Prof. Dominic Tierney and Nell Bang-Jensen ’11 Discuss Media and War

Political Scientist Dominic Tierney and Nell Bang-Jensen ’11 recently led a discussion on the media’s responsibilities in times of war.

Body of an American

The discussion followed The Body of An American, which explores the friendship of photojournalist Paul Watson and playwright Dan O’Brien (played by Harry Smith and Ian Merrill). Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.

Swarthmore’s zeal for interdisciplinary studies and collaboration took center stage at the Wilma Theater earlier this month, when Associate Professor of Political Science Dominic Tierney and Nell Bang-Jensen ’11 guided a lively discussion on the media’s responsibilities in times of war.

The discussion followed a performance of The Body of an American, which explores the international repercussions of the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. The image skewed the perception of the U.S. intervention in Somalia and may have dissuaded its leaders from intervening in catastrophes such as Rwanda, Tierney says.

Nell Bang-Jensen

Nell Bang-Jensen ’11 cites collaborating with Dominic Tierney and other Swarthmore community members as “a wonderful melding of worlds.”

“The play deals with important issues about the power of photographs in wartime, which resonates with my teaching and research,” says Tierney, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and an official correspondent of The Atlantic. “I was excited to participate.”

Prof Dominic Tierney

Prof. Dominic Tierney

One of the actors in the play, Harry Smith, is a friend of Tierney’s. He recommended him as someone who had researched the events in Mogadishu and could lend context to the performance. In what Bang-Jensen deems a “funny coincidence,” it was she who called Tierney to arrange the collaboration.

“I sent him the script in advance so he could get a feel for it and see the connections to his own work,” says Bang-Jensen, who works in the Wilma’s artistic department. “There are different levels on which to interpret the play: How do we come to terms with the idea that war lives inside all of us, and how can we solve these internal wars before we can solve global ones?”

The play centers on photojournalist Paul Watson, who is haunted by what he believes he heard the soldier say right as he took the prize-winning photo: “If you do this, I will own you forever.” Playwright Dan O’Brien, also obsessed with the notion of hauntings, heard Watson tell the story on the radio in 2007, and a friendship bloomed between them. Written by O’Brien and directed by Michael John Garcés, the production runs through February 1.

Tierney’s appearance followed the January 16th performance, which drew a young and socioeconomically diverse audience (thanks partly to the WynTix program that offers $10 tickets to students and theater employees). With the Charlie Hebdo attack in France fresh on everyone’s minds, the audience pondered the media’s obligation to citizens.

“It’s the constant question of how the media can give outsiders a more nuanced view of what’s happening,” says Bang-Jensen, “going beyond these images that often only tell one part of the story.”

Also lending context to the performance was an exhibit of wartime photography in the lobby. It included the work of David Swanson, an embedded correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer in Iraq in 2004 and the husband of Laila Swanson, assistant professor in set and costume design for Swarthmore’s Department of Theater.

Swarthmore’s connections to the Wilma don’t end there, however. Madeline Charne ’14 has been an intern at the theater since June, and Matt Saunders, assistant professor of design and resident set designer, has designed sets for its productions such as Age of Arousal and Angels in America.

“I feel very lucky to be a part of this wonderful melding of worlds,” says Bang-Jensen, who majored in English literature with a theater minor at Swarthmore and then traveled for a year as a Watson Fellow. “It’s so exciting to engage these fellow artists at the professional level, and for these academic conversations to carry beyond the classroom and manifest as art.”

Honors Dramaturgy Thesis: A PILLAR OF MARBLE (2/7 & 2/8)

Crafted by: Amelia Dornbush
Adapted from The Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds 
Directed by: Rebecca Wright

2PM February 7, 2015 Headlong Studios, 1170 S Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA
2PM February 8, 2015 LPAC Frear Ensemble Theater
Amelia Dornbush ’15’s dramaturgical thesis, A PILLAR OF MARBLE recrafts and interprets stories from classical Jewish texts written in Palestine and Babylon for a 21st century, American stage.
The work tells us: “God is not yet dead. Must he die for us to live?” Relationships and identities pivot around the struggle to exist with a structure of power centered form of an (un)just God.

