Washington and Lee University hosts 14th National Symposium of Theater and Performance Arts in Academe

Washington and Lee UniversityWashington and Lee University will welcome scholars and artists from around the world to its 14th National Symposium of Theater and Performance Arts in Academe on Oct. 25-26.

All events will take place in Stackhouse Theater in Elrod Commons, and they are free and open to the public.

This year’s symposium, “Race and Gender in Theater, Poetry and Rock ’n’ Roll,” was organized by Domnica Radulescu, founding director of the symposium and the Edwin A. Morris Professor of Comparative Literature at W&L.

“I always try to connect the theme of the symposium to the moment of history we’re living in,” said Radulescu. “This year’s focus also fits in perfectly with the various and wonderful new diversity initiatives of the university on issues of identity, gender and race. Theater is such a fantastic medium for exploring all the subtleties of these topics and the various forms of struggle and resistance to prejudice and oppression.”

The symposium includes an opening address by Lena Hill, dean of the college, as well as lectures by Ricardo Wilson, assistant professor of English and Africana Studies; Seth Michelson, assistant professor of Spanish; and Florinda Ruiz, director of the Writing Program at W&L. Sarah Helms ’15 will share her documentary, which is set to her own poetry and explores her social activism on women’s health issues in Nepal. Rounding out the two days are artists and lecturers from Romania and universities across the U.S. Among them are Marjorie Agosín, world-renowned, award-winning poet and human rights activist; Barbara Mujica, bestselling author; Nisha Sajnani, award-winning director of the Drama Therapy Program at NYU; and Joan Lipkin, award-winning theater maker and activist.

“The symposium displays a diversity of voices and faces and is spread across different forms of performance and literary art,” said Radulescu. “While the symposium is not political, it explores political issues aesthetically.”

The evening sessions will feature live performances, including “House in a Boat with Food and No God” and “Crack in the Wall,” written and directed by Radulescu. “Both of these are works in progress,” said Radulescu, who has written, edited or co-authored 15 books, as well as written and directed numerous plays. “The first is an environmental dystopia and deals with our destruction of the environment, but with a dark sense of humor. The second work was inspired by the immigrant situation and the literal and metaphorical walls that are now sadly part of a national conversation. These political aspects haunt and touch me, and I connect with or react to them in a visceral way.”

In addition, Stephanie Sandberg, assistant professor of theater at W&L, will direct “Kissed the Girls and Made Them Cry,” by Arlene Hutton. “Arlene based this play on what high school students really wanted to say about sexual assault,” said Sandberg. “It’s about teen sex, lies and gossip, power, secrets, manipulation, mascara and the need to scream. It’s a very bold piece, but also funny, with a swift and witty sense of language.”

W&L students will perform Sandberg’s “Stories in Blue: The Stories of Sex-Trafficking Survivors.” First mounted at W&L in 2016, Sandberg’s work is a response to the high rate of human trafficking in Michigan that she observed while living there. “I’m really thrilled to have Stephanie’s work as part of the symposium,” said Radulescu. “She does fantastic experimental work that is embedded in and emerging from hard political realities.”

The symposium is supported by funds from the Office of the Dean of the College; the Center for Global Learning; the Office of the Provost; the Class of 1963; the Glasgow Endowment for the Arts; the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program; the Africana Studies Program; Medieval and Renaissance Studies; and the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Student Engagement.

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