Nominees

2016 PTO Board Nominees listed below in first-name alphabetic order!

Cheryl Distaso
Jamilah Bradshaw-Dieng
Katherine Burke*
Lara Aysal
Leia Grossman
Lula Villa-Brown
Mariangeles Borghini
Mark Weinberg*
Rachel DeSoto Jackson
Rebecca Struch
Simona Simkins

*Current board member seeking reelection to the board.

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Cheryl Distaso

Cheryl Distaso

Fort Collins, Colorado, US

Statement of Interest: About 10 years ago, I set out to read the Pedagogy of the Oppressed. It seemed as much of a gem of source history as an invaluable resource packed with dynamic insights and critical thought. After just a few pages, I realized that I would need the support of friends to fully digest the book, so I organized a reading group. I continue to be a student of Freire; I realize it is an “ontological vocation,” something I will always do.

I learned of Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed in activist workshops, initially through Training for Change. I gravitated toward Image Theater because of its ability to embody painful or difficult concepts and Forum Theater as a means to deeply organize groups. I brought Freire and Boal into the social work classroom when I worked toward my master’s degree. I brought Freire and Boal to my work as a community organizer with a nonprofit. I will bring them back into the classroom as an instructor of community organizing in the social work program at Colorado State University next fall.

This past August in Chicago, I spent a transformative three days with dedicated, committed, and challenging people learning Forum Theater with Julian Boal. Now I am delighted to have the opportunity to pull up my sleeves and help advance this work by submitting my nomination for board member of PTO. I’m looking forward to collaborating with the amazing folks on the board. Thanks for considering me for this important work.

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Jamilah Bradshaw-Dieng

Jamilah Bradshaw-Dieng

Oakland, California, US

Statement of Interest: I’m an Afro-Atlantic woman from Oakland CA, a social practice artist, grantmaker, yoga instructor, and community health advocate. I am in awe of how much Theatre of the Oppressed has become part of my personal choreography: I met my husband at a Joker training; was informed about my dream job—serving community leaders’ power-building while advancing health justice—after a TO practice night; and Wednesday nights, I’m in practice with the ACTual TO Troupe, a newly formed group based in Oakland. I’ve presented at a PTO Conference, and I’m also a member of Selection Dialaw CAADA, based in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal. I’ve utilized TO with groups from doula trainees to community-based organizations exploring equity and artists exploring birthing justice. I’m examining the links between TO and Womanist and Black Feminist Performance and re-rooting Boal’s work in the Black Brazilian Movement and Teatro Experimental Negro. I am most interested in TO’s role in global movements for liberation and decolonization. I’d love to join the PTO Board at this time, and learn more about the needs, desires, and capacities of Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed, Inc. I’m jazzed about learning from fellow board members and the larger PTO membership, and strengthening platforms for communities of practice. I bring board experience, as current co-chair of the East Bay Meditation Center board. I’d love to support the PTO Journal, with experience as a journal editor and a writer (Bradshaw-Dieng, 2016) (Bradshaw, 2015). I’m also interested in conference planning.

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Katherine Burke

Katherine Burke

Cleveland, Ohio, US

Statement of Interest: Hello friends! I am a teacher and theatre artist, and have been a member of PTO for over a decade, and have served on PTO’s board as both secretary and president, and was lead organizer for the conference in Oxford, Ohio. I work at a medical school in Cleveland, Ohio infusing humanities and arts into the rigorous med school curriculum. In addition I use Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Theatre of the Oppressed theories and techniques to engage health care professionals and residents in an ongoing examination of health care, disparities, and well-being in Cleveland neighborhoods. As a director and theatre deviser, I served as the director of May 4th Voices at Kent State University, which was based on the oral history testimonies of survivors of and witnesses to the shootings of 1970. I have taught TO methods nationally and internationally. I am running for reelection so that I can be of help to current and future conference planners, and to continue to build PTO as a robust resource for all those who want to learn about and share PO and TO techniques.

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Lara Aysal

Caferaga Mahallesi, Istanbul, Turkey

Statement of Interest: I’m Lara from Turkey. I got my Bachelor Degree with high honors from Acting Department Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey (2006). I did my Master’s Degree in Bahcesehir University, Istanbul on Advanced Acting (2008). Later on I continued my studies in Barcelona at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB). During my studies in Barcelona, I had the chance to join a European Union Youth Project on Theatre of the Oppressed in South Africa. I joined their team and worked in villages at the North West Province. This experience inspired me greatly and gave me a clear idea on how I can associate theatre with social change.

