About 15 years ago, Hector and I discovered we had been working separately to address the same urgent social justice issues. Working together became a way to amplify our voices.
We collaborated on Hector’s solo performance, Nightwind, and our book, The Blessing Next to the Wound. These and other ImaginAction projects have been life-changing for me.
When I came to ImaginAction, I had decades of experience as an author and playwright and taught for 23 years in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Working with and learning from Hector, I switched gears. Instead of working with graduate students already involved in the arts I developed a crash course in street theater for US high school and college student activists and began to offer writing workshops to encourage self-expression, boost literacy, and promote social justice with adjudicated youth, children in foster-care, and marginalized youth in Colombia and Bolivia. After participating in ImaginAction programs in the US and abroad, I was able to write (for the academic presses as well as popular publications) about how our ideas about community and peace-building can be put into practice.
I continue to write fiction, often inspired by my experiences with ImaginAction. My short stories set in Colombia, Northern Ireland, and Senegal have appeared in a range of publications while my novel, Confessions of a Carnivore, features Gorilla Theater, a troupe that uses Theater of the Oppressed and street theater to confront both animal rights and human rights abuses.
My focus in recent years has been to support torture survivors from around the world as they seek asylum and begin to heal and rebuild their lives in Los Angeles. With ImaginAction, I crafted two scripts inspired by Theater of Witness techniques in which survivors served by the Program for Torture Victims (PTV) and their family members portrayed their own stories for public audiences. As part of the project, I also collected oral histories of survivors which can be read at https://secondchancesla.weebly.com/ Currently at PTV I facilitate arts workshops and field trips with survivors and assist at the weekly Resilience group meeting, a safe space for games, storytelling, theater exercises, and peer support.