Lizzy Cooper Davis, Dana Edell, Gino Canella

Beyond The Classroom: April Updates From Engagement Lab Faculty Fellows

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

This month, we’re highlighting the work, contributions and accomplishments of Lizzy Cooper Davis and Dana Edell, and providing an update from Gino Canella’s documentary screening at the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival, which we mentioned last month. 

Lizzy Cooper Davis 

Lizzy Cooper Davis is the director of Emerson’s Theatre Education and Applied Theatre graduate program, as well as an assistant professor in the Department of Performing Arts. Recently, she published an article titled All Rights Reserved: Behind the Strategic Copyright of “We Shall Overcome,” which traces the history of the civil rights movement’s protest anthem and how its royalties have been redistributed to Black artist-activists across the South. 

Professor Davis has a long standing relationship with dance company the Urban Bush Women, where she supports their community engagement, leadership development, and cultural organizing efforts. Her current projects include a commissioned report on the history and impact of the group’s annual Summer Leadership Institute, an intensive 10-day event that teaches artists who want to connect their work to community organizing effective strategies to deepen or begin their work. Professor Davis is also working on an article for the company’s 40th anniversary in conjunction with an exhibit at the New York Public Library. This year’s leadership institute will be held at Wesleyan University as the culminating module of the Embodying Antiracism initiative, co-designed and led by Urban Bush Women, Junebug Productions, and The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, to engage faculty, students, and local community organizers. 

Dana Edell

Professor Dana Edell is an assistant professor in the Department of Performing Arts. Her book, Girls, Performance, and Activism: Demanding to be Heard (Routledge, 2022), offers artists, activists, educators, and scholars a perspective on how teenage girls create and perform activist theatre. The book has been described as “exuding the energy and panache of teenage girls” by Jan Cohen-Cruz, author of Engaging Performance: Theatre as Call and Response and Local Acts: Community‑Based Performance in the US. Cohen-Cruz added that “assessing the work’s impact on the girls themselves, their friends and family, and the world beyond gets the reader thinking about what performance can and cannot do.” Lyn Mikel Brown, author of Powered by Girl, describes Edell’s work as “a masterclass in [how] girl-driven theater [can serve] as a praxis of liberation and a vehicle for social change”.

The book has been nominated for the 2023 American Alliance for Theatre Education’s Distinguished Book Award and will be reviewed in an upcoming issue of ArtsPraxis—a platform that interrogates why the arts matter and deconstructs pressing issues facing the arts in society. 

Gino Canella

As we mentioned in our previous faculty update, the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival is coming up this month. Professor Gino Canella’s documentary Front Line — about the nursing strike at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, MA — will be screened on April 14 at 2:30pm. The documentary will be screened on a panel alongside Quiet Rooms – the film created in the spring 2022 Collaborative Documentary Studio – at Studio 50 @ WINC Public Radio in Worcester. 


Sharon-Hephzibah Mohie,

ELab Writing Assistant