Illinois Association for Cultural Diversity

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Using Drama in the Classroom to Explore Social Justice Issues

Janice Mandell

On Sunday, April 13, 2014, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Western Illinois University and Augustana College will host Janice Mandell and several graduates of the St. Paul (MN) Central Touring Theatre Company in the Olin Auditorium (733 35th Street, Rock Island, IL) on the Augustana College campus. Ms. Mandell and her students will facilitate a workshop to illustrate how drama can be used in the classroom to explore social justice issues.    

For over thirty years, Ms. Mandell has been using theatre to build community and create “authentic spaces for learning” by working with her students to develop original plays that help them understand social justice and its relevance to their lives. Through the dramas they create together they explore contemporary social issues, such as race/ethnicity, poverty, prejudice and violence. Using a wide range of strategies, Ms. Mandell and her students demonstrate how intellectual and physical activity can be interwoven to deepen participants’ understanding of and commitment to diversity, equity and justice.

The workshop will expose participants to theatre as a teaching tool that can be used across disciplines to explore a broad range of subjects, to introduce multiple perspectives on specific issues, and to link individual and community experiences and interests. For example, Melva Pattillo Beals’ Warriors Don’t Cry will be one of the texts used in the workshop to illustrate the power of theatre to explore ways to respond creatively and effectively to aggression and violence in educational settings.

“Using Drama in the Classroom to Explore Social Justice Issues” is sponsored by Western’s Expanding Cultural Diversity Project and Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research and by Augustana’s Departments of Women and Gender Studies, Education, Spanish, and Theatre Arts as well as the Arts and Humanities and Curriculum Funds, the Office of Student Life and Leadership, and the Multicultural Programming Board. Though there is no charge to participate in the workshop, registration is required since space is limited. Click and download the registration form to reserve your spot.

Further information is posted on the Expanding Cultural Diversity Project ( and Illinois Association for Cultural Diversity ( websites and is also available from Dr. Araceli Masterson (, Dr. Carla Paciotto (, and Dr. Janice R. Welsch (