The Texas Observer is an Austin-based nonprofit news organization known for fearless investigative reporting, narrative storytelling and sophisticated cultural criticism about all things Texan. The nonprofit Texas Democracy Foundation publishes the Texas Observer bimonthly magazine and texasobserver.org.
Since its founding in 1954, the Observer has covered issues that are often ignored or underreported by other media. They strive to expose injustice and to produce the kind of impact journalism that changes people’s lives for the better. Their thoughtful arts and culture coverage recognizes the diversity and talent of Texas’ creative community. Stay tuned to find out what our partnership becomes!
Gehl Institute’s mission is to transform the way cities are shaped by making public life an intentional driver for design, policy, and governance. Gehl researches issues related to the quality of public life in cities, including human scale design, public health, climate adaptation, and civic participation. They also offer dynamic trainings for local governments, foundations, and community design organizations on public life tools, frameworks, and research methods. They host public programs that bring together planners, designers, city officials, and grassroots leaders to discuss opportunities for advancing healthier, more equitable public life in cities and develop tools for the study of public space and public life.
ATC and Gehl Institute have partnered on an ongoing basis, recognizing the importance of community engagement to shape and influence design, art, and education.
Public X Design
ATC was invited by the Gehl Institute in 2017 and 2018 to facilitate at their Public X Design conferences in Philadelphia and Detroit. Through interactive activities and role-play, participants built understanding around gender equity by examining common vocabulary, to augment awareness and strategize solutions for greater equity in public space.
ATC was invited by Parques Urbanos to present a educational workshop on Gender Equity in Public Space. Through interactive activities and role-play, participants built understanding around gender equity by examining common vocabulary, to augment awareness and strategize solutions for greater equity in public space.
South Texas College
We travelled to the Rio Grande Valley near the Texas-Mexico border in March 2015 and again in March of 2016 to ATC Artistic Director Brisa Areli Munoz's hometown. Through a partnership with South Texas College, ATC facilitated a week-long workshop with college students and community members using applied theatre techniques including improvisation and storytelling to discuss issues of migration and immigration at the border. Participants used previous knowledge and research to create original scenes that were shared with an audience at the end of the week.
In an area where people are predominantly Mexican-American, ATC facilitated conversations that explored participants’ understanding and experiences of daily life at the border and used theatre to further delve into issues of importance to them. Topics included exploration of different identities (not Mexican anymore, not American either), racism, drug cartels, immigration, the violence that surrounds the community everyday.
The workshop became a mix of skill building, knowledge sharing and knowledge seeking. What was at first a room filled with trepidation and uncertainty, became a space where participants felt comfortable to share personal experiences; reflect on new connections and realizations about the violence of every day and the intersection of art and activism; and soak in new information, particularly about the recent influx of people from Central America. In so doing, participants devised original segments of theatre exploring these topics in embodied ways.
We shared these performances and facilitated a conversation about the pieces with a wider community audience. This proved to be incredibly insightful and powerful as many in the audience, particularly older members, had lived through many of the experiences presented. Participants left with a greater understanding of not only of the issues they covered but their ability as artists to speak to them to incite change as well:
"Being confident about telling stories, our stories."
"I learned how to work cohesively with strangers and how to use my imagination."
Furthermore, after the performance many of our workshop participants, most of whom had not been politically-minded previously, attended a rally to protest the Obama administration's policy of detaining immigrant families. This was due in part to workshop discusses of these issues and because ATC, in its time in the Rio Grande Valley, connected to Equal Voice Network and La Union Del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), two leading migrant rights' organizations in the region. Our aim was to facilitate partnership between these groups and South Texas College as well as make connections for follow-up work in the Rio Grande Valley. Equal Voice Network and LUPE are both interested in continuing work using theatre, LUPE in particular, as the organization is seeking to return to its earlier roots in utilizing public theatre as an outreach and mobilization tool.
