Arts & Theater Programs

The CRLT Players
University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning & Teaching
Through performances, workshops, seminars, and individual consultations, the CRLT Players Theatre Program provides educators and administrators with an innovative and dynamic approach to sparking dialogue, promoting inclusivity, and effecting positive change inside and outside the classroom.  Using a solid foundation of research, the CRLT Players develop and present provocative vignettes in order to engage audience members in thinking and talking about issues of pedagogy, diversity, and inclusion.  The CRLT Theatre Program is primarily funded by the Office of the Provost, the College of Engineering, the College of LS&A, and the NSF ADVANCE program at the University of Michigan.

The program has steadily expanded and now includes a roster of 20 sketches on two main topics: teaching and learning, with a focus on the experiences of underrepresented students, and institutional climate for faculty worklife. The institutional climate sketches grow out of collaboration with NSF ADVANCE at U–M, a program designed to improve the recruitment and retention of women faculty in the sciences and engineering.

In 2005–2006, the Players performed more than 85 times for over 5,000 faculty, graduate students, and administrators. The Players spend approximately two–thirds of their time at U–M performing at campus-wide orientations and CRLT seminars, and at disciplinary–specific workshops for departments, schools, and colleges. The Players are also in demand nationally and have performed on campuses around the country including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, University of California at Irvine, University of Chicago, University of Virginia, and University of Washington. In addition, the troupe has performed at major national conferences on higher education, including multiple performances for the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC, and keynote presentations at the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (POD), the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), and the Carnegie Association for the Advancement of Teaching Summer Academy.


Interactive Theater Group
University of Missouri Department of Theater
The MU Interactive Theatre Troupe was founded in 2003 by professors Suzanne Burgoyne and Clyde Ruffin when MU joined a 3-year multi-campus program sponsored by the Carnegie Academy for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning and the American Association for Higher Education. The MU troupe has performed for faculty, teaching assistants, and classes. Interactive theatre methods draw upon the techniques of Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, a social-action theatre form building upon Paolo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Professor Ruffin directs the troupe's sketches, while Professor Burgoyne trains the actors in interactive theatre techniques. An interdisciplinary team of researchers at MU is studying the effectiveness of interactive theatre for enhancing faculty awareness of multicultural dimensions of teaching.  The Interactive Theater Group is funded and housed in the University of Missouri Department of Theater.


The Interactive Theater Project
University of Colorado at Boulder

The Interactive Theatre Project (itp) is a troupe of 14 undergraduate student actors and 2 assistant directors under the guidance of co-directors Rebecca Brown Adelman and Trenton Norman. Since 1999, (itp) has served CU-Boulder and the surrounding communities by providing professionally scripted/improvisational performances and facilitated discussions of social issues. These performances become a springboard for dialogue between the audience, characters, and facilitators. The conversation that evolves provides a unique opportunity for groups to explore complex issues while developing greater community strength, creativity and cultural competence.

(itp) is inspired by the vision of Augusto Boal, who created a theatre that eliminated spectators and created "spectactors" - audience members who are central to the success of the performance. (itp) realizes this vision by crafting scenes where audience members can identify and empathize with all of the characters. Immediately after the performance, the audience becomes part of the show by asking the characters questions that lead to greater understanding and empathy. The characters then leave, and the facilitators guide a discussion of the concerns that are strongest for the audience members.  (itp) has facilitated over 2000 performances - generating dialogues that develop cultural competency, build ally skills, and encourage individuals to come together in creative conversations. Our scenes explore events affecting our communities, and provide a unique opportunity to understand the impact of these events from the perspectives of everyone involved. (itp) has a library of over 300 original scenes,


Interactive Theater Carolina
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

The Interactive Theatre Carolina is housed and funded by the Office Campus Health Services at UNC Chapel Hill.  ITC uses scripted and improvisational theatre to promote health, wellness, and social justice in the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill community.  The organization gears it’s performances to the traditionally aged undergraduate population.  They believe that when audience members engage the characters and conflict on stage, they are more likely to explore and change their own attitudes and behaviors.

Interactive Theatre Carolina's performances consist of three parts: a scripted scene, the audience interaction, and a post-performance conversation.  The Scripted Scene generally lasts about 20 min.  In that time the audience is introduced to facilitators, format, and ground rules for discussion.  Then the audience watches a scripted scene, a realistic situation where characters experience a conflict or series of conflicts.  Finally, the scene ends in a crisis for all the characters, priming the stage for the audience interaction.  The Audience Interaction lasts approximately 35 min.  In that time the audience may engage in a Question/Answer session with the actors in character, or they can engage with the actors in the play itself.  Finally, in the 35 minute Post-Performance Conversation the audience members engage in constructive, respectful dialogue, led by facilitators, with all points of view welcome.  During this time the facilitators ask questions, highlight key ideas/themes, and share relevant information.  Finally, the audience is educated as to the available campus and community resources


Difficult Dialogues 2.0: Continuation Project Begins
University of Alaska, Anchorage
Alaska Pacific University

UAA and Alaska Pacific University are continuing their partnership into 2009 and 2010 as part of the Ford Foundation’s Difficult Dialogues initiative. The continuation project extends the lessons learned from our original "Engaging Controversy" project while deepening our involvement and expertise in specific issues of importance to our Alaska Native faculty, students, and constituents. UAA and APU are proud to be one of only 13 projects in the nation continuing this important work under Ford Foundation funding.  The continuation project builds on the broad success of our original project while deepening our focus on a subset of difficult dialogues related to Alaska Native issues and constituencies. The two-year project consists of two major activities:

UAA and APU formed a partnership to apply for one of the original two-year grants from the Ford Foundation. The three-part strategy included 1) developing Faculty Fellowship and Faculty Intensive models and using them to train an interdisciplinary cohort in techniques for productively engaging controversial topics and creating inclusive classrooms; 2) experimenting with these techniques in our classrooms and through community events; and 3) reflecting on our models, experiences, and best practices in a handbook for local and national distribution.  The original project was designed to address the increasing polarization of our society and the need for faculty to deal more effectively with breakdowns in civil discourse. These projects hope to bridge that gap, fostering a greater understanding of the religious and cultural complexity of our community, a greater willingness to engage in open discussion without attacking one another, and more meetings in the gray areas between absolute positions. The overall goal is to improve the learning climates on both campuses, making them more inclusive of minority voices and ways of knowing and safer places for the free exchange of ideas.

• The Faculty Intensive, Program which effectively doubled faculty involvement in the Difficult Dialogues initiative. Over 60 faculty members have now gone through the intensive, and the experiences and reflections of over 30 of them are featured in Start Talking.
• The UAA/APU Books of the Year program was launched as part of our original project. Books are chosen to support a common theme for the year and to give us a shared platform for raising controversial issues that our students and campuses can explore together.