Events | 28 January 2019

‘What refugees taught me about Shakespeare’

By Scott Rappaport | January 24, 2019


Originally posted on UCSC News >


New York City theater director Jessica Bauman recently adapted and directed Arden/Everywhere, a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, as a story about refugees.

In the process of developing her production, she worked with refugees, former refugees, and immigrants from all over the world–both in New York and at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.

On Thursday, January 31, Bauman will visit the campus for a special evening at Kresge Town Hall titled “What Refugees Taught Me About Shakespeare.” Together with UC Santa Cruz professor Cat Ramirez, she will explore the ways that the stories we hear and tell about refugees shape our responses to the worldwide migration crisis.

The event is presented by Shakespeare Workshop, The Humanities Institute, and Porter College. Admission is free and open to the public.

“The essence of the work we do in Shakespeare Workshop is to demonstrate that Shakespeare belongs to everybody and that his plays are resources for thinking about the world in which we live together,” said literature professor Sean Keilen, director of Shakespeare Workshop in the The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz.” When I became aware of the work that Jessica Bauman is doing, I knew that I had to bring her to Santa Cruz.”

“I also knew that among our distinguished faculty, Cat Ramirez would be the perfect interlocutor for Jessica,” he added. “Cat is a scholar of race, gender, migration, and citizenship, and through her, I believe that the Workshop will be able to bring Shakespeare and Jessica’s outstanding and original work with his plays to a broad audience.”

Keilen noted that while on campus, Bauman will also visit one of his undergraduate courses to discuss Shakespeare’s rarely-performed play, Cymbeline, as an opportunity to consider the problem of individual and collective identity during a period of resurgent nationalism.

Bauman will also give a career development workshop for Theater Arts majors and graduate students at UC Santa Cruz, and additionally make a presentation about her work to the Saturday Shakespeare Club in Aptos, in an effort to extend the reach of Shakespeare Workshop’s programming into the community.

A New York City-based theater and film director, producer, and teacher, Bauman is the founding artistic director of New Feet Productions. She has talked about her work on Arden/Everywhere in numerous venues, including Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.

She has also taught a theater workshop to 40 refugee theater artists at Kakuma Refugee Camp with NGO Film Aid, and recently received a Theater Communications Group Global Connections Grant to collaborate with a theater in Tijuana, Mexico, on a project connected with the migration crisis there.

Shakespeare Workshop is a joint effort by faculty and students in the Literature and Theater Arts Departments to explore questions, topics, and areas of shared concern, with both the campus community and the community off campus–using Shakespeare’s works as a common vocabulary.

Its recent programs have focused on a translation of Shakespeare’s sonnets into American Sign Language, prison-based productions of Shakespeare’s plays, and Shakespeare’s interest in the experience of veterans and the challenges they face when coming home from war.

The Workshop is also a sponsor of Weekend with Shakespeare, a summertime partnership with Santa Cruz Shakespeare, an independent theater company in Santa Cruz.

“It is as the creator and director of Arden/ Everywhere that Jessica first came to my attention,” Keilen noted. “Her openness to engaging Shakespeare in a dialogue about questions of fundamental human concern makes her a perfect fit for Shakespeare Workshop and its mission.”


Join us at the Kresge Town Hall on Thursday, January 31 at 5 pm. Details available online >