Visions & Voices Spring 2021


Resource Theme Guides to selected programs from the Spring 2021 Visions & Voices program were created in partnership with USC Libraries faculty and staff.
Look for recommended books and readings on the people, performances and topics covered by these events.
Visit the current season of: USC Visions and Voices

Image source: Dr. Melissa L. Miller "Palace of Fine Arts pond, San Francisco"

Behind Bars: Life and Death for Inmates in the Age of COVID-19 (Theme Guide PDF)
A Lecture by Homer Venters, MD, MPH, The Medical Humanities, Arts, and Ethics Series

Date: Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 4 p.m.

Location: Virtual Event

USC Libraries Contributor: Kelsey Vukic

Event Description:

COVID-19 has made clear a simple truth that had eluded medical thinking for years: incarceration harms health. As the novel coronavirus sweeps across the country, it causes thousands of preventable infections and numerous deaths among prison and jail staff and detained people alike.

As Chief Medical Officer for New York City’s jails, physician, epidemiologist, and human rights advocate Homer Venters learned firsthand that incarceration drives adverse health outcomes not only for the people who are detained but also for those who work in correctional settings and who live in the surrounding communities. When basic rights—not just to healthcare but to life itself—are repeatedly violated; when core values, such as caring and respect, are disregarded; and when a healthcare system lacks transparency, the results can be tragic. Dr. Venters shared this message nationally in his gripping 2019 book, Life and Death in Rikers Island.

With attention on the coronavirus tragedy, Dr. Venters is urging physicians and public health officials to join efforts to achieve long-term improvements in prison healthcare, and to promote accountability and decarceration. His commitment to protecting his patients and his stories of their struggles—and of the ethical dilemmas that confront prison doctors—will move and inspire you.

Disclosure - A Screening and Discussion on Trans Lives (On and Off Screen) (Theme Guide PDF)

Date: Wednesday, February 3, 2021 at 5 p.m.

Location: Virtual Event

USC Libraries Contributor: Hannah Schilperoort

Event Description:

Please join us for a viewing party and an in-depth conversation about Disclosure, a new documentary offering a look at how transgender people are represented in film and television. Featuring interviews from trans creatives including Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black), Lilly Wachowski (The Matrix), Yance Ford (Strong Island), and Mj Rodriguez (Pose), the film traces the history of trans representation on screen and its relationship to the lives of trans people off screen.  

The panel discussion with members of Disclosure’s production team and cast, including director Sam Feder, actress and USC School of Dramatic Arts professor Alexandra Billings (Transparent), and creative consultant and actress Jen Richards (Her Story) will be moderated by USC School of Cinematic Arts professor and Vice Dean of Academic Affairs Michael Renov.  

Related Event Description: Trans Language: Words and Bodies - A Creative Writing Workshop

Date: Friday, February 5, 2021 at 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Explore the ways language shapes us and we shape language in a special writing workshop presented in conjunction with the Visions and Voices screening of Disclosure, a documentary on trans representation in film and television. The workshop for USC students who have seen Disclosure and attended the panel discussion on February 3 will be facilitated by writers and artists, including Disclosure director Sam Feder, Disclosure producer Amy Scholder, and USC English professors MG Lord and Brighde Mullins.

The Just and the Blind (Theme Guide PDF)

Date: Tuesday, February 9, 2021 at 5:30 p.m.

Location: Virtual Event

USC Libraries Contributor: Christina Snider

Event Description:

“A concert of voice, body, and musical and visual scores that collectively draw a map of Black parenthood and American justice.”—New York Times
Commissioned by Carnegie Hall and presented as part of the 2019 Create Justice forum, The Just and the Blind is a powerful multimedia experience that illuminates the unseen and under-heard experiences of incarcerated youth and their families. Artfully and powerfully combining live performance, short films, and honest conversation, spoken-word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, and street-dance pioneer Drew Dollaz present an intensely personal and important exploration of racial profiling, the prison-industrial complex, and parenthood from the perspective of fathers of Black and Brown sons

The Just and the Blind also features the work of the award-winning investigative journalist Lisa Armstrong, the provocative images of photographer Brittsense, and illustrations by Xia Gordon, woven together by media designer David Szlasa under the direction of Michael John Garcés.

