Nexus of Arts and Social Transformation: A Roundtable for Leaders in Higher Ed

April 12, 2011, 2:30-3:30pm, Mandel center for Humanities, Reading Room 303.

A roundtable for leaders and educators in programs in the arts and social transformation to share their experiences and thoughts for educating future leaders in colleges and university settings.

Roundtable Panelists:

Gannit Ankori joined Brandeis University this fall as professor of art ankorihistory and theory and chair in Israeli art at the Department of Fine Arts and the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. Before coming to Brandeis, she served as the Henya Sharef Professor of Humanities and chair of the Department of Art History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She also held appointments as visiting scholar and associate professor at Harvard University and at Tufts University/School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

Gannit has published two books and numerous articles on Frida Kahlo, including Imaging Her Selves: Frida Kahlo’s Poetics of Identity and Fragmentation, 2002 and a major catalogue essay for the Kahlo retrospective at Tate Modern, London in 2005. She also curated the exhibition “Frida Kahlo’s Intimate Family Picture” at the Jewish Museum in New York. She has published and lectured extensively on Israeli and Palestinian art and on the visual representation of gender-related issues, the construction of identity, exile, trauma, the immigrant experience and hybridity. Her book Palestinian Art (Reaktion Books, 2006) won a "Polonsky Prize for Originality and Creativity in the Humanistic Disciplines"  (2007).

Since the late 1980s, Gannit has been actively involved in numerous joint Palestinian-Israeli projects: She co-curated exhibitions of Israeli and Palestinian art; initiated and organized ‘Mobile Seminars' in which Palestinian and Israeli artists traveled together to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, Gaza, Nablus, the Galilee, Tel Aviv and other sites; and took part in various dialogue groups and committees devoted to the promotion of peace, understanding, and cooperation through the arts.

Dr. Cynthia Cohen is director of the program in Peacebuilding and the Arts at Brandeis CohenUniversity's International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life. She is an internationally recognized educator, peacebuilding practitioner and researcher who focuses on the contributions of the arts to conflict transformation.

Currently, Dr. Cohen is the principal investigator for the Acting Together project, a five year inquiry with theatre artists and leaders of ritual working in conflict regions around the world, undertaken in collaboration with Theatre Without Borders. The project is producing a two-volume anthology, to be published by New Village Press in 2011, a documentary, and a toolkit.

Aime S. Dowling is Coordinator of the Dance Program in USF’s Performing Arts Department and Artist in Residence at the San Francisco Jails. She has performed throughout the US and Europe with the Liz Lerman/Dance Exchange. After leaving the company, Amie was invited to Chiang Mai, Thailand to help develop a dance program and work with women leaving the sex-trade industry.

In 2001, she co-founded the Performance Project, collaborating with incarcerated individuals on the creation of original dance/theater pieces. Amie recently received funding from Fonds Soziokultur, the US Consulate in Leipzig, the Haymarket Foundation, and is a recipient of a choreography fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Scott Edmiston
is Director of the Brandeis Office of the Arts which he edmistonfounded in 2003 following more than 25 years of experience in arts organizations and universities throughout the Northeast. Previously, he was Artistic Associate at the Huntington Theatre Company and chaired the MFA Directing Program in the School of Theatre Arts at Boston University. An award-winning theater director, Scott has directed more than 50 productions in the New England area at the American Repertory Theatre, SpeakEasy Stage Company, and Lyric Stage Company among many others. He received the Elliot Norton Award as Outstanding Director for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "The History Boys," "The Light in the Piazza," "Five by Tenn," and "Molly Sweeney." His productions of "A Marvelous Party, ""Five by Tenn," "Betrayal" and "Miss Witherspoon" were also honored as Outstanding Productions.  He was honored with 2005 Boston Theater Hero Award for his "leadership and inspiration" to the region’s theaters and artists.

Erik Ehn’s body of work includes The Saint Plays, No Time EhnLike the Present, Wolf at the Door, Tailings, Beginner, Ideas of Good and Evil, and an adaptation of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. He is currently working on completing a series of 15 plays – Soulographie - on the history of the US in the 20th Century from the point of view of its genocides, intended for production in NY in April 2012 (scripts include Maria Kizito, Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling, Yermedea, Drunk Still Drinking). His works have been produced in San Francisco (Intersection, Thick Description, Yugen), Seattle (Annex, Empty Space), Austin (Frontera), New York (BACA, Whitney Museum), San Diego (Sledgehammer), Chicago (Red Moon), Atlanta (7 Stages), Los Angeles (Cal Rep, Museum of Jurassic Technology), Belgrade (Dah); elsewhere.

