Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fighting Oppression One Animal Sound at a Time

Today in class we studied Theatre of the Oppressed. Instead of meeting in our usual classroom, we assembled in Vance hall, which is just next to the building where we usually attend class. After beginning with Qigong, as always, our guest teacher Lisa-Jo explained a little about what T.O. is and its connection to social justice. 

Our first Theatre of the Oppressed activity was an exercise in non-verbal communication, wherein Lisa-Jo instructed us to pair off and greet each other with a gesture and sound. The sound and gesture had to be spontaneous and we both had to do the same one. It was pretty difficult to do at first, but we all adjusted quickly to each others visual cues. 
Today's activities made me consider so many new
ideas. Prior to this class, I thought social justice
was something that I could work for by protesting
and demonstrating in the streets. T.O. focuses on
the changes that must take place in the individual
before communal change can occur.

For our next activity, we paired off once again and nonverbally communicated (are you sensing a pattern here?) in order to make our partner take on a shape that represented a certain emotion to us. The main thing I took from these exercises is that I am incredibly grateful to whoever invented spoken language. Its a hard thing to do without.

After lunch we used sticky notes to answer questions about social justice. This began as an individual reflection and became a group discussion. Afterwards we did another nonverbal greeting activity with four person groups. As the activity progressed we circumnavigated the room individually while maintaining the movement from our group. This eventually resulted in the majority of people marching in unity to one group's movement-sound combination. Afterwards we had a group discussion about this phenomenon. 

Lastly, in larger groups we made "pictures" representing instances from our lives when we have witnessed or experienced oppression. 

Daily picture of a friendly squirrel at large
on UPenn's campus. I really want to know
where they all go when it rains. 
As we walked to the dining commons after class I noted that the prospect of rain seemed imminent. Little did I know, by the time we finished our meal a Philadelphian lightning storm would be in full swing. Normally I would be inclined to pause for a moment to appreciate the metaphorical implications of the rain or the unpredictability and majesty of the lightning but today I just wanted to get back inside without being soaked. Julia and I ran through the downpour back to the dorm and arrived dripping and shivering.  

From start to finish, today was totally different from our normal pattern. This course continues to challenge and surprise me. Hopefully tomorrow will be just as interesting.

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