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Anthropologists Theatre to Have Actual Anthropologist in Residence

The investigative theatre troupe will work with anthropologist Dr. Haile Eshe Cole to create a play about doulas and Black motherhood.

NEW YORK CITY: The Anthropologists, an investigative theatre troupe, has named Dr. Haile Eshe Cole as their inaugural anthropologist-in-residence in a new fellowship program which partners them with the American Anthropological Association (AAA).

“Creating this position truly validates our approach to research-based theatremaking,” artistic director Melissa Moschitto said in a statement. “Bringing an anthropologist into our creative process at the genesis of a new play will not only advance our own research methodology, but will expand what new-play dramaturgy can look like.”

The goal of the fellowship is for an anthropologist to share their expertise with the public and for the theatre company to evolve their research-based plays and playmaking process. The centerpiece of this collaboration is the development of the Anthropologists’ next investigative play, which will be inspired by the history of doulas and midwives and will celebrate the traditional knowledge held in the Black birth worker community.

“Dr. Coles’s extensive field experience in Black birth work and maternal health and mortality will be a tremendous asset for the Anthropologists, providing valuable insight on a range of issues,” Ed Liebow, AAA’s executive director, said in a statement. “Looking ahead, the fellowship offers us a wonderful opportunity to see anthropological research make its way to the public square.” 

Dr. Haile Eshe Cole.

Cole specializes in African diaspora studies with a focus on Black feminism and maternal and infant health disparities. She has worked as a community organizer and will work with the Anthropologists’s Community Action Workshops, which use theatrical tools in creative problem solving on local issues. Dr. Cole and the Anthropologists will explore how anthropological methodologies can be adapted for devised theatre, and a new play will receive a work-in-progress showing in June.

The Anthropologists’ fellowship is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

The Anthropologists create investigative theatre that physicalizes research to interrogate cultural issues and nurture community and audience relationships. Founded in 2008, the Anthropologists create original, ensemble-devised theatre works inspired by found text and cultural artifacts and guided by rigorous dramaturgy.

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