By Katarina Podewils – [email protected]

The Guatemala exchange program offers a fine arts course named “Theatre of the Oppressed” which began in the spring of 2013 and has sparked Bennies and Johnnies to create dialogue within the community this past year.

This Mar. 31 – Apr. 1, a cohort of students who have created a group now called RAD: Reflection. Action. Dialogue., will be performing their interactive piece – which stems from Theatre of the Oppressed  – to the Notre Dame Peace Conference. 

With the suggestion coming from their advisor and Hispanic Studies professor Roy Ketchum, the group of 12 decided to apply and were accepted to perform at the conference shortly after.

RAD will be presenting the same theater performance they started back in the fall of 2016. This includes both a skit and interactive segment. The latter portion of the performance, which comprises the bulk of the show, addresses current social issues on campus with students and asks students to add their voices in conversation.

According to Nicole Clements, the Assistant Director for Semester Education Abroad, RAD has a unique story to tell.

“One of things that I think has been really interesting to see is how this theater – that these students created – was based off of activities that happened on campus like the “crossing the border” parties that were part of FAMSAK {a series of end-of-the-year senior parties],” Clements said. “This happened now four years ago, and yet I think that the conversations that this theater work creates are as relevant today as they were then.”

Lindsay Sommer and Faith Kersey-Bronec, both CSB seniors involved in RAD, explain how their purpose as a group is to present social injustices and oppression to an audience who may be unaware.

“By getting more people to see our piece, we’d be helping raise the consciousness of more people surrounding the topics of racism, inclusion and oppression,” Sommer said.

RAD also hopes to acknowledge that it is a changing identity, willing to change as the community urges. For example, RAD only recently became an official campus organization under the Center for Global Education.

“We asked the audience to propose concrete suggestions of change that the institution could implement, and one of the suggestions was to make RAD and our performance more permanent,” Kersey-Bronec said. “And because of that suggestion, we moved forward and made RAD an organization.”

Both Sommer and Kersey-Bronsec admit that they never had a theater background prior to this experience. They acknowledge that as science majors, it was their initial experience witnessing the social injustice in Guatemala that pushed them to help create RAD.

“I would have to say that before this experience, I would never have chosen to be involved in this type of work,” Kersey-Bronec said.

Eleven out of the 12 members participating at the conference are seniors, but RAD hopes that the next cohort of students to take Theatre of the Oppressed will take the initiative to fill in their places with whatever dialogue they hope to share with both campuses.

In addition, RAD members have had conversations with faculty in regards to the theater technique they are using.

Kaarin Johnston, a theater professor at CSB, hopes to teach a class next semester similar to the one taught in Guatemala.

Johnston plans to use the same legislative theater technique that RAD uses in their performance.

RAD is also hoping to broaden their reach by incorporating its lessons in first-year orientation and First-Year Seminar (FYS).