Graduate Student Stories Transcripts: Jonelle Walker
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Transcript of Jonelle Walker's video
My aunts was a principal ballet dancer at the Houston Ballet growing up, and some of my earliest memories are being backstage and walking the sets and touching the costumes and being in the dressing rooms, and I just... I was really shy, but I fell in love with the whole world of performing arts basically from there on. I think Washington DC, for my money, is the richest and most exciting theater community in the United States for sure at the moment. It is, for me the hub of new play development. You have Wooly Mammoth, you have Arena Stage, you have the Shakespeare Theatre, the Folger Shakespeare Library. It's incredibly rich, and that's not even to speak of Baltimore also.
Probably the most exciting part of my work at the moment is working with an organization called Not in Our House DC. Essentially, it focuses on preventing sexual harassment, any kind of racial, gender identity or sexuality microaggressions in the rehearsal process, so I've been kind of working with that organization to figure out a code of conduct to make theater a safer place to be dangerous.
I like being in the midst of our Masters of Fine Arts program in design. I like being in the midst of our MFA in dance, and I love our undergraduate students. I think, for me, it's... it is a program that looks at the 360 of making theater, including the theory and the intellectual world of it. My colleagues are so smart and worldly and caring, and I find that that carries over into other departments as well. I actually collaborated with one of the faculty members in the theater department, Mitchell Hébert, who's a director and an actor on a new piece... a new adaptation of Twelfth Night called [Alearia 00:01:40] that's being produced in Arlington, Virginia, in October. So that collaboration came directly from us being introduced through the program.
I go to a lot of the performances at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. A lot of the performances put on by the School of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, so, if I'm on campus, that's usually what I'm doing. I'm really excited about a project that the theater department is doing now which is bringing an exhibition from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to the School of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, and the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library. It's about a series of seven panels on the Triumph of Isabella, which was an Ommegang, a parade festival that was held for the archduchess of the Spanish Netherlands Isabella in 1615, and so I've worked a little bit on writing scripts for some immersive performance elements for that project, and that's been really exciting.
My work academically is really about the philosophy of theater and performance and how it work and the work that it does in culture and society. I want to teach. I think what I was brought into the world of academia to do was to make students more curious, make students question everything, and certainly to train students to be more ethical and more thoughtful theater practitioners.