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See photos from the event here.

More about the CAST minor here.

Faculty and Students Gather to Launch New Brandeis Minor


“If Something Gets Broken...You Come to CAST”

October 28, 2014

The Brandeis community gathered in late October to launch the new minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) with an afternoon of reflection, celebration and dedication.

The CAST minor, which began offering classes in January, offers a coherent curriculum designed to support Brandeis undergraduates with interests in the arts and creative expression as well as commitments to understanding and advancing social justice and the transformation of conflict. It brings together the global network of the Ethics Center and the resources of the University’s faculty members and cultural organizations with the interests, talents and energy of Brandeis students.

In a spoken word piece, Dean of Students Jamele Adams made the connection between Brandeis – and the CAST minor – and the struggle for a more just society. Dean Adams performed a work he composed for a Brandeis campus vigil in the fall that addressed police violence against black youth, organized in the aftermath of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Jamele Adams… Let us not give up
when we should be getting into it
getting down and getting involved
Are we going to just talk or act?
Are we going to remain lost or get on track?
….Will we work together or remain separate forever?
How many deaths does it take before we see life?
If nowhere else on the planet can answer these questions,
right here and right now
(particularly through CAST) we can do that at Brandeis!
– Dean of Students Jamele Adams

Members of the faculty who teach electives in the minor and serve on its Faculty Advisory Committee spoke about their work at the nexus of arts, culture, justice and peace.

Adrianne Krstanksy, Associate Professor of Theater Arts and Chair of the Theater Department, spoke about the unique strengths theater brings to the work of social transformation. (See sidebar.) Sue Lanser, Professor of English, Women's and Gender Studies and Comparative Literature, encouraged everyone to read or listen to at least one poem every day. Quoting self-described Black lesbian feminist warrior mother poet Audre Lorde, she read: “Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change…. Our poems give us the strength and courage to see, to feel, to speak, and to dare.”

In theater, we never have enough money or enough time. Our discipline tells us to walk into a room and be really present with who is there and be really vulnerable to the situation and say, “Okay, we have two dollars, a pack of gum, and seven chairs – let's make magic!” We know how to be scrappy. We know how to make something out of nothing. We know how to be empathetic.] We know how to listen, and to be with people as they are. – Adrianne Krstanksy, Associate Professor of Theater Arts and Chair of the Theater Department

Joyce Antler, Samuel B. Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture and Women's and Gender Studies, noted the overlooked role of music in the women’s liberation movement. “Did you know that the Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band was a very important part of the feminist movement?” she asked. “They believed that through the ecstasy of music women were going to reach out to the wider community.”

Antler’s students Julian Seltzer '15 and Amanda Stern '15, performed poignant excerpts from “When Rebellion Becomes Revolution: A Play of Protest, Murder, Denial and Atonement” a documentary play they had taken part in researching, writing and editing as students in Antler’s class History as Theater.

Stern quoted a letter from then Brandeis student activist Susan Saxe, written while on the run from the law, and Seltzer read from Brandeis Professor Gordie Fellman’s reflections on the activism on campus in the 1960s.

Sue Lanser described the mediating role that poetry in the Al-Quds University/Brandeis University Partnership.

Sue Lanser“Almost none of the Palestinian students had ever met a Jewish person except at a checkpoint, and almost none of the Brandeis students – all of them Jewish – had ever met a Palestinian. So we had a lot to bridge. You can imagine what it meant to read Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” that starts “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…” in Palestine; we also read three poems by the Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish. These poems gave us a great deal to work on, disagree about, dig into. They allowed conversations to happen that would have been very difficult to have otherwise….Darwish says this: “Don’t write history as poetry….history has no time for contemplation, history has no mirror/And no bare face.” Poetry is what gives us the mirror and the bare face.

In small-group conversations students, faculty and staff shared their thoughts about the contributions of creativity and the arts to social transformation. One student suggested that CAST gives “institutional permission to pursue knowing and transforming the world with all of ourselves.”

Playback Theatre leader Will Chalmus ’07 captured the spirit of the event with an impromptu spoken word performance:

Group at CAST LaunchSocial transformation is our way of helping communities figure out how they can help themselves
Have a mirror so they can reflect back the issues that they have
That’s our goal/That’s our mission
There are gonna be some rocky points, y’know.
And if something gets broken, you come to CAST.
We’ll fix it!
Photos and video from the event here.