Keynotes & Special Guests

Learn more about the keynote speakers and special guests for the 2018 Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference in Pennsylvania.

You can also now see the entire #PTO2018 Schedule!

DOWNLOAD the full 2018 Conference Guide Now!

Pre-Conference, Facilitated by: Julian Boal

Julian BoalJulian Boal was a founding member of different collectives in France. He is now part of the Escola de Teatro Popular in Brazil. He has realized workshops and projects in more than 20 countries, and he helped in the realization of Theatre of the Oppressed festivals in India with Jana Sanskriti, in Europe with Pa’tothom, and in South America with CTO-Rio. Julian is the author of Images of a Popular Theatre (Imagens de um Teatro Popular, Hucitec, 2000), co-editor of Theatre of the Oppressed in Actions (Routledge, 2015), and recently completed a PhD in Brazil.

Disrupting the Politics of Place: Building Inclusive Communities for the Future (June 8th, 9:00am-9:45am) Panelists

Michelle King

Michelle King is a learner first and foremost and as well as an instigator of learning. Professionally, she is a middle school teacher aka a professional hostage. She learned and honed her craft in Mt. Lebanon with a fantastic crew of educators and students for over 16 years. In her quest to instigate courageous conversations about learning and children, she has ventured to The Environmental Charter School and their principles (Catalyst. Character. Collaboration. Commitment.) She co-taught Cultural Literacy, an integrated social sciences and English/Language Arts course. She constantly seeking to create dynamic learning experiences and opportunities that inspire wonder, discovery, contradictions, frustrations, and joy. In making connections locally and globally, Michelle pushes the envelope and boundaries of where learning should occur for all students. Her current interests are in game based learning, design, restorative justice, equity, social justice, and teacher empowerment. Through her partnerships with the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, Green Building Alliance, SocialVR, Carnegie Science Center, Hear Me, the Remake Learning ecosystem, ThinkZone Games and other provocateurs; Michelle is helping to create equitable, empathetic, learning experiences for all Pittburghers.

Current Conundrums: How might we create empathetic institutions that remind us of our humanity? How might we re-design for equity and social justice in and out of school learning? How might we design learning institutions to build connections? How might we allow those connections help us re-see the worlds we inhabit? How might we embrace silence in our lives?

anupama jain

anupama jain is the inaugural Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Gender Equity Commission in the Mayor’s Office. They are also owner of a consulting firm called Inclusant, which focuses on building local capacity for equity and inclusion by connecting individuals, organizations, and sectors. anu spent more than a decade as a professor— at Union College (NY), Colby College (ME), and then the University of Pittsburgh— and their research resulted in a 2011 book which investigates storytelling and politics, the American Dream, gender, and racial economics.

Ricardo Vila-Roger

Ricardo Vila-Roger is and actor, singer, director, and teacher originally from Puerto Rico but now a Pittsburgh-based. He is currently a teaching artist in the department of theatre arts at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been working in the theater for over 25 years. He was one of the organizers of the Town Hall Meeting on Equitable Casting that took place in Pittsburgh in December 2016, which brought together producers, directors, actors, designers, and casting agents in the Pittsburgh area. He is an alum of the artEquity facilitator training which is working to train a cadre of artists and educators to serve as facilitators in discussions about equity, diversity, and inclusion in arts organizations.

Community, Activism, Education: Bridging Methodologies (June 8th, 4:30pm-5:45pm) Panelists:

Mary C. Parker, Panel Facilitator

Mary C. Parker is a certified professional life coach, international leadership trainer and dialogue facilitator, and has written curriculum on race, inclusion, and leadership for students, communities, and organizations in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Seattle, and Zimbabwe. With a desire to leave the world better than she found it, Mary utilizes her expertise in dialogue facilitation and skills as a Comedian to consult with individuals and organizations on anti-racism coaching and consulting through her business Just Collaboration LLC. Her work ranges from workshops and trainings on applying vulnerability in improv using an artist’s identity to inform character choices; applying improv to everyday microaggressions; applying improv to implicit bias and white supremacy; addressing white supremacy in the workplace; and dismantling structural racism. Her process is rooted in experiential learning, intentional change theory, and applied improv.

In her free time, Mary performs improv comedy with Game Shark at Arcade Comedy Theater, hosts a monthly show “The Collective Presents” at Unplanned Comedy with improv troupe The Collective, and performs stand-up comedy at various mics in Pittsburgh. She also serves as Board President of Arcade Comedy Theater Board of Directors and is a member of Pittsburgh Playback Theatre and Threatre of the Oppressed Pittsburgh.

