- Robin Brandehoff, Co-President
- Rachel DeSoto-Jackson, Co-President
- Charles Adams, Treasurer
- Sasha Sigel, Secretary
Members at Large
- Bonface Njeresa Beti
- Evren Wilder Elliott
- Emily Ruth Evey
- Kelly Howe
- Lisa Jo Epstein
- Maxwel Eliakim Okuto
- Miles Boucher, Communications Director
- Rebecca Struch
- Pink Flowers
- Chetna Mehrotra
- Doug Paterson, Board Member Emeritus
Robin Brandehoff is a doctoral student at University of Colorado Denver, in the field of Education. Her undergraduate degrees are in Theatre Performance and Dramaturgy, both of which helped her to craft lessons and units that she later used in her classroom. As a middle and high school English teacher, Robin utilized the works of Brecht and Boal’s theatre games to encourage incarcerated and gang-affiliated youth from opposing factions to feel comfortable around each other and to eventually work together. Both Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed have been instrumental in Robin’s work and scholarly pursuits to guide classroom learning and community exploration, prompting students to not only explore the texts in which they read, but to rewrite and share the stories of their life.
Robin’s background prior to teaching included working at her college theatre as the educational outreach coordinator and the community blind center as a volunteer coordinator. These positions enabled her to gain organizational skills and quick problem-solving techniques in hosting conferences and large-scale events for a range of attendees. Recently, her work as Program Director for Pathways to Teaching (a teacher pipeline program for high schoolers in Colorado, Tennessee, and Minnesota) and involvement with the Grow Your Own Collective (a national collective of educators, union members, and community organizers to establish best practices for teacher pipeline programs) has increased her experience in organizing national events; writing, collaborating, editing, and publishing research papers; and using social media as a tool to update, educate, and collaborate with others.
Rachel DeSoto-Jackson, Co-President, is an educator, scholar, and social justice artist whose work focuses on creating diversity, equity, and inclusion through Applied Theater models for social change. Her artistic practice, scholarship, and teaching explore Latinx and minority narratives of identity, culture, and social memory. At the intersection of her work is an emphasis on community-building. Rachel is 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. She holds an MFA in Performance Pedagogy, MA in Theatre and Performance Studies, and MA Certificate in Film Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Rachel has held fellowships with the International Performing Arts for Youth organization and held appointments as a K. Leroy Irvis Fellow and a Hot Metal Bridge Fellow.
Charles Adams, Treasurer, has his PhD in Theatre Historiography from the University of Minnesota and an MFA in drama and theatre for youth from the University of Texas at Austin. His research is in areas of theatre and social change, especially in the fields of Theatre in Education, critical pedagogies, and transformation. He has worked as a teaching artist for 25 years, training novice teaching artists as well as teaching educators in methodologies and philosophies for using embodiment as a means of resisting dehumanizing modes of education.
Sasha Sigel, Secretary: I have focused on theatre for social and political change in a variety of places and capacities, such as with Center for Applied Theatre and Feast of Crispian in Wisconsin. Since moving to New York, I have been incorporating body work and mindfulness (primarily through yoga) into TO practices. I’ve volunteered with a range of activist organizations including White Nonsense Roundup, TO NYC and the Women’s Center at The University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. As a board member, I would look to link PTO with organizations centered in healing and liberation that use other modalities that compliment our practices. Actively seeking more diversity within the organization (specifically in regards to race and LGBTQIA+ community members) is also a focus of mine. As I shape my work and intentions, I would like to become more deeply involved with political and social theatre.
Bonface Njeresa Beti: I am an artist peacebuilder with over 10 years, applying TO on ethnic conflict. Since 2004, working with Amani Peoples’ Theatre. I have utilized TO tools in conflict zones in Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and in Canada working on transforming issues of colonialism. I have BA degree in communication and MA in Peace and Conflict studies from the University of Manitoba, Canada.
Evren Wilder Elliott: After attending my first PTO conference in 2017, I have continuously fallen further in love with engaging communities through Theatre of the Oppressed. Many of my favorite people I met through PTO trainings and conferences, and it is my honor to submit myself as a nomination to serve on the PTO Board.
As a creative practitioner, I was awarded a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission to organize Social and Political theatre workshops with transgender people all across the state, using Theatre of the Oppressed practices as well as engaging in other practices of physical and meditative movement to investigate our relationships as trans people with ourselves, and how those relationships are affected by the larger systems of society. I have recently received a fellowship with the IAC to continue this work on a larger scale, building on community partnerships and working towards sustainability.
