Thanks everyone for sharing where you are so far…
Miami University : Dr. Ann Elizabeth Armstrong
Sex Education, Birth Control and Citizenship: The daily headlines illustrate how conflict between religious ideology and publicly funded healthcare and sex education test the boundaries between the public and private. Controversies such as the Komen Foundations recent de-funding of Planned parenthood and Obama’s call for employer funded access to birth control illustrate how the private and public agendas come into conflict. College students at Miami University will explore and debate these issues within our own community by looking at access to birth control, access to sex education, and the erosion of other services such as free HIV testing. Using Theatre of the Oppressed techniques, students will create a workshop with other campus groups invested in these topics and explore some of the specific issues in the culture of our surrounding area in southwest Ohio. Workshops will take place between April 1-18th.
Georgia College : Karen Berman
Our Town Hall Nation project includes collaboration with Gregg Kaufman of our American Democracy Project here on campus as well as a focus on literacy and K-12 education funding. We are also hoping to place the event at Digital Bridges, an innovative neighborhood incubator for community businesses. We will collaborate with my Improvisation for Social Change class who will do a Boal problemetizing piece. We hope to bring in the Mayor, City Council, Superintendant, teachers, parents and other constituencies.
Northwestern University : Michael Rohd
I’m working on a THN event that will occur in mid April this year. I have, for the past several years, facilitated an orientation session for 200 students from around the world who come to Northwestern’s campus each year for what is called the Global Engagement Summit. It’s a three day series of workshops and panels that helps these students hone their skills as social entrepeneurs and activits in their home communities. I usually begin the Summit with a workshop that aims to help them begin some of the more complicated conversations they will undertake related to place, values and ideological divisions they will encounter in their work. This year, I will be working with my Spring quarter Devising class to develop a process thru which they can assist me at this Orientation session in creating a one time THN event where the GES participants first help create rules, then pick a core topic and finally go thru a public forum that deamands they reach a collective decision on a challenging issue by session’s end.
Arizona State University : Elizabeth Johnson, Stephani Woodson and John Genette
Town Hall Nation at Arizona State University is shaping up as a multi-disciplinary, experiential approach to practicing democracy. We are looking at staging two types of events, one which brings citizens of various ideologies together in the same room to reflect on important and locally relevant issues of our time (specifically Arizona’s citizen propositions) through a blend of dialogue structures and artistic engagement; and one inspired by the Citizens Initiative Review process in Oregon, in which citizens engage in a fair and thoughtful public review of tough issues. Participants in our events will include graduate and undergraduate students in Public Affairs in a course titled “Participatory Democracy,” theater students enrolled in “Theater for Social Change” and interdisciplinary students in “Public Practice: Engagement and Community.”
CUNY : Julia Taylor and Jess Levy
Safe in This Place: A Franklin Avenue Theater and Dialogue Project is an applied theater project in the Crow Hill section of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Together with adult volunteer participants who live, work, and/or socialize in the neighborhood, we are exploring the question “What does it mean to be safe in this neighborhood?” using participatory theater and dialogue conventions. After eight weeks of workshops, the group will open up the conversation with a larger audience at a public theatrical event.
Virginia Tech University : Bob Leonard and Jon Catherwood-Ginn
Building Home uses interactive theatre and music techniques to help animate public dialogue among citizens about life in the New River Valley, VA as they experience it now and as they would like to see it in the future. The Building Home team meets with small groups where they gather throughout the region. During community gathering events, the group collects citizens’ perspectives on localized events and shares those views with the New River Valley Planning District Commission (NRVPDC) as the latter engages in a three-year planning process known as the Livability Initiative.Over the course of Building Home’s one-year development, the project team has conducted eighteen (18) community gatherings and connected with 200+ locals. At this stage, the team has begun devising original theatre and music pieces based on community members’ quotes and stories about life in the four counties of Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, and Pulaski, and the City of Radford.The Building Home project—in concert with a variety of other community engagement efforts from the NRVPDC—has revealed that one of the most pervasive challenges in our region is its lack of affordable housing options. With this in mind, the Building Home team will create an original theatre for locals that first contextualizes the multifaceted issue of housing availability in the region and culminates in a public forum to explore the issue as a community. While the particulars of the performance and town hall design are in development, it is likely—based on Building Home’s existing methodologies—that the Town Hall Nation piece will include Story Circles, Image Theatre, and Forum Theatre.
Ohio State University : Kate Collins
This project will invite a small cohort of graduate students from across the arts disciplines on the OSU campus to create a small-scale interactive gallery-type event designed to respond to the ongoing struggle between invested groups and individuals to communicate and collaborate in light of OSU’s continued expansion in the university neighborhood. Getting university representatives, neighborhood association leaders, as well as local business owners and residents to engage in any kind of productive dialogue about this rapidly changing neighborhood has continued to be a struggle and yet change is eminent. The goal of this project is to use the arts as a vehicle to create space for people to hear and be heard. Working individually or in pairs, student artists will engage in dialogues with the various invested parties with the task of gaining better insight to their story – not the rhetoric of their argument – but the story behind what concerns them most about the changes that are happening and why it matters. It will then be upon the student artists to create an artistic response in their various mediums (performance, visual art, music or a combination thereof) meant to honor that perspective and shed light for others giving deeper insight to the concerns and challenges of those invested in this neighborhood. The art works will then be revealed at an opening at a neighborhood site (off-campus) where all participants will be invited to listen and respond at a meal hosted by OSU’s Humanities Institute.
