Theatre and Restorative Justice

Posted on: December 13th, 2016 by Leah Reddy

Leah Reddy is a Master Teaching Artist at Roundabout and has served as Partnership Coordinator for Roundabout’s partnership with Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre (BSMT) for the past 5 years. At BSMT, Roundabout Teaching Artists partner with educators to co-plan and co-facilitate 8-visit classroom residencies that explore classroom content through theatre. This fall, Leah partnered with Kayla Dinces in her creative writing class. Together, Leah and Kayla worked with the school’s Restorative Justice Coordinator, Yuko Uchikawa, to explore creative writing using theatre and restorative justice practices. The students attended Roundabout’s production of KINGDOM COME as a part of the residency. In a series of 3 blogs, Leah will share her experience as a Teaching Artist in this residency. The following is blog 1 of 3.

Why combine theatre and Restorative Justice practices?

At the beginning of the school year I met Yuko Uchikawa, the Restorative Justice coordinator at Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre (BSMT), a high school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Roundabout helped found BSMT over a decade ago, and I’m the partnership coordinator there. BSMT began working with the Restorative Justice model last year.

Yuko told me that the goal of Restorative Justice was to bring the community together to create resilience to conflict. On a basic level, the model looks like a circle:

In a school, Restorative Justice might take the form of training students to lead peer mediation, a change in approach to discipline, activities to build teachers’ awareness of the behavior they’re modeling, and reflection circles to build relationships.

As Yuko and I talked, we realized that there was a lot of overlap in what we were trying to do. Like Restorative Justice, theatre builds listening skills and empathy, encourages understanding multiple points of view, and challenges us to really listen to and connect with each other.

Yuko wondered about how to make concepts like respect and dignity active and physical, something theatre is great at doing. And I had been thinking a lot about how to make sure the way I taught was inclusive and provided space for honest, meaningful reflection.

So we decided to combine our approaches in a residency. We’re working with teacher Kayla Dinces and her creative writing class for seniors. We’ve decided to explore the question: How does an ensemble explore themes of respect and dignity in performance? We hope the residency, which includes 8 classroom visits and a trip to see Kingdom Come at Roundabout, will result in a short performance with a student-lead reflection discussion afterwards. I’ll be sharing the progress of our work here on this blog each Tuesday in December.

Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Teaching Artist Tuesday

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