Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge
comes to South Philly for the summer of 2015


Three event dates: June 29, July 18, and September 19.
At 632 Jackson Street in South Philadelphia.


Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge is a community-based experimental urban platform that uses play, games and performance to reveal, share and celebrate local knowledge produced in South Philadelphia, an area known for its rich cultural and ethnic diversity. A project by Cohabitation Strategies (CohStra), Playgrounds seeks the restructuring of urban spaces by promoting new social relations across cultural and economic divides, with the objective of generating just and sustainable forms of collective inhabiting to confront the pressures of accelerated urban development.


From May through September 2015, Playgrounds will occupy a lot at 632 Jackson Street, creating a temporary hub space where the demands of daily life are interrupted through play to inspire new spatial imaginaries and political subjectivities. Here CohStra, a cooperative of socio-spatial research, is collaborating with a variety of neighborhood partners in a participatory pilot project that activates playful ways of critically thinking of land occupation, gentrification, environmental restoration and housing through participatory design, while inspiring cross-cultural communication by generating knowledge exchange through performance, construction and dialogue.

Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed will be part of Playgrounds' events on June 29 (rescheduled from July 27), July 18, and  September 19. Interested in being involved? Contact T.O. Philly via "tophilly@gmail.com"

A Show Called CONES

Early in 2015, T.O. Philly and the Medium Theatre Company offered a series of workshops and explorations around the ideas of blindness, seeing and the spectrum in between. More than 50 people offered creative insights, which T.O. practitioner Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews and performer-creator Mason Rosenthal (both of whom are visually impaired) have incorporated into "CONES, a solo show about vampires, vision loss and ice cream."

At the heart of the piece is the notion of passing in the context of dis/ability: some people with dis/abilities may try to "pass" as more able-bodied to avoid stigma, or as less able-bodied to access services. The performance of passing is more widely discussed in regards to race and gender, but less frequently in the area of dis/ability. Part of CONES' objective is to ignite that conversation.

CONES debuts on June 19, 22 and 23, 2015, with 8PM shows at the Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St. in Philadelphia. Show runs 60 minutes, and is a $5-10 suggested donation that includes refreshments. People can also support the project by reserving advance tickets or donating at the Medium Theatre Company's website.

Other Links:

About T.O. Philly

Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed (T.O. Philly) is a network of people using the tools of theatre and popular education to dismantle oppression. Much of the work we do is based on the writings and teachings of the late Augusto Boal, who developed the Theatre of the Oppressed in Brazil over 40 years ago. We also draw upon other theatre games and movement traditions, as well as models of popular education like those put forth by Paolo Freire in his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

T.O. Philly offers classes, workshops and trainings for groups in Philadelphia and elsewhere. To book a workshop, get in touch with us by calling 267-282-1057 or email "tophilly@gmail.com"

Theatre of the Oppressed 2-Day Training

Led by Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews
Saturday & Sunday May 23 & 24, 2015
2-6 PM both days (8 hours total)
at The Whole Shebang, 1813 S. 11th St.
★ Registration is Closed ★
If you registered, click here to pay online

Theatre of the Oppressed (or "T.O." for short) uses theatre games and techniques to get at the injustices around us, and then proposes models for a more just society. In this 2-day workshop, we will unpack a bunch of social baggage through images, sounds, movement and words, and then take what we've revealed to collectively create a world we want. On Day 1, the group will build itself through exploration and discussion of T.O.'s techniques. On Day 2, we go deeper, talk a little T.O. theory and history, and learn how to carry what we've learned into the work we do as activists, educators, organizers and artists.

Space is limited! To be in this workshop, email "tophilly@gmail.com" or call 267-282-1057. Plan on being there both days, bookended by arriving a little early, and staying a little late. All are welcome to attend, all experiences welcome.
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Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews has been making activist art and theatre in Philadelphia since 1998 and has traveled the world working with the likes of Beth Nixon from Philly/Providence, Vermont's Bread & Puppet Theater, and Jana Sanskriti in West Bengal. He discovered and trained in Theatre of the Oppressed in Brazil, New York and India, and started T.O. Philly in 2008 as way to make this work accessible and affordable in his home city. Morgan also teaches yoga and theatre around town, and creates performances with the Medium Theatre Company.

