Winter 2016 Update

Our Unpacking Race series
returns in March 2016.
2015 brought Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed (T.O. Philly for short) to new areas of our city and beyond. We held public workshops in West Philly at The Rotunda and in South Philly at a new space called The Whole Shebang. We also worked with students at UArts, UPenn, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Goddard Colleges, and as part of a social justice day at the Hun School of Princeton. We formed a small Theatre of the Oppressed collective that collaborated with residents of Southeast Philly on Playgrunds for Useful Knowledge, a pilot project created by Mural Arts and Cohabitation Strategies. We also explored issues of dis/ability justice, vision loss and passing in workshops that fed into a performance called CONES through T.O. Philly's sibling, the Medium Theatre Company.

Looking ahead to 2016, we bring back our popular series on race and racism called Unpacking Race. During the month of March we'll explore this topic through group exercises, Theatre of the Oppressed techniques, and discussions, supplemented by things to read and do between sessions. Our aim is to unlearn the systemic racism we’ve been taught our entire lives, to heal from racial privilege and oppression, and to offer starting points for structural and personal change in ourselves, our communities, and our world. To pre-register or get more info, send an email to "tophilly@gmail.com".

Below: Mural Arts' video of Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge.

The Rainbow of Desire

Saturday Nov. 14 • 10AM-5PM
THE RAINBOW OF DESIRE
A one-day workshop
led by Morgan Andrews
at the Whole Shebang 
1813 S. 11th Street
Tuition: $25-$75, sliding scale
Click here to pre-register
or email "tophilly@gmail.com"

Images, sounds, movement and words are the building blocks for this workshop about creating the world as we want it, with better schools, healthier workplaces, stronger relationships and whatever else we need. But when desires conflict, these goals don’t come easy and might even get muddled. This session builds from group games to theatrical simulations that put our desires in the spotlight where we can see their true colors. Then we’ll figure out whether each one is helpful, harmful, or a little of both.

Similar to the Cop in the Head technique, the Rainbow of Desire was developed by Theatre of the Oppressed founder Augusto Boal to get at internalized oppression. For more about Boal and Theatre of the Oppressed, follow the links on the righthand side of our website. More workshop info below:
  • The Whole Shebang is located at 11th and Moore Streets. Enter through the parking lot.
  • Each workshop includes a one-hour lunch break plus additional shorter breaks.
  • Space is limited—pre-register early to reserve your spot.
  • Tuition for each workshop is sliding scale, $25-$75 (you decide).
  • Pay online via The Whole Shebang's website, or reserve a spot by emailing "tophilly@gmail.com".
About the Facilitator: Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews has been making activist art and theatre in Philadelphia since 1998. He's 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.

Two Workshops: The Cop in the Head
and the Rainbow of Desire

We are offering two different day-long workshops this fall in South Philly, each dealing with social justice and internalized oppression. Pre-register to come to one or both. Descriptions and tuition information below.
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Saturday Oct. 10 • 10AM-5PM
THE COP IN THE HEAD
A one-day workshop
led by Morgan Andrews
at the Whole Shebang
1813 S. 11th Street
Tuition: $25-75, sliding scale
Click here to pre-register

When we fight for social justice, the first obstacle might be the police—the cop in the street, armed with weapons and the authority of the state. But what stands in our way in instances of personal justice? When we want to do what’s right but don’t act upon those desires, the only cops that thwart us are the ones in our own heads. Starting with group games and theatrical exercises, this workshop physically disarms our mental cops in order to put principles of personal and social justice into action.
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Saturday Nov. 14 • 10AM-5PM
THE RAINBOW OF DESIRE
A one-day workshop
led by Morgan Andrews
at the Whole Shebang 
1813 S. 11th Street
Tuition: $25-75, sliding scale
Click here to pre-register

Images, sounds, movement and words are the building blocks for this workshop about creating the world as we want it, with better schools, healthier workplaces, stronger relationships and whatever else we need. But when desires conflict, these goals don’t come easy and might even get muddled. This session builds from group games to theatrical simulations that put our desires in the spotlight where we can see their true colors. Then we’ll figure out whether each one is helpful, harmful, or a little of both.
————————————————————

MORE INFO:
  • The Whole Shebang is located at 11th and Moore Streets. Enter through the parking lot.
  • Each workshop includes a one-hour lunch break plus additional shorter breaks.
  • Space is limited—pre-register early to reserve your spot.
  • Tuition for each workshop is sliding scale, $25-$75 (you decide).
  • Pay online on The Whole Shebang's website, or reserve a spot by emailing "tophilly@gmail.com".
  • Worktrade is also available. Email us to set that up or leave a message at 267-282-1057.

