For centuries theatre has, in many cultures, been the only place where adults have been sanctioned to play and pretend with social “reality” and social possibility. It’s therefore not surprising that as the performance revolution emerges around the world performance activists are learning much from the theatre, even as theatre artists are discovering new developmental possibilities in performance that takes place beyond the stage.
Over the years, Performing the World has been a gathering that embodies and encourages this fruitful cross-fertilization, bringing together theatre artists and performance activists from other walks of life to demonstrate and talk about their work and to continue learning from each other. This week we look at some of the theatre created for and with young people that will be showcased and explored during Performing the World 2014.
Kathryn Bentley is an actor, director and associate professor in the Department of Theater and Dance at Southern Illinois University, who has served as the artistic director of the university’s Black Theatre Workshop since 2006. At PTW’14 she will share the creation of And the Verdict Is…A Campus Response to the Trayvon Martin Case and its impact on Evansville, Illinois where the university is located. Report on another university-based theatre project comes from Terri Ciofalo, an assistant professor of theater at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Kimberley Lynne, who teaches screen and playwriting at the University of Baltimore. Together they have, for the last three years, taken American college students to the politically and culturally divided city of Armagh, Northern Ireland to work with local residents to write plays that tell their own stories, in the process helping to build bridges between the city’s divided communities.
Youth theatre projects in the community being shared this year at PTW includes Macho Men, a theatre piece on masculinity devised by teenage boys in Belgrade that has been touring Serbia for two years. Vojislav Arsic, the founder and executive director of Centar E8, and his creative partner Milena Bogavac, will share that process of collective research, workshops and methodological games that transformed working class adolescents into performers, co-authors and advocates for gender equality and social change. Andrew Burton and members of his award-winning Street Spirits Theatre Company, a community-based youth theatre from British Columbia, will share their theatre-based workshop practice that helps young people work through the barriers that are holding them back from navigating the world more fruitfully.
Aaron Feinstein, who has created sensory friendly programming for children with autism and developmental disabilities at the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, will share the work of The Miracle Project that he directs and which creates original musical theatre written and performed by children, teens and adults with autism. Sanjay Kumar will report on the impact his performance workshops have had on the lives of adolescents who have been the victims of sexual abuse in Nithari, a slum on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, as well as its impact on the young middle class workshop facilitators. Taking the workshop as a starting point, his presentation looks at the cascading performances it sets off on all sides of the class and political spectrum.
Look for more PTW’14 highlights in upcoming weeks…
Education, the process by which our species passes along what we know, speaks loudly to Performing the World 2014’s (PYW14) theme, “How Shall We Become?” In most parts of the world, over a broad range of cultures, education has come to mean rote recital, memorization and testing—along with the repression of fun, play and performance. Thanks to the performance revolution bubbling up around the globe, that’s beginning to change—and some of these cutting-edge educational performances will be featured at PTW14.
Pointing out that women, working class people and people of color have been systematically excluded from mathematics, Susan Gerofsky, Peter Appelbaum, and Kathryn Ricketts, a trio of mathematical performing artists who hail from Canada, Brazil and the U.S., are leading “Performing Mathematics” during which participants will watch mathematical performance pieces, interact with the presenters, and approach performance as a key to opening up democratic access to math education. In a similar vein, Veronica Segarra, a cell biologist and genetics who founded ImprovLab, an improvisational theatre group for scientists at the University of Miami in Florida, will take a look at performance and play relative to science education. In her presentation, “Experimental Posters: Theatrical and Improvisational Tools Aid in Science Museum Outreach,” Segarra will share her work in experimenting with artistic approaches to science education.
Learning a foreign language by performing it before you know it, is the approach of Chileans Amalia Ortiz de Zárate, Andrea Lizasoain, and Katherina Walper who share their work with high school students in the small city of Valdivia who participated in a project, “Spanglish Theatre en Tu Colegio” in which they performed plays by contemporary British playwrights while they also took part in critical-thought activities in Spanish and English to help contextualize the plays and the language they were playing with. Improvisation as a means of foreign language learning will be presented by Mari Miyamoto in her workshop, “Let’s Play in Japanese!” in which participants will play improv games using Japanese words and phrases—and come out of the workshop knowing a little bit of Japanese.