Mediators Beyond Borders
The Mediators Beyond Borders Congress in April 2014 brought together over 200 peace mediators from around the world, from mediators working with youth in public school in Los Angeles to those working to broker peace between the Philippine government and armed groups, to those at the front lines of trying to quell sectarian violence in Kenya. At this conference, ATC presented a 90-minute interactive workshop entitled “Creative Approaches for Support: Arts-Based Dialogue for Building Professional Support Amongst Mediators.” This workshop provoked conversations about the risks faced by mediators attempting to do justice work in conflict areas. Participants spoke about both the threats of physical harm they have experienced, as well as the vicarious psychosocial trauma associated with this work.. This workshop created space to grapple with how mediators might use each other as resources to build networks of support. The article below is a published documentation of this work.
The Space Between: Exploring the Interplay of Mediation and Applied Theatre Practices to Create Spaces for Dialogue and Support http://eprints.maynoothuniversity.ie/7030/7/NS-.Space-2016pdf.pdf
University of Dohuk
ATC was invited by The Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies at the University of Duhok in partnership with New York University and The Center for Global Affairs to present our paper, Helping Helpers: Establishing Creative Space to Support Educators Teaching History and Peacebuilding in Iraq, at the first ever interdisciplinary academic symposium on Peacebuilding and Education in Iraq. The symposium was held in Duhok, Iraq with support from the U.S. State Department and UNICEF, among others.
Our paper took an international approach to discuss how storytelling and applied theatre methodologies can foster spaces to support educators and practitioners who are teaching history and peacebuilding in post-conflict settings.
In addition to presenting the paper, ATC led a 90-minute interactive workshop in which symposium participants explored the theme of "support" through arts-based strategies, including storytelling methodologies, which can be used by educators, social workers, and other “helpers” as a way to more effectively carry out their work, particularly in divided societies.
NY Peace Institute
Make a Scene in Your Mediation: Theater Skills for Mediators (September 2012)
ATC in collaboration with the New York Peace Institute held an interactive and performative exploration of applied theater methods for mediators. The workshop aimed to provide mediators with a variety of dynamic group exercises that stimulate creativity, teamwork, listening skills, and problem solving. The session was designed to illuminate the different ways theater can be used to build capacity through dialogue.
Holston Home for Children
“Celebrating Community” took place in January of 2013 in partnership with Holston Home for Children with a community of Child and Family Services workers. This project consisted of two five-hour workshops that were co-created with participants and co-facilitated by members of ATC. The strategies we used included storytelling, scene devising, and Image Theatre to explore the question, “How can applied theatre techniques illuminate the assets (or underlying strengths) and interpersonal conflicts and concerns of Child and Family Specialists?” Our team explored how applied theatre methods could provide opportunities for play, connection, and solidarity within this particular community of Child and Family Specialists.
Meet Us On The Street
“Meet Us On The Street“ is the rallying call for International Anti-Street Harassment Week, a movement started by the organization Stop Street Harassment. ATC participated in Washington Square Park in New York City in 2012.
In an activity called “Music Box Protest” which incorporated rhythmic drumming, instantaneous images, sounds, and repeatable gestures, participants musically detailed the impact of street harassment.
Exploring the Upward Spiral
Throughout Sexual Violence Awareness Month in April of 2014, ATC in partnership with The Man Question, led a series of four workshops to create an interactive performance with those who have a stake in ending sexual violence. These workshops brought together a group of men and women to explore this topic. Participants found ways to theatrically represent conversations they had throughout the rehearsal process with an audience.
Three Sisters: Tulsa 1921
This devised reimagining of Anton Chekhov’s seminal play in June of 2015 was set during the Tulsa Oklahoma Massacre of 1921. Directed by Marissa Metelica, this piece sought to draw parallels between Three Sisters & racial justice in 1921 United States. Following the production, the ATC team in partnership with dramaturg Lauren Whitehead, engaged audiences in conversation around our country’s past and present history of racial violence, reflecting on what a future United States -- one where black lives matter -- could look like.