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All the World's a Stage for Associate Professor Cynthia Henderson

Written by Alyssa Richard
8/29/2009

Cynthia Henderson, associate professor of theatre arts. Photos courtesy of Cynthia Henderson

She’s traveled, taught, and performed all over the world, but when it comes to Ithaca College, Associate Professor Cynthia Henderson plans on staying put.

And that’s not just good news for the theater arts department, but for the entire Ithaca community.

Professor Henderson directed IC's production of The Exonerated. Listen to her students talk about how their characters affected them.


Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Professor Henderson’s outgoing personality and spontaneity shaped her career goals. “I knew when I was 16 that I wanted to perform professionally and teach,” she says.

She certainly stayed on track. After finishing her master’s degree at Penn State, Professor Henderson moved to New York City to perform professionally and taught at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Working with a theater for the disabled.

Associate professor Henderson working with a theater for the disabled.

Her unique style of teaching incorporates learning outside of theater, from business lessons to Buddhist meditations, and even physics theories.

These are the lessons Henderson brought to Ithaca College in 2000 where she has been teaching, directing, and inspiring ever since.

“The instruction I received in Cynthia’s class had special significance. She got me to take risks and laid the groundwork for me to really jump out of my artistic shell,” says Maxwell Lawrence ’09.

Greeting children on a trip to Africa.

Associate professor Henderson greeting children on her trip to Africa.

It’s not all about the stage, though. Professor Henderson is equally passionate about her work in social justice.

Her highest profile project involved Ithaca High School in 2008, when racial conflicts led to major controversy.

“I wanted to do a theater piece with the kids in order to allow them to speak the truth of their experiences.”

After three months of working with the students, they performed Voice Suspended throughout Ithaca and brought new light to the situation. The play later earned the students the Distinguished Youth Award for Tompkins County, and Henderson won the New York State Outstanding Contribution to Social Justice Award. She was also honored at the 2008 New York Women’s Expo as one of “20 Outstanding Women You Should Know.”

Even with a busy agenda, she remains true to her goals. She has performed in local, regional, off-Broadway, African, and European theater.

From 2003–04, she traveled to Cameroon on a Fulbright Scholarship where she wrote and produced the play Road Trip: Demystifying HIV/AIDS. Her experiences in Africa, and other travels to Germany, Greece, and Mexico, have contributed to the diversity in the acting curriculum at IC.

“Material from the world around you reflects society, she says. And how can you tell stories if you don’t know what’s going on in the world?”

Her students would likely agree that this experience makes Professor Henderson a world-class act.



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