Tag Archive for theater

Jenkins’ Outreach Theater Course in The Boston Globe

Ron Jenkins rehearses a play with actresses. (Photo by Steve Miller, for the Boston Globe)

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, is featured in the Feb. 24 issue of The Boston Globe for teaching a class at York Correctional Facility. Jenkins and his Wesleyan students teach the “Activism and Outreach Through Theater” course to inmates.

While behind bars at York, students take workshops with Jenkins, learning plays by Shakespeare and Dante.

According to the article, Jenkins has focused his career on theater as a catalyst for social change. That has meant working in Italy with Nobel laureate Dario Fo (whose play “Johan Padan and the Discovery of the Americas’’ Jenkins directed at the American Repertory Theater in 2001) and running drama workshops in New York’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility and Indonesia’s Kerobokan prison. About five years ago, he started working with inmates in Connecticut.

“People in prison feel like they get erased from society, like they’re forgotten, and they’re in an environment that’s very dehumanizing,’’ Jenkins says in the article. “Theater can be a great way to help humanize that environment and help people who are in the process of rehabilitating themselves and trying to transform themselves.’’

The full Boston Globe article is online here.

Borenstein ’97 Named Managing Director of Long Wharf Theatre

Joshua Borenstein '97 (Hartford Courant photo)

The Hartford Courant reports that Joshua Borenstein ’97  has been the named the Long Wharf Theatre’s managing director after a national search. He will oversee a $5 million budget and a staff of 64 full-time employees.

Borenstein held the job of interim managing director for the past six months and previously worked at the theater from 2003 to 2007 in several positions, most recently as associate managing director. For the last two years, he was project manager with the arts research firm, AMS in Fairfield.

Before joining Long Wharf, he worked at Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company through Theatre Communications Group’s’ New Generations: Mentoring the Leaders of Tomorrow program.

Borenstein has a master’s of fine arts in theater management from the Yale School of Drama and a bachelor of arts with honors in classical civilization from Wesleyan. He is married to Katherine Hsu Hagmann ’98, an attorney with Bershstein Volfe and McKeon.

Shalwitz ’74 Directs Record-Breaking D.C. Production of Clybourne Park

Howard Shalwitz '74 - Photo by Colin Hovde

Howard Shalwitz ’74, artistic director of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., recently directed an acclaimed, re-mounted production of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris at the theater this summer. The play was first staged at Woolly Mammoth in 2010. In April, Shalwitz received two Helen Hayes Awards—Outstanding Director and Outstanding Resident Play—for the production.

Norris’s two-act play, a provocative look at race, gentrification and real estate, takes place in a Chicago house, with Act 1 set in the 1950s and Act 2 in the 1990s. The work looks back to Lorraine Hansberry’s theater classic, A Raisin in the Sun.

The remount of Clybourne Park was officially the highest grossing production in Woolly’s history, playing to 105 percent audience capacity. The theater hosted 26 live discussions: six forums and 20 audience exchanges featuring 44 different speakers, including such notable guests as U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Andy Shallal of Busboys and Poets, and Danny Harris of People’s District. Audience members for the show came from 32 different states, as well as Canada, Puerto Rico, Tokyo, London, and South Africa.

“The remount of Clybourne Park was satisfying on so many levels,” Shalwitz says. “The actors’ performances grew by leaps and bounds, bringing new emotional resonance to the play. The shifting political climate provided a sharp new lens through which to view the play, and even more than the first production, the remount of Clybourne Park was not just entertainment, but a platform for civic discourse.”

In a recent interview with PBS Newshour, Shalwitz says that Clybourne Park “is a play about language. It’s not just about what’s right and what’s wrong with respect to race and gentrification. It’s as much about the words we use, the games we play, especially now, to try to be politically correct about it and how those mask maybe some deeper underlying attitudes. I think that’s the genius of the play, and that’s a lot of the comedy. It’s like the audience can see the characters tripping over themselves to try to put the best face on their own personal interests.”

Now in its 32nd Season, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company has been acknowledged as “the hottest theatre company in town” (The Washington Post), “known for its productions of innovative new plays” (The New York Times). Woolly Mammoth is a national leader in the development of new plays, and one of the best-known and most influential mid-sized theaters in the United States.

