I interpret my role in Goddard’s student-centered approach to learning as both guide and fellow traveler – an ally in intellectual adventure and active exploration. A crucial part of my job is to facilitate the defeat of the self-censor, to help quash the negative inner voice Schiller called the “watcher at the gates of the mind” that examines ideas too closely, stifling the creative or expressive or investigative process before it can even begin. I try to engage in our program's interdisciplinary “conversation” with students in the most progressive way possible – to challenge, encourage and assist in the kind of discovery that leads to creation and then, hopefully, to action. I believe that Goddard, through the students drawn to our programs and the work they take out into the world, is making a positive and critical difference.
I’m a writer, director, performer and activist – my current areas of inquiry and (hoped-for) discovery include community collaboration in performance; insider/outsider; environmental destruction and its impact on intangible cultural heritage; performance as research; and the ongoing tension between social action and aesthetics in the arts, with a focus on theatre.
For the past nine years, much of my artistic work/life has been connected to Lesotho, southern Africa. Since January 2005, when I arrived on a Fulbright to teach, create and direct in the National University’s Theatre Unit, I’ve been navigating the tricky cultural terrain of the small, mountainous country and making theatre there. Lesotho, a nation of about 2 million, is completely surrounded by South Africa and has the 3rd highest HIV infection rate in the world. My early work there was focused on teaching (acting, directing, playwriting, play production), directing shows and producing theatre events – some connected contextually to the HIV pandemic, others set in a purely performative frame. As an outgrowth of that work, The Winter/Summer Institute in Theatre for Development (WSI) was launched in June 2006. WSI is a multicultural collaboration between faculty and students from three continents, and community participants from the rural mountains of Lesotho (www.maketheatre.org). While my work as WSI’s artistic director is ongoing, in 2012 I received a second Fulbright to return to the National University and, along with my teaching and directing duties, to begin a new project connected to dam-building, environmental destruction and related questions of intangible cultural heritage. That project, Split the Village, is still in process.
I’ve been teaching in Goddard’s MA in Individualized Studies program since 2002 (inclusive of leaves for my Fulbright and other work in Africa). I’ve also been a visiting writer in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Long Island University, Brooklyn; and, since 1993, I’ve been an instructor and project collaborator at the State University of New York’s Empire State College (ESC) in Manhattan – a program that, like Goddard’s, grew out of the progressive education movement. ESC is currently the U.S. academic base of WSI.
In New York, I’m at work on a new performance piece, Surrogate Traveler, which began development through IRT Theater’s 3B Series in May 2013. I also have an ongoing relationship with Mabou Mines Theatre, where I’ve been a Resident Artist three times – most recently working on Outpost: Letter from Lesotho, which looks at the outsider/insider conundrum, chaos and comedy of global “citizenship.”
My work as a playwright and performer has been seen at a variety of NYC venues, including: Dixon Place, HERE, NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing, the ArcLight, St. Mark's in the Bowery, and the former Circle Rep Lab; as well as at locations throughout Lesotho, and at the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Visit Katt Lissard's website: http://www.kattlissard.org.