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Merce Blanchard ’55: Buster’ Takes One for Williams LAX


A (not so) New Director for WTF

“Six years later [Jenny Gersten] goes back to the summer festival where she got her start.”

The quote above is from the Sunday New York Times article titled “Second Act for New Chief of Festival” which needs a log-in. Better yet, read about it here in The Boston Globe.

I apologize for the quickie (running out the door) post, but I do recommend reading about Gersten and her plans. Sounds like she will be bringing a lot of fresh energy (and exciting talent) to the Williamstown Theater.


Donna Ching ’84: Dateless


Jim Christian ’82: Travels with Whit Stoddard


Ariel Williams ’10: My Williams Photo Debacle


Lizzy Brickley ’10: Finding Out that I Was a JA

These EPHS (Every Person Has a Story) videos are wonderful. So, I am going to post two a week for the rest of the summer, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 AM. Enjoy!


Spring Arts Round-Up

A few arts-related stories from the past few weeks:

  • Great feature on “Southern Gentleman” Jesse Winchester ’66.  One additional bit of Winchester trivia for fans of The Wire (and if you aren’t, you should be): his song, Step by Step, plays during the montage sequence that closes Season One.  Pretty damn cool.
  • Rita Forte ’03, a/k/a DJ Backside, continues to receive positive media attention.  She was previously mentioned on Ephblog here and here.
  • David Turner ’97 received rave reviews for his supporting performance in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, currently playing on Broadway.  At 1:41 of this video, you can see a clip of Turner, during which the reviewer extols his scene-stealing turn.
  • Famous Eph photographer Walker Evans (he dropped out prior to graduating) is featured in an exhibit highlighting the centennial of New York’s rapid transit system.
  • Williams recently installed a sculpture by Jenny Holzer on the Science Quad, part of a concerted effort to increase the presence of public art on campus.  Anyone have an opinion, or better yet, a photo?
  • Wilco is back in North Adams this summer for an encore of their tremendously successful Solid Sound festival.  Check out the line-up here.  I don’t know many of these bands beyond the headliners, but I have seen Jamie Lidell, and I recommend checking him out.

UCLA Cross Section Interview- April 13, 2011

This is an interview I conducted last week for UCLA’s Cross Section TV show. It is with Mark McGurl, Professor of English at UCLA, talking about his book, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, which is published by a client of mine, Harvard University Press.

This is the first interview I’ve done for TV and it was a blast. I should know in a few weeks if this episode will get picked up by UCTV.


Jesse Winchester ’66 to play NYC, Chicago, Philly, DC this spring

Jesse Winchester ’66 from

Jesse Winchester ’66 kicks off his spring tour this weekend in Ontario. But fans of the songwriting Eph needn’t fear that Winchester will be reprising the 36-year absence from the United States that began when he fled the Vietnam-era draft: upcoming dates include April 5 in Chicago, April 12 in Philadelphia, April 13 at the awesome Jammin’ Java in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, and May 27 at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. Winchester’s schedule will also take him to Michigan, Texas, the Netherlands, and to JazzFest in New Orleans.

For those unfamiliar with Winchester’s sound, he visited NPR’s World Cafe in 2009 to promote his most recent album, Love Filling Station, and his 25-minute appearance can be listened to there.

spring is like …

spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of nowhere) arranging
a window, into which people look (while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here) and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving new and
old things, while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there) and

without breaking anything.



Ephs sleeping in public …

“A junior who should be writing his Religion paper” sends us to this site for campus views of those waiting for a kiss to wake them.


Mr. & Mrs. Lipp ’60 Endow Senior Curatorship at the Clark

Longtime patrons of the arts Robert Lipp (’60, P ’90, ’92) and his wife Martha Berman Lipp (pictured separately above) are the latest major donors to the Clark Art Institute. With a $2.5 million gift, the pair endowed the position of senior curator currently held by Richard Rand. (Readers of my occasional art posts will remember him as the author of the “Celebrity Look-Alikes” feature that I mentioned in a post last month about the Eye to Eye European portraits exhibit).