Kimberly Gilbert, Cody Nickell, Dawn Ursula, Jefferson A. Russell, Michael Glenn, and Mitchell Hébert in Woolly Mammoth’s production of Clybourne Park, directed by Howard Shalwitz '74

Jenkins Interviewed on Radio Australia Program

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, was interviewed about his prison theater project for a Radio Australia program on June 24. The broadcast was aired on their pacific network in Australia, Indonesia, Cambodia and East Timor. A transcript of the interview is below:

Theatre program with a difference in Bali, Indonesia

The Kerobokanprison has become synonymous with the trials and convictions of Australian drug traffickers Schapelle Corby, and members of the Bali 9. But now a professor of theatre from the United States is running a theater program as part of efforts to change the atmosphere of the jail.

Presenter Nasya Bahfen interviewed Jenkins, professor of theatre at Wesleyan University in Connecticut; Made Mantle Hood, honorary research fellow, University of Melbourne’s Conservatorium of Music:

JENKINS: Well I’ve always enjoyed staging theatre in venues that are outside of traditional theatres
and over the last five or six years I’ve been working in theatres in the United States in prisons.

BAHFEN: Ron Jenkins, mild mannered professor of theatre at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, USA. He regularly meets with a theatre group in one of Indonesia’s most notorious prisons, Kerobokan jail in Kuta, Bali. He gets inmates who reportedly include three members of the Bali 9 to perform pieces such as Dante’s Inferno.

JENKINS: Although I’ve been going to Bali and Indonesia

Jenkins Teaches Theater to Balinese Inmates

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, was featured in the June 9 edition of The Jakarta Post in an article titled “From Hell to Heaven at Kerobokan Prison.” In January, Jenkins started running a theater project at the Kerobokan Correctional Institution in Bali, where he taught 20 men and women inmates about acting. After six months of practice, the group performed Dante’s Divine Comedy,” a story about taking a personal journey through hell and purgatory to heaven.

“It is a story that anyone who has experienced hard times can understand,” Jenkins explains in the article. “But people in prison unfortunately have a deeper understanding of hell than most of us, and they can identify even more strongly with a character like Dante who is trying to learn something as he travels through hell, which will help him get to heaven.”

Jenkins spent part of his sabbatical in Indonesia working with I-Nyoman Catra, Ph.D. ’05 now a professor in Indonesia. View the Jakarta Post article here.

On the Stages of Bucharest, Kordonskiy is a Familiar Name


Yuriy Kordonskiy, associate professof of theater, directs “Bury Me Under the Baseboard" in Bucharest, Romania. Actress Andreea Bibiri is pictured at left.


Even when he’s in Connecticut, Associate Professor of Theater Yuriy Kordonskiy never really leaves Romania – his work is almost always on display there.

During a fall sabbatical from Wesleyan, Kordonskiy returned to Bucharest to find that “Uncle Vanya” – the Anton Chekhov classic he directed there in 2001 – was not only in performance, but still had its original cast.

“They didn’t replace a single actor,” he says, 10 years later. “And the shows are still sold-out.”

Today, no fewer than five Kordonskiy productions are in rotating performance at the Bulandra, Bucharest’s top repertory theater, including his latest, “Bury Me Under the Baseboard.” It opened in January with one of Romania’s best-known actresses, Mariana Mihut, in the lead role.

Kordonskiy adapted “Bury Me” from a best-selling contemporary Russian

Jenkins Brings “Inferno” Behind Prison Walls in NYT Article


Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, created a program in which inmates study and perform parts of Dante’s "Inferno." (Photo by Andrew Sullivan for the New York Times)


Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, was featured in the Dec. 24 edition of the New York Times for his efforts teaching incarcerated men Dante’s “Inferno.”

In the Dante Project, Jenkins leads a series of workshops that, through reading, analyzing, adapting and performing, explores the connections between Dante’s 14th-century epic poem and the lives of incarcerated men and women.

Jenkins, who has taught in Wesleyan’s theater department for 11 years, introduced prison outreach into the curriculum in 2007, bringing Wesleyan students to the York Correctional Institution, a women’s prison in Niantic, to work with inmates on literary classics. In 2009 and 2010, they began concentrating on “Inferno”; this year, because of construction at York, the class took place at the men’s facility in Niantic, the J.B. Gates Correctional Institution.

“Everyone who reads [“Inferno”] can identify with it, but the inmates can identify in a more powerful way, because they’ve gone through hell more than the rest of us,” Jenkins says in the article. “In our classes, they aren’t identifying with the sinners; they identify with Dante. They’re taking Dante’s journey, learning how to get out of a difficult place into someplace better.”

