In November 2010, Theatre of the Oppressed NYC was founded by Katy Rubin, Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner, theatre artist and circus artist. Katy trained with Augusto Boal, Brazilian theatre director and creator of the Theatre of the Oppressed methodology, in Rio in 2008, and returned to New York to find a lack of "popular theatre" (interactive theatre created by communities facing oppression) here. The work began with the creation of TONYC's flagship popular theatre troupe, originally called Jan Hus Homeless Theatre Troupe and now renamed Concrete Justice. Since then, TONYC has expanded its programs to include popular troupes with HIV+ homeless New Yorkers; undocumented immigrants and refugees; LGBT homeless youth; NYC public school students and teachers; and many other communities.
TONYC has received awards from Eileen Fisher Community Partnership, Eileen Fisher Foundation, Do Something, Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, Theatre Communications Group, Left Tilt Fund and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and press coverage from the New York Times, the Village Voice, the NY Daily News, Our Town News, Manhattan Times, the Associated Press, NY1 and more. TONYC has collaborated on Theatre of the Oppressed projects in India, Israel and Palestine, Nicaragua and England, and currently trains new practitioners and facilitators in New York City.
What is Theatre of the Oppressed?
Theatre of the Oppressed is an interactive, physical and playful tool used to investigate situations in which we are denied our basic rights, personally and collectively. Community actors, directors, playwrights, designers and producers create original, interactive plays inspired by real-life struggles for human rights. These popular troupes tour throughout varied communities to engage in theatrical brainstorming or "forum theatre," in which the scenes ask a question of the audience, and the audience becomes involved as “spect-actors,” taking on the role of the protagonist to offer alternatives to the problems onstage.These interactive forums demand solidarity amongst diverse New Yorkers and creatively challenge systems of oppression.
Who We Are
Katy Rubin, founding artistic director
Katy Rubin is a joker, director, actor and circus artist. She trained with Augusto Boal at the Center for Theatre of the Oppressed in Rio de Janeiro, and since returning home to NYC, she's been riding the subway throughout the boroughs, pursuing a vision of planting seeds of popular theatre in every corner of our wonderful city. When she needs a break, she goes for a walk (or a dance) on her stilts. Katy has also trained with Jana Sanskriti in Kolkata, India; collaborated with Combatants for Peace in Israel and Palestine; and directed forum plays in Leon, Nicaragua. She holds a BFA in Acting from the Boston University School of Theatre, and is a recipient of the Shapiro Fellowship and the TCG Global Connections Grant.
Becca Lynch, Joker and Development Coordinator, can often be found around the city leading impromptu theatre games or breaking out her smartphone on the subway to jot down fundraising ideas. Before moving to New York and joining TONYC, she received a BA in Theatre and Psychology at the University of Southern California and then worked in Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa.
John Leo, Joker, is a Hospital Clown and teaches clown to hospital staff through the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit. He co-created/performs Peg-sss-us with Sophie Nimmannit and Handshake Uppercut with Jay Dunn. Mr. Leo curates/MCs the tinyDANGEROUSfun! variety show and has toured with Clowns Without Borders to Mexico '04 & Guatemala '10. He is a graduate from the Dell 'Arte School of Physical Theatre. He has studied Theatre of the Oppressed with Falconworks and in Guatemala with Stephane Gue. Awards: Gold Medal, NY Clown Olympics; Best Comedy & Best Physical Theatre, SF Fringe Fest; Encore Award, Boulder Fringe Fest; "Must See," Chicago Fringe Fest; Individual Artist Project Award; Rasmussen Foundation. www.johnleo.net
Moon, aka Alex Lowery, has been with Theatre of the Oppressed NYC for over two years as an actor with the Concrete Justice troupe. In those two years he's created and toured three plays around New York City. Now he is a co-joker at The Door helping the youth there to make their plays. This is just the beginning. He plans on continuing work with TONYC in many different communities in the future.
Rachel Eilerman Messer, Joker, works with the inspiring actors at Housing Works, an HIV/AIDS advocacy and health services organization, and the Door, a comprehensive youth development center. She believes the methodology of Theatre of the Oppressed is a powerful tool for examining racism, heterosexism and other forms of oppression, and building a more equitable and creative world – “a world,” as Paulo Freire said, “in which it is easier to love.” Rachel has an MSW from Hunter College School of Social Work, performs with a Brooklyn-based queer arts ensemble and regularly daydreams about dancing on the A train.
Sophie Nimmannit, Joker, slings props and ideas onto her bike each week to rehearse with young adults at the Ali Forney Center, which provides services to homeless LGBTQ youth. Sophie has been a Brooklyn-based theater artist since 2003, enthralled with making ensemble-devised original works, and occasionally playing with puppets.
Theatre of the Oppressed NYC Board of Directors
Cara Herbitter - Evaluation & Research Projects Manager, Reproductive Health Education in Family Medicine
Antoinette Klatzky - Program Director, Eileen Fisher Community Foundation
Rabbi Peter Schweitzer - Rabbi, City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism