Side Show Takes Center Stage

Violet Hilton (Carly Hatcher) wants a home and a husband. Her sister, Daisy (Kristina Plate), on the other hand, seeks fame and fortune. Most people pursue their dreams with little regard to their sibling’s wants and desires, but Violet and Daisy don’t have the luxury; they are quite literally joined at the hip.

And so begins Side Show, the Broadway musical by Henry Kreiger and Bill Russell, that takes a peek behind the circus tent canvas to reveal a bearded woman, freaks, geeks, a Cannibal King, and, of course, Violet and Daisy, who both long for a better life—but each with a different interpretation as to what a better life might be.

The show, performed in March at the West Side Black Box Theater, follows the Hilton Sisters from the sawdust floors of the circus to the shining lights of the Vaudeville stage. Along the way, they seek an uneasy balance between their professional and personal lives, and learn to accept that, despite their many differences, they will always have each other’s love.

Side Show also featured Geerson Checo, Anthony Bruno, Branden Mangan and Na’Jee Esmond. It was directed by Marc Dalio, NJCU’s Coordinator of Musical Theatre Studies.

Memories Of Me

Every seat in the The Hub classroom was occupied but the flow of students filing into the room continued without pause. Some carried chairs hoping to claim enough floor space to set them down. Others resigned themselves to standing along the back wall. Teenagers sat elbow to elbow with the elderly and every age in between. Every one of them had their pens poised over their notebooks.

Who would’ve thought that so many people had a burning desire to tell their life stories?

Edvige Giunta, that’s who. A professor of English and a teacher of memoir at NJCU, Giunta has encouraged thousands of students to take a stab at personal narrative. Many of her current and former students have found their work published in journals, magazines, and anthologies. Others have taken it a step further, finding acclaim writing books of uncompromising power. Tiger, Tiger (Picador 2011) by Margaux Fragoso ’02, for example, was named the best non-fiction book of the year by both Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of teaching memoir at NJCU, Giunta led a series of lectures and workshops that never failed to deliver standing-room-only crowds.

Unlike an autobiography, which tells a linear story that speaks of the entirety of one’s life, a memoir carefully selects the life events worth telling. It is a single story or a series of related stories that document a meaningful personal journey.

“In a memoir, you need to start your story in one place and end it in another,” Giunta explained to her audience. “If you end up where you began, you are a very timid traveler.”

On this occasion, Giunta was joined by a student panel, some of whom described themselves as “memoir converts.” The free-flowing discussion topics ranged from the importance of keeping a journal to the proper way to conduct a critique group.

A few of the panelists admitted to being surprised that they had meaningful stories inside of them in the first place. “Some people think, ‘My life is boring. I don’t have anything to write about,’” Holly Hensley said. “But believe me, you do.”

Toni Pennington agreed. “Everyone has a story to tell,” she asserted. “I love writing memoir, because you get to dig deep. For a memoir, you have to dig deep.”

“I never thought I could learn so much about myself through my writing,” Cristaly Argenal added.

As if to prove Argenal right, Giunta led the crowd in a writing exercise, offering a series of prompts, forcing everyone to dig deep to remember memories that had been long forgotten.

“Remember,” Giunta noted. “It’s not about telling your life’s story, it’s about telling a story. In memoir, you have the privilege of visiting with all of the versions of yourself.”

NJCU Exhibits Honored Photographer

NJCU’s gallery curators make every effort to show timely and important works by rising young artists. Time Magazine’s Lightbox, an online exhibition of superb photographers and photography, agrees.

In honor of Black History Month, Lightbox asked a panel of experts to select some of the most exciting African American photographers in the country. Joshua Rashaad McFadden was one of 12 artists to be singled out. On the day the list was made public, McFadden’s latest show, Come to Selfhood, could be found on prominent display at NJCU’s Lemmerman Gallery.

Deborah Willis, Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, for one, was quick to sing McFadden’s praises in general and Come to Selfhood in particular.

“I am excited to see how Joshua Rashaad McFadden used The Family of Men Photographic Archive to extend his own conversation about visualizing masculinity,” Willis noted on the Lightbox website. “This project will be viewed as a corrective, as well as a fascinating collective story, about imaging the black male portrait from the turn of the 20th century to today.”

Come to Selfhood has also been honored with a number of awards, including an International Photography Award (IPA) (1st Place: People – Family) and a Lucie Award Nomination (Publisher of the Year). The show ran at NJCU from February 2 to March 2.

NJCU Artists Show their Stuff

A wide spectrum of disciplines, media, and artistic visions greeted visitors at the 2017 Bachelor of Fine Arts Exhibition. This year marks the largest BFA class in NJCU history; 30 students graduated with concentrations in ceramics, graphic design, illustration, jewelry, painting and drawing, photography, printmaking, and sculpture. The show, which ran from April 22 through May 14, also included a weekly series of artist talks, where students discussed their work and answered audience questions.

This year’s show took place at a new exhibition venue, Kearny Point, located along the waterfront at the mouth of the Hackensack River. Once the site of shipbuilders and dry docks, Kearny Point’s industrial quarters was an awe-inspiring location for most of the student work. For those who preferred to see NJCU work on NJCU’s campus, a smaller satellite show was set up in the University’s Visual Arts Building.

NJCU Student Gets Operatic Honor

Al-Jabril Muhammad, a senior in the Music Program of NJCU’s Music, Dance and Theatre Department, earned top honors at the New Jersey National Association of Teachers of Singing (NJNATS) Festival of Singing. Earning first place in the Senior Men category, Muhammad’s performance piece was, “Avant de quitter ces lieux,” an aria from the opera Faust.

What makes Muhammad’s win particularly noteworthy is that he has studied voice for only two years. “Most of the singers in his division have studied significantly longer than that,” notes Adjunct Professor of Voice John Hancock. “That makes his win all the more remarkable in a field with contestants from the state’s most competitive music schools.”

The NJNATS Festival is an annual statewide event open to all New Jersey colleges and universities with accredited music programs. This year’s festival, held at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), featured more than 100 competitors in all age categories. The team was led by Dr. Donna Connolly, NJCU’s Coordinator of Vocal Studies. Three other NJCU students competed in the festival: Sarah Blood, mezzo soprano; Kaylan Calderon, soprano; and Emily Morales, mezzo soprano.

Muhammad, a featured member of NJCU’s Opera Workshop, trains with Hancock and Vocal Coach David Mayfield.

“Al is an exceptional vocal and musical talent,” adds Hancock. “He was born to sing, and is deeply passionate about each piece of music he sets out to perform. He sings from the heart and soul. That honesty, coupled with the beauty of his voice, makes for a thrilling experience for the listener.” NJCU

clickVisual arts at NJCU included a Watercolor Exhibition by Paul Ching-Bor, Kimberly Mayhorn’s Fictive Kinship, and MFA and BFA exhibitions. For complete photo galleries of these exhibits, please visit:
For more information about the artist visit