– 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 (TO) workshops were the educational arm of the theatre company. 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. 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.”
What We Do:
Through collaborative community initiatives and events, customized workshops, scaffolded trainings and Forum Theatre performances, Just Act offers refreshing, participatory opportunities to pause, creatively recharge, and courageously attend to fractured relations particularly around race, culture, and socio-economic disparities.
Want to tap hidden assets? Actualize aspirations for social justice? Just Act provides a kit of creative techniques and practical strategies to support 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 action plans to build a just world.
Just Act creates supportive, brave spaces to more deeply access, embrace and re-humanize our humanity so as to more fully engage with making the just world we envision.
Our work is distinguished by being Customized, Applied, Intentional, Community-responsive, Long-Term, Reflective, Committed to Excellence.
- 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.
What We Believe:
We consider social justice as process, not just an outcome.
We are invested in tough but 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 to use in your own communities to creatively frame, explore and transform injustice and inequality.
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
- Urban planners
- Creative Place- Keepers
- Community Development Corporations, Neighborhood Advisory Committees, Urban Planners
Here are some organizations with whom Just Act has worked.
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.