Heart of Afghanistan graced Mahaney Arts Center on Jan. 13 with a performance, just under a year after their spring 2022 debut and days after their largest performance yet at the Kennedy Center. The group is made up of four performers: Afghan soap opera star and famous singer Ahmad Fanoos on vocals & harmonium, his sons Elham Fanoos and Mehran Fanoos on piano and violin and Hamid Akbar on tabla. The group performs songs that communicate Afghan history in both Pashto and Dari (Afghanistan’s two most common languages), ranging from Afghan folk songs to ballads inspired by the Afghan poet Rumi to modern love songs.
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Middlebury’s Theatre Department brought “The Moors” to Wright Memorial Theatre from Dec. 1–3. Directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Michole Biancosino, “The Moors” employed current theatre and design classes to assist in both set and costume design, in addition to the impressive work done by the professionals of the Middlebury Costume Design Shop and the Production Studio. With a small cast of only six actors, “The Moors” focused on character development and specifics of the setting in a way that would not have been possible in a larger production.
Choral Chameleon, a semi-professional New York City-based chorus, joined Bloom Holistic Healing, a wellness organization, for an immersive “washing” experience at Robison Concert Hall, Oct. 28. As the audience took seats, healers walked around the room with various bowls and chimes, welcoming the audience with a calm energy that is nearly the opposite of the usual buzz that accompanies the start of a show.
Each year, the Mahaney Arts Center (MAC) hosts internationally-acclaimed performances every couple of weeks — and this year they range from healing sound baths to world-renowned classical musicians. Of the many weekly activities at Middlebury, the arts offerings, and the “long” walk to the MAC, can fall behind on students’ to-do lists, but the upcoming season is not one to miss. It is safe to say that Allison Coyne Carroll, director of the Performing Arts Series at the MAC, has outdone herself.
Every year, the Robert F. Reiff Curatorial Interns work with Director of the Middlebury College Museum of Art Richard Saunders on upcoming exhibitions and study the current collection as well as special upcoming projects. This internship culminates in a final presentation of each intern’s research and focus. This year’s interns, Ethan Moss ’23 and Niamh Carty ’23 put their interests and talents on display in Mahaney Arts Center last Thursday.
“Maybe failure is worth dwelling on,” two TEDxMiddlebury organizers Kian Lalji ’23 and Liv Cohen ’23 told a full Dana Auditorium. On April 22, TEDxMiddlebury hosted Failing Forward, an event encouraging Middlebury speakers to share stories of failure, and how they grew from these trying moments. TEDx events are community-driven and mirror traditional TEDTalks — except that they showcase members of the local community.
Since coming back from spring break, a lot of my conversations with friends and acquaintances have revealed new interests and values about people I either know well or have been getting to know. Hearing about museums people have gone to, trips they’ve gone on, and ways they’ve spent their time at home (even just something like cooking with their parents) has shown me new sides of people.
This past weekend, the Actors from the London Stage (AFTLS) visited Middlebury to put on a production of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” in Wright Memorial Theatre.
At my first Atwater party during my first year, I was attempting to find the friends I had made two days before, when I looked up to realize that 75% of the partygoers around me were shirtless. I noticed a Madonna song playing that I hardly recognized, but I dismissed it quickly when a friend dragged me to a different suite. Two weeks later, it happened again. And this time, I asked someone nearby what it meant. “It’s ‘Like a Prayer.’ Everyone has to take their shirts off!” And though I’ve never taken part in the tradition, it was fascinating to learn that a song could indicate one oddly specific activity to so many of us. Just as with the many other peculiarities of going to school at Middlebury, this unwritten rule is ours, and it would be a shame for Covid-19 to take it away. So what is going to happen to the college after the pandemic? Are we going to keep traditions such as these alive? And what even makes a Middlebury tradition? I spoke to various students and alumni in search of Middlebury-specific traditions, and it seems that, above all, they are more about feelings and moments than specific acts. Professor of the Practice David A. Torres ’84 recalls sledding down the Mead Chapel hill on Proctor Dining Hall trays (a dining hall staple of the past). “I think the most fun tradition I ever experienced at Midd was when… we would ‘borrow’ trays from Proctor and pack down the snow on the walk down from Mead until it was more like ice than snow,” Torres said. “We would either slide on trays or when the walk was slick enough, and even more fun, ‘skate’ down the hill standing up, using only our boots. At night there was no one to tell us not to, and the party would last until late.” Andrew Zehner ’84 shared that unique party traditions were a memorable part of his own Middlebury experience. “Sometimes, one of the social houses would bring a few tons of sand into the house, borrow the lifeguard chair from Lake Dunmore and invite other students over for a beach party.” If you are wondering why this hasn’t happened in your