Truth in Humor
Amber Schaefer ’10 studied political theory at Marlboro, but soon leveraged her communication skills into a career in comedy video— mostly directing, but writing and acting as well. “I like that I get to fall in love with every aspect of the production,” she says.
It was the height of the economic recession when Amber Schaefer graduated from Marlboro, with no savings and no safety net. After a brief stint working as a counselor with women transitioning out of prison in New York City—she wrote her Plan about felony disenfranchisement, something she still feels passionate about—she found her calling in filmmaking, and particularly comedy. She started taking classes at Upright Citizens Brigade, a New York–based improvisational theater and training center, and got an internship at a production company.
“I was only scheduled for one or two days a week, but I just showed up every day, even on weekends, and quickly made myself irreplaceable,” says Amber. “They hired me after two weeks and I basically didn’t leave that office for three years. That was my film school. Now I direct commercials for my main bread and butter, but am gleefully moving into the narrative space.” For example, Amber’s short film It’s Been Too Long was chosen as a Vimeo Staff Pick and was nominated for Best of the Year.
Amber is typically working on three or more projects at a time, from commercials for Geico, Dos Equis, Burrow, and Casper, to personal projects like her “super weird” Found Auditions Project, where she and a colleague create real, authentic, completely fabricated audition tapes. She recently worked on several short videos in support of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, which she calls “very, very silly videos parodying perfume ads and those ridiculous 1-900 ads from the ’80s and ’90s, but the messaging is sincere. It feels good to work on something I believe in.” Learn more.
“I love what I do and I love being busy,” says Amber, who is drawn to every aspect of video production. “I’m kind of a nightmare generalist with a bad case of ADD. For directing that’s a boon, because it’s important that I know a little bit about everything but still have the ability to zoom out and not get lost in the weeds. I like that I get to fall in love with every aspect of the production—the music score, the color correction, the lighting—just a little bit, but my eye is allowed to wander.”
Amber credits Marlboro with teaching her how to be a better person and how to communicate, essentially her entire job as a director: listening to others, sharing her vision, convincing people of things, problem solving. She also found being part of committees and taking part in Town Meeting enormously empowering, by creating a bond of respect between teachers and students. “I firmly believe that when students are treated like adults they are much more likely to act like them, and democracy is cool.”
She says her work with politics professor Meg Mott taught her that everything we do is political and has political consequences. “This has made me very mindful of the work I put out into the world, and I’m grateful for it.”
You can see some of Amber’s work at ambermakes.tv.
Photo by Meredith Jenks
Class notes are listed by year and include both graduates and nongraduates; the latter are listed under the class with which they are associated.
In September and October, JOHN ATCHLEY presented an exhibit of his photographs at the Hunt Library in Falls Village, Connecticut. The exhibit, titled “Tales from the Golden Age and Other Stories,” featured new works incorporating a gold-leaf printing technique developed by John. After receiving a master’s degree in photography at Yale in 1972, John pursued work in construction for 35 years before picking up his camera again in 2010 to focus on his love of nature. See his work at johnatchleyphotography.com.
“Those who take on risk are not those/ Who bear it. The sign said to profit/As they do, trade around the one/Particular. Let them credit what you hunt,/Let future perform,” writes SOPHIE CABOT BLACK. Her poem “To burn through where you are not yet” was published in the December 2 issue of The New Yorker. Hear Sophie read it.
“A 210-year-young stone farmhouse in southern Pennsylvanian became our new home this year,” writes STEVEN SMITH. “My wife seems determined to farm as much of the six-acre plot as she can and name every deer, groundhog, and baby fox she sees. I am more focused on how to get WiFi to work through two-foot stone walls.”
DANIEL MORRISON writes, “For the past 14 years, I have been the pastor of Huntingdon Valley Presbyterian Church in suburban Philadelphia. I’m married (Eva) and have a nine-year-old daughter (Mia) still at home. Our two 20-somethings (Rosie and Calvin) have long since flown the coop. In addition to my vocational work, I find time for avocational interests, most of which involves digging in archives and library stacks. In other Marlboro news, for the past two years I’ve been shacking up with SAM WOOD ’84. Sam and I lived together in West Philadelphia following my graduation from Marlboro, and fortune again smiled on us to be housemates. Sam writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer, as he has for the past 30 years. He currently works on the business desk and is their marijuana (yes, it is big business) specialist. Sam and I periodically cross paths with KITSIE BURK MALENEY ’84, who also lives near Philadelphia, and, now that she is an empty-nester, devotes her time to running a small farm and fundraising for a homeless shelter. And this past summer, I sat down in a Vermont coffee shop with KATIE KRAMER ’75 to talk about her fascinating intellectual memoir, Missing History: the Covert Education of a Child of the Great Books” (see Potash Hill Summer 2011).
