As a recent graduate of the School of Liberal Arts who earned a Theatre Certificate and has taken several courses with an Applied Theatre focus, being able to attend the Pedagogy & Theatre of the Oppressed Conference was powerful. I learned about this branch of theatre briefly in classes such as my T100 Rehearsal and Performance class and Creative Dramatics, so I was excited to learn more about what this looks like in the community. Particularly since, as a Senior in 2023, I was not able to take advantage of the new ATFT Applied Theatre Concentration. The fact that my professor (Mr. Emilio) worked so hard to bring this event to campus in connection to the new major being offered and facilitated an opportunity for me to take part, was impactful for me.
The theme of the conference this year was ‘No Body Alone’ and it aimed to educate and explore solutions as to how the bodies we live in are dictated upon and oppressed in society. It was amazing to see how activism takes all shapes and sizes, comes from all walks of life, and can blossom from small acts of inclusion. It was also invigorating as an artist to see how these topics could be explored in so many ways: forum theatre, research presentations, improvisations, workshops, critical dialogues.
I was immersed (and I think well-equipped) in these important conversations because of the great foundation that the ATFT program offers in terms of skills, vocabulary, history, imagination and experience. Throughout the weekend of the conference, I kept thinking back on the classes I took when completing my Theatre certificate (particular those with overt connections to Applied Theatre) as to how similarly structured these were in connection to honoring and highlighting the embodiment of lived experiences. Even in fundamental courses such as Acting I and Intro to Theatre, I was able reflect on ways that these ideas were infused into our curriculum and exercises.
Theatre is for the people, by the people. It was evident at the conference, as well as in this program. I was able to continue expanding upon my knowledge and outlook of the pedagogy of theatre in a way that is guided towards unity, respect, and action.
One quote that was said throughout the conference came from the founder of Theatre of the Oppressed, Augusto Boal, “The theater itself is not revolutionary: it is a rehearsal for the revolution.” This summer’s PTO conference at IUPUI felt like a literal expression of this mission. These workshops were educational, promoted dialogue for voices to be heard, held space for self-expression, and were impactful. Regardless of how much or how little experience you have in theatre, or what field you find yourself in, these skills and topics of critical thinking and social justice can be implemented into your day-to-day to embody the change we wish to see.
That’s exactly what “applied theatre” is.
By Jordan Marie