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Jill Goldberg
Jill Goldberg teaches English Literature at the college level and is also a writer and sometimes photographer.

The Art of Revolution: The River and the Sea, A Documentary Play by Danny Bryck


by: on April 10th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

When it comes to Israel/Palestine, Actor and Writer Danny Bryck isn’t the first to consider this question: “When everyone tells a different story, how do we tell the truth?” He may, however, be the first to work so hard to hear quite so many different stories that come from the thin strip of land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

In his documentary play The River and The Sea, which recently had a staged reading at The New Repertory Theatre in Boston as part of the “Next Voices” playwriting fellowship, Bryck uses transcriptions of interviews that he completed with individuals from all over Israel and the West Bank to create nearly sixty separate characters who represent everyone he met there, from a young soldier in Tel Aviv, to an Eritrean refugee, to a young mother in Gaza. Through these, and many more diverse characters, he gives voice to the vast cross-section of people who call Israel/Palestine home.

Photo Courtesy of New Repertory Theatre

Bryck initially went to Israel on a Birthright trip, but instead of returning home when the trip ended, he stayed on in the Middle East and set out on a three-month-long adventure with the goal of interviewing as many varied people as possible in order to begin the process of writing a play. He wanted to get a more nuanced and deeper version of the narratives in this part of the world, and so, through friends, friends of friends, various organizations, and even through talking to strangers, Bryck found himself having opportunities that no guided tour could or would ever provide.


The Art of Revolution: The War on Irrational Fear


by: on January 3rd, 2014 | 3 Comments »

It’s not unheard of to fight against an invented enemy.

In his novel The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje cites Herodotus’ description of a nation so enraged by an evil wind – the simoon – that “they declared war on it and marched out in full battle array, only to be rapidly and completely interred.”

And, in the twentieth century, long after Emperor Hirohito surrendered on August 15th, 1945, Japanese soldiers in remote locations continued to gather intelligence and to ‘fight’ in attempt to vanquish the American enemy, unaware that the war had ended. For some of these soldiers, it took years, even decades to convince them to give up their imagined battle positions.

Though separated by millennia, these two examples speak to the power of collective delusions, and the way in which not just individuals, but entire nations may make truly frightening, or tragic sacrifices in the name of an idea, which may not be borne up by reality.

Making this very point about America’s disproportionate use of resources in the so-called war on terror is what creative agency Incitement Design hopes to do with its recently launched campaign, The War on Irrational Fear.


The Art of Revolution: Spoken Word, Video and Performance Art to Change the World: Taien Ng-Chan


by: on August 9th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Like many artists, Montreal writer and multidisciplinary artist, Taien Ng-Chan sees her work as an opportunity to interrogate the world around us, to reach the public, and to work towards a more progressive society. Although she questions whether or not art can actually make an impact in our collective cultural consciousness, or change anything politically, she’s willing to try. As she says, “looking back, historical art movements do seem to end up gaining traction in ways that seem important in hindsight, so we’d better keep doing it, just in case.”

Indeed, Ng-Chan was part of last year’s massive student uprising in Québec, a movement that saw thousands mobilize–first in response to the provincial government’s plan to raise tuition at post-secondary institutions, and then in response to the same government’s oppressive strategies to keep the protests under control. Ultimately what happened in what was called “le printemps érable,” or the “maple spring” (in keeping with the name the Arab Spring), resulted in a provincial election that brought down Québec’s Liberal government. At first it seemed like the incoming Parti Québécois would bring new hope; instead they wore the red square – symbol of the student movement – and at first cancelled the tuition hikes, but they also cut the province’s education budget, and then ended up imposing tuition hikes anyway. Ng-Chan comments that it’s easy to grow cynical when politicians can be so duplicitous; however, she also suggests that it’s important to keep building community to affect change in small ways, and art is just another way to accomplish this.


