For our final newsletter, we preview two plenary sessions taking place onSaturday, September 24. Each takes a different look at some of the ways people have “come to performance” as a means of engaging social, political and cultural ills and generating personal and communal development and power.
Featured are three intellectual pioneers of the performance turn and two young performers from Youth Onstage!, the performance school and youth theatre of the All Stars Project (ASP) in New York City. Shashorna Bailey and Starshima Trent, who came to performance through the All Stars and performed last year in the Youth Onstage! production of Antigone (photo by Ronald L. Glassman), will interview Kenneth Gergen, Lois Holzman and Richard Schechner on the trails they have blazed-from theatre, anthropology, psychology and political activism-to understanding performance as a powerful creative force for the human race.
Kenneth Gergen is a social psychologist, professor at Swarthmore College and President of the Taos Institute. He is a major figure in social constructionist and relational views of people, organizations and social change, and a promoter of performative psychology. Lois Holzman is a developmental psychologist and director ofthe East Side Institute. With the late Fred Newman, she developed social therapeutics-an approach to human life in which play, performance and group creativity are the engines of development and social-cultural change. Richard Schechner is a founder of the field of Performance Studies. He is a Professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, the editor of The Drama Review, and a cutting edge theatre director. His scholarly and theatrical works are studied and performed the world over.
The All Stars Variations
The All Stars Project, co-host of PTW ’16 along with the East Side Institute, is a 35-year-old non-profit organization that uses the power of performance to help young people and poor communities develop. This plenary looks at its origins, current practices and some of the programs it is inspiring. The session features ASP co-founder Lenora Fulani and ASP President and CEO Gabrielle Kurlander, sharing the ASP’s historical roots in community organizing in NYC’s poorest communities and bringing us up to 2016-as Fulani leads a conversation with students of the ASP’s developmental school UX, on the displacement of the poor in the City and how, despite the worsening conditions of poverty, people can continue to grow and develop.
Adding to the 2016 landscape, Pam Lewis, the All Star’s Vice President of Youth Programs and Center for Youth Program Expertise, will lead a discussion among leaders whose youth programs were inspired by the ASP’s approach. Hailing from two US cities and three other countries, the speakers are: Jorge Burciaga-Montoya, Co-Founder, El Centro Fred Newman para la Terapia, Cuidad Juárez, Mexico; Chantelle Burley, Co-Founder, All Stars/London, U.K.; Murray Dabby, Director, Atlanta All Stars Talent Show Network, Atlanta Georgia, U.S.A.; Domonique Edwards, Director, Community Play!/All Stars, Greensboro, North Carolina, U.S.A.; and Yuji Moro, Founder, Japan All Stars, Tokyo, Japan. They will discuss their origins, methods, commonalities and differences, and how performance is empowering the young participants in their programs.
We are pleased to welcome Antanas Mockus to PTW ’16. A Colombian mathematician, philosopher, politician and artistic activist, Mockus was Mayor of Bogotá from 1995 to 1997 and from 2001 to 2003. While in office, he created the revolutionary pedagogic-artistic oriented Citizenship Culture approach, whichreduced homicide rates by 40% and improved citizens’ trust, engagement and coexistence. In “Peace, Performance and People’s Power,” Mockus will be joined byJacqueline Salit, president of independentvoting.org, and advocate for the rights of independent voters, for an interview and conversation — taking place in the midst of the hard won peace pact in Colombia — on the role of performance, culture and forgiveness in creating new roads to peace, progress and power for the dispossessed.
Returning to the US from one of the dozens of clown trips he leads each year to hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes and impoverished communities,Patch Adams will premier a new workshop at PTW ’16. The renowned speaker on wellness, laughter, humor and health care will lead “Earth: Zones of Proximal Development, Life in Servant-Leadership.” Patch invites you to experience “Birthing revolutions so happy they can be scary — through thinking and desiring — then exploding in doing, and having lots of fun along the way! There will be lots of doing — maybe even a little misbehaving? Please wear comfortable and relaxing clothes to play in — Alice in Wonderland costumes a plus! And bring something of yours to give to someone in the workshop!”
