I am a theater director and professor at Skidmore College, training students to be innovative theater makers in order to reflect a greater breadth of the human experience on global stages by engaging with the dynamic intersections of race, gender, language, culture and social justice. As a scholar artist, I integrate pedagogy, performance, and research in my scholarly and artistic work. I am drawn to plays that engage with race, gender, language and global issues. I strive to create opportunities for such plays to be realized through my teaching, research and professional endeavors. I am artist, teacher and scholar in all I do. My areas of research and teaching include: multilingual performance, translation studies, African American theater, theater of Cape Verde (West Africa), creole and mixed race performance, theater for social change, musical theater, new play development, world theater history, and directing.
The book is a stunning collection of Robbins’ journal entries, letters, photographs, drawings, and other writings edited and with commentary by the award-winning Vaill. Not only was it lovely to talk with Vaill (an engaging storyteller with a rigorous process) but it was such fun to tag team the interview with Skidmore dance professor Jason Ohlberg, a brilliant dancer and choreographer.
Jerome Robbins brought innovation to ballet and musical theater in choreography and direction in productions as West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Afternoon of a Faun and Glass Pieces.The book, published by Knopf provides a wealth of primary sources (59 illustrations!) thoughtfully edited by Vaill (or collaged as she poetically described). I highly recommend the book for college/university libraries, your personal library or as a gift.
Lovers of all things Hamilton, will be excited to learn that her Vaill’s current project is a biography of sisters Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton and Angelica Schuyler Church.
I am honored to be part of CASTING A MOVEMENT, edited by Claire Syler and Daniel Banks. Our editors brought together a diverse group of practitioners and scholars who believe that “ …casting is a way to invite more people to the table so that the full breadth of US identities can be reflected onstage, and that casting is inherently a political act; because an actor’s embodied presence both communicates a dramatic narrative and evokes cultural assumptions associated with appearance, skin color, gender, sexuality, and ability, casting choices are never neutral.”
With a foreword by Liesl Tommy, the book’s sections include Culturally conscious casting, Approaches to casting Middle Eastern American theater, Casting and disability culture, Casting and multilingual performance, Casting contemporary Native American theater, Subverting stereotypes, and Casting across identities. My chapter, “Setting a Global Table with Multilingual Theater,” is based on my direction of the multilingual premiere of The Orphan Sea by Caridad Svich. I suggest that the choice to direct a multilingual play is an invitation to engage in cross-cultural projects that celebrate different cultures, religions, identities, and perspectives. Our rehearsals and performances were sites to experiment with translation theory, multilingual performance strategies, and audience reception. Casting multilingual actors and presenting multilingual productions is a means to nurture future artists who can dream and bring to fruition new theatrical possibilities.
Read about my incredible 93-year-old student Lewis Taub! Every spring I teach Theater & Culture I, a foundational course in the Theater Department at Skidmore College. This semester was just a little more special than those of previous years. Local resident and retired optometrist Lewis Taub, completed his 50th course at Skidmore in Theater & Culture I. Lewis was a joy to have in the classroom and reminded all of us that learning should be a life-long endeavor. Lewis has become quite a bit of a social media star with media coverage on the local evening news. Watch a video of Lewis and a theater major featured on the local news.
Seventeen students from majors all over campus came together as a learning community to study, experience, discuss and create Black Theater. For their final projects, students performed scene work and created original performance piece that were staged in multiples sites at the Tang Teaching Museum on December 12, 2017. We called the event – Black Theater Poppin’ at the Tang!
Students participated in a dance workshop led by their classmate Celeste Munoz Perez who was inspired by a massive installation – Willie Cole’s “To Get to the Other Side,” a 16-foot chessboard with 32 lawn jockey chess pieces interpreted through a Yoruban worldview. You can view a clip of their improvised performance here.
Please read this feature on students in my Translation & Performance class at Skidmore College where eight plays receive their world premiere in English. The playwrights represent Mexico, Swaziland, Cape Verde, Angola, Brazil, Portugal, Russia, Germany, Guatemala, Algeria, and France. Feature written by Ziggy Schulting.