Lori Ayela Wynters, is an interdisciplinary artist, theologian, educator, community organizer, psychologist and mama, inspired to hold space for individual/collective creative, emancipatory practices/processes building relationship and community through engaged pedagogies, theatre, writing, music and dance/movement practices. Her work includes workshops and theatre performances around social issues and spiritual life in the United States, Israel/Palestine, England, Puerto Rico and Cuba. “I am interested in the places where spiritual life, epistemologies and transformative justice intersect, especially the edges of our ideas and wisdom traditions. I am intrigued by the ‘liminal’ spaces, places of not knowing and deep creative process to create something new and generative. In permaculture, ‘edge theory’ speaks to the fertile soil at the edges of one ecosystem meeting the edge of another. This is true for us as human beings, especially our stories, identities, epistemologies, ancestral lineages, how we come to know what we know and the discourses we use to talk/listen with each other. The fertile edges intrigue and inspire me most. As a theologian and interdisciplinary artist, I think our modalities are many, drawing from theatre, writing, dance/movement, aikido, song and improvisation. Yet our medium is consciousness and humanity, even more so in this time where we are being asked to stand up to the myth of separation and tell the stories of relationship, care and connection.” Samples of Interdisciplinary performance work include the following:
- 2016, Palestinian/Israeli Women in Coalition, Playback Theatre Performance, East Jerusalem, Palestine/Israel.
- 2015, Muslim Students Speak: Being American, Post 911: Workshop and Theatre Performance, Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY.
- 2014 Theatre, Education and Social Change: Bedford Hills Stories. Whose America? African American Women and Post Release Program at City College University of New York Graduate Center, New York, NY.
- 2014 Artistic Director Global Youth Leadership Playback Theatre Company, Earth Train Foundation, Vieques, Puerto Rico.
- 2014 Visiting Artist, Playback Theatre Trainer Teatro de Los Elementos, Cumunaygua, Cuba, supported by the Cuban Ministry of Culture and The Sociedad Cultural Jose Marti, a Cuban NGO, Havana, Cuba.
- 2013 The Power of Story: War Zones and Renewal Performance, Lesley University Institute for Body, Mind and Spirit: An Emerging Synthesis Conference, Cambridge, MA.
- 2004 T’Filah Echad: Identity, Transformative Justice and Spiritual Life in the United States. Goddard Haybarn Theatre, Plainfield, VT.
As faculty, Lori is inspired by each of us, as wisdom keepers informed by our personal stories within the collective complexity of our multiple identities, ancestral narratives, trauma/healing and our social ecologies.
PhD in Educational and Social Psychology, Union Institute & University
MEd in Counseling Psychology, Temple University
MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts, Goddard College
BA in Philosophy/Religion, SUNY Binghamton
Areas of Expertise
- Cultural Responsive Literacies and Emancipatory and Critical Pedagogies
- Educational Leadership/Social Philosophical Foundations of Education
- Adolescent-Positive Youth Development
- Multicultural and Culturally Relevant K-12 Curriculum and Restorative Justice
- Integrative Arts in K-12 Curriculum
- Emancipatory Theatre practices, Boal’s TOP, Playback Theatre, Moreno’s Psychodrama/Sociometry and Music as Medicine
- Embodied/Intersectional Feminist Theologies
- Organizational Leadership, Group Process, Systems Theory
- Neuro-diversities in K-12 Education
- Somatic Education, Somatic Psychologies
- Trauma Studies/Resiliency/Social Justice
- Embodiment Studies and Arts as Medicine
- Decolonizing Psychologies, Religious and Spiritual Practices
- Muslim/Jewish/Christian Engagement
- Palestine/Israel and Diasporic Judaism
- Somatic Healing Justice
Chanting the “Ma Nishtana” from the age of 4 (maybe younger!) at Passover seders, my body got it that, “We were once strangers in the land of Egypt”. Since then, one of my questions continues to be “What are the ways we tend to one another?” Growing up in White Plains, New York, an urban working-class suburb 18 miles north of New York city where I went to public school in the 1970’s-1980’s. Multiracial, multiethnic and interfaith coalition building were deep community and family values. Many of us lived, ate, played, learned and prayed in each others cultures, faiths and kitchens, steeped in a larger context of love which I credit to the teachers and parents committed to ‘compassion in action’ at that time. I was an ‘ok’, but not great, student. My favorite