On February 5, Pursue’s City Team is hosting a Forum Theatre Workshop with Theatre of the Oppressed NYC. The workshop will be facilitated by Concrete Justice and Katy Rubin, Founding Artistic Director of Theatre of the Oppressed NYC. As a preview, we asked Katy a few questions about her work and the upcoming workshop. Take a look below and register here to attend the workshop!
How did you first become involved with Theatre of the Oppressed?
I have known about Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) since I was very young; I grew up in an artistic and very socially active household, surrounded by puppetry, circus, street theatre and matches and parades. Augusto Boal’s books on TO were around the house. I trained as an actor but I always had a feeling that it would be much more fun and effective to facilitate hundreds of people acting than just to be acting myself. I met Boal at a workshop in 2001 in New York, and then took another workshop in 2007, and in 2008 got a grant from the Rosenberg Fund (Julius and Ethel’s children’s foundation) to spend 3 months in Rio at the Center for Theatre of the Oppressed, learning and working under Boal and his team there. Since then, I’ve come to see that this work is being used widely in the rest of the world, in over 70 countries, but that in the U.S. it’s mostly an academic pursuit. So I started Theatre of the Oppressed NYC to create a home for anyone who wanted to be creating popular theatre with their communities, in my own city!
How do you approach art as a tool for social change?
There are many answers to that question, but one important part for me is that in order to change the way things are, in order to imagine new possibilities to the social structure–we need to exercise our creativity. How can I imagine a new world without dreaming up what doesn’t yet exist? Being creative, I believe, is inherently radical. Also, art, and theatre especially, is just plain fun. And I’d rather be having fun than not, any day. Being an artist makes working for social change more appealing to me, at least, than anger or violence or shouting. Finally, art is accessible to everyone. You are a poet when you write a poem. You are an actor when you take action.
What do you hope for participants to get out of the workshop with Pursue?
To refer to the last question: the most important thing is that we have fun. After we establish that, participants will get a solid introduction to a new tool they can use in their own community work to investigate and challenge oppression. They will be able to continue to learn about TO if they are hooked, or just take the ideas of collective, creative problem-solving into their own lives. Participants will also have the opportunity to create short plays about their experiences with discrimination, and see where these experiences overlap with those of peers and strangers.
How do Jewish values relate to your work, if at all?
In that the Jewish values I learned were humanist values, they very much relate to my work. In that Jews (as many others) have known oppression, they can understand the importance of fighting it, in solidarity with all fellow world citizens.