SMC Using Theatre for Social Change

Members of Saint Mary's Interactive Theatre troupe and students in Reid Davis' "Theatre for Social Change" class are using theatre in imaginative ways to help resolve social conflict. The troupe presented a year-end workshop at which participants, including students, faculty and staff members, had a chance to learn about and engage in interactive theatre techniques.

Based on the activist theatre of Augusto Boal, founder of Theatre of the Oppressed, interactive theatre is a collaborative educational tool that uses live theater and audience participation to build community and work through conflict.

"It's a form of theatre that doesn't presume the actors know more than the audience," Davis said.

In the workshop in Delphine Intercultural Center, Davis and the students introduced participants to the concept of interactive theatre through a series of creative exercises aimed at building community and encouraging self-expression, and the participants joined in with gusto.

Audience members took turns physically interacting with silent actors in one exercise, creating two-person tableaus. In another exercise, called "Show Us How You Get Down," participants expressed their spirit through dance. In yet another experiment, a number of small groups expressed the idea of isolation through movement and words.

"We do this work to tell individual stories so everyone can know how it feels to be someone else," Davis said.

Once the audience was initiated in the technique, troupe members Gabriella Soqui, Erin Kinda, Selam Kedone, Amanda Worthington and Madelein Morales presented a dramatic reading of script called "What Went Wrong," based on a real experience at Saint Mary's – a Seminar discussion in which a student called Rosa was treated in a disrespectful manner. Morales, playing Rosa, expressed an opinion about a Seminar text, and a classmate accused her of overreacting, saying "There she goes again. She pulled a ‘Rosa'." Naturally, a conflict ensued. After the mini-play was enacted, the audience was invited to step into the roles of the actors and change the outcome for the better.

The workshop, which was supported by the Campus Committee on Inclusive Excellence, was designed to help develop more engaged students, faculty and staff members who can use the techniques and insights they learned to build community and solve problems that arise on campus and in their interactions with other people.

SMC's Interactive Theatre troupe has performed with the Weekend of Welcome program for all first-year students, for Faculty In-Service Day, workshops with Honors students, visiting Fulbright scholars, the International Club, in residence halls, with guest faculty and students from the Seminar program and more. It has also conducted workshops with participants from St. Martin de Porres Middle School , Oakland School of the Arts, and the Unity Council, which are all in Oakland.

Students, faculty and staff interested in learning more about the Interactive Theater Program and how individuals and campus departments can utilize the technique to enhance their programs, are encouraged to contact Armando Rendón, the Interactive Theatre coordinator, at or at 510-219-9139.

Teresa Castle
Office of College Communications