MARK FEINTHEL recently retired from the Virginia branch office of Bloomberg, where he was employed as a research analyst of labor data. He presumably will return to his original path as an artist. For the time being, he is simply enjoying having more time to be with his family, and takes long walks with his dog in the woods. He laments the pending closure of Marlboro, and wishes all his former classmates well.
Congratulations to VAUNE TRACHTMAN and MARCUS DESIENO ’10 for being shortlisted for the Hariban Award, an international competition presented by Benrido Collotype Atelier. “I’m honored to be in the company of so many incredible photographers from around the world!” says Vaune.
Levi Gershkowitz ’11: Patient Advocacy through Storytelling
“I’ve been inspired by a love for travel and life’s diversity—encountering cultural views and expressions that I wouldn’t otherwise know,” says Levi Gershkowitz. Levi is founder and CEO of Living in the Light, which uses photography, video, and personal narratives to document the effects of rare genetic diseases on families and individuals. “I was led to patient advocacy through working with refugees,” he says.
Levi completed his bachelor’s in Holocaust and genocide studies at Keene State College, including a personal journey to face the dark history of Poland and Ukraine. He also worked as a Thai massage and reflexology practitioner, giving him hands-on experience working with people’s bodies. Both experiences taught him a lot about healing, and contributed to his establishing Living in the Light.
“I saw the need for collective healing for groups of people, and the strength and healing that can come from witness and solidarity.” Since its founding in 2012, Living in the Light has featured the experiences of more than 400 families and individuals living with over 60 rare conditions—from lysosomal storage diseases to degenerative brain conditions—empowering these people to be seen as people, not patients, and to be heard in their strength advocating for their needs.
“The education we were offered at Marlboro was interdisciplinary, dynamic, and original, and I’d say all those same qualities exist at Living in the Light,” says Levi. “But what I love most about the work we are bringing to the world is the people: abandoning fear in exchange for authentic and love-filled connection.”
Learn more at frompatienttoperson.com.
In August, MAIA SEGURA was awarded a silver award for her article in Vermont Business Magazine on treehouses, “tiny palaces in the sky, which offer the adventurous traveler a promised-for ‘something wild.’” The recognition came from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers, in their annual Editorial Excellence awards. Learn more.
In October, ALEX GARDNER gave a talk and reading on campus from his book The Life of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great, about a 19th-century Tibetan who forever changed the face of Buddhism by collecting, arranging, and disseminating the traditions of Tibet across sectarian lines. “One of my missions in the book was recovering Kongtrul’s humanity from all the legend and myth that has grown up around him,” Alex says in an interview on buddhistdoor.net.
“I’m still living in East Montpelier, Vermont, with my three goats, six chickens, aged yellow Lab, and beloved rescue dog,” writes BETSY UNGER. “Serious illness finally took me out of the English classroom after decades of joy. Four years ago, it got greedier and took me from the wide world altogether, leaving me primarily bed-bound but definitely unbowed. I still write poetry. I just had a piece published in the Bellevue Literary Review’s fall issue.”
JENNIFER WATSON writes, “After years of good and bad jobs, life lessons, and the devastating loss of my family’s home in Hurricane Katrina, I finally found my way to professional happiness and fulfillment. I now have my own small business as a jewelry artisan and children’s black-and-white photographer, and my incredible transgender daughter and I travel the state doing arts and craft shows together. I was even invited recently to become part of an artists’ collective called RAW: Natural Born Artists. I love being a fulltime artist, and my kiddo is the most amazing person I’ve ever met. In her I see that same independent, creative, nonconformist free spirit that embodied the people and the place that were Marlboro when I was there.”
“Mendel, Issac (now 4), and I moved to Issaquah, Washington, right outside of Seattle,” writes JANAN GUILLAUME. “I am with the same company, EagleView, but working now from our Bellevue office. I am falling in love with the Pacific Northwest.”
“Hey all from Portland, Oregon,” writes RADHA ROGERS. “I had the great pleasure of returning to Marlboro to visit last fall with several alumni friends. It was so great to see old friends and visit the school. My husband, Carlos, and I bought our first house. It’s been a few very exciting years. After 10 years as the middle school Spanish, cooking, health, and garden teacher at Portland Jewish Academy, I’m beginning a new job next month as the culinary arts teacher at the Durham Education Center, an alternative high school.”
