Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Helping Haiti

Haiti benefit concert finale

In January, within hours of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the Wheaton community began to do one of the things that its members do best—respond to need.

The Student Government Association, under the direction of Gabriel Amo ’10, worked with students to mobilize fundraising efforts that ran the gamut from collecting money in jars at various events to performing a benefit concert that featured a finale that was reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s celebrity-filled “We Are the World” recording.

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Professor wins NEH grant to focus on women’s roles in anti-apartheid fight

Kim MillerIf women are restored to their rightful place in the history of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid, Kim Miller’s scholarship may be part of the reason why.

The assistant professor of women’s studies and art history is researching a book that will examine visual representations of women political activists in South Africa during and after the struggle against apartheid.

Miller’s project received a big boost from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which has awarded her an NEH Fellowship for University Teachers to finish researching and writing the book. The $50,000 grant will allow Miller to take a yearlong sabbatical to complete her research in South Africa, as well as finish writing the book.

“I am so excited about the grant,” said Miller. “They are nearly impossible to get, and I never anticipated a positive response. Senator (John) Kerry’s office called me to congratulate me on the award and to wish me luck on my project.”

NEH university teaching fellowships are particularly noteworthy due to the difficulty of winning one. In fact, fewer than one in 10 scholars who applied for the awards this year received a positive response.

Professor Miller’s scholarship focuses on the relationship between visual culture, gender, and power in African arts.

“At its core, my book argues that the memory of women’s actions in the past is changing in favor of a more narrow vision, and that women’s experiences are generally neglected in the context of the new national identity,” Miller said.

In some ways, the current state of affairs reflects the reassertion of apartheid-era patriarchal culture. While women played a prominent and visible role during the antiapartheid movement, their activities were greatly restricted by the government as well as by many of the resistance organizations, she said.

“In fact, women were not formally admitted as members into the African National Congress (ANC) until 1943, and even then they were assigned primarily supportive roles, including cooking and catering for the men. It was even longer before women were welcomed to serve on the executive leadership committee.”

Despite those barriers, women were active in the movement, some quite prominently. At the same time, visual representations of women, specific individuals and iconic images were common.

Today, however, women’s roles and images have been largely removed from the history of the anti-apartheid movement, Miller said. “I argue that the rich visual rhetoric that once helped create political identities and recognition for women has now largely disappeared.”

The fruits of Miller’s scholarship have resulted in a number of articles in scholarly journals in recent years, including the article “Moms with Guns: Women’s Political Agency in Anti-Apartheid Visual Culture” in African Arts. The South African Historical Journal will soon be publishing one of her papers, which will eventually be a section in her book.

She also learned in February that she won the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics, from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University.

With support from the NEH fellowship, Miller plans to return to South Africa for archival research as well as interviews, largely in Johannesburg, but also in Durban, Cape Town, and surrounding townships. Q

A minute with Christopher MacDonald ’10

Christopher MacDonald '10Christopher MacDonald, a double major in English literature and music, is a man of many talents. He has found a way to showcase an amazing array of them.

A unique voice: “My voice is different from that of most other men. I am a male mezzo-soprano, which means that I have a vocal range that lies about an octave or so higher than that of an average baritone. Not only is this something rare and exciting, but it also allows me to perform repertoire that has been inaccessible to the male voice for years and to make new statements with other repertoire.” Talent show: “I write a political commentary column for the Wheaton Wire, sing in and conduct the Wheaton Chorale, play and take lessons for organ, and study conducting. I am the vice chair of the Appellate Board, and a member of the nonpartisan think tank the Roosevelt Institute, for which I am writing a federal transportation policy proposal. I am a senator in the Student Government Association, as well as the Dean of Senate. This semester, I am working with Public Safety and Student Life to reform Wheaton’s sanctioning system into something more comprehensible. I represent Cragin Hall. I work in the library and as the music department assistant. I have also worked for U.S. Senator Susan Collins since last May. I will move to Washington, D.C., after graduation to work in her office before going to law school.” Harmony between music and politics: “For centuries, music has been inextricably associated with culture—expressing or representing it, or, in some cases, defining it altogether. Historically, musical and political happenings have always shared a reciprocal relationship. There are countless examples of how music and politics intersect. Both are interests that Wheaton has allowed me to develop concurrently. For example, in my music senior seminar, we are examining the role of music in the formation of English national identity. And in a political science class in fall 2009, when we created political campaign ads for ourselves, I was able to experiment with the influence of music in such settings." Q

