Theatre and Restorative Justice, Part II

Posted on: December 20th, 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 2 of 3.

We began our residency with several workshops that would give us insight into what our students’ strengths and interests were. We used the story of Axton Betz-Hamilton, a woman whose mother stole her identity when she was a child, as a basis for quickly writing and performing scenes. The themes of Betz-Hamilton’s story parallel those of Kingdom Come: dignity, identity, technology, and betrayal.

One of the things we do in the education department at Roundabout is to mirror the professional theatre process and artist’s process. I plant those seeds in reading and writing activities by asking students to think like directors and choose words and phrases that call up images for them or are “juicy” or compelling. Those selections became the seeds of the scenes they wrote, then performed.

From there we jumped into an exploration of The Essential Elements of Dignity as outlined by Dr. Donna Hicks, which was Yuko’s idea. The elements make a potentially hard-to-define concept really concrete, and they made a great lens through which to read and see Kingdom Come.

We read key scenes as a class, then found moments where characters upheld or violated each other’s dignity. Digging into why, for example, Suz doesn’t offer Layne understanding or acknowledgement or safety in their first scene together gave students a new way to consider some basic acting ideas: where a character is coming from, and what her objective is. It also raised our own awareness of why we act the way do in our real lives.


The class loved the student matinee, and the opportunity to talk to Alex Hernandez and Socorro Santiago after the show. The actors were curious if the students’ expectations for the play were what they saw onstage. A student mentioned that the character of Samantha wasn’t what she expected after reading a scene from the play in class.This prompted the actors to ask the students whether they could see other characters played by actors of different races or backgrounds, to which they answered a resounding yes. It’s crucial that students see themselves reflected in the theatre, and this play was especially engaging because of the subject matter and the casting.

After the show we focused on the ending. What are all the ways a conflict can resolve? Does resolution demand a restoration of dignity? We took those ideas into creating our own scene about dignity and conflict.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Kingdom Come, Roundabout Underground, Teaching Artist Tuesday

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