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Interactive theater builds problem-solving skills

Monday, August 12, 2019

There’s nothing Jordan wants more than a dog – a loveable, furry friend who will be her constant companion. So, she gets one – even though her mental health case worker advises against it and her lease agreement forbids pets.

This is the plot of “Shiloh,” a new play in production at Oregon State Hospital. Written and performed by a hospital theater troupe, the play’s purpose is to engage patients, staff and audience members in a creative and educational pursuit.

“The big picture is to teach people about problem solving,” said Ericka Maddock of Flower 1, who plays the role of Jordan. “People learn life skills, and that’s what they really need.”

This type of theater, known as “Theatre of the Oppressed,” was introduced in Brazil in the 1960s. Its concept is to teach the language of theater to marginalized groups and use interactive performance to promote social and political change.

At first, the protagonist – and every other character – makes decisions that lead to chaos. But by involving the audience in the play’s reenactment, the outcome improves – or at least, that’s the hope. The audience is responsible for solving the problems presented in the play.

“We improvise new scenes and try to change things,” said Rick Snook, a peer recovery specialist who oversees the group. “So far, it’s going really well.”

Read more about the Theatre of the Oppressed in the latest edition of the Recovery Times staff newsletter.


Jason Harris, Rick Snook and Ericka Maddock rehearse the play “Shiloh” in the Sjolander Empowerment Center.

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