The Last Word
By Ken Butler

 

For faculty in the Department of Theatre & Dance, research takes place off the stage as well as on it.

No one would be surprised to learn that the majority of Muhlenberg faculty engages in research. And though for most people the term “research” may conjure images of laboratories, test tubes and Bunsen burners, ’Berg alumni who spent time with their professors know that research can take many more varied forms. Nowhere is this more true than in the department of theatre and dance, where the faculty are involved with projects ranging from expected artistic activities (acting, directing, dancing, choreographing, designing, writing an original screenplay) to scholarly pursuits (editing the book review section of a prestigious theatre journal, performing research in the pedagogy of dance) to engaging in research about how creativity and emotion are processed in the brain, or looking at “double consciousness” – the proposition that we not only see ourselves as ourselves, but also perceive ourselves partially through others’ perceptions of us.

That last hypothesis is the work of Assistant Professor Charles Anderson, one of the newest members of the theatre and dance faculty. Anderson, who taught high school math and science before earning his M.F.A. in dance at Temple University, choreographs in a form he calls “kinetic storytelling,” a way of conveying the sense of a story rather than its details, drawing on the African-American form of testimony (as opposed to linear narrative) in creating the emotional context that comes from human interaction. As he feels he has always been torn between intellectual and artistic means of expression, he uses the medium of movement to convey intellectual concepts in a more directed way than mere abstract commentary. His newest work is directly inspired by W.E.B. DuBois’ “Souls of Black Folk,” and is based on the mythology surrounding the transformative powers of seventh sons of seventh sons. As there are many popular American, African, and gay dance forms that seek personal transformation as their end result, he is exploring movement as a catalyst for transformation and self-reflection in this new piece.

Francine Roussel, assistant professor, also creates new work while teaching and maintaining a separate professional performing career. She was extremely busy this spring, teaching classes during the week and spending her weekends working on director Sydney Pollack’s upcoming film, “The Interpreter,” which was the first feature film actually shot inside the United Nations complex. A native Parisian, Roussel was also asked to write portions of scenes that she then performed with the film’s star, Nicole Kidman. She was also asked to coach Kidman on her French accent. When not performing or teaching, she continues writing; she recently spent time in Brittany, doing research for a screenplay. Her latest original work was a dance/theatre piece created with choreographer Dagmar Spain entitled “Appearances,” which was inspired by the events of September 11 and premiered at last year’s New York Fringe Festival.

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