Community Actors Program &
Intergenerational Theater of the Oppressed
Taking place in Washington Park on Chicago’s south side, the Community Actors Program and the Intergenerational Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) Project are two performance and Theatre of the Oppressed-based programs run by the Education department at the University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life.
Developed and facilitated by actress and TO practitioner Quenna L. Barrett, these programs are about creating space for teenagers from the community to begin imaging their own personal artistic practice. They are about holding space for youth to produce work about issues they face in their lives and amplifying their voices. They are about offering theater arts experiences that are culturally appropriate and relevant.
After being introduced to Theatre of the Oppressed, Quenna realized the power that theater had in the hands of the maker, and that too often the maker was only observing the story from afar rather than the maker and the “subject” being one and the same. As defined by the Brecht Forum, Theatre of the Oppressed is a “participatory theater that fosters democratic and cooperative forms of interaction among participants.”
The Community Actors Program and the Intergenerational Theatre of the Oppressed Program were born out of the strong belief that black and brown girls and boys could use theater as a tool to be the makers and tellers of their stories, and ultimately that they can use it to change their stories.
About Quenna L. Barrett
Quenna Lené Barrett serves as Education Programs Manager for the University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life, managing and supporting arts programs for teens in underserved communities on Chicago’s South Side. Barrett received her BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts in Drama and her MA in Applied Theatre from the University of Southern California. She is a working actress, teaching artist, cultural fieldworker, organizer with the Black Youth Project 100 and the #LetUsBreathe Collective, and Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) practitioner blending TO techniques with acting skills to amplify teens’ voice and hold space to rehearse, tell, and change the stories of their lives.
Barrett is an alumni of Public Allies Chicago, an AmeriCorps program whose mission is to create a just and and equitable society and the diverse leadership to sustain it. She was recently selected into the Chicago Young Nonprofit Professional Network’s Leadership Institute, has participated in the Jane Addams Hull House Cities of Peace Harm & Healing Teach-In Series, Chicago Freedom School’s Young Leaders for Justice Institute, and is a member of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health’s “For Youth Inquiry” performance company. In 2015, she received the Pegasus Award for Relentless Innovation and Professional Courage in Education from the Collaborative for Perpetual Innovation.