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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Leonard Bernstein grants are awarded to 40 artists

Published: January 19, 2007
Section: Front Page

The Office of the Arts has announced that it has awarded a record-setting number of Leonard Bernstein grants to 40 artists across the Brandeis Community. The awards, named in honor of the legendary composer and Brandeis professor, Leonard Bernstein, are meant to fund artistic works ranging from theatre, music, dance, sculpture, and multimedia works that will be unveiled during the 2007 Leonard Bernstein Festival of Creative Arts.

Everyone on campus will be affected by these projects in some way, said Ingrid Schorr, Program Administrator for the Office of the Arts and one of the grant judges. They will literally walk through a sculpture installation;

they will see a portrait of someone they know or someone they'd like to know;

they will hear a police siren that signals not alarm but music.

We were blown away by the number of grant applications this year as well as the ambition and originality of them, added Scott Edminston, Director of the Office of the Arts. They came from all across the Brandeis communityfrom students who are majoring in the arts, but also from students who are seeking creative expression for their passions in other areas from politics to the sciences.

One of the most talked-about projects includes performing a segment of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks 365 Days/365 Plays. [She] wrote a short play a day for a year, explained Michael Carnow 07, who is producing the project through the Brandeis Ensemble Theatre. Starting this past November, these plays are now being produced across the country according to when they were written. Carnow stated he will produce seven of the short plays.

I heard about it last summer while working at a theatre company and I just felt compelled, Carnow said. I knew nothing about the actual scripts, just about the idea, but I just knew this had to be done and had to be done at Brandeis. A play cycle of this magnitude has never happened and not to jump at a chance to be part of history seems almost disrespectful.

Carnow added that Katie Nadworny 09, best known for her avant-garde production of last semesters Summer Evening in Des Moines, will be directing the week's worth of shows. Much of the staging will be location-specific and will use the entire campus as a stage, said Carnow. Plays may happen absolutely anywhere – in the Rose, in classes, on the Branvan. You name it and we may perform there.

Another project that has gained much interest is Joshua Louis Simons 07 interactive installation Where He Slept: Van Goghs Bedroom in 3-D. I have been a fan of Vincent Van Gogh since for as long as I can remember, and have always been particularly intrigued by the many paintings he's done of his bedroom, said Simon. My dad, knowing that I love the bedroom painting, bought me a small replica of it which I've hung on my wall since 10th grade.

Since attending Brandeis, Simon added, he became more interested in set design, building the sets for the Undergraduate Theatre Collective (UTC) shows Proof, Fool For Love, and The Goat: Or, Who is Sylvia? Then, said Simon, inspiration struck: I was sitting at my house one day last semester, and I saw the painting…my mind was on set design, so I thought, someone should write a play which takes place in Van Gogh's bedroom so that I can build the set…wait…I can build it anyway!

Simon explained that the room would be life sized, based on the size of an ordinary twin bed. The real challenge is with the point of view of the painting, he said. Besides Van Gogh being crazy with color, he also had an interesting way of painting things at weird angles. So, one of the hardest parts was just figuring out how to scale everything in my life-size model. Furthermore, Simon added, the bed and two chairs will be usable, and hopefully people will be able to sit and relax inside and out, and simply enjoy the art.

Another life-sized exhibition will come from Rachel Pfeffer 08, who is the mastermind behind The Great (Lawn) Escape. While she said that she had not settled on all of the details of her project, Pfeffer said that she envisioned a sort of outdoor hallway that will branch off of the sidewalk that goes along the Great Lawn on the Faculty Club side, and reattach near the other end. While uncertain of specific materials, Pfeffer said she planned on using some sort of colored, light fabric for the walls that will bathe the traveler in colored light, assuming its a sunny day.

I was inspired in part by the artist Christo's use of fabric, and hope that it just makes people's days a little bit brighter by walking through, said Pfeffer. Sort of a very brief vacation from the outside world where one can relax and enjoy a change of scenery.

Amongst the other 37 pieces include Ethan Pransky 07, who is competing in the Worlds Fastest Drummer Competition, which gives funds to benefit local music-education programs, and Will Chalmus 07 production of Through Our Fingertips, which deals with privilege, greed, and the N-word, according to the Office of the Arts website. This number of grants awarded this year marks an enormous expansion in the program, which only gave 12 awards in 2006.

Bernstein envisioned the creative arts festival as a lens through which the thoughts and expression which characterize each generation are revealed and transformed, said Edminston of these submissions. I believe this year's festival will uniquely demonstrate the values of Brandeis students and their feelings about the world we live in. I am thrilledand frankly even a bit surprisedby the festival's growing momentum.