What does it mean to teach the arts—and to create art in all its forms—here and now? By that, we mean here at Santa Clara, in the heart of Silicon Valley, with threads reaching out to the rest of the world.
Aldo Billingslea was panting, demonstrating the palpitating diaphragm to his Shakespearean acting students on a sunny spring morning. He got them focused on the breath that carries the sound of laughter and weeping.
“It’s a good thing to know where that breath is,” said Billingslea, a commanding 6-foot-4 actor, director, and associate professor of theatre at SCU, speaking in the rich booming voice that has brought the Moor, the Elephant Man, and many other characters to life on stages across the country. He let out a belly laugh, then offered up a pained phrase from Othello, which he’d performed a few nights earlier during a starring run at Marin Theatre Company. The Moor tells Desdemona he could handle shame or mockery, Billingslea explained, but not “to be discarded thence!” from her heart.
“That’s a palpitating diaphragm,” said the actor, an intense and funny man who suddenly became a 6-year-old boy, whimpering for his mother. During the next hour, Billinglsea talked in lofty and street-wise parlance about Shakespearean meter, language, and meaning; the need to always bring your best self forward; and the importance of supporting one another. He gently chided the class for not fully focusing on the young woman performing Mercutio’s Queen Mab monologue from Romeo and Juliet.
|Slow down and focus: Acting class with Aldo Billingslea. Photo by Charles Barry
“When she struggles, we struggle. Feed each other. Awright then?” Billingslea called out. “AWRIGHT THEN!” came the response. Billinsglea turned back to the performer and suggested that she bring out the music in the phrase “Moonshine’s watery beams.” It’s a beautiful image, he said, “and you’ve got those vowels that allow you to open it up. Moooonshine’s watery beeeams,” he intoned, luxuriating in the sound.
“I’ll take two!” he added in a piping comic voice.
It was a typically engaging performance by an artist who brings the same passion and commitment to the classroom as he does to the stage. Like artistic colleagues across campus—whether they are splendid pianists Hans Boepple and Teresa McCollough, the irreverent printmaker and multimedia artist Kathy Aoki, or the vital dancer-choreographers Kristin Kusanovich ’88 and David Popalisky—Billingslea strives to give students professional skills while deepening their sense of the art form, themselves, and their relationship to the larger world. Embracing the Jesuit tradition of educating the whole person, these artist-teachers aim to nurture minds, bodies, and spirits at a time when the desire for instant results and an endless onslaught of images and information make it more challenging than ever to teach subjects that require time, patience, and imagination.
“Our society has an attention span so short that the phrase ‘instant gratification’ takes too long,” said Billingslea, 47, lunching on a chicken breast in the Adobe Lodge with his wife, Renee Billingslea, a photographer and mixed-media artist who teaches in the Department of Art and Art History, and their friend J.B. Wells. The friend is a white-haired actor who’s been performing Shakespeare at San Quentin with Aldo Billingslea since 2005, when Billingslea began bringing in SCU students to meet with inmates performing the Bard’s work. (He and the others all cried in the prison parking lot after their first visit.) “Slow down and focus” is a refrain you hear from the Billingsleas and many SCU faculty artists, who continue to push themselves creatively while bringing their best selves into the classroom. For them, teaching art in 2012 means communicating core skills and values to students living in a pressured, high-speed culture that doesn’t encourage the deep Ignatian inquiry and reflective spirit that suffuses the fragrant, rose-filled Mission Campus.
“I didn’t know what a Jesuit was until I came here. Then I realized that I am one,” Billingslea said with a smile. He arrived as a guest artist in 1994, filling the faculty chair endowed by Frank Sinatra, another guy with a great voice. (No, the chair didn’t come with a six pack of Jack Daniel’s.)
Renee deals with aesthetics and involves her students in community projects that look at society through photography. Their pictures of local homeless people were exhibited this year on campus at the de Saisset Museum, and they work with a studio in San Francisco’s beleaguered Tenderloin district, making portraits for people in shelters and nursing homes. In her funky fine arts building studio, Renee makes images and objects that have been widely exhibited around the Bay Area. Some come out of her research on racial violence, including the potent handmade suits and hats that refer to lynchings. Others are more personal, like the ones she’s making now with clothes, pencils, and other objects belonging to Aldo’s great uncle, Herod Carpenter, a spirited educator who died in 2009 at the age of 97.