In October, coffee entrepreneur DAGMAWI IYASU was on campus to make a presentation titled “Ethiopians: The Coffee People.” Dagmawi discussed the role of culture and technology in human resource and sustainable development, and of course coffee, followed by Q&A over a cup of awesome coffee. See the whole thing.
HEIDI WAGNER writes, “This fall I began a new position as the program coordinator for the online construction engineering and management MS degree in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. SD Mines is a pure STEM school, making it an interesting comparison to a Marlboro educational experience.”
TAMARA RAUSA-DONATELLI visited campus in February with her family. She writes, “I am originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and I chose Marlboro because I thought it would be an experience unlike anything else in my life. I was right. Academically and personally, I carry those experiences with me every day. Recently, I had a serendipitous encounter with another Marlboro graduate. I am an ER physician in Pennsylvania, and I was transferring a patient to a hospital in Philadelphia in the middle of the night. The physician I was transferring the patient’s care was STEPHEN “VLAD” HUNT. We were friends for years at Marlboro, worked as RAs together, only to be reunited 10 years later, seemingly randomly, in the care of others. Pretty amazing. I definitely took a bite off the apple from the Marlboro apple tree and am forever enamored with the college, the campus, and the people.
Desmond Peeples ’13: Community in Rural America
“Writing is everything to me,” says Desmond Peeples, who completed their MFA in writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts in January. “Good writing is good thinking. Good thinking becomes thoughtful action. Thoughtful action becomes a graceful life. That is what I love about writing—that when I stray from writing, I stray from the path, and when I return, it all returns with me.”
Desmond is the founder of Mount Island, the Brattleboro-based small press and literary magazine dedicated to creating space for the voices of rural LGBTQ+ and people of color to be heard on their own terms, and to finding solidarity in community. It is intended for anybody who wants to see rural America for what it really is, in all its diversity.
“It matters that we be together,” says Desmond. “That we’ve shared the same solitary path through the woods, the same pang of loneliness cut short by the gasp of beauty—crystal stream, bluebird, the green and gold canopy, life. That we can gather together as who we are, unbothered, and that we welcome others to raise their spirits in affinity—that matters.”
Although Desmond’s own work ranges from nonfiction to poetry, their current focus is in fabulist fiction. They are also the communications director for the Brattleboro Words Project, a community storytelling project backed by the National Endowment for the Humanities and local partners including Marlboro College. Desmond credits the rigorous research, clear writing, and dearness of community experienced at Marlboro with helping them in all of these endeavors.
Learn more at mountisland.com.
In January, KATE HOLLANDER visited campus to read from her first collection of poems, My German Dictionary, winner of the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. She writes, “The book grows out of my experiences as a student, scholar, and teacher of Central European history and culture. It is a guide to an idiosyncratic interior country, a map of the experience of absorbing and being absorbed by German language, culture, aesthetics, and history, a catalogue of small beloved things inflected by massive horrors.”
MATTHEW TEMPLE released his new movie, Hardball: The Girls of Summer, in September. The film follows five women of the US Women’s National Baseball Team as they battle for recognition and a gold medal in the Women’s Baseball World Cup. “It has been a true honor to be able to tell the story of these amazing women and their fight to play baseball,” says Matthew. The film had its theatrical premiere at the Women Sports Film Festival in San Francisco in September. Learn more at hardballfilm.com.
In November, ELIZABETH THEIS presented a short film that she wrote and directed as part of the fifth annual Ax Wound Film Festival in Brattleboro, the official film festival of Women in Horror month. The film, Lizzie Boredom, is about a reclusive sociopath who has convinced herself she’s a television star following a traumatic childhood. The festival also included a filmmaker Q&A hosted by ANNIE ROSE MALAMET ’12.
LILY SAGE is a permaculturalist, doula, and Montessori pedagogue/nature connection mentor who is interested in questions of symbiosis, intersectional feminism, and anti-racist/anti-fascist praxis. She has studied in the fields of herbalism, visual/performance art, anthropology, and political theory in Germany, Mongolia, and the US. She is most excited right now about presenting learning materials at the New Moon Mycology Summit, the prospect of filtering the Schuylkill River of petrochemicals using mycelial filtration, a mobile herbal free clinic, working on decolonizing school curriculums, and establishing abortion doula programs throughout her city.
In December, ANDRÉ PEREZ was on campus as an outside examiner and presented the documentary series America in Transition, which he directed and produced. The series explores relationships, community, and social issues with trans people of color. Killer Movie Reviews says, “America in Transition depicts the harsh realities of living in a transphobic society, but it refuses to surrender to despair.” Learn more at americaintransition.org.
