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Community-Engaged Theatre

In this section, you’ll find content about making theatre that is deeply engaged—often throughout the creation and production process—with a specific community. Questions are explored around navigating the relationship between the artist(s) and the community, as well as creating meaningful and authentic experiences. The essay “Not Another Memory Play,” about the creation of “a durational, grassroots engagement with the Black community of the Arkansas Delta called Remember2019,” is a great place to start, as is this conversation from CultureHub about collectives devising new grassroots engagement strategies.

The Latest

How One Nigerian Theatre Project Turned Students into Climate Activists
Essay
How One Nigerian Theatre Project Turned Students into Climate Activists
by Eseovwe Emakunu, Anita Amoma
5 June 2024
Slow Cooking Live
Video
Slow Cooking Live
A Podcast-Video Art Experiment Inviting Artists With a History of Migration Who Work with Food-Making and Food-Sharing as Creative Tools
Friday 14 June and Saturday 15 June 2024
London, UK
Celebrating CLUB 57 with founder Stanley Strychacki, Dany Johnson, Ande Whyland, and April Palmieri
Video
Celebrating CLUB 57 with founder Stanley Strychacki, Dany Johnson, Ande Whyland, and April Palmieri
A Panel Conversation
Thursday 23 May 2024
New York City
event poster for slow cooking live.
Slow Cooking Live
Video

Slow Cooking Live

A Podcast-Video Art Experiment Inviting Artists With a History of Migration Who Work with Food-Making and Food-Sharing as Creative Tools

Friday 14 June and Saturday 15 June 2024
London, UK

Join us for two special ‘An Evening with…’ style live events, with home-made food sharing and conversations with artists Selina Thompson and Toni-Dee (Friday 14th) and Sonia Sandhu (Saturday 15th). Together, they will spend the day buying food from local markets and independent shops, cook together and then travel to Theatre in the Mill to share it all with you. 

A group of primary school students pose for a picture outside.
How One Nigerian Theatre Project Turned Students into Climate Activists
Essay

How One Nigerian Theatre Project Turned Students into Climate Activists

5 June 2024

Eseovwe Emakunu and Anita Anoma of Shanty Theatre recently launched a campaign that brought together primary school performers and university audiences for a dance drama performance about climate change. They discuss the creative process and impact of this performance project, which catalyzed action and learning about the impact of climate change and deforestation in Nigeria.

black and white photograph of club attendees.
Celebrating CLUB 57 with founder Stanley Strychacki, Dany Johnson, Ande Whyland, and April Palmieri
Video

Celebrating CLUB 57 with founder Stanley Strychacki, Dany Johnson, Ande Whyland, and April Palmieri

A Panel Conversation

Thursday 23 May 2024
New York City

Segal Center celebrates the history of legendary CLUB 57. In 1978, a Polish emigré Stanley Strychacki rented a basement space of the Holy Cross Polish National Church at 57 St. Marks’ Place with an intention "to create an environment for artists so they could meet, collaborate, and create.”

Outside in a field, performer leans away from another stilt-wearing performer.
Agri-Culture in Climate Change
Essay

Agri-Culture in Climate Change

23 April 2024

Tannis Kowalchuk, artistic director of Farm Arts Collective, shares about the project Dream on the Farm—a ten year project of climate change plays performed on Willow Wisp Organic Farm that grapples with the questions: How do we imagine our future? What are our dreams?

A man stands with his back to the camera and stares at an empty set on stage.
Can’t Do Theatre by Yourself
Essay

Can’t Do Theatre by Yourself

23 January 2024

Latinx theatremakers Jorge Piña and Christin Eve Cato sit down for a conversation about their paths through the theatre field and their advice for future generations looking to sustain this work while caring for themselves and each other.

An art project of composed of quotes pasted onto a large board.
On Theatre, Home, and Housing 
Essay

On Theatre, Home, and Housing 

16 January 2024

Jan Cohen-Cruz delves into the process of bringing The Most Beautiful Home… Maybe, a multi-city project that aims to use art to influence how people think about housing, to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. Through this process, Jan saw how theatre can bring together housing advocates from different walks of life to find their commonalities and collectively imagine a world with equitable housing for all.

An actress stands onstage in front of a shadow puppet of a man on a horse.
Perspectives from Two Teatros Doing the Work
Essay

Perspectives from Two Teatros Doing the Work

3 January 2024

Alberto Justiniano and Milta Ortiz, artistic leaders at Teatro del Pueblo and Borderlands Theater, respectively, have to balance organizational leadership and prioritizing their art. They discuss this work and the ways they engage their Latine communities while providing them with avenues to reflect on social justice issues. 

