This week the IPF workshop is joined by O’Donnell Visiting Educator Jessica Litwak. Her visit is sponsored by the Department of Theatre and Dance and the Global Studies Initiative, which seeks to bring global perspectives to campus each year. I had a chance to step into the IPF workshop this week and see how, under her leadership, the students continue to focus their ideas into more concrete substance for the plays they will write in nearly a week’s time. Litwak prefers to lead her classes in the acting classroom where she has the freedom to put students on their feet, have them actively engage with one another, and sit on the wood floor for discussions. She is quick to note that I wouldn’t be able to separate myself from the aesthetic of the workshop either. “You’re in it,” she tells me as I sit down within their circle. My presence is going to have influence over the workshop whether I like it or not.
It’s clear that Jessica exudes a warmth and energy that envelops you the moment she meets you. Perhaps this comes from her years of experience conducting theatre workshops around the world. This warmth was reflected in the discussion that begins the class. Each student is asked to share one idea or obstacle they are working around to craft into his or her eventual play. Soon, these ideas and questions turn into discussion topics that include channeling anger into productive playwriting, utilizing active imagination, and discerning what ethical boundaries playwrights have when writing about others’ experiences. Each individual’s struggles illuminate just what obstacles they all still face in the process.
“It’s not easy,” Litwak says flatly. She takes another breath as a stillness fills the acting classroom. “Did anyone tell you these three weeks would be easy?”
Litwak will stay on campus through the weekend. On Friday, September 19, she will be screening the documentary film Acting Together on the World Stage in Maxey Auditorium. Full details can be found here. During the weekend, she will also be leading a Peacebuilding Through Performance Workshop that is open to all students, faculty and staff. A public sharing will culminate the two-day intensive workshop on Sunday. And on Monday, September 22, Litwak will read from her new play, MY HEART IS IN THE EAST. Full details can be found here.
Litwak is a playwright, actor, and activist and is a trained practitioner of Playback Theatre, Sociodrama, and Theatre of the Oppressed. She has been to numerous countries working with freeDimensional, Theatre Without Borders, The H.E.A.T. Collective, and Acting Together on the World Stage. You can find out more about Jessica and her associated projects at her website: http://www.jessicalitwak.com/.