“The Green New Deal (GND) exemplifies how democratic socialists can envision future commitments to economic justice,” writes KENTON CARD in an August paper in Jacobin titled “Bernie Should Declare Housing a Human Right.” He said, “The GND does not make the important connection between the climate crisis and where and how we build our homes.” Learn more.
ALICE PACKARD writes, “I have recently relocated to Los Angeles after three years working in the Chicago film community. I took advantage of the trip out west and did a 15-day road trip where I saw a handful of Marlboro alums along the way, including GREGORY MEYERS ’08, SAM LOWENTHAL ’09, SETH SEMPERE ’09, ALEXIA BOGGS ’13, SEAN PYLES ’13, and JOELLA SIMONS ADKINS ’12. It was really a great transition to my somewhat daunting adventure to see so many friendly faces on my way.”
After working in admissions at Marlboro since 2015, KARA HAMILTON accepted a position at Youth Services in Brattleboro, where she serves as a case manager for homeless and at-risk youth as well as managing the agency’s Transitional Living Program. “I am grateful to have experienced Marlboro as both a student and a staff member. It was an honor to serve alongside so many dedicated staff members whose work often goes unobserved.”
In October, writer and editor LEZA CANTORAL was on campus for a reading and conversation with philosopher Lindsay Lerman and philosophy fellow Casey Ford titled “From Somewhere to Nowhere.” Leza is editor-in-chief of Clash Books, which recently published Lindsay Lerman’s debut novel, I’m From Nowhere, and also host of the Get Lit with Leza podcast where she “talks to cool ass writers.” She is author of Trash Panda, a collection of poetry, and Cartoons in the Suicide Forest, a collection of short fiction, and the editor of Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath.
HENRY ROBINSON had two ceramic sculptures from his senior Plan show selected by Sunshine Cobb for the Clay Festival 2019 International Juried Exhibition, titled Current. Both works sold on opening night into private collections. He also had another sculpture selected for the Annual Rhode Island Open Exhibition in his new hometown of Warwick, Rhode Island, and was chosen as a ceramics resident for a micro-residency program at the Steel Yard, Providence, Rhode Island.
CLAYTON CLEMETSON and MARCEA MACINNIS ’05 are collaborating to create a three-week singing and cycling camp in Ecuador in June 2020. Marcea was Clayton’s leader during the 2011 Ecuador Semester with Kroka Expeditions, a “transformative experience” for Clayton that influenced his decision to pursue holistic education at Marlboro. “This collaboration is a dream come true,” says Clayton. “It is incredible to be working alongside Marcea eight years after I was her student, and it was especially exciting to realize that we shared a Marlboro education.” Learn more.
Sarah Pidgeon MBA ’18: Making Green Energy Accessible
For her Capstone project, Sarah Pidgeon worked with a nonprofit environmental organization called Solar One to support education on climate change in the New York school system. Since graduating, she has been promoted to co-director of programs at Solar One, providing green workforce training for adults and K-12 education centered around renewable energy and climate change.
“Solar One is an incredible organization to work for,” says Sarah. “With the recent passing of the Climate Mobilization Act in New York City, it is crucial that we make sure that renewable energy is accessible, and that all New Yorkers have access to high-paying jobs in the clean energy sector.”
Solar One’s workforce program collaborates with organizations that support individuals who are unemployed, underemployed, or who have been impacted by the justice system, offering them hard-skills training in green construction and solar installation. The organization’s K-12 education program provides career-focused, hands-on programming for high school students and professional development training for teachers to incorporate climate change and renewable energy into their classroom curriculum.
“My experience at Marlboro has really supported me as I have grown in my role at Solar One,” says Sarah. “The tight-knit community and focus on collaboration and systems really made an impact on how I approach my work and my life. I feel incredibly grateful for my experience at Marlboro and for all of my friends and the phenomenal faculty.”
Learn more at solar1.org.
STAN CHARKEY, music faculty emeritus, premiered a new work at the Brattleboro Music Center in September, titled “J/J,” for cello and string orchestra, written for his son and resident artist Jacob Charkey. “I wanted to write a piece for Jake that connects to his experiences in both the Western and Indian traditions,” said Stan. “It’s called ‘J/J’ for Jake and Juno,” he said, referring to the Juno Orchestra, which accompanied Jacob in the premier.
CAROL HENDRICKSON, anthropology faculty emerita, published an entry in the International Encyclopedia of Anthropology (Beyond Texts volume), edited by Hilary Callan, and published by John Wiley & Sons. Learn more.