Using songwriting as means of sparking creativity and a passion for learning in all aspects of high school education will be the subject of songwriter, singer and educator Mark Pagano’s session, “Stoking the Fire of the Creative Mind.” Using songs and stories, he will give an overview of a new songwriting curriculum that he developed for the public schools in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri and share how the program uses performance to spark curiosity and creativity in young minds—and beyond.
As this small sampling indicates, the rationalistic bias of traditional approaches to education, along with the separation of work and play that comes with it, is being challenged in a variety of performatory ways in many parts of the world. PTW’ 14 brings some of those experimenting with these innovations together, in the process providing a variety of responses to the question, “How Shall We Become?”
One of the exciting developments of Performing the World 2014 (PTW’14) is that a number of unplanned collaborative panels and workshops have emerged. As common themes and similar projects from different parts of the world became apparent, some presenters, with help from the PTW International Organizing Committee, have found each other and will be doing collaborative sessions with the potential to ignite more—and deeper—dialogue.
For example, Jeff Aron and Shulan Tien are community organizers and mental health activists, one based in New York City the other in Taipei, Taiwan. They both are involved with mental health projects that use inclusive, community-building approaches to address mental illness and the social isolation, poverty, criminalization and early mortality often associated with it. Aron is the Director of External Affairs at Fountain House, a center for people living with serious mental illness in New York. Sulan Tein is a former labor organizer who served as Executive Assistant to the Director of the Labor Bureau of the City of Taipei and who has, in recent years, been working as a consultant with various mental health groups in Taiwan. They each submitted separate proposals to PTW’14 and now will together lead a workshop, “Talking Mental Health: Beyond Causes and Cures,” where they will share their experiences and insights about how to get beyond a narrow focus on “cause/cure” and move toward creating environments for hope and development.
Another Taiwan-U.S. pairing at PTW ‘14 is between Powpee Lee, the director of the Lu-Di Community University in Taipei, and Marian Rich and Vicky Wallace, teachers at UX, the All Stars Project’s free school of continuing development in New York. Both schools, through innovative approaches to learning and development, serve a primarily adult, working class student body. While they originally submitted separate proposals, the combined session, “Two Innovative Educational Developmental Centers,” will include students from the two independent schools who will perform their development through film, song, poetry and improvisation. The students will tell of their adventures to become who s/he never thought s/he would be. They will explore what they have in common, what their differences in culture and pedagogy are, and what they can learn from each other.
An even more diverse group has come together in the “Muse and Mimesis” session to explore how traditional performance and culture can transform and/or provide alternatives to the assumptions of modernism/science/rationalism that have spread to every corner of the globe. Julie Vaudrin-Charette of Quebec, Canada will look at the use of indigenous narrative forms to help children with developmental challenges such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia. Sinethemba Makanya of South Africa will examine the problematics of Western drama therapy in the African context and the role that indigenous story telling can play in filling in the missing gaps. Babafemi Babatope from Nigeria will address the threat to traditional cultural wisdom that has helped to maintain social order in Africa, and advocate for the preservation and development of those elements of traditional culture that can help shape the process of our “becoming” in our postmodern, digital world of shifting identities. Fellow Nigerian Abiodun Olayiwola will look at the role of the traditional travelling theatre of the Yorubas in facilitating socio-cultural transformations while at the same time maintaining traditional identities in modernizing Nigeria.
The organization of these collaborative workshops and panels has already deepened the conversation between and among participating activists and scholars, and they embody one of the ways that PTW is “becoming”—more dialogic, collaborative and sharing.
The theme of Performing the World 2014 (PTW ’14) — “How Shall We Become?” — resonated! Nearly 200 proposals came to us from all parts of the world, from all kinds of people, from all kinds of communities. Most exciting was the way that nearly all the proposals focused on the how of becoming, whether the subject be the country of Botswana, the lives of people diagnosed with mental illness in Taiwan, the treatment of the environment in Peru, the relationship between the poor and the well off in the US, or the manner in which men are socialized in Serbia.