time here, Zehner explained, “It was difficult to clean up the sand, and the Dean of Students was sad that this had happened.” Michael Wasserstein ’21 recalled Proctor’s midnight breakfasts during exam weeks. “Midnight breakfast is a Midd tradition that I’ll never forget. During the stress and difficulties of finals week, there’s nothing better than putting the work aside and coming together with 1,000 other Midd kids in Ross or Proc for some socializing and a nice dining hall meal,” Wasserstein said. Natasha Lowitt ’20 said, “Winter Carnival on the mountain, Chili Fest, screws, Dunmore days, graduation sunrise — looking back, there were so many days that made Middlebury magical.” Like Lowitt, many people I asked about Middlebury-specific events struggled to pin down particular traditions that they hoped would last. If I were asked to look back on my time at Middlebury one, two or 20 years out, I don’t think I would be able to put my finger on it either. What first comes to mind are sunrise hikes at the Snow Bowl, J-Term ski days and picnics at the Knoll. But my favorite traditions are less concrete. They are the Sunday morning breakfast runs that turn into two-hour-long drives, or the nights spent cooking with friends in a Gifford suite kitchen that was not made for pasta dinners. Of course, there are memorable parties, places in town and college-sponsored events that stand out. But it is the smaller moments that blend together into traditions in their own right, and though these experiences themselves aren’t universal across campus — the feeling is. I like to believe it is a feeling that everyone here has felt at some point. It creeps into the late-night conversations with friends and the walks to class when the sun is out. It is in the waves in Davis to people who we’ve never actually met and in the days when we have way too much work but we spend the whole morning at a table in Ross anyway. So when it comes to the traditions that we intend to revive at a post-Covid Middlebury, my opinion is that it will be much less about the names we put to these things that we do — or whether we want to take our shirts off and scream Madonna lyrics — than it will be about making a collective decision about how we choose to frame our time here. After this era of Covid-19-related regulations comes to an end, we clearly have some work to do. We have events to hold, phrases to use and songs to play at parties. But mostly, we have however many years left of college to experience. And it will not be the specific, named things that we do that will keep the traditions of Middlebury alive. It will simply be the fact that we have a finite amount of time here, and, especially coming out of a pandemic, we owe it to ourselves and each other to take advantage of the activities and people and little moments that make Middlebury unique.
The college dorm room, the often-crusty, white-walled box assigned to each student as a place to sleep between trips to the library and late nights at the Grille, has taken on a new meaning throughout the pandemic. Once a space to be avoided, the dorm room has become a place where many feel the most safe — tucked away from awkward, masked facial recognition and the dangers of contracting Covid-19. And so — from paintings to homemade quilts to posters — MiddKids have taken strides this year to make their dorm rooms feel more their own than ever before. Maeve Callahan ’22 has dedicated her room to everything that makes her feel calm and at home. She says that the pandemic has exacerbated her anxiety and prompted her to put extra effort into making her room feel as homey as possible. “I don’t know if you could get a sense of empathy from a room, but … I hope people feel that from me, and from my style,” she said. Callahan’s room features a quilt her mother made out of old T-shirts, as well as a display of letters written to her and artwork made by her and her friends — reminders of home and people. The space reflects a concept of prioritizing oneself, something that many only recently discovered after being forced to spend the better part of the last year in quarantine. Similar to Callahan, Tim DeLorenzo ’21 has put extra effort this year into creating a dorm room that is a space in which he can live and invest time. After discovering painting during his junior year, DeLorenzo delved into the art form during quarantine, finding inspiration from artists like Kandinsky, Klee and Krasner. This year, he turned his room in the Château into a functioning art studio. “Covid has made my headspace like this, like I don’t know if it would look like this if Covid didn’t happen,” DeLorenzo said. “If I wasn’t at home for months just doing [art], maybe I wouldn’t be so interested in it, and maybe it would be something I would have to pull out from under my bed to show you.” This pandemic has given students permission to explore and reflect on what they need to be happy, especially in isolation. And DeLorenzo’s room embodies that idea of taking a bland room and turning it into a space that reflects its inhabitant. Ryan Kirby ’22 has filled his room with musical influences and works of art, surrounding himself with things that inspire him. He has an entire wall dedicated to Whitney Houston, the late singer he so-lovingly referred to as his “muse.” “I want it to be a very chaotic space, always a birthplace of new ideas — almost like a workshop,” Kirby said. Kirby emphasized the way that his room is tailored to him, his lifestyle and the people in his life — more so than it was before Covid-19. “It’s art, and it’s pretty pictures. Just somewhere people can let loose and just feel bright, because it can be pretty dark and scary outside,” Kirby said. A dorm room is more than a place to sleep — it is a place we will remember, a place we will spend time and a place that we should try to love. These rooms serve not only as inspiration of what we can do to create comfort in our dorms, but also remind us that there can be something truly special about the blank canvases given to us at the start of each year. Editor’s Note: See the slideshow below for examples from more students of ways that they have tailored their spaces to their lives this past year. [gallery ids="54388,54390,54389,54387,54385"]
