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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

Professor Emeritus William Ward Remembered for Set Design

William Ward (photo by Bill Burkhart)

William Ward, professor of theater and design emeritus, died June 14, 2010. He was 79 years old.

Ward came to Wesleyan in 1956, as an instructor in art, and he taught at Wesleyan for 42 years, becoming professor of theater and design in 1969. He retired in 1998. Ward designed sets for more than 100 plays and concerts at Wesleyan, and he also created graphical and other design work for more than 25 exhibitions and publications.  Ward was one of the principal faculty involved in proposing the Center for the Arts complex, for which he served as design consultant.

In a 1995 interview, he explained that his vision for the CFA had the pedagogical goal of fostering conversation: “We wanted a cluster of buildings that would surround a central area of interaction, where to walk to the Music Department you would run into art people because they would be out in the middle as well.”

Ward relished teaching, saying that it kept him young

2 Students Perform Entire “Mystery” Play

Wesleyan’s Theater Department presented “The Mystery of Irma Vep” April 9-10, April 10 in Patricelli ’92 Theater. On a stormy night at Mandacrest estate, Lord Edgar Hillcrest and his new bride Lady Enid are haunted by the memory of the Manor’s first mistress—Irma Vep. The play was written by Charles Ludlam and directed by Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, associate professor of theater. Mark McCloughan ’10 played Lady Enid, Nicodemus Underwood, Alcazar and the Egyptian Princess Pev Amri. Jaime Maseda ’12 played Lord Edgar, Jane Twisden and the Intruder.

Student Play Based on Female Prisoners’ Lives

The play, Unexpected: Voices of Incarcerated Women, was written by former inmates at the York Correctional Institute in Niantic, Conn.

The play, Unexpected: Voices of Incarcerated Women, included pieces written by former and current inmates at the York Correctional Institute in Niantic, Conn. Photo by Bill Burkhart.

The debut of Unexpected: Voices of Incarcerated Women, a new play directed by Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins, was shown to full crowds in the Center for the Arts Hall on Feb. 25 and 26.

In Unexpected, stories written by women formerly and presently incarcerated at the York Correctional Institute in Niantic, Conn., were performed by the former prisoners and Wesleyan students who have collaborated with them in Jenkins’ service learning course.

Jenkins has been leading a theater outreach class at York since 2008, which predates the Center for Prison Education at Wesleyan, founded in 2009. However, through the Center for Prison Education, Wesleyan students are currently volunteering at the prison.

“The mission of the Center for Prison Education program is to practice Wesleyan’s civic engagement by offering college courses to incarcerated individuals, in order both to enrich the lives of those who are systematically denied access to educational opportunities and to enhance Wesleyan’s academic community. We believe that the work done by Ron Jenkins and our activities complement one another well,” explains program manager Cathy Crimmins Lechowicz, director of community service and volunteerism.

The Feb. 25 performance included a reading by novelist