I had shivers at the Room 46 performance last week during the CCollective student art exhibit when Senior Art History major LeeAna Wolfman belted out “Acid Tongue” by Jenny Lewis. I was hooked. I had to hear more about her involvement with the arts.
It seems the rambunctious brunette, deemed likely to “speak her mind” in her high school yearbook, has extended herself across many different student-run art organizations in her four years at CC.
It all started with her debut performance in Dance Workshop in the fall of 2009 where she danced to “Stormy Weather” by Nina Nastasia, choreographed by alumnus Maddie Frost, CC ‘11, and her audition for a place in the Room 46 co-ed a capella group during her freshman year. But when she didn’t land a spot in the a capella group, Wolfman felt compelled to try out intramural volleyball, dodgeball, and softball while taking a break from the arts scene.
“It was as if a part of my identity wasn’t being expressed,” she said.
After participating in choirs for 13 years and acting in several summer camp productions, Wolfman was still yearning to unleash her inner artist on the CC community.
During a studio art class during her sophomore year, 2011 CC alumnus Sophie Herscu wrangled Wolfman into trying out for the musical “Hair” in Dec. 2010. This presented an opportunity for Wolfman to reenter the art scene.
“Hair was like a sociological experiment as well as a musical theater production,” Wolfman said.
Committed to creating an amazing show, Herscu wanted the “tribal” bond depicted on stage to become a reality. Rehearsing with 30 fellow cast members turned into endless singing, dancing, and telling life stories, bringing the “tribe” to life. Ultimately, playing the lead role of Sheila in “Hair” helped Wolfman discover her niche at CC among her fellow actors.
When Herscu graduated, Wolfman took on her former role as co-chair of the Student Musical Theater Group (SMTG), which coordinates two entirely student-run productions each year. Last year they performed “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” in Dec. 2011 and “Sweeney Todd” in May 2012. This year the SMTG is holding auditions for “Spring Awakening” during block four.
“Our mission is to make musical theater accessible for students. We have created a place where you can come in and be a part of a show without having to be a major in a certain department,” Wolfman said.
Students are obligated to take voice lessons from the music department in order to take part in one of the department productions. These lessons are exclusively free of charge for music majors and minors. The SMTG provides an outlet for those like Wolfman, who want to be involved in student theater productions as a supplement to their unrelated major.
Wolfman’s position as co-chair evolved last spring when she became the producer and director of “Sweeney Todd.”
When the opening night of “Sweeney Todd” was rapidly approaching, Wolfman was suddenly overwhelmed with trying to find a space for the performance. The group had already spent money preparing the production, casting roles, making costumes, and finding an orchestra but the Drama department and senior theses had exclusive access to the performing spaces on campus.
Student groups can apply through the CC website to utilize campus venues. However, between featured visiting speakers, senior drama and art theses, drama department events, and Dance Workshop, the availability of these on campus spaces is extremely limited.
Wolfman had to jump through hoops to secure use of the Armstrong Hall Black Box Theater. TTThe administration strongly opposed its use, due to the lack of wheelchair access to the stadium-seating performance space.
“I received a lot of ill will and was told begrudgingly that I was ‘receiving special permission for the last time,’” Wolfman said. “The Black Box Theater is one of the few performance spaces on campus, period. Not to mention one that is equipped with a sound booth and lighting grid. There are too many amazing performances on this campus to lose one of the few well-equipped theaters we have to present them.”
Despite tension with the administration and after resolving concerns over handicap accessibility, the student musical theater group pulled off four showings of “Sweeney Todd.”
This fall, Wolfman is an intern at the IDEA Space, which has recently provided a venue for student art showings.
“Student art on this campus isn’t as widespread as it should be. What was so nice about the CCollective was seeing how [curator] Jessica Hunter Larson opened up her domain to the students and is trying to create more interaction with the amazing and underutilized space,” Wolfman said.
Having full reign of the space last Wednesday night, Wolfman and senior Sarah Kelsey produced the CCollective student art show, free of faculty assistance. And based on the significant volume of attendance at the event, they plan to use the space for student art shows throughout the year.
This exuberant senior can be found participating in Dance Workshop on Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 1, and the Room 46 concert on Friday, Dec. 7.
Wolfman’s fellow member of the SMTG, junior Wesley Brandt, is producing an original musical entitled “Hear No Evil in the Year 2090,” which will be performed Feb. 1, 2, and 3.
“It is amazing to see what drives students to make these productions happen completely free of faculty assistance,” Wolfman said. “It’s a testament to how committed people are to the creative groups that they’re in.”