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Jan Selman has made her mark in collaborative popular theatre by always thinking outside the box. Her cutting edge artistic process for social change has been influential in making the genre more attractive across Canada.

Through her work and commitment, Jan’s style of popular theatre has given voice to those less fortunate, including marginalized community groups, prison inmates, sexual assault victims, and First Nations citizens.

Jan Selman “can stand firm on principle longer than anyone and she never gives up, not on people,” said local playwright, Jane Heather, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta. “She reminds us of the possibilities, diversity, pleasure and hope we have in our community, in the arts and in ourselves.”

For more than 35 years, Jan has been a groundbreaking leader in theatre that pushed past traditional boundaries throughout Canada and beyond. Her ongoing mission to work outside the norm began with her tenure as the first artistic director of Edmonton’s renowned Catalyst Theatre. There she developed acclaimed participatory techniques, styles that invite active audience participation to generate individual, community, and social change.

“It is no exaggeration to say that Catalyst Theatre under Jan’s direction became the pre-eminent social action theatre in the country,” said one prominent arts community member. “It was hugely influential in shaping popular theatre practice in companies across Canada.”

For the past 20 years, Selman has moved over to the academic side of theatre. She just completed 10 years as Chair in the Department of Drama at the University of Alberta, and was recently awarded the U of A Excellence in Leadership Award.

Never one to say “good enough,” Jan is currently utilizing her earned international influence in Kenya to help establish a new university.

Jan Selman is known throughout the Edmonton arts community as an “innovator, original thinker, and pioneer” whose work is continually asking, “How can we help make a better world?” For Jan Selman it is a sacred mission that never ends.

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