Applied Theatre Initiative

The Bok Center Players were formed in 2007 by Lee Warren, Associate Director Emerita, in direct response to the Harvard WISE report (Women in Science and Engineering), a report which, like many others published by universities nationwide, pointed to a gender disparity in the sciences. Sponsored by the Vice Provost's Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, the group originally piloted several programs focusing on gender in science, and over the next few years widened its scope to include issues of diversity and inclusion more broadly.

Examples of some of the interactive theatre pieces developed by the ensemble include Trouble in the Lab (addressing management practices in lab culture), The Right Fit (examining practices in faculty hiring), and Teaching Beyond the Timeline (highlighting challenges in teaching the humanities and social sciences). The Players performed extensively on campus and at other colleges and universities throughout the New England area. Their work sparked valuable dialogue among faculty, students, and administrators at Harvard and beyond.

Applied theatre is an evolving field that brings familiar, complex situations to life in order to examine them more fully. Just as with conventional theatre, audience members can feel present to the characters and circumstances while sitting at a beneficial distance; it's this distance that allows us to process and reflect on the emotional content inherent in charged situations and to converse more freely about what we see. Unlike some conventional theatre, however, applied theatre often requires participation of some kind, whether in dialogue or in interaction with stories as they unfold. The applications for applied theatre in academia are myriad, and the Bok Center will strive to discover what applications are most urgent and relevant at FAS today.

We recently welcomed Mara Sidmore as Artistic Director for the new Applied Theatre Practice Program at the Bok Center. An accomplished theatre maker and educator, Mara is an alum of the Harvard / American Repertory Institute for Advanced Theater MFA program and serves as Director of Education at The Actors' Shakespeare Project here in Boston.

In this new role at the Bok Center, Mara will work with academic departments at FAS to develop ways that the methods of theatre can act as vehicles for maximizing effective pedagogy and classroom engagement. In collaboration with key faculty partners, she will lead the acting ensemble in a period of research to develop new cases that reflect the current issues and challenges in Harvard's teaching and learning environment. These cases will be used to generate socially engaged interactive theatre, which, in turn, will be used as a means to spark dialogue among faculty, students, and administrators on a variety of topics. Topics may include: diversity in the classroom, inclusive teaching, racial equity, gender equity and identity, privilege and inherent biases in academia, and campus and classroom dynamics.

To engage with the Bok Center's Applied Theatre Initiative or for more information, please email Artistic Director Mara Sidmore.