Mary holds a BA in Sociology from Emory University and is a Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation from Duquesne University’s Palumbo Donahue School of Business.

Taliya Allen, Arts Education & Cultural Enrichment, Director

Taliya Allen is an educator, youth organizer and activist from Brooklyn, NY. Taliya Attended the illustrious Clark Atlanta University where she majored in Political Science and minored in English on the Pre-Law track, pursuing her lifelong dream of being an international human rights lawyer. However, with the state sanctioned murder of Troy Anthony Davis in 2011, Taliya began to lose faith in the justice system as a means to create change, and shifted her focus to education, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Clark Atlanta and being accepted into the 2013 Teach for America Hawaii corps.

After teaching sixth grade on the Big Island of Hawaii, she eventually relocated to Pittsburgh, PA to continue her work with youth in communities of color. Having received her MS in Education from Johns Hopkins University, she began leveraging her experience in education and her passion for social justice and human rights to begin work as an administrator. Taliya’s role as 1Hood Media’s Director of Arts Education and Cultural Enrichment is to provide curriculum development and cultural focuses and administrative support to the organization.

Taliya also writes creatively and hopes to further her impact in social justice through the written word. She believes that where passion, creativity and strategy meet, amazing things can happen. She lives by the mantra “It is not the meek that shall inherit the Earth, but the creative.”

Sara Mayo, Pittsburgh Playback Theatre, Managing Director

Playback Theatre was founded in 1975 by Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas. Playback Theatre is used in educational, therapeutic, social change, and arts settings and companies now existing on seven continents. Playback Theatre is about creating dialogue and connection through the telling, witnessing and honoring of our life experiences, based on the principal that every story deserves to be listened to with an open ear and an open heart. We attempt to honor individuals’ differences while celebrating our commonalties.

PLAYBACK THEATRE is spontaneous theatre based on stories told by audience members. Life stories are shared and then enacted on the spot by a team of actors. Listening to the stories of our community is crucial as we strive towards creating a world of compassion and inclusivity. Playback Theatre strives to bridge the divide between art and social change and provides opportunities for reflection, and empathic connection.

Greg Manley, City of Play

Gregory Manley is an applied theater artist whose works focuses on new traditions and formal celebration. He is the director of City of Play, the commissioner of Circle Rules Federation, and the owner/manager of Heathside Cottage. He serves on the board of Pittsburgh Playback Theater and is a seasonal performer with the Mettawee River Theatre Co. He is the recipient of the U.S. Play Coalition’s 2017 Action Grant, a graduate of the City of Pittsburgh’s Civic Leadership Academy, and the winner of his neighborhood’s “outstanding neighbor” award from the Northside Leadership Conference. He holds a BFA from NYU in experimental theater, applied theater, and metropolitan studies.”

Indiana Refugee Working Group

Our mission is to provide education about refugee resettlement, advocate for displaced populations, and create safe spaces in the Indiana community. We educate by providing information to the Indiana County and Indiana University of Pennsylvania communities about refugees coming to the U.S. and into the Pittsburgh metro area. We advocate by promoting the protection of, the rights of, and durable solutions for refugees and other displaced/at-risk populations. We create community by creating safe spaces and resettlement opportunities, and
by promoting a welcoming atmosphere for all in the Indiana area.

The Refugee Working Group began in October 2015 with Jack Hanna and Poom Taylor. It has since grown to include nearly 20 IUP and Indiana community members working to do more for refugees and raise awareness of their situation. The other founding members are Faye Bradwick, Don Lancaster, Hilario Molina, Clara Roberts, Susan Dawkins, Amanda Poole, Rachel Sternfeld, Bonnie Adair, Beth Marshall and Barbara Hafer. Among RWG’s first projects were a Six O’ Clock Series educational panel at IUP and fundraiser for the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation, in collaboration with Calvary Presbyterian Church.

Hannah du Plessis, Fit Associates and TO Pittsburgh

Hannah is a facilitator and trainer. She helps people learn capacities needed to enact and co-create their better future. She uses methods drawn from the fields of design, coaching, mindfulness, psychology, social justice, systems thinking, theatre and co-creation. This blend developed through experience in community leadership in South Africa, design leadership, and consulting experience in the U.S., Europe and Africa and a continual exploration of the creative process. She holds a Masters in Design Methodology from IIT, a degree in interior design and a diploma in fine arts. She is principal at Fit Associates and faculty member of the Masters in Design for Social Innovation program at the School of Visual Arts in New York and Carnegie Mellon University School of Design. She is a glutton for creative endeavors and has been known to illustrate, sew, make props for productions, write stories and perform as a dancer, story teller and improviser.

