By Meaghan Latella
Domnica Radulescu knows what it feels like to be displaced.
In 1983, Radulescu fled communist Romania to find freedom and a new life in the United States.
Today, she is determined to keep the conversation about immigrants’ struggles alive.
Last weekend, Radulescu hosted the 12th National Symposium of Theater in Academe at Washington and Lee University, where she is a professor.
The title of this year’s symposium was “Displacements, Frontiers and Nomadism.”
Radulescu said the themes were particularly personal for her.
“I’m an immigrant, and an exile, and an artist,” Radulescu said. “So I have navigated the immigrant experience myself.”
The three-day conference was packed with presentations, readings, performances and panels, all of which addressed immigration and discrimination.
Radulescu created the symposium in 1995, and has held it nearly every other year since.
Live theater gives the audience a multi-faceted view of the topics at hand, Radulescu said. Actors can connect with audience members in a more complex and emotional way than traditional news coverage can, she added.
“Because [theater] presents personal experiences and stories, performances are always much more powerful in making a political point than any kind of pamphlet or talk,” she said.
Invelise Faundez-Reitsma, a visiting professor of Spanish at W&L, grew up in Cuba but immigrated to New York.
Faundez-Reitsma said the performances and discussions at this year’s symposium captured the reality that immigrants face, a reality that she described as a “constant fight for identity.”
“I think it is an extremely timely topic,” she said. “[The symposium] is a very vivid approach in which you are immersed …. I think it gives you something you cannot get from a newspaper.”
Guest speakers and performers came from as far as Serbia and Spain to participate in the conference.
Others came from right up the road. Maya Roth, a professor of theater at Georgetown University, was one of the keynote speakers. Roth said she felt at home among the diverse group of presenters.
“I appreciate the interdisciplinary [feel] of the event,” Roth said. “You have people from Spanish departments, from English literature, from German departments, from French departments [and] theater too.”
Radulescu said that as many as 30 W&L students also participated in the symposium. During the day, most of the attendees were students and faculty from W&L.
Anthonía Adams, a W&L student majoring in theater, directed her own play during the symposium. It was a part of the Black Lives Matter project. The project has been described as reclaiming the messages spread by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other prominent leaders of the Civil Rights movement.
“I hope this [project] will be able to open up a new avenue on this campus for speaking about race relations and getting to know other people,” Adams said.
Adams hopes her play touched her audiences on an emotional level and inspired them to think about race relations and problems with discrimination that are still present in the U.S.
“When I want to do poignant pieces like the one I did at the theater symposium, I want to have this human connection [with the audience],” Adams said. “Because it is this human connection and compassion that compel people to act.”