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Community Theater Trainer to Offer Community and Identity-Building Workshops


BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 6, 2003 – Jan Cohen-Cruz, professor of theater at New York University, will visit Virginia Tech and the Blacksburg community Nov. 13, 14 and 15 to conduct workshops in interactive performance, including Image Theater and her own methods.

Ann Kilkelly of Blacksburg, professor of theatre arts and women's studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, will host workshops with Cohen-Cruz on Friday, Nov. 14, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Owens Banquet Hall, and Saturday, Nov. 15, 2 to 5 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, 120 Church St., Blacksburg. Friday workshops are titled, "The University as Community: An Interactive Discussion and Performance Workshop." The Saturday workshop is "Building Community through Forum Theater."

Cohen-Cruz's visit is the result of a Diversity Initiatives Grant from Virginia Tech's Office of the Provost for a trainer-in-residence to conduct a multi-day workshop. The university's Multicultural Fellows began a Diversity Training Laboratory led by Kilkelly in the fall of 2000. The lab provides training in interactive performance techniques that facilitate analytical and complex discussions of multicultural issues.

"The emphasis is on the interactive," Kilkelly said. "These theater-derived techniques require participants to move around, to speak freely with one another, and to analyze ideas with nonverbal images."

The training workshops use techniques drawn from such sources as Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, Michael Rohd's Theater for Community Conflict and Dialogue, and sociometric exercises developed by Kilkelly, Mady Schutzman, Cohen-Cruz and others. The goal is to have several trained facilitators with the capability of responding to student and faculty/staff groups who wish to address their community's issues in this fashion. "Facilitators are not experts on these issues but are there to enable the group to use and express its own expertise," Kilkelly said.

Cohen-Cruz is professor of drama at the Tisch School of Arts at NYU. Her research includes the history and practice of activist and community theatre. She has taught and/or directed in prisons, colleges, psychiatric facilities, migrant camps, theatres, schools, senior centers and parks.

Cohen-Cruz performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Playwrights Horizons, and with the Israeli National Theatre and New York City Street Theatre. She has co-directed or produced Experimental Theatre Project Inc.'s performances and co-produced Augusto Boal's workshops in New York and Rio de Janeiro. She participated in the Grahamstown Festival, South Africa; Winter School and LinkFest in Zimbabwe in the summer of 1997; and a Theatre for Development conference in Nigeria in Feburary 1998.

A recipient of first the Tisch School of the Arts David Payne-Carter Award for Excellence in Teaching, she is currently a theatre advisor for Tisch AmeriCorps.

Kilkelly introduced the techniques to the Multicultural Fellows, several graduate students, and invited guests during a number of on-campus programs. Cohen- Cruz will work with trainers, students, and other groups to finish the "training" phase for faculty, staff, and student facilitators. She will also be available for class visits and other activities, including consultation with the group of trainers.

All members of the university and Blacksburg communities are invited to attend; participation in a previous workshop is not necessary. The workshops are free, but registration is required. Anyone interested in attending a workshop or needing further information can contact Kilkelly at DiversityLab@vt.edu or Carol Crawford Smith at ccdancer@vt.edu.

The Multicultural Fellows Program is a volunteer association whose members, faculty, staff and administrators, contribute to the university's mission of fostering a welcoming community for all. It is sponsored by the political science department, Personnel Services, Center for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and Office of Multicultural Affairs at Virginia Tech.



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