In conversation with Hopkins Center Executive Director Mary Lou Aleskie, playwright Celeste Jennings ’18 discusses the creation of her play Citrus, which she developed during her time as a student. Jennings speaks on her personal experience with the arts at Dartmouth, and Aleskie shares details on the future of the Hopkins Center, which is currently undergoing renovations.
Mary Lou Aleskie assumed her role at Dartmouth College in April 2017. She is charged with leading the advancement of the Hopkins Center for the Arts and arts and creativity at Dartmouth. On campus she chairs the Provost’s Council on Arts Advancement and Integration. The hallmark of her efforts build on interdisciplinary projects linking the arts with humanities and sciences across campus and overseeing the evolution of the Hopkins Center as part of the development of Dartmouth’s Arts District. She came to Dartmouth from New Haven, where, since 2005, she was the director of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, an arts institution serving as a cultural bridge for Yale University and the region.
Celeste Jennings '18 is a costume designer and playwright. She’s currently an MFA candidate at NYU and is expected to graduate in spring 2023. She’s a child of southern drawl, of iced tea with just enough lemon, family reunions that last late into hot summer nights, round tables of relatives reminiscing the good ole days, and the sounds of their comforting laughter. She uses the language of her family to quilt love songs for Black people and invites them to stop and rest awhile as they refamiliarize themselves with the poetic diction of home. She loves to incorporate her unique perspective into her work and is particularly motivated to uplift and protect Black women as a writer and designer. Her dream projects evoke the past, present, and future and remind Black women that they are loved, that they’re soft, powerful, capable of resting, deserving of liberation, and that they are everything- that they always have been.
Most recently, her play ‘Bov Water was produced at Northern Stage, and she developed her play Contentious Woman with PlayCo. Selected work includes Citrus (produced at Northern Stage), and Processing. Lately she collaborated with JAG in a designer workshop for Urinetown and worked as an assistant designer on The Notebook. She’s grateful to her community of friends, family, and mentors for encouraging and uplifting her work and is excited to graduate soon and continue to learn and grow as a human being and artist.