An actor in a denim jacket stands center, speaking to a group of seated actors.
Indigenous Theatre Reclaims the Center at Minneapolis’s Guthrie Theater
Essay

Indigenous Theatre Reclaims the Center at Minneapolis’s Guthrie Theater

4 December 2023

When Ty Defoe and Larissa FastHorse’s For the People premiered at the Guthrie Theater this fall, it became the theatre’s first mainstage production by Indigenous authors. Robert Hubbard reviews the play, lauding its comedy, spectacle, and commitment to the Native community of the Twin Cities.

Three students stand with two chairs in the middle of a circle of audience members outside.
Setting the Stage for Empowerment with Theatre of the Oppressed
Essay

Setting the Stage for Empowerment with Theatre of the Oppressed

9 November 2023

Applied theatre scholars and practitioners Jennifer Schaupp and Dr. Felicia Owusu-Ansah discuss the empowering potential of Theatre of the Oppressed, and how Felicia has been able to utilize it in Ghana and other places around the world.

A man in business attire cheers in front of a team of football players.
Dear England/England Now
Essay

Dear England/England Now

19 October 2023

Spurred on by the National Theatre production of James Graham’s Dear England, verity healey discusses the notion that theatre in the United Kingdom might have a few things to learn from football.

On the left, a performer stands on top of a curved platform and speaks. On the right, a performer sits on a round platform with hands clasped together.
A Cypher Among Theatremakers from the Laotian Diaspora
Essay

A Cypher Among Theatremakers from the Laotian Diaspora

7 September 2023

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay convenes a roundtable discussion among actors, directors, producers, and playwrights from the Laotian diaspora who work in theatre in the United States. As former refugees and/or the refugees, these theatremakers navigate their places as arrivers in the settler-colonial structure of the United States.

A tall Black man performs passionately while surrounded by audience members.
Shakespeare Against the Canon in Our Verse in Time to Come
Essay

Shakespeare Against the Canon in Our Verse in Time to Come

22 August 2023

Karen Ann Daniels, Malik Work, and John “Ray” Proctor sit down with Melissa Lin Sturges to discuss their work on Our Verse in Time to Come, a Folger Theatre production that used Shakespeare as a jumping off point to become a testament to “the other bards”—the ones still living and the ones still to come.

A troupe of dancers in formation mid-performance smile.
Reengineering Education in the Adagbabiri Community Through Theatre for Development
Essay

Reengineering Education in the Adagbabiri Community Through Theatre for Development

17 August 2023

Eseovwe Emakunu and Dennis U. Obire, co-founders of the Shanty Theatre, chronicle their work in the Adagbabiri Community in Bayelsa State, which is one of the most educationally deprived states in Nigeria. Using a theatre for development model, the group worked with local children to create a performance that demonstrated the importance of education in the social development of a community and nation.

event poster for the 4th Black Spatial Relics Convening.
The Fourth Black Spatial Relics Convening
Video

The Fourth Black Spatial Relics Convening

A Constellation of Artist Talks, Ceremonies, a Digital Performance Showcase, and Varied Conjures/Facilitations on Black Virtuosic Hope-Building

Thursday 27 July - Sunday 30 July 2023
Philadelphia, PA

Highlighting sacred local cultural institutions including the Colored Girls Museum, the Discovery Center, and a ritual tour across the city of Philadelphia, this gathering is a space for a stirring up of a new hope, inspired entirely by the study of our ancestral and living leaders who have built for themselves and their communities a daily practice of Black virtuosic hope.

two women in 1950s clothing stand in front of a puppet theater proscenium frame with the wonderland puppet theater written on its front.
Oral Histories of Wonderland Puppet Theatre During the Civil Rights Movement
Video

Oral Histories of Wonderland Puppet Theatre During the Civil Rights Movement

Panel Discussion with Residents of Concord Park, Pennsylvania

Saturday 22 July 2023
Pennsylvania

Housing rights activist Morris Milgram developed Concord Park outside of Philadelphia as an interracial community at a time when covenants prohibiting the sale of homes to African Americans and other minority groups were routinely included in deeds. Children of the Wonderland Puppet Theatre puppeteers discussed their experience growing up in a neighborhood that intentionally sought to fulfill Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of beloved community and the role that the Wonderland Puppet Theatre played in unifying neighbors.

A performer proudly wields a prop weight overhead during a show.
Cornerstone Theater Company Brings Larissa FastHorse’s Wicoun Home
Essay

Cornerstone Theater Company Brings Larissa FastHorse’s Wicoun Home

11 July 2023

Robert Hubbard reviews Larissa FastHorse’s Wicoun, a transformative story of a teen finding power through gender and cultural identity—with the support of some Lakota superheroes.

