Cornell University Department of Performing and Media Arts doctoral students Jayme Kilburn and Elaigwu Ameh have been awarded Engaged Graduate Student Grants from Engaged Cornell for their achievements in community-engaged research and scholarship. Both Ameh and Kilburn engage in scholarship that explores and challenges the roles of marginalized communities in society and in theatre.
Jayme Kilburn, a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara, is currently working toward her PhD in Theatre Arts at Cornell. She is the Founding Artistic Director of the Strand Theater Company in Baltimore City, Maryland. In addition, Kilburn is an accomplished director, performer, and instructor who most recently directed Mr. Burns: a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, which runs at Cornell University’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts April 27–28 & May 4–5, 2018.
For two years, Kilburn has been building the Women’s Performance Workshop, a project that uses applied theater methodologies including story-circles, group work, and reflective listening combined with improvisation, movement techniques, and writing exercises to empower women and trans individuals to “create their own public performance based on personal narratives.” The project focuses on collaboration and community and encourages participants to lead the group by taking on the role of director. The goals of the project are to “[challenge] industry norms and [offer] more inclusive pedagogical approaches to directing, thereby shifting the artistic biases that delegitimize community-engaged work” in an industry historically dominated by men.
Elaigwu Ameh is a doctoral student in Cornell’s PMA department who received his BA in Philosophy from Arrupe College, University of Zimbabwe. He has published a number of works, including plays, poems, short stories, social commentaries, and academic essays. As the Founder and Artistic Director of Theatre for Concerted Change Initiative, Ameh has had a history of engaging in theatrical and performance projects that “[promote] positive change in society, especially in communities at the margins.”
Ameh’s research project, “Refuge in Theater: Men, Family Planning and Internal Displacement in Nigeria,” seeks to “illumine in the humanities the long-overlooked nexus between masculinity, internal displacement, family planning and theater.” Ameh incorporates theatrical perspectives and case studies in his exploration of men’s roles in family planning decision-making among internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nigeria amidst a spike in birth rates which has put increased pressure on the already scarce humanitarian aid in the country. Through his research, Ameh hopes to “[draw] attention to IDPs as valuable members of society… and change agents rather than as mere objects of research and helpless mendicants in perpetual need of aid.”
Bryan Hagelin '20 is a communications assistant for the Department of Performing and Media Arts.