I also work in housing. My full-time job is working with youth and young adults as a Youth Housing Case
Manager at Damien Center, the largest AIDS Service Organization in Indiana. I work with these individuals on getting housed, setting goals, and engaging in self-directed development in order to
interrupt the cycle of homelessness.
As a PTO Board Member, I hope to offer my creative drive and my passions for creating sustainable
change to continue to build upon, challenge, and affirm the work that has inspired me so thoroughly.
Emily Evey: Emily Evey lives in Altoona, PA with a BA in Theatre, Communication, and Social Justice. Emily trained in theatre for social change and theatre for personal change where she studied performance and the creative transformation of conflict. Emily studied under Julian Boal at the 2018 PTO conference and periodically goes to Pittsburgh TO workshops. She has experience in prison theatre and theatre with adjudicated youth. She volunteers for two non-profit community theatres, regularly attends arts advocacy days, and travels out of town to bigger cities to see new theatre works. Emily enjoys doing productions in her community that address social issues, such as directing an all women cast and production team of “Steel Magnolias” and directing “She Kills Monsters.” She works with the community theatres to raise money for local non-profits during their productions and give free tickets to community organizations for dress rehearsals. Emily is excited to help continue the mission of PTO through her work on the board and bring TO to her community.
Kelly Howe is teacher/organizer/writer/artist based in Chicago. She is a faculty member at Loyola University Chicago and co-organizes (with Willa Taylor and Jasmin Cardenas) a Chicago collective at the intersection of Theatre of the Oppressed and activism. Kelly co-edited (with Julian Boal and José Soeiro) The Routledge Companion to Theatre of the Oppressed (2019) and (with Julian Boal and Scot McElvany) Theatre of the Oppressed in Actions (Routledge, 2015). Her writing also appears in Theatre Journal, Theatre Topics, Theatre Survey, Text and Performance Quarterly, Comparative Drama, etc. Kelly served two terms as President of PTO and co-organized three past conferences: Austin 2010, Chicago 2011, and Chicago 2015. In collaboration with members of Chicago Workers’ Collaborative and other local artists/educators, she is co-organizing PTO’s 25th conference, Chicago 2020. Some other recent contexts in which Kelly has facilitated include the Center for Research and School Development (Technical University of Dortmund, Germany), Indiana University, and meetings of the Workers’ Theatre Collective of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative and Trabajadores Temporales de Lake County. She has served in various leadership roles with the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and she has dramaturged and/or directed a range of plays in the Chicago area and elsewhere. Kelly is an advisory board member of Jana Sanskriti International Research and Resource Institute, West Bengal, India. In her previous teaching position, she worked in the theatre department at North Central College (where she was the coordinator of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program and faculty coordinator of the Safe Zone LGBTQIA ally education program).
Lisa Jo Epstein: Lisa Jo Epstein (Ph.D. UT Austin), Executive & Artistic Director of Just Act, is a theatre director, educator & seasoned Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner. In the early 1990s she headed to Paris France where she trained for 3 years w/Augusto Boal at the CTO, and w/Ariane Mnouchkine (Théâtre du Soleil). After 7 years at Tulane as Assistant Professor of Theatre, she returned to Philadelphia & co-founded Gas & Electric Arts. She founded Just Act in 2015 as a theatre-based catalyst for healing, change and activism to build a just world. W/Just Act, a distinctive hybrid of artistic & community engagement, Lisa Jo develops and refreshes the capacity of social change seekers to stand up for justice with renewed compassion & emboldened courage to face challenges. Working at the intersection of theatre, social justice, anti-oppression facilitation and community engagement, Lisa Jo integrates her multi-dimensional skills into facilitation and teaching of Theatre of the Oppressed, social justice diversity, equity & inclusion training, education and facilitation of inter-group dialogue; arts and asset-based community development, engagement & planning; organizational & individual capacity development, engagement, expression and activism.
Maxwel Eliakim Okuto: Maxwel Okuto, is the Director of Amani People’s Theatre Kenya an organisation that applies interactive multi-arts approaches to peacebuilding and conflict transformation. He is a practitioner of Applied Theatre, Theatre of the Oppressed, and a storyteller with over ten years’ experience, locally and internationally. He has co-authored Forum Theatre in East Africa the Domain of the Possible 2015 (Africa conflict & Peacebuilding review Vol 5) Indiana press university and Okuto, M. and Smith, B. (2017) ‘Reflecting on the Challenges of Applied Theatre in Kenya’, in Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance. Maxwel has a broad experience in facilitating art based peacebuilding initiatives.
