Introducing: The Listening Lounge

SERIES A on "WHITENESS" in 5 parts (posted below)
Wednesdays April 19 + 26, May 3, 10 + 24
8PM at Studio 34 • 4522 Baltimore Avenue • West Philly
A free event • • Snacks provided • Donations welcome

The Listening Lounge is a weekly radio hangout. Every Wednesday we listen to some podcast material on a particular topic, and then talk about it together. This pilot series focuses on the racial construction of "whiteness" from an anti-racist perspective. Each week's audio will carry historical and current events into a discussion on the blocks, in-roads, and action steps toward dismantling racism.

Anyone can come to any number of sessions, and Studio 34's lounge is open all evening leading up to the event. Email "" with any questions or feedback.

(and some extra things to hear on your own)

Week One • April 19

"The Architect of Hollywood
(99% Invisible #255) 

When Paul Williams was born in 1894, Los Angeles was a small downtown, surrounded by bean fields and orange groves, but it was changing and growing fast. Williams worked on all kinds of projects, including commercial and institutional ones, but he was particularly well known for his residential architecture. He designed a number of homes for Hollywood stars, including Frank Sinatra’s bachelor pad and a mansion for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The city gave Paul Williams a lot of opportunities he wouldn’t have had anywhere else in America at the time...although Williams still had to work harder than his white peers. 

"How Race Was Made" (Seeing White, Part 2)

For much of human history, people viewed themselves as members of tribes or nations but had no notion of “race.” Today, science deems race biologically meaningless. Who invented race as we know it, and why? *Episode features bonus commentary from Chenjerai Kumanyika. 

EXTRA: "Reporting on Whiteness"
(Seeing White, Part 1)

The How Sound podcast interviews John Biewen about his Seeing White series for Scene on Radio.

Week Two • April 26

"Mummy of Hornedjitef"
(A History of the World in 100 Objects, episode 1)

Hornedjitef was a priest who died around 2,250 years ago, and he designed a coffin that, he believed, would help him navigate his way to the afterlife. Little did he know that this afterlife would be as a museum exhibit in London.

"Made in America"
(Seeing White, Part 3)

Chattel slavery in the United States, with its distinctive—and strikingly cruel—laws and structures, took shape over many decades in colonial America. The innovations that built American slavery are inseparable from the construction of Whiteness as we know it today. *Episode features bonus commentary from Chenjerai Kumanyika. 

Week Three • May 3

"The Spelling Bee"
(from Snap Judgment)

What Davey Kim did in the eighth grade, when he went to the regional level spelling bee with his best friend, might be spelled R-E-V-E-N-G-E, and also S-O-L-I-D-A-R-I-T-Y. 
“All men are created equal.” Those words, from the Declaration of Independence, are central to the story that Americans tell about ourselves and our history. But what did those words mean to the man who actually wrote them?  *Episode features bonus commentary from Chenjerai Kumanyika. 
Week Four • May 10

"Holes In My Identity"
(from the play, Hands Up 

Nathan Yungerberg was one of seven emerging black playwrights commissioned by New Black Fest to write a collection of monologues that explore the well-being of African-Americans in a culture of institutional profiling. Six of these monologues were adapted for radio by Judith Kampfner for the BBC. * Whole piece features five more stories, archival news clips and on-street interviews. Links:

"That's Not Us, So We're Clean"
(Seeing White, Part 6)

When it comes to America’s racial sins, past and present, a lot of us see people in one region of the country as guiltier than the rest. Producer John Biewen speaks with some white Southern friends about that tendency. *Episode features bonus commentary from Chenjerai Kumanyika. 

EXTRA: "Little War on the Prairie"
(Seeing White, Part 5)

Many residents of Mankato, Minnesota grow up knowing next to nothing about the town’s most important historical event: the largest mass execution in U.S. history. In this documentary, one resident goes back to Minnesota to explore what happened, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it afterwards.