Tiffany Wilhelm, The Opportunity Fund

Tiffany Wilhelm is the Strategic Operations Officer at the Opportunity Fund in Pittsburgh, a foundation that supports the arts and social/economic justice. Previously, she was Deputy Director of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council where she raised funds, oversaw programming, and co-led initiatives on accessibility for people with disabilities and racial equity. Prior to Pittsburgh, she was Executive Director of the Central Wisconsin Children’s Museum and taught in an undergraduate arts management program. A theatre person at heart, she has an MFA in Theatre Management from Florida State University and also worked as the Artistic Administrator at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida. Tiffany was honored to be part of the first cohort in the national artEquity social justice facilitator training program in 2015. In recent months, she has been facilitating anti-oppression workshops for Fractured Atlas, an arts organization in NYC, and Equity Quotient, a team led by long-time arts professional Keryl McCord.

Dialogue on Race & Racism (June 9th, 10:45am-1:15pm) Facilitators:

Rebecca Mwase

Rebecca is a queer Zimbabwean-American theater artist, creative consultant, producer and cultural organizer working at the intersection of art and social justice. They craft spaces for people to gain a sense of place and identity through the creation of art and the practice of storytelling.

Their work explores race, gender, religion, sexuality and class and seeks to illuminate and question the power structures that control our society. They have trained with ArtSpot Productions, Dah Theater, the Highlander Center for Research & Education, Urban Bush Women and Junebug Productions in performance, cultural organizing, devising, performance and story-telling. They currently work for their production and consulting company, Desired Evolutions which develops practices, leads workshops and creates performance to inspire embodied revolution.

Rebecca has been awarded numerous grants from Grinnell College’s Wall Award, Alternate ROOTS, the Network of Ensemble Theaters, the We Shall Overcome Fund, the National Performance Network, the Rockefeller MAP fund, NEFA and TCG to create their work. They are also a 2016 A Blade of Grass-David Rockefeller Fund Joint Fellow in Criminal Justice. Rebecca’s most recent original works are their solo piece Looking at A Broad, Last Call’s Alleged Lesbian Activities, and ArtSpot Productions’ Cry You One. They are a co-director and co-founder of LOUD (New Orleans Queer Youth Theater) and serve on the board of the Network of Ensemble Theater. Rebecca resides in New Orleans. Their recent work with Cry You One, a touring performance and cultural organizing project creating awareness about the loss of land and culture in Southeast Louisiana heightened their commitment to integrating an intersectional analysis, specifically environmental justice to environmental work

S. Leigh Thompson

S. Leigh Thompson is a white and mixed-race Native trans queer person with disability and has spent the last 20 years working at the intersections of art and social justice and equity, utilizing Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) techniques and working with and for queer and trans* communities, youth, immigrants and communities of color.

Leigh started organizing in Omaha against Nebraska’s so-called Defense of Marriage Amendment. Ever since Leigh has been dedicated to developing and supporting change-makers. He has experience as an organizer, advocate, lobbyist and campaign strategist at a number organizations, including the ACLU, GLSEN, Race Forward/ and The Forum Project. Currently Leigh is a freelance consultant and trainer at

Leigh has studied TO and other critical pedagogy techniques for over 20 years, working with practitioners from around the world, including with Augusto Boal on multiple occasions. He has an MA from NYU focusing on utilizing TO for political and social change and is the Immediate Past President of Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed. He lives with his husband and tiny baby in Brooklyn, NY.

1Hood Media

1Hood Media is a collective of socially conscious artists and activists who believe that art and activism are the best way to raise awareness, challenge inequity and unify humanity. Founded in 2006 to protect local Pittsburgh communities from internal violence, 1Hood has created a legacy of using art and activism to build a community of socially conscious individuals, and inspire others to reflect on their media consumption and practices. Through programming and performance, we engage youth and the community at large to push thinking, change the narrative, and solidify our position as the vanguard of arts and activism.


Named “Best Community Theater” in the 2015 Best of NYC Issue of the Village Voice Falconworks Theater Company is an award-winning community-based arts organization that primarily serves the Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn, NYC. Falconworks Artists Group’s mission is to empower individuals and communities through theater and effect social change. Falconworks achieves its aims through theater workshops that cultivate participants’ ability to tell their and their communities’ stories directly. Grounded in techniques from Theater of the Oppressed and adhering to principles of popular education, Falconworks conducts workshops in play-writing and performance that offer individuals the skills and resources to tell their own stories and develop liberatory theater that educates audiences and participants about pressing local issues and discover their own capacity to name the world.