Theater Activist, Actor and Playwright Cynthia Ruffin Teaches at HU April 19 – 29 

Nationally known theater activist, actor and playwright Cynthia Ruffin is teaching on the New Mexico Highlands University campus April 18 — 29 through the university’s Nina Telsa Ballen Visiting Professor Program.
Ruffin will also present a free public lecture, Ungagged, April 25 at 6 p.m. in the Leveo Sanchez Lecture Hall in Donnelly Library. Ruffin will lead the April29 performance of Voices of Transformation in the university’s Sala de Madrid building, 801 University Ave.
Ruffin was born in Montreal and trained at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. She also studied with Augusto Boal, a renowned social justice theater activist from Brazil.
“Working with Augusto Boal influenced my decision to devote my life to social justice theater, and informed my belief that solutions come from the community and collaboration,” Ruffin said.”Working for social justice is the work of building peace and coalitions. It’s also about striving for equality and celebrating diversity.”
Ruffin presents social justice theaterworkshops nationwide on college campuses and other educational settings.
“At Highlands, I’m teaching an intensive workshop in social justice theater, and how it crosses over into the realm of women’s history as well as media and ethics,” Ruffin said. “At the end of two weeks, the students will present original monologues they wrote on sexism, and how it has affected their lives. The students chose the subject. There’s so much power and strength in sharing your own story.”
The Highlands University students will perform their monologues April 29 at 1 and 6 p.m., in Sala de Madrid.
Ruffin is working most closely with students from history professor Kristie Ross’ Women in History class. Ruffin is also working with students from media arts professor Megan Jacob’s Women in Technology class, and clinical psychology professor Camea Gagliardi-Blea’s Ethical Considerations in Therapy class.
“Cynthia Ruffin has gained national notoriety and acclaim for delving into the ‘silenced’ taboo, and often intersecting, topics of domestic violence, sexual abuse, drug addiction, sexual identity, and homelessness,” said sociology professor Erika Derkas. “Ruffin is not only a heralded artist, she’s also a focused and engaging teacher.”
Derkas co-wrote the Nina Telsa Ballen grant application along with Ross and Jacobs.
In New Mexico, Ruffin is best known for Baggage, her critically acclaimed play that deals with the issue of domestic violence and women of color in New Mexico. While living in Santa Fe, Ruffin developed Baggage for the Santa Fe theater troupe, Wise Fool New Mexico. She acted in the production and later was the director.
The Los Angeles-based Ruffin will perform Baggage as a one-woman show in 2012, debuting in L.A. before touring nationally.
Ruffin has penned other plays, including Coup de Cirque, a children’s circus play that toured Canada, and God Ain’t Done With Me Yet, commissioned by the Santa Fe Recovery Center.
The university’s women’s studies, sociology, history, and media arts programs are sponsoring Ruffin’s visit.