Acceptances are in. Visa letters have been sent to those who need them. Scholarships covering registration have been given out. Housing applications are being processed. Crowdfunding for some travel grants has begun, thanks to the PTW International Organizing Committee. You can donate here.
From October 10-12, 2014, PTW ’14 will have nearly 100 sessions from presenters from 30 countries.
How shall we become?
One of the ways is through laughter and smiles. Pioneering medical clown and people’s physician Patch Adams will lead a participatory workshop on the Saturday evening of the conference. Also clowning around will be Atay Citron, the founder of the University of Haifa’s full-time academic training program for medical clowns, along with Penny Hanuka, one of Israel’s Dream Doctors, and Karen McCarty of the Big Apple Circus. They’ll be presenting on the history and future of hospital clowning. Audrey Crabtree, founder of the New York Clown Theatre Festival and Tim Cunningham, director of Clowns Without Borders, will present on “The Presence of the Clown” (to be confirmed). Mary Fridley of the East Side Institute for Group and Short Term Psychotherapy and Marian Rich of the Castillo Theatre and UX will lead a workshop called “Laughing Matters: A Philosophical and Playful Approach to Creating Humor.”
Just a step or two away from humor is magic. “Magic As A Language for Social Change” is the title of the workshop that will be led by Carlos Lopez, the founder of the Smiling League, a Colombian foundation dedicated to bring smiles to the suffering and Tom Verner, founder of Magicians Without Borders, along with three of their magician colleagues. As they put it, “It’s not the magic we do; it’s what we do with the magic.”
Of course, we all know that music can be magical. Albert Oppenheimer, composer, educator and director of the People’s Music School in Chicago an El Sistema-inspired social change initiative providing transformative orchestral experience to children throughout the Windy City will be presenting.
Laughing, clowning, doing magic and making music are just some of the ways of becoming happening around the world and being shared at PTW ’14. For more ways of becoming and more performance activists who’ll be presenting at Performing the World 2014, keep an eye out for our next PTW ’14 News in a few weeks.
Performing the World (PTW) is as much a performance festival as it is a performance conference. PTW is full of performance in many forms—plays, one-person shows, storytelling, dance and music. Here’s a small sample of some performances we haven’t highlighted in previous newsletters.
- Performers Without Borders, a group of student actors from the University of Colorado, share their devised interactive shadow play, Energy Justice: The Musical, which uses solar powered lights and music by three-time Emmy Award winner Tom Wasinger. The play has toured schools in the Navaho Nation as part of an effort to bring clean energy to the 18,000 Navaho families living without electricity.
- The Proverbial Loons, the Castillo Theatre’s improvisational musical theatre troupe, perform during Performing the World, creating musicals based on interviews of audience members before your very eyes.
One Person Shows
- Renowned playwright and actor Carlyle Brown performs his one-man play about the madness of war—and the madness that surrounds it. Set in 1968, Therapy and Resistance tells the story of the Viet Nam War draft resistance movement and the attempts of one draftee to get a deferment as a manic-depressive schizophrenic with paranoid tendencies.
- South African-based Antonio Lyons’ one-man play We Are Here explores a diversity of male voices as they navigate their identities and societal roles relative to women, violence, HIV/AIDS, self esteem, parenting, etc.
- Joseph Galata, who has spent three decades working with former street gang members, teens with substance abuse histories, adolescents afflicted by violence, poverty, domestic and community abuse, presents a 30-minute performance piece based on a true story of a 15 year old boy incarcerated in an adult prison and executed in the Nevada gas chamber at the age of 17. The performance will be followed by an inter-active workshop, which focuses on the use of theatre, music, dance, media and literacy arts with children, teens, parents, and professionals to end the cycles of violence and crime that result in youth imprisonment.
