Helping kick off the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts, or “Bernstein Week,” were student performances taking on many innovative and thought-provoking forms in a Departmental project titled “A Cast of Colors.” The exhibition demonstrates the efforts of CAST (Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation) minors as well as all students enrolled in the introductory course. The Brandeis campus transforms during Bernstein Week to embrace the creativity of its community and to invite professional artists from around the world to partake in a celebration of art, activism, and education. A schedule of such special attention to the arts worked perfectly with the ambitions of the CAST discipline.
Each student work in “A Cast of Colors” from the course “Introduction to Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation” centers upon inspiring oral history interviews; students were asked to develop projects that could represent and encompass an individual markedly different from themselves. What resulted was a variety of forms, ranging from architectural models to poetry books to interpretive dance. Each work brought together a student’s own ideas, perceptions and talents with that of another, allowing for brilliant collaborations of people representative of varying lifeways and worldviews.
One particularly striking performance was that of Queen White ’16 titled, “A Womyn Conjured.” White majors in African and Afro-American Studies (AAAS) in addition to minoring in CAST. Her performance, inspired by powerful female figures in her life, depicted the raw emotions felt when undergoing hardship. She began with a recording of her poetry in the background as she performed an interpretive form of motion and dance, reflecting the magical work of surviving in spite of obstacles. She then proceeded to grace her audience with very intimate and thought-provoking entries from her journal. Finally, she concluded with a poem by Audre Lorde which tied in well to her own writings, drawing together the rawness and openness of her own work with that of Lorde’s. Although this was the first venue in which White read her own poetry aloud and performed in such an interpretive and innovative style, and although there was a small technical difficulty in arranging for sound equipment, White gave off a strength and maturity well beyond what would be expected of a young and experimenting performer. The mastery of such an unconventional performance style speaks to a high level of talent and perception.
In addition to performance modes, CAST students displayed works throughout the Multipurpose Room of the SCC that represented their inspiring interviews. Ali Santana ’16 arranged a small, warm and inviting display which welcomed viewers to read a collection of short poems inspired by Yiyi Wu ’19. The poems shift from heavy themes of adversities in Wu’s life to more whimsical themes such as her adventures in a new country. Santana’s simple and succinct language leaves her readers with a clear picture of who her subject is, while drawing them into her own artistic style which is clean, simple and makes capturing the essence of a person appear easy. Her book, “How to be Yi” speaks volumes about two different women who view the world in two distinct ways; nevertheless, the two come together to form one superb gem, a book of only a few short poems that opens a window into the depths, pains, excitements and joys of living life. In her first endeavor taking a CAST course, Santana serves as an exemplary model of natural talent applied to a field of study that lends itself to innovation and creativity.
As expressed through CAST’s overview on the Brandeis website, “The borderland between human suffering and human possibility is filled with creative expressions, some virtuosic, some inclusive; some enduring and some ephemeral; some direct and content-driven, others that invite us into qualities of presence that subtly open us to new perceptions of ourselves, each other, and the world.” CAST serves the crucial role of bringing together activism and creative expression in a formal academic setting at Brandeis. Thanks to the CAST program, our students’ artistic efforts and their powerful messages can be conveyed across campus in tandem with the professional work of visiting artists.
All involved with “A Cast of Colors” brought a much-welcomed vibrancy to the SCC, adding to the excitement and joy of the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts. Those interested in further exploring the work of CAST students can look forward to the performance and displays of CAST Capstone projects later this semester. In addition, Bernstein Week will continue to serve our community with exciting arts events and displays throughout this weekend.