Participant Profiles

 

YOUTH DEVELOPMENT / YOUTH THEATRE

CANADA

Andrew Burton — a longtime community theatre director and trained in psychodrama and drama therapy – works as a drug prevention counselor in British Columbia. In 1999, he founded the award-winning Street Spirits Theatre, a community theatre troupe made up of 25 active volunteers, ages 13-24 years, who travel throughout British Columbia performing interactive theatre that explores issues of drug addiction, racism, sexual exploitation, and family violence.

ETHIOPIA / JAMESTOWN, NY

David Schein, a veteran community theatre organizer, is the founding director of Awassa Children’s Project and the One Love AIDS Education Theatre in Ethiopia. Founded in 2002, the project creatively engages issues surrounding the AIDS epidemic in Ethiopia, where 1.5 million people live with the disease. Inspired by a group of young people who performed gymnastics in the streets, David helped direct and shape their performances to engage issues of sexuality and AIDS. The troupe was inspired to go beyond a didactic “teaching of information,” and instead looked to create a memorable experience – “theatrical gymnastics” — that could touch and impact audiences. Made up of young performers, the troupe travels across the country, going into refugee camps, sports stadiums, marketplaces and village squares – where they create circus-like spectacles, complete with virtuoso gymnastics.

KENYA

Pamela Ateka, a 30-year-old poet and youth worker, is from Nairobi, Kenya. in 2000, Pamela’s sister died from AIDS, leaving her nephew an orphan. In response to the growing number of children orphaned by the epidemic, Pamela founded “Community Focus Group” to address the material, emotional and developmental needs of these young people. The program currently has three staff and three volunteers who help some 50 young people, ages 7-14. Another 200 children are on the waiting list. Most of them, like Pamela’s nephew, are orphans and living with relatives. Pamela approached the Ford Foundation and other granting organizations, but as a newcomer with no previous experience in running a youth program, traditional funders turned her down. She then turned to her community for support — organizing fundraising events, where she would perform her poetry and tell stories. Soon she broadened her outreach — attending conferences and networking throughout Kenya and beyond.

With dozens of new supporters including many local businesses, Pamela was able to open the program in 2003. Pamela organizes clothing drives and has brought on partners who offer entrepreneurial, job training. Poetry and storytelling are part of the program’s staples, helping to “soothe the children’s souls.” Pamela is the author of Sing Africa Sing (Community Focus Group, 2004). Her co-presenters include: Charles Muthiora, Moses Manyara, Aggrey Mukolwe and Everlyn Rebbecca Ondiso.

NETHERLANDS

Elise Griede, who has a background in psychology and theatre, is a drama trainer with War Child Holland. Part of the world-wide relief organization, War Child, the Netherlands-based group provides medical, social and psychological support to thousands of young people in 11 war-torn countries. Trained at the Theatre School of Amsterdam, Elise has helped develop participatory theatre projects and trained teams working with children in Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Uganda, and Afghanistan.

SOUTH AFRICA

Kennedy Chinyowa is a post-doctoral research fellow in Theatre for Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He currently works with disadvantaged youths to stage community-based theatre performances.  Kennedy received his Ph.D. in Theatre for Development at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia and has published widely in scholarly journals such as Studies in Theatre and Performance (UK) and the Research Journal of National Drama (UK).

USA—New York / Connecticut

Jeff Smithson is an actor, improviser, corporate trainer and passionate proselytizer for the importance of play. Describing himself as “playing for a living,” he has a degree in clowning and physical theatre from the Ringling Clown College and the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theater.  Jeff is the Hospital Outreach Specialist at Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. The camp works with about 1,000 young people, ages 7-15, who are suffering from cancer and other life threatening illnesses. As outreach chief, Jeff travels to hospitals each summer with his “Camp in a Suitcase,” cheering young people too sick to participate in Camp. He is also a trainer with the improv-based executive training firm, Performance of a Lifetime.

Brian Mullin is a theatre director, teacher, and program manager for Youth Onstage! (YO!), the youth theatre of the New York City-based All Stars Project. The program offers young people (ages 14-21)

the opportunity to perform in plays that have something to say about the world and its future. A theatre scholar and director, Brian completed his undergraduate theatre studies at Yale and his graduate studies in Renaissance Drama at Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Brian will bring YO! Performers onto the PTW 4 stage to demonstrate the improvisational process they undergo to create their experimental theatre.