2015 Mifflin Square Alliance Festival

Saturday, September 19th • 4-8PM
Mifflin Square Park • 6th & Wolf Streets
Food • Music • Art • Workshops
Open and Free for All!


The Mifflin Square Alliance Festival is a community celebration created by a growing coalition of South Philly residents. A culmination of this summer's Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge project, the festival unites neighborhood visions for a more sustainable Philadelphia with popular education, arts and culture. From late afternoon to early evening this Saturday, the Mifflin Square Park will feature five areas:
  • The PowerHouse Stage with music, dance and storytelling from neighborhood residents.
  • Exhibitions by local artists and organizations.
  • Useful Knowledge Workshops by individuals and organizations in South Philadelphia.
  • Kids Union features artistic and fun activities for young people.
  • Picnic Space where you can bring food to enjoy together. There will also be some food for sale and free samples from South Philly eateries..
T.O. Philly is helping to MC this event. Below is a full schedule of all the events.  and right here is a video of the process that went into creating the festival, including a Forum Theatre piece created by T.O. Philly:

Times and presenters are subject to change—see the event's Facebook page for the latest info.
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POWERHOUSE STAGE 4-8PM
  • 4–4:30 DJ Rich Wexler spins
  • 4:30–5 Award ceremony of South Philly Food Contest
  • 5–5:30 Karen traditional dance troupe
  • 5:30–6 Cambodian Psychedelic: trans-cultural rock band and Independent Rock Music School
  • 6–6:30 Cambodian dance troupe
  • 6:30–6:40 Young Chances Foundation: youth hip-hop 
  • 6:40–7:10 The Potential of South Philly’s Vacant Lots: a public discussion with East Passyunk Cross Civic Association, Lower Moyamensing Civic Association, 7th Street Civic Association and Liz Hersh (moderated by Miguel Robles-Durán)
  • 7:10–7:30 Closing ceremony with Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed
  • 7:30–8 DJ Rich Wexler spins 
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EXHIBITIONS 4-7PM
  • El Viaje de los Niños (The Children’s Journey) is an exhibition that tells the stories of Mexican immigrant children who have crossed the border to come to Philadelphia. Project by Puentes de Salud.
  • I Am Khmer, an exhibition that explores memory and identity in Cambodian American communities across the country. The project reconstructs family histories through civil war, genocide, and refugee resettlement. Project by Pete Pin in collaboration with the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia. On view at Preah Buddha Rangsey Temple (corner of 6th and Ritner). Guided tours on the hour at the Temple.
  • Taggart Elementary Schoolyard Project: The Trust for Public Land and design consultant TEND Landscape, present a proposed schoolyard at John H. Taggart Elementary.
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USEFUL KNOWLEDGE WORKSHOPS 5–7 p.m.
All workshops begin at the Useful Knowledge table

5–5:30PM
1. How to Create a Community Land Trust with Gabriela Rendon from Cohabitation Strategies
2. Yoga class with Adina Lieberman from Puentes de Salud
3. Keep the Neighborhood Clean with Trash Academy

5:30–6PM
4. Map Your Vision for an Ideal Neighborhood School, an interactive workshop with Southeast Philadelphia Collaborative
5. The Joy of Learning at El Futuro, a program with Gosia Sanchez from Mighty Writers
6. Growing Resilient Families: children's mental health services, becoming a foster family, and support for parents with Bethanna Community Umbrella Agency

6–6:30PM
7. Building Stronger Communities in Southeast Philadelphia with SEAMAAC
8. Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! Ideas for (prize)fighting, purging and preventing bedbugs, head lice and cockroaches with Lisa Grainge from Snyder Avenue Congregational Church
9. Mifflin Square Park: Past & Present with Friends of Mifflin Square Park

