Introducing the RECONSTRUCTION Writers/Scholars

Last year, we made the commitment to commission 3 Writers/Scholars to witness Reconstruction‘s process and analyze our work with an eye towards internal accountability with the plan to publish this work publicly. We are pleased to share that we have selected our 3 Writers/Scholars. Scroll down to learn more about these fabulous humans.

MELANIE GEORGE

Melanie George is the founder and director of Jazz Is… Dance Project and an Associate Curator and Director of Artist Initiatives at Jacob’s Pillow. As a dramaturg, she has contributed to projects by David Neumann & Marcella Murray (on the Obie Award-winning Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed), Raja Feather Kelly, Ephrat Asherie, Susan Marshall & Company, Machine Dazzle, Kimberly Bartosik/daela, and Urban Bush Women, among others. Melanie is featured in the documentary UpRooted: The Journey of Jazz Dance, and founded the global advocacy website jazzdancedirect.com. Publications include Imbed/In Bed: Two Perspectives on Dance and Collaboration” for Working Together in Qualitative Research (Sense Publishers) and chapters in Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches and the forthcoming Rooted Jazz Dance: Africanist Aesthetics and Equity in the Twenty-First Century (University Press of Florida).  She is the former Dance Program Director at American University and has guest lectured at Harvard University, the Yale School of Drama, and The Juilliard School. 

DR. TAWNYA PETTIFORD-WATES

Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D. Professor of Acting and Directing Pedagogy at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Co-Artistic Director & Founder of The Conciliation Lab, a non-profit social justice theatre company www.theconciliationlab.org. Dr.T is a playwright, director, actor, poet, and writer. She has appeared in the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Broadway production of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the rainbow is enuf performing in both the national and international touring companies.  Her television, film, industrial, voice-over, and commercial credits are extensive. Favorite directing projects include “uncle tom: deconstructed” for The Conciliation Project www.theconciliationproject.org,  PASSING STRANGE for Firehouse Theatre, “The Niceties” for The Conciliation LAB, and FENCES for the Virginia Rep all to critical acclaim. Fun fact: She’s featured voice talent for the video game HALO. She’s a featured scholar in Black Acting Methods: critical approaches, a best seller on Amazon. Recently her chapter “The Conciliation Project as a Social Experiment: Behind the Mask of Uncle Tom-ism and the Performance of Blackness” was featured in an anthology titled, African American Arts, Activism, Aesthetics, and Futurity, edited by Dr. Sharrell D. Luckett.  Dr.T is a columnist for Urban Views Weekly, www.urbanviewsrva.com other articles, presentations and workshops can be found at www.coveringtheground.com

NIA OSTROW WITHERSPOON

Nia Ostrow Witherspoon is a Black Queer theatre-maker, vocalist and composer, and cultural worker investigating the metaphysics of Black liberation, desire, and diaspora, in the context of sacred ecologies.  Described as “especially fascinating” by Backstage Magazine, and featured by NPR for her curation of BlackARTSMatter, Witherspoon is NEFA/NTP recipient, a Creative Capital Awardee, a Jerome New Artist Fellow, an artist in residence at HERE Arts Center and BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and was a 2017-18 2050 Playwriting/Directing Fellow at New York Theatre Workshop. Her works, MESSIAH, YOU MINE, THE DARK GIRL CHRONICLES, and PRIESTESS OF TWERK have been or will be featured by The Shed, JACK, La Mama ETC, Playwright’s Realm, BRIC, HERE, National Black Theatre, BAAD, Movement Research, BAX, Dixon Place, Painted Bride, 651 Arts, and elsewhere. Witherspoon has been recognized by the Mellon Foundation, NYFA, the Wurlitzer Foundation, Lambda Literary, and Theatre Bay Area, and most recently NEFA/NTP. She holds a BA from Smith College and a PhD from Stanford University in Theatre and Performance Studies, and her writing is published in the Journal of Popular Culture; Imagined Theatres; Women, Collective Creation, and Devised Performance; and IMANIMAN: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands.   Witherspoon has held tenure-track professorships at Florida State University and Arizona State University taught at Fordham and University of Massachusetts (Amherst), and is currently working on a manuscript tentatively titled NATION IN THE DARK: A Black femme spell for justice. 

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