|Washington, D.C. — — The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics (The Lab) is proud to announce the second cohort of the Lab Fellows program. Funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this 18-month global residency program brings together exceptionally promising professionals (performers, producers, directors, writers, scholars, and activists) from around the world who embody the Lab’s mission of “harnessing the power of performance to humanize global politics.” |
The ten Fellows in this new cohort were selected from an impressive pool of 190 applicants from more than 60 countries around the world, committed to addressing the most pressing issues of our time through the performing arts.
The 2020-2021 fellows hail from four continents and a wide range of countries, including Vietnam, South Africa, Russia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Egypt, the UK, and the United States.
The ten new Fellows that The Lab has selected are: Taiwo Afolabi, Karishma Bhagani, Jasmin Cardenas, Afshan D’souza-Lodhi, Adam Ashraf Elsayigh, Héctor Flores Komatsu, Princess Rose Zinzi Mhlongo, Ada Mukhina, Trà Nguyễn, and Lloyd Nyikadzino (see full biographies below).
“We were deeply moved and inspired by the 190 applications we received from 60 countries, and it is a tremendous thrill and honor to welcome this brilliant, courageous and visionary group of Fellows.” says Lab Co-Founding Director Derek Goldman. “Taken together their work – as performers, writers, directors, producers, scholars, change-makers and leaders – could not be more diverse or expansive. But what excites us most is their appetite and generous energy toward being part of and contributing to a larger cohort, and to engage deeply with a global network of artists. We look forward to the vital, innovative, and boundary-crossing work all of them are poised to do individually and as a powerful cohort.”
“It is no coincidence that our Fellows tend to work in places or situations where freedom of speech is limited, from Zimbabwe, to Russia, to Vietnam, to immigrant communities in the US”, commented Lab Co-Founding Director Ambassador Cynthia Schneider. “All have discovered ways that the arts, especially theater, can question and hold accountable authority and authoritarianism. As happened with our first class of Fellows, we hope that this ground-breaking group will find strength in and learn from each other. Together these twenty Fellows form a foundation of innovators from around the world who challenge the status quo, and foster positive socio-political change through storytelling.”
Among the key features of the Fellows Program will be the networking and mentoring opportunities offered through monthly virtual meetings and in-person convenings. The first convening is hosted by LaMama Umbria in Italy in June 2020, the other at The Lab’s home at Georgetown University in Washington, DC in May 2021. This second convening comes at the conclusion of the cohort’s tenure, as part of the Lab’s CrossCurrents Festival and its signature culminating event, The Gathering. The Fellows program is built on four central tenets: a global experience, virtual and in-person engagement, a strong peer network, and mentorship. The Fellows will continue to work within their own communities, as they learn in conversation with each other and with mentors from The Lab’s Think Tank, which is made up of thought-leaders, artists, and changemakers from around the world.
This cohort builds on the successes of the inaugural cohort, which constituted an impressive group of ten international arts practitioners. Hailing from five continents, the inaugural cohort included Faisal Abu Al Hayjaa, Jumana Al-Yasiri, Reem Alsayyah, Caitlin Nasema Cassidy, Chankethya Chey, Velani Dibba, Asif Majid, Devika Ranjan, Manuel Viveros, and Gideon Jeph Wabvuta. These inaugural Fellows will continue to be active with The Lab and in engaging with this second cohort of Fellows. The second cohort will build on the experiences of the first cohort, demonstrating the transnational power of socially engaged artistic, political, and cultural work.
Taiwo Afolabi was born in Ilé-Ifè, Nigeria. He is a twin from a family of seven, the son of a clergy member and a retired primary school teacher. His performance experience started in church and school drama clubs. He received art training as an actor, director, and applied theatre practitioner at the University of Jos and University of Ilorin in Nigeria. After graduation, he participated in the UNESCO’s World Theatre Training Laboratory in China. He would later represent Nigeria in the UNESCO International Theatre Institute World Congresses. He is the coordinator of the ITI’s Network of Emerging Arts Professionals and sits on the executive board of the International Federation of Theatre Research. In 2012, he established Theatre Emissary International in Nigeria, a cultural center that utilizes arts to educate, conscientize, and create positive social change in society through stage performances, community-based arts projects, and research. Taiwo has worked in over fifteen countries across four continents and published his research globally. He is an alumnus of the United States International Visitor Leadership Program. Currently, he is completing his PhD in Applied Theatre at the University of Victoria, for which he has devised theatre with refugees and designed a drama curriculum based on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. As an educator, Taiwo finds creative ways to deepen understanding of racism, identity, conflict, and social justice.