- Stephanie Pulford, a doctorial candidate in mechanical engineering at the University of California Davis, and storyteller Paige Greco revisit the concept of narrative, and apply it to the format of a scientific talk. They will demonstrate how good storytelling makes scientific information more accessible and interesting to scientists and nonscientists alike.
- Avraham Kluger, a professor in the Organizational Behavior Unit of the School of Business Administration at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, will lead a story telling workshop, followed by a conversation about how storytelling can bringing strangers together, prevent violence and create bonds in schools, companies and organizations.
- New York City-based choreographer Gina Gibney shares her company’s model of utilizing movement to empower and heal women living in the domestic violence shelters. The workshop will include a performance of “Here to Tell” a dance that Gibney choreographed for Sandra Manick, a survivor and domestic violence mentor.
- A collaboration between jazz pianist Chris Reyman and dancer Sandra Hendrix-Lopez, “Perceptions” is a collection of three improvisational pieces that reflect on the relationship between performer and audience, as well as the transient nature of identity, society and reality.
- June Boyce-Tillman, Professor of Applied Music at the University of Winchester, will lead a participatory workshop in which the participants will collectively make music—approaching music through the experiencer/creator of the music rather than the music itself.
- Susan Parenti from the School for Designing a Society, based in Urbana, Illinois, will lead a workshop that starts with musical performance after which she invites the audience to respond—their suggestions incorporated there and then, as they becoming co-creators with the musicians of the musical piece.
There is no other gathering like Performing the World. It brings together people not only from all over the world, but from many different walks of life who are using performance to engage the world’s social problems. PTW is just five weeks away, so register now to make sure you can be there for this remarkable three-day worldwide rendezvous.
Housing the World
PTW 2012 Housing Committee is busy securing free housing for the hundreds of performance activists and scholars who will be attending. If you live in the New York metropolitan area and would like to host a performance activist or scholar from around the world details here.
Among a number of exciting international collaborations, here are three projects that will bring together North American and Rwandan theatre artists.
Children of Killers
Award winning playwright Katory Hall’s Children of Killers will be featured as an evening performance on Friday and Saturday October 5 and 6. Directed by Emily Mendelson, who has directed and created devised plays in both Rwanda and Uganda, the play will be produced by the Castillo Theatre in conjunction with its youth theatre, Youth Onstage!.
Children of Killers is about a group of teenage friends in a Rwandan village 15 years after the genocide. Many of their fathers are being released from prison where they have been serving time for their roles in the mass killings of 800,000 of their Tutsi neighbors. How are the young people—who have never met their fathers—going to deal with their return and how are they going to live with, move beyond or transform their blood soaked legacy?
Originally commissioned by the National Theatre in London and inspired by a trip to Rwanda in 2009 where Hall attended a genocide studies conference and spoke with victims and perpetrators of the genocide, Children of Killers was workshopped by Hall and National Theatre director Anthony Banks with Youth Onstage! students in 2010. It has gone on to eight productions in Britain and 40 productions in Portugal. This will be its American premiere.
Katori Hall comes to Castillo and Performing the World fresh from the Broadway triumph of The Mountaintop, her play about the last night of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, which starred Samuel Jackson and Angela Bassett, and from the premiere of Hurt Village at the Signature Theatre, a play set in the projects of her hometown of Memphis. The Mountaintop won the Olivier Award (London’s equivalent of a Tony) for best play in 2010. Hurt Village won the 2011 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Hall is a PONY (Playwrights of New York) Fellow at the Lark Theatre, a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers and of the Ron Brown Scholar Program. She’s a graduate of Columbia, Harvard and the Julliard School.
When Walls Come Down-TRUTH!
Another American-Rwandan collaboration comes to PTW 2012 in the form of The Anne Frank Project. The Project began with students from the Theatre Department of Buffalo State University in the United States and actors from the Mashirika Theater Company from Remera, Rwanda working to create a performance piece on genocide that could speak to both African and Western audiences. Together they devised When Walls Come Down-TRUTH! in which two “Annes”—one Jewish hiding from the Nazis and the other Tutsi hiding from Hutu extremists—both speak the words of Anne Frank. Some of the actors involved will share the process through which the play was created and the impact it has had on both Rwandans and Americans.