Musical collaboration a hit

Katherine Anderson '10 and Ted Nesi '07 perform in the musical Curtains.The catchy tunes. The flashy costumes. The over-the-top performances. Musicals are so easy to love.

But they can be pricey and labor intensive to produce. Luckily, before they graduated, Wheaton alums Austin Simko ’09 and Alexander Grover ’09 worked to ensure that Wheaton students could be involved in a musical every year. Previously, musicals were produced at Wheaton every three or four years, with the support of an endowed fund.

Teaming up with students, faculty and staff members, Simko (the 2008–2009 Student Government Association president) and Grover (former leader of The Gentlemen Callers) helped to forge a partnership between Wheaton and the local Triboro Musical Theatre last year. This January for the second consecutive year, college students and the Attleboro, Mass.–based theatre troupe presented a musical and continued to strengthen the partnership in which both sides benefit.

This year’s musical, Curtains, was performed at the Weber Theatre. It featured eight Wheaton students, as well as four alums—Katherine Anderson ’10, Shannon Coco ’11, Hilary Emerson ’10, Raul Gil ’12, David Lopes ’10, Allison McMaster ’10, Ted Nesi ’07, Amanda Nelson ’07, Laura Norton ’12, Tom Norton ’09 (in the orchestra), Laura Peters ’10 and Jen Valentino ’09.

Curtains, the musicalAnderson, a music major who is the liaison between Wheaton and Triboro theatre, said she has enjoyed the collaboration. She starred as Niki Harris, a young ingénue who falls in love with a detective played by Nesi.

“Working with the Triboro theatre, you are inundated with the most rich and fulfilling musical theatre experience possible,” she said. “On top of that, you are guaranteed the company of interesting, responsible, caring and all-around wonderful people.”

Vivian Humphrey, the artistic/administrative director of both the Triboro Youth Theatre and the Triboro Musical Theatre, directed and produced Curtains. She said that she has welcomed the opportunity to tap into the skills of students who, in addition to acting, have also filled roles as costume designer, stage manager and orchestra member.

“For some Wheaton students this is the second Triboro Musical Theatre show they have participated in, and I have seen their growth and their understanding being brought to their performances,” said Humphrey. “They accepted any challenge we threw at them, and met and surpassed these challenges with enthusiasm.”

Several Wheaton students and alums had been involved with the Triboro theatre long before the partnership was created, including Nesi, who was the male lead in Curtains.

He had been acting with the Triboro Youth Theatre since he was in sixth grade. Playing the raincoat-wearing singing detective in Curtains was a dream come true for him because it was the first time he got to perform on stage at Wheaton.

“Triboro Youth Theatre is one of the small number of institutions that shaped who I am—Wheaton being another,” said Nesi, a reporter for Providence Business News. “It’s a treat that I can continue to be a part of it. Plus, let’s be honest—I’m a ham and I’ll take any excuse to perform.

“What was wonderful about this collaboration was the way both sides could bring different things to the partnership to create something bigger,” he said. “It would have been difficult for either side to put on Curtains alone, but by coming together we were able to do something great for the audience and the actors.

“Triboro brought its years of experience, professional staff and its company of actors. Wheaton provided the theatre, rehearsal space and other support, and showed once again how committed it is to collaborating with and supporting the community it calls home.” Q