The Clark announced the Lipps’ donation in conjunction with another contribution by Sylvia and Leonard Marx, which endows the position of Director of Collections and Exhibitions, currently held by Kathleen Morris. Although Mr. and Mrs. Marx are not Williams alumni, they’re also part of the Eph family: their daughter Nancy Marx Better is married to Jamie Better ’83.

The Clark’s news release expresses the importance of these donations:

With these gifts the Clark realizes the goal of endowing all three of its senior curatorial positions.

“The role of a curator is of supreme importance to any museum,” said Michael Conforti, the Clark’s Director. “As stewards of the collection, curators safeguard the museum’s treasures, oversee acquisitions, coordinate exhibitions and new scholarship, and interpret the collection for ever-changing audiences. These generous gifts are a tremendous acknowledgement of the outstanding work of the Clark’s curators and the international significance of our curatorial program.”.


If the shoe fits … for a slow Sunday:

The New Yorker cover this week hit a responsive chord and so I put in my shoe bits. Can you ID the creators?


Stephen Sondheim to receive special Olivier Award

“American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim is to receive the prestigious Special Award at the Laurence Olivier Awards later this month.

The honour is being presented in recognition of his contribution to London theatre, organisers have said.

Previous recipients of the award include Sir Alec Guinness, Dame Judi Dench, Sam Mendes and Sir Peter Hall.”

from BBC News


New Musical From Finn ’74

Tomorrow, William Finn ’74 brings his latest musical to San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse for its world premiere. Finn is partnered once again with his 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee collaborator, James Lapine, to create “a very free adaptation” of  2006’s Oscar-winning Little Miss Sunshine for the stage. SoCal Ephs can see the musical through the end of the month, at ticket prices from $44 to $100.

Finn and Lapine stress the many ways in which the musical will take the story beyond the film:

Lapine, who is directing and writing the book, and Finn, who is writing the score, say they see lots of chances to expand the story and the storytelling by reimagining them theatrically. “It turns out to be a very funny and emotional show,” says Finn. “Which the movie was too. But with music, it’s emotional to a different degree.”

“What’s attractive is that these characters can sing,” Lapine says. “A lot of people choose material where you don’t expect or want the characters to sing, but here you feel like they are able to express themselves musically.”

“And they have something to sing about,” adds Finn, noting the abundance of hang-ups, hopes and heartache. He says he tried to compose “a romantic score that was funny” with songs that, says Lapine, “offer different vantage points” than the film did.

In one flashback, Richard and Sheryl are high school students courting in the VW bus that they would later drive to Redondo Beach. “In the film they’re quite contentious with each other,” Lapine says, “and I’m sure the original author had his own notion of their back story. We wanted the audience to feel that here is a couple whose romance has gone astray and this trip rekindles the spark.”

Creating such moments is part of what he calls “the art of adaptation,” which entails “figuring out the ‘routine-ing’ of a show — deciding what’s going to be sung or expressed in music and what should be expressed in dialogue. You have to break the story down emotionally.”

Finn’s vision of Sunshine is an optimistic one:

I’m sick of being depressed every time I go to the theater,” said Finn, 58. “I just wanted to write something delicious.”

”The world stinks,” the famously terse Finn said during rehearsals at the Playhouse []. “I want to be thrilled and delighted, and this story was so full of delightful characters, with this little ray of sunshine right in the middle.”

Finn and Lapine hope that La Jolla is only the first step on the road to another Broadway opening. Based on Broadway producers’ love for adaptations with a built-in base of fans, the prospects seem pretty good.


Narnia: Waiting for you at Chapin on your next visit …

Several years ago the Chapin Library received the bequest of paintings and drawings by the British illustrator Pauline Baynes.

Baynes is best associated with the works of C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien.

