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Reframed: Performing Life Narratives through Improvisation in Theater and Performance

Improvisation is a tool that is integral to creating, documenting and performing African and African Diasporic narratives of home and community. Reframed is a workshop that will use improvisational theater practices to create opportunities for immigrant youth to identify, document, and perform important aspects of their narratives that are often lost when moving from one national space to another. This project will introduce acting and writing exercises that help youth take ownership of their stories through acts of performance. Using cell phones, iPads, and live performance, students learn different ways to “write” and “reframe” their experiences in ways that help them make meaning of trauma and triumph in their lives as transformed subjects living in the United States. Using performance workshops that mix solo and ensemble performance, Hip-hop freestyling, and automatic writing, the facilitator’s goal is to use performance sessions to empower students with interdisciplinary approaches to cultivating the power of their voices while highlighting the importance of story documentation in community survival and healing.


Nicole Hodges Persley
Nicole Hodges Persley

Nicole Hodges Persley, Associate Professor of Theatre, has worked with diverse African communities for over 15 years. She has lived and worked in West Africa and has several employment experiences engaging immigrant youth. She was a cultural arts director for the African Refugee Resource Center in Los Angeles, working with Eritrean, Somali and Ethiopian youth to use film to narrate their experiences as Africans in America. She created a short documentary film, Don’t Want to Live Like a Refugee (1999) that narrated the experiences of East African youth living in LA. She also used improvisatory practices of art making with self-taught artists in Dakar, Senegal. She is the author of a forthcoming book, Sampling and Remixing Blackness, on non-African American artists in theater, conceptual art, and dance who utilize African American expressions of Hip-hop to articulate their personal narratives. She is the director of ITT- The Interactive Theater Troupe at the University of Kansas which uses improvisatory theater and performance to teach students, faculty and staff about diversity on KU’s campus.

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