The Whole Shebang is a new South Philly artmaking, performance and studio space that offers all kinds of awesome classes. Check them out at thewholeshebangphilly.com

Free Tuesday Workshop Series

Spotlight on...
Sound • Movement • Action
with Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews
First Session: Tuesday May 12, 6-8PM
(others to follow—days + times TBA)
at The Whole Shebang, 1813 S. 11th
Preregister at "tophilly@gmail.com"
or leave a message at 267-282-1057

Theatre of the Oppressed uses images, sounds, movement, words and the art of playfulness as building blocks for devising performance. In this workshop we'll throw these items up in the air to see where they land with theatrical experiments and games from the T.O. canon. What we discover will strengthen individual and group skills, and also inform a new movement theatre piece launching this fall. 

Let us know you're coming: RSVP here.
And click here to learn more about this project.

Blind Games: What We Played

For three days in January, 2015, theatre artists Mason Rosenthal and Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews led a series of experiential Blind Games at a community arts space in West Philadelphia. 32 people came out on a chilly Friday night, and smaller numbers returned the next two afternoons to stumble and bump into each other with eyes closed, usually with some sort of performative goal in (and out of) sight.

Blind Games often serve as icebreakers and trust-builders by organizations that work with kids and teens. Theatrical, dance and movement artists use them to build group cohesion and get performers to use more of their non-visual senses. In the Theatre of the Oppressed tradition, we use Blind Games to build skills for perceiving unseen elements of power and oppression in society. Our workshop brought all of these things together, with the base understanding that we would all be working with our eyes closed. Mason and Morgan also used these sessions for research toward a new theatrical work about vision loss and partial blindness, while offering everyone else a fully embodied experience, as well as a full list of the games and their rules. And here they are:

On Friday night we warmed up with three quick ones to get us used to working with missing information:
  • Pick Up The Cup: Mark an "X" on the floor and place a cup on it. Players line up several meters from the cup and take turns closing eyes, walking forward, and stooping down to pick up the cup once they think they've reached it. Others watch and respond: "Ooh!" for a miss, a roar of applause for a win. Everyone goes twice. No feeling around for the cup—just reach straight down and pick it up (or don't!)
  • Alpha Order Names: A name game with three simple rules: 1) Everyone must hold at least one other's hand at all times. 2) Each person is allowed to say their own name and nothing else. 3) Get into alphabetical order. Easier played with eyes open.
  • Line Up By Height: With eyes closed, without talking.
The following games we played in pairs:
  • Blind Car: One person is the Blind Car, the other its Sighted Driver who controls the Car by tapping its back to go forward, top of head for reverse, and each shoulder to turn right or left. Because this is a cooperative game, we share everything freely, so Cars occasionally get new Drivers, sight unseen.
  • Fingertips: Players ouch fingertips together, one person with eyes open, the other closed, and all dance. Pairs can switch roles (sighted/blind, leader/follower), merge into bigger groups, or have the blind lead the blind. What's most essential is some good disco music:
  • Stopping and Falling: Here the blind player leads the sighted by walking, stopping, and then and falling backward to be caught and uprighted by their sighted partner. The falls then become less predictable: sideways, diagonally, forward and at varying tempos. 
  • Bling Hug: Pairs embrace, close their eyes, and back away from each other, keeping pace to a count upwards. A countdown brings them back and hopefully into the same embrace.
  • Blind Chair: Person A ("Chair") drops to one knee, and Person B ("Sitter") sits sideways on Chair's horizontal thigh. Both close their eyes, stand up, and begin walking to a count: Sitter paces forwards, Chair backwards. A countdown brings both back to sit—Chair back down to one knee,  and Sitter back on Chair's leg, possibly even that of their original Chair…
  • Blind Tracker: A sighted player makes an Animal sound for their blind Tracker to follow around the space. Animal keeps Tracker from bumping into things purely by sound, and Tracker simply heads in the direction of that specific sound (though these dark woods may be populated by impostors who mimic certain animal sounds to lead trusting trackers astray).
These paired explorations dynamized the senses of touch, hearing, spatial awareness, proprioception and even teleception, giving us the skills to delve into more intricate blind scenarios:
  • Blind Scenes: A pair of pairs, one Sighted the other Blind. The Sighted Pair comes up with a scenario for the Blind Pair to perform, and Blind Pair is in the dark both visually and circumstantially in that they have no idea what they are about to do. The Sighted Pair announces their scene's title and manipulates the Blind Pair (using the tools from the games above) to get their Blind Pair to perform. Memorable scenes included "A Trip to the Dentist", "Survivor", and "Blind Date in the School Cafeteria". Sighted Pair announces "the end!" when it's over.
  • Magical Journey: In pairs, a sighted actor takes their blind companion on a 5-minute journey through space, telling a story using all other senses. After each takes the other on a Magical Journey, this pair can then conspire to take the larger group on a Grand Magical Journey.
  • Find Hands: Everybody forms a circle, holds hands, closes their eyes and notices what is unique about the people to either side, just by touching hands and arms no higher than the elbow. After a minute, all release, walk around with eyes closed, and then find their original partners. A great game for 7-10 people that becomes increasingly more epic in bigger groups.
After two days of working primarily with eyes closed, we opened our eyes and used some source material to explore archetypes of literal and figurative "blindness" in media. We listened to "blind songs" by Thomas Dolby, Morrissey, Manfred Mann, Run DMC, Kenny Starr, and The Who, and then made short scenes inspired by them. When also performed some classical and contemporary drama featuring blind characters with the intent of using the Theatre of the Oppressed techniques of Simultaneous Dramaturgy and Forum Theatre, but only had time for our closing games:

