As the nation continues to grapple with righting the wrongs from racial injustice, a new community theatre project hopes to provide a space for youth voices to address these issues.
Gus Weltsek, Assistant Professor in Arts Education, is working on the project, called the Bloomington City Wide Youth Theatre Collective. The goal of the project is to create a new musical based upon young people’s voices. Through a series of arts-based workshops that include puppetry, masks, improvisation, Theatre of the Oppressed, hip hop dance and poetry, the youth are working in collaboration with each other and professional artists to identify ideas and experiences that to them signify issues of racism in Bloomington. The project is an extension of work that Weltsek and Marcus Simmons, faculty member at Bethel University, have been engaged in for several years: using the arts to create meaningful socio-cultural and political spaces for critical self and community reflection and action.
“We are interested in the ways youth utilize theatre conventions to create a new play as an observable means of displaying critical embodied agency,” Weltsek added.
With a mix of teenagers from Bloomington and a central creative team, workshop presenters and technical staff, Weltsek says the team is taking a community-based participatory research approach: “This study will contribute extensively to the means the fields of education and social sciences use to examine the multiplicity of ways youths’ use diverse sign systems and embodied interactions as ways to make meaning and take action within a complex and turbulent world.”