New Spring 2015 Course on South American “Dirty Wars”

A new history course  this semester can  be counted toward a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies! The course is slated to be offered again during the fall semester 2016.

Digging Through the National Security Archive: South American “Dirty Wars” and the United States Involvement

Professor Diego Armus
History 090o
Mondays 1:15 pm – 4:00 pm in Kohlberg 230

This course offers a critical examination of 1970s Southern Cone Latin American military dictatorships focusing on the making of coups d’état; the successful imposition of neoliberal economic agendas by military-civilian alliances; daily life under state terrorism; national security doctrines; and memories of the so-called “Dirty Wars”. As a research oriented course, the second half of the semester will be devoted to a rigorous exercise of investigation focused on the relations between those Latin American dictatorships and the United States using the National Security Archive and other primary sources.

Pinochet and Kissinger

Martin Luther King Collection and Choir tomorrow

Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection & Gospel Choir performance with violinist Patrick Desrosiers

Friends Meeting House
12:45 p.m., Friday, January 23, 2015

Please join together with faculty, staff, and students for a campus-wide community collection and a special performance from the Gospel Choir and violinist Patrick Desrosiers.

Reception immediately to follow in the Whittier Room.


Design class opportunities are not just for Theater majors!

Looking for a break from writing papers?  Interested in learning more about lighting? The Lighting Design class is now open and available to all!

In this hands on class you will learn the hows and whys to help you design lights for theater, dance, art, or music events. This knowledge is also useful for gallery installation, architecture, engineering and fashion! Your enrollment can lead to design opportunities and steady employment on campus with the LPAC, Olde Club, and beyond.

Meets Mondays 1:00PM – 6:15PM (break halfway through class for coffee).
Email, or enroll in THEA 004B.

Are you missing some basic skills of drafting and architectural model making? Want to make exciting interior and exterior spaces?

Explore scenery design from concept to production and how it relates to other elements in performance spaces and beyond. A lab component of this class will include an introduction to computer drafting, model making and additional information about materials used for basic construction. The course is designed to serve all students regardless of prior experience in theater production.

Meets Mondays 4:15PM – 6:15PM and Wednesdays 1:00PM – 3:45PM! NO PREREQUISITES! Fulfills a general requirement for all theater majors and minors.
Enroll in THEA 004A or email Prof. Saunders at for details.

If you are looking for a broad spectrum class in design processes, look no further! This course offers an introduction to creative aspects of designing scenery, costumes, lighting, and sound for theater and performance with emphasis on the correlation of text, imagination, and space. In a collaborative classroom setting, the students will have the opportunity to explore individual ideas and transform these into a design that is cohesive and relevant to a production. The lab component of the course will provide a broad introduction to the technical aspects of theater production. No prior performance experience necessary!

Meets Thursdays 4:15PM – 6:15PM and 7:15PM – 9:45PM.
NO PREREQUISITES! Fulfills a general requirement for all theater majors and minors.
Enroll in THEA 003 or email for more info.

Radical Democracy and Humanism: Intersections Between Performance and Action (2/9 – 2/27)

_DSC5655Swarthmore College (Departments of Music and Dance, Black Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies, Theatre, and the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility) and the William J. Cooper Foundation present a three-week performance residency RADICAL DEMOCRACY AND HUMANISM: INTERSECTIONS BETWEEN PERFORMANCE AND ACTION. Conceived by Professor Sharon Friedler and led by Swarthmore graduate Kate Speer ‘08, the residency centers around engagements with David Dorfman Dance (DDD), a leading American modern dance company known for politically relevant works centered on community responsibility. From February 9 to February 27, 2015, workshops, classes and lectures will address a spectrum of positions and assumptions regarding intersecting issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, politics and the environment. The central performance, David Dorfman’s PROPHETS OF FUNK, for this residency will take place on Friday, February 20, 2015 at 8PM in the Lang Performing Arts Center.