6:30–7PM
10. Language Lab: make a postcard and learn a word in another language, an art workshop with Shira Walinsky from Southeast by Southeast
11. Weatherizing for Winter: learn how to install materials to keep your house warm this winter with United Communities Southeast Philadelphia
12. Eligibility & Services with Kamal Adhikari from PA Migrant Education
    ——————————————————
    KIDS’ UNION 4–7 p.m.
    Join diverse activities at the Kids’ Union play area and soccer field
    • Obstacle courses, soccer goals, balls, hula hoops, drawings with sidewalk chalk by Friends of Mifflin Square
    • Video workshop with Messages in Motion by Laura Deutch
    • Face painting with Bethanna Community Umbrella Agency
    • Color Wheels by Fleisher Art Memorial
    • Soccer tournament with Snyder Avenue Congregational Church
    ——————————————————
    Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge is a project of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program. For more info, email playgrounds@muralarts.org or call 215-685-0752

    Workshops and Events in South Philly • Fall 2015

    Sep. 13: Free Intro Workshop
    Sep. 19: Mifflin Square Alliance Festival
    Oct. 10: The Cop in the Head Workshop

    Nov 14: Rainbow of Desire Workshop

    RSVP via "tophilly@gmail.com" or 267-282-1057. Details and descriptions below.

    This year Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed has teamed up with neighbors in South Philly as part of two new projects: Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge at 6th and Jackson Streets, and the Whole Shebang at 11th and Moore. Both spaces have been fertile grounds for gathering people and ideas to foster new collaborations for years to come. As summer ends we offer a free workshop at the Playgrounds Hub and take part in an event in Mifflin Square before moving indoors to the Whole Shebang for the fall.

                           
    Sunday Sept. 13 • 2PM-4PM
    Intro to Theatre of the Oppressed
    a free two-hour workshop
    at Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge
    632 Jackson Street (outdoors!)

    Theatre of the Oppressed ("T.O." for short) began in South America during the 1960s and has since spread to 70 countries where it's used by educators and activists to create community-driven social change. T.O. can take the form of theatrical games, human sculptures, improvisational dramas or even fully-staged plays that the audience has the power to affect. In this 2-hour workshop, we will play some of T.O.'s best games and explore how they relate to the world around us and changes we want to make in that world. Free and open to all, no experience needed.

    Please RSVP via "tophilly@gmail.com" or 267-282-1057. Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge is an outdoor space. In case of rain, this workshop will be postponed to a later date, TBD.

                                                                                
    Saturday Sep. 19 • 4PM-8PM
    Mifflin Square Alliance Festival
    a free eventfor all ages
    at Mifflin Square Park
    on 6th St. between and Wolf and Ritner

    T.O. Philly teams up with South Philly residents for a community-run celebration in Mifflin Square. Co-organized by the Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge committee, this outdoor festival is inspired by a growing alliance of the neighborhood’s diverse cultures.
    • PowerHouse Stage with music, dance and storytelling from neighborhood residents.
    • Useful Knowledge Workshops by individuals and organizations in South Philadelphia.
    • Kids Union features artistic and fun activities for young people.
    • South Philly Food Contest celebrates local cuisine in a juried contest.
    • Picnic Space where you can bring food to enjoy together.
    The Mifflin Square Alliance Festival and Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge are a collaboration of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program and Cohabitation Strategies.

    Rain date: September 20, 4–8 p.m. For information, email playgrounds@muralarts.org or call 215-685-0752.
                                                           

    Saturday Oct. 10: The Cop in the Head
    Saturday Nov. 14: The Rainbow of Desire
    Two separate day-long workshops • 10AM-5PM
    at the Whole Shebang • 1813 S. 11th Street
    Click here to pre-register

    In these two workshops led by Morgan Andrews, we will deconstruct our daily actions into their base components: images, movements, sounds, words and ideas. These building blocks form the structure of the Cop in the Head/Rainbow of Desire techniques aimed at challenging internalized oppression. These techniques physicalize our inhibitions and desires by putting them "on stage" where we can deal them in the flesh. In each session the group will share, embody and unpack real-life situations while asking important questions about the shared goals of personal growth and social change.

    TO PRE-REGISTER, send an email to "tophilly@gmail.com" or call 267-282-1057. Tuition is sliding scale, $25-$75 per session. Click here to pay online. Worktrade is available.


    Got a question? Email "tophilly@gmail.com" or leave a message at 267-282-1057.

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

    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 as well as other happenings in the neighborhood. 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:

    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.
    _______________________________________

    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