"That point of intersection, where your greatest gifts meet the world’s needs—that’s your calling." —Aldo Billingslea
Many SCU alumni who studied visual and performing arts at Santa Clara go on to thriving careers in the arts, among them Broadway performer and producer Adam Zotovich ’97 and Mariana Galindo ’06, who’s at DreamWorks, creating hair and clothing animation for movies like Shrek and Megamind. But most of the students who take arts classes are majoring in something else, some simply fulfilling the University’s art requirement. (The addition of that requirement to the Core Curriculum in 2009 underscored the centrality of the creative arts to the rigorous liberal arts education envisioned by Ignatius.)
Teaching people digital and darkroom photography “is an opportunity to enrich their view of the visual arts and the meaning behind imagery,” Renee Billingslea said, “the ethics and responsibility behind making an image and putting it out there.”
Aldo, who’s appearing in Spunk this summer at the California Shakespeare Festival, demands the real deal from himself and his students. He’s played Othello several times at Marin Shakespeare and elsewhere to acclaim, but it wasn’t until this last run that he really felt he was hitting it. In those previous performances, “I was too focused on me,” he said, “on how I looked, or how this line sounded, as opposed to just saying, ‘Let go, do less. Do less.’”
When it comes to teaching, he went on, “You’ve got to nurture all of your students,” whether they’re actors or business majors or students in his Shakespeare for Engineers course. He wants to prime the actors to pursue theatre careers or graduate school; the others, to appreciate artistry and open eyes and ears and hearts to the world.
“What they’re doing while they’re here is finding out what makes their heart sing, but also taking their focus outward, finding out what’s going on in the world and what the world needs. And that point of intersection, where your greatest gifts meet the world’s needs—that’s your calling. The Jesuits were the first ones I heard say that a calling wasn’t just for the clergy, it was for everybody.”
What a Stranger May Know
A few days earlier, on a crisp April morning with dew still on the roses, Aldo Billingslea and hundreds of others gathered on the St. Ignatius lawn to participate in a performance of What a Stranger May Know, an immersive, multilayered play by Erik Ehn commemorating the 32 people killed in the Virginia Tech shootings exactly five years before. The air was filled with a floating cacophony of voices that would suddenly fall silent, then rise again, set off by the sounds of woodpeckers and train whistles.
|Songs of innocence and experience: Top, children's theatre in Nicaragua. Bottom left and right, scenes from What a Stranger May Know. Photos by Katie Fitzgerald '09 and Charles Barry
A collaborative effort directed here by Kristin Kusanovich and theater professor Michael Zampelli, S.J., as part of SCU’s fruitful Justice in the Arts Initiative, the play concurrently received its premiere at SCU and a dozen other campuses, including Brown University, where Ehn teaches. Rather than recounting the gruesome massacre, the piece poetically conjures each victim’s life, sketching them with scattered facts and images culled from the public record.
The student and faculty performers, dressed in the orange and maroon of Virginia Tech, were spread across the palm-shaded lawn, simultaneously performing their parts while standing or kneeling on ladders and sawhorses. (“I wanted the sense of things under construction, of life under construction,” Kusanovich said later.) The audience moved among the actors, whose monologues merged fanciful pictures and phrases inspired by each victim’s field of study—“I wanted to be taken up out of this world by words,” one student said—with blunt images like “bullet through the watch.” At the end of each section, like a recurring musical motif, came a refrain in loose unison: “Look, I just don’t know. Look, you will never know … Be with me, as I am with you.”
Father Zampelli, who also serves as rector of the Jesuit community at Santa Clara, is a theatre historian who’d like to see more arts endeavors crossing disciplinary lines and connecting to contemporary issues and audiences. “This is a theatre of social engagement and spiritual engagement,” he said.
Scattered around him were small groups of students and faculty congratulating and comforting each other. Sophomore Nick Manfredi, an aspiring actor, had just memorialized Liviu Librescu, a 76-year-old Romanian-Jewish Holocaust survivor who taught aeronautic engineering at Virginia Tech. Librescu died blocking his classroom door from the gunman, allowing all but one of his students to make it to safety by climbing out the windows.
Manfredi called this enveloping performance “a baptism of sorts. It feels unbelievable to do something of this caliber, with such a purpose.