Performing the World 2016 will also feature performance activists working in refugee camps in Greece, Serbia and Germany. “Creating New Performances With the Refugee Crisis” features session organizer Elena Dina Boukouvala, a performance activist based in Thessaloniki, Greece and London, U.K., who has been working in refugee camps in Greece. With young people in the camps from Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, Elena has organized women’s groups, led cosmopolitan trips out of the camps, and produced multicultural performance events. Masa Avramović and Nina Stamenkovićare co-founders of C31-Centre for Developing Children’s Rights Culture(C31). With support from Save the Children, C31 is creating programs-“spaces of the possible”-with
children in refugee camps and safe spaces in Serbia. Shelley Cheung, is a freelance video and broadcast producer from New York currently visiting refugee camps in Germany and Greece creating a documentary, “She Is Syria,” that will tell the stories of Syrian refugee women and girls. Producing the documentary is Sarah Mardini, a former Syrian national swimmer and human rights activist now based in Germany. She is the founder of Refugee Club Impulse, a fluid and self-organizing team of refugees who work together to introduce themselves and bring, through theatre, new ideas to the countries where they now live.
STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) might seem like a foreign land for play and performance. Not so for the members of the panel, “The Power of Building Community Performance in STEM.” Organized by Raquell Holmes, a cell biologist who founded and directs improvscience, the panelists include: Carlos Castillo-Chavez, the Director of STEM Programs for
Underrepresented Minorities at Arizona State University; Roscoe Giles, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Boston University; and grassroots educator, community activist and co-founder of the All Stars Project, Lenora Fulani. They will share their work opening spaces for youth and adults in poor communities to participate in the performance of science.
Jess Pillmore, co-founder and artistic director of Creatively Independent based in Austinville, Virginia, USA, presents “Ensemble Devising: Art Education’s Secret Weapon.” The session grows out of her 20 years of experience devising theatre with students from pre-kindergarten to graduate school to engage creatively with their school’s curriculum.
Esben Wilstrup is the co-founder of Efterskolen Epos, a boarding school in Augustenborg, Denmark now entering its second year. At this school, students ages 15-17 learn the state’s mandatory curriculum entirely through storytelling, play, adaptive computer programs and role-playing games. In his session, “Help Us Change the School System,” Esben will ask participants to come up with creative responses to the hard questions and dilemmas raised in bringing this performance-based school into existence and explore how to leverage the work at Efterskolen Epos to change the larger educational system, both in Denmark and other nations.
“(Re) creating Learning and Development in Higher Education with Play, Performance and Improv” showcases the work of innovative scholar/educators who work to turn their classrooms and seminars into performance spaces. The presenters, from different countries and academic disciplines, are: Marleah Blom, from Concordia University of Montréal, Québec, Canada; Celiane Camargo-Borges from the NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences in
Breda, the Netherlands; Carrie Lobmanof Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA; Jim Martinez from the New York Institute of Technology in New York City, USA; and Tony Peronefrom the University Washington, in Tacoma, Washington, USA.
Saliha Bava from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York, USA will explore related territory in “Play-Oriented Pedagogy: A Pathway to Student Engagement,” an interactive workshop that explores the value of improvisation in teaching and learning in higher education.
Given that Performing the World was launched in 2001 by the East Side Institute for Group and Short Term Psychotherapy, where social therapy was developed, it’s no surprise that emotional development and performance has been a continuous thread in all PTWs, and 2016 is no exception.
Social therapy will be featured front and center in a live performance of a social therapy group. Christine LaCerva, director of the Social Therapy Group in New York City, USA, and Barbara Silverman, whose practice includes leading online international social therapy groups, will bring their clients together on stage at PTW, for a session that will focus on “embracing the power of group performance.”
Joan Hock, the Cultural Arts Coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati, in Ohio, USA will be joining Dr. Susan Massad and Mary Fridley of the East Side Institute in New York City, USA to lead a workshop, “Can We Create a New Performance of Dementia?” They will look at the role of arts-based activities in helping people with dementia, and those impacted by it, to continue to grow and develop. Also investigating the subjectivity of dementia, Mayra Stergiou’s, a physical theatre performer and puppeteer from London, England will be presenting a puppet performance “Performing Dementia” which explores, “the inner reality of a person living with dementia.”
Lebogang Disele, currently pursuing her doctorate at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta Canada explores the lived experience of womanhood in Botswana. Her presentation reflects on the process and outcome of a devised performance, Being, which explores the effects of mental health on women empowerment, and uses acting techniques to teach women and other marginalized groups to equip them to better handle difficult situations.