Karishma Bhagani is a fifth-generation Kenyan of Indian descent, born and bred in Mombasa. Her ancestors migrated because of the British Raj, on dhows from Gujarat to East Africa, to seek greener pastures. Karishma was born in a “self-made” family: her father is a small-scale transporter, and her mother is a businesswoman. As a child, she was set on becoming a human rights lawyer and changing the world. It was not until eighth grade, when she directed a Kiswahili-themed production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that she realized the power of theatre to shift mindsets and build stronger communities. Karishma committed to making the arts the center of her education, creating a platform for creative expression. She is the only one in her family, and the first student from her school, to study theatre at a university. Her work explores the use of performance as a tool for political mobilization and defining identity in post-colonial Africa. Karishma is dedicated to supporting “glocal” art and elevating untold African stories. Karishma has degrees in Theatre and History from NYU. She serves as Associate Artistic Director for the Tebere Arts Foundation in Uganda and Associate Producer for the Nairobi Musical Theatre Initiative.
Jasmin Cardenas was born in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago to Colombian parents who immigrated to America in search of a better life. Being a first-generation American caught between two cultures, Jasmin is always trying to bridge the divide. First in her familia to graduate college she studied Theatre and began acting on stage and screen, as well as telling stories bilingually. Harnessing the power of art in action, she works in communities caught at the intersection of poverty and violence. She studied Theatre of the Oppressed with founder Augusto Boal and his son Julian, a powerful tool for collective action, critical thinking, solution-finding, and healing. Jasmin helped create Ambassadors for a United Lawndale and co-led a coalition of their black and Latino youth to Veracruz to perform and learn about the African presence in Mexico. In 2011, she performed her solo show ¿Niña Buena?…the joys and challenges of being Latina y Americana at Links Hall and toured it to the Susana Alexander International Theater Festival in Puebla, Mexico. She continues opening lines of communication between communities of difference using devised theatre. Jasmin served on the board of the international organization Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed. In 2018, she was awarded The Catalyst Initiative by The Center for Performance and Civic Practice to support her current work — of devising theatre to fight for workers’ rights — with the Chicago Workers Collaborative and the newly formed Workers Resistance Theater.
Afshan D’souza-Lodhi was born in Dubai to Indian and Pakistani parents and was lost in Manchester. She is a queer (Muslim) writer of plays, prose, performance pieces, and passive-aggressive tweets. Afshan’s first degree was in Philosophy, and her Masters was in Post-Colonial Literature and Culture. Afshan writes from a place of anger, often trying to right the world’s wrongs through words and humor. Her most recent play, Santi & Naz, described as “tender yet sharply political” by The Guardian, puts female friendship against the backdrop of the partition of India and Pakistan. Through light and humorous touches, the piece comments upon homosexuality and its recent legalization in India. Though Afshan has spent the majority of her life successfully carving a place for queer people within Islam, she is currently questioning her own faith and finding solace in other faith practices. As well as her own writing, Afshan is keen to develop other younger and emerging artists. She sits on the boards of the Manchester Literature Festival and Pie Radio. Afshan also sits on the steering committee for the Northern Police Monitoring Project, an independent campaigning and advocacy organization that challenges police harassment and violence.
Adam Ashraf Elsayigh
Adam Ashraf Elsayigh was born in Cairo, Egypt to parents who were reluctantly doctors. When his parents moved to Dubai, Adam grew up in a religious Muslim household with American cable television, going to a British school in a Gulf state where over 90% of the population were migrant workers. This postcolonial reality made Adam aware of global inequity and political repression from a young age. He discovered theatre at the age of twelve when his father took him to a performance of King Lear on a trip to Cairo. That summer, Adam tried (and failed) to read Shakespeare’s collective works. Instead, he wrote his first screenplay. Adam honed his craft as a storyteller while earning his BA in Theater as an undergraduate at NYU Abu Dhabi. For his thesis project, Adam wrote Drowning in Cairo, a play about three gay men who were arrested on the Queen Boat, a gay nightclub on the Nile that was raided in 2001. Currently based in New York to pursue his PhD in Theater and Performance Studies at The Graduate Center of CUNY, Adam is a playwright, dramaturg, producer and translator, making work that interrogates themes of migration, colonialism, and queerness in the Global South. He is the Roundtables and Casting Apprentice at The Lark Center for Play Development, and is also an Associate Artist and Producer at National Queer Theater as co-founder and producer of their annual Criminal Queerness Festival.
Héctor Flores Komatsu
Héctor Flores Komatsu was born in Cuernavaca, México. Flores is his father’s last name, while Komatsu comes from his mother’s family, originally from Nagano, Japan. At a young age, Héctor immigrated to the United States. An in-betweener of worlds, he was naturally drawn to the theatre. At age seventeen, he directed his first production, and he hasn’t stopped since. Currently, Héctor serves as artistic director of Makuyeika Colectivo Teatral, founded after a year-long exploration of Mexico supported by the Taymor World Theatre Fellowship. Original creations include Andares; The Game, or the perpetual rematch; and the upcoming Proyecto Ix-kik’. His work has been presented at The Public Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Wuzhen Theatre Festival (China), Santiago a Mil (Chile), Thalia Theatre (Germany), and in villages, festivals, and cities across México, for which he’s received two grants from the National Fund for Culture and the Arts. Héctor earned his BFA in Theatre Performance (Directing) from the University of Michigan. He has worked as an assistant and actor with Peter Brook, has facilitated workshops in the favelas and prisons of Rio de Janeiro, and has trained with the Suzuki Company of Toga in Japan. Héctor is fluent in Spanish, English, French, and Portuguese while reclaiming Japanese and learning Mayan.
