Please send e-mail to mstephens AT ithaca DOT edu
Maura Stephens is an independent journalist, writer, educator, and theater artist.
She writes for independent media and speaks on varied subjects including journalism and media, human
sustainability, farming, food production, food security, international affairs, corporate malfeasance and control, Burma,
social justice, theocracy, entrepreneurship, urban lot reclamation, writing,
editing, publishing, and health
policy. Since 2008 her primary concentration has been fracking, the intensely violent industrial activity that is sweeping the planet, hastening catastrophic climate change while fracturing Nature and human communities.
A determinedly independent writer, theater artist, and educator, Maura began her professional life as a New York City
actor, working off-Broadway and off-Broadway and studying at several studios.
Later she learned the craft of journalism during 19 years in various
editorial positions at Newsweek and Newsweek International, while
simultaneously operating an organic farm called Isle of Ewe in central New
York State. For many years her climb up the ladder at the magazine was a journalistic dream, and would prepare her well for running later editorial ventures. She worked on stories as varied as the wars in Lebanon and Central America, the "troubles" in Northern Ireland, South African apartheid and its dismantling, the quincentennial of the arrival of Europeans in the "New World," and the Japanese stock market.
During her years on the farm, she grew or traded with neighbors for almost of all her family's food (except rice, spices, and tropical fruits). When she had to leave the farm to live in cities for a while, she studied horticulture and landscape design at Philadelphia's Morris Arboretum (through U of Pennsylvania) and then the NY Botanical Garden.
At NYBG she had the good fortune (and timing) to be an original shaper of Bronx Green-up. BGU helped residents reclaim trash-strewn, dangerous, abandoned city-owned lots and turn them into urban oases of crops, flowers, trees, songbirds, beneficial insects, and tranquility; to grow and preserve food; and to bring neighbors together for exercise and community-strenghthening, rewarding collective work. The program became a model for other urban programs around the country, and it still thrives. After leaving Newsweek, Maura cofounded an innovative and financially successful early Internet "e-zine,” raising the launch funding via venture capital investments. She also benefited from the professional expertise, enthusiasm, and investment of members of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), a service of the Small Business Administration. She describes the experience as the "equivalent of earning an MBA." From 1997 until mid-2010, Maura was publishing editor of ICView,
the magazine of Ithaca College (IC), where she also guest lectured
in classes from anthropology to writing, hosted 42 research-writing interns, served on committees, and programmed the visits of filmmakers, writers, humanists, and artists in various disciplines.
Maura often teaches Participatory (aka Community or Citizen) Journalism, which she prefers to call Witness Reporting. Other teaching experience includes magazine writing and community education courses on various subjects. Weeks before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq,
Maura and her husband, playwright-director-photographer-teacher George Sapio,
first visited that country. They fell in love with the people and their culture
and published a book, Collateral Damage, about them. Since then Maura
has worked to help Iraqi people who have been endangered
and misplaced because of this misguided invasion and subsequent occupation. With Rosemary Nuri she founded Iraqi Refugees Assistance
Connection, dedicated to helping imperiled Iraqis find safe haven and new
communities. Both women continue to help Iraqis who made it to the USA, as well as others at home and in Syria and Jordan who are now suffering under a new wave of violence, the predictable result of the
hubristic, inhumane way the Iraqi people have been treated from within
and without over the last several decades.
After publishing a story about IC janitor Han
Lin (left, center) and his brave, inspirational fight for freedom in his homeland,
became the chief policy strategist and US
spokesperson for the International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and
Burma, in which
capacities she volunteered several years. Maura is pleased to have been called an "honorary Burmese" and to have many Burmese colleagues around the globe. (The courageous Han Lin passed away in
2008, but his friends and comrades continue the struggle. Aung San Suu
Kyi was "freed" in November 2010 after a lengthy incarceration, but many more political prisoners still languish in Burmese jails.
Aung San Suu Kyi is now a member of the Burmese Parliament and faces a
new series of challenges since the USA decided in May 2012 to lift sanctions on the
country, freeing the junta to continue egregious human
rights abuses unchecked . . . and freeing multinational corporations to rush
in and begin their own regime of abuse.
Also in 2003, Maura was fortunate to hear the visionary Joan Bokaer speak. A longtime nuclear disarmament activist and national speaker, founder of Ecovillage at Ithaca, gifted organizer and researcher, Bokaer founded TheocracyWatch to expose how the Republican Party politicized the radical religious right. Maura became engaged in this work as well, and served as TheocracyWatch vice president and active member of its speakers bureau for several years. Although they may not be quite as blatantly visible as during the Bush years, the radical religious rightwing of the GOP is as powerful as ever, or more so. Maura still works as a theater (and occasional film/ TV) actor, director, producer, and voice-over artist. She is a member of Wolf’s Mouth Theatre Collective and
other troupes and was a founding member of Icarus Theatre Ensemble (far right, as Hazel Hall in Susan Mach's Monograms, w/Karim Muasher). In 2013 she played Theresa (written for her) in the world premiere of George Sapio's comedic drama Fault Lines, produced by Wolf's Mouth, and Fern Gold- Dumas in the Homecoming Players' concert reading of Joni Fritz's In the Car with Blossom and Len (above, w/Arthur Bicknell). The most exciting theater news: the Ithaca Fringe Festival debuted in April 2014, directed by George Sapio, Maura's favorite playwright, and featuring five great shows. Maura's proud to be on the board of IFF. Its inaugural year was a resounding success, and everyone's looking forward to year two, which will be April 16-19, 2015. See more about Maura's theater work on the separate theater page.
and our natural world, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, and essentially ruining our chances for survival on the one and only planet we share.
Not to get too heavy on ya, but we all need to be paying attention to fracking and fossil-fuel extraction, and working to conserve (use less) energy in our own lives and to demand policies that help us do so (such as more mass transit options, incentives and assistance for insulating our homes, mandating geothermal for new construction where appropriate, killing oil/gas industry exemptions from regulations, increasing funding and tax incentives for research and development of renewable energy systems, and much more).
A lifelong learner, Maura studied theater arts and creative writing as an undergraduate and horticulture, landscape design, and communications as a grad student. She holds an MFA in creative writing
from Goddard College, where she studied with Susan Kim, Deborah Brevoort, Rogelio Martinez, Richard Panek, and Paul Selig, among other great faculty members. She was accepted into the interdisci-plinary Ph.D. program at Union Institute and University. She is a three-time graduate of Democracy School. But mostly she is fortunate to have learned so much as a journalist on the job and as a listener and observer. |