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Workshop: Community Building with the Theater of the Oppressed


Re-Writing the Declaration: An introduction to Community Building with the Theater of the Oppressed

A Workshop with Quenna Lené Barrett from the University of Chicago | Saturday November 11th, 1:00pm-4:00pm

This workshop entails writing, discussion, and embodied activities using methods for community building and positive transformation based on the Theater of the Oppressed (T.O.). Participants will gain a basic understanding of T.O. as an outlet to discuss, analyze, and respond to our lived experiences, and the different contexts in which T.O. is used. Participants will also simultaneously enact and learn how to serve as containers for difficult conversations regarding issues such as race, power, and privilege.

In the face of growing divisiveness and inequality, many of us are left wondering, “How might we transcend perceived and real barriers, consciously build bridges across those divides, and actively embody practicing justice?” This interactive workshop can provide you with some techniques and creative solutions to connect with people and create safe, participatory spaces that offer a way of collectively addressing these issues.

Together, participants will read through the United States Declaration of Independence and discuss its current implications, including specific words or phrases that might hinder people today from feeling like they actually belong in this country. The instructor will then guide participants in writing their own creative declarations to replace the outmoded language, and activating their “new” declarations using T.O. methods to both imagine and practice how differently justice, independence, freedom, and belonging might look.


This workshop is open to teens and adults. No theater/acting experience is necessary. Participants are encouraged to bring their own journals.



Quenna Lené Barrett is an actress, teaching artist, organizer with the Black Youth Project 100 and #LetUsBreathe Collective, and ICAH For Youth Inquiry performance company member, where she recently directed her first play, First. She received her BFA in Theatre from New York University and her MA in Applied Theatre from the University of Southern California. She is an alumni of Public Allies Chicago, an AmeriCorps program, has participated in education and social justice programs at Jane Addams Hull House and Chicago Freedom School. She currently serves as the Education Programs Manager at the University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life, blending Theatre of the Oppressed techniques with acting skills to amplify teens’ voices and hold space to rehearse, tell, and change the stories of their lives. Continuing to build the world she wants to see/live in, she is now developing personal practices of poetic and participatory performance. Recent Chicago performances and projects include: female understudy for Cor Theatre’s Late Company, The Runaways Theatre Lab’s Dead Youth, or the Leaks, Pegasus Theatre’s Young Playwrights Festival 30, Theatre Unspeakable’s Moon Shot at Chicago Children’s Theatre and Stage 773, understudying the roles of asha and kinzie in Oracle’s production of good friday, and a starring role as Dr. Beverly Long in Nikkole Salter’s Lines in the Dust at eta Creative Arts Foundation.


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