Now adapted to an online event, this skillful illumination of the unseen and under-heard experiences of incarcerated youth and their families in America is as intimate as it is essential. 

A Poetics of Inquiry: A Reading and Conversation with Tjawangwa Dema (Theme Guide PDF)

Date: Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 12 pm

Location: Virtual Event

USC Libraries Contributor: Stacy Williams

Event Description:

“Tjawangwa Dema’s poems are as bold, roving, and insistent as they are delicate and incisive.”—Tracy K. Smith, U.S. poet laureate

Don’t miss internationally acclaimed Motswana poet Tjawangwa Dema, as she reads from her prize-winning collections The Careless Seamstress and Mandible, and performs spoken word pieces from throughout her career, reflecting on life in Botswana, the United States, and England.

By foregrounding inquiry as a poetic practice, Dema invests the mundane with philosophy and ordinary beings with beauty while exploring ecopoetry, gender, race, disobedience, labor, mythology, and empathy. 

Related Event Description: Eco-Stories: Poetry, Sci-Fi, and Storytelling - Workshops with Tjawangwa Dema and Kirk Sides

Date: Friday, February 26, 2021 at 10 a.m.

Location: Virtual Event
Join internationally acclaimed poet Tjawangwa Dema (TJ Dema) and groundbreaking scholar Kirk Sides for a day of workshops exploring how planetary and climate change affect our modes of knowledge production, storytelling, and aesthetic practice.

10 a.m.: Habitat: An Eco-Poetry Workshop with Tjawangwa Dema
In this intimate workshop, students will use eco-poetry to explore the complex intersections between race and the environment. Participants will discuss environmental change, cultural and historical archives and imagination, and how our political pasts inflect our planetary futures. 
12 p.m.: Science Fiction as Method: A Writing and Pedagogy Workshop with Kirk Sides
Kirk Sides, a groundbreaking eco-critical scholar, will lead a workshop examining how planetary shifts and the environmental crisis are forcing us to question foundational narrative structures and consider radical new ways to think about what it means to do academic and cultural work in the Anthropocene (the current planetary age).

Fran Lebowitz: A Visions and Voices Signature Event (Theme Guide PDF)

Date: Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 5 p.m.

Location:Virtual Event

USC Libraries Contributor: Christy Kane

Event Description:

“Fran Lebowitz’s trademark is the sneer; she disapproves of virtually everything except sleep, cigarette smoking, and good furniture. Her essays and topical interviews . . . have come to be regarded as classics of literary humor and social observation.”—The Paris Review
Join us for a live conversation with celebrated author and journalist Fran Lebowitz moderated by Josh Kun, professor in the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Star of Pretend It’s a City, the brand-new Netflix limited documentary series directed by Martin Scorsese, Lebowitz is recognized as one of the most insightful social commentators of our time.
Purveyor of urban cool, Lebowitz is a cultural satirist whom many call the heir to Dorothy Parker. Her books include the bestsellers Metropolitan Life and Social Studies and her prose is ironic, facetious, deadpan, sarcastic, wry, wisecracking, waggish, and wickedly entertaining.
Lebowitz has long been a regular on various talk shows including those hosted by Jimmy Fallon, Conan O'Brien, and Bill Maher. In 2010, Martin Scorsese directed a documentary about her for HBO titled Public Speaking.
Josh Kun directs the Popular Music Project of the Norman Lear Center at USC. An expert on the intersection of arts, culture and politics, with an emphasis on popular music, the 2016 MacArthur Fellow’s books include The Autograph Book of L.A.: Improvements on the Page of the City, To Live and Dine in L.A.: Menus and the Making of the Modern City, Songs in the Key of Los Angeles, and Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America.

