Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed is honored to announce our 2012 T.O. Scholdarship recipient! JD Stokelystudied 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!