He has taught at the U of Iowa, Naropa, UC San Diego, UT Dallas, and Cal Arts (graduate); U San Francisco, SF State, Santa Clara, and Skidmore (undergrad); he just completed a writing workshop with the Belarus Free Theater in Minsk. He conducts annual trips to Rwanda/Uganda, taking students and professionals in the field to study the history of these countries, and to explore the ways art is participating in recovery from violence. He produces the Arts in the One World conference yearly, which engages themes of art and social change. Artistic Associate, Theatre of Yugen. Graduate of New Dramatists. Former Dean of the CalArts School of Theater. Current Director of Writing for Performance, Brown University.

Lydia Fort has directed and developed work at Ensemble Studio ankoriTheater; New Federal Theatre; Ma-Yi; Classical Theatre of Harlem; The Public Theater; Soho Think Tank; The Hangar Theatre; New Professional Theatre; Lark Play Development Center; New Georges; Liberation Theatre; CAP21 and the Ethnic Cultural Theatre in Seattle, WA.  With the Mud/Bone Collective, she was a co-creator/director on Impossible Country, a devised play about refugees. 

Awards: New York Theatre Workshop Directing Fellowship, SDCF Observership, and Drama League Directing Fellowship. Currently, Lydia is in residence at New Federal Theatre as the recipient of the TCG New Generations Future Leaders Grant. Assistant Professor, The City College of New York-CUNY.  BA, New York University. MFA, University of Washington School of Drama.

Roberto Gutiérrez Varea began his career in theater in his vareanative city of Córdoba, Argentina. His research and creative work focuses on live performance and means of resistence and peacebuilding, in the context of social conflict and state violence. Varea is the founding artistic director of Soapstone Theatre Company, a collective of male ex-offenders and women survivor of violent crime; El Teatro Jornalero!, a performance company that brings the voice of Latin America immigrant workers to the stage, and founding member of the San Francisco-based performance collective Secos & Mojados.

He is an Associate Editor of Peace Review, an international journal on peace and justice studies, and an Associate Professor and Chair of the University of San Francisco's Performing Arts and Social Justice Program.

Robert Hostetter has worked at the intersection of the arts and hostetterpeacebuilding for more than thirty years, including a dissertation on theatre responses to nuclear war (Northwestern). Robert’s work includes a commissioned play, Cheyenne Jesus Buffalo Dream, about the confrontation of Native Americans and Europeans in the 1880s, and a screenplay, Crossing Borders, a screenplay about John Paul Lederach’s early mediation efforts in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

In 1998, Robert was invited to go to Palestine to record oral histories with older Palestinians who lost their homes and villages in 1948.  He adapted those stories into a full-length play, The Longing, which I presented twenty times, including a performance at the National Communication Association meeting in Atlanta. Since 2003, he has returned to Israel-Palestine five times to work on a book about Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers, including theatre artists and other performers.

Adrianne Krstansky is a professional actress and director who krstanskyrecently appeared at New Repertory Theater in Afterlife as well as playing  Lisa in 2.5 Minute Ride, Agnetha in Frozen and directed Thom Pain (based on  nothing). Recent work includes Body Awareness, Shakebit  Speakeasy Stage Company, Paradise Lost, Britannicus and Ubu Rock American Repertory Theater, Othello Commonwealth Shakespeare, November Lyric Stage Company, Gary Boston Playwrights Theater, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea Vineyard Playhouse, Closer at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, Bug at Boston Theater Works. 

Off-Broadway: 365days/365 plays Public Theater and Luck Pluck and Virtue The Atlantic Theater Company.  Regional credits include Clockwork Orange and Twelfth Night at Steppenwolf Theater Company and performances at LaJolla Playhouse, Actors Theater of Louisville and Telluride Repertory Theater among others.  Film credits include the role of Carol in The Company Men directed by John Wells. 
She is an Assistant Professor of Theater Arts at Brandeis University where she teaches in the undergraduate and MFA Professional Training Program for Actors.  She teaches Acting, Improvisation, Collaborative Process and Suzuki.  She is the winner of the Brandeis University Michael Walzer Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Michelle LeBaron's current research explores the arts and LeBaroncontemplative practices as vital resources for transforming cross-cultural conflicts.  Creativity, culture and collaboration are themes that run through her work. With Professor Carrie MacLeod, she recently completed a research project called CRANE: Conflict Resolution, Arts and Intercultural Experience, which involved artists, conflict resolution practitioners and members of diverse communities in addressing intractable conflict using the arts. Professor LeBaron’s current work Dancing at the Crossroads explores dance and movement as resources for bringing people together across historical divides.