In 2011 when there was a huge earthquake at the east part of Turkey (Kurdistan) thousands of people died and the ones who stayed behind battled with difficult conditions. These conditions were mainly political and were mostly related to the Kurdish-­‐Turkish conflict that has been going on for more than 30 years. I decided to go to the city of Van and facilitate Theatre of the Oppressed workshops with young people. I did 2 different projects in the years 2011 and 2012. I formed a small group, which later on became a collective and still is actively working in Istanbul. When I came back from Van, I continued to collaborate with foundations working on imprisonment of children (in youth detention centers) and networks working on child sex abuse and traffic. In 2015 I spent six months in South America working for a Turkish newspaper (Birgun) reporting COP 20 in Lima, Peru. Right now I live in Istanbul working as a lecturer at Beykent University Theatre Department. I have been trying to follow the work that Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed has been doing. I am very enthusiastic and motivated to become apart of that Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed community.

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Leia Grossman

Brooklyn, New York, US

Statement of Interest: I am interested in joining the PTO Board because I want to contribute to work that makes me feel most alive and vibrant. I would also like to strengthen my leadership skills while supporting community transformation and development, and ultimately, through the PTO Board, improve the lives of oppressed populations.

I studied Boal and Freire at New York University, where I earned my Master’s in Arts-Based Human Rights Education at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. I attended a PTO Conference in 2008 and it shaped my thesis, which focused on the transformative effect of arts interventions with incarcerated persons. I now see my classmates from NYU featured on the PTO website, and I am excited to reinvest in and reconnect with this community, and support these brilliant stars in their continued rise.

Freire and Boal’s practical methodologies have also shaped the educational curricula and trainings I’ve designed and facilitated in my professional roles. I joined UN Women in June 2012, as Human Resources Associate in Learning and Development, onboarding new hires, managing training and learning activities, advising in career development and performance, and coordinating wellness events. Prior to UN Women, I worked as a Programme Associate in the Child Protection Section at UNICEF, in classrooms and as a job coach for the cognitively impaired, as an emergency room advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and also taught English at Universidad Tecnologica de Bolivar in Colombia. I would bring conference/event planning, writing and editing skills to the Board.


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Lula Villa-BrownLula Villa-Brown

Dallas, Texas, US

Statement of Interest: Always with a sense of urgency–this is how I would describe my attitude around liberation work. Both perceived and ascribed identities in my life have played an enormous role in the development of my consciousness, character and spirituality. From being queer to being Brown to being undocumented to being poor, all of this and so much more has shaped me. All of this has colored the world around me. It has been my experience that finding myself represented on leadership committees or boards has been next to impossible, though I am connected to a large network of people who identify similarly.

My interest in seeking nomination to the board really comes from a place of wanting to be at a table with people who value intentionality, value each other, and prioritize the goal of dismantling oppressive systems just as highly as teaching critical thought, nurturing creativity and practicing radical love. Working with people is what I am best at. Working with people through difficult conversations, moments, feelings, etc… are my strongest skills. I value providing access and hospitality to those who least likely have these things when seeking information, their history, growth and how to help. Those who know me, would describe me as pretty fearless and passionate—I agree. It is my belief that though I have much to gain through this experience, I am also in a position to enrich the PTO Board.

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Mariangeles Borghini

Granada, Spain

Statement of Interest: My name is Mari, I am a social worker, a full spectrum doula, an activist and an artist. I attended to the 2014 PTO conference in Nebraska and since then I follow your great work.

I got my TO Joker certificate with TONYC in 2015 and in the States I worked developing and facilitating a 4 year community health worker and grassroots leadership program with a popular education frame and utilizing TO tools and processes. Also worked remotely with a national nonprofit as a training coordinator around reproductive justice issues focused in Spanish speaking populations and had the opportunity of organizing a e-advocacy/mobilization movement that led to take down the Confederate flag from the State House last year in Columbia, South Carolina.

I was born in Argentina, lived in the States for 6 years and now I am temporarily based in Spain, starting a master’s degree in Art Therapy at the UGR and facilitating art workshops at a youth detention center, where I am also exploring about bringing TO tools. This summer also I completed training in Psicodrama at the Centro Moreno.

While here, I am looking forward to possibilities of creating and finding spaces to keep working with theater for social change in the community, especially with youth and women in formal and informal spaces.

I support your work and mission and am passionate and enthusiastic about human rights, social justice and education for liberation. I hope I can have the opportunity of working and collaborating with you.

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Mark WeinbergMark Weinberg*

Mequon, Wisconsin, US

Statement of Interest: I have been a member of PTO for nearly 20 years, hosted the 9th PTO conference in Milwaukee, and currently serve on the Board as Community Representative liaison. I am co-founder, with Jenny Wanasek, of The Center for Applied Theatre (CAT) and was co-founder of the Theatre and Social Change focus group of ATHE. I began my study of TO with Augusto Boal in 1992 and have conducted workshops and training sessions for educators, administrators, students, activists, theatre-makers, and community organizations in the U.S., Australia, Canada, and Europe – most recently at the Hun School of Princeton and TdU Wien in Vienna.

