CrossCurrents: The CIIS Blog "Consent, Dissent, Reinvent"
Theatre for Change's 2018 performance explores the roots, implications, and impact of the #MeToo movement.
This year, Theatre for Change had to move fast. Keeping up with the barrage of current events proved challenging for the acting troupe, which once again drew rave reviews for a powerful performance.
Theatre for Change, a project of the CIIS Drama Therapy (PDT) program, reflects and incorporates aspects of contemporary culture. For the 2018 performance, themes of sexual assault and consent were chosen months before the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee (now justice) Brett Kavanaugh. But that national spectacle prompted professor Renee Emunah, who founded the Drama Therapy program at CIIS, and the Theatre for Change acting troupe to make substantial changes in the script. "The national theatre was becoming even more intense than the play, so we did a lot of revamping," says Emunah.
"Consent, Dissent, Reinvent" begins with a fierce tug-of-war depicting the struggle over Kavanaugh's appointment. The troupe of seven second-year PDT students performed other scenes related to the #MeToo movement, including the ways in which nongender-binary people can be excluded from some of the conversations; patriarchal systems of power and toxic messages about masculinity; the silencing of stories of assault; and the many ways complicity manifests itself. With a lot of humor, the piece also explores consent, sexuality, and communication.
Since Emunah launched Theatre for Change in 2003, there have been nine original productions incorporating drama therapy and various theatrical processes to illuminate social issues. Past performances have addressed gender, race, white privilege, and intersectionality, among other topics.
"Our program teaches drama therapy for individual and group healing," Emunah explains. "But we are also committed to exploring how drama therapy can activate social change. Theatre for Change is our way of contributing to that effort, and we try to do it in a way that is entertaining and engaging, rather than didactic."
"Consent, Dissent, Reinvent" clearly achieved this goal; initial performances on November 15 and 16 at CIIS' Namaste Hall received an enthusiastic response. "This show blew me away," wrote one viewer surveyed after the production. Another called it, "Powerful, provocative, real, unafraid, unashamed, brave."
If you didn't get a chance to see "Consent, Dissent, Reinvent," you may have another opportunity. The production team hopes to perform the piece in high schools and colleges, and at other venues in the community, and probably again at CIIS. Like other Theater of Change productions, "Consent, Dissent, Reinvent" may also be performed at the North American Drama Therapy Association's annual conference. A video of the show will be available soon. Stay tuned!