Jessica Hodder, a theatre and anthropology student at Smith College, joins us this month here in Kyoto, serving as OICD’s first Artist-in-Residence.  Having spent a substantial portion of her youth in Nairobi as a daughter of missionaries, and particularly after witnessing Kenya’s political violence of 2007, Jessica determined that she would dedicate her life to using both education and the performing arts as means of promoting social change and achieving social justice.  It was clear to her that the social turbulence of those difficult days was largely a product of the fact that Kenyans lacked a safe forum in which they could voice their concerns and express political opinions.  Since this transformative experience, Jessica has used theatre to explore a number of social, economic, and cultural issues in a wide variety of cultural, political, and socio-economic contexts.  These issues have included land conflict in Kenya, the governmental barriers faced by immigrants in the United Kingdom, femininity and womanhood in India, bullying within schools in the United States, and human trafficking in the United Arab Emirates.

 On July 5th and 6th, in collaboration with the Graduate School of Global Studies at Doshisha University, OICD hosted the international conference, “Transforming Conflict and Building Cohesion Through Identity.”  This event was populated by a diverse range of notable anthropologists, political scientists, scholars, and governmental representatives, all of whom contributed  to the discussion and debate with wisdom and alacrity.  Among the speakers at the conference was Ellen W. Kaplan, Professor of Theatre at Smith College and Jessica’s mentor, who spoke with conviction about the ways in which theatre can work effectively within tragedy and trauma.  Jessica was thoroughly impressed by the conference, and especially with the organization’s motivation to use the performing arts within its intra-cultural programming.  As one of the pioneers of such work within the OICD, she is optimistic about the days ahead:  “I have always been a firm believer in using theatre and performance internationally as tools for community building, advocacy, empowerment, and social reform,” says Jessica.  “I look forward to examining OICD’s existing organizational frameworks and putting forth suggestions as to how theatre and performance techniques might be implemented in the future.” 

Currently, Jessica is crafting a comprehensive document for the OICD which will detail dramatic techniques, theatrical activities, and performance processes which she feels are particularly relevant and useful within the organization’s work.  She is conducting substantial research on the ways in which theatre has been used similarly in the past and is compiling a list of scholarly resources on the topic for OICD’s future reference.  

On Tuesday, July 16th at 1:00pm, Jessica will facilitate an in-house workshop at Doshisha University for members of the OICD entitled, “Theatre for Intra-Cultural Development: Identity and Conflict Resolution.”  This workshop will endeavor to outline the ways in which theatre and performance-based activities can be employed within various community contexts to both explore notions of identity and to put forth new methods of conflict resolution.  This two-hour session will instigate discussion around the organization’s usage of the arts, and also how performance could be utilized pragmatically within OICD’s intra-cultural intervention models internationally.

Later in the month, Jessica will facilitate a second workshop at Doshisha University, which will be free and open to the public.  This workshop will be publicized within various cultural organizations throughout Japan.  The OICD hopes that this workshop will inform outside organizations of the importance of the performing arts within communities and offer suggestions as to how theatre and performance can be used effectively within their current programs.  The date, time, and location of this workshop will be announced soon.

Click HERE to learn more about some of Jessica Hodder`s international performance projects.