Read the word, read the world. Write the word, write the world. Paulo Freire
[Augusto Boal] began to realize the depth of pain these oppressions produced. His notion of oppression thus expanded to include societal values moral dictates pronounced by parents, peers, teachers, politicians, mediam etc. that obstruct our will and foster passivity. Mady Schultzman, from Playing Boal
The works of Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal have been very influential in shaping my ideas about teaching, learning and performing. Over the years, I have been thinking deeply about the relationships among literacy, inquiry and drama as a participant in the Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival. I have helped my students at Masterman, a magnet school for the academically talented, and at Simon Gratz, a comprehensive neighborhood high school, express their views of the world through writing and performing original plays. Through these experiences, I have come to appreciate drama as a powerful tool for teachers and students in creating powerful and transformative learning experiences. For my Carnegie project, I developed and studied a 12th grade elective for students entitled Drama and Inquiry. The purpose of the course as I stated to the students in the syllabus was to "explore questions about multiple perspectives, shifting identities and our co-existence in a diverse, complex and ever-changing world." It was my hope that we could "become a true intellectual community filled with members who raise heartfelt and complex questions and explore answers together in an engaged ethical dialogue."
At the end of the year, the students of this class produced a theater performance entitled Split Open. Split Open contained original scenes, written, acted and directed by the students, performed for a small audience in an intimate space we created on the stage of the auditorium. We thought of this production as taking place on a "second stage." Many theater companies have two stages or performance places. The main stage is where they perform plays that they hope will draw a wide audience, such as musicals, dramas or comedies by well-known playwrights starring popular performers. The second stage is smaller, plays to a much more limited audience. It is often an experimental space where new plays, rarely seen works or fresh adaptations can be developed. It can also serve as an incubator for main stage projects. In this project, I am looking at this elective class as another type of "second stage" in which alternative discourses and values developed in relation to the main stage ones, embodied in the courses, assessments, structures and rituals of the school.