Performing Justice Project
“Before doing this program I think that I had acknowledged that gender and racial injustice was present in the world and community, but I felt uncomfortable talking about the topics. After participating in this program I realized just how large these issues were and how they affected me.”
“I think the performance is an effective strategy because it makes people pay attention and actually think instead of just sitting and listening to people talk.”
- High School Students in CWGS PJP @ The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, 2012
The Performing Justice Project (https://performingjusticeproject.org) was created by Dr. Megan Alrutz, Theatre and Dance, and Lynn Hoare, MFA, Voices Against Violence, with support from Dr. Kristen Hogan. Alrutz, Hoare continue to build partnerships with Austin high schools to create and facilitate classes in the schools; through these classes, high school students write and devise original performances which they share with multiple audiences. Within each program, the Performing Justice Project:
- generates performance workshops with youth to explore their relationship to gender and racial justice,
- engages high school youth with little to no theatre experience in the devising of an original performance piece imagining justice, and
- draws on live performance and digital storytelling to activate awareness and dialogue around personal and community change.
PJP prepares students, audience members, and teachers to understand, talk about, and enact gender and racial justice. Student, audience, and teacher responses from the pilot programs in 2012 at The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, AISD, and in 2011 at Garza Independence High School, AISD, demonstrate this preparation.
The high school students who created and performed this piece experienced a behavioral shift during the project in four ways:
- Students are more likely to talk about and take action around gender and racial justice;
- Students are more likely to connect discussions of gender and racial justice to their own lives;
- Students experienced improvements in their educational environment through decreased bullying (both experience of and perpetuation of) as well as through understanding and bonding with each other; and
- Students have increased confidence in themselves.
Audiences for the performances created by high school students through PJP were diverse in ethnicity and gender and included a mix of university and community affiliated people. In their evaluations of the performances, audience members indicated that the performance affected their awareness and behavior:
- 40% said the performance significantly and 35% said the performance moderately raised their awareness of women’s rights as human rights.
- 61% said they were very likely and 26% said they were moderately likely to use the information presented in this performance in discussions with family, friends, communities, or at work.
A few quotes from the students’ writings demonstrate how PJP prepares students to see, understand their connections with, and take action around gender and racial justice:
- “What I have learned about gender and racial justice is that it is everywhere. I used to think that it didn’t impact me as much as other people, but I’ve realized that it really does.”
- “I have learned that my grandma has been affected because of her race as well as others around me, and it impacts me because it makes me want to do something about it.”
- “I imagine a just world without stereotypes, sexism, or racism. Where everyone is equal, but is also different. A just world isn’t perfect, but it does have many communities that help each other through everything. My role in the creation of a just world is raising awareness. Speaking up, not stepping down.”