Associate professor receives award for works in performance studies

May 9, 2011 | Arts, UToday
By Sarah Ritenour

Dr. Jim Ferris rehearsed a scene for his solo performance piece, “Scars: A Love Story,” which he will take on the road this spring and summer.

Dr. Jim Ferris rehearsed a scene for his solo performance piece, “Scars: A Love Story,” which he will take on the road this spring and summer.

Dr. Jim Ferris, the Ability Center of Greater Toledo Endowed Chair in Disability Studies, has been named the Outstanding Scholar in Performance Studies and Theatre by the Central States Communication Association.

According to the association, the award is given to a scholar “who has made significant contributions to performance studies and theatre scholarship and has been a significant contributor to the Central States region.”

“It is a huge honor to be called outstanding by one’s peers,” said Ferris, who also is an associate professor of communication and director of the Disability Studies Program. “It’s in some ways a surprise because often, doing this kind of work, you wonder what kind of impact you really have.”

Ferris was lauded for his work as a scholar and director as well as a creative artist. His production titled “Do You Sleep in That Thing” was specifically noted and a letter nominating him for the award described him as “a prominent national voice at the intersection of poetry, performance and disability studies.”

“Since the very inception of his work, which is arguably a contributing factor to the inception of disability studies in performance studies, Dr. Ferris’ passionate, caring intelligence has played a pivotal, indeed foundational, role,” wrote Dr. Craig Gingrich-Philbrook, a performance studies scholar and artist, who is an associate professor in the College of Liberal Arts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

After several performances at UT and elsewhere last fall, Ferris will present his solo performance piece, “Scars: A Love Story,” several times this spring and summer in Chicago, Columbus and San Jose, Calif. The performance features photographs of scars that Ferris collected from people around campus and beyond. The piece uses poetry and music as well as visual arts to explore how scars mark humans, but also connect them.

One goal for the performance is to nudge people to look beyond their preconceived notions, he said.

“When we look at the world through stereotypes, so often we see what we expect to see rather than what is actually there,” Ferris said. “With luck, this performance can help us think about how we perceive and evaluate the people we encounter every day.”

He also is working on another book of poems titled Slouching Towards Guantanamo, which one reviewer described as “a precise and eloquent unraveling of life’s knottier complexities.” The book is due out in May.

“Poets are used to traveling under the radar,” Ferris said. “This award suggests that some people are watching — which is both encouraging and a little scary.”

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