Midway into rehearsals for the project, a former student at Oikos University in Oakland shot and killed seven people there. “This just became that much more important,” said Manfredi, a trim, serious guy who came to Santa Clara from Las Vegas intending to become a doctor. Now political science and acting occupy him. Spring quarter, Manfredi brushed up his Shakespeare with Aldo Billingslea, and performed in Nine Circles, a contemporary play by Jesuit Bill Cain that draws on Dante’s Inferno to tell an Iraq War story. It was directed by the beloved Fred Tollini, S.J., the longtime SCU theatre professor and director who has brought to the stage everything from Lorca’s Blood Wedding to the Bard’s Macbeth.
Tall, lanky Tennyson Jones '14 was flush with emotion after portraying fallen Virginia Tech French student Austin Michelle Cloyd, who, like him, was a redhead. Jones came to Santa Clara from Redding to major in math but was seduced by the call of the stage. During spring break, at the suggestion of Theatre and Dance Chair Barbara Murray ’73, Jones joined the University’s theatre outreach program in Villa Catalina, Nicaragua (another Justice and the Arts Initiative project), helping kids perform The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in a real theatre for the first time.
“It changed my life,” Jones said. “It opened my eyes to where my path could lead.”
Shadow and light
|Color and form: Left, Michael David Nelson '07 with portrait in progress. Right, Kelly Detweiler leads a critique. Photos by Charles Barry
Kelly Detweiler found his path 40 years ago, studying ceramics and painting with original Bay Area funk and pop artists Roy DeForest, Robert Arneson, Clayton Bailey, and Mel Ramos. A fine painter and sculptor who was honored this year as a Santa Clara County Artist Laureate, Detweiler began teaching at SCU in 1982 and now chairs the Department of Art and Art History. Working in his campus studio, Detweiler paints the fantastical and amusing pictures that draw freely on everything from German Expressionism to ’60s cartoons, Mexican folk art, and Picasso’s deep African vein.
One April morning, he was teaching the basics of form and color to beginning painting students. They were making still-life pictures of the tableaux Detweiler had laid before them—flowers, teapots, fake rabbits, and plastic lemons (“I prefer real fruit, but it rots in here pretty fast,” Detweiler noted). Making the rounds, he focused engineering student Stephany Contreras ’12 on essentials.
“Shadow and light, shadow and light,” he told her, gingerly borrowing her brush to dab a line. He pointed to the inside of the cup she’d painted. “You need to darken that. How do you darken that? Probably with some umber. You made it yellow, which makes it jump out, rather than lay back in.”
Those are the sort of invaluable craft lessons that Detweiler didn’t often get when he was studying in the early 1970s, the heyday of conceptual and minimalist art. “Sometimes you’d take a drawing class from someone who didn’t know how to draw, who wanted to do conceptual problems,” recalled the painter, a gentle, silver-haired man whose work has been shown at scores of Bay Area museums and galleries. “I want to make sure these guys go away from here with the basic artistic skills, and have an understanding of art and what goes into it.”
That means getting students “not to trust what you think you know, but to really look at something,” said Detweiler, who has also seen attention spans shrink in recent years. “We have to respond to that, and really consciously tell students to focus.” For him, being an artist in 2012 means staying attuned to the times and to his muse, which carries him to “that weird edge between naive and refined.”
Over in the sculpture room, which was filled with the tart smell of just-sawed wood, Sam Hernández encouraged his students to loose their imaginations as they made sculptures from furniture they’d disassembled.
“Don’t be afraid to establish those first moves. Once you’ve established that first move, you’ll feel more comfortable,” said the wiry, mustachioed sculptor, who joined the faculty in 1977. Hernández walked into his little office, where his late father’s barber chair shares space with a Moses kachina doll made by a student. Known for his wood sculpture, he’s making more stuff now with recycled materials.
“We need to show work that speaks to that social justice, as well as showing the work of important individual artists—whether they’re recognized or under-recognized.” —Rebecca Schapp
Most kids these days, he said, “don’t grow up making things with their hands. One of the things I’ve been telling them lately is we’re here to teach patience.” Hernández, 64, doesn’t give many C's. “I work my ass off for the students so they get a good grade.”
So does David Pace, a photography lecturer who, for several years, has been bringing SCU students to Burkina Faso, one of the poorest places on the planet, as part of the University’s Reading Africa program. Pace’s soulful portraits of village life have been shown often at the de Saisset Museum—itself a vibrant and vital link in not just making art but bringing students and the community face-to-face with shows that connect the campus with the wider world.
