WOOSTER, Ohio — Jimmy A. Noriega, assistant professor of theatre and dance as well as Latin American Studies and women’s gender and sexuality studies at The College of Wooster, has been chosen as the recipient of the prestigious 2013-2014 ATHE (Association for Theatre in Higher Education) Prize for Innovative Teaching. The award, which recognizes a demonstrated ability to discover new pathways for student success in the field of theatre, was presented at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) earlier this month in Saginaw, Mich.
ATHE and KCACTF partnered to create the prize, which is awarded annually to one faculty member in each KCACTF region. Noriega was awarded for his efforts to expose his students to Latin American and Latina/o theatre inside and outside of the classroom, as well as for his work with students in Peru and Mexico.
“I am so humbled and honored to receive this award from ATHE and KCACTF, especially because it brings attention to the work that I’m doing with my students at Wooster,” said Noriega. “I see them as both learners and collaborators in the art of theatre-making. We are working together, not just as professor and students, but as artists with a common goal.”
Noriega has worked to create unique and varied learning opportunities for his students, including bringing guests to campus and organizing conferences and study-abroad opportunities. In summer 2012, he took five students from The College of Wooster to Peru for five weeks.
“These students accompanied me as I conducted my own fieldwork with several of the country’s leading theatre artists and groups,” said Noriega. “It forced me to rethink the ways I could research and gave me an opportunity to provide an experiential learning opportunity that would reinforce the lessons taught in the classroom.”
The trip included visits to cultural and archeological sites, theatre performances, trips to other locations of Peru (Ayacucho, Cusco, and Machu Picchu), and workshops with artists. Overall, they participated in 15 workshops (most lasting between 5-7 hours) where students learned how to make traditional masks, train their bodies for intensive physical work, play traditional musical instruments, walk on stilts, and combine physical and vocal training to create new characters.
“We also set one important and challenging goal for ourselves: to devise and perform our own theatre piece, based on our experiences and lessons,” said Noriega. Their production, Encuentro: Peru!!, was ultimately presented at four different locations in Lima, including the Metropolitan Museum of Lima — one of the largest museums in the capital.
Because of the attention that the show generated, the group was invited to present the play at the UNESCO/International Theatre Institute World Festival of Theatre Schools, which was held in Romania in September of 2012. Noriega and his students were the official U.S. delegation to the festival, which included 18 other groups from around the world. “The fact that I was accompanied by some of my most dedicated students makes it even more memorable and remarkable,” he said. “Over the course of these two trips, my students and I grew together as artists and scholars.”
This spring, Noriega is directing Women of Ciudad Juárez. The play focuses on the femicides taking place in Juárez, Mexico, where since 1993 hundreds of women have been brutally raped, tortured, and murdered. Working with four Wooster actresses and one stage manager, the production is currently on tour to eight different universities, including Yale University and Dartmouth College. As part of the preparation for this show, Noriega to traveled to Mexico with one of his students.
ATHE is a non-profit professional organization representing college and university theatre departments and administrators, faculty, graduate students and theatre practitioners. Its mission is to support and advance the study and practice of theatre and performance in higher education.
The Kennedy Center American College Theater (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide, which has served as a catalyst for improving the quality of college theater in the United States. The KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents.
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