Staff from the Past
“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.”
With whom we work:
Our collaborating community partners, workshop participants and audiences 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, graduate school
- Artists across disciplines
- Social workers and healers of all kinds
- Civic & cultural leaders, activists and organizers
- Urban planners
- Creative Place-Keepers
- Community Development Corporations, Neighborhood Advisory Committees, Urban Planners
What We Believe:
We consider social justice as a process, not just an outcome.
We are invested in tough, courageous, healing conversations through an intersectional lens that are necessary for racial justice and equitable revitalization.
Conflict is a part of life and should be embraced as a source of growth and possibility.
We believe there’s an artist in everyone.
Everyone benefits from having creative tools to better source from their natural intellect, giving strength, hope and ability to shed deeply-rooted patterns, flex new muscles to tackle injustice, imagine a just world, then go out and build it.
We believe a title or a degree do not make a leader; we work with people who find themselves leading, with or without recognition.
With new awareness and agency, you can directly apply the practical tools gained in our workshops and events to use in your own communities to creatively frame, explore and transform injustice and inequality.
Arts & community-Based, Community-led engagement, communication, reflection and repair.
Just Act powers up people, neighborhoods and communities to make the change they want to see.
ACTIVATE your mind, body and spirit, and ENGAGE your community through Just Act’s socially engaged practices.
Our work is driven and powered by partnerships with community, civic, grassroots and educational groups and organizations serving primarily communities of color who seek critical and creative ways to foster individual, inter-personal and institutional change.
From Theatre of the Oppressed to Art-Powered Places–our model for Community-based and community-led Placemaking– Just Act offers exciting entry point for sharing and interrogating real life experiences to generate new strategies for making the change you desire.
ACTIVATE your passion for J.E.D.I. –justice, equity, diversity and inclusion– by gaining tools to go out into the world with a deeper understanding of our combined human experiences.
WITNESS, debate, relate, reflect and re-see difficult realities within and around you, then create transformation from the inside out.
Providing a kit of creative techniques and practical engagement strategies, Just Act supports change seekers –organizations, educators, community leaders, activists & organizers, engaged individuals—to unravel dynamics of oppression, reweave connections, nurture new understanding of how to embrace conflict as a place of possibility, and reimagine action plans to build a just world.
What is Theatre of the Oppressed (TO)
Theatre of the Oppressed is a participatory theatre practice created by world-renowned Augusto Boal that is applied to work committed to social action and transformation. T.O. actively helps recover multiple intelligences around hurtful conflicts, reminding us of the internal capacities we can mobilize to counter powerlessness, recover hope and become nimble to redress structural oppressions. This participatory, improvisational form of theatre flexes the muscles of our imagination and leads us to see conflict as a place of possibility, not something to avoid or fear. The intent of workshops, rehearsals and Forum Theatre events allow us to see the constructed nature of reality, identify our patterns of behavior, and how we unconsciously may be replicating oppression in our everyday interaction, and combat powerlessness by trying out new tactics that participants, themselves, generate and co-create.
What is the Art-Powered Places Model
Art Powered Places is the participatory arts and community-based model created by Just Act’s Executive & Artistic Director Dr Lisa Jo Epstein to facilitate communication, reflection, and repair on a neighborhood level, creating quality opportunities for residents most affected by development–in conjunction with CDC staff–to create their own culturally and community responsive visions and strategies for change.
At the center of this approach is creativity: structuring conditions for meaningful engagement opportunities that prompt shifts in thinking and attitudes towards community development, shaping spaces where residents flex the muscles of their imagination to power up community ownership of place-keeping initiatives. Along the way, residents connect and communicate in new ways, while growing knowledge, awareness and strengthening a sense of belonging. Together residents collectively envision future action that will support their community to thrive. Participants come to understand that they can and should have a role in community development, in civic transformation, because it is about them.
Programs are applicable to all levels of justice work committed to social action and transformation for justice—educational, political, economic, creative, cultural, community development and beyond.
As a multi-dimensional resource across sectors, Just Act is a distinctive, innovative hybrid of artistic and community engagement, committed to growing the “power of we.”
Theatre of the Oppressed is our starting point for working at the intersection of theatre, social justice, anti-oppression facilitation and civic engagement to create community-driven work strengthening individual and collective power, and transforming divisive social, systemic and personal challenges into equitable solutions.
It is with gratitude that Just Act carries on the legacy of Augusto Boal. We graciously tip our hats to Boal for lighting the way to understand that theatre happens everywhere, with anyone willing to witness the magic within everyone.
From Our Past to Our Present:
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. We are an evolution of the theatre company Gas and Electric Arts, and an outgrowth of the ground-breaking Theatre of the Oppressed created by Augusto Boal with whom our Executive Director/Artistic Director Lisa Jo Epstein trained for three years in Paris France in the early 1990s, while also serving as the Assistant to Director Ariane Mnouchkine, of the world renowned Théâtre du Soleil. Theatre of the Oppressed (T.O). workshops were the educational arm of Gas & Electric Arts through which we worked with teens in numerous public schools as well as created teen TO summer intensives–Teens for Change, and Power Girls (for female-identified teens). What we witnessed was that our unique approach to teaching Forum Theatre as well as in our customized, TO workshops and community-based 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 as was our commitment to justice, and thus Just Act emerged 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.
By activating awareness and understanding of oppression and liberation through embodied exploration, creative critical reflection, and nurturing meaningful dialogue, individuals and groups are able to develop new pathways for change with impact.
“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 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. We also travel to collaborate with partners across the country and internationally on Zoom.
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.
Here are some organizations with whom Just Act has worked.
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