Inflammatory Literature: The Legacy of American Journalist Ruben Salazar (Theme Guide PDF)

Date: Wednesday, March 3, 2021 at 4 p.m.

Location: Virtual Event

USC Libraries Resource Theme Guide Contributors: Barbara Robinson, Tyson Gaskill

USC History Department Resource Theme Guide Contributor: Carlos Parra

Event Description:

Join us for an evening of performance and conversation honoring the life and work of Ruben Salazar (1928–1970), a pioneering journalist of Mexican descent who was among the first to cover the burgeoning Chicano movement in the 1960s, opening doors for Latinx journalists, newspapers, and broadcast media in Los Angeles and across the United States. Celebrated actors Chastity Dotson (Young Valiant, Little Book of Battles), Marlene Forte (Knives Out, Fear the Walking Dead, Real Women Have Curves), Matthew Lillard (Good Girls, Bosch), Culture Clash co-founder Herbert Sigüenza (Coco), and David Zayas (Dexter, Gotham, Oz, Rounders) will perform in a short play written by USC professor Oliver Mayer (author of Blade to the Heat) and directed by USC lecturer Edgar Landa. The play is inspired by writings preserved in the Ruben Salazar Papers, donated by his family to the USC Libraries' Special Collections.

Presented on Salazar’s birthday, the performance will be followed by a conversation with the actors and USC professors Elda María Román and Roberto Suro about Salazar’s legacy, his untimely death 50 years ago during the Chicano Moratorium protests, and continuing struggles for social justice today. Ellas will also perform a musical program celebrating Salazar’s life.

This event is presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative; organized by Oliver Mayer (Dramatic Arts), Barbara Robinson (USC Libraries), Tyson Gaskill (USC Libraries), and Carlos Parra (History); and co-sponsored by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, USC Dornsife College, the USC Libraries, the USC School of Dramatic Arts, and La CASA.

Livewire: A Stimulating Night of Neurotechnology (Theme Guide PDF)

Date: Friday, March 5, 2021 at 4 p.m.

Location: Virtual Event

USC Libraries Contributor: Lisa Crow

Event Description:

Livewire is a virtual entertainment event that combines neuroscience, neuroethics, and interactive media for participatory technology design. After a series of lightning talks on the technical, clinical, and ethical implications of emerging brain technologies, attendees will break into small groups to experience and reflect on Brainstorm: a social neurotechnology platform for coupling minds across geographic, cultural, and social boundaries.

Speakers include Dong Song, co-director of the USC Center for Neural Engineering; Eran Klein, a neurologist at the Oregon Health and Science University and a neuroethicist at the University of Washington’s Center for Neurotechnology; and Judy Illes, a former president of the International Neuroethics Society and director of Neuroethics Canada at the University of British Columbia.

Infecting Rights: A Lecture by Kate Gilmore (Theme Guide PDF)

Date: Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 4 p.m.

Location: Virtual Event

USC Libraries Contributor: Christy Kane

Event Description:

Kate Gilmore has served as the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights and is a fellow with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Gilmore’s advocacy for the advancement and application of human rights norms and standards extends over three decades, and she has helped guide policy on a range of human rights issues for the United Nations, governments, and civil society organizations. 
The human tragedy resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic unveils our common humanity. While this shared crisis might have fostered the establishment of rights as a means of bolstering health globally, it has instead left human rights, never in the finest of health, gravely ill. In a stirring lecture, Gilmore will examine how this global public-health crisis—exacerbated by racism, misogyny, and aporophobia (hostility to the poor)—has further undermined human rights.