Oklahoma State University : Rebecca Damron and Carol Moder
The call to promote more effective democratic dialogue across differences represents a significant challenge in conservative political environments like Oklahoma In our state, opinions on many issues are strongly polarized around entrenched positions. In order to open a space for dialogue, we chose to begin by constructing campus-community discussions around an issue that is commonly shared and provides opportunities for cooperative action, food and food policy.
Oklahoma State University’s Town Hall Nation event will take place in celebration of National Food Day. We are linking our preparatory events to a local student Green Grant Initiative on campus, and to the national Real Food Challenge. We have received the grant funding, which focuses around graduate students and nontraditional student consciousness-raising regarding food and sustainability resources on campus. We are currently building campus and community partnerships to support the event. We are planning the collection of food stories at the local farmer’s markets and at the local children’s museum over the summer. The culminating event will consist of a Food Day dinner which will be open to Oklahoma producers, the campus community, the local Stillwater community and legislators. Tentative plans for the program include performing stories, serving locally grown foods and dialogue around voting with your mouth.
University of Oregon : Lori Hager with Christine Madzik
Eastern Michigan University : Decky Alexander
Whose City is it? Project #1 – A city income tax; role & responsibility of the University to the city which houses it; present and future generations asked to fix the mistakes of the past; staving off the inevitable (i.e. bankruptcy), and asking people to pay more only to maintain the status quo.
This is not a two-sided issue, but a multi-sided issue with players straddling multiple positions and identities.
Goal: to bring diverse and divisive groups of people together to talk and engage around an issue of equal importance to all
Goal: to engage in civic discourse –that is discourse (conversation) intended to enhance understanding
Goal : to use personal narrative as a means of fostering dialogue and subsequent understanding of various perspectives: residents who want the income tax and believe it will ‘save their city from a state financial takeover’ and property and business owners and those who live and work in the city.
Goal: generate ideas, conversations and visualizations (from various stakeholder perspectives) on what they want this city to be.
Goal: to convey information on this issue through personal narrative & authoethnogaphicperformance.
Strategies : invitational rhetoric, personal narrative performance, PTO, landscaping, environmental theatre & small group communication.
(Am reminded of many performance theorists who basically address the idea of performing the everyday. Whereas many of the stakeholders of this project are out speaking publically and in print, performing them and their words we may hear/see/feel something that we would not had they just ‘performed’ themselves.)
Notes: Action is being taken at the ballot box. Our purpose is not to promote change but understanding . Change may occur as a result of understanding but our goal is not to persuade one point of view over another. Participants and attendees of this event may also gain information about the ballot proposal through the personal narratives and subsequent dialogue.
Details on the issue and the people it impacts.
On the May 8th ballot there are two proposals
- A City Income tax
- A Water Street Service millage (to pay back past debt from a failed city development initiative.)
A combination of the economy and for-profit businesses in the city closing (including auto manufacturing), and a decrease in state revenue sharing have had a grave impact on the city’s economy. The city currently has one of the highest property taxes in the county given its lack of revenue from local businesses. The University is the city’s largest employer (2000 plus personnel) and does not pay property tax. The second largest employer in the city is the County and State government who also do not pay property tax.
This is a complex local issue as it involves a ballot proposal that will require all those who work in the city limits to pay an income tax. The majority of people who would be required to pay income tax do not live in the city, and will be unable vote. However, if the city does not increase its revenue it may be bankrupt and have its assets taken over by a state Emergency Manager. All elected officials under the current state of this state law would be dismissed from their positions.
The ballots financially impact those live and work here such as property owners and university personnel more intensively than those who just work her or live here.
Voices/Stakeholders: Property owners and residents, elected officials, residents who work and live in the city, individuals who solely work but do not live in the city, and business owners.
University participants: Creative Writing professor (resident and local activist, involved in the Occupy Ypsilanti Movement), Communication professor whose research is focused on townhalls; Director of Government and University relations (on the Save Ypsilanti committee) MFA and MA students in educational and applied theatre, faculty members in Political Science, and university students and staff who also reside in the city, myself included.
Tentative Date-Last week of April or May 1st or May 2nd
University of Minnesota : Sonia Kuftinec
University of Minnesota : Elliot Lefler
University of Central Florida : Courtney Grile
Macalester University : Harry Waters
Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus : Martha Bowers and Deborah Mutnick
This is an Honors Experiential Methods class we are offering for the first time this spring at the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University.
The course has examined the intersections of two historical moments in Brooklyn as the sites of important social actions: the 1960s activities of the civil rights group Brooklyn CORE and the Crown Heights tragic chain of events in 1991 sparked by the death of Gavin Cato. In addition to doing readings on various theories of civic discourse, we have also sampled the General Assembly protocols for consensus decision making utilized by Occupy Wall Street. By analyzing the matrix of socio-historical, political, and cultural forces at play in these examples, we have explored the roles of artists, writers, activists, and students in promoting civic dialogue as an agent of change. The course will culminate in the creation of an innovative, dialogic, Town Hall event at LIU this April. The students have chosen the topic of student debt and are currently researching its history, current policies, and impact on current, past and future generations of students. The event is still being shaped but to date it looks like it will incorporate a multi-media educational component, facilitated small group discussions, story circles, performances and opportunities to propose actionable plans to address this critical issue.