Art Beat

Two powerhouse alumnae — actress Debra Messing ’90 and playwright Theresa Rebeck, M.A.’83, M.F.A.’86, Ph.D.’89 — are getting ready to partner up in prime time this fall. According to, NBC has picked up the contract for “Smash,” a new TV drama series about a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. The pilot episode, based on an idea by executive producer Steven Spielberg, was written by Rebeck. Messing, the Emmy Award-winning star of TV’s “Will and Grace,” has a lead role as the show-within-a-show’s lyricist. The cast will also include Angelica Huston (“Prizzi’s Honor”) and Katharine McPhee (“American Idol”).

In early May, BEAMS — the Brandeis Electro-Acoustic Music Studio — received a 2011 IBM Innovation Award. The award was given in recognition of the studio’s Electronic Music Marathon, a 12-hour concert of electronic and mixed-media musical works staged by BEAMS April 30 in conjunction with the annual Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Arts and the Boston Cyberarts Festival. The event was produced by music professor Eric Chasalow, director of BEAMS.

Budding artists hit the floor — and ceiling — in a show continuing at the Women’s Studies Research Center’s Kniznick Gallery through Sept. 23. The gallery’s first-ever student art exhibition, “Floors and Ceilings” features nine undergraduate and postbaccalaureate artists who reflect on floors and ceilings through the lens of gender — for example, showing how roles are defined through domestic space, or dealing with the metaphorical “glass ceiling.” Comments curator Michele L’Heureaux, “Floors and ceilings can represent structure or confinement. They can form homes or prisons.”

Professor Emeritus Martin Boykan, a teacher of music composition for more than 50 years, has been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Boykan’s appointment places him in the company of distinguished composers like Philip Glass, Gunther Schuller, Stephen Sondheim and Brandeis professor emeritus Yehudi Wyner, a 2006 Pulitzer Prize winner in composition. The academy also awarded Boykan’s former student John Aylward, M.F.A.’06, Ph.D.’08, a Goddard Lieberson fellowship. The prize, endowed by the CBS Foundation, is given to midcareer composers of exceptional talent. Aylward, a Clark University professor, released his debut album, “Stillness and Change,” this spring.

Two prominent alumni composers are being mourned by the Brandeis music community. Jack Gottlieb, M.A.’55, of New York, a prolific composer of sacred music who served as Leonard Bernstein’s assistant at the New York Philharmonic from 1958–1966, died on Feb. 23, and Peter Lieberson, Ph.D.’85, of Santa Fe, N.M., recently described in The New York Times as “a searching, inventive American composer,” died of lymphoma complications in April. For more information on both, see the “In Memoriam” section.