Creating Spaces for Change
October 26, 2022
November 2, 2022
Building an Action Plan
Discuss expectations and hopes for the series and pages 27-34 of bell hooks'Teaching to Transgress.
Discuss pages 35-40 of bell hooks' Teaching to Transgress
Discuss pages 40-44 of bell hooks' Teaching to Transgress
Reflect on previous conversations in order to create a list of hopes, a list of executable actions, and begin a plan to implement change.
I have performed and trained all over the world. As a result, I feel more at home in Istanbul than I do in rural Wisconsin. My work and travels have fostered a deep understanding and need for what adrienne maree brown calls “biodiversity”: an ecosystem whose vitality is created and sustained by difference. In a country and industry that rewards sameness, I choose biodiversity and I choose to support and advance it in my teaching and creative work.
My commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is defined by my time at Odin Teatret, living, training, and performing with artists from thirty different countries. What I experienced at Odin was the kind of inclusive environment that I create for and with my students: spaces where all voices are heard, all cultures and experiences are valued, and diversity is the norm not the exception.
Teaching: A Pedagogy that Centers and Celebrates Underrepresented Artists
My commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access
I want to reduce the barrier of representation in the arts by making sure that students see themselves in the artists we study. As I continue to decolonize my classroom, I foreground the work of the most marginalized artists-female and global majority artists. In my Fundamentals of Acting classes, students read Anna Deavere Smith’s Letters to a Young Artist, perform plays from Susan-Lori Parks’ 365 Days/365 Plays, and engage in components of Jeungsook Yoo’s Korean Approach to Actor Training.
I spearheaded and succeeded in curriculum reform to change the name and scope of “Period Acting” to “Global Acting Styles,” in the coming years, to include practices and narratives of the global majority. When teaching heightened text and period work, I include my work in Noh performance to allow students to experience a codified form of acting, truly poeticized performance, and practice listening with their whole body/mind. I also incorporate essays from Black Acting Methods and discuss issues of race, representation, and white privilege that exists in Shakespeare and Period Acting practices. We discuss examples of industry professionals who challenge narratives of “white excellence,” and I invite students to voice how they will champion the inclusion of race, ethnicity, and lived experience in the rehearsal room when they work on “Period” productions.
Service: Creating Departmental Dialogue
I was inspired to action after reading bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress. I realized that cultural conversations around representation, privilege, difference, cultural identity, and race must accompany the addition of artists of color to my syllabi. I also wanted to continue the conversation in my department and engage my colleagues and all department students in bell’s writing to foster cultural change. As a member of the Advocacy, Allyship, and Access committee in my department, I created a conversation series in which students and faculty discuss hooks’ ideas and ask the hard question: What is keeping us from moving forward towards a multicultural community? Over the course of this academic year, we have had/will have some complex conversations and end the year with an idea jam session in which we make an action plan for things to implement next year. After consulting with university and local diversity and equity personnel, we began the series this September with an Empathetic Discourse session.
Creative Research: Making work that Challenges Oppressive Constructs
In the spring of 2022, I created As We Climb with twenty students at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Our research centered on the work of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, adrienne maree brown, bell hooks, Justin Baldoni, Shiuan Butler, Emi Koyama, and many other global feminist activists. The students were tasked with readings from these activists and through guided discussion they arrived at the show’s central question: Why are we so afraid of Feminism's invitation to honor the full humanity of all individuals and end systemic oppression? They then created characters and a narrative that allowed us to address gender inequities and oppressive sexist and racist ideologies. The production ran during Women’s History Month, and I collaborated with faculty from Women’s and Gender Studies to create a talk back panel and questionnaire following the production. This gave students an opportunity to reflect on the challenges of their work and the value of the questions they were asking. It also provided data on the production’s effectiveness in asking it’s dramatic question and broadening perspectives on feminism, race, culture, power, and gender.
Listening to and Honoring ALL VOICES
I continue to deepen and widen my knowledge through workshops and trainings; in the spring of 2023, I will complete an Inclusive Excellence Certificate Program with UWSP. Informed by these trainings, I look at my positionality in addition to my privilege. Now, I am careful not to appropriate or tokenize members of the global majority in my teaching and theatre making. Most importantly, I approach others, my work, and myself with more patience and humility as we ALL try to navigate our way through a world that rewards sameness. I remind myself and my students that to be treated with respect and dignity is our birthright. Ultimately, I foster diversity and inclusion by trying to walk the path with students, meeting them where they are, and listening to where they want to go.