Students & Community Members engage with the Urban Bush Women in “From the Field to the Table”

From the Field to the Table, the first production in UC Berkeley’s Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies Main Stage 2012/13 season, opens October 12 in Zellerbach Playhouse. The new work, created through a process devised by the Urban Bush Women’s Leadership Institute, will deal with issues around food justice: Who is allowed at the table? What is the real cost of food? How are culturally specific agricultural practices lost or de-valued in our society?

The production, led by Urban Bush Women Leadership Institute facilitator Paloma McGregor along with Amara Tabor-Smith of Deep Waters Dance Theater and Lisa Wymore of Smith/Wymore Disappearing Acts’, will feature both dance and theater, inspired by the personal stories of the workshop’s participants and five weeks’ worth of research on the topic. The Urban Bush Women Summer Leadership Institute offered each year in New Orleans host approximately 80 people from around the country. The Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at Berkeley was able to experience this highly respected process in From the Field to The Table.

Over the course of the process at Berkeley, 45 participants have spent every evening working together in ways that support community making as a priority in art making. Participants have met with community leaders working of food justice and with arts organizations interested in sustainable practices that encourage community partnerships. Programming has included working in local community gardens, sharing cultural and personal stories, and sharing potluck food events. There have also been workshops exploring dance, writing and the impacts of racism within our society. Visiting speakers have included Gail Myers (owner of Farms to Grow), Darryl Smith (The Tenderloin National Forest), Marvin K. White (Writer, Activist and Artist), and Dr. Kimberly Richards and Sandra Barenboim (The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond).

A series of public events is also scheduled around the performances, including community potlucks, an  Indigenous Peoples day celebration co-produced with the American Indian Graduate Student Association and the American Indian Graduate Program, and chances to engage in person with the Urban Bush Women founder and Artistic Director Jawbone Willa Jo Zollar. A blog outlining the events and the process is online at

“This has been a fantastic and unique process,” says McGregor. “The Leadership Institute normally takes place over the course of 10 focused days. With this process, we’ve had five weeks, but only the evenings. So one Leadership Institute day works out to about 3 days here. On the other hand, the participants have the chance to go home and reflect of what they have learned, and bring back more focused thinking the next day.”

“The goal is to use these tools we’ve developed – embodied mapping, entering and exiting community, and creating a sandbox of ideas – to guide our participants, and then the audience, into questioning their relationship with food” says McGregor. “We want to build awareness of what we eat, and send people out with a new appreciation for where it comes from.”

Lisa Wymore, Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley’s Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies department, concurs. “It has been fantastic to watch our students engage with the Urban Bush Women methodology to create not only a new piece of theater, but to come to a new understanding of their own role in food justice. The audience will see the fruits of that labor.”


From the Field to the Table opens on Friday, October 12 at the Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley campus (at Speaker Plaza across from the Haas Pavilion) and runs through Sunday, October 14.

Presented Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm
October 12, 13 – 8pm
October 14 – 2pm

Tickets: $15.00 General Admission, $10.00 Students, Seniors, UC Faculty/Staff


(All events free unless noted with an asterisk)

Friday: 10/12
4pm – Artist Talk with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, location 126 Dwinelle Annex
8pm – Performance*
Zellerbach Playhouse

9pm – Post-Performance Reception with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
Zellerbach Playhouse

Saturday: 10/13
1-3pm – Workshop with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
Bancroft Dance Studio

3:30-5:30pm – Pot Lock/Food Party
Zellerbach Playhouse Lobby

6-7pm – Dialog with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Professor Catherine Cole
Zellerbach Playhouse

8pm – Performance*
Zellerbach Playhouse

Sunday: 10/14 – Performance Day #3
2pm – Performance*
Zellerbach Playhouse

3pm – Post-Performance Discussion with the Cast and Audience
Zellerbach Playhouse