For incoming freshmen, and for all of the upperclassmen who’ve been around the block a few times, Wesleyan’s expansive arts scene offers community, excitement, entertainment, and even a way of life. Whether you directed the senior musical in high school or just sing in the shower, the school offers more than you can handle, and it can be a little overwhelming to know where to start. The Arts staff gathered together to answer your questions and inquiries about how to approach the arts scene at Wesleyan.
I came to this school for one reason and one reason only: To hear some chill tunes played by chill bands at chill venues, while I’m chilling with my chill crew. Where do I get my chill on?
Chill Homey Is Lacking Live Sounds
You’re in luck. Wesleyan has an incredibly vibrant and active concert scene, with both national touring acts and our very own collection of first-rate student bands. A normal week on campus has at least one of these concerts a night, Thursday through Saturday, if you know where to look. Eclectic, Psi U, and the WestCo Cafe are the three major venues for national acts such as Titus Andronicus, How to Dress Well, Mac DeMarco, Wye Oak, Mykki Blanco, Le1f, and Danny Brown, with student bands regularly opening the shows. You’ll also find student bands playing in senior houses or in courtyards outside.
Starting a student band is easy. Just find some friends who can play instruments, more or less, and pick a punny name. Wesleyan also runs various ensembles—orchestra, choir, jazz band—that have corresponding classes, and offers private lessons for pretty much anything. We also have more a cappella groups per capita than is recommended by most health professionals.
Back to shows. Larger acts—like Cam’ron or Christopher Owens—will play in Beckham Hall or Memorial Chapel, which is generally less dance-oriented than a Greek house. If world music and jazz is your jam, the Center for the Arts hosts events pretty much weekly at Crowell Concert Hall, the World Music Hall, or the CFA Theater. And, of course, there’s the annual Spring Fling, held right before finals week in May. That’s where we get the big names. We’ve had Big Boi, The Walkmen, The Roots, and, just this past year, Chance the Rapper and tUnE-yArDs. Say you don’t want to sit around and just wait to see if you’re going to be disappointed by the calendars, though. In that case, you can join the Concert Committee, Eclectic, and/or the Spring Fling Committee and start booking shows yourself. Personal request: Future Islands. Make that happen, please.
I am a freshman with great anticipation about attending this prestigious institution. As a potential major in the study of film, my favorite pieces of cinema are “Rashomon,” “Salló,” and “The Hangover: Part 3.” If creation is my desire, in what ways may I make this cinema my verité?
Relishing Entertainment Experts Love
In terms of watching movies, the first place to go is the Film Series (also known as the Wesleyan Fucking Film Series). Made up of the student Film Board and advised by film-major staff, the series shows a combination of classics, modern blockbusters, and indie and foreign films. This semester’s highlights include “Clueless,” “Obvious Child,” “Jaws,” “Trapped in the Closet,” and “The Truman Show.” And those are just the ones that you might have heard of already. It runs Wednesday through Saturday, and Thursdays and Saturdays are free. There’s no real excuse not to go.
On the production side, there’s always space on senior theses to get involved, whether as a production assistant or as a larger role like cinematographer. If you want to become a film major, one of Wesleyan’s most popular and most world-renowned departments, you should get started now and let the department know you’re interested as soon as possible. In the meantime, before or at the same time you take the official film path classes, you can get involved in student groups and events like the Sophomore Film Collective or Campus MovieFest, making short films from the bottom-up, on your own or with other students.
I’m so so so excited about theater at Wesleyan! I did musicals all through school and just the idea of being on stage here—I can’t even. I want to write and direct and do lighting and sound and make puppets and clean up after the shows and draw on the programs and serve food to the audience and just give everyone hugs! How do I do any or all of these things, Artsy? You’re my new best friend, best friend!
Love and kisses,
Stage Thespian Always Ready
Where to even start? Second Stage produces, funds, and runs the vast majority of student-run theater. They’re located in the ’92 Theater on College Row. You can be a part of the staff, which means you can help decide what shows go up, but also means you do strike and setup for the productions and make sure everything runs smoothly. You’ll want to contact them to get onto the email list, and they’ll let people know when someone needs, say, a lighting designer for their show. Every semester, there will be more shows than you can attend—this season includes “Godspell,” “Othello,” and a bunch even we’ve never heard of—and auditions will begin getting advertised the first week of classes. Students also write and put up their own plays and musicals, which are performed in the ’92, WestCo Café, or really any venue. Last year, Second Stage put together an interactive theater experience that took up the entire Olin Library. So really, the possibilities are sky-high. If you’re new to theater, which I think you might be, you can also try out for the One Day Plays, which take place every semester. The University, besides running the many classes (fit for beginners and veterans alike) in the Theater Department, puts on its own show every semester. This semester, it’s the Pulitzer and Tony-winning “In the Heights,” written originally here by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02.
I don’t like music or film or theater. I still want to be involved. Will anyone ever love me?
You’ve nothing to fear. Wesleyan’s arts scene is as diverse as your voice is loud, and what happens on campus changes semester-to-semester, and even week-to-week. Even if you’re not looking to do, chances are you’ll get caught up in the arts scene somehow. We have an incredible slam poetry team and group, WeSlam, that’s become more and more popular over the last few years. They host competitive slams every month for the first semester of the year to determine who makes the team, and then goes around to compete with other colleges in the spring. Meanwhile, for those who fear or dislike the very idea of judgment, WestCo and other venues host open mics year-round, and WeSlam hosts workshops and fun or themed slams in the spring. Visual and studio arts (as well as out-there performance arts) are also wonderful here. They’re done mostly through the Art Department and the various classes offered every year (chances are, you or someone you know will be sketching a full nude self-portrait for Drawing I soon), but you can see the art shows from students, professors, and professionals in the CFA’s Zilkha Gallery or even in the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies.
Some of our favorite events on campus are the performances by Wesleyan’s many student comedy groups, ranging from short-form improv to long-form improv to sketch to sketch/a cappella. They perform a lot in the Nics Lounge, but you’ll see them pretty much everywhere, and shows are almost always packed. If you’re brave, like Assistant Arts Editor Billy Donnelly ’15 was his sophomore year, you can catch a 24-hour improv show in the spring. Comedy shows, like concerts, slams, and art shows, will be advertised on Facebook, Wesleyan’s website, Wesleying.org, and in The Argus.
Finally, Wesleyan does a great job bringing in artists, writers, performers, and other people in the arts world (as well as other disciplines) on campus to give talks, book readings, seminars, and even classes. Go hear the people you know, and go hear the people you don’t. Get out of your comfort zone. Try new things. Collaborate with friends; collaborate with strangers. Arts are fun, and arts are easy to try and experience. Arts keep Wesleyan weird, and so can you.