Just Act is a theatre-based catalyst for healing, change and activism to build a just world.
We ignite critical reflection and activate meaningful dialogue and action planning through participatory theatre with collaborating partners to transform divisive social, systemic and personal challenges into equitable, collective solutions.
Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) is the starting point for working at the intersection of theatre, social justice, anti-oppression facilitation and civic engagement to create community-driven responsive work strengthening individual and collective power.
Applying principles of Theatre of the Oppressed, we:
ACTIVATE community engagement, communication, reflection and repair;
COLLABORATE across sectors with individuals, community groups, organizations and schools on building the capacity of individuals and communities who are systematically discriminated against, and those in solidarity with them.
TRANSFORM new insights about seemingly intractable dilemmas into positive solutions for social justice.
“Theater is a form is knowledge; it should and can also be a means of transforming society. Theater can help us build our future, rather than just waiting for it. “
—Augusto Boal (March 16, 1931-May 2, 2009)
Just Act is an evolving ensemble of artist-facilitators who design and lead trainings, workshops, theatre programs and experiential community events and performances. They bring their life experiences, humor, and hearts full of passion for justice to every engagement. We are located in Philadelphia, PA and lead programs throughout the tri-state area. AND, we travel to collaborate with partners across the country.
“Just Act activates people across sectors on how can we move to make things better for the whole. It transitions activism and advocacy into art.”
Just Act is a distinctive hybrid of artistic and community engagement committed to social justice for which Theatre of the Oppressed is our starting point. Some examples of the range of our Theatre of the Oppressed-based social practice:
- Partnering with a coalition of parent organizers and activists to create & perform a Forum Theatre piece that explores the challenges to parent engagement in their local public schools and creating new strategies for strengthening participation.
- Collaborating with a team of educators to develop a Forum Theatre piece for the PhillyBlackLivesMatter Week of Action about systemic racism and the barriers to implementing a Black & Ethnic Studies curriculum in k-12 public schools.
- Implementing a resident-driven engagement approach to collecting data for commercial corridor revitalization.
- Facilitating team-building & anti-bias training for a teaching staff of a school—and then a separate workshop for the non-teaching staff–focusing on undoing racism through an intersectional lens.
- Arts-driven asset and network mapping, community visioning, organizing and cohesion building in addressing critical neighborhood issues with Community Development Corporations.
By activating awareness through embodied exploration of oppression and liberation, and linking this investigation to guided creative critical reflection and meaningful dialogue, individuals and groups are able to develop new pathways for change with impact. Through our Theatre of the Oppressed-based programs, trainings and workshops, participants gain skills and practice promoting healing and taking empowered, just action around complex, often divisive, systemic issues where they work and live.
What We Do:
Collaborative community initiatives and events, customized workshops, scaffolded trainings and special happenings, Just Act offers refreshing, participatory opportunities to pause, creatively recharge, and courageously attend to fractured relations particularly around race, culture, and socio-economic disparities, tap hidden assets, and actualize aspirations for social justice. Providing a kit of creative techniques and practical strategies, Just Act helps change seekers –organizations, educators, community leaders, activists and engaged individuals– reweave connections and nurture authentic understanding by renewing and deepening their capacity to stand up, embrace conflict, and reimagine plans for action to build a just world.
We envision empowerment as a process, not just an outcome, and strive to re-humanize humanity by working side by side with participants to refresh the capacity for social change and collaborate creatively to facilitate those changes on a local level
In all, Just Act creates supportive space to more deeply access, embrace and re-humanize our humanity so as to more fully engage with making the just world we all envision.
What We Provide:
Conflict is a part of life. We believe everyone benefits from having creative tools to better source from your natural intellect, giving you the strength, hope and ability to shed deeply-rooted patterns, flex new muscles, envision a just world, then go out and build it. With new awareness and agency, you can directly apply the practical tools gained in our workshops to use in your own communities to creatively frame, explore and transform injustice.
- Theatre of the Oppressed & Forum Theatre technique Training & Residencies for personal and collective social action
- JEDI Training: Applied Theatre of the Oppressed Workshops and programs rooted in justice, equity, diversity and inclusion
- Public Forum Theatre Events
- “Make your Own” Forum Theatre Ensemble
- Customized Theatre and Arts-based community engagement programs
With whom we work:
Our collaborating community partners, workshop participants and audiences of our Forum Theatre “People’s Jam on Justice” events are invested in making meaningful social and civic change. Participants we serve come from across social identities (race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, gender, sexual orientation, first language, national origin, religious or political affiliation) include:
- Community residents, advocates, activists & organizers
- Social change trainers/facilitators
- Educators and diversity administrators and leaders
- Students: high school, college, grad school
- Artists across disciplines
- Social workers and healers of all kinds
- Civic & cultural leaders
- Urban planners
- Creative Place- Keepers, Civic & Cultural leaders
- Community Development Corporations, Neighborhood Advisory Committees, Urban Planners
Here are some organizations with whom Just Act has worked.
Steeped in socially-engaged theatre practices, Executive & Artistic Director Lisa Jo Epstein devoted three years to train with Nobel Prize nominated Theatre of the Oppressed creator, Augusto Boal, while serving as the Assistant to Director Ariane Mnouchkine, of the world renowned Théâtre du Soleil in Paris, France in the early 1990s. Then, after 7 years at Tulane University as Assistant Professor of Theatre in the Department of Theatre & Dance and garnering awards for teaching and directing, she returned to Philadelphia where she and husband David Brown founded Gas & Electric Arts in 2005 to stage major theatre productions by living women playwrights. Awards, recognition, and notable grants arrived for Gas & Electric Arts, for new play commissions and for the Theatre of the Oppressed-based workshops that had become the educational arm of the company. What we witnessed was that our unique approach to teaching Forum Theatre as well as in our customized, applied TO workshops and place-based community engagement projects, allowed participants an opportunity to identify and de-mechanize actions, and to open up possibilities to work more productively on challenges with others and with themselves. The desire for this work was undeniable and with that, Lisa Jo, with oodles of street cred and a passion for justice, stepped away from her first love, directing, to create Just Act in 2015.
Since our founding, we have focused our work on developing and refreshing the capacity of individuals and organizations to stand up for justice with renewed compassion, with greater knowledge and energy to collaborate creatively, and with emboldened courage to face struggles and opportunities in our lives and communities.
I gained in depth knowledge of what Forum Theater is and how it can and should be used. I was delighted to see such succinct and broad conversation about Systematic Oppressions. This is such an important ethical conversation as well as fundamental for TRUE success in the room. I have never seen this specific facilitation style- the observation based work really supported an ability to engage in challenging conversations. […] I was able to experience different tools for facilitating conversation, promoting group cohesion, and tools to get deeper into experience level observations and individual (personal) responses… and build a deeper relationship with myself in relation to systematic oppressions. This has been a transformative experience
I loved being part of group facilitated by Lisa Jo. I felt completely safe and confident in her leadership the entire time. I could tell that we were all in good hands… the hands of a professional who knows her work so well that she is able to respond to the immediate needs of the group at any given moment with just the perfect story, comment or exercise. She is a brilliant and positive facilitator.