Real People. Real Struggles. Real Strategies for Equity.
Just Act directs "Survivor: Teen Voter Edition," with PA Youth Vote Teens (2022)
Sneak Peek of “Survivor: Teen Voter Edition” Under Just Act’s direction, teens in the PA Youth Vote artistic activism program trained in devised theatre to create an interactive play about why teens don’t vote and to educate their peers about why they should vote. This is the second year that Just Act has partnered with PA Youth Vote to support teens to dive beneath the surface of “get out the vote’ to understand teen attitudes towards voting that keep them from becoming civically engaged, the root causes of these feelings and the purpose of voting.
Survivor: Teen Voter Edition was the theatrical result of four weeks of working with the teens to learn about voting, identifying the personal and systemic barriers to why teens don’t vote, and the impact of oppressive policies on inter-personal relationships between teens. They also explored the relationship of voting to ongoing issues of social injustice about which they care deeply; in particular, gun violence and mass shootings in schools, discrimination in education and climate change.
Loosely based on the reality TV show, our version was called Survivor: Teen Voter Edition which follows the story of “A.T.V.” an Aspiring Teen Voter who returns home from high school where her efforts to engage others around voting were dashed by countless peers who told her that their individual votes won’t matter, that voting won’t change a corrupt system that doesn’t care about their rights, and even that their parents don’t vote and taught them not to vote. Frustrated and isolated, ATV turns on the tv where she searches for her favorite show, “Survivor.” To her great surprise, the show appears as an edition focused on the very issues she has been having with her peer group.
Using the format of Forum Theatre, a theatrical game where audiences are called Spect-Actors and are given the responsibility to act on the oppressive situations they see in the play—such as when Rocky and Ash are overpowered by the other teens– by stopping the play, and jumping into the action as one of these characters. When the teens performed at City Hall in Philadelphia, our Survivor audience was divided into two teams—Activists and Organizers– who selected contestants from their team to step into the story and face the main characters’ challenges. The play then re-started several times and contestants improvised new actions, as Rocky or Ash, so that not only were their voices heard and understood, but so they could practice interrupting the oppressive behaviors of their peers and succeed in shifting their attitudes towards voting.
While the first challenge revolved around collective brainstorming about what characters could do to break the cycle of oppression amongst peers, the second challenge zoomed out to policies that systemically disenfranchise public school teens. Contestants jumped into the role of SuVo—aka Suppressed Teen Voter—and faced off with barriers such as Lack of Voter Education, an ever-moving Polling Place, as well as Voter ID.
The play ended with a call to action to the audience to help “vaccinate students against disinformation,” and to become informed as well as civically engaged voters.
Teens March on the Ballot Box
Students, led by the drum line MadBeatzPhilly, marched from Love Park around and to City Hall with signs and puppets declaring that teens are here and teen votes matter. At City Hall, several teens spoke their truths from a podium, in verse or speeches, after which the Mayor gave them the key to the city, because “teens are the key to the future.” Newly resigstered students then cast their mail-in ballots inside City Hall and emerged to cheers from their peers.
Why: To show that not only does Philly Vote, but Philly Teens Vote, and teens are the key to the future in Philly and the country at large. To inspire teens and their family members and all who see this mammoth display of civic engagement to cast their ballots in this crucial election. By capitalizing on the network of schools trained by PA Youth Vote, high school students from across Philadelphia participated and demonstrate dthat teens are a voting bloc to which politicians need to pay attention.
Just Act's Executive & Artistic Director in the news
Dr. Lisa Jo Epstein, our Executive & Artistic Director, was named on of 45 local leaders here in Philadelphia making real change.
Just Act at Arcadia University
Lisa Jo, our Executive & Artistic Director, has been an adjunct at Arcadia University in the Department of Education since 2016. Last year, during Covid, Just Act was in “zoom” residence at Arcadia’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Mentoring, during which we directed an Ensemble of students, faculty and staff to create online Forum Theatre pieces and Story Circles to engage their peers in interrogating and interrupting racism through an intersectional lens on campus.
We want to express deep gratitude for Just Act’s Board Chair Ellen Skilton for being a fantastic ambassador of our work. We are honored to work with Ellen both on Just Act’s Board and at Arcadia’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Mentoring which she fearlessly leads.
We are pleased to share this link to an article about Lisa Jo and Just Act’s work at Arcadia from their website.
How's your voice gonna matter if you don't vote
A collaboration between Just Act with PA Youth Vote and Philly Neighborhood Networks, Summer-Fall 2021
Restore-Reimagine-Rebuild Rivera & Mann Centers
Make your own forum theatre ensemble
I attended the Just Act State of the Union community gathering last week. It was an excellent representation of the diverse experiences and identities within our community. Lisa Jo Epstein and the Just Act(ors) organized the potential in the room in a way that made us all feel like the time we just spent together was not just well worth it, but worthy enough of passing forward to others. We all came in as strangers and left as friends who participated in a grand experience. From the casual introductions and the actors instruction to the group dialogue and ending cipher, the joyful energy and critical dynamism of a small village was constant. Refreshingly the steady contribution of ideas were just among the best of what could be found in our social marketplace. The experience just made you better prepared to return and continue your best work in other spaces as it reinforced how our actions matter and that we are not alone in the effort to make ourselves and our communities a better place to live.
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