The voices of hundreds of Princeton alumnae roared at the opening reception of “She Roars” on Thursday, Oct. 4, held in a giant tent on New South lawn, festooned with black and orange decorations. The reception was followed by a women-in-the-arts showcase at the Lewis Arts complex.
At the reception after an afternoon of "She Roars" events, emcee and conference steering committee member Kwanza Jones, a 1993 alumna, pumped up the crowd with her voice booming into the mike, her arms opened wide, as she commanded: "One, two, three, 'SHE ROARS'!" Everyone, clapping wildly, responded in kind.
"Do you feel the energy tonight?" called out Jones, as exclamations of "Yes!" and "Hooray!" rang out into the warm early autumn night.
Finding themselves at the same table, Carol Novak, a 1985 alumna from Newtown, Pennsylvania, introduced herself to Misha Charles, a member of the Class of 2001 from Denver. Novak, a research scientist at Siemens who studied engineering at Princeton, said she was looking forward to the arts showcase, which followed the reception. Charles, the director of national strategy at the nonprofit America Succeeds, said: "I'm enjoying connecting with old friends and meeting new ones like Carol!"
Nancy Newman, a 1978 alumna from Atlanta, wearing her brightly patterned class jacket, was deep in conversation with her longtime friend, Georgia Nugent, a 1973 alumna from New York City and Princeton. "We've known each other 25 years! The beauty of these conferences is that you get to see your friends in different incarnations," said Newman, a professor of ophthalmology and neurology at Emory University School of Medicine and a trustee emerita at Princeton. Nugent, president emerita of Kenyon College, former faculty member and associate provost at Princeton and founding dean of the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, said: "The relationship to Princeton, to this place, gives you a bond."
The new Lewis Arts complex, which opened with a four-day festival in Oct. 2017, was alive with performances, interactive installations and visual art spanning every genre and topic — from global music to global warming — at an evening-length showcase featuring alumni in the arts as well as student arts groups.
In the Wallace Theater, performances ranged from a spoken word presentation by sisters Kwanza Jones, Class of 1993, and Meta Jones, Class of 1995, to a video excerpt from the workshop production of a new interactive pop music experience "Cleopatra," by twins Jennifer and Christine Schoppe, 2010 alumnae, opening Oct. 23 at the Chelsea Music Hall in New York City.
Cara Reichel, a 1996 alumna, performed the song "Twenty" from a new musical, "The Hello Girls," for which she co-wrote the book with Peter Mills, a 1995 alumnus, who accompanied her on piano. The musical is about the first women to serve in the U.S. Army — bilingual (French/English) telephone operators who served on the front lines during WWI. Reichel will direct its premiere on Nov. 13 at Prospect Theater Company in New York. In this video produced by the Lewis Center for the Arts, Reichel tells the story of the founding of the company — which develops and produces new musical and theater work by emerging artists — 20 years ago with her close friend and suite-mate Melissa Huber, a 1996 alumna, among other alumni.
Reichel said she chose to sing the song at the arts showcase to share the material and story, which "seems so appropriate given the theme of the conference." Reflecting on her time at Princeton, she said it "gave me a self-determined space to find my passion and voice as a director, producer and creator of new musical theater [and] a network of strong female friendships helped to shape and define me. This opportunity to be back on campus and celebrate women's leadership roles, especially through the arts, is deeply meaningful."
In the Hearst Dance Theater, presentations ranged from a Klezmer violin performance by Amy Zaker, a 1999 alumna, to a poetry reading by Azahara Palomeque, a 2017 graduate alumna.
Dasha Koltunyuk, a 2015 alumna and marketing and outreach manager in the Department of Music, at the piano, and Uchechi Kalu, a 2014 alumnus and jazz vocalist, presented an improvisational live music meditation, in which the audience was invited to close their eyes and experience the music while focusing on their breath.
Koltunyuk, who participated in Princeton's collaboration with the Royal College of Music in London in her junior year, said she and Kalu met in an improvisation ensemble of classical and jazz musicians. "As a classically trained musician, I felt very vulnerable improvising, and I was in awe of Uchechi's confidence and openness as we improvised together,” Koltunyuk said. “In a way, that raw and exciting combination of feeling both exposed and fearless is so much a part of the experience of being a woman at Princeton. Reuniting with Uchechi through music as part of ‘She Roars’ has taken our relationship with one another and with music to an even deeper level," she said.
In the CoLab, an interactive/collaborative space, presentations included screenings of the film "Protect Your Water," by Katie Carpenter, a 1979 alumna who co-taught the PIIRS Global Seminar “Documentary Filmmaking in Kenya: The Art of Science Storytelling” in summer 2013 at Mpala Research Centre and will teach there again in summer 2019 with the Global Seminar "Documentary Filmmaking in Kenya: Techniques in Visual Storytelling on Wildlife and Wildlands Conservation."
At the "Who Helped You Roar?" Postcard Project, set up at a small round table, attendees could write and send a postcard — emblazoned with a single word such as "Fearless," "Roar," "Real" and "Fierce" — to anyone of their choosing. Mary Bruce, a 2009 graduate alumna of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, wrote a postcard to Hugh Price, a former John L. Weinberg/Goldman Sachs & Co. Visiting Professor at the Wilson School, with whom she still keeps in touch. "I wrote: 'Thank you for teaching me how to roar and keeping me accountable to keep roaring,'" said Bruce, executive director of the B.A. Rudolph Foundation in Washington, D.C., which supports women who are launching their careers in public service.
Performances in the Forum, an open flexible space with casual seating, featured student arts groups including Princeton University Ballet, the a cappella group Princeton Tigressions and Expressions Dance Company, as well as other alumnae performances.