Michelle is an internationally renowned scholar/practitioner, currently serving as a professor of law and Director of Dispute Resolution at the University of British Columbia, Canada. She has done seminal work in many areas of conflict resolution including intercultural, international, family and commercial.  Professor LeBaron’s books include Bridging Cultural Conflicts: A New Approach for a Changing World and Conflict Across Cultures: A Unique Experience of Bridging Differences, the product of collaboration among five authors from four continents.

Carrie MacLeod, PhD candidate, has used an arts-based approach macleodin education, advocacy and social action programs for over a decade.  Her work has focused on peace and reconciliation initiatives in Sierra Leone, West Africa, with social justice projects throughout India and Central America, and currently within refugee resettlement programs in Canada.  Carrie continues to facilitate internationally and in Vancouver she is the Research Director of the Dancing at the Crossroads conflict transformation and dance project at the University of British Columbia.  At the European Graduate School she is on the Faculty of the MA Program in Expressive Arts in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding and is the Director of the International Centre for Arts in Peacebuilding.

Paulette Moore is a documentary filmmaker, educator and moorejournalist with narrative films rising. Through her work with established and emerging media she explores how art, power, conflict and justice intersect, inspire and inform. Moore’s 25 years of freelance work includes directing,producing and writing for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, History Channel, PBS and truTV.

Moore currently teaches video production, research and social media with Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA and is a consultant withthe UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Geneva, Switzerland creating films and engaging social media to promote diversity within the organization.

Her website is: and you can find her blog at

Pauline Ross is the Founder and Director of the Playhouse Theatre. One of the most influential arts activists in Northern Ireland, Pauline founded the Playhouse Theatre back in 1992 and oversaw its award-winning renovation in 2009. It is now the largest, and one of the most artistically diverse, community arts centers in Ireland. She was born and raised in Derry.

For Pauline, growing up, Derry was always a city of music, poetry and drama. In the 1960s when she was a teenager, there were numerous drama societies and clubs you could join. There was a wonderful sharing of talent between all the companies - this in a city that didn't have a single theater. And now they have the fabulous Millenium Forum, as well as groundbreaking multi-disciplinary arts centers like the Playhouse, Nerve centre, Culturlann Ui Chanain (the Irish language and cultural centre) and the Verbal Arts Centre.

Ellen Smith is Lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern and 

ellen smith

Judaic Studies and the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program and the associate director of its Gralla Fellows Program for Religion Journalists. She is also principal of Museumsmith, a firm specializing in museum exhibitions and historic site interpretations throughout the nation.

Smith was also the Chief Historical Consultant to the Emmy Award-winning WGBH "The Jews of Boston" television production. She was one of twelve nationally selected scholars participating in "The Visual Culture of American Religions" project (1996-2000) funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Lilly Endowment.

Smith is the former Curator of the American Jewish Historical Society and the National Museum of American Jewish History, and has taught courses in American Jewish Women's History, American Jewish Material Culture, and American Jewish History at Brandeis and Northeastern Universities. In 2005 she toured the country as one of the United Jewish Community's key speakers during the 350th anniversary celebration of Jews in America.

Polly O. Walker is director of several Australian organizations: walker
Partners in Peacebuilding, a private consultancy, The Peace and Conflict Studies Institute Australia, and Praxis Community Co-op in Brisbane. She is co-editor of Acting Together on the World Stage: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict. Polly lectures in intercultural conflict resolution at James Cook University and the University of Queensland.

Previously awarded the University of Queensland Postdoctoral Research Fellowship for Women, she conducted research on the role of memorial ceremonies in transforming conflict involving Indigenous and settler peoples in the United States and Australia. She has published articles in a wide range of international journals, and contributed chapters to several texts on conflict transformation.

She is Vice-Chair of the Indigenous Education Institute, a research and practice institute created for the preservation and contemporary application of Indigenous traditional knowledge. Walker is of Cherokee and settler descent and grew up in the traditional lands of the Mescalero Apache.

Participating via Video Conference:

Lee Perlman is a lecturer at Tel Aviv University (TAU) and at perlmanBrandeis University's "Genesis at Brandeis" and “Social Justice Summer” programs. He is former Director of Programs at The Abraham Fund Initiatives, a leading Israeli co-existence organization and has diverse background in theatre directing, theatre in education and coexistence work. He is writing his dissertation at TAU on the social and cultural impact and significance of Jewish and Palestinian theatre cooperation on the Israeli stage.

He has written extensively on NGO efforts at improved Israeli-Palestinian relations. Lee is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Nephesh Theatre, a national social and educational Theatre, and a board member of the Association for the Promotion of Puppet Theatre in Israel.