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The Arts in Brief

A roundup of alumni artists and their performances.

Three dancers at Mason Gross School of the Arts
Backstage magazine recently designated the Department of Dance at Mason Gross School of the Arts as having one of the top five programs in the nation. Photography courtesy of Mason Gross School of the Arts

Dancing With the Stars
Backstage, long the source for aspiring performers looking for jobs in the performing arts, has designated the Department of Dance at the Mason Gross School of the Arts as having one of the top five programs in the nation, joining the rarified company of Skidmore College, Julliard, Oberlin College & Conservatory, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Road Shows
The acclaimed fourth national tour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which continues through mid-March, has reunited three alumni who cut their creative teeth on the hit Broadway show, which ran from 1994 to 2007: director Rob Jess Roth LC’85, who was nominated for a Tony; scenic designer Stanley A. Meyer MGSA’86; and choreographer Matt West MGSA’08.

Come senior year, many students are itching to graduate. Nicholas Raynor, a music major at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, is no exception, but he is taking a leave of absence to join the national tour of the revival of A Chorus Line, the 1976 winner of the Pulitzer for drama, to appear in the role of Mark.

Quiet, Please: Genius at Work
Junot Díaz, who got raves for his latest collection of stories, This Is How You Lose Her, will have more time to dedicate himself to writing. It’s an undertaking, he says, that doesn’t come so easily to him despite the impressive results of his endeavors, most notably the award-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. That’s because the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has awarded him a $500,000 “genius” grant. “It’s almost like getting five years to work as much as you want without interruption,” says Díaz RC’92, whose next novel will be about monsters.

The Persistent Question of Race
One hundred and fifty years ago, on January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation as the Civil War entered its second year. But the famous document that marked a big step in abolishing slavery underwent a considerable evolution from the time that Lincoln called his cabinet into session to issue the preliminary proclamation on September 22, 1862, to his signing of the final document. The story of Lincoln agonizing over the content of the proclamation and his anticipation of the nation’s reaction to it, as well as the debate that raged among players and observers, is the subject of Lincoln’s Hundred Days: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union (Belknap Press, 2012), written by Louis P. Masur, a professor in the Department of American Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences. Emancipation and the Work of Freedom will be the topic of the 2013 Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series, which takes place February 16 at the Paul Robeson Campus Center at Rutgers–Newark.

For more information, call 973-353-3891.

Mural by Rutgers–Newark alumnus Ibrahim Ahmed III, is his ode to the city of Newark
It’s Just a Little Rain (Mural #4), a mural by Rutgers–Newark alumnus Ibrahim Ahmed III, is his ode to the city of Newark. Photography by Jacqueline Cruz

City of Hope
As part of its City Without Wall’s city murals program, Newark recently commissioned alumnus Ibrahim Ahmed III to create It’s Just a Little Rain (Mural #4), his ode to the city: its past, its institutions, its diversity, its struggles, and its aspirations for a harmonious future. Appearing on a wall of the Academy Street Firehouse, where Ahmed NCAS’06 was encouraged as an artist, the sprawling 85’ x 40’ mural required the assistance of Rutgers students as well.