Friday, September 30

8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Geva Theatre Center’s
Fielding Stage, café, and lobby

75 Woodbury Blvd.  |  Rochester, NY 14607 

Geva contact: Rachel Y. DeGuzman, Director of Engagement 

 The A Feminist Lens Symposium is presented by Geva Theatre Center in conjunction with its stage production of JANE EYRE. The novel was written by Charlotte Brontë and the play was adapted and directed by Elizabeth Williamson, Geva’s artistic director. Our intention is to gather and, through myriad forms of discourse, build on the work of scholars such as Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar (The Madwoman in the Attic, 1979) and Dr. Bette London (The Pleasures of Submission: Jane Eyre and the Production of the Text, 1991). This symposium introduces diverse and intersectional voices from the greater Rochester region -and beyond – to the ongoing analysis of JANE EYRE through feminist and Black feminist lenses.

The A Feminist Lens Symposium is presented by Geva’s Engagement Department.

Schedule of Events

8:30 – 9:00 a.m.  Light Breakfast*

9:00 – 9:05 a.m.  Welcome

9:05 – 9:45 a.m.  Symposium curator Rachel DeGuzman interviews Geva artistic director Elizabeth Williamson about the production and the backstory of her feminist adaptation.

9:45 – 10:45 a.m.  Keynote “Viewing Jane Eyre Through a Black Feminist Lens,” Dr. Irma McClaurin, a Black Feminist writer and speaker, biocultural anthropologist, academic, American poet, and founder of the Black Feminist Archive at University of Massachusetts/Amherst

10:45 – 11:00 a.m.  Break

11:00 – 11:45 a.m. A Feminist Lens panel featuring Dr. Ana C. Gomez Parga, Dr. Elizabeth Johnston, and Dr. Barbara LeSavoy

11:45 – 12:30 p.m. Symposium Karaoke, where symposium attendees go to an open mic to share thoughts on the morning session and/or questions of the speakers and panelists

12:30 – 1:30 p.m. Lunch* and congregation

1:30 – 3:00 p.m. A Feminist Lens long table conversation – centered on Brontë’s novel in the context of the play and morning’s session. Conversation starters – Dr. Kristin Hocker, Pamela Kim, Fiona Kyle, Christina Lee, Alison Meyers, Kristen Walker, Jenni Werner, and Carolina Osorio Gil.
Free access to the novel at this link

*Breakfast and lunch are provided free of charge to symposium attendees

About the Keynote Speaker

Dr. Irma McClaurin (she/her)

Dr. Irma McClaurin is an activist bio-cultural anthropologist, poet, Black Feminist theorist, and literary scholar. She holds the Masters of Fine Arts in English and the PhD in Anthropology, both from the University of Massachusetts. A woman of many talents, McClaurin believes you must “change minds, change hearts, change behavior, and change policies to achieve transformation.”

She is the author of Women of Belize: Gender and Change in Central American and Editor of Black Feminist Anthropology: Theory, Politics, Praxis and Poetics, selected as an “Outstanding Academic Title” in 2002. Currently the Culture and Education Editor for Insight News, in 2015, the Black Press of America named her “Best in the Nation Columnist.” McClaurin also won the1974 Gwendolyn Brooks poetry award from Black World; her poetry has been published in over 16 magazines and anthologies.

In 2016, McClaurin established the “Irma McClaurin Black Feminist Archive” (BFA) as a legacy and unique collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center (SCUA) and the W.E.B. Du Bois Center. The primary mission is to “make Black women Visible and Heard.”

In 2021, McClaurin received the American Anthropology Association’s Engaged Anthropology Award for her DEI work on the RMSC exhibit, “The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World.”

Previous leadership roles encompass president of Shaw University; Chief Diversity Officer at Teach For America; Associate VP and founding Executive Director of the University of Minnesota’s first Urban Outreach-Engagement Center; former Ford Foundation Program Officer; founder of the Africana Women’s Studies Program at Bennett College; and tenured professor of anthropology at the University of Florida and the University of Minnesota.

She is CEO of Irma McClaurin Solutions (IMS), a Black woman-owned consulting business focused on leadership development, coaching, and DEI and Community-Engagement strategies.

About the Curator and Host

Rachel DeGuzman (she/her)
Director of Engagement

Rachel DeGuzman comes to Geva Theatre Center with more than 20 years of experience in the arts and community engagement/activation. Her achievements have earned her a number of awards, including the 2016 Essie Calhoun Diversity in the Arts Award, presented by Geva. She was also honored as one of the accomplished leaders featured in Rochester Museum and Science Center’s recent exhibition, “The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World.”

In addition to her work at Geva, Rachel is also the founder and executive director of 21st Century Arts Inc. and is the managing curator of the community-rooted arts space, The Black House.

DeGuzman’s past positions include director of advancement and external relations at Rochester City Ballet, marketing and publicity manager at Nazareth College Arts Center, director of development and marketing at The Commission Project, and director of development at Garth Fagan Dance. Rachel currently serves on the board of Visual Studies Workshop (VSW). Her past board positions include the Women’s Council: A Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Affiliate, William Warfield Scholarship Fund, Greentopia, and Rochester City Ballet, among others. She has worked with Visit Rochester, Janklow Arts Leadership Program at Syracuse University, the Avenue Black Box Theatre, Artists Co-creating Real Equity/PISAB, and other local and national organizations to create opportunities and foster greater equity in the community at large and the arts and culture sector, in particular.

For more information about the Race and Theatre Symposium event, please contact Rachel DeGuzman at

Play Description

Charlotte Brontë’s timeless romance, adapted and directed by Geva Theatre Center’s new artistic director Elizabeth Williamson, Jane Eyre is a Gothic story of resilience, in which a penniless orphan is determined to craft a fulfilling life for herself, against all odds. Jane is hired as a governess and falls passionately in love with her brooding employer, only to discover that he – and his home – are surrounded by dark secrets. When the secrets are revealed, how will Jane preserve her chances for happiness?