I interpret my role in Goddard’s student-centered approach to learning as one where I’m 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 that negative inner voice that 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 the MA in Individualized Studies Program's interdisciplinary “conversation” with students in the most progressive way possible – to challenge, encourage and assist in the kind of discovery that leads to creation and then, hopefully, to action. As a civilization, a world, we’re teetering on a highly cliched but quite real precipice and are desperately in need of those startling, creative and activating discoveries if we hope to survive.
I’m a writer, director, performer and activist. For the past four and a half years, 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. Though completely surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho was never under the apartheid regime, so if Westerners have heard of the country at all, it’s because of Bill Clinton and Angelina Jolie, their celebrity appearances prompted by the obscure nation’s astonishing HIV infection rate – the 3rd highest in the world. Lesotho is a country in transition, where the old traditional ways are clashing with globalization’s onslaught and the nation’s rich cultural backbone is splintering under the weight of the growing schism. This stark social dichotomy provided a challenging frame for the evolution of my recent theatre work, an organic “next step” in looking more closely at questions around art and activism and what it means to be both insider and outsider.
My early work in Lesotho was focused on teaching, directing and essentially producing theatre events – some connected contextually to the HIV pandemic, others set in a more purely performative frame. As an outgrowth of that work, the Winter/Summer Institute in Theatre for Development (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). Since 2006, the Institute has challenged participants to create collaborative, issue-based, aesthetically provocative theatre pieces. Our performances thus far have focused on the role of gossip and silence in the spread of HIV; on power, denial and stigma as they influence choices people make in response to the virus; and on examining the rapid spread of HIV through relationship networks involving long-term, concurrent sexual partners.
I’m a returning Goddard faculty member, having taught in the IMA Program from 2001-2005. I’m also a visiting writer in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Long Island University, Brooklyn; and, since 1993, I’ve been a frequent instructor and project collaborator at the State University of New York’s Empire State College in Manhattan – a program that, like Goddard’s, grew out of the progressive education movement of the 1960s and 70s, and which is currently the U.S. academic base of the Winter/Summer Institute.
As a 2009 Resident Artist at Mabou Mines Theatre in New York City, I’m creating a new piece called Outpost. My work as a playwright and performer has been seen at a variety of NYC venues, including: Dixon Place, HERE, NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing, the ArcLight, St. Mark's in the Bowery, and the former Circle Rep Lab; as well as at locations throughout Lesotho, and at the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. My most recent pre-Africa play, The Law of Falling Bodies, was part of the 3rd Millennium Festival.
Representative Grants/Awards/Affiliations: 2009 Mabou Mines Resident Artist Award, IRT Theatre Residency (2008), Art Matters Individual Artist Award (2007;1990), Jerome Foundation Grant/Lanesboro Residency, James William and Elizabeth Hall Award for Innovation from Empire State College, Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, The Colgate-Palmolive Fund & the Colgate South Africa Fund, The Lotta Crabtree Theatrical Fund, The Jewish Foundation for Education of Women, and The Heidtke Foundation. I’m an Affiliate Artist of the New Georges Theatre Company and a two-time MacDowell Colony Fellow. I’m also a founding/core member of the activist artists’ group Mouths Wide Open.
As a 2009 Residency Artist at Mabou Mines Theatre in New York, I’ll be creating a new, collaborative theatre piece, Outpost, which goes up the end of May
March 2009: The Winter/Summer Institute offered a 3 day Residency in New York City, with an opening event on Friday March 6th co-hosted by The Brecht Forum
September 2008: Through a residency at the IRT Theatre in New York, I work-shopped Excavation, a collaborative performance piece about the brain and memory.