Graham School schedules free series on imagination, social change Jan. 18-21
The creative team of Hector Aristizábal and Diane Lefer will appear in a series of performances, discussions and specially tailored workshops about violence and healing at the University of Chicago from Jan. 18 to 21. Titled “The Blessing Next to the Wound: Imagination and Social Change,” the events are free and open to the public, courtesy of the Writer’s Studio program at UChicago’s Graham School of Continuing Professional and Liberal Studies and a host of campus co-sponsors.
The events will include a sneak preview of the new documentary featuring Aristizábal, Beneath the Blindfold. Aristizábal and Chicago-based filmmakers Ines Sommer and Kathy Berger will take questions following the preview.
Aristizábal and Lefer have reached audiences the world over, both through their formal works and through workshops that provide participants the tools to bring change to their own communities through writing and theater arts.
Aristizábal is a psychologist, actor and human rights activist whose work has taken him across the United States and to Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Israel and the Occupied Territories, and Northern Ireland. He will leave directly from Chicago to perform and give workshops in Guatemala.
Lefer, an author, playwright and self-described “troublemaker,” has been praised by Pultizer Prize-winning novelist Oscar Hijuelos as “one of the most witty and gifted writers around.”
Lefer and Aristizábal have collaborated on a one-man performance piece, Nightwind, about the latter’s experiences surviving civil war, torture and other hardships in Colombia, and a book, The Blessing Next to the Wound, about how Aristizábal worked to heal himself and others by engaging the imagination through activism and art.
Aristizábal shares his philosophy of transformation through a blend of theater arts in workshops offered via his non-profit organization, ImaginAction. He has received the 2012 Otto René Castillo Award, established to support the ongoing development of political theatre, from New York City’s Castillo Theatre. Previous recipients of the award include visual artist Laurie Anderson, El Teatro Campesino and Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
In addition to her collaborations with Aristizábal, Lefer also is the author of short story collections titled California Transit (winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction), Very Much Like Desire, and The Circles I Move In, as well as the novel Radiant Hunger.
Her many plays include God’s Flea, most recently produced by New Carpa Theatre Company at the Border Justice Conference at Arizona State University and on the lawn in front of the Arizona State Capitol.
After 23 years of teaching in the Master of Fine Arts in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, she now teaches both English- and Spanish-language workshops in her hometown of Los Angeles and in other communities throughout the Americas. She aims these workshops “at getting people to write who think they can’t, often because they’ve been told they can’t or have even been labeled illiterate.”
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