A personal reminiscence from writer/broadcaster Brian Sibley who was a friend for many years. On the relationship of author to illustrator, he writes

There are certain illustrators whose work is so intimately interwoven with the author’s text as to rank as the books’ co-creators. Sir John Tenniel, for example, the first illustrator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and E H Shepard who, with A A Milne, led us into the world of Winnie-the-Pooh. Similarly, Pauline Baynes’ pictures of country and denizens in C S Lewis’ seven Chronicles of Narnia are still – despite the recent big-screen movie imagery – the definitive depiction of that extraordinary land beyond the wardrobe…

And from her obit in The Daily Telegraph (London)

In 1948, Tolkien demanded that ( Baynes) be set to work illustrating Farmer Giles of Ham, and was delighted with the subsequent results, declaring that Pauline Baynes had “reduced my text to a commentary on her drawings”. Further collaboration between Tolkien and his Farmer Giles illustrator followed, and a lifelong friendship developed… Later, when she showed him her artwork for a poster featuring Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, the author nodded approvingly and murmured quietly: “There they are, there they are.”

We are what we believe we are.
C. S. Lewis


“Experience contemporary Egypt”: Julia Morgan-Leamon and Winter Study Art 25 …

So you’ve got the Winter Study coming up. What to take, who to take it with?

Hey, ART 25 looks good:
Julia Morgan-Leamon

ARTS 25 Drawing and Painting in Egypt  Julia Morgan-Leamon
Students will explore ancient Egypt through guided tours of the East and West Bank temples and tomb paintings; they will experience contemporary Egypt through cross-cultural dialogue with the Egyptian students and other local artists. Along with completing art assignments and participating on tours, students will document their experiences visually and in writing in sketchbook form.

And, indeed, they did!

See Morgan-Leamon’ sketch book. and view a video

(Thanks to Parent ’12 for suggesting this from materials on the Williams site.)

Julia Morgan-Leamon is a painter, installation artist, and media producer. She received her MFA in Visual Arts from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and her BA in Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College. In 2009, she was one of 25 international artists invited to participate in the Luxor International Painting Symposium and residency.(from college bio)


A Good Day To Be An Eph

Fun video by, I’m guessing, a current First Year:


“Eye to Eye” at the Clark

Exhibition photo by Glenn Castellano, from the Clark Art Institute

Alongside the previously-discussed The Strange World of Albrecht Durer, the Clark’s special exhibitions currently include Eye to Eye: European Portraits 1450-1850, a collection of thirty portraits and one sculpture on loan from a private collection. Highlights include “Portrait of a Young Woman Holding Grapes and Apples,” the 16th century work by Lucas Cranach the Elder shown at the top of this post. (Alas, although Cranach the Elder is perhaps best known for his influential partnership with Martin Luther, his 1529 portrait of Luther is not on display here).

As with an increasing number of Clark exhibits, Eye to Eye has an excellent exhibition “microsite”, with images of each of the works on display and video closeups and discussions of several of the highlights, including Rubens’ “Portrait of a Young Man” (see below).

Read more


Eph Bookshelf #11: The Big Bang Symphony

The Big Bang Symphony, Lucy Jane Bledsoe ’79.

During the January cold snap, the mercury dropped so low in Williamstown that the Outing Club cancelled a sledding trip. When I saw that announcement, I could only imagine how Lucy Jane Bledsoe, originally of the class of 1979, would have chronicled it. I doubt Bledsoe, who completed her final two undergraduate years at Berkeley, left because of the cold. In the years since, she’s emerged as a repeat visitor to a much colder place: Antarctica. (Although, to be fair to the Williamstown weather, the January 23 temperature of 13 degrees Fahrenheit was twenty degrees warmer. Of course, it was also the peak of summer).

A four-time finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and winner of the 2009 Sherwood Anderson Prize for Fiction, Bledsoe’s Antarctic writings have spanned a few genres: children’s literature, travel memoir, survival guide. In her latest novel, The Big Bang Symphony, Bledsoe returns to the bottom of the world for a deeply personal and moving novel. The Big Bang Symphony satisfyingly weaves together the commonplace and the sacred, portraying them through the lens of a dramatic setting and intriguing personalities.

