Acting For Change

Kyle Kaplan ’15
Arts Editor

From Monday, Nov. 18, to  Wednesday, Nov. 20, Theatre and Anthropology major Jessica Hodder 14, who has traveled to 25 countries,  will host three workshops that focus on the relationship between theatre and international politics. In an interview, Hodder stressed that she wants participants to walk away from these workshops with the ability to understand theatre as a way to access and critique “a number of social, economic and cultural issues in a wide variety of contexts.” Hodder was inspired to learn more about the educational benefits of theatre because of her childhood in Kenya, where she and her family “witnessed first-hand the nation’s political violence in 2007.” As a result of this, Hodder explains, “I determined that I would dedicate my life to using both education and the performing arts as means of promoting positive societal change.  The turbulence of those difficult days, in part due to the absence of a safe forum in which Kenyans could voice political opinions, transformed my understanding of theatre.”

While these workshops will be “highly participatory,” Hodder emphasizes that they do not lead up to a main performance. Rather, each workshop is based on a “laboratory format,” where those who attend will engage in activities that focus on societal change. When asked what activities students can look forward to, she said that in Tuesday’s “Theatre and Economics: Physicalizing Economic Shifts” workshop, “each person will be actively participating within a ‘microeconomy’ that will form, making economic decisions and empathizing with a character to which they are assigned.” She hopes that in the process of being both actors and audience members, participants can learn through each other’s characters why people in power make the decisions they do, and perhaps apply what they discover to their perception of the world around them. Hodder believes that an activity such as recreating a microeconomy has the potential to  “influence the way in which an economy is shaped in the future and can provide development agencies with useful data that will ultimately benefit their projects.”

Those who enjoyed Prof. Patrick Coby’s course “Reacting to the Past” should expect a similar value for how role play can offer a more exciting approach to teaching historical narratives. “It sounds really interesting,” said student Ashlynn August ’15. “I enjoy lectures, but the idea of recreating what has happened in order to get why it happened will probably get more people interested in current politics.”

Based on what Hodder observes in her workshops, she would like to be able to make a case for how “creative techniques can be inexpensively and sustainably integrated into existing education programs, ultimately building peaceful communities, advancing educational goals and achieving social reform.” Hodder plans to return to Kenya after obtaining her masters degree in order to help “develop the country’s formal and non-formal educational resources, particularly along the Sudanese and Somali borders.” She explained that “with the recent discovery of a massive aquifer in Turkana, which is sure to transform the economics of the country, as well as the continuing turmoil within the horn of Africa, Kenyans now have both the resources and the motivation to rework their educational strategies as a means of strengthening the nation.”

The first workshop, “Theatre and Archaeology: Utilizing the Remains of the Past” will be held on Monday, Nov. 18, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Carroll Room. The second workshop, “Theatre and Economics: Physicalizing Economic Shifts” will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 19, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Carroll Room. The last workshop, “Theatre and Government: Performing Politics in the UN” will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 20, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Green Room in Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts. All three workshops are open to the public, as well as students. Hope to see you there!


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