The Collegian
Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Moises Kaufman speaks on art's role in society

Director and playwright Moises Kaufman spoke before a packed audience about whether art could play a leadership role in society in Camp Concert Hall Monday, Feb. 24 as part of the continuing Jepson Leadership Forum, One Book, One Richmond program and the Women Involved in Living and Learning/Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Speaker Series.

Kaufman is best known as the author of "The Laramie Project" which was also performed on campus Feb. 14-16 in the Cousins Studio Theatre by a production studies class. Every year since its release, "The Laramie Project" has been one of the 10 most performed plays in America, Kaufman said.

Kaufman's main focus during his speech was the forms in which theater could be presented, and this was largely because of his self-professed interest in that matter, Kaufman said. "Whenever you do a play, you should be asking, 'How will this forward the art form?'" he said.

He associated his work on advancing the art form of theater. Just as he began his exploration of form in reaction to the naturalism he did not like, so too do many leaders embark on their journey because they are unhappy with the status quo, he said.

Kaufman said, "It's very hard for audiences to really listen to new messages in old forms." This became a topic that was questioned after his speech by an alumnus in the audience, Camden Cantwell, Richmond College '13. Cantwell asked how Kaufman would like theatre to progress as an art form from the aesthetic that Kaufman has created, and Kaufman responded that he would like to see what he has done thrown out forcibly. He said he would find rebelling against what he has done as one of the greatest compliments.

One student in the audience, Mary Clohan, a junior theatre student, said she liked that Kaufman asked the students to revolt against his work. Cantwell said he was glad for Kaufman's response, but that he would not be satisfied until he had done what Kaufman asked of the students.

Kaufman's speech was part of the Jepson Leadership Forum, the One Book, One Richmond program and the Women Involved in Living and Learning/Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Speaker Series, and was cosponsored by Common Ground and the department of theatre and dance, according to the 2013-2014 Jepson Leadership Forum's webpage.

"I believe that theater has its own language, and we only use about 10 words of the language." Kaufman said. "I am committed to expanding that vocabulary."

Contact reporter Brennen Lutz at

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