The Art of Revolution: Spoken Word, Video, and Performance Art to Change The World — Juliane Okot Bitek


by: on January 8th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Juliane Okot Bitek knows the power of narrative. An award winning writer living in Vancouver, Canada, Okot Bitek is also an Acholi woman who calls Gulu in Northern Uganda home. Considering the civil war (1986- 2006) that plagued northern Ugandans, it’s no wonder much of Okot Bitek’s passionate writing focuses on social and political issues. In the last decade, through her poetry, essays, fiction, nonfiction and opinion pieces, Okot Bitek has fought both to make sense of, and to expose the tragedies of her homeland.

Okot Bitek comes to writing through an impressive lineage. Her late father is the famed Ugandan poet, essayist, novelist and academic, Okot p’Bitek, who was, shortly before his death in 1982, appointed as the first professor of Creative Writing at Makerere University in Kampala. Things weren’t always so rosy, however. As a result of her father’s work, Okot Bitek and her family spent the early years of her childhood in exile in Kenya. As a result of this history, Okot Bitek is no stranger to political strife and social unrest. Still, in spite of this, she describes the pleasure of growing up in a house full of books and lively debates between her parents and their literary and artistic friends. Some of Africa’s luminaries were regular houseguests: Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and David Rubadiri were men she called uncle, and on a given day they might be filling the Okot Bitek household with their intellect, their opinions and their friendship.

Growing up in such an environment would make anyone sensitive to the importance of storytelling. As Okot Bitek says, “Stories are everything. Without a story, none of us exists.” But it’s not just the significance of narrative that is so dear to Okot Bitek, she is sensitive to the invisibility and the silence that shrouds those whose stories don’t get heard. This is evident in the work she has recently completed, which is provisionally titled Stories From the Dry Season. Collaborating with Dr. Erin Baines of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia and Grace Acan, a women’s advocate and LRA survivor, Okot Bitek took on this work as a way to tell the stories of women from northern Uganda who were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A) and who eventually returned to civilian life after long and terrible years of abuse and assault.


The Art of Revolution: Spoken Word, Video and Performance Art to Change The World: d’bi.young


by: on December 6th, 2011 | Comments Off

photo by Jakub Fulin

A gale force wind always seems to precede dub poet d’bi.young when she enters a room. Her fierce presence and her unstoppable energy are perhaps the most noticeable things about her, but what lingers after the first impression is her overwhelming determination in her mission to spread the word about love, equality and social action.

The first time I met d’bi.young, I had taken a group of students in a college course entitled “Dangerous Acts: Dramatic Literature as a Tool of Social Change” to a production that she had written, performed, and produced with fellow artist Naila Keleta Mae. Both women are Jamaican-Canadians, and their work handled a range of issues including abuse, poverty, racism and social inequity. I had arranged for the artists to have a talk back session after the show with my students, a number of whom were Caribbean – Canadians themselves – and this turned out to be one of the most moving moments I can think of during my teaching career. My students, some of whom were prone to feeling indifferent and powerless in the face of some of the challenges they faced, became animated, engaged and passionate. The performance had managed to reflect back to my students something about their own lives, and this alone was enough for them to elevate their view of who they were and what they could accomplish in their lives. This was, in no small part, thanks to the warmth, the honesty and the strength of the drama, but also of the artists. A pair of students who saw the show that night went on to do their oral presentation on d’bi.young and her work, and they reported feeling that her work touched them in a special way, and made them realize their own power. When an artist manages to bring this passion to the classroom, the effect is tremendous. Since this experience, I have taught d’bi.young’s work in a number of different contexts, and I can say that my students always find that her voice speaks to them in a way that compels not just their intellect, but their hearts.

d’bi.young’s work is fiery. She stares down issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, colonialism, slavery, and the inequities visited upon the world by capitalism, but perhaps her most enduring theme is love. In the video below, d’bi.young elaborates upon her vision of a love that is honest, compassionate, and forgiving.


