New Book Talk: The Healing Stage, Lisa Biggs

(CSREA) Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America
, Petteruti Lounge

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CSREA’s New Book Talks highlight new and notable works studying race, ethnicity, and indigeneity. They facilitate thought-provoking and critical engagement with emerging scholarship.

The Healing Stage: Black Women, Incarceration, and the Art of Transformation

Lisa Biggs, John Atwater and Diana Nelson Assistant Professor of the Arts and Africana Studies

Over the last five decades, Black women have been one of the fastest-growing segments of the global prison population. In The Healing Stage, Lisa Biggs reveals how four ensembles of currently and formerly incarcerated women use theater and performance to challenge harmful policies and popular discourses that justify locking up “bad” women. This work illustrates how Black feminist cultural traditions—theater, dance, storytelling, poetry, humor, and protest—encourage individual and collective healing, a process of repair that exceeds state definitions of rehabilitation. These case studies offer powerful examples of how the labor of incarcerated Black women artists radically extends our knowledge of what is required to resolve human conflicts and protect women’s lives.

About the Author

Lisa Biggs is an actor, playwright and performance studies scholar. Prior to joining the Brown faculty in 2018, she served as an assistant professor at Michigan State University and had a long career as an actor and playwright. Her stage credits include productions at the Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, Living Stage Theatre Company, ETA Creative Arts Foundation, Woolly Mammoth, and Lookingglass Theatre. Her original stage plays have been produced at the National Black Theatre Festival, Links Hall, Shadowbox Theatre, Cultural Odyssey, the NY Hip Hop Theatre Fest, DC Arts Center, and the Baltimore Theatre Project.

Her creative work and scholarship has been supported by numerous grants and fellowships, including from Brown’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, the DC Arts Council/National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ellen Stone Belic Foundation. Her most recent play, After/Life, tells the story of how women and girls lit up and lived through the 1967 Detroit rebellion, and was awarded a 2017 Knight Foundation Detroit Arts Challenge grant.

Moderated by Noliwe Rooks, Professor and Chair, Department of Africana Studies/Rites and Reason Theatre