Week Five • May 24—Coming soon!

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 ""

Unpacking Race March 2017
Week 1: Learning to Love Discussing Race

In March 2017 T.O. Philly held its popular workshop series about race and undoing racism. Between sessions we posted videos, articles, radio pieces, and writing prompts for participants. These are archived here, along with a few terms and activities shared in each session:
Prior to our first session, watch Jay Smooth's short talk, "How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Discussing Race". Jay is the host of Underground Railroad, New York's longest running hip-hop show, and also has a video blogger about race. This video sets the tone for how we'll be approaching our own process in Unpacking Race:

Unpacking Race March 2017
Week 2: Courageous Conversation

In March 2017 T.O. Philly held its popular workshop series about race and undoing racism. Between sessions we posted videos, articles, radio pieces, and writing prompts for participants. These are archived here, along with a few terms and activities shared in each session:
In Week One of our Fall 2016 Unpacking Race workshop series, we got to know each other, defined race and ethnicity and shared some of our experiences through movement and discussion. The definitions we used:
Race: A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly skin color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation or history, ethnic classification, and/or the social, economic, and political needs of a society at a given period of time. Scientists agree that there is no biological or genetic basis for racial categories.

Ethnicity: A social construct that divides people into social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history, and ancestral geographical location. Members of an ethnic group are often presumed to be culturally or biologically similar, although this is not in fact necessarily the case. Examples of ethnic groups identified in the U.S. are: Cape Verdean, Haitian, African American; Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese; Cherokee, Mohawk, Navajo;
 Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican; Nepali, Indian, Pakistani; Polish, Irish, and French.

Racial and Ethnic Identity: An individual's awareness and experience of being a member of a racial and ethnic group; the racial and ethnic categories that an individual chooses to describe themselves based on such factors as genealogical or ancestral heritage, physical appearance, cultural affiliation, early socialization, and personal experience. Puerto Ricans, for example, may be racially European, African, indigenous, or various blends, yet they refer to themselves collectively as Boricuas. Despite color differences, Puerto Ricans share a culture which shapes food, language, music and customs.
These are adapted from Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, (Routledge, 2007).   

As we move the discussion of unpacking race into unpacking racism, here are a few things to watch, read, write, and reflect upon: 

1. WATCH this clip from comedian Aamer Rahman:

2. READ Audrey Smedley's short essay, "The History of the Idea of Race...and Why it Matters", detailing the history of race in the United States.

3. ALSO SEE this history of race in the U.S. as covered by the documentary, Race: The Power of an IllusionWatch the first part here. Seeing the first part may compel you to watch the rest, so here are links for Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4.

4. JOURNAL about race. When you notice something in your life that relates to race, write about it. While we can learn lots from reading, talking, performing, and engaging in workshops about race and racism, making time for self-reflection is also essential. Your journal could be a daily practice, or a few times a week, or maybe you've always got it with you, ready to jot down your thoughts about race as they occur. No matter how you do it or how often, keep a race journal. 

AND FINALLY, Here are the Four Agreements of Courageous Conversation that T.O. Philly uses when doing this work:
  1. Stay engaged:  Staying engaged means “remaining morally, emotionally, intellectually, and socially involved in the dialogue.”
  2. Experience discomfort:  This norm acknowledges that discomfort is inevitable, especially, in dialogue about race, and that participants make a commitment to bring issues into the open.  It is not talking about these issues that create divisiveness.  The divisiveness already exists in the society and in our schools.  It is through dialogue, even when uncomfortable, the healing and change begin.
  3. Speak your truth:  This means being open about thoughts and feelings and not just saying what you think others want to hear.
  4. Expect and accept non-closure:  This agreement asks participants to “hang out in uncertainty” and not rush to quick solutions, especially in relation to racial understanding, which requires ongoing dialogue. 
Adapted from Glenn E. Singleton & Curtis Linton, Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools. 2006. pp.58-65. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Unpacking Race March 2017
Week 3: Mapping Racism

