Building Bridges through Theatre, a post by Elaine Chen

6 Jun
My name is El Chen and I am a Master of Social Work candidate at the University of Michigan. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, where I took the Atonement Project, a course taught by my dearest professor Ashley Lucas,  during my sophomore year. Since then, I have been a member of Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP). After my trip to Brazil, I’ll be joining PCAP’s staff team as the Exhibit Assistant and a member of the curator team. I hope to build a career where I get to build bridges across communities and create dialogues through the arts. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to do just that through PCAP, where I’ve facilitated theatre and music workshops and participated in art selection trips for the Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners.
On June 2nd, I visited Professora Marina’s Teatro em comunidades workshops in the favelas. I and four students from Professor Lucas’s class participated in a theater workshop with kids from the age of 11 to 17. During our workshop, one of the warm-up activities required participants to form partnership in pairs and never break eye contact with their partner while moving around the room. If one person loses eye contact with their partner, the pair would act out a slow and dramatic death signifying the death of their connection. “The dead” are then free to roam around the room trying to break the bonds between remaining couples.
Even though I’ve been with PCAP for almost five years, witnessing what theater can do never gets old. Through this activity, I was able to connect and communicate with my partner without speaking a word. We laughed through the awkwardness of staring at each other for an abnormally long period of time. We somehow managed to co-create how and where we move, rotating in leading the movements constantly yet smoothly. We helped each other avoid crashing into fellow participants as we were relying on each other to see, with peripheral vision, what’s going on behind us as we move.
As the workshop continued, we experimented different ways of communication that brought the group closer despite language and cultural differences. I was amazed by how Professor Marina and the facilitators from UniRio extracted different aspects of theater – from sounds and gestures to interpersonal dynamics and ensemble-making – to create a collaborative and supportive group within two hours. Experiences like this are what fuel my passion for the arts, because I get to create and immerse in spaces where people are humanized and celebrated. I can’t wait to return to the workshop next Saturday and soak in every moment of our last week in Brazil.

One Response to “Building Bridges through Theatre, a post by Elaine Chen”


  1. Mais uma visita de amigos da Universidade de Michigan – Programa Teatro em Comunidades - June 12, 2018

    […] Building Bridges through Theatre, a post by Elaine Chen […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: