Art Making as Activism in Public Life: The Vision and Experience of Gas and Electric Arts
March 24, 2015 // Theater 101
Synopsis: Faculty, students, and community members joined Lisa Jo Epstein for an exploration of theatre as a forum for social change
Bio: Lisa Jo Epstein is the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Gas & Electric Arts. She is a theatre director, educator and teaching artist whose engaged, theatrical vision has been influenced by her training at Theatre de la Jeune Lune (Minneapolis), the world-renowned Théâtre du Soleil (Paris, France), and with Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Augusto Boal at the Center for the Theatre of the Oppressed (Paris, France). For decades, Lisa Jo has facilitated experiential theatre workshops with a variety of populations in many community locations around issues of identity, empowerment and social justice. For this work, she was recognized as a Northwest Fund Neighborhood Change Agent, was awarded a Leeway Art & Change grant, and has thrice been a Leeway Transformation Award finalist. For the past twenty years, Epstein has seen herself as Theatre of the Oppressed multiplier, teaching others this approach to making personal and community change. In addition to facilitating numerous Theatre of the Oppressed trainings and residencies in communities, she created Power gRRRls, a unique summer theatre, conflict resolution and leadership program for teen girls. Most recently, Epstein began working with an intergenerational group of residents in Chester PA around issues of domestic violence and its impact on the community.
Lisa Jo has been invited to travel to universities and colleges to teach a range of theatre classes, from T.O. to performance composition, as well as to direct theatre productions. In 2013, for example, she was in residence at the Université of Bordeaux in France where she taught master classes in choreographic theatre, led a Theatre of the Oppressed multi-day workshop, and presented her work with Gas & Electric Arts to the community. Each summer, Lisa Jo leads a Forum Theater intensive workshop which brings educators, social workers, community organizers, artists and active citizens from across the country to study with her. She has directed all of the mainstage plays for Gas & Electric Arts which has been dubbed “an indie theatre force,” and is considered one of Philadelphia’s most fearless, innovative small theater companies, committed to forging compelling imagistic, emotionally and intellectually relevant theatrical experiences. Her directorial work is noted for its signature, multi-sensory approach that bridges the gap between ensemble-devised physical theatre & text-based work, resulting in a unique hybrid performance style.