A Conversation Around “Leaving Eden”

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Monday, April 16 | 7 p.m.
Paul Green Theatre, 120 Country Club Road, Chapel Hill
Complimentary event, advance registration required

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This complimentary panel discussion and Q&A with playwright Mike Wiley ’04 (MA), professors Paul Cuadros and Rachel Seidman, and Producing Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch will take place at Playmakers Theatre. After brief comments from the panelists, join in, and enjoy an active discussion of what we can learn from history and how can break the cycle of having history repeat itself. Leaving Eden is an original drama with regional music exploring the effect on N.C. communities of color as a result of the closure of textile, furniture and tobacco industry plants.

The GAA is co-sponsoring this event with Carolina Public Humanities.

If you love this event, you’ll also love meeting up with us for Leaving Eden as part of the PlayMakers’ Vision Series on March 28. Learn more. And, be sure to check out the podcast and video we recently did with Mike Wiley ’04 (MA).

Mike Wiley '04 (MA), panelist


Acclaimed actor and playwright Mike Wiley has spent the last decade fulfilling his mission to bring educational theatre to young audiences and communities across the country. In the early days of his career, Wiley found few theatrical resources to shine a light on key events and figures in African-American history. To bring these stories to life, he started his own production company.

Through his performances, Wiley has introduced countless students and communities to the legacies of Emmett Till, Henry “Box” Brown and more. His recent works include a one-man play based on Tim Tyson’s memoir Blood Done Sign My Name and The Parchman Hour, an ensemble production celebrating the bravery and determination of the Freedom Riders who risked their lives to desegregate Southern interstate bus travel in 1961.

Mike Wiley has a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the 2010 and 2014 Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to his numerous school and community performances, he has also appeared on Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and National Geographic Channel and has been featured in Our State magazine and on PBS’ North Carolina Now and WUNC’s The State of Things.

Vivienne Benesch, panelist

Producing Artistic Director, PlayMakers

Vivienne is in her second season as a company member and PlayMakers’ Producing Artistic Director. For 12 seasons, she served as Artistic Director of the renowned Chautauqua Theater Company and Conservatory, presiding over the company’s transformation into one of the best summer theatres and most competitive summer training programs in the country. She directed over fifteen productions at CTC including an acclaimed re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet featuring the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Theatre, Opera and Dance companies. She brought CTC’s production of Amadeus, performed with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and Buffalo Philharmonic, to the Virginia Arts Festival featuring PlayMakers company member Ray Dooley. She has helmed productions of The May Queen, Three Sisters, Love Alone, RED and In The Next Room for PlayMakers, directed extensively for The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and directed The Heidi Chronicles for Trinity Repertory Company. As an actress, Vivienne has worked on and off-Broadway, in film and television, and at many of the country’s most celebrated theatres. She has appeared with Gene Wilder, Al Pacino and Blythe Danner, performed with Maggie Smith in the London revival of Edward Albee’s The Lady from Dubuque, and received an OBIE Award for her performance in Lee Blessing’s Going to St. Ives. Vivienne is a graduate of Brown University and NYU’s Graduate Acting Program. As an educator, she has directed for and served on the faculty of some of the nation’s foremost actor training programs, including The Juilliard School, UNC-Chapel Hill’s Professional Actor Training Program, Brown/Trinity Rep MFA Program and at her alma mater, NYU’s Graduate Acting Program. She is the 2017 recipient of the Zelda Finchandler Award given by the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation.

Rachel Seidman, panelist

Director of Southern Oral History Program

Rachel Seidman is a U.S. historian specializing in women’s history. With a B.A. from Oberlin College and a Ph.D. from Yale, Seidman’s current research project is an oral history of feminist activism in the U.S. between 2000 and 2015 (under contract with UNC Press). She is the author of The Civil War: A History in Documents (Oxford University Press) and the co-editor of Our Documents: 100 Milestone Documents from the National Archives. Seidman served as the Associate Director of the SOHP from 2011-2017, and before that was Associate Director of the History, Public Policy and Social Change program at Duke University.

Paul Cuadros, panelist

Associate Professor of Media and Journalism 

Paul Cuadros is an award-winning investigative reporter and author whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Time magazine,, The Chicago Reporter, and other national and local publications. He joined the school in 2007.

For the past 20 years, Cuadros has focused his reporting on issues of race and poverty in America. In 1999, he won a fellowship with the Alicia Patterson Foundation, sponsored by New York Newsday and considered one of the most prestigious fellowships in journalism, to report on emerging Latino communities in rural poultry-processing towns in the South. The culmination of his reporting was his book, “A Home on the Field: How One Championship Team Inspires Hope for the Revival of Small Town America,” which tells the story of Siler City, N.C., as it copes and struggles with Latino immigration through the lives of a predominantly Latino high school soccer team.

“A Home on the Field” was the summer reading selection at UNC in 2009. He is the only faculty member at UNC to have his book selected as summer reading. The book has been chosen for summer reading programs at other universities in North Carolina and beyond.

Cuadros is a co-recipient of the 2006 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Journalism Award, Team Award, for his contribution to the radio series “North Carolina Voices: Understanding Poverty” broadcast on WUNC-FM. He has won the National Association of Hispanic Journalist’s award for online reporting, and he won the UNC Diversity Award in 2012 for his work on campus opening doors for minority students, faculty and staff.

Cuadros serves as the chair and executive director of the UNC Scholars’ Latino Initiative, a three-year mentoring and college preparatory program between UNC students and Latino high school students at six area high schools. The program has more than 150 students and is housed at the Center for Global Initiatives. Cuadros is also the co-founder of the Carolina Latina/o Collaborative, which is the Latino educational and cultural center at UNC. He is also co-founder of the Latina/o Caucus, a university coalition of faculty and staff on campus that advocates for Latino interests at the university.

Cuadros is involved in a documentary film production and episodic series for Nuyorican Productions Inc. that is based on his book and chronicles the lives of Latino youth on the soccer team he coaches in Siler City.

He is working on his second book on migration.

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