The Intergenerational Theatre of the Oppressed Project (ITOP), piloted in February 2016, seeks to offer a safe, welcoming and creative environment for participants across the spectrum of age to engage in a community discovery process through the medium of theater. Specifically, this program utilizes exercises and techniques from the Theatre of the Oppressed canon to allow participants to examine and analyze real-life issues and situations through theater, image-making, and play.


Pilot Season/Session Theme
We began our first session of ITOP with two thematic questions: “How are we not being seen?” and “How are we not seeing?”

These questions served as an entry for the diverse groups to begin understanding how individually and collectively we all play into a role of categorizing, stereotyping, and misunderstanding others because of difference to the point where we devalue—unintentionally and sometimes intentionally—another’s experience. This session culminated in a final event that included scenes based off real life miscommunication issues and involved the audience in actively helping by becoming players, or “actors,” that replaced our protagonists to find solutions to those issues. 

Purpose
The purpose of the exploratory experience was multi-fold:

  • Offer an introductory experience for community members to get to know one another 
  • Break down barriers and misconceptions between different age demographics, find common ground, and form connections
  • Respond to community calls for more programming at the Arts Incubator for the elderly in this neighborhood 
  • Address a feeling among young people we have worked with that they are often stereotyped by their elders

Skills developed include:

  • Empathy 
  • Community building 
  • Leadership development 
  • Conflict identification and resolution 
  • Plot development
  • Theater staging and direction
  • Facilitation techniques 
  • Movement-based storytelling

Successes
Our goals at the outset of the pilot season included participants: feeling empowered to make a change, feeling more in communion with their fellow participants, and having a strengthened sense of community between them.  
At the end of this session: 

  • 71% of participants surveyed said they had increased in their ability to impact the community and world through arts-related activities as a result of their participation
  • 78% said they improved their ability to accomplish difficult tasks as part of a team
  • 64% expressed that working with the other group members of different ages and various perspectives as being the most valuable aspects of the program

Sample projects

  • Forum Theatre presentation on the theme of miscommunication
  • Work with a community to develop a play about relevant issues

For more information about Intergenerational Theater of the Oppressed, contact: 
Quenna Barrett | 773.834.0224.

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Intergenerational Theatre of the oppressed
The Intergenerational Theater of the Oppressed forum is a public performance that explores a specific issue.
Excerpts from ITOP forum performance.
Excerpts from ITOP forum performance.

ARTS INCUBATOR

pin301 E Garfield Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60637

HOURS
Mon - Fri 10am - 6pm
Extended hours during events

PHONE
773.702.9724

MEDIA INQUIRIES
Ronia Holmes
UChicago Arts Communications
roniamh@uchicago.edu | 773.834.0481

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