JIM TOBER, economics faculty emeritus, led an August walk around campus titled “Potash Hill—The Years before Marlboro College,” on behalf of the Marlboro Historical Society. A group of 25 or so participants joined the walk, and compared historic photos of the land and buildings with their current appearance. They also walked to the site of a former sugar house, and speculated on the location of the original potashery, where potash was produced.
In August, former president ELLEN MCCULLOCH-LOVELL was appointed interim executive director of Vermont Studio Center (VSC), the renowned international artists’ and writers’ residency program in Johnson, Vermont. In her role, part of an initiative to reshape VSC for the future, she will manage and assess operations while working with the board of trustees to identify and hire a permanent executive director.
In January, JIM TOBER and CAROL HENDRICKSON had a two-person art exhibit at the Crowell Gallery of the Moore Library in Newfane. Jim suggested calling it “What Social Scientists Do after They Retire,” but they settled on “Bricolage.” It included many of Jim’s collages and some of Carol’s journals and artist’s books, several of which grew out of her artist’s residency at Everglades National Park.
In September, former theater professor GEOFFRY BROWN launched a website to make his full series of 120 dramatic monologues, titled “Quintessential Americans,” available free of charge for download and use by history and drama students. Learn more.
“I didn’t go outside often. Instead, I wrote, trying to contain the hunger for living, for real life, that literature stoked in me. I prowled the stairs to the top floor and back, hoping to ease this craving, to find inspiration without straying too far from my computer.” —Deni Béchard, My Favorite Crime
My Favorite Crime (Talonbooks, 2019), by Deni Béchard ’97, is a collection of essays that are at once personal and political. The first section describes Deni’s tumultuous relationship with his father (Potash Hill Winter 2013), while the second is long-form journalism, on topics ranging from children accused of sorcery and exorcised in Kinshasa to female vigilantes responding to rape culture in India. This is followed by a collection of dispatches from Afghanistan and a number of other countries. The final section includes essays on writing, especially the importance of political writing.
Code Name Madeleine: A Sufi Spy in Nazi-Occupied Paris (W.W. Norton, 2020), by Arthur Magida ’67, is the story of Noor Inayat Khan, a poet, musician, author, and undercover agent who invigorated the French Resistance. After outlasting most other radio operators, Noor tried to escape twice from a Nazi prison in Paris. Sent to Germany, she was shackled in solitary, then executed at Dachau. Code Name Madeleine brings to life this young mystic who wrote, “The heart must be broken in order for the real to come forth.”
My German Dictionary (Waywiser Press, 2019) is the first book of poems from Kate Hollander ’02 and winner of the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. Complementing Kate’s work as a historian, these poems are home to and haunted by the Great War, Bertolt Brecht, Rosa Luxemburg, enchanted bears, Weimar Berlin, and vanished relatives, along with an entire alphabet of mishearings, mnemonics, and valentines for the German language. “A book of startling, radiant images that ferry the poems to their destinations of discovery and illumination,” writes former Poet Laureate Charles Wright.
The Life of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great (Shambhala, 2019), by Alex Gardner ’92, is a historical biography of the 19th-century Tibetan teacher who forever changed the face of Buddhism. Known as the “king of renunciates,” Jamgon Kongtrul collected and disseminated the lineage traditions of Tibet at a time when the region experienced extreme sectarian and political divides, and his collections continue to be taught and transmitted throughout the Himalayas. Alex provides an accessible and intimate glimpse into the life of this important Tibetan Buddhist teacher.
Lines of Sight (Dorrance, 2018) is a debut poetry collection from James Pavlakis ’58. In poems ranging from witty to philosophical, personal to universal, rhymed and free verse to experimental, James observes or comments on the human condition with clarity and strength. Accessible, thought-provoking, Lines of Sight explores big topics while neither erecting barriers to comprehension nor dumbing it down. Kirkus Review says, “Alternating between traditional verse, heaped lines, and poetic structures…the author’s poems have a dynamism that’s similar to that of poet Ron Silliman’s The New Sentence.”
Complex Ecology (Cambridge University Press, 2018), edited by Charles Curtin ’86 (see page 8) and Timothy Allen, presents key research papers responding to new environmental challenges that defy quantifiable solutions. From climate change to species extinction, complexity-based ecology provides a new paradigm for ecologists and conservationists keen to embrace the uncertainty that is pressed upon us. The papers are set alongside first-person commentary from many of the seminal voices involved, and show how the shifting of wider perspectives allows new ideas to take hold.