The Illumination Project (IP) is Portland Community College’s innovative student leadership and education program designed to foster a climate of equality, compassion, justice, and respect for all people in the PCC academic community and the community-at-large. The Illumination Project uses interactive social justice theater as a venue for Student Educators and audience members to join together to rehearse ways of solving problems. Interactive theater, with its capacity to engage diverse learning styles and members of a community, is an ideal way to challenge racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of oppression. In performances audience members enter a scene and dynamically change its outcome. In this way, the Illumination Project challenges the viewpoints of both the audience and the actors/Student Educators in a performance. This project has been ongoing and received additional support from the Ford Foundation Difficult Dialogues initiative.
The MU Interactive Theatre troupe was founded in 2003, when MU joined a three-year multi-campus program sponsored by the Carnegie Academy for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning and the American Association for Higher Education. MU borrowed the Stats 101 script from the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, which houses an interactive theatre program for faculty development. The MU troupe, led by theatre professors Suzanne Burgoyne and Clyde Ruffin, has performed for faculty, teaching assistants and classes.
A typical performance includes a 10-minute sketch in which a class or student study group encounters diversity issues they don’t know how to handle. After the brief scene has been performed, the actors remain in character and engage in dialogue with the audience. Following small-group discussion, the actors begin to re-enact the scene, but audience members are invited to volunteer to replace the instructor and try out their own ideas to improve the situation. The interactive theatre methods employed draw upon the techniques of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, a social-action theatre form building upon Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.