Shaw Expert on Contemporary ‘Chitlin Circuit’ Theater

Rashida Shaw '99, instructor of theater, recently completed a four-year ethnographic study of black audiences attending contemporary Urban Circuit productions in Chicago.

Wesleyan alumna Rashida Shaw ’99 returned to her alma mater this fall as an instructor of theater.

Shaw, who graduated with a bachelor of arts in sociology and theater from Wesleyan, also has a master of arts in theater from Northwestern University. She will receive an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in theater and drama from Northwestern’s Theater and Drama Program in Spring 2011.

Upon completion of her dissertation, titled “Theatrical Events and African American Audiences: A Study of Contemporary ‘Chitlin Circuit’ Theatre,” Shaw will become a tenure-track assistant professor of theater at Wesleyan (view video below).

5 Questions With . . . Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins

At left, Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, focuses his new book on the acclaimed Balinese painter Nyoman Gunarsa (pictured at right).

This issue, we ask “5 Questions” to Ron Jenkins, professor of theater. Jenkins is an expert in Balinese theater, international traditions of comic performance, and directing and translating the plays of Italian Nobel Laureate Dario Fo. He was awarded a residency at the Bellagio Center by the Rockefeller Foundation next spring. He is a former Guggenheim fellow whose research in Bali over the past 30 years has been supported by fellowships from the Watson Foundation, the Asian Cultural Council of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Fulbright Fund.

Q: Professor Jenkins, you’ve been teaching theater at Wesleyan for 11 years, specializing in international theater translation and prison arts programs. You directed the student/inmate play, “Unexpected: Voices of Incarcerated Woman” last spring. How, and when, did you acquire these interests?

A: I began my professional theater career as a clown and juggler in the circus, where I enjoyed having direct contact with large and diverse audiences, but I had to spend time in other cultures to discover clown and theater traditions with a deeper sense of social responsibility. I lived for a year in a Balinese village where I apprenticed with a troupe of temple performers who combined slapstick,

Jenkins Awarded Residency to Write about Directing Theater at Correctional Facilities

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater

The Rockefeller Foundation awarded Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, with a residency at the Bellagio Center in Italy during his sabbatical next spring.

Between March and April 2011, Jenkins will be working on a book about prison theater projects that he’s been directing at correctional facilities including his most recent work at a prison in Indonesia.

Jenkins has been collaborating with incarcerated individuals on staging their adaptations of classic texts by Shakespeare and Dante and other authors.  These projects have grown out of work done with Wesleyan students in Connecticut correctional facilities.

The specific texts include Shakespeare’s Tempest, Dante’s Inferno and the Mahabhrata.

“The personalized adaptations give incarcerated individuals the opportunity to tell their own stories by making connection between their experiences and the experiences of classical literary characters, with special emphases on life-changing turning points,” Jenkins explains.

To read more about Jenkins and to see a Wesleyan video on him, click here.

Jenkins Publishes Book on Balinese Painter

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, is the author of the 330-page book, Rua Bineda in Bali: Counterfeit Justice in the Trial of Nyoman Gunarsa, published by the Indonesian University of the Arts, 2010. The book focuses on how a Balinese painter, puppet-master and a Brahmin priest perceive a landmark court case involving art forgery and identity theft. Read more about this book in a “5 Questions With . . .” profile at http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2010/09/02/5-questions-with-professor-of-theater-ron-jenkins/.

Nascimento’s Book Praised in Theatre Journal

Book by Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento.

A book by Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, associate professor of theater, received positive reviews in the March 2010 issue of Theatre Journal. The book, Crossing Cultural Borders Through the Actor’s Work was published by Routlege in 2009.

According to the review: “Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento asserts that much critical attention given to intercultural performance tends to appraise the production as a whole, typically assessing the work of the director— especially Eugenio Barba, Ariane Mnouchkine, Peter Brook, and Jerzy Grotowski—while discounting the role of the intercultural actor, her training, commitment, and contribution made in collaboration with the director. Shifting focus toward the intercultural actor’s training as a ‘cultural border-crosser,’ Nascimento offers ‘an examination of the intercultural actor’s process that acknowledges her autonomy and agency as an artist’ transgressing a critical bias where the actor is often viewed as subservient to the director’s