About Us

Cultural Conversations was created in March of 2007 in order to foster and promote new works dealing with themes of local and global diversity. For playwrights, choreographers, and visual artists, this festival is an opportunity to workshop and show new works. For PSU students and faculty, this festival is an opportunity to work with national and international artists

Creative Team

susanSusan Russell (Artistic Director) is an Associate Professor in the School of Theatre at The Pennsylvania State University in State College, PA, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate literature and criticism, Playwriting, Women and Theatre, and Musical Theatre History.

Welcome Message

Welcome to Cultural Conversations, the only new works festival of its kind in the country. Devoted to fostering and promoting new dance, visual arts, and theatre pieces based on issues of local and global diversity, Cultural Conversations offers a forum for professional, community, and student artists where social issues can "play out" on a stage.The past six seasons of this unique festival have brought hundreds of audiences members together over five days to witness artistic debates on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, violence, and sexual orientation, and each year the theme of the festival changes to address a specific social issue. Next year, Cultural Conversations 2014 will circle one of the most contentious debates of the new century: Gun Control. In a festival entitled THE RIGHT TO REMAIN VIOLENT: GUN CONTROL F/OR A NEW CIVILIZATION, Cultural Conversations will offer a new way to talk about how guns are defining who we are now and deciding who we will be in the future. 

Check out the Upcoming Season tab in November of 2013 for a list of performances, dates, times, and locations.

As always, we urge everyone to Stop the Violence and Start the Conversation

We will be back at The Downtown Theatre Centre on Allen from February 10-15, 2014


This is what we did in 2013

Indigenous Knowledge: Knowing Who "We Are"

February 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9, 2013 at The Penn State Downtown Theatre Center on Allen Street - 7:30pm

Sunday, February 10, 2013 Festival for the Children at The Penn State Downtown Theatre Center- 10:30am-6pm

February 7, 2013 at The Eisenhower Auditorium on the Penn State University Park Campus - 7:30pm


In 2013, Cultural Conversations will devote its energies to promoting recovery and healing within our local community. 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. www.itgetsbetter.org

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 at cfranz@ymcaofcentrecounty.org 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.