Lizbett Benge

Artist

Educator

World Changer

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Artistry

[Image Description: This image is taken from a performance of "La Syrinx" during Arizona State University's Live Art Platform showcase on April 4, 2016. Lizbett is the center figure in the photo dressed in a black corset, she is sitting on her knees on a grey cement floor. Her hands are cuffed together and her face is blankly staring forward. In the foreground, a participant from the audience is kneeling with their side profile in view. They are picking up an object from the floor. In the background Chaz wears a dressy, all-black outfit as he plays his flute and reads the musical score on the music stand in front of him.] photo credit: Angela Ellsworth

[Image Description: This image is taken from a performance of "La Syrinx" during Arizona State University's Live Art Platform showcase on April 4, 2016. Lizbett is the center figure in the photo dressed in a black corset, she is sitting on her knees on a grey cement floor. Her hands are cuffed together and her face is blankly staring forward. In the foreground, a participant from the audience is kneeling with their side profile in view. They are picking up an object from the floor. In the background Chaz wears a dressy, all-black outfit as he plays his flute and reads the musical score on the music stand in front of him.]

photo credit: Angela Ellsworth

 
 
Everything I am and have been is manifest on the page, a genealogy of was. I am the producer, creator, author, and scribe.
Like a palimpsest we absorb the markings of our culture—their erasure never complete and traces of what was underlie our becoming. We are in a constant state of revision.
How do we embody the engravings of a process of moving through a system that is beyond our reach and seemingly out of our control? I'm fascinated by what we carry within us—that which is stored in the abyss of our cellular knowing—the traumas of intergenerational poverty, vestiges of enslavement, terrors of genocide, and the abuse of our mothers. How is such pain manifest?
The discourses of the state are mapped onto our bodies telling us who and what we are, but every change comes from imagining otherwise. How do we resist the coercive and punitive functions of the state? What emotions does this conjure and does this change our very disposition? What of the body? Does it sag, cower, and bald or grow, curl, and create?
The mundane reveals the extreme and the taken for granted reveals the simplicity. Erasures, fissures, and exploring the things left unsaid, my art picks up where dialogue left off. My plays and performances are grounded in the experience of the everyday and the material conditions which influence all aspects of life. My subject matter is mothers, motherhood, and non-traditional kinship formations. These women and their families are embodied historiographers, the conduits of historical memory that elide our material present.
My art peels back our layers of injury to expose our core of solace.
 
 

SERVICES

Theatre Workshops and Public Speaking

I can deliver a range of talks that can be lecture-based, discussion oriented, interactive, or combine various arts-based approaches depending on the goals and desires of the constituents involved.

Frequently topics I address are: creativity and the everyday, feminist politics, equity and diversity in higher education, theatre as an outlet for healing, art as survival, ethnography and ethnotheatre,  approaching theory through embodiment, historical legacy projects, and connecting personal experience to structural inequality. 

 

 

 

 
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[Image Description: Lizbett is kneeling face to face with a student discussing their current project. The student is in a contemplative pose and holds a pen over his notebook in his other hand. There are other students seated at tables in the background.] 

[Image Description: Lizbett is kneeling face to face with a student discussing their current project. The student is in a contemplative pose and holds a pen over his notebook in his other hand. There are other students seated at tables in the background.] 

Teaching

Teaching is a powerful tool, one that shifted my focus away from the harsh reality at home and in my community towards something gratifying, empowering, and pleasurable.         

My teaching philosophy is very much patterned on my ideas and experiences within community-based theatre practices. Students are collaborators and creators, just the same as I. I am committed to reciprocity and collaboration throughout the entire process of art making – from visioning (what can we do? Are we going to do anything at all?), ideation (what might this look like? What is our aesthetic? What are some ideas?), to implementation (let’s put on this play! Let’s create a mural on Farmer Avenue!).

I am not the expert in the room; each person possesses knowledge that another does not, together we create a common vocabulary and utilize our skills and strengths in service of our art, our voice, our communities, and our liberation.

I do not believe in starting investigations from taken for granted assumptions and mainstream understandings. For me, inquiry begins with what is unseen, what is felt, what is unspoken, what is beyond us. I prioritize the insights of indigenous peoples, people of color, those from outside the USA, queer peoples, trans* folks, those with differing ability statuses, and those from working class backgrounds. The material I choose to highlight in spaces of learning is always chosen and approached with ideas of practicality, usability, and accessibility. Theory is a way of making sense of something and it ought not live solely in the realm of abstraction. 

[Image Description: Lizbett stares contemplatively into the camera with her head cocked to the right. The scenery behind her is blurred out of focus but appears to be green trees and shrubbery. She wears a black tank top and gold, black and white statement necklace. Colorful tattoos are visible on her left chest and arm area. Her hair is dyed deep purple and turquoise blue, she wears exaggerated deep plum lipstick and winged, black eyeliner.]

About

I am quick to compartmentalize and adamant on survival
I wonder what we hold deep inside of us -- what memories, pain, pleasure, and residue does my container contain?
I want to leave a legacy behind for my daughter and for her to be greater than I ever will be
I live filling my days with endless things...
I worry that one day I will become complacent
I understand this world to be violence
I say it doesn't have to be so; we authored all of this and have forgotten we did so
I dream you will react, feel, and grow in humility
I hope I can experience a sustained feeling of community and belonging
I am quick to compartmentalize and adamant on survival