“We need to show work that speaks to that social justice, as well as showing the work of important individual artists—whether they’re recognized or under-recognized,” said Rebecca Schapp, the director of the de Saisset. Museum staff also works with art historians on campus to train students in the business and art of running a museum—including putting on shows such as the figurative artists exhibition that opens in August. It was curated by Katie Cronin ’12.
The de Saisset, which has one of the country’s finest avant-garde video collections, mixes potent and challenging shows—such as The Veil: Visible and Invisible Spaces, the 2011 exhibition that explored the veiling of men, women, and sacred places across time and cultures—with exuberant and whimsical art of the kind Kathy Aoki creates. An associate professor who joined the art faculty in 2003, she teaches digital imagery and flash animation.
|Spaces visible and not: Showing The Veil in the de Saisset Museum. Photos by Charles Barry
Her satiric work often riffs on "girlie" consumer culture, celebrity, and gender politics—she calls herself a sneaky feminist. Aoki was working in her SCU studio one afternoon, crafting pieces for a forthcoming show at Oakland’s Swarm Gallery. One was a faux-Egyptian stone figure carved with hieroglyphics about Gwen Stefani, the singing and fashion empress whose weird, contrived world has given Aoki much material.
“I use advertising formats or cartoon formats—some kind of look that people know—so that even if it’s angry feminist work, people think, ‘Hey, I’ve seen stuff like that before,’ and they get sucked in,” Aoki said. Several years ago, she filled kiosks along San Francisco’s main downtown artery with her Champions of Market Street, images of her comic-book heroes like Daring Door Holder performing valiant acts of simple courtesy.
For Aoki, what matters most in the classroom is teaching students “the lexicon to express things visually. We’re surrounded by all these manufactured images, and a lot of people don’t understand how they’re made and how they can be manipulated. Making images makes you more in control of your visual understanding of the world.”
Inside the music
Hans Boepple likes to plunge into his world by 6:30 a.m. He sits down at one of the two Steinways in his Music and Dance Building office and makes music for the next three or four hours. He warms up his big hands—“Sometimes they’re too big,” he said with a bemused smile—with scales and such before losing himself in the language of Beethoven and Brahms. This spring, he was preparing for a June recital at Indiana University featuring such “juicy stuff” as Schubert’s Four Impromptus, Opus 90, some Brahms and Rachmaninoff.
“The practicing is the absolute core. It’s the golden part of my day,” said Boepple, a tall, soft-spoken gent who’s spent his life absorbed in making and teaching music. “It’s like being married,’’ added the prized pianist, who’s been happily married for 40-something years. “It’s a sort of steady state. But it’s a glorious state.”
A prodigy who debuted with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at age 10, Boepple has taught piano, musicianship theory, and more at SCU since 1978. He still performs as a soloist with top ensembles around the Bay Area and beyond. “This job has allowed me to have the best of both worlds, because I love teaching as much as I do performing,” said Boepple, a Los Angeles native who studied at Indiana with the esteemed Sidney Foster. “He taught people not only how to play in a relaxed fashion, but how to think about music, how to understand it, how to shape it—and to value one’s own point of view about it, and not copy anyone. I try to bring the best of those qualities to my teaching.”
|Mission Music: Paying homage to St. Clare. From left, voice instructor Liliane Cromer with Kirsten Petersen '13, John Towers '13, Genevieve Kromm '13, and Grand Leimbach. Photo by Joanne Lee
As for his own artistry these days, Boepple seeks, as always, that indescribable state of being inside the music.
“It’s a realm that’s not easy to penetrate. It’s like looking way into someone’s eyes and understanding what they’re about. Music to me is a living thing, like a flower coming out of the ground. Nobody understands life. Music is the same way. The fact that 12 tones and some rhythms can give rise to musical works that could fill this building, that there isn’t a human emotion that can’t be expressed by such simple materials, that activate these things inside us—my God, it’s miraculous. On the one hand, it’s physics, just physics. On the other hand, it can tear your heart out.”
His music department co-chair, Teresa McCollough, has a Steinway in her office, too, but she prefers to practice at home, undisturbed.
McCollough, who’s been teaching here since 1991, is a major-league interpreter and creator of new music. She’s premiered works by Lou Harrison, George Crumb, and other maverick composers, including many pieces commissioned and composed for her. Lately, she’s been composing and improvising more of her own music, an urge fueled by her continuing involvement in composer Steve Heitzig’s “World Piece.” It consists of musical fragments or simple pictures suggesting each of the 192 countries in the United Nations. Heitzig wrote a piece a day for 192 days, giving McCollough the freedom to summon Togo or Turkmenistan through improvisation.
