A Q&A with one of tonight’s Activism in the Arts panelists, Judith Sloan!

After last night’s informative panel on directing, producing, and surviving in New York, we are extremely excited to return to the theater tonight for our Activism in the Arts panel, featuring Judith Malina (Living Theater), Morgan Jenness, Michael Premo (Housing is a Human Right), Judith Sloan (Earsay), and Mallory Catlett (City Council Project).  Join us at 7pm at the June Havoc Theatre and check out our Q&A below with panelist Judith Sloan, Co-Founder of Earsay!

Q:  What’s your typical day on the job?

A: There is no typical day- it’s a calling. I do a little bit of everything, write, think, rehearse, plan, have meetings, edit audio, record voices in studios, and all kinds of paperwork that I don’t like but is necessary.

Q:  Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration from young people, old people, women, basically as June Jordan said so eloquently “anyone who talks to me”, I find inspiration inside the stories that find their ways into my soul. I find inspiration from people who have had to overcome huge obstacles, were dealt a really crappy hand but managed to play it, and I find inspiration from people who didn’t find a way out because everyone is worthy. I find inspiration from the musicians I work with, from my husband, from my nieces and nephews, my friends, other artists, a beautiful day, an electrical storm, my computer crashing, but I seem to be driven by telling stories of underdogs. 

Q: In your opinion, can theater be a force of change? What kind of change is possible?

A: Theater can be a force of change if it changes one person but it can also change many people at once or over time. Beyond that one person, for any of us who choose to make a life in the arts where we are creating art with a purpose, theatre can be used to galvanize people to action or galvanize people to a more complex way of thinking. It takes concentration and attention and you have to turn your cell phone off and get off the grid to participate in a theatrical production either as an audience member, actor, writer, collaborator, or director. You can watch a video online and do something else. You can click ‘like’ on a social cause on Facebook and re-tweet on Twitter. In the theatre you cannot hide. There has always been a difference between theatre and art and entertainment and commodities. Theatre with a purpose to create a force of change in understanding, perception or a call to action also has to ‘market’ itself. And that is a tricky balance.  Case multimedia art projects including theatre that highlight the stories of uncelebrated individuals and focus on projects that can be used as a force of social change, most recently vulnerable youth, displaced immigrant and refugee teenagers, with a cadre of ethnically and culturally diverse artists. 

Q: If you could change one thing about your job/theater community, what would it be?

A: More love and understanding.

Q:  What is the biggest challenge you face as an artists/activist?

A: Right now, my biggest challenge is funding and finding money to pay all the people who I work with. I have a good team of artists and educators who are multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-talented who are engaged with the work. Carry on!

Judith Sloan will be speaking on our Activism in the Arts Panel tonight, April 19th, at 7pm in the June Havoc Theatre in the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex (312 W. 36th St.).  As always, all Working Theater Directors Salon events are FREE!  To find out how to RSVP, visit our website or check us out on Facebook.

JUDITH SLOAN  is a writer, radio producer, oral historian, poet and audio artist whose work combines humor, pathos and a love of the absurd. Her theatre works include Denial of the Fittest, Responding to Chaos, A Tattle Tale: eyewitness in Mississippi, Crossing the BLVD: strangers, neighbors, aliens in a new America, and YO Miss! Teaching Inside the Cultural Divide! (in development in partnership with Viper Records and Morgan Jenness, Abrams Artist Agency). Sloan was commissioned by the Queens Symphony Orchestra to write the libretto for a new symphony, “1001 Voices” with music composed by Frank London. Sloan has produced documentaries for NPR, PRI, WNYC and the Third Coast International Audio Festival and has won several awards for her audio works including the First Place Winner in the Missouri Review National Audio Competition, 2007 for Sweeping Statements, 2008 for Dayenu for Narrative Essay, as well as first runner up 2008 for What’s Your Status, and was a finalist in 2011 for her documentary Tongues Twisting. With Warren Lehrer she co-founded EarSay, and collaborated on the award-winning multimedia project Crossing the BLVD which includes a book, (W.W. Norton), audio CD, traveling exhibition and performance. She is a member of the Adjunct faculty at Gallatin, NYU.

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