T.O. Philly News: Summer 2012

Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed began 2012 with a bunch of weekly workshops, free intro classes, and held our first facilitator (and difficultator) trainings. Some of these sessions were recorded by Gabriel Dattatreyan, a local filmmaker who is putting together an ethnographic documentary called Image to Lifeworld, about how those of us using Theatre of the Oppressed in Philadelphia take the work beyond the workshop into our communities, our relationships, and our wider world. We hope to screen Gabriel's film in the fall.

A few of us also traveled to California to attend the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed (PTO) Conference in Berkeley, funded in part by T.O. Philly's 2012 Scholarship. We put some of what we learned at PTO to use with the Urban Nutrition Initiative in a team-building and social justice workshop with staff and youth interns. We've also been invited back to Camp Onas to do similar work with teens from all over Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Events on the horizon include a Theatre of the Oppressed Retreat from August 10–12 at Fellowship Farm in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. If you're interested in going, there are a few spots reserved for last-minute registration. We are, as always, available to lead workshops of any size and shape that you like—please get in touch! tophilly@gmail.com or 215-730-0982.

2012 Scholarship

JD Stokely in San Francisco
Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed is honored to announce our 2012 T.O. Scholdarship recipient! JD Stokely studied playwriting, directing, and collaborative theatre-making at Hampshire College. They have written, produced and directed several plays and make use of Theatre of the Oppressed techniques to create new collaborative pieces. Stokely is  also o recipient of the James Baldwin Playwriting Award and put the T.O. Philly Scholarship toward attending the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed (PTO) conference in Berkeley this year. Stokely writes:
I was first introduced to Theatre of the Oppressed during my first year of college. I was on the fence about whether or not I should be studying theatre or education, or both. TO felt like a happy medium for me, especially because I am interested in alternative education and social change. Most of my work has consisted of creating original and collaborative plays while incorporating TO into my directorial and dramaturgical methods. Currently I am working with a Brooklyn-based arts production company called Roots & River Production (rootsandriver.com) that is dedicated to supporting the work of queer artists of color.   
JD Stokely with Roots & River 
I wanted to go to the PTO conference because I felt the need to hear about the work that other TO practitioners were doing. I was mostly just curious about what a TO conference would look like. While I was there, I realized that what I was actually searching for was a sense of healing and a reminder of the kind of work that I want to be doing. I left the conference feeling happy and at peace, like I had just breathed a huge sigh of relief—the kind that often follows the final moments of a TO workshop.  
JD Stokely leading a theatre workshop in Philly
But a few days after returning from Berkeley, I felt my initial anger and frustration starting to creep back, fueled by all of the violence against queers and people of color that I was reading and hearing about in the media. One of the facilitators at the conference reminded us during a workshop that we play games in TO for a reason. That these games are fun, yes, but are also used as metaphors to talk about larger issues of oppression. The complicated thing about a conference is that it is happening in a relatively low-risk environment. People go there to learn, share, and hopefully push themselves; the real world is hardly ever friendly. I know that I can't take the skills I learned at the conference and single-handedly make all bad things stop—but it did make me want to try. The conference did help me eradicate some of the intense "burn-out" I had been feeling about activism and art-making. What's left in its place is urgency. I am hoping to take that feeling of urgency and fuel it into the work that I am doing with Roots & River. Not only do I have new facilitator tricks and games to use, but I also feel energized and inspired for the work that my company will be producing this upcoming fall.   
I am very grateful to T.O. Philly for giving me the opportunity to go to an amazing conference!