“I love the improvisational feeling,” said McCollough, who directs SCU’s far-ranging Music@Noon series and the Santa Clara New Music Festival, sitting at her desk with the morning light filtering in through the camphor tree outside her window. As an artist, what matters most to her is “creating new music, creating new sounds—and creating an audience to appreciate it.” As a teacher, that means giving students “an understanding of why art and creativity are important to the human condition. We’ve gone far away from that because there’s fear out there, of competing in the global market. Much of the recent educational legislation in this country has been created out of a sense of fear or competitiveness.” Still, McCullough is upbeat about the arts, particularly in a hospitable environment like SCU.
“Thirty-five years ago, new music was taught in a very academic and detached sort of way. Now we’re living in a time that’s like the Romantic period. So many diverse sounds are being accepted and coming together. For me to be able to explore that, and teach that to my students—to say, ‘Hey, isn’t that cool?’—is really rewarding.”
Across the lawn, in the basement of the Louis B. Mayer Theatre, Barbara Murray sat in her office taking care of Department of Theatre and Dance business. Being department chair, the noted costume designer doesn’t get to spend as much time working with the Children’s Theatre Outreach Program, which she created on campus in 1982. As an artist, in her work with Santa Rosa’s Summer Repertory Theatre and many other companies, her focus continues to be “on the integrity of costumes,” she said, “and helping the actors develop their characters through the clothing they’re wearing.”
After years of starved school arts budgets, Murray sees “a significant lack of creativity” among adult students and young kids. “They’re not used to the freedom,” said the straight-talking woman with a great laugh. She grew up seeing theatre at the Old Ship, the huge 19th-century SCU dormitory that became a theater seating 2,000 people until it was razed in 1962. Her father, R. Ian Murray, taught mechanical engineering at Santa Clara beginning in 1951. As kids did in slower times, she and her siblings made up plays and performed them for whoever would watch.
More than ever, she said, “I want to give my students passion. I want to give them a sense of the magic about it all, like you’re a little kid, creating new worlds and being able to see new possibilities. Imagining new worlds, you can look at reality and say, ‘Hey, it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe we can change it.’”
“We live in an era that’s more and more disembodied.”
A few doors down, Fr. Fred Tollini was in his office, preparing for that evening’s rehearsal of Nine Circles. It was the latest of the 60 or so plays he’s directed since arriving at SCU in 1971 from Yale, where he earned his Ph.D. in theatre history after serving as an Army chaplain and studying acting at the ancient Greek amphitheater at Delphi. A big, graceful man with a warm voice and white mustache that makes you think of some handsome old screen star, Fr. Fred, as he’s affectionately known, thrives on teaching actors. He shares techniques he developed directing everything from a hip 1970s production of Euripides’ The Madness of Herakles that tapped into the radical ideas of experimental Polish director Jerzy Grotowski—“It was tremendous fun,” he beamed—to Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers more recently.
“I love working with actors and being involved in their growth,” said Tollini, 78, a native San Franciscan whose family owned the fabled restaurants Vanessi’s and Bardelli’s. “I have a very creative time, intellectually, academically, and directing-wise. I’m learning a lot. I learned a lot last night,” said Tollini, who praises the priests running SCU in the 1960s for choosing to respond to the cultural revolution and “engage with the world … Imagination is central to Jesuit education. Everything we do is based in some way on the exercises of Ignatius. It’s a form of prayer where you imagine yourself in the presence of God. It’s a way of hearing the spirit in your life. The exercises end with a great hymn of joy and wonder at God’s creation.”
So what did Fr. Fred learn the night before, the thing he strives for as a teacher? He pondered for a spell.
“Well, I didn’t learn this last night, but I was reminded of it: Allow the actors to really search and find things for themselves. A director is not one who dictates but who points a certain way. That’s good and it’s bad. The good thing is if it grows, you know the student has found something right.” What’s changed in recent years? “In general, young people don’t know how to read,” the priest said with a laugh. “They don’t know how to read.” He paused. “The word," he said with delight. “The power of the word.”
