Read a great interview with Barbara on the occasion of MPT's 40th Anniversary.
Biography: Dr. Barbara Leigh
Barbara Leigh is an originating artist and co-founder of Milwaukee Public Theatre.
While obtaining a Ph.D. in French Theatre from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she studied in London and Paris, enrolling in workshops at the schools of Marcel Marceau and Etienne Decroux.
Upon her return to the U.S., she became the Associate Director of the Wisconsin Mime Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin. She founded the London Theatre Workshop, Ltd in 1971.
In 1974 she and Michael J. Moynihan co-founded Friends Mime Theatre, re-named Milwaukee Public Theatre (MPT) in 1991. The company is a professional outreach theatre that provides primarily free-to-the-public original theatreworks and educational workshops that focus on giving voice to people of all ages, cultures and abilities.
As Artistic/Producing Director of MPT, Dr. Leigh has co-created or produced over 100 original theatre and video plays and revues with the company. She has performed and given workshops and talks on acting, ensemble creation, diversity, healing and disability issues throughout the country and in Canada. She has also appeared in a variety of television commercials and educational and corporate video productions.
Dr. Leigh's work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wisconsin Arts Board, Milwaukee County, City of Milwaukee, and many private foundations, corporations and individuals. Awards received include the GE Angel Award, the Milwaukee Sentinel/PAC Hall of Fame Award, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund Community Leadership Award and a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2013 she was invited to present her doctoral thesis at Notre Dame University. Dr. Leigh is a member of Milwaukee Succeeds Third Grade Reading Tutoring & Experiential Network and advises the Milwaukee County Office for Persons with Disabilities. She was recently named one of the 2014 "Artists of the Year" by the Milwaukee Arts Board, along with visual artist Evelyn Patricia Terry.
After suffering partial paraplegia in a serious accident in 1987, she became very active on issues dealing with healing, disability and diversity, including creating The Survival Revival Revue, a one-woman musical comedy, and ADA, about the Americans with Disabilities Act. With Karen Stobbe, she developed workshops and performances that focus on Alzheimer's Disease and the trauma and challenges faced by caregivers. Dr. Leigh also performed in and produced Unclothed…the naked truth—Stories of Sexual Abuse and Healing. She is available for keynote and other presentations on Humor and Healing, which include excerpts from Survival Revival Revue.
Dr. Leigh has worked as an Artist In Education throughout Wisconsin since 1975 and has developed hundreds of workshops and collaborative performances, including keynotes for diverse clients. Since 2009, she has co-produced Cultivating Community through the Arts projects which include elements of the All-City People’s Parade—a community arts project inspired by the work of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre in Minneapolis. The goal of the Cultivating Community projects is to bring people together across barriers of race, class, culture, age and ability, and, working with professional artists in free workshops, to create theme parades that give voice to the community through giant puppets, floats, masked creations music and dance. Parades are presented in a variety of public locations and in association with neighborhood celebrations and have recently been created in partnership with Milwaukee Mask and Puppet Theatre, Summer of Peace 365 and Milwaukee Latino Carnaval.
Since 1991 Dr. Leigh has also been MPT’s Development Director, expanding the company’s healing arts programming and community partnerships, and consistently keeping the company in the black, despite the vagaries of funding.