Activist and artist to speak on empowerment in theatre

By: Julian Robinson,  Performing & Media Arts
March 8, 2018

Award-winning activist, artist, director, and scholar Rhodessa Jones brings her techniques of “Creative Survival” to Cornell’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts on March 20 and 22 for a public lecture and master class, respectively.

In “Creative Survival: Art and Activism for the 21st Century,” Jones will discuss theatrical methods for social transformation and working with marginalized communities. Jones’s concept of creative survival is about people saving their own lives through art. The practice involves using theatre to help individuals imagine a different future for themselves and empowering them to make it a reality.

The lecture draws from Jones’s experience as director of The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women, which works with imprisoned and HIV-positive women to create original dramatic works about their experiences.

Students interested in trying similar social justice and storytelling theatre techniques can register for Jones’s master class workshop.

Performing and Media Arts associate professor Sara Warner believes in our current political climate, activists turn to theatrical techniques to draw attention to their causes, like the “pussy hat” props seen at the Women’s March and the masks used by the Occupy Movement. At the same time, there is a revival of radical political theatre among stage actors, writers, and directors.

“Rhodessa works at the crossroads of these two movements. Part of the reason I’m excited to have her here at this moment is that we need to be reminded of the power of theatre to intervene in times of crisis,” says Warner.

Jones’s events at the Schwartz Center are part of a week-long visit to Cornell, the first of three yearly visits Jones will make as a Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of 1956 Visiting Professor. She will hold workshops at Ujamaa Residential College on March 19 and Hans Bethe House on March 21. In addition, she is joining the Cornell Prison Education Program on a visit to Auburn Penitentiary to work with the prison’s Phoenix Players Theatre Group.

The “Creative Survival” lecture is free and open to the public. Registration for the workshop is required and space is limited. For more information, email Sara Warner, Stephen H. Weiss Junior Fellow and associate professor, at The Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts is located at 430 College Avenue in Ithaca.

Julian Robinson '20 is a Communications Assistant in the Department of Performing and Media Arts.

 Rhodessa Jones