For the week of Sept. 15 through Sept. 22, Whitman welcomed drama therapist, playwright, director, actor and Antioch University Ph.D. candidate Jessica Litwak to campus. An O’Donnell Visiting Educator, Litwak comes to Whitman courtesy of both the Department of Theatre and the Global Studies Program.
The weekend of Sept. 20-21, Litwak led an intense two-day workshop in peace-building through performance, a form of applied theater. Litwak defines applied theater differently than other scholars, seeing it as a way to apply theatre to personal and social change.
“I work with the concept that theater is a tremendous vehicle for social change, for justice, for peace-building and I use it as such,” she said. “It is being applied to the purpose of change as opposed to just being a source of entertainment. Though I do hope that it is entertaining.”
The workshop worked to provide participants with skills to utilize theater to enact social change. From active creative work to vibrant discussion, students and staff learned how to apply the theory of peace-building into creative forms. They also learned about current and previous work in the field of engaged theater in conflict zones around the globe.
Whitman Assistant Professor of Theatre Jessica Cerullo met Litwak during her time as a one-woman act in New York City. She had hoped for a time when their paths would cross again.
“I participated in a global studies initiative one summer. The faculty met and we shared from different disciplines what global studies means in each of our different disciplines. It was out of that summer of study and inquiry that I started to have ideas about how the theatre department could interact with the politics department, for example, or anybody interested in education. And [Jessica Litwak’s expertise] was an area that hasn’t really been tilled at Whitman,” Cerullo said.
Litwak commented that Cerullo and, by extension, Whitman is on the cutting edge of interdepartmental collaboration.
“I’ve tried to do this work at other universities and it’s hard to get this kind of collaboration going.”
Litwak came to Whitman from teaching Theatre for Social Justice in LaMama, Umbria. She has also taught in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Egypt.
During her time at Whitman, Litwak will also be doing bit of her solo act “My Heart is in the East,” as well as a screening of the documentary “Acting Together on the World Stage.” She will also be leading a writing workshop for the Instant Play Festival.
“One of the main questions that my play asks is, ‘Can art make peace?’” Litwak said. “And after the show, I want to have discussions about peace-building: if it’s possible, how it’s possible and if art can be a part of that.”