June 14, 2011: Symposium: An Unimagined Space: Beyond the Legacy of the New WORLD Theater

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011, 9:30am–5pm

An Unimagined Space: Beyond the Legacy of the New WORLD Theater — an all-day symposium

June 14, 2011, 9:30am–5:00pmIn July 2009, citing the economic recession, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst made the decision to suspend, and effectively end, the operations of the New WORLD Theater, a pioneering producer and presenter of innovative contemporary theater by artists of color. Founded in 1979, New WORLD worked at the intersection of artistic practice, community engagement, scholarship, and activism toward a vision of a “new world”—one that broke the confines of multiculturalism and was an artistic harbinger of America’s shifting demographics.

This one day symposium will bring together artists, scholars, and cultural organizers using the springboard of New WORLD as a bold forward-looking cultural experiment to examine the artistic and social reverberations within the changing cultural politics of the 21st Century.

Performances by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, UNIVERSES, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, 2050 Legacy Ensemble.

Roundtable discussions with Awam Amkpa, Associate Professor, New York University; Michael John Garcés, Artistic Director, Cornerstone Theater; Mildred Ruiz  and Steven Sapp, UNIVERSES; Vijay Prashad, Professor, Trinity College; Joseph Schloss, author; Marc Bamuthi Joseph, artist; David Sheingold, cultural organizer; Diana Taylor, University Professor, New York University; Chinua Thelwell, Visiting Assistant Professor, Allegheny College; lê thi diem thúy, artist; Roberta Uno, founder, New WORLD Theater.

Free, space is limited, please RSVP online. Made possible with the generous support of the Nathan Cummings Foundation.


  • 9:30–10:00 am: Coffee
  • 10:00–10:10 am:  Performance—Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Wake Up Call.
  • 10:15- 10:30 am:  Beyond the Legacy: Chinua Thelwell (Visiting Assistant Professor, Allegheny College) and Roberta Uno (Founder, New WORLD Theater)
  • 10:35 am-12:05 pm: Round table discussion—Imagining Creative Space

From a geographic “outpost” in New England, New WORLD Theater evolved from a community organizing project and the Northeast point on a theater touring compass —to a protective studio to hone new work, a site of international intersections from South Africa to the South Bronx, and the home of inspired and rigorous collaborations with Western Massachusetts youth. New performance work development at New WORLD defied the conventional theater play lab as ghetto for artists of color; artists were met where they wanted to be in the imagining of new approaches, methods, and production.  This session will look at the creative trajectories of artists whose theater work is based in disparate processes of deep inquiry and brave aesthetic experimentation.  From le thi diem thuy’s intimate focus on the body and the unending presence of war, to the sprawling expanse of Cornerstone Theater’s projects across and beyond the demographics and geography of Los Angeles, panelists will speak from a diverse array of viewpoints.   What is driving these creative processes and what is being revealed?  Panelists will also talk about the challenges facing producers of performance cultures in times of economic “crisis.”  How have the members of the panel experienced the current economic recession?   How is the environment for producing work shifting?  Lastly, who does your work engage and why?

  • Michael John Garcés, Artistic Director, Cornerstone Theater
  • lê thi diem thúy, Writer and theater artist
  • Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Writer and theater artist
  • Steven Sapp, UNIVERSES
  • Moderator: Awam Amkpa, Associate Professor, New York University
  • 12:10–12:20 pm: Performance—2050 Legacy Ensemble
  • 12:20–1:45 pm: Lunch break
  • 2:00–2:10 pm: UNIVERSES Performance Excerpt, Party People.
  • 2:15–3:45 pm: Round table discussion — The Unimagined Space: Project America

One of New WORLD Theater’s artistic legacies is Project 2050, an early call to imagine the U.S. demographic shift, with people of the future — youth, in equal collaboration with artists and scholars. This session asks its participants to respond to the unfolding new America and to offer new frameworks to understand the American cultural project.  In this post-Civil Rights, post-multiculturalism era—with the decline of American empire and its white majority; with the corporatization of universities and the erosion of support for Ethnic Studies and the humanities—do complex representation politics matter? What might polyculturalism in practice look like? What are the new narratives defining American culture and modes of cultural organizing? How can we define and describe future aesthetics?  How might demographic shifts and technological advancements influence the direction of aesthetics? Finally, what's at stake when we try to imagine future aesthetics?

  • Vijay Prashad, Professor, Trinity College
  • Mildred Ruiz, UNIVERSES
  • David Sheingold, cultural organizer
  • Joseph Schloss, author
  • Moderator: Diana Taylor, Hemispheric Institute and NYU
  • 3:50–4:05 pm: Philosophical Tantrum: Guillermo Gómez-Peña
  • 4:15–5:00 pm: Long Table Discussion — open to all participants and audience