Thanks to Dick for providing the photo, courtesy of Lucy

The novel unfolds from the alternating perspectives of each of three dynamic women on the ice for the summer as they become friends. Mikala is the composer whose hoped-for masterpiece forms the titular work. Suffering from writer’s block since the untimely death of her lover, she is drawn to Antarctica by competing forces of isolation and family. Alice, a socially-impaired geologist, is in Antarctica to free herself from the shackles of reason – for logical reasons. And Rosie is the Antarctic veteran, unsure whether her home now lies Read more


‘Provincial melancholy’ : a Feature for this Sunday edition …

The English realistic painter George Shaw and the English poet Philip Larkin both grew up in Coventry in the West Midlands. What can it be about a town that would inspire such ‘Provincial melancholy’?

Below the fold will be references for each and a Larkin poem that is, to me , reminiscent and specific to the Shaw painting The Back that Used to Be the Front in subject matter, title, and the feeling of ‘melancholy’ and isolation.

Shaw has a show opening this weekend. Take a look at the paintings!

I wonder if readers have any similar anecdotes of the sense of place in their own observations? ‘Sense of place’ has been alluded to often as a possible inclusion in a Williams positioning. What is it? How would you describe it … in 25 words or less?

Read more


Darlingside in the news: VOTE …

As Jeffz reports under Speak Up, Darlingside the All-Williams Band needs your votes early and often:

Help out some Ephs! “we’ll respond to each post with an expression of our undying gratitude.” !!!

Vote for Darlingside at South by Southwest!

Time Tuesday, February 8 at 1:00pm – February 22 at 11:30pm
Location SXSW, Austin, TX

Darlingside needs your help! We’re finalists in PickTheBand’s competition for a special showcase slot at Austin’s South by Southwest Music Festival during our March Tour (not to mention $10,000 in Sennheiser recording gear).

This SXSW showcase would give us an enormous boost in exposure to new fans and industry professionals. Voters will also be entered for a chance to win 4 tickets to the four-day festival, plus flights and ho…tel lodging.

Leave a comment on our wall letting us know that you voted, and we’ll respond to each post with an expression of our undying gratitude.

Here’s how to vote:

Read more


Curated by Ephs: Al Taylor, Wire Instruments and Pet Stains

On January 21, the Santa Monica Museum of Art opened the intriguingly-titled Al Taylor: Wire Instruments and Pet Stains, curated by Lisa Melandri, MA ’97.

The “Wire Instruments” and “Pet Stains” of the title are two different series from Taylor’s work, comprised of both drawings and three-dimensional works. One might expect “wire instruments” to be in three-dimensions and “pet stains” to be in two, but the focus of this exhibit is on the interaction between his drawings and solid material work, and the overlap is very much on display in the works selected. I find the three-dimensional realizations to be more satisfying: his functional forms seem to suggest complex motions, such as orbits, folds, or collapses.  

Read more


Winter Arts Round-Up

A few arts-related stories of note from the winter:

  • Lee-Hom Wang ’98 won three awards, including best male singer, at the Chinese Pop Music Awards.  Check out Lee-Hom in a Nikon commercial.
  • Steve Case ’80 nominated to serve on the Smithsonian Board of Regents (just one bit of news in a ridiculously busy week for Case).
  • Great Wall Street Journal (??!) feature on bassist Chris Lightcap and his band Bigmouth.  See Chris perform in the video embedded below.
  • There is a new member of the Williams Art Mafia, John Wetenhall, M.A. ’82, recently appointed President of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.
  • John Sayles ’72 has picked his next project, an adaptation of Girls Like Us.  (Thanks for pointing that out, Eric Soskin).
  • David Turner ’97 is appearing in the Broadway revival of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia — previews beings on February 25 (unless, of course, delayed by any stunt-flying injuries).
  • Eph supergroup Darlingside has a snazzy new website.  They play February 12 in Arlington, VA, and have a number of other upcoming shows in New England.
  • Check out this Philadelphia Inquirer feature on architect Cecil Baker ’63’s home.  I really like the style of Baker’s firm, very elegant and clean, with simple yet visually arresting geometric forms and patterns.  The Louis Kahn (whom Baker studied under) influence is certainly visible in his work.
  • Great news for North Adams, as Wilco will return next summer to headline another awesome music festival.
  • WCMA needs a new director after Lisa Corrin decides to step down.  Williams certainly has no shortage of alumni to choose from for the position, should it decide to go in that direction.