The Power and Pleasure of Podcasting 2: The Return of Radio Fiction (Theme Guide PDF)

Date: Thursday, March 18, 2021 - Friday, March 19, 2021

Location: Virtual Event

USC Libraries Contributor: Melissa Miller

Thursday, March 18
5:00 - 6:00 p.m.: Live performances featuring the casts of Video Palace and The Bright Sessions
6:15 - 7:00 p.m.: Conversations with the cast and producers, including audience Q&A

Friday, March 19
10 to 11 a.m.: The Historical Roots and Current State of Audio Fiction

Featuring Radio Drama Revival host Elena Fernández Collins, Jack Benny and the Golden Age of Radio Comedy author Kathy Fuller-Seeley (University of Texas at Austin), and Theater of the Mind: Imagination, Aesthetics, and Radio Drama author Neil Verma (Northwestern). Moderated by Henry Jenkins.
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: World-Building and Genre Fiction in the Contemporary Podcast Industry
Featuring Mike Monello (Video Palace), Lauren Shippen (The Bright Sessions), and Heather Einhorn (Daughters of DC). Moderated by Colin Maclay.

For decades, the lifeblood of American radio—fictional programming—was rendered archaic by the emergence of television. Now podcasting has injected new vitality into the genre with powerful writing and performances, creating a testing ground for new programming concepts, as demonstrated by the small screen success of Homecoming, Lore, and Limetown. The Unexpected Disappearance of Mars Patel won a Peabody Award; award-winning actors such as Lawrence Fishburne (Bronzeville) and Rami Malek (Blackout) have produced podcasts as passion projects; and Radio Drama Revival provides a regular showcase for innovative storytellers who are experimenting with audio fiction.

Building on our 2019 program that explored the rising interest in both listening to and producing podcasts, this two-day event will showcase the rapid revival of the radio drama as a site for original programming and as a new pipeline into the entertainment industry. 

On Thursday, we will present live performances from the casts and producers of two popular podcasts: the horror series Video Palace and the superhero/psychology program The Bright Sessions. On Friday, two panel discussions will consider the renewed appeal of the medium: the first providing a historical context for thinking about audio fiction in classical radio and podcasting; the second discussing transmedia world-building and genre fiction’s place within today’s podcast industry.

i bear down; my body pulls - A Performance by Xandra Ibarra (Theme Guide PDF)

Date: Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 5 p.m.

Location: Virtual Event

USC Libraries Contributor: Stacy Williams

Event Description: Join performance artist and sculptor Xandra Ibarra as she explores leather, sex, and vulnerability inspired by the Bob Flanagan and Sheree Rose collections at the ONE Archives at USC. Anchored in an artistic study of Flanagan and Rose’s canonical performances exploring sadism, masochism, pleasure, illness, and disability in Los Angeles in the 1980s and ’90s, Ibarra will construct and fashion BDSM leather restraints and wheelchairs with Mexican leather tooling and upholstery. The original, interactive piece will be followed by an illuminating conversation with UC Riverside professor Jennifer Doyle and postdoctoral fellow at the ONE Archives Jeanne Vaccaro.

Masters of the Currents: A Conversation with the Creators and Cast (Theme Guide PDF)

Date: Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at 5 p.m.

Location: Virtual Event

USC Libraries Contributor: Lisa Crow

Event Description:

Created by TeAda Productions, Masters of the Currents is the first nationally touring play about Micronesians in the U.S. Join us for excerpts from the show followed by a conversation with the creators and the multigenerational voices of Micronesians that played a key role in the play’s development.

Inspired by the stories of Micronesians living in Hawai’i, creative partners Leilani Chan and Ova Saopeng used community-based story collection and social justice practices to craft a theatrical journey that takes us from remote island nations to urban cities through ocean water passageways and paved asphalt highways. The play follows the story of three Micronesian youth who have fled their island nations due to environmental and economic pressures, and who must now overcome conflicts of identity to be accepted by their peers in their new home of Hawai'i.

In an engaging conversation, show creators Leilani Chan and Ova Saopeng and cast members Innocenta Sound-Kikku, Emeraldrose Hadik, Jayceleen Ifenuk, and Jermine Kaipat will discuss issues facing the Micronesian community, the development of Masters of the Currents, and the impact the play has had on their lives. The panel will be facilitated by Marie-Reine Velez, Visions and Voices production and marketing specialist and co-founder of the Asian American theatre collective Artists at Play.