In “Performing a Performance of a Performance” Jared French, a counseling psychologist at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada, will lead participants in performing excerpts from actual family therapy sessions to demonstrate how therapy can be used to create conditions for people to, “engage in performances that are beyond themselves and further create who they are becoming.”
Our next newsletter will look at the interplay between education and performance at Performing the World 2016.
Africa will be represented at Performing the World 2016 (PTW 2016). We are currently expecting to have nine sessions – three from Nigeria, three from South Africa, two from Botswana and one from Uganda.
The Street Project Foundation from Lagos, Nigeria-represented by Rita Ezenwa-Okoro, Adeyinka Adegbayibi and Eduvielawhe Ogoro – will return to PTW for the second time. This year they’ll be reporting on their “Creative Boot Camp,” which uses performance to help young people from poor communities connect to mainstream society, seek and find jobs.
Allison Green of Johannesburg, South Africa works at the National School of Arts and Creative Voices, an integrated arts initiative associated with the Royal London Opera. She will share the impact of a project, funded by Rand Merchant Bank, that offered 5,000 children from poor communities a chance to experience the production of War Horse.
Yvonne Sliep from Durban and Lynn Norton from Klienmond will report on their work using storytelling and narrative theatre to help young refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo living in South Africa create personal and collective power in their new country.
Mmakgosi Kgabi, a physical theatre and improv performer and facilitator from De Deur, South Africa who has worked with Causing a Scene, Performance of a Lifetime and Clowns Without Borders, will present a one-person show, “Shades of a Queen,” about the anxieties of being gay in Africa.
A similar theme will be explored by Katlego K Kolanyane-Kesupile of Francistown, Botswana. Kolanyane-Kesupile is a trans artist who was named a British Commonwealth 2016 Young Leader and is also a winner of a 2015 Writivist Award by the Center for African Cultural Excellence. (A “writivist” is a writer/activist.) Her performance, “Afri-Queer Now” portrays “the experiences of indigenous Sub-Saharan Queer lives” and also looks at the transgender dialogue in the African context.
Fellow Botswana, Lebogang Disele, now pursuing a Ph.D. in Performance Studies at the University of Alberta in Canada, will be performing a devised piece on the “lived experience of womanhood in Botswana.”
Peter Nsubuga, who is based in rural Uganda, not far from the capital of Kampala, has attended every Performing the World since 2008. He is the founder of Hope for Youth-Uganda, which uses performance to engender “a lifelong commitment to active citizenship.” This year, Nsubuga will be presenting along with two collaborators whom he initially met through PTW and the Institute’s International Class – Kristen Bodiford, from Glencoe, Illinois, Principal of Community Strengths, and Celiane Camargo-Borges, a faculty member at Breda University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands. Their topic is “Collaborative and Participatory Research to Create New Possibilities in the World.” In addition, Nsubuga will be a part of “The All Stars Variations” a presentation on programs inspired by the All Stars Project in countries as diverse as Uganda, Japan and Mexico.
From its inception a month after the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, Performing the World (PTW) has been international in scope and spirit. Bringing together people from different parts of the world and exposing them to each other’s cultures, worldviews and performance practices has been a fundamental part of what PTW is about. This year, as presenters from 24 countries grapple with the question, “Can We Perform Our Way to Power?,” this internationalism takes on even more significance. PTW 2016 will have presenters from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. Let’s look at some of the PTW 2016 presenters from Latin America.
Ursula Carrascal-Vizarretta from Peru and Guillermo Terrisoto from Argentina will share their work creating music and dance with children who live in environmentally contaminated areas of Lima and elsewhere. In their workshop “Hope,” they will share the live music and creative processes through which they are empowering children to play and perform in even the most poisonous environments.
From Brazil, Fernanda Liberali and Maria Cecilia Magalhaes, both professors of Applied Linguistics at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, will share their experience-amidst the economic development and political turmoil of the last decade-to shake up traditional approaches to primary education by bringing Vygotskian-inspired, performance-based approaches to learning into Brazil’s educational system.
