Berkeley Interactive Theater
In 2000, inspired by Cornell Interactive Theater Ensemble, UC Berkeley embarked on the process to deliver 4 workshops in the College of Engineering to faculty members at the invitation of faculty members and committed and trained staff members Edith Ng,
Carla Trujillo, and Maria Lucero Padilla. Acting Faculty, Lura Dolas, from the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, joined the team to research, write scripts, and train actors to deliver these research-based scenarios to the College in a workshop format. From this successful experience, Cornell Interactive Theater Ensemble was then invited to come to Berkeley for a cross-campus training opportunity for faculty and staff members in 2006. Cornell provided 5 days of programming and workshops for the campus. A year later, the Berkeley Initiatives for Leadership in Diversity (BILD) Grant was announced. The opportunity to develop our own campus interactive theater program had arrived.
Interactive Theater Program
The Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, The Graduate Diversity Program, The Campus Climate and Compliance Office, and The Staff EEO Compliance Office received BILD (Berkeley Initiatives for Leadership in Diversity) Grants and support from The Center for Organizational Workforce Effectiveness in 2008 and 2009 to teach a course each semester to train UC Berkeley community members in multicultural awareness and diversity education, facilitation skills, acting and voice technique, scriptwriting, and service-learning pedagogy. This community of practice for 2 years became the home for the Interactive Theater Program at UC Berkeley.
Springing from the cross-campus initiative from a variety of offices, and with the support and grant-writing skills of Chair Shannon Jackson (TDPS), the team of Maria Lucero Padilla (Campus Climate & Compliance Office), Michael Mansfield (TDPS – Acting
Lecturer and Theater Director), Edith Ng (Staff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Office), and Carla Trujillo (Graduate Diversity Program), became the original founding co-directors of the Interactive Theater Program. Beginning in Spring of 2008, Theater 166 – Interactive Theater: Acting for Social Change allowed all UCB community members to engage in the Interactive Theater Program, creating a campus theater company offering 8-10 campus-wide or system-wide workshop diversity programs each semester without charge. Each semester 20-40 community members (students, alums, staff, and faculty) trained in theater as an educational tool in the service of social justice. The Interactive Theater Program was able to deliver workshops to hundreds of UC community members each semester, creating theater pieces that addressed faculty, staff, and student social justice concerns through an educational workshop model and/or certificate training. During this founding period, we also were able to create and meet with an Advisory Board from constituencies across the campus to help us seek institutional stability beyond the BILD grants. Staff member Evelyn Luluquisen joined our team in Fall of 2008 as our support services coordinator (as well
as an actor-educator) to help organize the workshops and traveling troupe logistics across campus and beyond. In Fall of 2009, staff member Breidi Truscott expanded her role from actor-educator to joining the team in this coordinator role.
Having taught the ITP course and delivered workshops for 4 semesters, the continuity of the programming created on-going requests from the campus for year-round workshops. In 2010, ITP received new funding through the Haas Multicultural Education Grant, allowing us to continue the Interactive Theater course for another year, to continue serving the campus community and UC system, and to continue seeking long-term institutional commitment to this diversity education work. Workshops per semester increased to 12-14. Maria Lucero Padilla and Michael Mansfield became co-directors during this new grant period. Edith Ng retired from her job at UCB while Carla Trujillo’s increased job responsibilities prevented her from staying fully involved in ITP. The project remained housed within The Office of the Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion’s Staff Diversity Initiatives. We worked closely with the Director of Staff Diversity Initiatives, Dr. Sidalia Reel and Vice Chancellor Gibor Basri. In 2011, ITP received grant funding for one more semester of the course and trainings working with University Health Services TANG Center.
Our goal has always been to establish a self-sustaining theater company living within an on-going academic course to provide workshops without cost to campus communities while contributing to the life-long education of all members of the university in the complex arenas of race, class, sexuality, ability, and status. For the first 3 and ½ years, the company’s work resided within an on-going academic course available to undergraduate and graduate students, staff, faculty, administration, and alumni, using a
service-learning and change-agent education model. ITP was cited in the UCB Campus Climate Survey Report 2010 as a valuable and viable resource for the campus community to use to meet diversity education needs effectively in the 21st century.
