Safe in This Place, a theater-based workshop series exploring what it means to be safe along the Avenue, is seeking participants from the neighborhood to take part in ten Thursday night sessions starting one week from today on January 12 (complete information is copied below from the Crow Hill Community Association). ILFA caught up with the organizers - three students in CUNY's innovative Applied Theater program who live nearby - earlier today to hear more about how the project was developed and what the workshops will be like.
"Applied theater," as the organizers of Safe in This Place practice it, is built on the traditions of community-based theater and political theater in the United States and drama-in-education in the UK, and has an ongoing relationship with Theater of the Oppressed as developed in Brazil by Augusto Boal. As they put it, "we believe in engagement and reciprocal learning rather than coming into a neighborhood and telling people what the answer is to their problems." Examples of their work and the work of their colleagues include the Bar None Theater Project, which created original theater in a women's prison, and the St. Vincent's Theater Project, which addressed the closing of St. Vincent's in the Village. To develop a project like Safe in This Place, they conduct significant background research into the history and current state of the neighborhood (in this case, the space in which they live), including meeting with community groups, surveying local residents, and generally engaging with what's written and spoken about the area.
As for the project itself, the goals are to "ask questions and open up dialogue" by "trying to crack open assumptions and the narratives that we're told about safety and figure out what it means for who is in the room and for this neighborhood." There won't be a "typical" workshop or a set format, but participants can expect a lot of games, small group work, and exercises ranging from the silly to the serious, and from familiar formats like story circles and improvisational exercises to more specific and directed work on the issues at hand. (While they warn that such workshops don't translate well to video, there are some examples online from the Creative Arts Team, including this one from Project Change).
If this all sounds interesting and illuminating, considering committing to their Thursday night workshops. It's a great way to continue talking and thinking about these issues in Crown Heights.