Theater of the Oppressed Pittsburgh Needs to Combat Homelessness with Housing Below Misery (HUD) | Theater | Pittsburgh

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Photo: Courtesy Terry McGeorge

Theater of the Oppressed Pittsburgh

For centuries, art has been used to stimulate change in the society in which it was built. From poetry to plays, artists often seek to criticize the way their society works or point to flaws, highlighting the stories of those who have suffered most from repressive laws and policies. The tradition of using art in this way continues to this day, and even here in Pittsburgh.

In August 2017, a group of educators, artists, and changemakers gathered to discuss how the theater of the oppressed (a style of theater started in the 1970s by Brazilian theater director Augusto Boal and has a chapter in Pittsburgh) is being used could make positive change in the Pittsburgh community. After years of planning, they will be HUD (Housing Under Distress), a play about their experiences with housing instability, from Thursday, December 9th. until Fri., 10.12. Perform at the Peirce Studio at the Trust Arts Education Center.

“I experienced homelessness myself at a young age and watched family members, loved ones and friends go through the same and sometimes worse struggles,” said Michael Brookins, one of the show’s creators. “When it comes to the system, I don’t think service providers really understand the severity of the homelessness problem, especially within the LGBT community and the POC. Art has a way of influencing people through the heart, and I believe that through the heart the world will begin to change. ”

The play focuses on the experiences of black LGBTQIA people in Pittsburgh struggling to find safe shelter. It intends to tell the story of community homelessness from different perspectives and also to provide viewers with actionable steps to help them address these issues in their own communities.

Liz Foster-Shaner, another creator of the show, says the group has hosted free monthly public workshops since its inception in 2017 to “share the shape and space to adapt and adapt these tools in our professional and personal lives.” to practice”. Foster-Shaner adds that a member of the Department of Human Services attended some of the early workshops and “thought the approach would be very effective in getting people involved in discussions and strategies to actively improve our living systems.”

The collective met with representatives from the Allegheny Department of Human Services, Northside Common Ministries, Project SILK, and CHS to discuss the challenges organizations that work with the homeless are facing by providing them with food, shelter, and other resources . This culminated in a workshop in May 2019 with 10 participants who had experiences with homelessness either on the side of the customer or the provider.

The participants were compensated with bus tickets and food, and the moderators received a small scholarship. In January 2020, the collective received financial support from the Heinz Endowments Just Arts Initiative to fund the play.

Brookins says there aren’t very safe and affordable options for people of color in town when it comes to housing. With this piece, both Brookins and Foster-Shaner hope to shed light on that problem and bring about real change.

“I want the providers to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves: ‘Am I doing the right thing about the people I look after?’ and if not, take responsibility and make changes. [I want them] To be a true ally, to be in positions of power and to use these influences to make change and do the right thing for people! ”says Brookin.

Proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test and face masks are required to attend this performance for those over 2 years of age. For more information, see the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Inoculation and Masking Protocols website.

HUD (living in need). 7-9 p.m. Thu., Dec. 9-Fri., 10 Dec. Trust Arts Education Center. 805 Liberty Avenue, downtown. For free. Registration required. Find tickets by searching Eventbrite for “HUD (Housing Under Distress)”

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