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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education

Last modified: Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Using drama to teach across the curriculum focus of "Theater in our Schools" conference

Expert on "Theatre of the Oppressed" to keynote

April 5, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.-- A conference at Indiana University Bloomington this weekend provides a range of sessions to learn about using drama to teach students young and old.

The second annual "Theatre in our Schools" conference is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday (April 9) at the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center. The conference is sponsored by the IU School of Education, the IU Department of Drama and Theatre, the IU Office of Diversity Education, the Arts in Education Club, Bloomington High School South, and the American Alliance for Theater and Education (AATE).

Theatre In Our Schools

Sessions touch on teaching with drama for pre-schoolers, middle and high school students, and a more general group of people.

"We wanted to show how theater and drama can be used within education -- kindergarten through the grave -- and as a tool for the full growth of any human being," said Gus Weltsek, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Literacy, Culture and Language Education and one of the IU faculty coordinating the event.

Javier Cardona, director of arts and education for the "Rehabilitation Through the Arts" (RTA) program, will deliver a keynote workshop. RTA is a nonprofit that brings arts to prisons, staging events like West Side Story behind the walls of Sing Sing Correctional Institute in New York state. Cardona will lead workshop participants through techniques used in a method called "Theatre of the Oppressed," designed to address issues of identity, social justice and equity.

Weltsek said Cardona is a student of Augusto Boal, the Brazilian theater director who invented Theater of the Oppressed. Cardona has taken the method to Puerto Rico, New York City, and now behind the walls of maximum security prisons.

"He works with guys that are probably never going to get out," Weltsek said, "using drama, theater, movement, and other art forms to help them think about their lives and come to terms with where they are and what they're going to do."

Cardona, also an adjunct instructor in the education theater program at New York University, will lead participants in engaging themselves and students in the technique. (Cardona is also conducting separate workshops for Bloomington South High School and the IU Office of Diversity Education.)

Other sessions include Angela Farrand, an independent drama educator who will hold a participatory workshop for educators to help sixth through 12th graders use improvisational drama as a tool to explore themes, literature and current events. Karen Han and Sara Rush of the IU Campus Children's Center Preschool will present a workshop on the three months they worked with 3 to 5 year olds using drama, theater and film, developed out of work with Karen Wohlwend, assistant professor in Literacy, Culture and Language Education at the IU School of Education.

Event organizers hope the techniques shared on Saturday will help empower educators to advocate for arts in schools as an integral element now that budget cuts are often damaging arts programs.

"One of the big points is creating some form of solidarity between people who understand the work, want to know more about the work, and inspire, encourage people to be vocal and actively communicate the need to their superintendents, their students, their parents, faculty, staff, and government representatives," Weltsek said.

The conference is free and open to anyone. All are welcome to observe, but the Cardona workshop is limited to 25 participants and requires registration by Thursday (April 7) at

For more information, contact Amy Hert at