Our Story.

 

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.

 In all that we undertake, Just Act is committed to supporting participants to think critically about inequality and injustice, and to think creatively about– and practice– alternative ways of making change.

“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.

“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.”

–Kendra Brooks

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.

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
  • Applied Theatre of the Oppressed Workshops and programs rooted in justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI)
  • Forum Theatre community events
  • Theatre and Arts-based community engagement customized programs

 

With whom do we work:

Our collaborating partners and individuals who have taken our workshops and/or participated in our People’s Jam on Justice Forum Theatre are invested in learning to act justly and make 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) included:

  • Community residents, advocates and activists
  • Social change trainers/facilitators
  • Educators and diversity administrators and leaders
  • Students: high school, college, grad school 
  • Artists
  • Civic & cultural leaders
  • Urban planners
  • Social workers and healers of all kinds

Our History:

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.

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS & FORUM THEATRE EVENTS

Just Act's Annual Forum Theatre Intensive

June 26- 30, 2019

Click Here for Workshop Details

Click Here to Register

DATES: June 26- 30, 2019
TIME: 9am-5pm
WHERE: Just Act Studio, 6139 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia PA
COST: $485  (limited financial aid based on need available. Email us to learn more)

REGISTRATION OPTIONS: 
$50 registration fee (non-refundable after May 10)
$485 Full amount

REGISTRATION DEADLINE:  May 10, 2019 

Just Act's Forum Theatre Training is geared towards individuals seeking facilitation skills and training in Forum Theatre & core Theatre of The Oppressed techniques to improve their ability to effectively engage justice, equity, diversity & inclusion issues, and using interactive theatre as a tool for social change, interpersonal and community repair, from activist and organizers to educators, social workers and facilitators of all kinds. 

Just Act T.O. Institute ADVANCED JOKER TRAINING 1
ADVANCED JOKER TRAINING 1:
Sequencing & Facilitating TO games-ercises within an anti-oppression framework
DATES: July 19-21, 9am-5pm             
WHERE: Just Act Studio, 6139 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia PA
COST: $285  (limited financial aid based on need available. Email us to learn more)
REGISTRATION OPTIONS for Advanced Joker Training 1: 
$50 registration fee (non-refundable after May 26)
$285 Full amount
REGISTRATION DEADLINE:  April 26, 2019 

 

Just Act T.O. Institute ADVANCED JOKER TRAINING 2

ADVANCED JOKER TRAINING 2:
In-depth Forum Theatre Joker Training, from guiding a devising process for participants' personal growth & development of Forum Theatre pieces, to facilitation practice & coaching

DATES: August 2-4, 9am-5pm
WHERE: Just Act Studio, 6139 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia PA
COST: $285  (limited financial aid based on need available. Email us to learn more)

REGISTRATION OPTIONS for Advance Joker Training 2: 
$50 registration fee (non-refundable after June 26)
$285 Full amount for either Joker Training 1 or 2
REGISTRATION DEADLINE:  April 26, 2019

$520 SPECIAL DISCOUNT if you want to take both Joker Trainings

To register, Click below!

Just Act Go Vote: Forum Theatre

An innovative Voter Education & Community Engagement Program

JUST ACT, GO VOTE, A Forum Theatre Voter Education Campaign

Just Act is a non-profit hybrid of artistic & community engagement committed to social justice. Our mission as a theatre-based catalyst for healing, change & activism is dedicated to utilizing Theatre of the Oppressed to activate meaningful dialogue, critical reflection & action planning around complex, divisive civic & social issues. Working at the intersection of theatre, social justice, anti-oppression training & engagement, we are remapping theatre as an active participant in the process of civic dialogue & social action.

 What is Just Act Go
A  non-partisan voter education campaign using interactive Forum Theatre to raise awareness about why many people don’t vote, educate how choosing not to vote impacts residents’ daily lives, strengthen individual and collective capacity to engage in conflict with people who don’t share your perspective on voting, and create new strategies for real dialogue around making change." 

Voting is an urgent civic and personal issue. Choosing to vote or not vote is more than just a personal preference. For residents who aren’t deeply involved in community activism, how our local government functions and why voting matters are abstract, complex concepts. Knowledge from high school civics classes, if one even had them, are but a vague notion from the past. The result is that the impact of not voting and the decimation of citizen power doesn’t consciously register in our minds. Traditional ‘get out the vote’ campaigns are all about facts, figures and reaching as many people as possible through door knocking, flyering (real and virtual), and phone/text banking. Such approaches do little to amplify residents’ own experiences with how the government—local or national—is impacting their lives, nor does it grow their awareness of how our democratic government is supposed to encourage a robust social infrastructure rooted in citizen power.

