I have seen the power that theatre holds to engage participants in activities that can lead to behavior change.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, theatre and role play are effective tools to teach communication skills and to model positive behaviors. Theatre provides a safe space to explore communication, intimacy, and consent, and a non judgmental environment to try new tools. My work is designed to explore healthy relationships, boundaries, and communication skills.
These skills are applicable across myriad ages and experiences. I use theatrical tools to encourage healthier and happier sexual choices - and everyone can develop in this way. I have worked with middle school students, high school students, college-age folks, and adults.
In the past few years, my work has increasingly focused on male-socialized and masculine people. I am interested in the intersections of consent and masculinity, and in continuing to work with male-bodied and male-socialized folks.
In summer 2017, I offered a week long intensive for high school aged young people through the Philadelphia Theatre Company. The first three days used a variety of theatrical tools to explore students' experiences, including Process Drama,Theatre of the Oppressed, role play techniques, and improvisation. The final day asked students to personalize the the techniques they found most impactful. Three teen Project Leads were identified, and are collaborating with me to spearhead peer to peer workshops in the 2017-18 school year. Most recently, they presented consent workshops at the NYCQueer Beyond Tolerance Conference in New York City.
The curriculum is available for other groups who are interested in a multi-day exploration of boundaries, relationships, and consent.
In 2014, I developed an applied theatre program at Drew University that used a Theatre Department/Women's and Gender Studies/Community Engagement class to develop responsive theatrical programs. This program developed students' skills and professional resumes, and provided facilitation experience. We worked with the Chatham School District, Morristown Neighborhood House, and on-campus organizations. The program is still active and thriving.
Building on my experience at Drew University and partnership with Women Against Abuse, I have developed workshops on healthy relationships and consent for middle and high school programs. Please contact me for more information.
Photos courtesy of Ryan Fox Photography, Jeff Kulis Photography, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Michael Harris Photography & Bond Street Theatre.
Copyright © 2018 Olivia Harris
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