Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Spect-Act-Ular Day

Today started just like yesterday did. Carlos led us in Qigong again, we did the listening exercise again. We did another unusual activity. 

This one was new to me (I've seen a few of these activities in theater classes and last year in Women and Leadership): one person moved their hand, and the other had to keep their head the same distance away from their partner's hand. Both the leader and the follower needed to move; the leader couldn't just make the follower a puppet and have them jump up and down or run in circles. After all, (as Lisa Jo told us later) leadership is collaborative. The second stage of the activity had the leader controlling two people, and the third had one person surrounded by four others. The four people each chose a place on the leader's body to follow (my favorite choice was the feet; you were the only one in the group who ended up moving and stopping in sudden motions rather than moving continuously). We analyzed the activity in groups, and we talked about the necessity of trust for leaders so that followers could focus on specific tasks (people were concerned with bumping into members of other groups, but had to trust that leaders would guide them so that they wouldn't run into anyone behind them). Each analysis group presented their ideas (I and a couple other members of my group spoke to the class), then we had a short break. Julia was hungry, so we went to a little Penn cafe nearby and raced back to class (we're in terrible shape, so we gave up on running halfway back). When we got back to class, Julia and I discussed our habits in the activities we have done (for example, in exercises where everyone wanders around the room, I tend to stay away from the middle of the room) with Michael and Lisa Jo. 

We went through some more scenes and analyzed them. Many of the oppression scenes have had common themes in discrimination and bullying. After a few of those, we broke off for lunch, and I had my first Insomnia cookie. Insomnia Cookies is a cookie and ice cream store in the Houston Market that is incredibly popular. The last time I went, they almost completely ran out of cookies, so I ended up with ice cream, but today, the cashier told me that a fresh batch would be out in a few minutes, so I decided to wait, and it was probably one of the best decisions of my life. I got a s'mores cookie and a chocolate mint cookie, and the s'mores one just came out of the oven. It was a melty lump of heaven. Julia can tell you, I had a bit of a joyous breakdown over that cookie. 

My group performed (we ended up making our skit about gender roles) and the audience made the connections we had hoped they would. After everyone had performed, we did a forum on a group's piece. In forums, we use "spect-acting," where the audience can join the actors and come up onstage with them if they think they can solve the problem more effectively (like the forum I participated in yesterday). We did this with a scene today, and it was really interesting to watch because it showed us that our classmates had really great, unique ideas for negotiating with the "oppressor" character and facing the challenges posed in the scene. There really was an endless list of options; so many paths you could take around a problem. After that, we got in a circle and reflected on our experiences in the T.O. (Theater of the Oppressed) unit. I think Claire summed it up well: "I am the oppressed, and I am also the oppressor." A teaching fellow, Sarah, spoke up during the reflection to say that she always heard people talk about young people as "future leaders," but she told us "you're leaders now." We ended the circle with a "jelly roll," a creative kind of group hug, then wrote reflections on the T.O. unit and talked about the unit with teaching fellows in a circle. 

After dinner, we went to hear Dr. Toorjo (he asked us to call him TJ) Ghose talk about sex workers in India. 

They still make us wear name tags
TJ and his glorious hair

TJ told us about the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, the ITPA, explaining that the law permitted sex work, but the sharing of money earned this way was banned, as a means of protecting sex workers from being controlled by others. This way, the ITPA would come down hard on men who profited from sex work. It ended up backfiring and attacking the workers themselves. Police would arrest workers for sharing money with family members. TJ said that the ITPA ended up "exploiting the very women it sought to rescue." The ITPA fell through because the people who created the piece of legislation assumed that people who have sex for money live solitary lives. In reality, 95% of sex workers have families. 

He went on to tell us about how movements work, and how HIV risk is prevented with sex workers. TJ talked about the DMSC (Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, or the Unstoppable Women's Synthesis Committee), with the motto "sex work is work," fighting the social stigma around sex work. TJ told us that sex was actually really important in social justice. I might be paraphrasing slightly, but he said something along the lines of: "Racism is about who you can have sex with, classism is about who you can have sex's how you keep your privilege.

TJ was another of those incredibly wise guests we've had. I have no idea where Andy finds these people. 

I went back to the dorms and played Jenga and Apples to Apples with some people in Social Justice, then returned to my room for some peaceful slumber. OH! I got a response to my email and figured out how to reserve a practice room, so I have plans to finally play piano again on Monday! YES!

The Theater of the Oppressed unit is over, but I have an open discussion and a walking tour in the city to look forward to tomorrow. This class is just getting better and better.

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