Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day 9: "Theatre of Oppression" Part 1

Today marked a shift in the way that our class would be functioning for the next three days. Over the course we had surpassed the basic format of teaching the majority of high schools across the nation follows, which involves a teacher giving lectures and the students retaining vast amounts of information from. We had been exposed to a variety of different tactics such as field trips, guest speakers and videos. Each offered a unique way of interpreting and obtaining information over an immense array of different topics. However, for today and for the two days that would follow, the teaching style would alter into hands-on experience in the form of acting.

As opposed to our usual classroom setting, we met in one of the buildings for the Wharton School of Business, Vance Hall, which was essentially a large congregation room. To begin, we recapped all the Chi-gong movements we had learned so far in order to clear our minds and stimulate our think process. Then we were introduced to our guest speaker, Lisa-Jo Epstein, who would be our instructor for the "Theatre of Oppression" lesson that was planed for us. She began by explaining the relation between T.O. ("Theatre of Oppression") and its connection with social justice. One of the points she worked hard to emphasize early was that she would not follow, in large portion, conventional theatre etiquette or traditional classroom behavior. For example, instead of clapping, she urged us all to snap as a sign of consensus with whatever the speaker was stating. As a bit of an introduction, our first activity involved greeting an individual without verbal or contact communication, we could only use motions. I found it interesting how, in most occasions, the gestures that everyone chose, reflected in some way their own personalities. It was as if the gestures were externally manifesting the person that lay hidden deep within everyone subconsciously. However, it showed, how vital communication is to the world we exist in today and how without it, productivity would suffer immensely. We did various exercises that revolved around this concept of non-verbal communication which at first presented itself as a challenge to the class, then slowly simplified itself. At the end, we gathered and discussed how each of these drills made each of us feel and how they exposed our personalities. Many agreed that they had been forced outside the boundaries of their comfort zone or that they had discovered certain characteristics about themselves that had previously been obscure.
An overview of how class run and how each portion would impact us
After lunch, class began with defining subjects such as oppression and social justice. These were two universal terms that were unique to everyone in the room based on a mixture of their own experiences and beliefs. We also outlined what challenges would stand in our way from achieving social justice as well as what we as a person, would need to possess in order to obtain this goal. For each question, a different color sticky note was placed on a giant piece of paper that was presented before the class. Post this exercise, we continued with our nonverbal communication drills. This time was a bit different however. Rather than merely exchanging a greeting, we had to mold people in our smaller groups into positions that would portray a moment of oppression within our lives. It was remarkable how each person, regardless of race, religion etc. in some way shared similar experiences. That students who came from all over the world, represented oppression from all nations across the globe. 
An array of the different terms we had to define through our own perspectives
The evening was nothing greatly remarkable compared to the morning. Once again, the heavy showers had cancelled all excursions off campus meaning we were stuck on campus again. Weather can be unpredictable I will admit, but sometimes it tends to go against what our needs are. However, the day was not lost entirely. Being most of my RC group was stuck in the Quad, we decided to take the time to unwind from the stresses of our classes and relax a bit while indulging in the various activities scattered across, such as ping-pong, board games etc. While not as exciting as we would have liked, it did allow us to bond a bit more which is something we have progressively done very well since our first day at UPenn. 

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