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Faculty artists release new works on page and stage this summer

Global art endeavors include a memoir, a Smithsonian residency and a world premiere opera
“Cassandra” was written, directed, scored and sound designed by David Tolchinsky.

Northwestern’s accomplished arts faculty will make a mark globally this season with published research, new books, a traveling art exhibition and an opera exploring teens and mental health set to premiere in Germany.

Memoir by Natasha Trethewey

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey’s book, “Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir,” will be released by Harper Collins on July 28, a deeply personal account by the past two-time U.S. Poet Laureate and Weinberg College Board of Trustees Professor of English. The memoir explores her girlhood as a “child of miscegenation” in Mississippi, the harrowing crime that took her mother’s life and the way her own life has been shaped by a legacy of fierce love and resilience.

Brendan Fernandes
Brendan Fernandes

Smithsonian Fellow

Visiting Art Theory and Practice professor Brendan Fernandes has been named a 2020-21 Fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. Fernandes will study collection objects that are part of dances and ceremony while researching the role Asian migrants had in Kenyan independence. Working at the intersection of dance and visual arts, Fernandes was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and is a descendent of great grandparents who came from the Indian state of Goa, a Portuguese colony at the time.

Music in early modern England

Linda Austern’s newest book, “Both from the Ears and Mind: Thinking about ​Music in ​Early ​Modern England,” was published in June by the University of Chicago Press. The Bienen musicology professor’s interdisciplinary book presents a new understanding of the intellectual and cultural position of music in Tudor and Stuart England. Austern illustrates music’s influence in ​such other endeavors as health-maintenance​, theology, astrology, natural philosophy and drama.

Caravans of Gold
Bead from Senegal

‘Caravans of Gold’

A digital version of the exhibition “Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa” opened at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art on April 11. The exhibition, developed by Block Museum Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs Kathleen Bickford Berzock, examines Africa’s world-shaping role in the medieval period, presenting more than 250 artworks and fragments from 32 international collections. The exhibition is currently available to view online until the Smithsonian Institute reopens to the public. 


School of Communication Radio/Television/Film professor David Tolchinsky’s award-winning short film “Cassandra” was released in May on the dark fare platform Alter from indie studio Gunpowder & Sky. Written, directed, scored and sound designed by Tolchinsky, “Cassandra” follows a policewoman struggling to remember what happened at the old Wilson farm, the predicted site of a serial killer’s next murder.

Theatre and performance history

Co-edited by School of Communication’s Barber Professor of Performing Arts Tracy C. Davis, “The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance Historiography” will be published in August by Routledge. The book examines how theatre and performance history is integral to social and cultural relations, with globally focused essays from colleagues, including Northwestern theatre professor Elizabeth Sohn on South Korea and post-doctoral student Oscar Enzo on Peru.

‘Dark Spring’

Institute for New Music Director Hans Thomalla’s latest composition project is the song opera “Dark Spring,” based on Frank Wedekind’s “Spring Awakening,” which dramatized the impact of the sexually oppressive culture of the 19th-century on a group of young adults. Thomalla’s opera shifts the focus to the contemporary stigma around mental health issues and provides an ambio-techno soundtrack for the piece. The world premiere is presented by Nationaltheater Mannheim in Germany, beginning Sept. 11. Bienen School faculty member Alan Pierson conducts.