I interpret my role at Goddard as both guide and fellow traveler, an ally in intellectual adventure and active exploration. A crucial part of my job is to facilitate the defeat of the self-censor, to help quash the negative inner voice Schiller called the “watcher at the gates of the mind” that examines ideas too closely, stifling the creative or expressive or investigative process before it can even begin. I try to engage in our program's interdisciplinary “conversation” in the most progressive (and rigorous) way possible – to challenge, encourage and assist in the kind of discovery that leads to inspiration, creation and action. I believe Goddard, through the students drawn to our programs and the work they take out into the world, is making a positive and critical difference.
I’m a writer, director, performer, activist – my current areas of inquiry include approaches to community-created performance; the dynamics of international arts collaboration; insider/outsider issues of global “citizenship” ; climate change/environmental degradation as they impact cultural heritage (both tangible and intangible) ; and the tension between a social change context and aesthetics in the arts.
For the past nine years, much of my artistic work/life has been connected to Lesotho, southern Africa. Since January 2005, when I arrived on a Fulbright to teach, create and direct in the National University’s Theatre Unit, I’ve been navigating the tricky cultural terrain of the small, mountainous country and making theatre there. Lesotho, a nation of about 2 million, is completely surrounded by South Africa and has the 3rd highest HIV infection rate in the world. My early work was focused on teaching (acting, directing, playwriting), directing shows and producing theatre events – some connected contextually to the HIV pandemic, others set in a purely performative frame. As an outgrowth of that work, The Winter/Summer Institute (WSI) was launched in June 2006. WSI is a multicultural collaboration between faculty and students from three continents, and community participants from the rural mountains of Lesotho (www.maketheatre.org). While my work as WSI’s artistic director is ongoing, in 2012 I received a second Fulbright to return to the National University and, along with my teaching and directing duties, to begin a new project connected to dam-building, environmental destruction and related questions of intangible cultural heritage. That project, Split the Village, has gone through a number of “iterations” and is about to be re-imagined once again as part of a WSI-Lesotho collaboration with the Theatre Association of Lesotho and the Morija Museum and Archives for the Morija Festival of Arts and Culture in October (2014).
I’ve been teaching in Goddard’s MA in Individualized Studies program since 2002 (inclusive of leaves for my Fulbright and other work in Africa). I’ve also been a visiting writer in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Long Island University, Brooklyn; and, since 1993, I’ve been an instructor and project collaborator at the State University of New York’s Empire State College (ESC) in Manhattan – a program that, like Goddard’s, grew out of the progressive education movement. ESC is currently the U.S. academic base for WSI -- we’ll be conducting a weekend residency there this coming November (2014).
In New York, I’m at work on a new performance piece, Surrogate Traveler, which began development through IRT Theater’s 3B Series in 2013. I also have an ongoing relationship with Mabou Mines Theatre, where I’ve been a Resident Artist three times -- beginning with the creation of a piece about water scarcity, "Water: An Illustrated Journal," in 2001.
Visit Katt Lissard's website: http://www.kattlissard.org.