Legislative Theater

Audience "spect-actors" voting on policy proposals crafted on stage by the legislative theater team at Theater of the Oppressed New York. 

Audience "spect-actors" voting on policy proposals crafted on stage by the legislative theater team at Theater of the Oppressed New York. 

Humor and beauty abound in this episode to inspire creative, healing social change. Two fabulous women share their work, one through theater, the other through gardens. 

Part 1: Legislative Theater, an exciting and innovative technique being used through Theater of the Oppressed New York (TONYC) to illicit outside the box creative problem solving through interactive community created theater. Their work is based on Theater of the Oppressed techniques coming out of Brazil. Katy Rubin, executive director of TONYC talks details about using theater for social change and how she strives as a white Director to create equity and shared power within the organization. SEE MORE BELOW!

Part 2:  Field of Greens gardener, activist and grandmother, Jamillah Rasheed walks us through the community garden she and her neighbors built in the vacant lots on their block. She shares how creating something beautiful and life-giving has impacted her neighbors, and the challenges of keeping the garden, and community growing. CLICK HERE for more pics and info on the Field of Greens garden

In this time of political insanity and spreading hatred in our country, I feel it is especially important to highlight inspiring work that is happening to remind us the good and transformation is possible, what I often call creative and healing social justice. In this interview with Katy Rubin I also wanted to highlight how she as a white woman is trying to work to undo power structures like white supremacy in our society.  I knew Katy from growing up in New Haven, and have watched through social media since 2008 how the work she is doing in NYC has exploded and really taken hold. It is incredibly inspiring to me, and I'm grateful she made some time to talk right before a local performance. Theater of the Oppressed work is happening across the country and the world, as well as in many spots in New Haven, CT. Check out Aaron Jafferis and his work in schools, Collective Consciousness Theater, and Hartbeat Ensemble in Hartford, among others. 

Katy Rubin, Founder and Artistic Director of Theater of the Oppressed NYC

Katy Rubin, Founder and Artistic Director of Theater of the Oppressed NYC

Theater of the Oppressed New York
Theatre of the Oppressed NYC (TONYC) partners with social service organizations and city agencies, forming theatre troupes with community members who face pressing social, economic, health, and human rights issues.These troupes devise plays based on their real-life struggles, and perform them before diverse audiences. After each performance, actors and audiences engage in theatrical brainstorming – called Forum Theatre – with the aim of catalyzing creative change on the individual, community and political levels.

TONYC bases its work on a methodology created in the 1970s by the legendary Brazilian theatre director and activist Augusto Boal, who was himself inspired by Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. As a form of activism and artistic practice, Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed is now used in over 70 countries around the world. Legislative Theatre – a particular type of Forum Theatre – brings citizens, legislators and policymakers together into creative dialogue about the policies and laws that affect communities facing oppression.

At TONYC’s annual Legislative Theatre Festival, participants watch original plays based on the actors’ lived experiences of discrimination in New York City. They then act onstage alongside the actors to offer alternative responses to these systemic problems on an individual, institutional, or policy level. Participants then submit ideas to representatives from City Council, the Mayor’s Office and the federal government, and then vote to carry these ideas forward to their respective chambers. They use theatre, in other words, to spark concrete civic change.

TONYC was founded in 2011 by Katy Rubin, who trained with Augusto Boal in Rio, in 2008. After returning to New York and discovering a lack of effective "popular theatre" – interactive theatre created by communities facing oppression – Rubin helped form the Jan Hus Homeless Theatre Troupe, which is now called Concrete Justice (TONYC’s flagship troupe). Since then, TONYC has grown rapidly in response to a real need from communities in crisis for social change. Their team of Jokers and Jokers-in-Training – the people who help facilitate workshops and performances – now collaborate with TONYC’s troupes to create more than 60 public performances a year.

Listen in to the interview above (or on itunes & soundcloud) for
so many fab details and insights from TONYC director Katy Rubin. 

Want to know more about Theater of the Oppressed New York,
or in general...check out this amazing RESOURCE PAGE