In the News: Acting for Social Change

theater-gamesRacism. Homophobia. Classism. Lafayette has zero tolerance for these attitudes. Yet, at a recent workshop, students were encouraged to pantomime actions portraying them.

These “theater games” led by Rick Piatt ’91 (in photo, right), were an introduction to techniques of Theatre of the Oppressed, developed by Brazilian social activist Augusto Boal in the 1970s to raise the consciousness of oppressed individuals. Spectators participate as “spect-actors” to better understand the issues of power, privilege, and difference.

Piatt, an Augustinian priest, is assistant professor of visual and performing arts at Merrimack College and serves on the TO board of directors.

Rebecca Bender ’18 (photo above, left), government and law, and Collin Raysor ’18 (center), economics, were part of a first-year seminar on civic engagement. “This method brings significant change without violence,” says Bender. “It enables people who normally don’t have a voice to not only speak out but also to discover ways to handle certain situations.” The seminar is taught by Bonnie Winfield, director, Community Partnerships.

“TO is political,” says Piatt. “There is no neutrality. If you’re silent, you’re condoning oppression.” During his week-long residency, Piatt also met with the first-year seminar on theater and social justice taught by Mary Jo Lodge, associate professor of theater. He also consults with students in Single Motherhood in the Contemporary U.S. taught by Deborah Byrd, director, Center for Community Engagement.

An English graduate, he holds an M.A. in theater from Villanova University, M.A. in divinity from Washington Theological Union, and is finishing a Ph.D. in drama at Goldsmiths, University of London.

—Sharon Sanders

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