FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington is concluding a season of Public Classroom talks with a presentation, “Everyone at the Table,” by Melissa Thompson, assistant professor of performing arts. The talk will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, in the performance space at the Emery Community Arts Center. It is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served at 6 p.m.

Thompson’s talk is centered around experimental and devised performance — the process of an ensemble creating and performing in their own work. This method of performance invites viewers to bring their own lives, experiences and stories to the table in order to interpret the work, rather than having a playwright or director indicating the one “correct” way to experience a performance.

By creating atypical performance experiences, audiences and the ensemble are pushed slightly out of their comfort zones, thereby creating something new together during each performance. Most importantly, devised performance allows for more people to be represented on stage and gives more voices a chance to be heard.

This means the potential for a radical sense of inclusion — not just the automatic categories thought of in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity — but also in terms of age, gender expression, sexuality, disability, physical appearance, national origin, cultural and regional identifiers.

By taking a nontraditional theatre format and building a performance from the ground up, not only is there the opportunity to present a wide spectrum of stories, but also that everyone involved gets a seat at the table and has their voices heard.

Thompson is an artist, scholar and a co-founder of the multi-disciplinary arts project, The Sacred Heart Archive. She has performed and conducted devised physical theatre workshops nationally and internationally, performing and training with a diverse group of artists, including Tim Miller of the “NEA Four,” Moti Roti, Mary Overlie, Mike Pearson and Elevator Repair Service.

She has trained extensively with Richard Gough of the Center for Performance research, collaborating with him on an international series of food performance. The debut full-length performance by The Sacred Heart Archive — “The Key Said Run and the Door Said Fly,” has been featured at many arts venues across the United States, including the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and Highways Performance Space.

Thompson has a number of current multi-disciplinary performance collaborations, including a collaboration with New Media designer Alison Dobbins, founder of the Media Theatre Performance Laboratory and an ongoing, multi-stage performance project that includes New Media installation, online performance and in-person performance.

In the last year, Thompson and Angela Swiegart-Gallagher have developed a new video performance project under the umbrella of Bad & Nasty Events, a grassroots feminist performance movement.

Thompson received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The UMF Public Classroom series is sponsored by the Office of the President.

Melissa Thompson

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