places to learn were outside in nature, un-organized sports, dancing just about anywhere, music, in english and philosophy classes, rallies for social issues in New York City with my mom, going to shul and any chance to go to Camp Ramah in the summer. I am second generation American with grandparents who left the pogroms of Poland, Russia, Hungary and parts of North Africa, landing in Ellis Island with many other freedom seekers. Along with my older brothers, I am the first generation in my family to go beyond high school. I graduated SUNY Binghamton with a BA degree Philosophy/Ethics, Religion and Judaic Studies…but martial arts, dance, songwriting, bartending, waiting tables, mountain guiding and being a pastry chef were the places to embody the theory at university. I read anything I could find from Eastern and Western wisdom traditions, Black and Jewish feminist thinkers and cultural studies, especially Barbara Smith, Toni Cade Bambara, Audre Lorde, Melanie Kaye Kantrowitz, Howard Zinn, Henry Giroux, Paulo Friere, poetry and more poetry…and anything written about ‘love’. I followed the Benjamin Franklin bridge and a ‘love’ to Philadelphia, pursued an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from Temple University, worked with children, teens and families, discovered contemporary and improvisational dance, contact improvisation and aikido which are practices in my life today.
As a member of dance companies in Philadelphia, Colorado and New Zealand, teaching skiing there, I landed in Vermont and took the Director of Counseling position at the Brattleboro Women’s Crisis Center/Shelter, followed by Counseling Director at Upward Bound in Vermont. Teaching Philosophy courses at Franklin Pierce College was a balm to the intense counseling work and after a year as a Psychology Lecturer in Keene, NH, and leading outdoor adventure leadership programs, entry to the doctoral program at UMASS in Social Justice Education led to completing my PhD in Social/Educational Studies/Psychology with a focus on inclusive pedagogy/multicultural curriculum development and social/restorative justice at Union Institute. My dissertation focused on teaching The Psychology of Oppression using methods engaged engaged pedagogies of Emancipatory theatre practices and critical race theory. Upon earning my PhD, I took at faculty position with the graduate program in Curriculum and Instruction: Integrated Teaching Through the Arts and Multicultural Education at Lesley University. Dance training and performance experience led to my training as a psychologist, followed by a desire to deepen my trust of the body’s wisdom through somatic training, becoming certified in the Rubenfeld Synergy Method, Gestalt practice, Amrit Yoga teacher certification, Feldenkrais and Alexander techniques, Thai yoga Massage, Playback Theatre, Somatic Experiencing, psychodrama training and a broad range of somatic educational and psycho-psychophysical re-education practices. The love of performance and spiritual exploration kept calling, leading me to an MFA-IA from Goddard College.
I am intoxicated with language, music, movement, dance and play in their infinite forms and how we use them. I have a particular interest in the voices of mothers, daughters and sisters, and other marginalized voices and bodies…interest in the songs, stories, prayers, relationships, and the ethic of care cultivated in female valued and indigenous culture, as explored through intersectional feminist thinkers, supported by men who love them.
We each are teachers, healers and artists and can shape our lives through the process of creation. I think our medium, ultimately, is humanity and consciousness. The form has infinite variations and Goddard can be experienced as a ‘sanctuary in time’ (A.J. Heschel) to explore our particular variation, compose/choreograph the score and play it.
I’ve been privileged to teach and perform in the southern, northeastern, midwestern and pacific northwest regions of the United States, London, Vieques, Borinquien, Belize, Toronto, Cuba and Israel/Palestine, using Playback Theatre, and other emancipatory practices for dialogue, deepening connections, healing and creating new models for leadership and social change.
My work as an advisor is to support learners in calling forth their own wisdom, illuminating their awareness as reflective practitioners, researchers, scholars, artists and agents of change to bring their work into the world in meaningful and sustainable ways. Several years ago, a graduate student of mine, also a veteran teacher and mother in South Carolina said, “You bring the God out in us.” Perhaps we are here to be midwives for one another. What are the ways we continue to tend to one another?