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Newell Scholar explores creativity in Cuba, science and theatre

Dr. Yael Prizant joins Georgia College this spring as the fifth Martha Daniel Newell Visiting Scholar. She will teach students and give lectures about artistic expression in Cuba and how artists express themselves in a censored society.

“I was initially interested in Georgia College because of its emphasis on collaborative education,” Prizant said.

“The small liberal arts environment removes the anonymous factor from the college experience. Students are known and know others. They are expected to interact, to get involved, to drive their own experience while making connections with faculty and colleagues,” she said.

Prizant works at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, Italy, where she teaches academic writing and works as a translator and editor.

She brings her scholastic insight of Cuba to Milledgeville. As a professional translator, she adapted works by several Cuban playwrights. Her book, “Cuba Inside Out: Revolution and Contemporary Theatre,” looks at the effects of revolution and globalization on personal identity through extensive research on modern Cuba. During the spring semester, she’ll teach the course “Cuba: An Artistic Exploration.”

“My interest in Cuba came out of my desire to understand how theatre artists respond to state censorship,” Prizant said. “In other words, how might artists say exactly what they want to say without saying it? How do they ensure their opinions and ideas won't be silenced and yet will be understood by audiences?”

As part of her residency, Prizant will host four free public lectures, workshops and performances. They’ll cover diverse topics like American musical theatre, theatre and science, and translation and adaption for the state and screen.

Prizant and her students will also perform their Living Newspaper project, based on the theatric form developed by the Federal Theatre Project during the Great Depression. The performance will allow students to take current social problems and use verifiable facts to promote social action. Prizant said a Living Newspaper must be direct, experimental and timely. 

Her course and lectures aim to connect theatre with the world we live in, because she said theatre does not exist in a vacuum.

“Playwrights write from their experiences, from their engagement with the world,” she said. “Actors use their experiences as tools for crafting roles. Directors present their visions of the world,” Prizant said. “Theatre has the potential to be relevant socially, politically and personally, if we allow audiences to understand its aims and challenges. My goal is to clarify those aims, to reveal the connective tissue between the stage and real life.”

Dr. Karen Berman, artistic director of theatre and dance, said she’s delighted to host the 2018 Newell Scholar.

“Her expertise runs the gamut from Cuban theatre to newspaper theatre and science and theatre. We will utilize all her talents this semester in a whirlwind of artistic endeavors, including lectures, a newly-devised performance in collaboration with students and talkbacks on productions,” Berman said.

Prizant has worked as a production dramaturg for theatre companies in Los Angeles, including Company of Angels and The Actor’s Gang. She is the founder of Ultreia Inc., a nonprofit arts organization that provides resources for artistic expression. She began her teaching career in the Department of Film, Television and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame.

She received a Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Art from the University of California, Santa Barbara, a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and her Ph.D. in Theatre from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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