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60th-Anniversary Spring Arts Festival Highlights Student Creativity

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On April 27–29, 2022, AUP students, staff and faculty members came together to organize a three-day celebration of the creativity and imagination of AUP’s global explorers: the Spring Arts Festival. The event aimed to celebrate the University’s 60th anniversary while highlighting the growing prominence of the performing arts on campus. It was organized by the performing arts student organization VIVRE, the Office of Student Leadership, and multiple academic departments. Over 40 students and 9 faculty and staff advisors took part in the planning and performances.

The three-day program began with a performance of “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged),” directed by AUP sophomore Marteena Mendelssohn, VIVRE’s Communications Director. This series of comical skits tackled the Bard’s entire catalogue in an accessible, satirical manner. Other events included a student film festival, also organized by Mendelssohn and hosted in AUP’s Olivia de Havilland Theater; the AUP Dance Showcase, directed by dance instructor Eleanor Hahn; and a performance of the 1998 short play “Naomi in the Living Room,” directed by Allen Blackwell, VIVRE’s Outreach Coordinator. “AUP and the arts go together like peas and carrots,” said Blackwell. “VIVRE is the thing that made it all happen.”

The final day of the festival included the “Headspace” concert performances, produced by Hera Soysal, an AUP senior and the Chair of VIVRE, who was closely involved in festival planning. “The shows allowed performing arts talent on AUP’s campus to shine!” said Soysal. “I believe the performing arts are crucial for a comprehensive liberal arts education. That’s what drove me to participate in the creation of VIVRE and the production of the festival.” Headspace consisted of original songs, covers and theatrical performances and aimed to provide an outlet for students to express themselves following last year’s confinement measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “We aimed to communicate the range of emotions that AUP students have conquered over the past two years in such uncertain times,” says Soysal.

Safia Benyahia, Student Leadership Coordinator, served as the staff liaison for this campus-wide initiative. Benyahia explained that the festival was both an opportunity to showcase student output in the arts and to bring together creative clubs across campus in a shared expression of creativity. “There was a lot of solidarity!” says Benyahia, who is also staff advisor to VIVRE. “The various clubs came together to support each other, and we got great feedback from the audience.” Benyahia herself directed several musical theater performances throughout the festival.

The Spring Arts Festival was a huge success, with sold out shows across the board. A second run of performances is scheduled for May 18 and 19 as part of AUP Community Weekend, which will see students perform to alumni, parents and friends of the University who have returned to campus to celebrate 60 years of AUP.