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Interactive theatre to play a role at Student Peace Conference

March 20, 2009

Ben Saypol, of Interactive Theatre Carolina, will visit Loyola University New Orleans to create an interactive theatre piece with members of Loyola’s theatre community addressing the issues of increasing global awareness and fostering peace. The event is a part of Loyola’s Student Peace Conference and is hosted by the department of theatre arts and dance, and the Biever Guest Lecture Series.

The culminating performance will be Friday, March 27, at 6 p.m., in Satchmo’s, located on the lower level of the Danna Student Center, on Loyola’s main campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Saypol will work with a group of 10-20 students from a variety of majors and interests to create an interactive theatre piece based on their concerns about increasing peace and understanding in our community. He will allow the group to define whether they would like to focus on a peace issue from within the Loyola community, New Orleans at large or a global peace issue.

Interactive Theatre is an evolving form based on Theatre of the Oppressed, a set of techniques developed by Augusto Boal, a Brazilian Theatre practitioner and community activist. Performances start with a short scripted play, devised by the community, that showcases the problems faced by a particular population. The play is then performed again, only this time, the members of the community can freeze the action and replace actors in the scene to try out different tactics, thereby rehearsing a different solution to the problem at hand. The process allows for the opportunity to imagine and rehearse a number of different solutions to a problem in a safe environment, which can then be taken out of the performance space and put into action. Finally, everyone in the room discusses the scenario, issues, and proposed solutions in a constructive facilitated conversation.

Saypol will also give a short talk explaining the concept and history of interactive theatre as a means of global community activism.

“This technique has been utilized all over the world, including India, where an estimated 200,000 citizens are now active in forum theatre groups, finding solutions to problems facing their community, and rehearsing their solutions, thus setting the stage for effective social activism,” said Laura Hope, assistant professor of theatre arts at Loyola.“True to the concept of forum theatre, audience members will be allowed to participate in the performance to help find and rehearse different solutions to the problem at hand.”

Saypol is an emerging leader in the field of interactive and community based theatre. He is the program coordinator for Interactive Theatre Carolina, a program that he originated at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He also serves as co-chair of the National Task Force on Interactive Theatre for the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. Previously, he was the assistant director of the Interactive Theatre Project at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Saypol has studied Theatre of the Oppressed and other community-based interactive theatre techniques with Augusto Boal, Julian Boal, Michael Rohd, Marc Weinblatt, Michele Decottignies, Cheryl Harrison, Doug Patterson and Jeffrey Steiger. He is currently completing his doctorate in theatre at the University of Colorado at Boulder, with his dissertation focusing on the facilitation of interactive theatre performances in the university campus community. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in American culture with a certificate in musical theatre from Northwestern University and holds a masters of music degree in vocal performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

As a professional performer, his credits include Broadway and regional theatre, including the Broadway touring revival of “West Side Story,” and he was featured in the film “Telling Lies in America” with Kevin Bacon, written by Joe Ezterhas.

For more information about this event, contact Hope at llhope@loyno.edu or call 504-865-3586.

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