Stories to be told in 'Voices'

What does it mean to be an authentic self?

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BRATTLEBORO — "Voices" was hatched last January at Shanta Lee Gander and Mac Gander's home over potluck dinners with friends in the arts community and college colleagues, post election. How do we deal with feeling diminished after feeling we had made such progress as a civilized society? How can we live an authentic life when in reality we put on different masks? Shanta Lee, President of the Arts Council of Windham County and husband Mac, Professor of English and Journalism at Landmark College proposed a multi-media performance of sound, image, and words that is a cross section of generations, cultures, and genders raising their voices and telling their stories. "Voices" is a collaboration between the Arts Council of Windham County and Landmark College to take place at Hooker-Dunham Theater on April 14 and 15.

Although born out of the election results, the first decision was that the show not be political. Trump has no place here. Shanta, who has written prose and free verse for her performance in the show felt it was very important to think beyond what was happening now. She said, " I didn't want creating art to be tainted by today's events."

Nine artists from Landmark College, both students and faculty, and artists from the Brattleboro area present their versions of truth and authenticity. In an arts council's press release it was stated, "'Voices' is about ... how the elements of image, sound, and language can be brought together in service of diverse, individual visions of truth and authenticity in a time when these are threatened. Bertolt Brecht [German p asked the question: 'In the dark times, will there also be singing?' The answer is yes."

For Mac, who works closely with college students at the college, noted there is a great divide between the art created by the baby boomer generation and that of the millennials. He said young adults have a different perspective on sound and sight than someone his age who has been writing poetry for 40 years. There is a generation gap, and a lot of the younger generation hasn't gotten involved in the local art scene despite the myriad programs geared for young artists. With different elements in the show ranging from artists with decades of experience to a first-year student in college, Mac sees an inter-generational connection in "Voices" that is important.

Shanta said the hope is that "Voices" is the start of a sustainable framework of mixed media, an inter-generational, inter-cultural ensemble of characters in poetry, music, and art. Too often as an arts community, we come together, work on something, then move on. It is important to create something that continues to expand and moves people.

This is a unique program for the council. Shanta said, "We have long played a role collaborating, hosting forums and discussion on what it means to be creative, partnering with Landmark College who had not been previously involved at this level is an important collaboration." Mac added that Landmark has always been a little isolated from downtown. The arts council reaching out regionally to places like Putney is an opportunity to connect and integrate with the opportunities in Brattleboro, to make a better community.

Mac said, "The Hooker-Dunham Theater is a beautiful theater, perfect for this production. The goal is to bring people together of different backgrounds to intersect where the audience might see a reflection of themselves, to engage other folks' energy. AND, we have really great music."

Directed by Ben Somin, the featured performers are Shanta Lee, Donald'Mutebi (Paragon), Marc Thurman, John Rose, Maclean Gander, Desmond Peeples, Mariah Edson, Shamarie Anthony, and Julius Udochi, sound and design by Charlie Schneeweis and Donald Mutebi.

Even though "Voices" has a shared identity as a group, each of the performers has a story to tell, from what it is like to be a woman today, or a former pop star in Uganda adjusts to life in anonymity, or how it is as a black man in his late 20s in these days of unrest.

Shanta said, 'I hope that the audience comes away feeling that they had an experience with time. We've lost the art of feeling the time to engage because our lives have sped up. It is not a concert, not a reading, we are wanting people to bring all of their senses. At the very least they feel they got to see something really cool."

Mac's hope is, "That we touch something. I hope people will talk about it days later."

In the end, Mac said, 'We are just trying to get along, to make good art together."

Shanta nodded her head, "I agree."

Performances are at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 14 and Saturday, April 15, at the Hooker-Dunham Theater, 139 Main St., Brattleboro. General admission is $25. For more information about "Voices" and the Arts Council of Windham County visit acwc.us.

Cicely M. Eastman may be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 261

Bios of the Performers.

Shamarie Anthony is a first-year student at Landmark College. A spoken word

poet, he is a member of the RISE UP! club. He comes from Philadelphia, PA

and is planning to study Accounting at Landmark.

Mariah Edson is a 2nd year student at Landmark College and daughter of NH

Poet Laureate Alice B. Fogel. Mariah often employs music, illustration,

photography, and text in her art, and has a strong love for interactive

storytelling. In addition to VOICES, her projects this year include scripting for

a video game and completing a manuscript. Mariah will begin her B.A. in Studio

Art starting in Fall 2017.

