In most workshops, there is the standard podium or table, the PowerPoint, the attendees sitting in chairs, hearing, learning, making sense of some important topic.
Not so much at the Young Women's Resilient Voices for Empowerment Through Performance parallel session at the 2016 Commission on the Status of Women. This was a fully engaged gathering of complete participatory theatre. A program conceived and designed by Dr. Beth Osnes, Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Colorado-Boulder, Chelsea Hackett, PhD student in Educational Theatre at NYU and the Starfish School in Solola, Guatemala, now directed by Vilma Saloj, "Her Infinite Impact" is a 12-session introduction to expanding vocal range and efficacy through exercises, games and theatre activities.
The session involved voice and body warm-ups, group imagery creation and partner discussions which culminated in the entire group of about 16 and then smaller groups of approximately four each contributing to the expression of what it means to empower women and how that would look as a statue-like representation. Commentary was then offered on the perceptions that each presentation elicited within each participant.
Developed as a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project, the program itself is now mainly used in Guatemala at the Starfish School. Its larger purpose, however, is adaptation to any group that wants to physically empower womens' voices through the creation of strong, stable and secure manifestations of the environment needed to do so and ultimately to transfer that to the women themselves.
In the near future, the program will be introduced in Tanzania, New York City and Boulder, Colorado, and it is working to develop opportunities for women to advocate in communities through their vocal and civic strength.