Interactive Theater Company
Beginning in the Summer of 2011, ITP continued with individual workshop requests to serve the campus in a variety of forms. While the work no longer had an academic course home, we continued to do the work as a paid theater company while promoting the work, building relationships, and seeking additional funding in hopes to re-institute the course. Without a community of trained diversity education actors in a course to draw from, we now needed to pay students and alumni actors for their work outside of the classroom. Thus was born the Interactive Theater Company. It was at this time Maria and Michael invited Louel Señores, one of our longtime actor-educators and talented writers, to join our creative team more formally to collaborate with us in script development and workshop presentations.
We have actively provided programs aimed at addressing current salient and trending staff and student issues customized to the audience participants. For example, in response to campus climate issues raised in campus surveys we initiated and presented Workplace Civility Programs to address staff bullying and workplace violence prevention concerns, as well as, model Multi-Generational Workforce Effectiveness.
Additionally, several staff programs were designed as skill development workshops for Student Affairs professional staff. As home to the Disability Movement, we have routinely presented tailored programs to both student and staff groups. The Interactive
Theater Company has also been used to meet campus Title IX compliance education for AB 185 Sexual Harassment Prevention Education biennial requirements for Faculty and Managers. Student-focused programs cut across a gamut of diversity education
topics and issues being used in student development theory and leadership trainings and are delivered in Residence Halls and Student-Staff Trainings. Concurrently, we train staff and peers in diversity education facilitation for follow up in-service education
The Advisory Board was never fully activated in the midst of the actual work being done by the now Interactive Theater Company, especially when the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion’s request for the course’s future funding during a belt-tightening period of UC history became less likely. We continued to communicate with former Advisory Board members and receive their support in the form of references and campus contacts.
Colleges, departments, units, and individual faculty across campus have hired us to do trainings for graduate students, undergraduate students, staffs, and faculties. Each time, the ITC process of research, scriptwriting, collaboration, and mentoring with the requesting community is activated, as we co-create anew the facilitation, scenario, and workshop designs in response to the specific needs of the audience. Haas School of Business, University Health Services TANG Center, College of Environmental Design, Department of Psychology, and School of Public Health are early colleagues in our work.
A campus-wide annual advisor training, STAY DAY, has invited us to keynote for all 5 years of its existence, based on the advisors’ evaluations each year citing ITC as the most important aspect of the training day. We were awarded a Department of Justice
(DOJ) Grant for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Education to help train some of the 9000 new incoming undergraduate and graduate students in the summer and fall of 2012 with 6 EmpowerU Trainings. We were then invited to work with all of the
fraternities and sororities on this same topic. We were tasked with the Race Project Educational Events and Workshops in conjunction with the museum installation on Race at Lawrence Hall of Science (2009). Additionally, we presented at system-wide
conferences hosted at UC Santa Cruz, UC San Francisco, and UC Berkeley for administrator, staff cultural communities, and a variety of student conferences. By 2012, we had delivered over 100 uniquely designed workshops and educational events using
Interactive Theater to train thousands of people in diversity awareness and multicultural skill-building.
Alongside the ITC workshops, ITC has developed new relationships with 2 other departments on campus to use interactive theater in new ways in education, being awarded Curriculum Innovation Grants each year. For 9 years, ITC provided the
UCSF/UCB Joint Medical Program in the School of Public Health with “standardized patient” actors to train the medical students. For 10 years, ITC has provided the Nutrition Department with “client” actors to train the nutrition students. Curriculum
Innovation Grants with ITC for new projects involving filming “doctor-patient” interactions for the UCSF/UCB Joint Medical Program, as well as, filming “health-education” short stories for Haas Business School for use on youtube in developing nations, were not realized.
