A performance and documentary based on true-life stories of families affected by violence kicks off a healing and peace-building film series at Arcadia University on Thursday, Feb. 20. The series, “Social Transformation through the Arts: Healing and Peace Building, Locally and Globally,” features documentary film screenings and panel discussions with the artists on the third Thursday of February, March, and April. The series, hosted by Arcadia’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution Program, shows how the arts can promote hope, inspiration, and connection in conflict-affected areas. All three events are free and open to the public.
On Feb. 20, at 7 p.m., Theater of Witness, a form of performance founded by artistic director Teya Sepinuck, allows performers a chance to share their life experiences in spoken word, music, movement, imagery, and video projections as a way for audiences to bear witness to significant social issues. The performance will be followed by the documentary film Beyond the Walls, based on an original Theater of Witness production with women who lost family members to murder, mothers whose children committed murder, and ex-offender. The film examines the effects of inner city violence on communities and speaks to the power of forgiveness and healing. The streets, neighborhoods, courts, and prisons of Philadelphia provide a backdrop.
Sepinuck has been creating Theater of Witness productions since 1986 in the U.S., Poland, and Northern Ireland, where she recently completed her fourth production at The Playhouse in Derry/Londonderry. She is a recipient of the Philadelphia Human Rights Award for Arts and Culture from the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, among other awards, and is author of Theatre of Witness—Finding the Medicine in Stories of Suffering, Transformation, and Peace (Jessica Kingsley Publishers).
The event features Hakim Ali, who spent more than 40 years in prison, and Suzette Salmon, who lived through the incarceration of her son and husband; Sepinuck will join the discussion panel via Skype from Northern Ireland.
For more information about Sepinuck’s work as a director and her Theater of Witness methodology, visit theaterofwitness.
Dates and times for future films and panel discussions in the series are:
- Thursday, March 20, 7 p.m.: The Barefoot Artist (film), Barefoot Artists (Lily Yeh)
Artist Lily Yeh’s organization the Barefoot Artists brings the transformative power of visual arts to the most impoverished communities in the world,developing projects in collaboration with individuals and agencies on the ground. The film The Barefoot Artist explores two sides of global Yeh, as she uses the arts as a tool for community building and personal transformation in Philadelphia and around the world. Fueled by the belief that art is a human right and artists can promote profound global change, Yeh’s work harnesses the power of art, image making, and narrative stories to move and educate people. The documentary’s recent inaugural screening at the Philadelphia Museum of Art drew a packed house.
- Thursday, April 17, 7 p.m.: Hip-Hop: A Culture of Peace (film), JusListen Entertainment (Mr. Tyson)
Artist Mr. Tyson’s documentary Hip-Hop: A Culture of Peace examines the role of the culture as an international purveyor of peace through the arts and media. The film features interviews with various local and international performers and file footage from news broadcasts and online journalism. A music and film collective founded on hip-hop culture’s four pillars of peace, love, unity, and fun, Mr. Tyson’s JusListen gets people to re-engage in these principles through music to help progress modern society to a higher level of awareness. Tyson’s work is strongly influenced by his fieldwork throughout conflict-affected areas such as Costa Rica, Ukraine, Cyprus, and Northern Ireland.