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Cutural Conversation Festival Focuses on Knowing Who "We Are"

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It Gets Better

This year Cultural Conversations will devote its energies to promoting recovery and healing within our local community.  The festival will run from Feb. 4 to 10 in the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center. Utilizing the power of storytelling, The Body Language Project will headline the festival with three separate events. The first event, Body Language: Knowing Who I AM will, as alway, bring young people to the stage to talk to parents and peers, and the second event, Body Language: Local Voices will bring together local artists in a performance event conceived by Pamela Monk and Elaine Meder-Wilgus. Partnering with local mental health professionals, school counselors, and advocates and agenices, these two Body Language projects will take an insiders view of sexual assault and offer not only stories of those who have survived and thrived, but also offer successful strategies for individual and collective recovery and healing. 

The third Body Language event will be a unique collaboration between State High's LBGTA Alliance, PSU's LBGT Resource Center, Penn State's University Choir directed by Dr. Anthony Leach, and the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles. On Thursday, February 7, 2013, at 7:30pm, local student voices will join this internationally renown choir in a performance of It Gets Better written and directed by Liesel Rinehart. Transporting our festival to the 2500 seat Eisenhower Auditorium for a night, this extraordinary evening will imagine what 'better' means "to LBGT and other young people through songs, stories, and multimedia," and this celebration of hope and possibilies will be simulcast across the globe over the It Gets Better Project's website.

We are privileged to have Dael Orlandersmith join this year's festival on Friday evening with her groundbreaking solo piece on sexual assult called Black 'N Blue Boys/Broken Men. This hard hitting work tells the harrowing tale of childhoods traumatized by abuse and the damaged young men such a childhoods create. In an interactive performance and lecture event, Orlandersmith brings the stories of men to the festival in ways that have never been explored before.

As always, the student work will open the festival on Monday evening, and this year there will be one-act plays by Penn State playwrights David Amerman, Russell Poole, and Benjamin Wolk, and a new documentary by film student Stephanie Wain on sexual assult here at PSU.

This year's festival will close with an all-day fundraising event for TheYouth Services Bureau's Stormbreak, The Group Home for Girls. This event will begin at 10:30 on Sunday, February 10 with a community wide Stewards of Children Program led by Cameron Franz from the YMCA. This 7 step program is designed to help communities come together in practices that can prevent child sexual assault. Contact Cameron Franz for reservations/information. The all day event will continue with performances from Penn State School of Theatre students and local artists, and features two debuts: a documentary film by Stephanie Wain entitled UNREPORTED, and a solo performance piece entitled SOLILOQUY by award winning author Daleen Berry. The evening will culminate with a reception for the Stormbreak girls and all the artists and activists involved.

The sixth season of Cultural Conversation proved that the power of art rests it its ability to create public debate, and the seventh season of CC will continue to prove that the strength of our society lay in its willingness to Stop the Violence and Start the Conversation.

For more information about Cultural Conversations visit or follow @culturalconvos on twitter.