Berkeley Interactive Theater
In 2013-14, ITC began increased and regular collaborations with new partners outside of the University of California. We changed our name to Berkeley Interactive Theater (BIT) as a result of this broader scope in our work. BIT provided “standardized patient” actors and theater scripting/training resources as part of a grant awarded to 5 medical programs in the Bay Area (including UCSF/UCB Joint Medical Program). We did this work over the course of a year at Samuel Merritt University’s state-of-the-art medical education facility. In Summer 2014, we created interactive theater trainings for The Claremont Colleges, in southern California, training 250 faculty members in diversity awareness and multicultural skills for educators over 2 days of workshops.
Also in Summer 2014, Chair Catherine Cole (TDPS) re-introduced the Theater 114 – Interactive Theater: Acting for Social Change course into the curriculum as a Summer Session course in TDPS. We worked in collaboration with Susan Carlson at the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) to write scripts and develop scripts that were used in the Training Sessions for Chairs and Deans in the STEM departments on all 10 UC campuses. (Edith Ng has been hired to coordinate on this special project with Susan.) We collaborated with UCOP to research, write, develop, and perform new scripts that address the racial and gender bias and aggressions and hostile climate conditions facing Post-Doctoral employees in the UC system, especially in regard to advancement. Similarly, we partnered with International House using the same process to develop scripts to be used in Summer 2015 to train new international students on cultural sensitivity. In Summer 2016, we partnered with Berkeley’s Homeless Action Center to engage the concerns around housing insecurity. In Summer 2017, we again worked with International House on international student issues in the university and in this country. In Summer 2108, we worked with the Staff Alliance for Disability Access (SADA) to create theater pieces that address the realities of difference on this campus. In Summer 2019, we worked on a range of concerns generated by the students that they had personally encountered on campus. In Summer 2020, the course
was done on Zoom with students generated issues based on being students in their neighborhood communities and schools. Summer 2021, the course was adapted into Theater 5 Just Public Speaking on Zoom. Summer 2022, the course remained as
Theater 5 Just Public Speaking, taught live and masked.
We were the opening keynote at the National Conference on Campus Sexual Assault and Violence on February 24th, 2015. Since this time, we have had on-going partnerships with UCSF Medical School Graduate Program (5 years), UC Davis MBA Program (5 years), UCB College of Environmental Design (5 years), UCB Graduate Division GSI Program (8 years), and Stanford Medical School (10 years). We partnered with UCB College of Engineering for 4 years to create an entire cycle of workshops (6-8 workshops per year) for their EMPOWER Program for students, staff, and faculty. We have worked with the Liberal Arts Colleges at Stanford for 3 years to create a training cycle of 3 different workshops. We collaborated with the Graduate Students in Haas
Business School for 3 years. We annually train the international group of Schmidt Science Fellows for the last 4 years. We worked with all staff at UC Santa Cruz for 3 years. We have created workshop programs with Cabrillo College and Santa Monica
Community College. We presented at the Berkeley NOW Conference in 2021. Our Stanford Workshop on March 13, 2020 was our last live workshop before the pandemic. COVID allowed us to pivot and recreate our work in virtual format. Spring 2020 to Spring 2022 we presented workshops virtually for 2 years. On March 4, 2022, we began live masked workshops back at Stanford. Now we can present live or virtually.
Unique opportunities continue to present themselves. Berkeley Public Library invited us to help the community celebrate Banned Books Week in September through an interactive theatrical presentation. We were invited to create a piece on “Marriages at
the Stadium Club” during the UC Berkeley vs. Brigham Young University Half-Time in the UC Berkeley Stadium. We worked with InnerWorldDiscovery to create a danced- science experience of DNA on film. We worked with Little Heroes, Inc to create a
children’s interactive educational series to train little people in safety and health concerns. We continue to collaborate the Nutrition department by providing “standardized patient” actors and offer workshops both live and virtually. Our most recent workshops in 2022-23 have been with Graduate Division GSI Training, Schmidt Science Fellows, Statistics Department MA/PhD/Post-Doc Students, and Stanford Medical Leadership Training Program.
Berkeley Interactive Theater is considered a DEIB public engagement and multicultural education resource by DEIBlueprint and the Division of Equity and Inclusion. We are grateful that the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies gave us a
first home and has continued to offer space for our work.