The Arts of January

by Alicia Anstead

Xin Xiang '13 rehearses at Arts @ 29 Garden.
For the arts, January Intensive Week at Harvard has been a clackety, toe-tippy, joke-cracking, brush-stroking time. Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club held three-week intensives in dance and theater. Arts @ 29 Garden offered dancers a chance to create site-specific work with a member of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, comedy writing and performance with Jane Condon and Jimmy Tingle, and poetry writing with Jen Bervin. Over at the Radcliffe Quad, Jane Goldman taught watercolor painting.

"The students are incredible -- bright, curious, quick to apply themselves," said Bervin, who rented old typewriters to reconnect students with the tactile nature of print. "They're not used to failing and that seems like a particularly valuable part of the arts intensive -- to make them uncomfortable."

Bervin's workshop focused entirely on process. In the comedy intensive, Condon (whose one-woman show opens in April in New York City) and Tingle (who gave the 2010 Harvard commencement speech) plumbed students' life stories to find material for 8-10-minute routines, which will be presented at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21 at The Comedy Studio.

(A full list of performance events appears at the end of this post.)

"The students are fun and enthusiastic, full of energy and imagination. They're hungry," said Tingle, a native Cantebridgian. "They're experimenting in an art form many of them have never tried before. We want to build confidence in using their imagination and trusting their instincts."

Tingle and Condon asked students to fill out a questionnaire to help stimulate ideas for material.

"We also asked them about any crazy relatives," said Condon. And then she slid into her own comedic voice: "These kids are loaded with crazy relatives, and I hope Harvard takes care of them because their lives are loaded with chaos."

The setting for Jane Goldman's watercolor workshop was the opposite of chaos on a recent sunny afternoon when the light was streaming into the top floor of Hilles Hall at the Radcliffe Quad. Students quietly painted while Goldman strolled from person to person offering advice and support.

Susan McGarvey, who graduates from Harvard Law School this year, took an art class in college and saw Goldman's watercolor workshop as an opportunity to return to an activity she enjoys and finds relaxing.

"The ability to use my mind in a different way, to relax and to spend time concentrating on one thing develops focus," she said. "It's not exactly meditation, but it's close."

The January Arts Intensives end Friday, but whether students devoted time to dancing, writing, painting or making people laugh, the process is one they now carry with them -- a winter wonderland of art-making and art-taking.

PHOTOS BY ALICIA ANSTEAD FOR THE OFFICE FOR THE ARTS AT HARVARD.

January Arts Intensives:

COMEDY! CREATIVE WRITING! DANCE! DESIGN! THEATER!

Friday, January 21st

2-5pm: Ongoing Design Crit of Design Intensive students’ work from the week, drop-ins welcome. Location: Graduate School of Design, 48 Quincy Street, Room 505.

2-3pm: Dance Presentations at the Dance Center and Arts @ 29 Garden

2:00: Dance rep performance, location: Harvard Dance Center, 60 Garden Street.

2:30: Audience will migrate to Arts @ 29 Garden for site specific dance presentations.

3:30: Comedy students will present their final dress rehearsal at Arts @ 29 Garden. Later on, join them at the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square at 6pm for their show!

4:30: Theatre track students will present their film work at Arts @ 29 Garden.

5:00: Open house for Creative Writing Intensive "All the Architectures I Am" – explore the Creative Writing classroom and see what they have been doing this week.

(Directions to Arts @ 29 Garden:

Arts @ 29Garden is located at the corner of Garden and Chauncy Streets, which is approximately a 15-minute walk from Harvard Square. If you pass the Longy School of Music on your right hand side, you come to Chauncy Street about 200 feet after that. To enter the building, turn right on to Chauncy. You will see an accessibility ramp on the right under a sign that says "Landscape Institute." Walk down the ramp and enter the door at the bottom. Note also that Harvard Transportation Services’ quad shuttle bus, which runs every ten minutes, stops in front of 29 Garden.)

6:00 (doors at 5:30) Comedy Students live at the Comedy Studio!

Free admission to all!

Comedy students go live at The Comedy Studio, 1238 Mass Ave in Harvard Square, 3rd floor (above the Hong Kong Restaurant.) Free admission.

[Caption: Poetry students used old-fashioned typewriters to explore words. ]

[Caption: Susan McGarvey HLS-LLM '11 paints a still life of dried flowers. ]