In March 2017 T.O. Philly held its popular workshop series about race and undoing racism. Between sessions we posted videos, articles, radio pieces, and writing prompts for participants. These are archived here, along with a few terms and activities shared in each session:
After defining race and ethnicity in last week's Unpacking Race workshop, we talked about racism and shared the following definitions:
Institutional Racism: A system of advantage based on race and supported by institutional structures, policies and practices that create and sustain advantages for the dominant white group while systematically subordinating members of targeted racial groups. This relative advantage for Whites and subordination for people of color is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms, and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society.
Individual Racism: The beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate institutional racism. Individual racism can occur at both unconscious and conscious levels, and can be both active and passive. Examples include telling a racist joke, using a racial epithet, or believing in the inherent superiority of Whites.  
Active Racism: Actions that have as their stated or explicit goal the maintenance of the system of racism and the oppression of those in targeted racial groups. People who participate in active racism advocate the continued subjugation of members of targeted groups and protection of “the rights” of members of the advantaged group. These goals are often supported by a belief in the inferiority of people of color and the superiority of white people, culture, and values. 
Passive Racism: Conscious and unconscious beliefs, attitudes, and actions that support the system of racism, racial prejudice, and racial dominance and contribute to the maintenance of racism, without openly advocating violence, discrimination, or an ideology of white supremacy. 
These terms are from Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, (Routledge, 2007).

We posted these four definitions on each side of the room to create an intersectional map of racism, marked with an active-passive X-axis and an individual-institutional Y-axis. We then mapped examples of racism that we'd experienced in the media and our own lives, both currently and historically, by putting our bodies on the grid. Sometimes we walked or stood, other times we sat in chairs, and then used the chairs to add a Z-axis to show visible racism (standing high on the chair) to invisible racism (ducking underneath the chair) and everything in between. The question arose, "For whom is this passive and invisible? And for whom is this visible and active?" We then worked in small groups to create theatrical sculptures and human machines that illustrated these systems of racism.


Longtime activist Judy Vaughn has said, "You don’t think your way into a different way of acting; you act your way into a different way of thinking." This is the spirit of Theatre of the Oppressed, and the spirit of this week's media materials:

1. HEAR Ericka Hart's speech from the Philadelphia Women's March. GO Magazine describes Hart as, "a Black femme, breast cancer survivor and sex educator who spoke about who this march was for and how we can all learn to create more intersectionality in our feminist movements." Be sure to read the first paragraph of the transcript, as it didn't make it onto the audio here.

2. LOOK AT "The Problem with 'Privilege'" by activist scholar Andrea Smith. In this essay, Smith explores "the structuring logics of the politics of privilege. In particular, the logics of privilege rest on an individualized self that relies on the raw material of other beings to constitute itself." Read through the first section, and then journal about it before moving on.

3. READ Michelle Chen's article about race, disability, and public education, published by Al Jazeera. Chen's short editorial intersects these strata with those of age, class, family status, language, access to healthcare, eligibility for employment, and a cycle of disciplinary action that escalates from school suspensions to arrests and prison sentences.

4. GIVE A LISTEN to this first part of the "Who Is This Restaurant For?" radio series, in which journalists Kat Chow and Dan Pashman discuss race, food, and neighborhood socioeconomics with proprietors and customers at three Washington DC restaurants:

5. DRAW AN INTERSECTIONAL MAP in your race journal. When you notice something in your life that relates to race, plot it on the map, and then write about it. You can plot things as they occur and then write a little about each, or choose a few incidents to expand upon more extensively. What does placing a situation on this map reveal? What's left out? What would you add or change to the structure of this map? No matter how you do it or how often, add mapping to your race journal.

