, it was this time-consuming aspect that many students disliked.

“Honestly, I felt the timing was really terrible,” says senior Alex Yeagle ‘14. “It came during a very busy weekend for a lot of students, and in particular, seniors.”

Joy Sawyer-Mulligan, and other faculty members who helped create the weekend, believed the opportunity to learn from professional storymakers was an invaluable experience.

Back in the day (which actually wasn’t all that long ago), we all anticipated Arts Weekend as a wonderful break in the usual academic routine. Ask any alums of the past couple of decades, and I think you’ll hear them recall fondly all kinds of activities that fell under “Arts” and got served up on a Friday-Sunday weekend, activities that took them into worlds of imagination and creation.

So it was fun and exciting this year for all of us who worked on reviving the weekend to put together what we hoped would be something really memorable — a series of events, each one quite different from the others — something that would get everyone on his or her feet or into an untapped creative well or up to the elbows in something connected to the broad theme of storymaking. So many extraordinary artists joined the weekend, too — all of them so eager to play a part.

Though we’re not sure what the future holds, we hope Arts Weekend, with such strong roots in the past and now, some loving and careful nurturing, will bloom again and again.

While most students liked the idea and the experiences it provided; few liked the approximately 5 hours of required events during the last weekend of fall trimester. These feelings about the timing were shared by numerous students to varying degrees of disapproval.

Students had large trimester ending projects to work on during the weekend. In addition, many seniors had college applications looming, as well as preparations for a senior exhibition deadline the following Monday.

“Like many seniors, I went into Arts Weekend thinking mostly about how much work I had and how I now have less time,” said Lili Boyle ’14. “But my workshop blew me away. I gained not only a new perspective on storytelling, but also on life.  I really enjoyed arts weekend, but in the future maybe the timing should be changed.”

Additional Contributions: Arianna Finger ’15 & Anne Gregory ’15

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