Tag Archives: Creative and Performing Arts

All the World’s a Stage: Theater as Community Engagement

By Didem Uca, 2016-2017, Fulbright US Student to Germany

Anticipation buzzes across the blacked-out stage. In the wings, we ready ourselves. After a hundred hours of rehearsal, this moment comes at us at warp speed. Lights up, music on, action!

Didem Uca in LOVE in contact, July 14 and 15 at Theaterhaus Berlin Mitte

LOVE in Contact was a theater project devised by a team of thirteen individuals from different national, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, the culmination of six months of exploring love in all its facets. As both a researcher of contemporary migrant, multilingual, and transnational cultures in Germany and a lifelong thespian, I could feel my scholarly and creative sides coming together in ways I could not have imagined when I first began my Research Fellowship at Humboldt University of Berlin’s Institute for German Literature exactly ten months prior.

In my dissertation, I analyzed 20th and 21st century German-language novels and memoirs about young migrants and refugees. While my ‘day job’ took place in lecture halls and libraries, in the evenings, I explored the city’s rich cultural offerings, including attending performances of both traditional repertoire and avant-garde productions at theaters such as the Maxim Gorki and Ballhaus Naunynstraße, which produce plays by and for communities from migrant and refugee backgrounds. I also participated in Youngcaritas Kulturbuddys, a group that brings together 18-27-year-old refugees and non-refugees for cultural excursions. When the leaders of that group invited me to participate in a new theater project, I jumped at the chance to transition from scholar and audience member to creative writer and actor.

Collaborating with the cast and crew felt like putting theory into practice; it gave me first-hand experience of the kinds of transcultural labor performed by the writers and protagonists I examine in my research, simultaneously enriching my understanding of transnational, multilingual art forms and my own self-understanding as a Turkish-American PhD Candidate in German studies. Writing and performing in this production and even helping to create the sets has invigorated my desire to become an active participant in contemporary German culture rather than a mere observer. I also feel encouraged to incorporate the arts in my teaching, scholarship, and activist work so that students and members of the community may feel inspired to make German culture their own.

Left to right: Ebru Duman, Didem Uca, and Frederik Bechtel in LOVE in contact, July 14 and 15 at Theaterhaus Berlin Mitte

My advice for Fulbrighters about to begin their journeys and for prospective applicants envisioning their grants is to seek out opportunities for community engagement and creative practice, as these are just as vital a part of your role as cultural ambassador as your research and teaching. You can learn about opportunities for engagement by following cultural organizations on social media, scouring your host university’s bulletin boards, reading the arts and culture sections of local newspapers, and even Googling, which is how I found out about Kulturbuddys.

Senator J. William Fulbright defined the “essence of intercultural education” as the “acquisition of empathy––the ability to see the world as others see it, and to allow for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see, or may see it more accurately.” Theater, like all forms of creative expression, can bring people into contact with new perspectives that challenge their own prejudices, hopefully leading, as Senator Fulbright had hoped, to a more empathetic world. So, how will you spend your time off the clock?

 

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Interview with Fulbright Alumnus and Moonlight Producer Andrew Hevia (2015-2016, Hong Kong)

Andrew Hevia, 2015-2016, Hong Kong (Photo by Robert Scherle)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Can you tell us about working on Moonlight, and your involvement in making the film?

In 2007, I had just graduated from the Florida State University Film School and had moved to San Francisco. By coincidence, a group of Film School alums were in town making a micro budget feature – this turned out to be Moonlight writer-director Barry Jenkins’ debut feature, Medicine for Melancholy. Because of the alumni connection, I orbited that production and helped out whenever I could. I was an extra in the opening scene for example. That’s when I learned Barry was from Miami. It felt wrong to me that he was making a movie about San Francisco instead of Miami, so I made it my goal to change that.

Then, in 2010 or 2011, Tarell Alvin McCraney gave me a copy of his unfinished play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue—the story that eventually became Moonlight. I introduced him to Barry, gave Barry a copy of the play, and told him, “This might be the thing you make in Miami.” Time passed, Barry digested it and then the veteran producer Adele Romanski got wind of it, and she and Barry got Plan B and the distributor A24 involved. I had just won my Fulbright to Hong Kong and was set to leave in September, but Barry and Adele told me to delay the grant and offered me a role as co-producer. I’d been working to get Barry back to Miami for years and this was a project I cared deeply about so it was an easy and obvious yes.

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Check Out the Updated Fulbright U.S. Student Program Tutorials!

Our Fulbright U.S. Student Program tutorials have been updated for the 2018-2019 application cycle, which opens on April 3.

The tutorials are up-to-date, online slideshow videos designed for applicants and Fulbright Program Advisers (FPAs) to learn about program and application basics. Since some tutorials may be a prerequisite for attending webinars, we recommend that Fulbright applicants and FPAs review them before registering. We hope you find them useful and informative!

To listen to and watch our tutorials, click on the General Overview Tutorial below and here.

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Searching for Gold: Rescuing Memories in Rural Nicaragua

Lauren Schenkman, 2015-2016, Nicaragua

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Alex Mercado, an English teacher, interviewed his grandfather, Rodolfo Aguilar, about fighting in the Nicaraguan civil war.

As a child growing up in California, I loved hearing my mother talk about Siuna, the small town in Nicaragua where she grew up. Chickens ran around in her family’s yard, and they drank milk fresh from the cow. And when it rained, she said, the streets glittered with gold pebbles.

Almost twenty years later, I found myself on a run-down porch in Siuna with an 82-year-old man. As a rooster crowed, he told me the same story.

I was on my Fulbright year, doing research for a novel about Siuna. Not only was it the fairy-tale place of my mother’s stories; from about 1900 until 1979, it was home to an important gold mine owned by Americans and Canadians—hence the legend about gold in the streets. Siuna was essentially a company town; the North American staff lived in a luxurious, fenced-in zone on a hill, and most of the locals were miners, mechanics, and office workers. Today, all that remains are a few ruins, the green-and-white company bungalows, and a polluted lagoon—the former open-pit mine—where prospectors still pan for gold.

From town elders I heard happy recollections of bygone days—a well-stocked commissary, company parties—as well as tragic stories of mining accidents and economic depression after the company left. In order to share my findings, I worked with Professor Luis Gonzalo Herrera Siles at the local university, URACCAN, on a course combining history, narrative, and English learning. Each student—nine English teachers, ranging from age 20 to 38, and two college students—was to research and produce a podcast in Spanish, then translate into English. One pair talked to former miners about life underground; another student interviewed his father, a farmer who’d been caught in the 1980s Contra war. Another spoke with his wheelchair-bound friend about the incident that had paralyzed him.

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Fulbright U.S. Student Alumna and Author Deanna Fei (2003-2004, China) Shares How Her Book Girl in Glass Evolved and Offers Advice for Prospective Applicants

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Deanna Fei, 2003-2004, China

Can you tell us about Girl in Glass, and how that book came about?

GIRL IN GLASS is the story of my daughter’s birth, nearly four months premature–and how I learned to be the mother of a child I knew I could lose at any moment. The book also explores, in a larger societal context, what it means to sustain a life: from the front lines of neonatal intensive care units to the perils of the American health care system to the force of a child’s will to live.

For a long time, I was so steeped in the trauma surrounding my daughter’s arrival that I couldn’t imagine ever telling this story. Then, a year after I brought her home from the hospital, the CEO of my husband’s company publicly blamed her for being a drag on the bottom line and slapped a price tag on her life, setting off a national firestorm. It was only then, as the circumstances of her birth became the subject of countless headlines, that I realized I needed to speak out to defend the basic worth of her life.

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