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Columbia College Chicago
Lisa Biggs
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Lisa Biggs

Winter 2011
Institute Fellow
Chicago, IL

Lisa Biggs
Lisa Biggs has been devising and presenting new performance works for almost twenty years-- solo pieces, ensemble plays, theater/dance works and community pageants with children, teens, adults, and populations with special needs. As a theatre artist dedicated to enacting social change, she has partnered with adults and children off all ages and backgrounds to use performance to stage critical interventions into dominant discourses about health, criminality and citizenship. She is a former member of the Washington, DC based Living Stage Theater Company, one of the preeminent theatre for social change programs in the USA, and a founding member of Medusa Speaks: An Artists’ Collective. Her body of individual work includes Hey Baby!, Have You Seen Her?, Vigilante Artist, Stepping Stones, butterfly belongings, Memory is a Body of Water and Sister Swear (both with Tanisha Brady Christie), Blackbirds, Where Spirit Rides or The Long Way Home, and a new adaptation of Tsitsi Dangaremba’s novel, Nervous Conditions (with Lori Baptista). In addition to creating her own work, she has appeared in critically acclaimed and award-winning stage productions at the Kennedy Center, Lookingglass Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theater, Theater of the First Amendment, the African Continuum Theater Co., ETA Creative Arts Foundation, DC Arts Center, Chicago Theater Company, and Dance Place. Onscreen credits include featured roles in the experimental short flag/body (2005) and Walk With Me, a forthcoming independent documentary about a select group of African American women theatre artists with ties to our nation’s capital (www.walkwithmethemovie.com). In 1995, she was recognized with the first-ever Chicago Black Theatre Alliance Award for Best Featured Actress. Since then, her creative work and academic scholarship has been supported by grants and scholarships from the National Endowment for the Arts/DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities, Northwestern’s Buffett Center and Program of African Studies, and a generous fellowship from the Diversifying Higher Education Faculty initiative of the State of Illinois. Originally from the South Side of Chicago, Lisa is a graduate of Amherst College and holds an MA from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. While she is not devising new work, she is completing a dissertation at Northwestern University in Performance Studies on the healing effect of theatre programs for incarcerated women.

For her Fellowship, Biggs is convening a working group of performing artists, educators and activists from around the US who offer theatre and/or dance programs for incarcerated women. Though their work is largely invisible to the general public, in prisons and jails across the country women inmates have embraced live performance as a means of counteracting dominant myths about why women break the law, for telling their own personal stories, and engaging in strategic acts of activism from behind prison and jail walls. Lisa will interview facilitators from programs around the country and gather a small, working group together at the Institute. The working group is a rare opportunity for these artist/educators to meet, share their individual histories, and analyze their work as a collective.

New Developments:

Biggs is currently completing her PhD in Performance Studies at Northwestern in June and joining the faculty of the Residential College of the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University this fall.  There she will be teaching courses on theatre for social change, playwriting, and about art and political activism.

Her show, "Where Spirit Rides; Or, The Long Way Home," will be presented at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC in July-August of this year (http://www.nbtf.org/).

Her article about Rhodessa Jones's solo work, "Big-Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women," will be published this fall in the anthology, Solo/Black/Woman, edited by E. Patrick Johnson (2008 Fellow) and Ramon Rivera-Servera this fall.