Art & Atonement: Expressing Truth & Justice

Afternoon Sessions

Each afternoon session will be presented at 1–1:50 p.m. and 2–2:50 p.m.

“Our stories connect us, our stories heal us: Sharing and connecting stories through Playback Theatre”

Playback Theater, originally developed by Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas, is a form of improvisational theater where people tell stories from their lives and watch them enacted on the spot by a team of actors. The idea of Playback Theater is simple, but its implications are profound.

During this breakout session, participants will learn about Playback Theater and its value in creating a space to share stories of truth and justice while promoting the well-being of the participants and the community. Participants will have the chance to experience Playback theater performed by members of the Heartsparkle Players Playback Theater Ensemble and the Thunders to learn how this form of expressive and participatory art can be utilized to hold a space where stories and lived experiences can be shared and navigated in times of challenge and suffering as a community.

Hee-Sun Cheon, Associate Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy
Debe Edden, Conductor and Actor, Heartsparkle Playback Theatre

Location: Demaray Hall 150

“Looking death right in the face”

The image of Christ’s crucifixion is maybe the most succinct and potent expression of truth and justice in the history of visual art. And because it shows an innocent man being killed, the “crucifixion” image visions justice-through-injustice — in a way that is paradoxical and even offensive.

In this session, we’ll look at various images of the crucifixion from diverse time periods and cultures to understand how different peoples have pictured and identified with (or challenged and questioned!) Christ’s redemptive suffering.

Katie Kresser, Professor of Art

Location: Cremona Classrooms 101

“August Wilson’s 20th-century slave narrative: Another side of truth and justice”

This presentation considers 10 plays that comprise August Wilson’s 20th-century ccle as contemporary slave narratives that engage with the legacy of slavery since 1865. The cycle features dramas set in each decade of the 20th century: Gem of the Ocean (1900s); Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1910s); Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1920s); The Piano Lesson (1930s); Seven Guitars (1940s); Fences (1950s); Two Trains Running (1960s); Jitney (1970s); King Hedley II (1980s); and Radio Golf (1990s). Each play largely addresses the effects of post-Thirteenth Amendment slavery on the Black experience. In his landmark 1996 speech, “The Ground on Which I Stand,” Wilson made it clear that the legacy remains: “The term Black or African-American not only denotes race, it denotes condition, and carries with it the vestige of slavery and the social segregation and abuse of opportunity so vivid in our memory. That this abuse of opportunity and truncation of possibility is continuing and is so pervasive in our society in 1996 says much about who we are and much about the work that is necessary to alter our perceptions of each other and to effect meaningful prosperity for all.”

This session will consider the role of theatre and its depiction of alternative points of view in expanding American awareness of its complex, multi-leveled history.

William Purcell, Professor of Communication

Location: Cremona Classrooms 102

“Framing Atrocity: Artists (re)present lynching”

Participants will learn a bit about the history of lynching in the United States and how artists have contended with this horrific history through various media (from novels to museum exhibits to comics to paintings). Given that lynchings were often memorialized in photographs and circulated as postcards, we will talk about what Cassandra Jackson calls the “crisis of vision” (witnessing, spectacle) and how the viewer can begin to process atrocity and be inspired for change.

We will discuss three “case studies” of artists who deconstruct lynching: Kerry James Marshall’s ink-jet printings “Heirlooms & Accessories” (2002), the opening panels from Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece’s graphic novel Incognegro (2008; inspired by Walter White, who risked his life to investigate lynchings in the South during the early 20th century), and contemporary murals depicting George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. If there is time, we may end with a brief reflection on James H. Cone’s groundbreaking work of theology, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (2011).

Jennifer McFarlane Harris, Associate Professor of English and Cultural Studies

Location: Eaton Hall 112

“Justice for Mrs. Packard: Asylums, religion, and gender in 19th century Illinois”

Historical theatre has often provided a way to raise and critique current issues. Emily Mann's play Mrs. Packard dramatizes issues of female oppression and religious intolerance that are still visible today. Members of the team from SPU’s fall production of the play will discuss how the realities of Elizabeth Packard’s internment by her preacher husband offer parallels to contemporary tensions in the world, on our campus, and in our own experiences.

Andrew Ryder, Professor of Theatre

Location: McKinley Hall, E.E. Bach Theatre

Emplacement: Art exhibition by artist Maria Fee in the SPAC Gallery at the SPU Art Center”

Emplacement is an exhibition by guest and theologian artist Maria Fee that combines nested, painted paper objects and multipaneled, cut canvases to present an immersive hybridization of painting, drawing, and sculpture. Her visual art explores ideas of fragmentation, metizaje (i.e., cultural mixing), alienation, and hospitality. These notions also drive her theological investigations that honor the sacred through the quotidian.

Zack Bent, Assistant Professor of Art

Location: SPAC Gallery, SPU Art Center