Yolo Theatre

Yolo Theatre was a participatory theatre workshop I facilitated during 2018 for young men between 13 and 17 years old from Central America who were detained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement at a Juvenile Justice Center in Northern California. This practice-as-research for my PhD in Performance Studies, funded by a Research Fellowship from UC Davis Comparative Border Studies, explored forms of creative self-expression to enhance wellbeing and human connection, in resistance to the isolating, violent conditions of immigrant detention. We created original performance material from participants’ interests and expertise, encouraging respect and trust, while responding to changing circumstances within the detention center. As facilitator, I extended open invitations for play and improvisation that allowed participants to express themselves via non-prescriptive roles, physicalities and feelings. We developed improvisations based on scenarios familiar to their lives as well as devised scenes with fictional characters. I also introduced them to mask theatre, which allowed participants to embody characters completely different from themselves. I learned that doing a task together, like mask-making, in this context, was not about the final product, but sharing a creative space alongside the harsh reality of incarceration, where we could just ‘be together’ and play in the moment. This workshop was realized in collaboration with the Yolo Immigration Interfaith Network.


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