CHAPEL HILL -- What do Southern gay men, Igor Stravinksky's notorious ballet "The Rite of Spring," Vivien Leigh's performance in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and the poetry of Ovid have in common?
They all deal, at least in part and in extremely various ways, with issues of gender and identity.
This academic year, UNC is presenting a series of performances, lectures, films and other events focused on those issues. The Gender Project, this year's Carolina Creative Campus, uses the arts as the foundation to foster dialogue about questions of gender and identity and their impact on our lives through the arts, humanities, politics, law, religion and the media.
Gender is the subject for the second year of Carolina Creative Campus, following last year's conversation on capital punishment, "Criminal/Justice: The Death Penalty Examined."
The project will use the performing arts, films, lectures, exhibits and discussions as tools to further the year-long conversation.
"The arts stimulate discussion and challenge perceptions while illuminating issues that are important to all of us, and that is the aim of The Gender Project," said Emil Kang, executive director for the arts at UNC.
On Thursday, UNC alumnus E. Patrick Johnson will perform "Pouring Tea: Black Gay Men of the South," a one-man performance based on stories he collected for his new book, "Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South," an oral history of black gay men who live in the southern United States.
The free performance covers some of the themes discussed in "Sweet Tea," with Johnson performing the narratives of nine men.
Johnson, a professor of African-American studies and professor, chairman and director of graduate studies in the performance studies department at Northwestern University, has performed "Pouring Tea" at colleges and universities nationwide.
A pre-show reception will start at 6 p.m., and the performance will begin at 7. The event will take place at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, 150 South Road on the UNC campus.
This weekend brings "[it is in you]," Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in Gerrard Hall on Cameron Avenue, performed and created by UNC alumna Marie Garlock.
In addition to being a part of the Gender Project, the play is a part of a series of new and still developing performance works at UNC.
"[it it is you]" fuses storytelling, dance and movement, live music and spoken word into a piece that explores the politics of development, HIV and the body.
Garlock earned a bachelor's degree with a double major in communication studies and international and area studies at UNC. She focused on African studies and questions of social and economic justice. She developed "[it is in you]" as part of her honors thesis, and as a means to commemorate what she studied at Tanzania's University of Dar es Salaam in 2007.
"It is thrilling to be able to open our first season with an exciting new performance developed here and presented by a recent grad," Joseph Megel, a resident artist in the communication studies department in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences and the director of the process series.
In October, London's DVV8 Physical Theatre will present "To Be Straight With You," a visceral, highly political dance-theater piece featuring live performance, documentary footage and animation. Shows will be Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. at Memorial Hall.
The piece presents a vivid, unflinching look at the tangled connections between sexuality, ethnicity and religion. "To Be Straight With You" is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with people of different races, religions and sexual identities who have experienced or taken part in some form of intolerance. The resulting play examines how religious viewpoints, ethnicity and culture intersect.
On Oct. 21, Memorial Hall will present the world premiere of "Vivien and The Shadows," a multifaceted reimagining of Tennessee Williams' timeless drama "A Streetcar Named Desire." Commissioned by Carolina Performing Arts, "Vivien" is conceived and directed by Singaporean director Ong Keng Sen and with his company, Theatreworks.
"Vivien and The Shadows" focuses on the 1951 film adaptation of the play that starred Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. Keng Sen and Theatreworks examine Leigh's portrayal of the tragic heroine, Blanche DuBois, and how, over time and through the success of the film, Leigh and DuBois have come to meld into each other within the popular imagination.
The performance will feature four different portrayals of Leigh/DuBois by Keng Sen, Swedish vocalist-performance artist Charlotte Engelkes, Obie-winner Karen Kandel and New York-based art-burlesque star Julie Atlas Muz.
"To Be Straight With You" and "Vivien and The Shadows" are powerful contributions to The Gender Project that investigate aspects of perspectives on the intersection of gender, identity and culture, said Reed Colver, facilitator of the project.
"Both performances challenge us to reflect on what we experience and how that experience informs our notions of gender and identity," she said. "They are great illustrations of how the arts can catalyze this type of dialogue."
Gender Project discussions and events will take place throughout the academic year. For project updates and additions, including additional fall semester events and collaboration opportunities, visit carolinacreativecampus.org and The Gender Project blog at blog.carolinacreativecampus.org. Participate online by sharing your story or opinion or suggesting events for inclusion.
Departments across campus will contribute to the discussion.
Coming highlights include:
- "The Rite of Spring," Compagnie Heddy Maalem, Oct. 25, 8 p.m.
- "The Shadow of the Glen" and "The Playboy of the Western World," Druid Theatre Company, Oct. 29 and 30, 7:30 p.m.
- "Feminine and Masculine in Ovid's Poetry," on display through Feb. 1, 2009, at the Ackland Art Museum.
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