An annual series produced by the Middlebury Fellows in Narrative Journalism.
|Damon Hatheway, Fyle Finck, and Sasha Schell are producing a web video series on the Middlebury men’s basketball team.|
Three student video makers plan to take their audience onto the court and behind the scenes of Middlebury’s men’s basketball team this season with a new documentary series titled “The Road to Salem.” The team has enjoyed a remarkable ascension through the ranks in recent years, and the new series hopes to capture the stories of this season.
Producer Kyle Finck ’14 dreamed up the series while studying abroad in Prague. “What fascinated me about Middlebury basketball was that at a college where every student is doing a thousand different things, there are few times where the different silos are brought together,” said Finck, who is also editor of The Middlebury Campus. “Middlebury basketball is one of those. Apart from commencement and convocation, where can you see 2,000 Middlebury students in one place?”
|The audience gets a player’s-eye view of Coach Jeff Brown during practice.|
Finck, Damon Hatheway ’13.5 and Sasha Schell ’15.5 amassed a huge library of game and practice footage over the past year. Hatheway is the lead writer, while Schell edits the series. Schell and Finck both shoot video. Two more students, Innocent Tswamuno ’15 and Ian Stewart ’14, add original music, and graphics respectively.
In the first installment we meet Coach Jeff Brown and learn that his remarkable success in recent years was hard earned over many challenging seasons at Middlebury. Finck says the goal is not to create a promotional piece, but to tell an honest, compelling story about coaches and players.
With a documentary flavor, the story alternates on-court action with practices and thoughtful interviews. Episodes planned for second semester include player profiles, the big game against Williams, and the uniquely emotional rivalry with Amherst College. Later, depending on the team’s success, look for coverage of the NESCAC and NCAA tournaments. “Salem” in the title refers to Salem, Virginia, home of the NCAA Division III Final Four in March.
Here are the first two episodes. Stay tuned for more.
The Middlebury Theatre Program presents David Edgar’s play Pentecost Nov. 21-23. The play features 12 languages spoken on stage and a cast of 23, including students, faculty, and professional actors. MiddMag spoke with director Richard Romagnoli, and actors Tosca Giustina ’15 and Prof. Alex Draper ’88.
A team of five Middlebury College students won “Best Film” and “Audience Choice” awards at this year’s Sleepless in Burlington festival on Oct. 20. The annual competition, tied to the Vermont International Film Festival, pits Vermont college teams against each other to produce finished short films in 24 hours. Befitting the Halloween season, Middlebury’s entry was a short creepy thriller titled “Room for Rent.” Students started casting their films with a pool of professional actors, provided by the film festival, on Saturday morning and submitted their films for screening by noon on Sunday. The teams were also given a couple of props that they were required to incorporate into their stories. In addition to Middlebury, teams from UVM, St. Michael’s, Champlain College, and Burlington College produced films for the competition. The Middlebury crew included Benjamin Kramer ’14, director; James Brown ’15, writer; Joanie Thompson ’14, audio; Ali Salem ’16, editor; and Benjamin Savard ’14, cinematographer.
“I’m a patient person,” said Middlebury Museum of Art Director Richard Saunders.
And that’s a good thing, as it’s taken nearly 30 years for the College, with Saunders’ guidance and perseverance, to take care of some unfinished business.
In May of 1985, on the eve of Commencement, a work of art on campus was set on fire and irreparably damaged. The vandals were never identified, and the debris was ultimately removed and placed into storage.
The work was a sculptural installation called “Way Station” that was created in 1983 by the Christian A. Johnson Visiting Artist Vito Acconci, along with a group of students, during a winter term course he taught about public art. Situated on the northwest edge of campus along the walkway near what is now Bicentennial Hall, the work was meant to intrigue students who passed by between classes.
“The idea was to encourage contemplation. The work had a spectacular view of the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks to the west, ” explained Saunders.
The mostly grey steel structure consisted of a door that opened to reveal on its inside a painted interior of flags, one over the next. The international array included the United States, Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China, Cuba, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)—all entities that were very much in the news politically at the time. Two steps led down into a small room with a built-in seat and desk. Opposite the door, three rows of moveable panels spelled out the words “God,” “Man,” and “Dog,” and the panels could be moved to reveal the mountain view. On the other side of the panels, viewed from the outside, were painted playing cards. A mirrored front was one-way glass so you could see out that way as well.
“The intention was for people to sit in the structure and reflect on the politics of the time, and their place in relationship to others,” added Saunders, referring to the overlaid flags and the panels of words. “And the playing cards might represent the idea of chance and unpredictability in our lives.”
What should have been a curious conversation piece for a college community turned instead into the center of an acrid debate. For a variety of reasons, people on campus did not take kindly to the placement of the work, or its stark industrial look.
“When it appeared, with no explanation or context, in the middle of winter, on a central pathway, people were surprised and confused,” said Saunders. “There was very little tolerance then for things you didn’t understand. And there was also no history of art on campus back then. Nothing like what we have today. ”
And what we have today is largely due to the issues that were raised by the Acconci piece and its subsequent removal. The creation in 1994 of the Committee for Art in Public Places at Middlebury, known more commonly as CAPP, was a direct result of that time, and has since introduced numerous works of art, mostly sculpture, throughout the campus. “We wanted people to understand that there is a place for art on campus outside of the Johnson Gallery, which was then the main location for the college’s art collections.”
Throughout the 1990s, Saunders and others took up the cause for reinstalling the Acconci work but found little support.
“As a college, aren’t we supposed to teach our students tolerance for other points of view? Expand your horizons and open your mind up to all sorts of things you may not instantly like or understand? So why would we ignore this work?”
Eventually Saunders found growing support over time, and now, 30 years after it was commissioned, Acconci’s “Way Station” is restored on the Middlebury campus, this time near the pond behind the Mahaney Center for the Arts. An ongoing exhibition in the Museum of Art gives context to the artist and his work—both today and from the time of the vandalism.
“It’s an opportunity to get something positive out of this phoenix-like experience,” noted Saunders, recalling the way it had been torched so many years ago. “It’s a teachable moment, which college is all about.”
The official opening of “Way Station” will take place Friday, October 18, at 2 p.m., behind the MCFA, where the work is located. The exhibition, “Vito Acconci: Thinking Space,” is open through December 8. And the artist, who has since become an accomplished architect as well, will be on campus to deliver an illustrated lecture on Thursday, November 7, at 7 p.m. in Dana Auditorium.