Unpacking Race March 2017
Week 4: Intersectional Solidarity

In March 2017 T.O. Philly held its popular workshop series about race and undoing racism. Between sessions we posted videos, articles, radio pieces, and writing prompts for participants. These are archived here, along with a few terms and activities shared in each session:
After unpacking various systems of racism in last week's Unpacking Race workshop, we talked more about intersectionality and solidarity via these definitions: 
Intersectionality: “Various ways in which race and gender and other identity markers—such as language, age, class, national origin, sexual preference, ability—interact to shape people’s individual and collective experiences... The intersection of racism and sexism—and other structural oppressions—factor into people’s lives in a way that cannot be captured wholly by looking at the race or gender dimensions of those experiences separately.” — Kimberle Crenshaw 
Solidarity: “Meaningful resistance to dominator culture that demands in all of us a willingness to accurately identify the various systems that work together to promote injustice, exploitation and oppression... There can be no love where there is domination. And any time we do the work of ending domination, we are doing the work of love.” — bell hooks

Some exercises we used to explore intersectionality and solidarity included Person to Person, Gravity Statements, and The Three Wishes in which Images of Oppression can be modified toward becoming Images of Liberation. These techniques lead us into this week's journaling assignment.


1. WATCH this short animation about microaggressions:

2. LOOK AT this video "Stop Being An Ally" recently published by This Matters. What are ways that this video challenges you? What are ways that you rise to these challenges?

3. READ the articles about some spaces and communities to which people can bring anti-racist dialogue and organizing:

4. JOURNAL about race. Additionally, try following one or more of these prompts:
  • REFLECT on the Image Theatre we made. Which scenes or characters were familiar to you? How realistic or fantastic (fantastic meaning "in the realm of fantasy") were the edits that people tried? How could these dynamizations be applied to the real intersectionalities of race in the wider world?
  • INTERSECT race and another stratum. Write about each as it relates to you. How are these similar? How are these different?
  • GRAVITATE a statement or idea by writing it in the middle of the page, and then draw a circle around it. Where are you in relation to it? Where have you been in the past? Where would you like to be? Where do you see others? Plot these as points nearer or further from the initial idea and write about each. Do your words fall toward the idea? Away from it? Do they circle around it? Do they form new ideas that have their own gravity?

Unpacking Race March 2017
Week 5: Image of Transition

In March 2017 T.O. Philly held its popular workshop series about race and undoing racism. Between sessions we posted videos, articles, radio pieces, and writing prompts for participants. These are archived here, along with a few terms and activities shared in each session:
In our fourth and final session of this season's Unpacking Race series, participants honed in on a dozen strategies for interrupting racism, defined what these strategies were, and then created a room-sized map pinpointing each strategy in relation to the others. We then put forth encounters with racism from our own experiences and moved ourselves in relation to these strategies.

Our final Image Theatre technique worked with individual stories. Each author sculpted their group into an "Image of the Real" and then tried moving toward an "Image of the Ideal" three times. The author of each image was free to take steps in any direction, but the other characters had to move from the impulse of that particular character, accounting for any chain reactions caused by the image's author. This is Augusto Boal's "Image of Transition" technique.


Thought our series is over, our work unpacking race and undoing racism is not. Here are some ongoing assignments for race-unpackers to keep up with:

1. KEEP A RACE JOURNAL: When you notice something in your life that relates to race, write about it. While we can learn lots from reading, talking, performing, and engaging in workshops about race and racism, making time for self-reflection is also essential. Your journal can be a daily practice, or something you do a few times a week, or maybe you've always got it with you, ready to jot down your thoughts about race as they occur. No matter how you do it or how often, keep a race journal. 

2. MAINTAIN A MAPPING PRACTICE: By spatializing narratives and ideas, we can draw connections (literally!) between things we might not have noticed were connected. In addition to past weeks' mapping techniques, try the one from the workshop notes above by placing anti-racist strategies on a map. When a racist incident happens, figure out where on the map it can go, and then try applying any strategies that may be nearby.