Participating facilitators for the residency include the following scholars and artists: Kate Speer ‘08, who has written and delivered papers on Dorfman’s dances, creative processes, and their connection to radical democracy, Teya Sepinuck, the founder and director of the Theater of Witness model of performance, David Kyuman Kim, a Connecticut College scholar of race, religion, and public life and George Lakey, visiting professor, non-violence advocate and civil rights activist. In the lectures and workshops, selections of David Dorfman’s repertory works will be taught as aids in broadening individual performing range and exposure to these processes will provide a common basis for the study and discussion of different aspects of performance. Discussions will delve into multiple opinions and perspectives in order to encourage participants to begin dialoguing about the questions at stake, effectively employing democratic practices within the concert stage environment. The residency will seek to explore how Dorfman creates dance that de-stigmatizes the notion of accessibility and interaction in post-modern performance and how dance can add a positive challenge to engage audiences in action.

A schedule for these events is available on our home page: These events are free and open to the public without reservations, but space is limited for some of the smaller lectures and workshops. Please contact or 610-328-8260 for more information.

David Dorfman’s PROPHETS OF FUNK (2/20 @ 8PM)

NicoleLacourPOFSwarthmore College and the William J. Cooper Foundation present David Dorfman’s PROPHETS OF FUNK on Friday, February 20, 2015 at 8PM in the Lang Performing Arts Center’s Pearson-Hall Theater. Rhythm, groove, and love: PROPHETS OF FUNK is a “dynamic engagement of movement driven by the popular – and populist – funk sounds of Sly and the Family Stone.” Ahead of their time, Sly and the Family Stone is one of the first racially and gender-integrated bands in American music history and solid purveyors of social consciousness. David Dorfman Dance (DDD) celebrates the band’s groundbreaking, visceral, and powerful visions of prophetic love that continues to shine on despite everyday struggles. PROPHETS OF FUNK lifts up the spirit of Sly: that in the face of the funk of life, there are still hopes and aspirations that reside in all of us. DDD will also host a Master Class in dance technique on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 4:30PM in the Lang Performing Arts Center’s Troy Dance Studio (LPAC 2).

The production of PROPHETS OF FUNK was made possible by generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, The New England Foundation for the Arts, National Dance Project with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, The Jerome Robbins Foundation, and Friends of David Dorfman Dance. Choreographic material for PROPHETS OF FUNK was developed, in part, during residencies at the Tisch Dance Summer Residency Program at New York University and as company-in-residence at Connecticut College.

PROPHETS OF FUNK is the central performance of a three-week residency from February 9 to February 27, 2015 at Swarthmore College titled RADICAL DEMOCRACY AND HUMANISM: INTERSECTIONS BETWEEN PERFORMANCE AND ACTION. Conceived by Professor Sharon Friedler and led by Swarthmore graduate Kate Speer ‘08, the residency centers on engagements with DDD and is supported by critical discussions, workshops, classes, and lectures. Participants and leaders will address a spectrum of positions and assumptions regarding intersecting issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, politics and the environment. More info available at:

For further information about the performance or residency events, contact Tara Webb at 610-328-8260 or These events are free and open to the public without reservations.

1969: The Revolutionary Spring of Black Students by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

1969: The Revolutionary Spring of Black Students by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is Professor of Africana Studies at University at
Albany, SUNY

February 5, 2015
4:30-6:00 p.m. 
Scheuer Room, Kohlberg Hall
Swarthmore College (directions to campus)


Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is Professor of Africana Studies at University at Albany, SUNY.

From 1965 to 1972, Black students and their allies waged the most transformative antiracist social movement in the history of U.S. education. They organized, demanded, and protested for a relevant learning experience at more than five hundred colleges and universities in every state except Alaska. They pressed for a range of campus reforms, including an end to campus paternalism and racism, and the addition of more Black students, faculty, Black Cultural Centers, and Africana Studies courses and programs. The spring of 1969 was undoubtedly the climax semester of this social movement. From Swarthmore to Cornell, from Duke to Wisconsin, from UCLA to UC Berkeley, Black students and their allies revolutionized the course of higher education for decades to come.

Reception to follow.

This is a part of the Black History Month series of events for 2015. Please see The Black Cultural Center’s website for more information on this and other events.


Dance in the news

Here’s an analysis of recent protests from a choreographic standpoint (via Jumatatu Poe):

And also take a moment to look at the article: “I Want to Be Ready: Improvised Dance as a Practice of Freedom” by Danielle Goldman. Swarthmore students can access if online at