Mac Gander has been writing in various genres for more than four decades. In

his early adulthood, he was trained in the craft of poetry at Harvard and Boston

University, where he studied with Robert Fitzgerald, George Starbuck, and

Seamus Heaney, and then learned the craft of journalism at Newsweek

Magazine during the 1980s. For the past thirty years he has played various roles

at Landmark College, where he currently is Professor of English and

Journalism, teaching courses in creative writing, journalism, and education. His

first book of poems, The New City, was published by 21st Editions in 2008. His

current aesthetic interest lies in creating inter-generational, multi-cultural

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programs of art, language, and music that benefit organizations oriented toward

social justice. He lives in Brattleboro with his wife, Shanta Lee Gander, and his

aging dog, Seamus.

Shanta Lee Gander is an artist and multi-faceted professional in areas of

marketing, management, event planning, and other areas. As an artist, her

endeavors include bellydance, writing prose/poetry/articles, and photography.

Shanta's projects includes a photography collaboration, Perfect Imperfection

(storieswetellphotography.com)with photographer Liz LaVorgna

(www.lizlavorgna.com) and organizing the Slow Living Summit with the

Strolling of the Heifers. Shanta also teaches a Social Justice class that she

designed at Oak Meadow in Brattleboro, VT. Shanta has an MBA and an

undergraduate degree in Women, Gender and Sexuality and serves on the

Brattleboro Community Television (BCTV) board and is the President of the

Arts Council of Windham County Board. Her writing has been featured in

Rebelle Society and on the Ms. Magazine Blog. Shanta and her many

ponderings can be heard in her weekly radio segment, PonderThis, featured on

Chris Lenois's Green Mountain Mornings on 100.3 FM/1490 AM

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WKVT. Shanta is also the co-founder of WildlyCreative.World, a site dedicated

to helping individuals seek and find their creativity through various paths.

Donald Mutebi was born in Uganda and pursued his education in the Britishbased

educational system in Kenya. He has lived in Brattleboro for more than a

decade, where he works as a psychiatric nurse and home health-care provider.

His song, Aniakumanyi, was a number one hit in Kampala for six months when

he was in his twenties, where his nickname was Paragon. He is presently

working to complete a CD collection of new music.

Desmond Peeples is a Vermont-based writer, performer, and editor. He

received a BA from Goddard College while traveling the US; his studies were

concentrated in critical theory, behavioral neuroscience, and creative writing,

and his senior thesis was an original historical fantasy novel. In 2014 he

founded Mount Island Magazine, the arts journal that would grow into The

Rove, and he returned to Vermont to work in small publishing. He joined

Brattleboro's Green Writers Press as an editorial assistant, which led to a

position as an associate literary agent with the Dede Cummings Agency. Since

then he has provided editorial and publicity services to both emerging and

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critically acclaimed authors, and his writing has been published in numerous

journals.

John Rose is a Brattleboro poet and professor in the writing department at

Landmark College. He studied with James Tate at U-Mass Amherst, earning an

MFA. For more than two decades he has been engaged in the production of a

1001-page poem about the awakening of a six-year-old child to conscious life

on Flag Day, June 14, 1968.

Charlie Schneeweis is a professional musician, composer and educator with

forty years of experience and appearances on over thirty recordings. Charlie

has performed nationally and internationally at a wide range of venues. He has

been recognized on the national stage as a performer and winner of the "Talent

From Towns Under 2000" contest on the "Prairie Home Companion", as well

as in the "Learning to Play Softly" segment of National Public Radio's "All

Things Considered". Charlie had the privilege of performing at Carnegie Hall

as the lead trumpet player in the Gene Pitney Band. He has played at the

Montreal Jazz festival and around the United States with the "Rat Pack is Back"

act out of Las Vegas. He has toured with rock and jazz bands in the United

States and Europe and has shared the stage with NRBQ, Don Cherry, John

Faddis, Ben E. King, Houston Person, Kevin Mahogany, The Coasters, Bill

Watrous, Slide Hampton, Clark Terry, David Amram and The Temptations. He

has been featured in numerous local New England performances as a vocalist

and trumpet player in various jazz, big band, rock, chamber and classical groups

and performances. Charlie Schneeweis is currently an Associate Professor at

Landmark College in southern Vermont.

Ben Somin is originally from Lexington, Mass., and graduated from

Landmark College in 2016. He has directed two shows previously at the

Hooker-Dunham theater and also produces for radio and television in the

Brattleboro area.

Marc Thurman is a resident assistant and president of the RISE UP! club at

Landmark College. A musician who toured in his home state of New Jersey, his

spoken word poetry has won top honors at Landmark's Poetry Slams. He

volunteers at the Boys and Girls club in Brattleboro.

Julius Udochi is a first-year student at Landmark College and member of the

RISE UP! club there. He has been a practicing DJ for several years. Julius is a

native of Queens, NY.And on the AWCW.US website


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