World in motion
Bumbling. That was the word that David Popalisky tossed out to his beginning dance class one afternoon. Students were improvising movements that slipped, slid, and tripped, bobbing and stumbling and gliding across the rehearsal studio floor. Now Popalisky, a tall bouncing bean of a man, asked them to bumble, “whatever a bumble is,” he said.
|Working leg: Dancers David Popalisky and Katie Thies '04. Photo by Charles Barry
“Have you ever met a bumbling person?” he asked his students, getting an answer then firing off other questions like ping-pong balls. “What does it feel like to bumble? How is slipping different from tripping? How do you take the slip and artfully expand it?”
Popalisky wants to shake his students loose of self-consciousness and reconnect them with the deep and profound pleasure of the body in motion. “I want them to think of their bodies in a fresh way and develop an appetite for motion, to do that extra jump, to skip like we did before we got constrained by adulthood,” said Popalisky, who teaches everything from choreography to aspiring dance pros to community workshops like “Dads Don’t Dance,” and a Physics of Dance class co-taught with SCU Physics Professor (and “Dads Don’t Dance” graduate) Rich Barber.
“We live in an era that’s more and more disembodied,” said Popalisky, who is also committed to connecting his motion-filled world to the wider universe. In June he led his innovative new class, Walk Across California, on a two-week trek from San Francisco’s Ocean Beach to the glorious peaks of Yosemite. The course invited students to commune with the state’s diverse natural environments and meet people as varied as artists, Miwok Indians, and urban organic farmers.
“A lot of it is about understanding place and people’s connection to it,” Popalisky said a few mornings later, walking with his students at a brisk clip beneath the giant sycamores along The Alameda. They were taking one of their 5-mile training walks to prep for the trip. (Rebekah Bloyd, the poet and essayist who lectures in the English department and loves walking California, signed on as a chaperone.) “We’re going to be observing our environment, which we usually don’t do because the pace of life has picked up so much.”
Kristin Kusanovich is throwing herself into a solo dance project that also demands the kind of sustained involvement that runs counter to our fast-cut culture. She’s stretching artistically by choreographing a 45-minute work set to the second movement of Beethoven’s massive Symphony No. 7. She was always taught that it was musically too big for a solo piece.
“I haven’t seen a lot of dance lately that makes bold choices about music, or that doesn’t cut music to shreds,” said the lively dancer, after teaching a modern dance class. “I was thinking about the integrity of music and longing to see that.”
What matters most to her as a teacher is “opening up the arts for people and letting them understand what it means to be an artist, at least for 10 weeks,” said Kusanovich, a zealous educator who runs her own studio and created a course at SCU on how to teach dance, music, and other arts to kids. Why did she take on that? “I was schooled by the Jesuits,” she said.
See how we are
That evening, the campus was full of music and art. The sound of the school's big band, swinging standards in the rehearsal hall, merged with the regal melodies of Bach and Copland coming from the airy Mission Church, courtesy of the musicians from Valley Christian High School in San Jose. Over at the de Saisset, the famed tattoo artist and printmaker Don Ed Hardy was talking about the ancient roots of his rogue art.
Kusanovich came over to the dance rehearsal hall to work with the cast of Shakuntala, the ancient Hindu mythological play that was being directed by George Drance, S.J. An acclaimed New York actor who leads his own company and teaches at Fordham University, he was on campus this spring teaching master classes and as a fellow through SCU’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education. During the previous five weeks, Drance had taught the cast more than a hundred mudras, the symbolic hand gestures that accompany the telling of stories.
“Think of the energy flowing out of the fingers,” said Drance, as he and the cast chanted in Sanskrit and made their mudras. “Listen to the song of the bird,” he suggested.
Drance was keen to present Shakuntala because of its influence on Western theatre, most notably the work of Goethe and Coleridge, and because of its contemporary political relevance.
“The general theme of the play is awareness and forgetfulness,” said Drance, a quietly charismatic man. “We seem to live an age when you can excuse anything if you say you don’t remember.” To be an artist now, he went on, “is to call people to reflect, to invite them to slow down, and savor and dream. And perhaps even change things for the better.”
The arts feed the Ignatian spirit of inquiry, which, “if we follow it and don’t stop short and accept conventional answers, will always lead us to a deeper reality, which is in some way God’s reality,” Drance said. “We can’t really notice that presence if we’re rushing by every moment. Being on this beautiful campus invites you to look around and consider God’s grandeur.”
|Barred from Life: A dance performance in collaboration with the Northern California Innocence Project. Photo by Charles Barry
What does it mean to teach the arts—and to create art in all its forms—here and now? By that, we mean here at Santa Clara, in the heart of Silicon Valley, with threads reaching out to the rest of the world.
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