Distinguished professor lecture to address how theatre contributes to healthy communities

Wed, 11/29/2023


Savannah Rattanavong

LAWRENCE — According to Peter Ukpokodu, theatre and arts have long been associated with community health by how they seem to rejuvenate people’s emotional well-being so they can appreciate life though a new lens.

Peter Ukpokodu

Ukpokodu, the Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of African & African-American Studies, will present “Statements From an Interventionist Theatre Practice” as his inaugural distinguished professor lecture at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 6 in Slawson Hall’s Beren Petroleum Conference Center.

Individuals can register to attend the lecture, which will also be livestreamed. Additional webinar details will be available upon registration. A recording of the lecture will be posted afterward on the Office of Faculty Affairs website.

In addition to being the first faculty member in the Department of African & African-American Studies to be named a distinguished professor, Ukpokodu is a courtesy professor in the Department of Theatre & Dance.

“My research for over 25 years in sociopolitical theater has enabled me to include theatrical interventionism as a way of responding and seeking resolution to problematic issues in our shared humanity in order to continue to create a healthy and virile community, whether that community is local, national, international or global,” Ukpokodu said.

“I approach this from two main angles: as a creator of culture and as an interpreter of culture. In both, I have found it exhilarating working seamlessly within the two departments that are so close to my heart — African & African-American Studies and Theatre & Dance — at the University of Kansas.”

A playwright and theatre director, Ukpokodu is the co-editor of “African Literatures at the Millennium” and the author of “African Political Plays,” “It Happened to the Blind Beggar” and “Socio-Political Theatre in Nigeria.”

After joining KU in 1990 as an assistant professor in the theatre & film department, Ukpokodu went on to become a professor in African and African-American studies in 2003. He previously taught at the University of Benin and the Bida College of Technology, both in Nigeria.

Ukpokodu has directed plays, including “Sizwe Bansi is Dead,” “The Island,” “Eshu and the Vagabond Minstrels,” “Oedipus Rex” and “Waiting for Godot.”

He serves as an editor-in-chief of Africana Annual as well as a consultant and reviewer for publishing companies. Some of his previous appointments include being an advisory board member for numerous organizations, including the Lied Center of Kansas, the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka annual festival, African Traditional Peoples Institute and the David-Wright Institute for African Studies.

Ukpokodu is a member of numerous academic and theatre organizations, such as the International Federation for Theatre Research, American Society for Theatre Research, African Studies Association, National Association for African-American Studies and Black Theatre Network. He is an invited member of the Oxford Round Table at Oxford University, England.

A past president of the Mid-America Alliance for African Studies, Ukpokodu has additionally served as the former co-convener of the millennial conference of the African Literature Association, chair of the KU African & African-American studies department and founding parliamentarian of the Kansas chapter of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

His publications on theatre theory and criticism have appeared in several journals, including the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, the Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, Theatre Research International, TDR: A Journal of Performance Studies and the American Historical Review.

Along with the W. T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence, Ukpokodu has received a number of awards, including the Excellence in Teaching Award from the KU Center for Teaching Excellence and the World of Poetry’s Golden Poet Award.

Ukpokodu earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theatre arts from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria as well as a doctorate in theatre from KU.

The first distinguished professorships were established at KU in 1958. A university distinguished professorship is awarded wholly based on merit, following exacting criteria. A complete list is available on the Distinguished Professor website.

Wed, 11/29/2023


Savannah Rattanavong

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Savannah Rattanavong

Office of the Provost