E. Ethelbert Miller likes to “conversate” with people who have ideas not just jobs. He’s pulled together two women who’ve never shared ideas in the same room before: Vera J. Katz and Liz Lerman. Many people may not know them up front and personal, but have experienced their work and its results. Just tune into network television/feature film, Broadway (Katz), see intergenerational arts, communities growing in motion, science (Lerman).
Read more below.
Saturday, October 24 at 3:30 PM Vera J. Katz and Liz Lerman come together for the first time in conversation about method, techniques, and journeys as master teachers, artists, and mentors in their disciplines – theater and dance. The conversation will be moderated by E. Ethelbert Miller writer and literary activist. The public conversation takes place at The Potter’s House (1658 Columbia Road, NW, Washington, DC). The event is hosted by E. Ethelbert Miller presented in partnership with Mosaic Theater Company of DC, and Michon Boston Group LTD engagement strategists. There is no admission fee. RSVP Requested. http://katz-lerman-inconversation.eventbrite.com
Both Vera J. Katz and Liz Lerman have their unique approaches to philosophies about the theater and dance mediums. They have empowered students and artists who often come from communities outside their own culture and experiences. Their work with artists explore the depths of identity, culture, and social justice.
“Katz and Lerman continue to touch lives and shape history. There is much to learn from these women. They are teachers whose contributions extend beyond the classroom, workshop and stage. An afternoon of reflections and memories might just be the beginning of a new cultural blueprint,” says Miller who is also board chair at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Shortly after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the riots that followed in 1968, Katz arrived on the Howard University campus to teach drama. It was a turbulent time of public grief, outrage, and protest on and off campus; not the time when Howard’s theater students could eagerly embrace a Jewish American woman professor.
Nearly 10 years later Lerman was completing her Master of Arts degree at George Washington University. She was also putting together a unique modern dance company and named it Dance Exchange. For Lerman, the MA degree was a way to get a stipend. The company was, in her words, “holding commitment to concert and community.”
Today Katz is professor emeritus of Howard, gives private coaching, and teaches drama part time at the Ellington School of the Arts to a new generation of thespians. Katz has been called by former students Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad for dramaturgy and creative counsel. She is also putting the finishing touches on her memoir to include her unique techniques that have brought success to many African American actors appearing on stage, television, and film today: Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”), Anthony Anderson (“Blackish”), Chadwick Boseman (“42,” “Get On Up”), Wendy Raquel Robinson (“Steve Harvey Show”), just to name a few.
Lerman’s vision broadened the reach of dance beyond the studio and stage. Her dancers toured nationally and internationally. They were multi-generational tapestry engaging the public in shipyards, synagogues, playgrounds, street corners in motion with geneticists and physicists, as well as health care workers and patients.
Washington, DC is no longer the city Vera J. Katz found in 1968 or the DC of 1976 when Liz Lerman launched her dance company. In 2002 Lerman received a genius award from the MacArthur Foundation, and published a collection of essays, Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes from a Choreographer in 2011. Harvard University invited her to be an artist in residence, initiating new projects including the National Civil War Project, and the Healing Wars. Both projects explore the impact of war on humanity through arts and science. After 34 years Dance Exchange has been turned over to a new generation and Lerman has moved her life to Baltimore, Maryland.
The conversation is a time for Katz and Lerman to assess the changes in art, culture, identity, and the city of Washington, DC. It is a master class in the meaning of art in life and the life theater and dance has brought to so many.