The Art of Revolution: Spoken Word, Video, and Performance Art to Change the World – Jen Capraru and ISOKO (Rwanda)


by: on September 14th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

Speaking to Jennifer Herszman Capraru in Toronto, Canada, it is impossible not to be warmed by her passion for the work she does and the people it brings her close to. Born in Montréal, Québec, Capraru is the daughter of a mother who was a child survivor of the Holocaust, and a Romanian father, both of whom emphasized the importance of human rights and provided Capraru with the gift of creativity that she exercises with such love and intelligence today.

As an adult, Capraru received an MA in Theatre Studies from York University and also trained as a director in Germany; it has been through the medium of theatre and directing that she has always seen the opportunity to create a whole world – a world where real change could transpire. In her role as Artistic Director of the award-winning Theatre Asylum in Toronto, Capraru premieres thought-provoking plays by and about women and humanist issues. In 2006, Capraru was asked to be 2nd Script Supervisor on the Canadian feature film Shake Hands with the Devil about the experiences of Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire during his tenure as UN Force Commander during the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. As Capraru explains, she went to Rwanda at the last minute, and without expectations, but following her work on the film, she found herself prompted to accept an invitation to give script development workshops for the Rwanda Cinema Centre. One connection led to another, and Capraru tumbled into directing for the National University of Rwanda, UNICEF, Kivu Writers and Mashirika arts. In Rwanda, years after the genocide, Capraru saw fertile ground for creativity and for transformation. There, alongside her Rwandan colleagues, she founded ISÔKO, The Theatre Source, a theatre company that blossomed from an inspired seedling of an idea to a full-fledged theatre company that tours, performs in three languages, and has has been the origin of many lengthy discussions on subjects such as genocide and loss as well as transformation and healing. In the Rwandan context, Capraru eloquently describes her view of “theatre as ritual, ritual as catharsis, catharsis as healing, and healing as hope”.


The Art of Revolution: Norman Nawrocki’s Spoken Word


by: on June 7th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

This second installment of my Tikkun Daily series on “Spoken Word, Video, and Performance Art to Change the World” features multidisciplinary artist Norman Nawrocki of Montreal, Quebec. Nawrocki’s art is about community, it’s about activism, and he doesn’t shy away from taking a critical look at some of today’s most politically charged issues. Like all of the artists featured here, Nawrocki sees art as a means for social change, and he lives this not only in his role as artist, but as an instructor as well, helping to form the next generation of artist/provocateurs.

Incorporating many genres into his work Nawrocki is an author, veteran spoken word artist, violinist, actor, educator, and sex advocate with an international reputation. He has several books of short fiction and poetry (in English, French & Italian), over 50 music albums (solo & with his different bands), and has written several theater musicals and cabarets. He tours the world performing music, poetry, anti-sexist, queer positive ‘sex’ comedy shows, and giving Creative Resistance workshops and lectures about how to use the arts for radical social change. He teaches part-time at Concordia University.

Listen to his poignant piece “Why Am I an Anarchist?” here.

Here’s how Nawrocki describes his work:


The Art of Revolution: Spoken Word, Video, and Performance Art to Change the World


by: on April 15th, 2011 | Comments Off

Some of today’s most interesting, socially engaged, controversial, and occasionally even blasphemous artists are working in the mediums of spoken word, video and performance art. I’m excited to be joining Tikkun Daily as a blogger on the multi-media arts beat. All of the artists I plan to present here are working out of the belief that through their work they have the capacity — even the obligation — to ask the questions that light the spark of change. Whether they are examining issues of social justice, feminism/gender politics, the environment versus consumerism, Israel/Palestine or any other of today’s most complex problems, these artists are trailblazing their way to the cutting edge of both politics and artistic representation.

The first artist featured here is Lisa Vinebaum of Montréal, Québec.

Self-portrait as a Christian fundamentalist cheerleader. From the series "Patriot Acts" (2006-2010). Photo by Ivan Coleman