Workshops with Solid Lines Productions
With the brilliance and resourcefulness of our Educational Programming Developer, Susan Kopp, our educational offerings are growing faster than ever! We continue to develop new programming at a breakneck pace, and the programs as we currently offer them are linked below in two handy PDF guides! Continue scrolling to read some background on the development of our programming, as well as how you can contact us about one of our programs, and how we can tailor it specifically to suit you and your organization’s needs!
Our Voices programming was born out of a desire to better serve the community. One of the aims of Solid Lines Productions is to ensure that the work we produce is representative of the community that we serve, and speaks to everyone in that community rather than select groups. One of the best ways to pursue both of those goals is to hear the stories of audiences that we serve. Many of the issues about which we endeavor to foster dialogue are stigmatized: obscured by fear and silence. We want to encourage people to use their voices.
So we began at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in the spring of 2015. We held a couple of workshops in which professional actors visited the campus, read some original pieces about their experiences in rape culture, and then talked with the students about that culture, the importance of speaking out, and how others can be affected by the stories they experience. Professional counselors were on-hand to support anyone who needed support, and the actors assisted students with writing as needed. These workshops culminated in a performance during which the actors performed pieces they had written, and a student performed a piece she had written about her own experience. There were also small segments about bystander training and art therapy between some of the performance pieces. It was very powerful, but the vast majority of performance pieces were not written by students. Though the audience was very receptive, we still felt as though we had much to learn before we could fully realize our vision of giving our audience members a place in which their Voices could be heard.
The next year, it was requested that our Voices programming return to SIUE, but we were also asked to attempt a different format. From this was born our second form of Voices programming, in which students were assigned a professional counselor as a guide, walked through a “Tunnel of Oppression” model, and experienced various scenarios centered around domestic and sexual violence. At each stop, they would discover actors who began a scene, and would then halt at a decision point. The guide would then present two courses of action that a chosen character could take, and the students would decide which course of action would be followed. Each scenario featured 3 “decision points,” though some ended before the third decision point because something had occurred that ended the dialogue prematurely. As people tend to learn more from failure than success, students are encouraged to select the path that they would most like to see performed rather than “the right path.” We’ve found that this encourages more participation, dialogue, and learning than the performed scenario necessarily ending on a positive note.
The following academic year, we received more than double the requests for our Voices programming. Though we were unable to work out a program that would allow us to visit the Missouri University campus in Columbia, we returned to SIUE to perform Voices in a “Tunnel of Oppression” model with new scenarios that included discussion of sexual harassment and assault in the military per the request of the ROTC. We were hired by the Saint Louis College of Pharmacy to perform a wide range of scenarios as per the “Tunnel of Oppression” model (though on a proscenium stage and one at a time) for their freshman orientation, during which time we discussed drugs and alcohol, domestic and sexual violence, consent, and the dangers of social media. We were also brought in at the University of Missouri at Saint Louis for their student orientation to perform scenarios as per the “Tunnel of Oppression” model (again, one at a time on a proscenium stage) with a particular focus on domestic and sexual violence, stalking and cyber-stalking, and drugs.
It was at this point that we were also asked to expand our Voices programming to discuss a different topic during the campus’ Greek Week: mental health and mental illness. And while it was a return to the UMSL campus, which we had visited previously, this was the first time we were asked to return to the same campus in the same academic year, and this particular request came from Greek Life, which was also something new. We returned to our original Voices format of running two workshops and encouraging students to tell their stories. This time, however, we were joined by Susan Kopp: a most excellent teaching artist with expansive experience, unique vision, and that unnameable quality that allows her to connect with all types of students. She restructured our workshops so as to more readily meet students where they are, and ensure that our invitation to write about their own experiences was not jarring. The results were immediate: at a workshop attended by approximately twenty students, we had pieces of writing from nearly all of them! The dialogue generated by that first workshop (as well as the second) was moving, powerful, and apparently affected the participants, as the feedback was very strongly positive. The culminating performance was a script that featured pieces written exclusively by students: the first time we had enough material to make this a reality. The unsolicited requests for our Voices programming continue…
Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going
Up to this point, our Voices programming has mostly been focused on raising awareness of domestic and sexual violence, and providing action steps to prevent these crimes. We expanded the scope of our Voices workshops this past season to include aspects of college life, including alcohol and drugs, as well as the dangers of sharing too much information on social media. We now offer Voices programming centered on raising awareness of and fostering conversation about mental health. Though it is impossible to predict which topics we will address through Voices in the future, we continue to experiment with different models that are anchored by the same notion: giving our audience members an opportunity use their Voices to speak out on important topics and shatter the silence. The deep roots that we are growing with community partners also means that we are flexible and only too happy to create new programming to serve the specific needs of that partner. We are willing to explore other subjects as requested by those who request our services.
How Can I Book a Workshop?
This is the easiest part of the process: e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org! That is how nearly every one of these Voices programs got started on each campus. What are your needs? About what would you like to foster dialogue and who is your audience? You need not be a college or university to request our Voices programming.
We do require that you provide space for any workshops or performances that you request. We know all too well that budgets are frequently very restrictive and do not always allow for the full spectrum of programming that people would like to offer. As such, we try to meet our partners where they are. Our programming is free of charge to all participants. We have implemented a “Pay What You Can” policy regarding our partnering organization or organizations. We ask that you assess a feasible allotment of your budget for our programming, and then we can evaluate all factors and determine how to make the proposed partnership a reality.
After an e-mail exchange exploring the needs of your organization and audience, Executive Director Chris LaBanca will set up a meeting during which different types of programs will be discussed, and the Voices programming will be tailored to your needs, and those of your audience. While the programming we offer continues to improve and impress, we are always excited to explore new ideas and see what kind of Voices program we can generate together. Because together, we can do more.