The Eyes’ Have It …

The SOTU rebuttal! So there we were on CNN, the flag, the “We the People” graphic, the tea kettle on the boil … why didn’t the director tell me (R MN) which camera was taking the shot? And body language is soooo important! Uffda!

Ed note: for those uncertain of ‘uffda’


Bartok? Bartok?? No hit, No field! Top 10???

Your probably saw that NYT music critic Anthony Tommasini was conducting a poll/survey/mind read to determine the top 10 classical composers

Anybody’s list of post-Baroque composers would probably include Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Mozart, Schoenberg, Haydn, Stravinsky, Schumann, Brahms, Schubert, Handel, Bach, and Debussy.

So just in: 1 Bach. 2 Beethoven. 3 Mozart. 4 Schubert. 5 Debussy. 6 Stravinsky. 7 Brahms. 8 Verdi. 9 Wagner. 10 Bartók. Wha … Bartok?!?!

A caricature of Bartok from Radio Times, May 18, 1934

The Guardian said today “does it reveal more about the tastes of the east-coast haute bourgeoisie than anything else?”.

Well, here I am on the west coast and probably as much a peasant as any of those Hungarians Bartok used for inspiration of his ethnocentric music.

Come on, Ronit, this is a four-seamer just for you (sort of like an outswinger)! Hit it out of the park!


A Look Back at Fall

Mass Fall by Bobby Bradley; Creative Commons license for non-commercial use only

This great photo, shared by Bobby Bradley on Flickr, ought to brighten up a grey and wintry day.


Excentric Gyratory Coming to Campus

I noted a few months back that, thanks to the Class of 1961, the already impressive collection of campus sculptures will soon be augmented.  Apparently, next on deck is Double L Excentric Gyratory II.  Any guesses as to where on campus this will be installed? Any opinions on the art itself (I give it a thumbs-up)?  [Also, any updates / photos on the Holzer installation on the Science Quad?]


Blog tours of Albrecht Durer at the Clark

Detail: Durer's The Large Horse, photo by Monica Bretherton

If, by virtue of distance or cost, it’s necessary to ration your trips to Williamstown, exhibits like The Strange World of Albrecht Durer at the Clark are a hopeless cause: running from November 14 to March 13, it’s not exactly on display at the times I’m most likely to visit.

If it sounds interesting, you might be thinking about digging in to the elaborate exhibition website. Before you do, however, I recommend taking a more focused tour with horseblogger Monica Bretherton, who has posted a terrific glimpse of the exhibition replete with detail-oriented iPhone photos.

The Clark’s own blog also features visitor-created material: check out the descriptions of visits by North Adams native Peter Laird and Jeannine Atkins here.


Upcoming Concerts at the Clark

Dar Williams; photo by Peter Cunningham

Do Williams students make the trek down South Street to go to the musical events at the Clark? In addition to its continuing presentations of The Met: Live in HD, (next scheduled presentation is Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West on January 8), the Clark has some excellent upcoming live concerts:

Saturday, January 22: Dar Williams (Wesleyan ’89). Tickets are a little pricey at $27 (student price), but she’s a terrific singer.

Friday, February 25: The White Rabbits. Tickets are $20. Great indie-rock band from the Brooklyn scene.

Saturday, April 9: Roger McGuinn. $35 for students. I know him from The Byrds, but have never listened to any of his solo stuff.


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