 

EDUCATION

BRAZIL

Dan Baron Cohen is an independent performance-based arts educator, cultural activist and freelance playwright, living and working in Brazil since 1988. Dan leads the International Drama/Education and Theater Association (IDEA) and is also the chair of the World Alliance of Arts Education. Founded in 1992, IDEA is a coalition of cultural activists working in 90 countries on a broad variety of projects, which encourage drama/theatre education and international dialogue on issues of human rights and peace. Dan and his co-presenter Manoela Souza will discuss how story-telling, dance, drama and collective improv techniques can be used to help transform schools, workplaces and communities into theatrical stages for cooperative and democratic learning.

DENMARK

Volker Bunzendahl, a self-described “hippie since 1976,” moved to Denmark from his native Germany to participate in a self-sufficient agricultural commune. Trained as a psychologist and Vygotskian educator, he is currently an associate professor and consultant at Norkjylland University. With a passion for creating ever-more developmental learning environments, he consults with public schools, helping teachers and students subvert the “normal” structure of the school day.  He works with the entire school community to stage “carnival days” — filled with music, poetry, theatre and “intentionally chaotic” role-reversals. With new friends from Performing the World 3, Volker facilitated a student-to-student conversation between young people in schools in Denmark, Macedonia and Argentina, who blogged, chatted, and exchanged online accounts of their performance activities.

 

USA – Georgia

Laurent Ditmann is vice principal at the International Community School in Decatur, Georgia.  Founded in 2002, the school houses 350, mostly war-impacted refugee children from 45 countries, who are referred from refugee resettlement organizations abroad. The school also draws from severely impoverished families in nearby counties. The school provides a basic K-6th grade curriculum, with a strong theatre and arts component. Laurent and co-presenter Jennifer Green will report on the school’s performance-based activities.

 

BUSINESS / ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

AUSTRALIA

John Findlay is an entrepreneur and educator based in Sydney, Australia, and the founder of the consulting company, Zing. Zing helps corporate and organizational clients (including school districts around the world) use wireless keyboard technology to facilitate group collaboration and creativity.  A Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wollongong, John has explored the work of Lev Vygotsky and other activity theorists to invent and envision hi-tech, electronic learning environments where teams can actively create new knowledge, work collaboratively, make better decisions and learn faster.

USA – New York

Kat Koppett — a business consultant, author and talented improv performer — is the training director for the Albany-based Mop & Bucket improvisational theatre company and consulting firm. Mop & Bucket creates customized improvisational performances for businesses and organizations looking to enhance workplace creativity, teamwork, communication and collaboration. Kat is also a trainer with the improv-based executive training and consulting firm, Performance of a Lifetime.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

BRAZIL

Edmilton Reis is the captain of the Police Department in Bahia, Brazil. A graduate of the Military Police Academy and a student of public relations, Reis spearheaded an innovative educational project to impact on the historically negative reputation of the Bahia police. Called the “Learning Organizations Project,” police officers go into the community and host conversations to help allay citizens’ suspicions and fears about police corruption and brutality. The participating officers work to introduce themselves as “real people,” and share their commitment to public safety and to positive social change.

Co-presenters include: Regina Lucia Portela, Heloisa Helena and Soares Dias.

SERBIA

Vera Erac, a psychologist and community activist working with the Roma (Gypsy) community, is a post-graduate student in Social Psychology at the University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Philosophy. As a field organizer in the public schools, she has developed performance-based programs that engage the exclusion and marginalization of Roma (Gypsy) students. An NGO activist, she devotes her time to the Society for Protection and Improvement of Mental Health of Children and Youth. Vera and a multi-national panel of co-presenters and International Class alumni (Kerstin Gauffin, Rebecca Widom, Syed Mizanur Rahman, and Kate Stauffer) will share their look at the “Global Village: Growing the Seeds of the Institute’s International Class.”

SOUTH AFRICA

Betsi Pendry, a social therapist and community organizer since the late 1980s, is the founder and director of “The Living Together Project” in Johannesburg, South Africa. With a Masters Degree in Public Health from Columbia University and a performance background as a dancer, Betsi has brought an artistic, cultural/performatory approach to helping communities to live with relatives and neighbors who have HIV/AIDS.  Betsi and co-presenters Stompie Selibe, Fanito Masike, Ice Ngubane, Chiliza Nkabinde will present an overview of the Project, discussing how it uses cultural activities to encourage community activism, constitutional education, and crime prevention.

 

 

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