Keynote Lecture: Jan Selman (University of Alberta)
Working With, Creating Collaboratively
Freshly back from Kenya, I will share a story of evolving artistic approaches and insights gleaned while
working in depth with community-based performing artists near Lake Victoria. The collaboration started
with a 2012 visit to rural and urban theatre groups in western Kenya. I asked: how do you work? and
what do you need? The resulting collaboration continues today and there are spinoffs. This talk will describe the social context and its influences on the creative processes that we used. I will discuss major decisions, issues surrounding collaboration, and our theatre events. An interdisciplinary and intercultural
research team is linked to some of this work. Findings from this and other research collaborations will play through the story, as will my reflections on what these experiences could mean to Canadian theatre makers.
Professor Jan Selman
A professor at the University of Alberta, where she is past Chair of Drama (1999-2010) and Interim Director of Community Service-Learning (2014-16), Jan’s creation and research focus is the use of theatre in community settings around community issues. Recent projects include an extended engagement with community-based artists in western Kenya. Kwe Kalyet: Lwanda Magere Revisited adapted a traditional story to a call for interethnic peace; it continues to tour. Theatrical Interactions for Change, currently in development, will engage Kenyan citizen groups in strategizing action around barriers to interethnic cohesion, gender disparity and civic engagement. Other recent directing work includes the premiere productions of Colleen Murphy’s I Hope My Heart Burns First and Story House by Tanzanian-Canadian writer/performer Tololwa Mollel. Research work in community-based theatre includes leading the Old Stories in New Ways Canadian-Kenyan initiative (2012-present) and a Community-University Research Alliance (2006-13) of theatre and sexual health groups and researchers from across Canada to adapt and assess the impact of a participatory play and sex ed program in urban, rural and Aboriginal communities. Jan has also held appointments with UBC and as Artistic Director of Catalyst Theatre.
Jan has been recognized as a leader, creator and scholar in her field with election as Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada, the University of Alberta Leadership Award and a Unit Teaching Award (BFA Acting Program), as well as induction into Edmonton’s Cultural Hall of Fame. Her publications grow from her community-based theatre practice and experiential learning-centred classrooms. Based in this work, she co-wrote and edited, Popular Theatre in Political Culture: Britain and Canada in Focus (Intellect) and an award winning book which emerged from the SSHRC funded Are We There Yet? project (UAPress). She also served as a long term consultant with Aga Khan University as they developed an interdisciplinary and community engaged Faculty of Arts and Sciences for East Africa.