Queens resident Judith Sloan will present her new work-in-progress, “Yo Miss! Teaching Inside the Cultural Divide,” at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center on Thursday, March 26.
An actress, writer, oral historian, radio producer and audio artist, Sloan has been teaching for about 20 years. Her classes focus on theatre, oral history and writing.
Since 2001, Sloan has been working steadily with students as part of a partnership between the non-profit organization EarSay, which she is co-artistic director of, and the International School at LaGuardia Community College.
During a recent class at the school, Sloan spoke with students about displacement. She then did an exercise with them where the students had to show how they would physically convey different emotions, such as fear.
“It’s about transformation and having a dialogue,” Sloan said of the classes.
Sloan has been writing since 1991. In 2007, she took some of the materials that had been written awhile back to edit and record a piece about teaching boys in jail. She then did another piece for radio called “Sweeping Statements.”
One editor looked at three pieces Sloan had and pointed out that two were similar because they were both about Sloan’s experiences as a teacher. Also, she was working with music producer Taylor Rivelli, who kept telling her she could make a CD.
From there, Sloan realized that she could make a show about teaching, saying that she “really, really wanted to have the dialogue.”
Sloan sent a treatment for the show “Yo Miss! Teaching Inside the Cultural Divide” to the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center Lab Program. She was accepted into the level of the program that enables an artist to get a new project off of the ground, including receiving some rehearsal space and doing one show.
“As a teacher and a person doing this work for 20 years – but certainly the last 15 pretty heavily – everybody touches you and leaves their mark on you,” Sloan said, adding that students change a person. “I think this is from the perspective of the person gathering the stories.”
In putting the show together, Sloan said that she “gathered this incredible team of people around me who all believe in the work as well.” The show is being directed by Michael Dinwiddie with music composed and performed by Taylor Rivelli. Additional music and sound has been composed by Frank London, David Krakauer, Dave Guy, Samir Zariff, Lars Deitrich and Slaon.
The additional voices for the show will be Carl Hancock Rux and Michael Premo. The dramaturg is Yoni Oppenheim, and the editor at large is Warren Lehrer.
Following the performance, there will be a “talk back” session. Participating in the dialogue with Sloan will be International High School teachers John Starkey and Sarah Gil and students Stephanie Val and Belkissa Aida Doumbia. Sloan said that the dialogue will not only be about the show and process, but anything that people want to talk about.
“Yo Miss! Teaching Inside the Cultural Divide: will be performed at the Little Theatre of the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, which is located at 31-10 Thomson Avenue in Long Island City, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 26. The opening act will be Mahina Movement.