3. SEEK OUT MEDIA MATERIALS ABOUT RACE: Share your links in the comment section below!

Two Free Workshops
March 18 and 24, 2017

BORDERLANDS: Boundaries & Migrations
Led by Paloma Irizarry and Hariprasad Kowtha
Saturday March 18 • 11:15 AM–1:00 PM
at the Screening Scholarship Media Festival
in the Annenberg School for Communication
3620 Walnut Street on UPenn's campus
Click here to register—it's free
See full festival schedule here

Based on Gloria Anzaldzúa's seminal work, Borderland/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, T.O. Philly explores the borderlands between nation-states, languages, neighborhoods, work and home. Using the tools of Image Theatre—movement and stillness, acting and witnessing, observing and storytelling—participants dive into a study on personal boundaries and the intersections that lie in between. 

RIFTS: What Divides Us & What Unites Us
Led by Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews
Friday March 24 • 9AM–Noon
at the Rotunda • 4014 Walnut Street
Email "" to register
Free workshop • Donations welcome

RIFTS is a workshop about social and political differences that cause schisms between people and groups. Whether it's ongoing dynamics within a relationship, heated talk with family around the dinner table, clashing opinions at work or school, or polarized viewpoints that divide a nation, the roots of these rifts have much in common. In this workshop we'll physicalize our experiences by using the language of theatre to dig up these roots in order to build the world we want.

To sign up for Borderlands, fill out this form. It will register you for the two-day festival of which the workshop is a part.

To sign up for Rifts, email "" or call 267-282-1057. Same email and phone number if you have questions.

Unpacking Race • March 2017

A 4-Part Workshop Series 
with Hariprasad Kowtha and
Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews
Tuesdays in March • 6:30-9:00 PM 
The Rotunda • 4014 Walnut St.

On Tuesday nights this March we bring back our popular series on race and racism.  Over the course of four weeks we'll explore this topic through a variety of exercises, discussions, and techniques from the Theatre of the Oppressed, supplemented by things to read and do between sessions. Our aim is to unlearn the systemic racism we’ve been taught throughout our 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. 

The March 2017 Unpacking Race Series is open to anyone who can attend all four sessions. Tuition is sliding scale: $45-$125, payable at the first session. To sign up, email "" or leave a message at 267-282-1057. If you are interested in worktrade or childcare, please confirm with us by February 24.

White Fragility: A 2-Part Performance Workshop

February 20+21, 2017
The Rotunda • 4014 Walnut St.
with Hariprasad Kowtha,
Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews
and Natasha Cohen-Carroll
*Follow-up showing on April 3
at FringeArts • 140 N. Columbus
White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation.” 

     —Robin DiAngelo

For two evenings in February 2017 two dozen people joined Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed's first public workshop on White Fragility. In part one, popular education and theatre games built group solidarity before chipping away at the iceberg of whiteness—that which we see manifests as white fragility, white beneath the surface lie dense systems of white supremacy. We shared Robin DiAngelo's definition (above) before unpacking ten manifestations of white fragility through discussion and Image Theatre:

  1. White Objectivity: Belief suggesting that a white person’s viewpoint is objective; that it does not come from a racialized frame of reference
  2. White Racial Comfort/White Racial Expectations: Expectation that People of Color protect white racial perspectives/white racial feelings
  3. White Racial Codes: Belief that People of Color may not talk directly about their racial perspective; they may only talk about it vis-a-vis whiteness
  4. White Solidarity: Belief and Experience that fellow whites will agree to one’s racial perspective and racialized interpretations.
  5. White Appropriation and Colonialism: Belief that People of Color will tell whites their stories or answer questions about their racial experiences when asked. 
  6. White Liberalism: Inability for whites to receive feedback that their well-intentioned behavior had a racist impact.
  7. Individualism: Belief that white people do not belong to a racial group
  8. Meritocracy: Belief that hard work alone is responsible for one’s success or one’s wealth and that racial inequality can be overcome through hard work. 
  9. White Authority: Belief that whites alone should occupy positions of leadership
  10. White Centrality: Belief that stories are automatically about white characters when characters’ skin color is not mentioned and People of Color play stereotypical roles within these stories, but do not drive the action