Tom Verner, the founder of Magicians Without Borders, who is based in Vermont, USA, and Carlos Lopez, the founder of The Smiling League, based in Bogota, Colombia, and three young people from Colombia and El Salvador – Esteban Carrillo, Tamara Jimenez and Manicela Medina – will lead a conversation, “Empowering Youth by Performing as an Entrepreneur.” They will share their experiences performing magic on the streets of Bogota and San Salvador and how they were able to turn this playful activity into a means of making a living.
Mexico will be represented by three presentations at PTW. In “Performance as a Tool to Empower Students at the University Level” language professors Maria Guadalupe Talavera, Vilma Zoraida del Carmen Rodriguez Melchor, and Gabriela Scartaascini Spadaroof the Universidad de Guadalajara, will share their use of performance in the classroom to teach language and expand the cultural horizons of their students. Armando Justo, originally from Mexico City, now living in Washington, D.C. where he works for an international development organization, will report on the lives of young adults who are neither employed nor in school and socially isolated. He will share how utilizing a performance-based approach to development can help these young people reinitiate their growth. From Ciudad Juárez, Jorge Buriciaga-Montoya and Miguel Eduardo Cortes-Vasquez, founders of the Fred Newman Center for Social Therapy, will share their working in building relations with other grassroots organizations to bring into being “a community of performance and growth” in the face of the city’s endemic violence.
The next PTW Newsletter will look at some of the presenters coming from Africa.
The call for proposals for the ninth Performing the World gathering – “Can We Perform Our Way To Power?” – casts a wide net. We hoped to reach all kinds of people in all kinds of places whose work addresses the questions, “How is power created?” and “What are the limitations and where are the opportunities for ordinary people to exercise power?”
We were not disappointed. We received proposals from people whose work involves performance as an alternative modality to “knowing” and “authority,” from those who are trying out performatory approaches as an alternative tool for social justice and progressive political change, and from those who address through performance-based practice the social exclusion of particular groups and communities.
PTW 2016 is an opportunity to explore, play with, learn about, and network with these performance activists and-together-share ways that performance can develop individuals and communities and generate power. Over the three days of PTW, September 23-25, there will be plenary sessions, demonstrations, workshops, stage performances and panel discussions – 100 in all from two dozen countries.
This newsletter provides a glimpse of a wide range of topics and types of presentations. Future newsletters will explore particular approaches to and areas of performance activity and research to be presented at PTW 2016.
The Sign Language Theatre Laboratory Ebisu based in Haifa, Israel, led by Atay Citron, has developed a form of visual theatre that is aimed at both the deaf and hearing spectators, thus empowering the deaf community to “speak” across the hearing/deaf border. They will be bringing their first theatrical production, It’s Not About Ebisu, hailed by audiences and critics in Israel, to PTW 2016.
Yuji Moro, Hirose Takumi, and Shuta Kagawa from Tokyo, Japan will look at “Exercising power through changing the mode of exchange.” They describe their participatory research in building a youth development community in Tokyo as a challenge to the assumptions of our getting culture. For them, exchanging goods is not only material transaction; it is also an intercourse of emotionality. They will illustrate the usefulness of the idea of modes of exchange for empowering young people and their adult supporters.
Building a place for young people in Japan
The threat of discrimination and lack of traditional support networks and health care often force LGBT seniors back into the closet at a time when their experience and creativity could be a source of pleasure, vitality and power. Bruce Bierman and Mark Salyer, co-artistic directors of New Stages will share in “New Stages: Creating Theatre For, By and With LGBT Seniors,” how performance and theatre has helped to empower LGBT seniors in Los Angeles and Oakland, California.
My Daddy, a devised theatre piece by Vojislav Arsic, Milena Bogavac and Ivan Stoljjlkovic, of Belgrade, Serbia, explores what the performers’ fathers did during the civil war that destroyed Yugoslavia in the 1990s and how that history has impacted emotionally and politically on the next generation. In exploring their very personal relations with their fathers, the performers open up questions of history and power and how one moves on and grows when your country is dissolving around you.
Ka Kalanyane-Kesupile from Botswana poses the question, “What does it look, sound or feel like to be Queer in Africa today?” The session portrays the experiences of indigenous Sub-Saharan Queer livelihoods – the injustices, abuses, milestones and triumphs that the international community struggles to understand.
The PTW International Organizing Committee is raising travel funds. Please visit their Indiegogo page, make a contribution, and spread the word to help them reach their goal.