Rwanda: Drama and Theatre Education for Reconciliation and Development
Recently returned from a summer of performance activism in Rwanda, students in the Applied Theatre M.A. Program at the City University of New York (CUNY), will report on their multi-year project, “Rwanda: Drama and Theatre Education for Reconciliation and Development.” The program brings teachers and students from the CUNY Applied Theatre Program to Rwanda to assist students and teachers there in acquiring applied theatre skills. Led by Helen White (co-developer of the Program with Chris Vine), the group will share their work, focusing on the challenges of cross-cultural collaboration. White is also the award-winning director of the CAT Youth Theatre at the Creative Arts Team. CAT has performed at the United Nations, International Festivals, and International and National conferences, working with other youth theatres from Taiwan, Germany, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Zambia, India, Palestine, Nepal, Turkey, Brazil, and Poland.
The performance movement is emerging and impacting in virtually every corner of the world. The international scope of the performance turn in social change movements is reflected in the work of hundreds who will be traveling to New York City to share their work at Performing the World (PTW), October 4-7, 2012.
Here are some performance activists from the African continent:
Webogang Disele will share her work with the Mophato Dance Theatre exploring how performance can “interrogate and shift” representations of black women to allow them to claim their individual stories, thus challenging the dominate stereotypes found in much African culture.
Babafemi Babatope, a senior lecturer in the Department of Theatre Arts and Music at Lagos State University in Nigeria and his former student, Oluwatoyin Olufunke Omoniyi, will demonstrate Babatope’s successful transformation of his teaching through using a performatory methodology and share how that has opened up the creativity and development of his students.
Trudy Meehan, a senior lecturer at Rhodes University’s Department of Psychology in Grahamstown, documents an art project at a psychiatric institution that supported the “in-patients” to perform an alternative identity—that of “artist.” Exhibiting of the art created by the patient/artists became a performing, witnessing and re-telling ritual.
Also from Rhodes University, Alexandra Sutherland, a senior lecturer in Drama Studies, will discuss her recent performance project in a South African prison. She will “interrogate” her position as a white, middle class feminist running a theatre project within an all male prison and working with black, working class men, most of whom were convicted of rape.
Betsi Pendry is the director of the Living Together Institute, based in Johannesburg and active throughout Southern Africa. She will share scenes from a play called The Ritual, about the way forward for a national healing process in Zimbabwe. The workshop is designed as a springboard for dialogue, reflection and performance about the ways in which performance and play can promote healing.
From the Gulu District of northern Uganda, which has suffered twenty years of war, comes Pamela Angwech, executive director of the Gulu Women’s Economic Development and Globalization, a women’s rights organization committed to alleviating the human rights abuses that threaten women, children, and the fabric of entire communities. She will share her organization’s work using performance and the arts to help those traumatized by the war to develop into productive members of society.
From the Kampala District in southern Uganda, children from Hope for Youth-Uganda, led by Peter Nsubuga, will share how they use traditional music and dance to tell their stories, engage pressing community issues like resistance to the education of girls, malaria control, hygiene, preventing and living with HIV/AIDS, and family planning—as well as their work to bring a Ugandan version of the All Stars Talent Show into being.
Daniel Maposa is the director of the Savanna Trust, which brings theatre into the streets and villages of politically polarized Zimbabwe to create a space for dialogue and development. Maposa will share his work in the town of Wadzanayi, where performance helped restore relationships after the violence accompanying the 2008 election and allowed neighbors to begin working together again for the development of their community, despite their continuing political differences.
Among the hundreds of performing artists, community organizers, theatre workers, educators, scholars, youth workers, students, social workers, psychotherapists, psychologists, medical doctors, health workers, and business executives coming to New York City for Performing the World (PTW) are some the world’s most influential thought leaders and culture changers. Here’s a look at four PTW 2012 presenters who are shaping the performance world from the academy to the streets.
