Debra Granik '85
Sebastian Mlynarski
Debra Granik '85

“Stray Dog,” a documentary about Vietnam veteran and RV park owner Ron Hall — the latest project of film director/writer Debra Granik ’85 — premiered on the PBS series “Independent Lens” in November. The film received a rave review in The New York Times (“Ms. Granik’s tact and curiosity are remarkable”), and in June it was named Best Documentary Feature at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Granik’s 2010 film “Winter’s Bone” earned actress Jennifer Lawrence her first Oscar nomination.

Soprano Tony Arnold has been named the 2015 recipient of the re-launched Brandeis Creative Arts Award, which brings her to the university for a yearlong residency. Arnold “is a highly inspirational figure and a dynamic force that propels the creation and performance of 21st-century music,” says Yu-Hui Chang, chair of the music department. Composers who have written major works for her voice include Georges Aperghis, George Crumb and Philippe Manoury, as well as Eric Chasalow, dean of Brandeis’ Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

The Washington Post’s roundup of the 10 Best Books of 2015 turned out to be one-fifth Brandeisian. Two alumni authors — Margo Jefferson ’68, for her memoir “Negroland” (see this issue's feature story), and Marc Goodman ’87, for “Future Crimes,” a nonfiction look at the terrifying world of cybercrime — made the top 10. According to the book reviewers who compiled the select list, only “exceptionally rewarding” volumes made the cut.

Grab some balloons, and affix your party hat — the Brandeis arts community celebrates a pair of milestone birthdays this year. The MusicUnitesUS world-music series is enjoying its 10th anniversary. It brought Kinan Azmeh, a clarinetist and composer from Syria, to campus this fall; an exploration of Korean gugak is scheduled for the spring. And the Spingold Theater Center marks its 50th anniversary. Productions there in 2015-16 include an updated version of “Macbeth” in December and “Intimate Apparel,” by Lynn Nottage, in March.

Lights, camera, roll the presses? Eileen McNamara, longtime Boston Globe columnist, Pulitzer Prize winner and current professor of the practice of journalism at Brandeis, appears as a character in the feature film “Spotlight,” which tells the behind-the-scenes story of the Globe’s coverage of the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal. Boston actress Maureen Keiller (“Fever Pitch,” “Olive Kitteridge”) plays McNamara on-screen.

The author of “Silent Spring” bursts into life in song. Siblings Jared ’11 and Jessie Field ’13 have penned “Rachel,” a new musical based on the life of biologist and nature writer Rachel Carson, which premiered in July at New York’s Fresh Fruit Festival. It follows Carson as she struggles for success in the male-dominated field of biology and ultimately chooses to take a stand for the earth, jeopardizing her career and her relationship with another woman. Jessie wrote the musical’s book and lyrics, and Jared wrote the music.

Joshua Louis Simon and Jeff Arak, both ’07, have made a short film about their friend Tessa Venell ’08 and her remarkable recovery from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a 2006 car crash on a rural Maine road. Simon produced and Arak directed “Then and Now,” viewable on YouTube at They hope someday to make a full-length documentary about Venell, who was profiled in Brandeis Magazine’s Spring 2011 issue. Venell mentors TBI patients and families, and is working on a book about her life.