Jan facilitated a theatre workshop at Trenton State Prison as part of NYC Street Theatre (1971-2). She brought internationally renown Theatre of the Oppressed founder Augusto Boal to the US in the early 1980s and remains a practitioner and scholar of his work. She received her PhD from NYU Performance Studies in 1994, having also trained professionally with Lee Strasberg and Kristin Linklater. Cohen-Cruz wrote Engaging Performance: Theatre as Call and Response (2010); Local Acts: Community Based Performance in the US (2005); edited Radical Street Performance (1998); and, with Mady Schutzman, co edited Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy, Activism (1995) and A Boal Companion (2006).
Jan taught at NYU Tisch School of the Arts from 1984 to 2006, developing a minor in applied theatre and helping shape the school’s art and public policy initiative. She produced numerous community based arts projects, including one on community gardens, directed by Cornerstone Theater’s Sabrina Peck, and another on gentrification. In 2006 7, Jan co initiated HOME, New Orleans, a collaboration of artists, scholars, students, and other residents exploring art’s role in post-Katrina neighborhood recovery.
From 2007-2012, Jan was director of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, a consortium of some 90 colleges and universities that advances knowledge and creativity through publicly engaged scholarship integrating humanities, arts, and design. Jan is a University Professor at Syracuse University, and is editor of Imagining America’s new journal, Public. Jan is the 2012 recipient of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s Award for Leadership in Community-Based Theatre and Civic Engagement.