He’s a world famous Brazilian pianist who has recorded music from all over the world and performed in the most prestigious concert halls. But what’s unique about this virtuoso is his outreach to Brazil’s favelas and rural villages to organize and train young people as musicians. In 2007 Bratke created Camerata Brasil, a classical orchestra of young people from impoverished areas who have no academic musical training, with the objective of giving them a chance of making a living through music. To date, Camerata Brasil has toured over 30 Brazilian cities and around the world, including New York’s Carnegie Hall. Marcelo Bratke will be sharing his work—and his music—at PTW this year.
Diamond is mentor to thousands of performance activists striving to create theatre that engages performers and audiences in the active transformation of themselves and their communities. His “Theatre for Living” has its roots in Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, yet works to avoid the dichotomies of “Oppressor” and “Oppressed,” in favor of working with the totality of a community to develop an “emotional intelligence” that allows them to create something new together. He is the recipient of numerous theatre and human rights awards including an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Fraser Valley and the Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre. He’s the author of Theatre for Living: The Art and Science of Community-Based Dialogue, winner of the American Alliance of Theatre and Education 2008 Distinguished Book Award. At PTW David Diamond will be leading a workshop unpacking the basics of “Theatre for Living.”
A renowned French social psychologist, author and international consultant, Rojzman is the founder of Transformational Social Therapy, which works with large groups (in the hundreds) of people to talk through the ethnic, religious or ideological hatred that has historically kept them in violent conflict. This work has taken him to most European countries, the United States, North Africa, Rwanda and Central and South America, and fostered institutional and social change in education, social work, criminal justice, conflict resolution and reconciliation. Rojzman is a prolific author (How to Live Together is an English translation of one of his books). His work has been featured in the documentaries, “Charles Rojzman, thérapeute social” and “Listening to the Police” an inside look at a workshop with French National Police trainers. At PTW Charles Rojzman will demonstrate his approach and share the breadth of the work of the Institut Charles Rojzman.
Schechner has been a leader in American avant-garde and political theatre for four decades and is a founder and perhaps the most influential voice in Performance Studies. He toured the South during the Civil Rights Movement with the integrated Free Southern Theatre. He founded and was the artistic director of the Performance Group and in that capacity helped to create the practice of environmental theatre. In the 1970s, working closely with anthropologist Victor Turner, he brought into being the academic discipline of Performance Studies, which researches performance in everyday life and theorizes about its significance. Schechner is one of the founders of the Performance Studies department at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and is long time editor of The Drama Review, the world’s premier journal of Performance Studies. At PTW 2012, Richard Schechner will discuss with the Castillo Theatre’s Artistic Director Dan Friedman and others the relationship(s) between Performance Studies and performance activism.
Early Bird Registration Ends July 1!!!
Here’s a few of the 100+ presentations, workshops and performance coming to PTW 2012.
Daniel Maposa is the director of the Savanna Trust, which brings theatre into the streets and villages of politically polarized Zimbabwe to create a space for dialogue and development. Maposa will share his work in the town of Wadzanayi, where performance helped restore relationships after the violence accompanying the 2008 election and allowed neighbors to begin working together again, despite their continuing political differences, for the development of their community.
Ursula Carrascal Vizarreta will lead a performance/workshop of “Dance to Survive,” a performance created by children who live on a garbage dump next to the Rimac River in Lima. The children are part of the indigenous Cantagallo people and their dance builds on their people’s traditional culture while at the same time putting forward their demands for environmental clean up and their concerns about global climate change.
Chang Janaprakal Chandruang will bring students from the Moradokami Home School, which he leads, where every subject is taught through theatre and performance. They will perform a play they have devised and discuss how they have created a self-sufficient theatre community, which is now beginning to impact on Thailand’s educational system by bringing drama clubs into more than 40 Thai schools.
More of what’s in store as the summer progresses…
It’s been a privilege reading all the proposals! What a lot of creative work going on all over the world!
We’ll be highlighting presenters from now until October. If you’re a presenter, send us some news, including photos if you want, and we’ll get them up so people can see who you are and what you do.