Miles Boucher, Communications Director is a writer, organizer, and theatre-tician as well as the youngest person to receive their MFA from the Hilberry Repertory Theatre Company in Detroit. Upon graduating, having lived as a straight, white, sane man for their first 25 years, Miles realized that they were almost none of those things. Since then Miles has devoted their life to being an advocate and activist relearning, decolonizing, and engendering change in themselves and their community through P.T.O. practices.
Miles’s work stems from a somatic model of theatre-making grounded in truth-telling, the reality of doing, and ensemble building. Miles works as an educator and theatre artist, hoping to encourage students to become active citizens.
Miles ran a T.O. practice in the metro Detroit area, seeking to transform the artist community in which they live into activists and organizers through campaigning, performances/demonstrations, and community service. Now, situated on the East Coast & in collaboration with two other theatres, Miles promotes queer and reclaimed stories in the hopes of decoupling history from the narratives of oppressors.
Rebecca Struch, 2019 Conference Board Liaison to the Local Planning Committee, is a theatre artist, community organizer, and educator with a commitment to community engagement through participatory practice. She received her M.A. in Applied Theatre Arts from the University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts and her B.A. in Theatre Arts and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Minnesota. She has an extensive background in community and youth development through liberation arts and participatory research, including more than ten years of training and experience in Theatre of the Oppressed.
Rebecca is currently a doctoral student in Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her ongoing research interests include liberation psychology, critical race theory, abolition, Theatre of the Oppressed and popular performance, decolonizing research methods, critical pedagogy, protests and social movements, and the American South. In addition to her academic work, she developed a community based theatre program at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre, where she also trains MFA actors in citizen artistry, and serves on the board of FaultLine Theater. Prior to pursuing her PhD, she ran interdisciplinary arts programs at the Stanford Arts Institute. Internationally, she has trained in Brazil at the Center for Theatre of the Oppressed and has worked with therapists, youth, and health educators in Rwanda and Kenya. She also worked with Peer Health Exchange for three years in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland, ending her 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.
Pink Flowers, is an artist, activist and educator, whose work is rooted in ancient shamanic, African trickster, and Brazilian Joker traditions. Pink uses Theater of the Oppressed, Art of Hosting, Navajo Peacemaking and other anti-oppression techniques, as the foundation of their theater-making, mediation, problem-solving and group healing practices.
They are the founder of Award-winning Falconworks Theater Company, which uses popular theater to build capacities for civic engagement and social change. They have received broad recognition, numerous awards, and citations for their community service. They are a faculty member at Pace University and a company member of Shakespeare in Detroit.
Chetna Mehrotra, I am an Applied Theater Practitioner, a Drama Based Learning facilitator, a TO (Theater of Oppressed) practitioner, Playback Theater practitioner, and a Dance Movement Language practitioner. My vision is to take these forms of art based facilitation to workspaces, open learning spaces, classes and training rooms, thereby creating a culture of expression, acceptance and love between people.
I have initiated, designed and developed India’s first Applied Theatre Social Arts course in collaboration with ImaginAction ( California).
I have also pioneered in my initiative in Theatre- in- Education in teaching English Literature curriculum in schools through Applied Theatre
The purpose behind joining the board is to create youth voices worldwide and have them identify systemic oppressive structures around them as well as within. Keeping that in mind, I have also integrated Theatre of the Oppressed in our Applied Theatre modules as curriculum for children at Lokhandwala Public School, and Bombay Scottish School in Mumbai. We have also created a Theatre of the Oppressed performance “Raise Your Hand (Only if you have the right answer)” which has been performed at seven occasions for the multi-continental audience, including that of India, US, UK and Spain.
Doug Paterson, Emeritus, is Professor of Theatre at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. While he has published on numerous topics, his passion remains theatre and social change. He is co-founder of three theatres including the Dakota Theatre Caravan in South Dakota, the Circle Theatre in Omaha, and an Omaha group dedicated to TO work. To date he has offered over 200 Theatre of the Oppressed workshops and presentations in Omaha, across the US, and around the world. International sites include Rio de Janeiro, Israel, Iraq, Liberia, Australia, India, Croatia, and Palestine. Doug began the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed series of international Conferences in 1995. Doug Paterson continues to work actively to promote the work of Augusto Boal and Paulo Freire and is a peace and social justice activist in the Great Plains.