In part two we flipped over the coin of white fragility to unpack forms of internalized oppression that sometimes uphold white supremacy. We used this working definition:
  • Internalized Racism: The conscious or unconscious assimilation of racist attitudes or beliefs by people in the subordinate or dominant group towards members of their own ethnic group, including themselves. This can include the belief in ethnic stereotypes relating to their own group.
The group then created the beginnings of little vignettes that made the invisible visible (and sometimes even comical) as tools for interrupting and dismantling racism. T.O. Philly will be condensing these into a short overview of things generated from this workshop as part of Scratch Night on April 3 at FringeArts, 140 Columbus Boulevard. This event is free. See FringeArts' website for more info.

White Fragility is an ideal companion to our Unpacking Race series, both for people who will be joining T.O. Philly for Unpacking Race in March, as well as those who have Unpacked Race with us in the past. Part of our White Fragility workshop was filmed to document the ongoing work of Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed. 

Borderlands: Boundaries & Intersections

Photos: Natasha Cohen-Carroll
A 2-Day Theatre of the Oppressed Workshop
with Paloma Irizarry & Hariprasad Kowtha

WHEN: February 4 & 5 • 10AM-4PM each day
TUITION: $40-$120, sliding scale
LUNCH? Included!
or call 267-282-1057
Click here to pay online.

Did you have a wall or a fence around your home when you were growing up? If so, who built it? Who or what was the fence meant to protect? Who did the fence keep out? How easy was it to get onto the other side of the fence? What obstacles did you face when trying to pass through?

Based on Gloria Anzaldzúa's seminal work, Borderland/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed is exploring the borderlands between nation-states, the borderlands between languages, the borderlands between neighborhoods and the borderlands between work and home. Using the tools of Image Theatre: movement and stillness, acting and witnessing, observing and storytelling, participants will dive deeply into a study on personal boundaries and the intersections that lie in between.

Join T.O. Philly in a physical and interactive practice as we play games, practice exercises and create scenes designed to confront where each of us end—and where we begin.

Borderlands, Boundaries & Intersections runs a total of two weekend days from 10AM to 4PM, including an hour break for lunch. A small vegan and gluten free meal will be provided during the break. Dress comfortably for movement and warmth. . Bring a water bottle to stay hydrated. To pre-register, email "" or call 267-282-1057. Click her to pay online. All experiences welcome.

The Whole Shebang is located at 11th and Moore Streets. Enter through the parking lot and look for the door on the right.

Extras: Click here for articles, videos, and podcast pieces that we've been posting on the event's Facebook page, all related the idea of Borderlands.

About the Facilitators:

Paloma N. Irizarry started her Theater of the Oppressed journey at Trinity College while pursuing her B.A. in Theater/Dance. In 2014 she moved to Philadelphia and attended the Blind Games workshops and continued to work with T.O. Philly for its summer project on Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge. At the same time Paloma has appeared in various performances, most recently "Capacity for Veracity", a devised piece created in collaboration with Mondegreen Collective for the Philly Fringe, and Alias Ellis McKenzie, a bilingual telenovela/biographic piece under the direction of Thaddeus Phillips.

Hariprasad Kowtha has dedicated his life to performance as a vector of identity and resistance. He sang bhajans with the South Asian community in Phoenix, Arizona, practiced Carnatic vocals and performed Bharathanatyam. He began practicing large and small group facilitation skills in early high school through the Unitown/Anytown camp program. He currently teaches yoga, meditation and movement at the Ahimsa House and at the Global Leadership Academy Charter School. He joined T.O. Philly for Image Theatre in 2014 and continued facilitating the Unpacking Race series in 2016.