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Theater professor directs play in India

Posted on March 18, 2016

After an intensive 20-day theater workshop, Grand Valley theater professor Karen Libman and more than 30 students from B. Borooah College in Guwahati, India, recently wrapped an adaptation of the play "Here We Are."

The performance was just one of the many experiences on Libman's checklist while traveling, working and conducting research under the prestigious Fulbright grant she received in 2015.

"I plan to investigate and examine select Indian theater education programs and festivals, and apply my findings to broadening the impact of Grand Valley's theater program," Libman said. "My goals are to execute site visits to at least two Indian universities, as well as observe and participate in at least one Indian theater festival."

During the "Mock-Up" workshop at B. Borooah College, the group participated in games and exercises that actors use in their practice centered around developing the body, voice and mind, and skills necessary to perform on stage, such as concentration, collaboration, listening, sense awareness, creativity and trust.

"The students at B. Borooah were not theater students, but came from every discipline around the college, so we had to begin with basic exercises" Libman said. "Also, it was a large group of 31 to start, and I wanted to include everyone who wanted to participate, so it was challenging finding a piece to accommodate."

Libman said her interest in South Asian theater was inspired by her tenure as the executive secretary for the International Drama/Theatre Education Association (IDEA) from 2010-2013. Through this experience, she traveled around the world to meet international theater educators and artists, and spent a brief time in India and Bangladesh.

"I admire the physicality that Bangladeshi and Indian theater training provides, which is quite different from standard American theater training," Libman said. "I am also interested in what will happen for me as an English speaker when the theatrical prose and verse that we ground our productions in are taken away from the mix."

When Libman returns from her Fulbright travels, she plans to incorporate the major trends and ideas acquired through her research to Grand Valley's annual Shakespeare Festival in the fall. Libman frequently directs the festival's main stage production and works with the festival's touring student group, Bard to Go, which performs 50-minute compilations of Shakespearean scenes at secondary schools in Michigan.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program is designed to increase mutual understanding among people in the U.S. and other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.