Fri. & Sat. July 28-29 at 8pm, Sunday July 30 at 4pm


Conceived and performed by JAIRO CUESTA

Two years ago, NWPL set out on an expedition to understand their hometown’s relationship with rubber. Through the pillaging of natural rubber in the Amazon forests, and the working class citizens who broke their backs building tires – Akron, OH became the “Rubber City.” In this solo performance Colombian actor and NWPL C0-Artistic Director,  Jairo Cuesta performs a ritual of storytelling, a sacrifice to heal the city. In this moving evocation of the jungles of the Amazon where countless indigenous men, women, and children were mutilated and massacred in the mad search for natural rubber, Cuesta seeks to lead the public on a quest for the sources of a city’s sorrow. Through his virtuosic physical and vocal skills, Cuesta enacts a ritual of storytelling, a sacrifice to heal the city by confronting the violence and blood on which the city is built.  The piece has been directed by University of Akron theatre professor and NWPL co-artistic director James Slowiak.

DEATH OF A MAN is an attempt at authentic intercultural understanding by reengaging the past and bringing it alive in the present. The performance is not meant to sentimentalize the story or merely invoke empathy, but to interrogate, criticize, and empower by opening a dialogue between text, past, present, performer, and audience.  The performance event is based loosely on John Tully’s book, “The Devil’s Milk: A Social History of Rubber,” along with other historical and fictional sources. Cuesta and Slowiak traveled to the Amazon in 2016 where they engaged in meetings with members of the indigenous community represented in the performance.

Watch this fascinating video about their trip to the Amazon.

Watch Videoi
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JAIRO CUESTA (Concept/Performer and New World Performance Lab Co-Artistic Director) is a Colombian actor and director and an instructor in Case Western Reserve University’s MFA Training Program.  He collaborated with Jerzy Grotowski in the Theatre of Sources and the Objective Drama Program from 1976 to 1986, working in Poland, France, Italy, Mexico, Haiti, and the U.S. He participated in preliminary workshops for The Mahabarata in Paris, under the direction of Peter Brook. Mr. Cuesta has been a guest artist at the University of Paris; the University of California-Irvine; The Colorado College; Eckard College; Case Western Reserve University; Ashland University; and The University of Akron where he directed Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. Mr. Cuesta has conducted numerous workshops in Performance Ecology and actor training techniques around the world. He has performed with Teatro Libre in Bogota, Colombia, and co-directed (with James Slowiak) Moliere’s El Misantropo. For NWPL, Mr. Cuesta has directed The Dybbuk and has performed in Mother’s Work; The Recital of the Bird; Epiphany; The Phantoms of King Lear; The Book of Saints and Martyrs; Woyzeck; Electra; HamletMachine; Love in the Time of Lunatics; Deathwatch; Angry Gods and Lost Marbles, Frankenstein; Alice…Down the Rabbit Hole; and Action. He is co-author (with James Slowiak) of Jerzy Grotowski (Routledge, 2007).  Jairo is also a licensed yoga instructor

JAMES SLOWIAK (Director and New World Performance Lab Co-Artistic Director) is currently Professor of Theatre at The University of Akron (OH). From 1983 to 1989, Mr. Slowiak served as Assistant to Jerzy Grotowski in all facets of the Focused Research Program in Objective Drama at the University of California-Irvine and at the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski in Pontedera, Italy. Mr. Slowiak’s work in collaboration with Grotowski is the subject of an article in the spring 1991 issue of The Drama Review and is discussed in the book At Work with Grotowski on Physical Actions by Thomas Richards (Routledge, 1995). Mr. Slowiak received his MFA in Directing from the University of California-Irvine and a BA in Anthropology, French, and Dramatic Arts from Macalester College. He co-founded and was Artistic Director of At Random Theatre Ensemble in St. Paul, Minnesota (1978-1982). He has directed more than seventy theatre events, including his own adaptations of Moliere’s El Misantropo and Cervantes’ Entremeses in Bogota, Colombia, and he has conducted numerous workshops in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. For NWPL, Mr. Slowiak has directed The Ancients; Mother’s Work; Epiphany; Veredas; The Book of Saints and Martyrs; Essential Demonstrations; Woyzeck (Fragments of a Morality Play as Performed by the Prodigies of Dr. Somnus’ Freak Show); HamletMachine; Electra; Love in the Time of Lunatics; Winesburg, Ohio; Deathwatch, Frankenstein, and others. He is co-author (with Jairo Cuesta) of Jerzy Grotowski (Routledge, 2007)

NEW WORLD PERFORMANCE LAB Mission Statement:  It is the mission of New World Performance Laboratory (NWPL) to create theatre events and pedagogical programs, to research performance techniques from around the world, and to develop a contemporary performance methodology for culturally diverse theatre artists.

New World Performance Laboratory (NWPL), under the artistic direction of James Slowiak and Jairo Cuesta, is an evolving community of theatre artists, operating under the umbrella of the Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture (CATAC). The company’s work has been featured in The Drama Review, Grotowski’s Objective Drama Research by Lisa Wolford, and The Grotowski Sourcebook, edited by Richard Scechner and Lisa Wolford. Since 1992, the NWPL has toured its performances to and conducted its workshops in Italy, Poland, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Romania, Wales, Brazil, Colombia, and various U.S. cities, including Chicago and New York.

Tradition—our theatre tradition and our personal tradition—is essential to the work of the company.  We both embrace our traditions and we challenge them.

Our work is actor-centered.  The actor takes precedence in the process over all other production considerations.

Theatre serves as a vehicle for work on one’s self as much as a vehicle for work on the craft of performance and confrontation with an audience.

Our company is multi-cultural and inclusive.  We strive for a non-abusive and welcoming environment in which each artist’s heritage and contributions are respected.

We are in search of an eco-theatre, a theatre of no-ego—a theatre whose purpose is not to demonstrate one’s virtuosity or identity, but to penetrate one’s own humanity—to enter authentic space.  In this kind of work, theatre becomes a place where real meeting and contact occurs and the boundaries between individual and surroundings soften.  Inauthentic behavior dissolves.  Self is accepted because self is forgotten.

We accept the responsibility to be mindful of the challenges in working respectfully and effectively within a culturally diverse community.

We are a theatre of research, a theatre which operates in the craft tradition, where art is not separated from daily life, and we work towards excellence in the creation and presentation of all of our work.

For more information on NWPL visit their website

This intercultural exchange was made possible, in part, through a grant from the Network of Ensemble Theaters’ Travel & Exchange Network (NET/TEN), supported by lead funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Additional information


Adult $24 (includes $2.00 processing fee), Senior $20 (includes $2.00 processing fee), Student $20 (includes $2.00 processing fee), People with SNAP or EBT cards $11 (includes $1 processing fee)


Friday, Saturday, Sunday

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