By Hannah Conklin
Bluffton students performed the social justice-oriented play, “These Shining Lives” in November. In the spring, Bluffton students will have the opportunity to take a course that more broadly explores theatre as an agent for social change. Theatre for Social Change (THE 136) will allow students to engage theatre in a way that echoes the spirit of peace and social justice on campus.
The course is taught by Dr. Melissa Friesen, chair of the Communication and Theatre Department. It will be offered from 1 to 2:15 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Friesen also selected and directed the fall play, “These Shining Lives.” She said the play was a powerful example of a play about a social issue, but the class will tackle something different. She explained it is more about creating theatrical pieces and less about studying and acting out existing plays.
“Theatre for Social Change explores how we can use theatrical techniques to look at social issues,” Friesen said. “It’s about collective problem solving and thinking with your body.”
The course is structured using a workshop model, and it is flexible to the interests of the students. Friesen mentioned that a large portion of the course is a project developed by the students. They collectively decide upon a relevant social issue and come up with a way to use theatrical techniques to bring awareness to it.
“It’s a form of experiential learning,” Friesen said. “The students get to look at how we, as individuals and communities, can approach issues of social change.”
Junior psychology major Kala Jilani-Pritchett took the course her freshman year for fine arts credit. That year, the class took on a project called the “Me Too Monologues.”
“I didn’t know what the class was going to be about until I took it. The whole idea of our project was to let people submit a piece of writing about what they were going through. We shared some heavy topics,” Jilani-Pritchett recalled.
Jilani-Pritchett said she would recommend the class because of the impact it made.
“The title of the course seems true—social change. Our project made people realize they could talk about the hard things they have going on in their lives,” she said.
Friesen hopes students who are not theatre minors will consider taking the course like Jilani-Pritchett did. It fulfills the general education fine arts requirement, and it also counts toward a peace and conflict studies minor.
The course is typically offered each year in the spring semester. Registration for spring 2017 is currently open, and seats remain in Theatre for Social Change.