Performing Artist Bill T. Jones and Scholar and Playwright Lisa B. Thompson Named The New School’s 2022-2023 Presidential Visiting Scholars
Last year, The New School launched the Presidential Visiting Scholars program, opening a new chapter in its efforts to enhance intellectual discourse by bringing to campus some of the most inspiring, provocative, and groundbreaking thinkers in the world. The inaugural year brought the renowned philosophers Judith Butler and Cornel West to campus, where they led graduate seminars and public lectures for the New School community. During the 2022–2023 academic year, the program will expand to encompass new disciplines as performing artist Bill T. Jones and scholar and playwright Lisa B. Thompson join the university as the latest Presidential Visiting Scholars.
The program builds on an important aspect of The New School’s history—the tradition of bringing to campus outstanding academics, artists, and activists known for their bold research, pedagogical innovations, and groundbreaking ideas to engage with the university’s faculty and students. Jones is a multi-talented artist, choreographer, dancer, theater director, and writer. At The New School, his work will encompass multiple areas of scholarly and artistic practice, including advancing equity, inclusion, and social justice; promoting environmental sustainability; performance; public convening; and a partnership with New York Live Arts, of which Jones serves as founding artistic director. Thompson, an award-winning playwright, is a dynamic voice in American theater whose art and scholarship examine stereotypes about Black life in the United States, particularly the experiences of the Black middle class. She will deliver a public lecture and engage in creative practice with students, faculty, and other artists that will include a public reading of one of her plays.
“We are honored to host the visionary artists Bill T. Jones and Lisa B. Thompson, two of the most creative forces in American performing arts,” said Dwight A. McBride, president of The New School, in a press release. “Their appointments as Presidential Visiting Scholars carry forward The New School’s rich legacy of supporting innovative artists like the renowned dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, a former faculty member; the co-founders of the Dramatic Workshop, Erwin and Maria Ley Piscator; and alumna Vinnette Carroll, the first Black woman to direct on Broadway and receive a Tony nomination for Best Director. Jones and Thompson will enrich the intellectual and creative opportunities for our students, who will be able to engage with these inspiring, provocative, groundbreaking artists.”
Jones is the artistic director of New York Live Arts and artistic director and co-founder of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Early in his career, Jones made his mark as a dancer and choreographer, combining a powerful artistic vision with deep personal meaning, often exploring major issues facing society. He is a seminal figure in the history of performing arts worldwide.
Jones has received a number of accolades, ranging from a 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award to Kennedy Center Honors in 2010. Jones was honored with the 2014 Doris Duke Award, named an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2010, inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009, and designated as one of America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures by the Dance Heritage Coalition in 2000. He is a two-time Tony Award recipient for Best Choreography for FELA! and Spring Awakening and received an Obie Award for Spring Awakening’s off-Broadway run. His choreography for the off-Broadway production of The Seven earned him a 2006 Lucille Lortel Award.
Thompson is the Bobby and Sherri Patton Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and the advisor to the dean for Faculty Mentoring and Support at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Liberal Arts. She is an award-winning theater artist, teacher, and scholar whose plays employ character and story to thoughtfully explore the Black family, motherhood, migration, racial violence, and sexuality.
Thompson has written four books—Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class, Single Black Female, Underground, Monroe, and The Mamalogues: Three Plays, and The Mamalogues. Thompson’s plays have been produced off-Broadway, around the United States, and internationally. She has received support for her work from institutions such as the American Council of Learned Societies, Hedgebrook, MacDowell, Millay Arts, the National Performance Network, the University of Texas’ Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, and Harvard University’s W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center.