PLAY it OUT is a one-semester pilot program that will use socially engaged performance pieces to model civil and inclusive social interactions. The project seeks to openly address issues related to bias and unconscious bias and provide models of communication between groups of people from different backgrounds.
A model for this initiative is the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching Players. Our effort, initiated through the UTK Faculty Senate, with funding for the pilot project from the Department of Theatre, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost, hopes to prompt similar conversation and change at UT.
Through PLAY it OUT, UTK students, staff and up-and-coming playwright Steve Sherman will work with members of the All Campus Theatre, and various student and campus organizations to research and develop short performance pieces to address issues ranging from consent and bystander intervention, to issues of inclusion and diversity, including homophobia, racism and classism. Based on the experiences and needs of our own campus community, the pieces will foster conversation and provide numerous teaching opportunities for both participants and audiences.
PLAY it OUT will begin in January 2018, with the period before Spring Break involved in extensive conversations with campus groups to help Mr. Sherman craft short performances on a variety of topics. Following spring break, the project will launch the first public presentations designed to foster dialogue and interactions with different campus audiences.
The project will be evaluated at every step, with the goal of considering ways that this form of publicly engaged theatre can advance awareness of issues related to diversity and inclusion. If successful, we hope to find campus partners and donors and grants to continue the project into the 2018-2019 academic year as a resource for student, staff and faculty development to improve the institutional climate.
Lead faculty members involved in the project include David Brian Alley (Theatre), Misty Anderson (English), Casey Sams (Theatre), Cal MacLean (Theatre) and Beauvais Lyons (Art), who can be contacted for more information. Publicity for the program and calendar of activities will be maintained through a dedicated link on the Faculty Senate website and a Facebook Group Page.