I am writing to you from ADK (recently renovated from the CCI into a dorm), where I am staying as an identified close contact of someone with Covid-19. I would like to begin by admitting that, no, I didn’t keep my mask on every time I was outside of my room. I thought I was being wise about who I unmasked in front of, but clearly the rules are in place for a reason, and I am now paying the price of breaking them. But regardless of how I got here, I am in this situation, and I have no choice but to feel the emotions that come with it (a concept introduced to me by Carter Branley, the Middlebury counselor getting me through this week). To be blunt, it sucks. As a friend of mine astutely pointed out — in what must have been an attempt at reassurance — I have never been alone for this long in my entire life. And though I am very lucky to be able to quarantine in such a safe place, I didn’t know at the start of this week what that kind of aloneness would feel like. Now, you might be wondering how one passes the time for seven days in ADK 203. Every morning after I wake up, I strategically place my Zoom camera so my classmates can’t see the overflowing suitcase behind me (PubSafe’s offer to drive my belongings from Giff to ADK allowed me to overpack sufficiently). Then, around 11:30, the dining staff leaves the building’s residents’ lunches downstairs and shouts to us that food has arrived. Usually, I eat lunch in my desk chair, and I try to keep myself busy until around 4:00 (that’s when things get really exciting). At that time each day, I try to move for at least 15 minutes, whether that be by doing a YouTube workout or some semblance of an exercise that feels like it should be good for me. After that, I take a shower, which requires a text in the “Bathroom” group chat that has been made to avoid running into anyone. I’ve taken to Zooming with friends over dinner to make all of this feel a bit more normal, and then from there, the night kind of takes care of itself — and that’s another day gone by. This is not like the two-week pre-arrival quarantine or the two-day room quarantine, where we had decorations, photos, trinkets and familiar views to distract us from the work we were meant to be doing. It is just me in a big, white-walled room, looking out the window at people who don’t know I am in here. Zoom, Facetime, phone calls, texting — we have so many outlets of communication that have proven helpful in the last week, but none capture the feeling of sitting in a room with someone, masked or otherwise, and feeling their energy. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]This may all seem dramatic, but I miss people. [/pullquote] I am the type of person to sit next to friends instead of across the table from them, to fix their collars for them instead of telling them to do it themselves and to tell them how much I love them more than I should — it’s how I cope. I have anxiety like many others, and in order to block out the stream of “what-ifs” and “why-didn’t-I’s” in my head, I lean on people. And not having that has been hard. Despite the mental toll that this quarantine has taken, it is important to note that the Middlebury College staff members themselves have done all that they could to make me feel heard, protected and remembered in this last week. They have provided quarantined students with kettles, yoga mats, comfort food and daily phone calls from Parton staff, “just to check-in.” They really do care, and, if nothing else, it’s nice to know. On my fifth day of quarantine, I walked into the back door of Parton to get my second of three Covid tests before (hopefully) being released after the third negative result. A nurse, Peg (known among my fellow quarantined students for her kindness) asked me how I was doing, and I burst into tears. Honestly, I cry at car commercials, so it wasn’t that big of a deal, but I really could not control myself this time. I hadn’t spoken with anyone in nearly a week, and I hadn’t previously realized how much I missed in-person conversation. This experience, albeit difficult and my own fault, has been an important reminder of how much (safe) interpersonal interactions matter. Since the beginning of Covid-19, I have gotten more comfortable being alone — most of us have. And that is a good thing, but a global pandemic isn’t something one should go through alone, even if we think we can. Seven days in isolation may not seem like a lot, but it is enough time to have noticed the absence of small gestures that mean more than I realized they did. I need hellos from across the path, awkward masked conversations and friends (close-contacts) barging into my room on Sunday mornings to collect me for Proc breakfast. If I’ve learned anything from being in here, beside the obvious “follow the rules,” it’s that I’ve created a family for myself on this campus, and being away from them has shown me how much I need them. Editor’s Note: Eliza King Freedman ’23 is an Arts & Culture Editor for The Campus.