Students explore the arts at The Patti Pace Performance Festival in New Orleans

The Contemporary Arts Center was the site for the convening of students, faculty, and staff from colleges across the nation who gathered to celebrate the 2019 Annual Patti Pace Performance Festival. This year, Xavier University of Louisiana’s Performance Studies Laboratory hosted the festival from Feb. 15-16.

“[The festival’s purpose] is to gather students, faculty, and staff who have a common interest in performance studies in one space [and] place and share our work with each other, and learn from each other,” said Melanie Kitchens O’Meara, the festival coordinator.

Performers often come from different academic disciplines, and so the festival has workshops that allow participants to collaborate, said O’Meara, who is a former student of Dr. Patricia Pace at Georgia Southern University, who the festival is named after.

The Annual Patti Pace event was first called the Georgia Performance festival, and was conceived by Pace and her colleauges. At the time, Pace was then the director of Theatre and Performance at Georgia Southern University at the time. The first festival was held in St. Simons Island, Georgia, from Feb. 2-3, 2001, and Pace, unfortunately, passed away on Nov. 17, 2000, and was never able to attend the festival. Thus, the festival was given her name and has been carried out by her colleagues, friends, and former students, like O’Meara, who has been the traveling festival coordinator since 2008.

The festival has been held in New Orleans four times, and this is the second time Xavier has hosted it since 2015. The list of participating colleges has changed each year. This year alone there were 13 participating colleges, which included four schools from Louisiana, Nunez Community College, Delgado Community College, Louisiana State University, and Xavier.

Xavier students performed a piece called Organology, which was a piece that was about the history of a nineteenth-century pipe organ, performed by two students in two different locations, in New Orleans and New York. The performance was a site-specific performance that used performance protocols, which required the audience members to bring a cellphone with internet and headphones, and included a printed guide for the audience to follow while listening and watching.

Performances ranged in various genres and highlighted topics that required the writers and performers to do intensive research. Some performances highlighted topics like daily life, queer genealogy, state history, gun violence, eco-feminism, and autism.

“So we think of this as creative scholarship,” said Ross Louis, a professor in Perfomance Studies at Xavier, an a co-event coordinator. “One component is to bring creative work that undergraduates and graduate students bring to get critical feedback and to present as you would in a conference, except we are not in a conference we are in a festival, so its looser and creatively different,” Louis added.

Some students appreciated the festival because it allowed them to step off their official academic path of studies and dive into the arts. “My interest for coming to this festival was not just because of a participation grade, I would have come anyway, but it’s just to experience other people’s techniques, how they go about portraying the scene and how the scene unfolds, I can learn so much,” said Camryn Price, a sociology major from Xavier.


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