University of Southern Indiana

Petit Jean Performance Festival

October 2019

The College of Liberal Arts prides itself on supporting student endeavors that contribute to both personal growth and career success by sending students and professors off-campus to attend conventions, workshops, and other academic programs. This year, USI Communication students attended one such program for the first time.  For the last 40 years, the Petit Jean Performance Festival invites universities from across the nation to send graduate and undergraduate students to collaborate in a workshop-style performance program. Students from multiple majors with an interest in communication and performance studies travel to Morrilton, Arkansas to work in collaborative groups with students from different universities. Each group is tasked with scripting and showcasing a small performance that revolves around that year’s theme. Undergraduate students also present solo performances they have worked on in their courses to other students and received feedback to improve their skills. Graduate students have opportunity to develop their leadership abilities, hone performance techniques, and share feedback as a component of their participation.


The USI delegation included Canyon Anderson, Salome Apkhazishvili, Madison House, Will Sanders, and Courtney Smith, as well as Communication Studies professors Dr. Lindsay Greer and Dr. Leigh Anne Howard. Dr. Howard explained, “Petit Jean is like a rite of passage for performance studies people. Most of the faculty who attend are like me in that they attended as a student, and now as faculty members they really relish sharing this experience on the mountain with their students.” 

Canyon Anderson, a student of the Master of Arts in Communication program, recounted his experience at the festival: “It was incredibly refreshing to meet other communication scholars who are able to view performance through an interpersonal frame,” he stated. The theme of this year’s festival was “Tourism,” and Anderson’s group was assigned to study each group members’ method of transportation. “Through this exercise, we discussed the ritual aspect of driving and traveling, and how the event itself provided us with an opportunity to step outside of our usual selves and become a performer who is one with the site and the other.”

Communication graduate student Salome Apkhazishvili, an international student from the country of Georgia, also spoke of her experience at the festival.  She stated that the Festival helped her become more familiar with the role of performance in both an academic and professional setting: “Attending individual and group performances made me more courageous to consider performance as part of our class projects. Even more, I see this experience as a creative framework for future communication campaigns we probably have to plan when we enter into the industry.”

Beyond this, the Petit Jean Performance Festival also allowed her to try her hand at performance. “I always thought that I was a shy person, but during this festival, I went on the stage without even 24 hours of preparation.” Having prepared a script in three hours with her group, she explained, the festival sought the best of their abilities. Each student was grateful for their opportunity to attend the Festival. Apkhazishvili shared, “I am glad to see that the USI MAC faculty opens the door widely to the experimental methodology of research and practice in communication.”

Written by Brandon Hartman and Dr. Leigh Anne Howard

Contact Dr. Melinda Roberts


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