Princess Rose Zinzi Mhlongo was born in Emalahleni Mpumalanga, South Africa. She is the third of four children raised by her mother (a professional nurse) and father (a teacher) in a small mining town. In high school, she joined the community youth theatre that traveled every year to the National Arts Festival to present a show and also watched carefully selected productions that exposed the diverse culture of a post-apartheid nation. She then obtained her BA in Drama at the Tshwane University of Technology. Upon directing her debut production, Princess was named the 2012 Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year. Her career journey was documented in a 13-part documentary/reality show following her path as a young black female director. Princess’ work has toured around the world, receiving numerous nominations and awards. For seven years, she ran an independent performance space called The Plat4orm, attending to the need to develop new uncensored work in the industry. The Plat4orm develops various projects for social change as a non-profit company, using the arts as a tool of communication. Currently, Princess serves as part of a research team of African creatives formed by The Goethe Institute, mapping cultural practices that develop through migration and mobility in North and Southern Africa.
Ada Mukhina was born in what is known today as St. Petersburg, Russia, at a time when the city was Leningrad, USSR. Her family has been living in St. Petersburg for three generations, surrounded by the city’s revolutionary spirits (as a birthplace of the Russian Revolution), its historical traumas (as a city under siege for 900 days during WWII), and snobbish “cultural capital” flavor (as the center of the Silver Age of Russian culture). Now as a nomadic artist and award-winning theatre-maker, Ada carries these influences — combined with a little bit of blues caused by lack of sun and precarious living conditions — in her travel backpack. Initially, Ada studied law, human rights, and civic education. In 2012, she founded Theatre Project Vmeste, a Russian collaborative theatre group that created multiple community-based projects in theatres, museums, educational, and human rights organizations with non-actors. In 2015, she earned an MA with distinction (Performing Arts) from the Russian State Institute of Performing Arts, followed by a second MA with distinction (Advanced Theatre Practice) in 2018 from London’s Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Her artistic practices include directing, performing, curating, writing, teaching, and researching. Ada’s politically and socially engaged documentary and participatory theatre work has been presented in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, the US, and Russia. She is online at www.adamukhina.com.
Trà Nguyễn was born in Hanoi, Vietnam but moved to Ho Chi Minh City at a young age. Since then, she has called this vibrant city home. She discovered her penchant for the stage in elementary school with a minor role, and by high school had written and directed her first original play. Earning a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, Trà went on to work with Sàn Art, contributing to various exhibition and education programs for contemporary visual art. This position encouraged her to observe the lack of experiments in Vietnamese theatre, and largely informed her establishment of an independent platform, The Run – A Theater Project, which engaged local artistic practitioners in a series of collaborative productions and discussions on the possibilities for cross-disciplinary experimental theatre in Vietnam. Trà’s original plays have been staged in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Tokyo. From Fall 2020, she will pursue an MFA in Playwriting through a Fulbright scholarship in the United States and will continue to develop theatre in response to contemporaneity and her catalytic aspirations.
Lloyd Nyikadzino was born in the Makoni clan within Zimbabwe’s Nyati tribe. He was raised between the high-density suburb of Highfields and the other half, in the rural areas of Mhondoro. Growing up, he was never exposed to the performing arts, but imagined his future as a soldier. It was only in his sophomore year of high school that he fell in love with theatre. Upon graduating from high school and confronted with the absence of formal theatre training programs outside universities, he taught himself the tools of the trade. Through determination in the face of disapproval from his father in following theatre as a profession, he pursued professional theatre training at the University of Zimbabwe and Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre. He has successfully initiated theatre training programs for various disadvantaged groups and worked on a range of theatre for development projects. He is the founder of the Zimbabwe Theatre Academy and Mitambo International Theatre Festival, as well as being the cultural expert on the board of the Zimbabwe-German Society and coordinator for the Zimbabwe Centre of the International Theatre Institute. Lloyd continues to work in theatre as a mentor, award-winning director, educator, and producer.
The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics (The Lab) harnesses the power of performance to humanize global politics. The first and only joint initiative between Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and Georgetown College, The Lab has emerged as a global leader since its founding in 2012, widely recognized as unique for its pioneering interdisciplinary approaches integrating the performing arts and international relations. Led by co-director Derek Goldman and Ambassador Cynthia Schneider, The Lab creates and presents innovative high quality work from around the world that is at the intersection of politics and performance, including a roster of original theatrical projects and our biennial citywide CrossCurrents Festival. Our signature approach raises voices rarely heard in Washington, DC through compelling, authentic narratives, and engages policymakers, as well as artists, students, and wider audiences in forums that cast critical issues in a new light. globallab.georgetown.edu