A Blade of Grass Films


Alternative Futures: Theatre of the Oppressed NYC

The Housing Works Forum Theatre Troupe, created in partnership between Theatre of the Oppressed NYC and Housing Works, is made up of individuals who have been affected by HIV/AIDs and homelessness. In Fall 2019, the troupe created "Notcha Day," an original play that highlights the actors' lived experiences of systemic oppression and housing insecurity.

AIRED: November 02, 2020 | 0:07:37


[ Siren wails ]




Leonimm: The Housing Works Theatre Troupe is a partnership

with Theatre of the Oppressed NYC and Housing Works,

which runs through stores and bookstores,

but also a lot of services around the city.

You're going to see "Notcha Day" created

and performed by the Housing Works Theatre Troupe.

[ Cheers and applause ]

And these actors have spent since September building

this play off of real-life experiences.

Actors, are you ready?

Together: Three, two, one. Action.

Good afternoon. May I have your ticket, please?

[ Speaks indistinctly ]

Wait. Do you know English?

No English. Have a seat.

I don't know Spanish.

I'm going to give you an appointment.

Yo no tengo interview.

I don't do the interview.

I'm the receptionist. I'm not an interpreter.

Puedes ayudar.

Hoy -- I have to talk to my boss. I got to...

I really loved theater as a way for people

to be sharing with each other

and then figuring out what to do next.

Theatre of the Oppressed NYC is a New York City-based

theater nonprofit that focuses on doing forum theater

play-making with oppressed communities in New York City

and has a number of ongoing theater troupes.

And they meet in various spaces around the city.

We have done, as of this year,

just upwards of 300 forum theater performances.

The Housing Works Theatre Troupe,

we're really focused on access to housing.

Keith: I do live in Section 8 housing.

There is a big housing crisis in New York City,

just, like, people changing rules and being homeless

and not being homeless or being on the verge of homelessness.

This needs to be corrected.

And let's correct it.


The staff member here at night,

the last time I was here, the little old lady,

she never told me that I needed to submit two forms.

There gave me one form, which is a transfer request

but then never gave me the accommodation form.

You want to check into another place?

Yeah, I want to check into the other apartment.

You got to wait till there's a slot.

You got to wait till somebody passes away

or somebody go to jail.

No, I already got the apartment.

In Theatre of the Oppressed work,

the joker is the person facilitating the work,

and the facilitators will take the actors

through a number of exercises.

Oh, so you're saying I was here before?

Yes. Okay.

Well, you're dead wrong

because it's my first time in this store.

So either you're a liar or you just discriminate.

What's the problem? What's the problem?

Open my bag for what?

Did you see me take anything?

-Okay, okay. -Lotion.

You said you were --

Ma'am, we apologize. We apologize.

[ Applause ]

Woman: So this is an alternative,

and then, to the first one.

This is my opinion. I don't think the play --

at that part, should end, as you leaving her alone.

I think the play would end

is you either kicking her ass out the store

or you're having the cops call her.

The whole point of this play

is to show the world that you have

things that's unfair. That was my whole point of force.

Both: I guess it's not your day!

C'est la vie!

[ Cheers and applause ]

Now raise your hand if you had to deal with someone

that truly didn't care about what you needed,

like finding or maintaining housing in New York City.

[ Laughter ]

We happen to all share the same stories

and the same problems that our actors did today.

Gariyana and the Housing Works actors and I

are looking for one person to come up and try an idea.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Leonimm: The forum theater model

is really actually getting the audience members up on stage

and in the situations in the play.

Together: ...1, action!


Ms. Santiago, it's time to go to lunch.

Ah, my boss said I got to go to lunch.

Excuse me? Excuse me.

I got to go to lunch. I'm here.

So you just ignoring me?

I need your name because I'm going to come here.

I have to see your badge.

Perez: We get the feedback from the audience

to find out what they think.

Can they do it better than us?

Can they fix the situation,

the problem that we have? Do you know the solution?

I'm here this morning

to talk about all the repairs that I had,

and it seems like things things ain't getting done.

And that's the reason why I'm here.

I been here since 8:30 this morning,

and I've been very, very patient.

I'm sorry. I have all these repairs.

Perez: We try to get our issues in play to have closure,

to learn something,

so we can defend ourselves and advocate ourselves.

[ Applause ]

What did this character try?

Like, what did we see?

Humility -- that's what it takes.

You were, I think, in a good position

to maybe suggest something like,

"Can I make an appointment?

Can I come back tomorrow and make an appointment?"

The play's fantastic.

It makes you start to think.

For me, is this personal for me.

You have an X in your head,

if you're Puerto Rican or black.

It's about money and power.

If there's anybody here in the room

who is connected to a group or an institution

who is actually trying to actively change

one of these situations?

I work for Housing Works.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Something that I saw in one of their performances,

the lack of staff members perhaps knowing

another language besides English,

and that's something that personally,

since my first language is Spanish,

so I like to expand that offerings through

to our Spanish speakers clients.

I've seen people within institutions

talk about their thoughts on how to shift their practices

and their policies based on a play.

Williams: A lot of the performances,

there's been actual physical change

and a lot of people came up to us and was like,

"Yo, you really touched me.

Like, you really felt what we're going through."

Leonimm: Theatre of the Oppressed is important

because I see so much change

that needs to happen in the world.

And I think that's only going to happen

via people's constant and tireless efforts

to make sure more people know about the oppression

and how people experience it

and the impacts it has on people's lives.

Because change needs to happen, I see Theatre of the Oppressed

as offering people a place to practice change.

[ Applause ]




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