CAT completed two extended residencies with the Milwaukee Public Schools Fill the Gaps Initiative last year and will be Artists in Residence under the Turnaround Arts initiative during the 2016-2017 school year. I have published and lectured widely on theatre and social activism, chronicled the development of collective theatre in Challenging the Hierarchy: Collective Theatre in the United States (Greenwood Press, 1992), co-authored with Jenny Wanasek a chapter in Come Closer: Critical Perspectives on Theatre of the Oppressed (Lang, 2012), and co-authored “Shaking the Hands of Our Mentors” in the new PTO Journal. Incidentally, I have an MFA in Directing and a Ph.D. in Theatre History from the University of Minnesota, hold a 6th Degree Black Belt in Karate, and have over 35 years of university teaching experience. I would be honored to continue working for PTO to increase its membership, its influence, and its effectiveness as an activist organization.

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Rachel DeSoto JacksonRachel DeSoto Jackson

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US

Statement of Interest: I am theatre/performance educator, scholar, and artist with specializations in Latinx Theatre, Performance, Film; Theatre for Social Change; and Applied Theater. My work focuses on creating diversity, equity, and inclusion through Applied Theater models for social change. My artistic practice, scholarship, and teaching explore Latinx and minority narratives of identity and culture with an emphasis on community-building. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Applied Theater at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Director of SPATE (Simulated Patient/Applied Theater Ensemble). This ensemble applies Theatre of the Oppressed in a continually evolving process of creation to challenge hegemonic systems of oppression and inequality.

As a Latina/Chicana, my cultural identity is at the heart of my research and artistic practice which confronts ideas of cultural identity, oral history, and critically examines constructions of race, gender, and class. As an educator, my work focuses on introducing diverse perspectives, histories, and identities. As a scholar, my work explores pedagogical approaches to creating diversity, equity, and inclusion in the classroom. Often this considers and challenges privilege, access, and systems of power within higher education institutions. As an artist, my work expresses shared experience through storytelling and empowers participants to use theatre/performance to create social change.

I am seeking election to the PTO board to connect more deeply with a community who shares in my believe that Theatre of the Oppressed can create social change and to share my skills of writing, editing, event planning, and communication to support the pedagogical and artistic growth of this work.

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Rebecca StruchRebecca Struch

San Francisco, California, US

Statement of Interest: I am a theatre artist, educator, and community organizer and first became a member of PTO in 2011. I received my M.A. in Applied Theatre Arts from the University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts and my B.A. in Theatre Arts and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Minnesota. I have an extensive background in community and youth development through liberation arts and participatory research, including more than eight years of training and experience in Theatre of the Oppressed.

In 2014 I launched Stage Coach, a two-year community-based, participatory theatre program at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. As their first Community Producer, I worked to integrate the ethics and practices of T.O. and P.O. into many parts of the organization. For example, I co-developed and co-taught the first Citizen Artist training program for the M.F.A. acting students and led the development of three community-devised productions with local partners. Internationally, I have trained in Brazil at the Center for Theatre of the Oppressed and have worked with therapists, youth, and health educators in Rwanda and Kenya. I also worked with Peer Health Exchange for three years in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland, ending my tenure as the Bay Area Program Director after training over 350 college volunteers and managing a school-based health education program for almost 7,500 high school students. In addition to teaching at A.C.T., I currently work at the Stanford Arts Institute supporting a myriad of arts research and academic programs on campus.

Also check out Rebecca’s VIDEO submitted for consideration.

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Simona SimkinsSimona Simkins

Columbia, Missouri, US

Statement of Interest: A 1999 graduate of Emory University (Atlanta, GA) with a BA in Theater Studies, Simona has spent the past twenty-plus years working for social justice through the development of Theatre of the Oppressed-based companies in Atlanta, Madison, and the Twin Ports (Duluth, MN / Superior, WI) communities. During the course of her non-profit professional career, she has also managed the Bridge-Lake Point-Waunona Neighborhood Center in Madison, WI, co-directed the inclusive theatre company Encore Studio for the Performing Arts in Madison, and run a number of youth theatre arts enrichment programs in Atlanta, Madison, and the Twin Ports communities.

As a Mexican-American woman, Simona is committed to pursuing her highest educational potential for her people’s justice and freedom. She completed her MA in Communicating Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 2015, and is currently pursuing a PhD program in Theatre at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She teaches an Acting for Non-Majors course at the university that focuses on Theatre of the Oppressed games and devising, and is an Associate Director for the Center for Applied Theatre and Drama Research. She is also an active member of the University of Missouri Coalition of Graduate Workers, and a volunteer at the campus’ Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center. Taken together, Simona’s theatrical work has been an exploration of the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and identity politics in devised theatre performance.

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