Three smiling performers wearing feathered halo headbands dance and clap.
Teatro Vivo’s Fully Interactive La Pastorela 2022
Essay

Teatro Vivo’s Fully Interactive La Pastorela 2022

10 July 2023

Genevieve Schroder-Arce discusses her experience attending—and co-creating—Teatro Vivo’s Las Pastorela 2022, which invited audience members to construct the piece and perform it for one another as a way of modeling collaboration among community members.

event poster for Juneteenth Liberation Ball.
Juneteenth Liberation Ball
Video

Juneteenth Liberation Ball

The Closing Event of No Dream Deferred's We Will Dream: New Works Festival

Monday 19 June 2023
United States

The first year of the We Will Dream: New Works Festival was a success! To close out this amazing experience, join No Dream Deferred at their closing fundraising event, the Juneteenth Liberation Ball. This event will honor Chakula Cha Jua, Karen-Kaia Livers, Lance Nichols, Zardis, and multi-award winning playwright Erika Dickerson-Despenza. Our guest speaker will be the 2022 Pulitzer Prize winner, James Ijames.

Event poster for Andy Field’s Encounterism.
Andy Field’s Encounterism
Video

Andy Field’s Encounterism

Andy Field Talks about Forest Fringe—an Independent, Not-for-Profit Space in the Edinburgh Festival

Monday 5 June 2023
New York City

For over ten years as of this event, Forest Fringe has built a community of artists and playwrights. Each year they return to Edinburgh they experiment with different ways of doing things and new contexts to accommodate even the most unusual experiences. Meanwhile they’ve also started exploring beyond the festival, creating new projects across the UK and internationally, including a festival in an old cinema in the center of Bangkok, a series of performances on night buses across London, and a traveling library of audio experiences.

From the Ground Up Podcast Teaser image featuring guest profile image.
Ontroerend Goed’s Participatory Metaphors
Podcast

Ontroerend Goed’s Participatory Metaphors

24 May 2023

Artistic director of Belgian theatre company Ontroerend Goed, Alexander Devriendt talks through their process for imagining and developing participatory content. Alexander and Jeffrey Mosser also dig into financing art in Europe, the cost of touring internationally and how COVID has affected it, and sustaining family and art simultaneously.

From the Ground Up Podcast Teaser image featuring guest profile image.
SoulWork and Soul Searching
Podcast

SoulWork and Soul Searching

17 May 2023

Culture worker and theatre practitioner Dr. Cristal Chanelle Truscott provides a primer on her SoulWork process, applies it to her present processes, and expands our horizons as artists.

From the Ground Up Podcast Teaser image.
A Living History of Ensemble Theatre (or Bob Leonard’s Ensemble Encyclopedia)
Podcast

A Living History of Ensemble Theatre (or Bob Leonard’s Ensemble Encyclopedia)

12 April 2023

Bob Leonard chronicles his work from the People’s Bicentennial Commission and the Road Company through the founding of the Network of Ensemble Theaters and Alternate ROOTS. Together, Jeffrey Mosser and Bob connect the dots through the middle wave of ensemble-based theatre in the United States.

From the Ground Up Podcast Teaser image.
Maintaining Connections from the Hyperlocal to the International
Podcast

Maintaining Connections from the Hyperlocal to the International

5 April 2023

Carlos Uriona and Jennifer Johnson, co-artistic directors at Double Edge Theatre, connect with Jeffrey Mosser to discuss how working in rural Massachusetts for over thirty years has enabled them to share art on the world stage.

A performer sits at a desk and draws while a screen to the right broadcasts a video of the drawing.
Community Engagement, Anti-Oppression, and Digital Space
Essay

Community Engagement, Anti-Oppression, and Digital Space

27 March 2023

Artist, facilitator, and cultural innovator Nikki Shaffeeullah kicks off this series by sharing her journey to creating Undercurrent Creations, a Toronto-based arts organization, and Parallel Tracks, a gathering of BIPOC artists that offers training in visioning, producing, and facilitating community arts projects.

event poster for the 1619 project talkback of an old ship sailing through the sky.
The 1619 Project, One-Act Festival Talkback with Dr. Nikole Hannah-Jones
Video

The 1619 Project, One-Act Festival Talkback with Dr. Nikole Hannah-Jones

Friday 17 February 2023
Dallas, Texas

Bishop Arts Theater Center presents a talkback following The 1619 Project, One-Act Festival livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network on Friday 17 February 2023 at 7:55 p.m. PST (San Francisco, UTC -8) / 9:55 p.m. CST (Dallas, UTC -6) / 10:55 p.m. EST (New York, UTC -5).