T.O. Philly 2011 Scholarship

Jana Sanskriti performing in India

Our 2011 scholarship recipient was Prachi Miurarka, an Indian-American woman who was born in Ahmedabad and raised in the Midwest. While growing up in Indiana, dance and culture were integral to her life, and she went on to study at Northwestern University. Prachi currently lives in California and applied for a T.O. Philly scholarship to attend a Forum Theatre workshop in Chicago, led by Sanjoy and Sima Ganguly from Jana Sanskriti, India's largest Theatre of the Oppressed movement. Prachi writes:
I started off college studying Social Policy, because I believed that top-down model was the best way I could effect social change.  Taking economic classes, sociology classes, and feminist classes quickly made me realize that real societal transformation could not be done from the top down—too much was at stake in preserving the status quo.  Instead, in my ethnic studies and gender studies classes, I began to learn how hip-hop, popular culture, and media could influence our mindsets and lead to gradual transformation.  With my yoga and meditation practice, I knew that individual consciousness had to be changed for greater societal change.  This is where arts and theatre came into play. 
Sanjoy Ganguly and Prachi Murarka in Chicago
During my visit to South Africa in 2008, I began to realize the enormous potential for arts to be effect social transformation and be integrated in community-building.  I was exposed to the various methods of VOICE and RESISTANCE and EMBODIMENT of liberation.  I began to see art as a courageous process that actually mirrored what we wanted in society.  I saw it as the heart of transformation, and I intuitively felt called to theatre as a form. 
For my Senior Project at Northwestern University, I began to use Theatre of the Oppressed techniques, writing, and meditation to address diasporic violence.  How could communities that fed into and bought dominant narratives reclaim their stories and transform their lives-reclaiming agency?  Using Audre Lorde's notion of the erotic, I worked at creating safe spaces that would allow healing to occur through the arts in a 3-step process: individual reclamation, group sharing and transformation, and finally, public release. 
Sima Ganguly of Jana Sanskriti
In my current work, I plan to use Theatre of the Oppressed techniques with Siren Theatre's Janaki Project.  Using pre-existing (self-created) scripts to examine reproductive rights, domestic violence, sexual violence, and ecological terrorism, these workshops will highlight current issues facing Indian and Indian-American communities.  We will ask Participants will be asked to become active agents, problem-solving narratives and create their own solutions to systematically disengage from and transform histories of violence, victimization, misinformation, and violence.  I'm also integrating Theatre of the Oppressed with Yoga Therapy as a form of integrated somatic liberation. 
I am extremely grateful to Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed for their sponsorship during the Jana Sanskriti workshop in July 2011.  The workshop allowed me to connect with a great PTO community, learn Forum Theatre, and grow in my own political understanding.
—Prachi Murarka, December 2011

To inquire about scholarship opportunities, or anything else, contact us at "tophilly@gmail.com" or 215-730-0982.

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