Shirley Jo Finney: Art as Activism

Shirley Jo Finney will discuss her body of work as a professional director and the role it has played in shaping her as an artist. Prior to Finney’s talk, participants are invited to view CITIZEN, a lyric poem by Claudia Rankine adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs. Finney will discuss directing Rankin’s work as part of her artist talk.


CITIZEN: A provocative meditation on race, fusing prose, poetry, movement, music, and the visual image. A lyric poem, snapshots, vignettes, on the acts of everyday racism. Remarks, glances, implied judgments. Everyday encounters the did-that-really happen moments and those larger incidents that become national or international firestorms. As Rankine writes, “This is how you are a citizen.”

About Shirley Jo Finney

SHIRLEY JO FINNEY is an award-winning international director of theater, television and films. She has worn her director’s hat in some of the most respected regional theater houses across the country including The McCarter Theatre, The Pasadena Playhouse, The Goodman Theater, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, The Cleveland Play house, The Fountain Theater, LA Theater Works, The Crossroads Theater Company, Actors Theater of Louisville Humana Festival, the Sundance Theater Workshop, The Mark Taper Forum, Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts and the State Theater Opera House in Pretoria, South Africa.

Most recently, Miss Finney presented an Online Streaming production of Emmett Till that was critically acclaimed for its directing and editing. She also directed and developed the critically acclaimed world premiere of Citizen: An American Lyric by the award-winning Pen poet Claudia Rankin. The 2020 Zoom production was single out in the New York Times.

Other works include Facing Our Truth The Trayvon Martin Project at the Kirk Douglas theater The Lark Foundations Rolling Premier of the The Road Weeps by Marcus Gardley at The Los Angeles Theatre Center, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Brother/Sisters Plays, at the Fountain Theater, Lisa B Thompson’s Single Black Female at the Crossroads Theater, Dominque Morisseau's Detroit 67 at the Penumbra Theater. She also helmed the International all South African Opera Winnie based on the life of political icon Winnie Mandela.

Miss Finney is the recipient of the The LA Drama Critic’s Milton Katsleas Distinguished Career Award, the SDCF’s 2017 Denham Fellowship award for her production of Run Away Home by Jermey Kamps,,The Los Stage Alliance Ovation Award, The Los Angeles Drama Critics Award The NAACP and the Santa Barbara Independent awards for her directing work.

She was honored with the UCLA Department of Stage Film and Television Distinguished Alumni Award. The Black Alumni Associations Dr. Beverly Robinson Award for Excellence in the Arts.

She is an alumnus of the American Film Institute Director Workshop for Women and holds an MFA degree from UCLA is also a member of the Society of Stage Directors and choreographers, the Directors Guild and The Screen Actors Guild.

Disability Accommodations

For disability accommodations, please contact the department presenting the event. Disability access information is available online at Parking Services, and further resources can be found by contacting Western's Disability Access Center.