March 2016

Forum Theatre responds to Sexual Assault at Harvard University

"In February, Doris Sommer and Pilar Vicuna from Cultural Agents and I as the Education Specialist for the Graduate and Professional Schools at OSAPR first met to explore how we can put our skills and expertise together to raise awareness about and to prevent sexual assault on campus. Quickly the idea was born to engage students into a Theatre of the Oppressed during SAAM, in which participants have an opportunity to intervene and positively change the dynamic in a scenario acted ‘on stage’. 

Last Friday, Cultural Agents offered a Theatre of the Oppressed facilitator’s training. I happily attended this training, because I wanted to learn how I can integrate forum theatre into my workshops. Our group of nine people, was subdivided into groups of three. Each group came up with its own short play dealing with sexual assault, sexual and gender-harassment, and gender-stereotyping. Every group performed its short play and the other people in the room had an opportunity to intervene, thereby dramatically changing the script and the outcome of the play. Once we went through each of the three plays, we sat down together to de-brief about our interventions and to discuss how forum theatre can be helpful for my work at Harvard. 

How I have experienced forum theatre, its greatest advantage is that it physically, verbally, and emotionally involves the audience if they choose to intervene. This adds a layer to the conventional scenario discussions that I usually offer in my workshops. Simply reading a scenario offers a good opportunity to discuss an intervention. However, workshop participants can easily keep an emotional distance to it. Forum theatre invites workshop participants to be part of the solution and to experience how it feels to intervene verbally or physically (without the use of violence!). 

Forum theatre is fun to participate in! Of course, not everyone has to intervene. This is important for those who consciously decide to keep an emotional distance to the play, which of course is absolutely okay!"

- Maike Isaac, OSAPR, Harvard University

Harvard Extension School: Pre-Texts Workshop in course "Museum as Active Learning Space"


An intensive three-days Pre-Texts workshop took place at Extension School as part of the course Museum as Active Learning Space. The workshop was designed upon the Pre-Texts model to train participants, most of them museum educators and administrators, in the use of art-making as a pedagogical tool to turn museum collections into powerful resources to explore difficult texts. Participants were challenged to think creatively, to play with a complex text as "Cosmos"from Carl Sagan and create their own museum activities to create community and develop an appreciation for art.

During three days a total of 13 people had the opportunity to use the museum space in new ways in order to encourage visitors to get involved with art and intervene their context. From re-acting to painting, expressing through body language or singing, group activities and individual interventions, participants of this Pre-Texts intensive experience learn to imagine creatively, develop citizenship and turn the museum space into resources for approaching a difficult text.

- Thenesoya Martín de la Nuez, doctoral student,
Romances Languages and Literature Department,
Harvard University,

Pre-Texts Workshop in Nassau, Bahamas in alliance with the Inter American Development Bank          

“Large wrap-around verandas at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas provided the expansive setting for the workshop. The participants were mostly young, enthusiastic artists, teachers and community workers.

The workshop moved rhythmically as Doris introduced the concepts of Pre-Texts between warm-up exercises. The primary focus was reading of a text from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, while participants sat at tables and made book covers that responded to the text. Doing while listening, as workers had been doing in tobacco “factories” for almost two centuries. It was a surreal moment with Doris standing on a chair, oratory style, while participants were trying to grasp this collision of mind and body. Then everyone asked a question of the text and “published” it on our clothesline.

The challenge of playing with texts became wonderfully obvious when participant pairs pantomimed a specific line from the text, which required all to scan the chapter to find the right reference. This was both difficult and rewarding, with many Ah-Ha moments.

After a week of engaging in various Pre-Texts dynamics, the workshop ended jubilantly with a group photo and unending photo ops with Doris, and participants modeling the imperial crowns. There was a melancholy feeling as the group dispersed, while knowing they’d be meeting weekly with each other to further their grasp of Pre-Text. Many seemed committed to putting in the fifteen hours of practice to receive their Pre-Text certification.”

- Jay Critchley, artist

For more photographs of Pre-Texts in Nassau, Bahamas, see:

January 2016

Pre-Texts Workshop in Chile

Doris Sommer is leading a Pre-Texts training workshop for the new network of Centros de Creacion – CeCrea – of the Consejo de la Cultura in Chile. One workshop is at the Consejo’s headquarters in Valparaiso; the other is in Coyhaique. Educators in the workshop will implement Pre-Textos in the new Centers during after-school and vacation projects aimed to develop creative skills, citizenship and a love of learning among Chile’s children and youth.

Pre-Texts in Signet Society

On December 11th, Professor Sommer hosted a Pre-Texts workshop at Harvard’s Signet Society. The Signet is acommunity of artists, including undergraduates and faculty members, which serves a setting for conversation and collaboration. Our hope is to expand our organization’s mission to include a service element, and Pre-Texts is the perfect ticket. We are already a group brimming with passion for the arts and the wholehearted belief in their power to educate, enfranchise, and make change. Next semester, we hope to expand our work with Pre-Texts to help foster this enthusiasm in the larger Boston community. The December 11th workshop, during which we engaged in a variety of exercises surrounding a passage from Prometheus Bound, was a lovely introduction to the Pre-Texts approach. All of the Signet members who attended enjoyed themselves and came away with an invigorated enthusiasm for our Signet Service initiative. We look forward to future work with Pre-Texts! 

- Magdalene Zier, Signet Society


"Arts to the Rescue" Fair Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 13: "Cultural Agents", Harvard University

The Cultural Agents' Fair 2015 was held on December 9 in CGIS Knafel Café. More than 30 creative students' projects were presented as part of their final works for the Cultural Agents course leaded by professor Doris Sommer.

Immigration, Environment, Mental Health, Education were some of the problems that students addressed in their projects responding with innovative ideas and new approaches. Each student or team presented their projects and then there was an open space where students asked and dialogued among them.

This Fair put in evidence the students' creativity and concern about today's problems and demonstrated how Arts have a fundamental rol in creating new ideas to face deep and complex issues, challenging us all to become new Cultural Agents.

To see what else happened this month, check out this month's newsletter:
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