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The College of Arts Sciences

Female voices highlight Schwartz Center 2016–17 productions and events

By: Lindsey White,  Department of Performing and Media Arts
September 9, 2016

Cornell’s Department of Performing and Media Arts (PMA) will continue its tradition of student-led theatre, film, and dance performances with students serving as directors, writers, and choreographers, as well as artists, in its 2016–17 shows.

A highlight of the fall semester will be the world premiere Sept. 22–24 of “Desert of Light,” a tragicomedy by Palestinian-Syrian playwright Rama Haydar, who will be in residence at PMA throughout the show’s run. The play makes “unlikely connections between Palestinian experiences of war, exile, occupation, and immigration and a growing global canon of the drama of displacement,” says Rebekah Maggor, the PMA assistant professor who co-translated and directs the play. The performance is part of the Cornell Council for the Arts’ 2016 biennial, “Abject/Object Empathies.”

“Desert of Light” is the first of six female-written plays taking stage at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts this academic year. With cosponsorship throughout the academic year from the Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies program, other events include the Performance Encounters Series, featuring a public lecture and walking tour of Auburn, NY, Sept. 8 and 9 with Harvard Professor Robin Bernstein; two student-directed shows in the Black Box Exploration Series; renowned dance company Urban Bush Women presenting “Walking with ’Trane” on Oct. 25; and many more events.

The theme of “captivity” runs through many of PMA’s productions. In addition to the previously mentioned events, on Oct. 15 the Schwartz Center will host “Never Fight a Shark in Water: The Wrongful Conviction of Gregory Bright” a one-man performance by Bright, written by Lara Naughton, and cosponsored by the Minority, Indigenous, and Third-World Studies Research Group. On Oct. 29 two PMA graduate students will host  “From Cell to Cell: The Prison in Television and Performance” mini-conference in the Film Forum.

“When a play takes us inside the theatrically reimagined world of a refugee camp or the fictional equivalent of a troubled college dorm; when a symposium’s participants meditate on the cells of both the prison industrial complex and the television programming grid; when a choreographer asks us to confront the body as a site of confinement yet also as capable of liberation from such confinement, we trace the various ways in which captivity conditions us (physically, materially, ideologically)—as well as the hopeful lines of flight from captive states,” said PMA chair and associate professor Nick Salvato.

Following is a list of the 2016–17 productions and events at the Schwartz Center:

  • Learn to Pop and Lock with Popmaster Fabel (cosponsored by The Cornell Hip Hop Collection, with generous support from Ronni Lacroute '66), Wednesdays, Sept. 7–Oct. 5, room SB10
  • “Black Childhood on Trial: The Tragedy of William Freeman” (cosponsored by the University Lecturer Committee), public lecture by Robin Bernstein (Performance Encounters), Sept. 8, Reading Room; walking tour of Auburn, NY, September 9.
  • “Desert of Light,” by Rama Haydar (directed by Rebekah Maggor), Sept. 22–24, Flex Theatre
  • 10-Minute Playfest (Black Box Exploration Series), Sept. 29–Oct. 1, Black Box Theatre
  • “Never Fight a Shark in Water: The Wrongful Conviction of Gregory Bright” by Lara Naughton (Performance Encounters), performed by Gregory Bright, Oct. 15, Flex Theatre
  • Urban Bush Women: Walking with ’Trane, visiting dance company, Oct. 25, Kiplinger Theatre
  • Prison in Television and Performance Mini-Conference (Performance Encounters), Oct. 29, Film Forum
  • “The Baltimore Waltz” by Paula Vogel (Black Box Exploration Series, directed by Aleksej Aarsaether ’17), Nov. 3–5, Black Box Theatre
  • “Eurydice” by Sarah Ruhl (directed by David Feldshuh), Nov. 11–12, 18–19, Flex Theatre
  • Mini Locally Grown Dance Festival (directed by Byron Suber), Dec. 1–3, Class of ’56 Dance Theatre
  • Heermans-McCalmon Readings, Feb. 10, Class of ’56 Dance Theatre
  • “Trestle at Pope Lick Creek” by Naomi Wallace (directed by Nick Fesette), March 3–4, 10–11, Flex Theatre
  • “Two Truths and Allie” by Joshua Bastian Cole (Black Box Exploration Series/AGIT [Association of Graduates in Theatre] Lab), March 16–18, Black Box Theatre
  • Locally Grown Dance Festival (directed by Jumay Chu, Byron Suber & E.D. Intemann), March 23–25, Kiplinger Theatre
  • Centrally Isolated Film Festival (CIFF), April 14–15, Film Fourm
  • "Life Sentence (Inhibited)” by Gloria Majule ’17 (Black Box Exploration Series, directed by Aleksej Aarsaether ’17), April 20–22, Black Box Theatre
  • “Baltimore” by Kirsten Greenidge (directed by Sarah K. Chalmers), April 28–29, May 5–6, Kiplinger Theatre
  • Sub-Basement Student Film Screenings, Dec. 2016 & May 2017, Kiplinger Theatre
  • “Lampedusa in Winter: A Documentary” by Jakob Brossmann, screening and Q&A with the filmmaker, Spring 2017
  • Lynn Nottage (Performance Encounters), Film Forum (or Reading Room), date and time TBD

For more details, visit All events (unless otherwise noted) take place in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts at 430 College Ave. in Ithaca. To buy tickets, visit

Spring PMA Events