 What will project do:

  • Bring generalized concepts of government to the intimate scale of everyday life
  • Engage, educate and motivate residents to vote by teaching about what voting really means
  • Demystify how government representation works & is related to every day life concerns
  • Increase citizen participation in voting
  • Inspire collective demand for racial, economic & political equity
  • Novel, creative way to tell a story about future impacts of not voting, and make it relevant and compelling in the present moment
  • Transform cynicism, discouragement & despair into creative forward-thinking action
  • Plant seeds of life-long voting in new generation of voters; cultivate/revive interest in voting across generations
  • Keep democracy alive

 “Just Act, Go Vote” will be a second iteration of “Just Act, Go Vote” Forum Theatre-based community engagement and education program that Just Act created in the fall of 2018 to grow voter awareness amongst young people. “Just Act, Go Vote” will be designed to demystify how local city government works, and to educate how choosing not to vote impacts residents’ daily lives and what matters most to them. The goal of the project is to raise awareness and make visible the invisible functioning of City Council, grow the number of people who feel compelled to vote because they now understand their relationship to voting, and encourage people to stay engaged and make their voices heard by learning how to advocate for community needs.

 While voting/candidate information might be shared with residents, the data and analysis around voting is not effective in propelling people to the polls. “Just Act, Go Vote 2.0” will help close the knowledge gap between what happens in our neighborhood and City Council. In doing so, we can draw attention to the role that residents can play in shaping local government, and inspire action on the critical issue of voting.

 People need to know how Council, Mayoral, Judge and City Commissioner decisions affect their lives, how funds are distributed and the role of their Council representatives from the allocation of those funds, to developing legislation and what it takes to get passed. “Just Act, Go Vote 2.0” is rooted in community empowerment and creating space for people to understand where we each are located within the system of power. By increasing understanding of how our local city government systems work, particularly City Council, thus increasing comprehension of our municipality, we can increase citizen participation in voting and inspire collective demand for racial, economic, and political equity.

 This Forum Theatre program will offer a novel and creative way to tell a story about future impacts of not voting, and makes it relevant and compelling in the present moment.

Extensive series of community gatherings that use the combined power of Forum Theatre and participatory action-planning, will bring the generalized concepts of local government to the intimate scale of everyday residents, offering them an opportunity to pause, learn, and collectively understand their citizen power and the importance of voting.

 What is Forum Theatre?

Forum Theatre is a structured interactive theatrical improvisation based directly on a group’s own stories of conflict. Audience members are called “Spect-Actors” and are given the responsibility of acting on injustices that they see in the characters’ relationships. To do so, they are invited to jump into the improvisation, and try out different strategies to productively tackle the conflicts in play. Forum Theatre enables participants to theatrically reflect on their social position and debate concrete actions that each person can take outside of the performance itself when they find themselves in similar conflicts.. In doing so, the Forum offers a rehearsal for reality, renewing and deepening our capacity to stand up more effectively for justice on personal and inter-group levels.

Health Justice Conference

Through storytelling, movement and theatre improvisations, participants will identify and interrogate the scripts that crop up and prevent us from authentic interaction and create barriers to personal and community healing. Come experiment and courageously visualize the world you want by practicing making changes to daily interactions and growing more healthy responses to conflict. Collectively and individually–joyfully, humbly facing fears that have resulted from systematic oppression–we will identify and rehearse practical solutions for transforming our realities for more equitable relationships and community interaction. 

 What makes our session unique

This dynamic, interactive workshop will serve as a catalyst for personal transformation and healing while providing creative tools to use in your life and change work.Flip the Script will offer a refuel zone to creatively pause and attend to the scripts in our heads that cause internal and external tension that impact our personal and collective health, particularly around race, gender, culture, socio-economic and other social identity disparities. Participants will creatively recharge, while exploring barriers to health and well-being. As members practice transforming conflict and negative challenges from  into moments of possibility, our session will provide an entry point for sharing and interrogating experiences to guide directions for change., Come re-awaken capacities that have been wounded and practice new strategies for flipping the script from fear to courage. The theatre techniques are specifically designed for non-actors, no theatre experience necessary.

Flip the Script: From Fear to Courage was everything I needed without even knowing it. As a theater person who does social justice work, I was thoroughly impressed with the activities we participated in. They were fun, engaging, and extremely thought provoking. There were moments in which I felt as though I was in a therapy session having a safe outlet to express all the mixed emotions that come along with having multiple identities. I would recommend the Just Act crew to all who are interested in social justice with a new creative spin. 

A. Malik Muhammad

Associate Director of the LGBT Center, University of Pennsylvania

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

Lisa Brimmer

Artist and Arts-Based Community Organizer

Raw and real theater was created from the energy and experiences within the room. I experienced the reality of a spect-actor, and for me it really made theater much more accessible, which is my personal mission with my craft. Beneficial elements besides the whole weekend?
I would say finding new ways to explore conflict internally and externally.

Anjoli Santiago

MS Ed, Education Coordinator, Classroom Champions

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.

Marsha Rosensweig Pincus

Educator

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