  • Blind Clap Together: In a circle, all close eyes and clap simultaneously.
  • Venus Flytrap: In a circle, all point left index fingers down into the center of their neighbors' upturned right palm. The object is to catch your neighbor's finger and simultaneously not get caught. After a few turns, switch hands.
  • Italian Rain: Sitting in a circle with eyes closed, all begin to tap a finger against their opposite palm, then two, then three, then four, then all five before working back down to zero. Then back up, and back down twice more until all is silent.
For more information about Mason and Morgan's theatrical projects, visit the website of the Medium Theatre Company: www.themediums.org

Blind Games: a free workshop

NOW EXPANDED TO 3 SESSIONS:
• Friday January 9 • 7:30-9:30 PM
• Saturday January 10 • 3:00-6:00 PM
• Sunday January 11 • 3:00-6:00 PM
(Come to the first part on Friday, return 
on Saturday and/or Sunday if you like)
at the Rotunda • 4014 Walnut Street
Free Workshop • Click here to RSVP
or email "tophilly@gmail.com

Blind Games are just what their name implies: games where some or all of the players cannot see. For one evening and two afternoons, we will explore these theatrical games and what they reveal about sightedness and blindness, ability and disability, power and privilege, as well as the nature of games and playfulness. We'll also look at cultural depictions of blindness and dis/ability with a critical eye as to how that ripples out in society and within ourselves.

This fully experiential workshop will also serve as a launching point for a new theatrical work about vision loss made by two visually impaired artists. Anyone attending the first part on Friday evening  can return for either or both of the other parts on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Look forward to:
  • Friday, 7:30-9:30 PM: We play several blind games that dynamize the other senses and prepare ourselves for the theatrical work on the following days.
  • Saturday, 3:00-6:00 PM: We examine depictions of blindness in film, theatre, art, mythology and elsewhere through re-enactment and re-imagination.
  • Sunday, 3:00-6:00 PM: We delve into disability within our own lives, how it affects us and our relationships to each other.
Come and see what this is all about—Click here to RSVP or email "tophilly@gmail.com

About the facilitators:

Morgan Andrews has been making activist art and theatre in Philadelphia since 1998. He started with woodcuts and shadow puppets as a method for visual rehabilitation, and then branched out into other forms of performance, working with the Bread & Puppet Theater and other affiliated artists for over a decade. Morgan discovered and trained in Theatre of the Oppressed in Brazil, New York and India, and then founded T.O. Philly in 2008 as way to make this work accessible and affordable in his home city. He also teaches yoga and theatre around town, and creates plays with the Medium Theatre Company.

Mason Rosenthal is an actor, creator, dancer, director, and teacher from Skokie, Illinois. He holds a BFA in drama from NYU where he studied embodied voice with Katie Bull and community-based performance with Jan Cohen-Cruz. In 2007 Mason joined the faculty at NYU's Atlantic Theater Company Acting School before moving to Philadelphia to work for The Headlong Performance Institute. Mason has since collaborated with many Philly artists—see his website for the ever-growing list!