Leilani Chan (Co-creator, Playwright) is an award-winning performance artist, actor, playwright, director, cultural worker, and founding artistic director of TeAda Productions. Masters of the Currents, which had its continental and inter-island tour premieres in 2018, is her newest collaboration with Ova Saopeng. Chan was awarded the 2019–20 Santa Monica Artist Fellowship and is co-chair of the National Asian American Theater Conference and Festival. Born and raised in Hawai’i, she attended Hampshire College and obtained her MFA from UC Irvine in 2004.

Ova Saopeng (Co-Creator, Actor) is a Los Angeles–based actor and writer, born in Savannakhet, Laos, and raised in Honolulu, Hawai’i. He is an associate producer and teaching artist with TeAda Productions, and co-creator, with Leilani Chan, of the only nationally touring play about the Lao-American experience, Refugee Nation. Saopeng received his BA in theatre from USC and has performed nationally with theatre companies including the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, Mark Taper Forum/P.L.A.Y., East West Players, and hereandnow.

Eastside Punks—A Screening and Conversation (Theme Guide PDF)

Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 7 p.m.

Location: Virtual Event

USC Libraries Contributor: Andrew Justice

Event Description:

Celebrate the release of three documentary shorts produced by Razorcake magazine about first-generation East L.A. punk bands. Excerpts will be screened, followed by an explosive panel featuring Eastside Punks director Jimmy Alvarado and musicians Tracy “Skull” Garcia (Thee Undertakers), Teresa Covarrubias (The Brat), and Jack Rivera (Stains)who played storied L.A. punk venues such as The Vex and the Hong Kong Café alongside influential bands such as The Plugz, X, and Black Flag. The conversation will be moderated by Dino Everett, archivist for Eastside Punks and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. 

About the panelists:

Jimmy Alvarado has been active in East L.A.’s underground music scene since 1981 as a musician, backyard gig promoter, writer, poet, bouncer, flyer artist, photographer, podcaster, historian, and filmmaker. He has authored numerous interviews, articles, and short films spotlighting the Eastside scene. An episode of his Eastside Punks documentary series, about The Brat, was named Best Documentary Short at the 2020 Highland Park Independent Film festival. He also plays guitar in the bands La Tuya and Our Band Sucks.

Teresa Covarrubias was the vocalist for The Brat. Delivering smart, taut pop delivered with righteous punk fury, a meeting with members of X led to an opening slot at the Whisky a Go Go and their introduction to the greater Los Angeles underground music scene. Their debut EP Attitudes is a prized item among collectors and Straight Outta East L.A., a double album packaging it with other rare tracks, was released in 2017.

Tracy “Skull” Garcia was the bass player of Thee Undertakers. Starting off by playing local parties in 1977, they became regulars in the scene centered around the The Vex. Their 1981 debut album Crucify Me successfully melded second-wave hardcore bite with first-wave art sensibilities, but wasn’t released until 2001 on CD and 2020 on vinyl.

Jack Rivera drummed for the Stains, East L.A.’s first, most notorious, and highly influential punk band. The Stains were contemporaries and friends of Los Angeles first-wave bands Germs, X, Mau Maus, Screamers, and The Gears. Their out-of-print, self-titled album on SST Records is a holy grail amongst punk, hardcore, and metal record collectors. After the band broke up, Rivera switched to guitar and is now a successful songwriter and solo artist touring the U.S. and Europe.

Dino Everett (moderator) is the footage archivist of the Eastside Punks documentary series and runs the Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, which contains the Punk Media Research Collection (aka PMRC). Everett has published and presented articles in the moving image field and film history and, as a founding member and bass player of the L.A. punk band The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, has backed up many first-wave punks such as Wayne Kramer, Sylvain Sylvain, Walter Lure, and others.