Community Engagement

EMU recognizes, values and fosters the relationship between arts and the greater community. We believe that knowledge and participation in the community through the mediums of theatre and performance help individuals to grow as artists and communicators, to learn about their world, to engage in productive dialogue about social and political environments, to awaken untapped creativity, to discover and implement goals, and to contribute to the vision of a positive and productive world. Our numerous programs link EMU students and faculty with area communities and actively invest in outreach and civic engagement.

  • Applied Theatre

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    Applied theatre is a specialized field that uses theatre as a medium for education. social development and community engagement. Applied theatre involves work in often non-theatrical spaces and contexts. In projects large and small, applied theatre serves as transformational agent, increasing awareness of relevant and/or pressing issues, exposing injustices, challenging contemporary discourses and/or healing psychological barriers. Quite simply, applied theatre opens up new perspectives and anticipates change (Phillip Taylor).

    There are several on-going applied theatre projects and experiences:

    The "Safe Schools Project"

    The Safe Schools Project" is a professional development workshop created for educators and administrators to help middle/high school personnel create safer schools for LGBT students. The workshop includes: an educational theatre performance based on real interviews with local youth and educators highlighting the challenges facing current LGBT students, and a follow-up discussion/action workshop. The Safe Schools Project is coordinated by the Center for the Study of Equality and Human Rights with support from the Hope Foundation.

    C2 (CloseUP Classroom)

    C2 is an ensemble of faculty and students from various disciplines dedicated to improving classroom culture, instructional practices and university life through originally created theatre. C2 strives to authentically capture the voice of university faculty both in the academy and in the classroom, and in turn foster awareness of pressing and relevant issues surrounding teaching, learning and academic life. C2 performs at New Faculty Orientation, conferences and other University Academic Affair events. C2 is supported by the Faculty Development Center.

    Community Performance Project (CPP)

    Occurring every other year, our CTAR 522 or CTAR 565 students co-create applied theatre projects with various communities including non-profits, governmental agencies, local municipalities or local community activists and organizations. Performance approaches such as documentary, autoethnography and interactive theatre are used based on the community and the issues being addressed. To view prior community performance projects go to:

    CPP is supported through the Office of Academic Service-Learning.

  • Crosstown Theatre Troupe

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    Crosstown Theatre Troupe (CTT) is made up of local high school youth from the Willow Run, Wayne Memorial, Ypsilanti and Eastern Michigan University's Early College Alliance (ECA) communities. We work to create awareness for youth voice in the Washtenaw Area. Youth who participate in the organization will have an opportunity to learn improvisational skills and interactive theatre, and will gain an understanding of theatre for social change. CTT's performances seek to increase community engagement, access to youth perspective and generate community dialogue. CTT strives to recognize what issues the youth community deems most important, provide a safe place for teens and young adults to share their experiences, highlight the diverse nature of our neighborhood and help establish a greater sense of accomplishment for the youth community. CrossTown Theatre Troupe is made possible through the 21st Century Bright Futures Program, Gear Up and the office of Academic Service-Learning at Eastern Michigan University.
  • Drama Day

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    EMU Theatre hosts an annual Drama Day focused toward area high school students interested in theatre. The event is a day of fun, hands-on workshops and educational opportunities in a wide range of theatre specialties. Attendees participate in three workshops, a special matinée of an EMU Theatre performance, and a talk-back with the production's company members. Workshops span the scope of theatre practice: acting technique and auditioning, technical theatre, Shakespeare, voice and dialect, makeup, improvisation, directing, etc. and are taught by EMU faculty, staff and advanced students. There is a small fee for attendees, which includes the cost of workshop materials, lunch and a ticket to the production. For more information contact Pam Cardell, [email protected].


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    EMU's Musical Theatre Troupe, was formed in the Fall of 1996. ENCORE provides educational entertainment to the campus, community and area schools. Composed of EMU student performers under the direction of R. MacKenzie Lewis and Ken Stevens, ENCORE has performed for a wide range of audiences - from campus special events to tours to senior centers and community galas. Performances and workshops for local high schools are also an important part of ENCORE's musical outreach.
  • Louie the Lightning Bug

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    Playing it Safe with Lightning Bug!

    We are into our 19th year partnership between the DTE Energy Foundation and the EMU Foundation to deliver DTE Energy’s “Play It Safe Around Electricity” program directly to pre-K and early elementary children, age four to seven primarily, throughout the southeastern region of Michigan. This outreach effort is traditionally arranged in conjunction with Summer Safety Towns® during the months of May through September and other community-based youth programs during the academic year. Through this outreach initiative, little ones learn an elementary understanding of the use of electricity and natural gas along with related safety concerns. A primary instructional goal is to ensure that the participating children are better prepared to respond to an encounter with an electrical or natural gas hazard.

    They are taught how to properly remove power cords from outlets and interact daily in a safe manner around electricity. The “Play It Safe Around Electricity” program, with the assistance of Louie the Lightning Bug®, is a community service that teaches young children about electrical and gas safety while promoting a positive understanding of related energy issues with tomorrow’s consumers.

    For more information, visit the Louie the Lightning Bug website.
  • Six Figures Playback Theatre

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    Playback Theatre is an improvisational form of performance which invites audience members to share stories from their everyday lives; the company then spontaneously transforms them into theatre. The first Playback Theatre was founded in 1975 by Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas, and there are now Playback Theatre Groups throughout the world. Because of growing demand for training, Fox founded the School for Playback Theatre in 1993, which was renamed Centre for Playback Theatre in 1996. Playback Theatre was introduced at EMU more than a decade ago by Dr. Anita Rich, who serves as the director of EMU's Six Figures Playback Theatre. As Fox wrote, "Playback is about creating a theatre of neighbors not strangers." As a member of this innovative performance group, you'll develop and improve your techniques and skills to engage audiences in addressing and encouraging dialogue about important social issues. You will also have the opportunity to work with and for a range of audiences.

    Playback in the Community

    Members of the Playback Theatre Company have performed and conducted workshops for numerous groups in southeast Michigan. Many of these were youth centered, like Ozone House, Girl Scouts, Gear Up and EMU College for a Day, while others were for EMU events, including MLK Day, and organizations like the Intercultural Competency Institute and the Faculty Development Center. The company also travels, and has appeared in the Midwest, Arizona and Canada.

    Playback in Prison

    Six Figures has made numerous appearances at area corrections facilities. Since 2010, the company has partnered with the former Huron Valley Men's Correctional Facility as well as the Woodland Correction Center (WCC). Dr. Rich and volunteers meet with the inmates and their music therapist biweekly during the school year. At what is known as Theatre Group, they engage the inmates in Playback, literature and other interactive theatre techniques. Twice during the school year, the men perform their work and the work of other authors at a program for the warden, corrections officers, administrators, therapists and staff.

  • Theatre for the Young Tour

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    For more than forty years EMU Theatre of the Young has been touring to area elementary, middle and high schools. Our early programs were conceived and directed by Professor Emerita Thelma McDaniel, who developed original and innovative theatrical styles designed to engage first-time audience members. Since that time, a majority of our touring shows continue to feature original scripts, researched and developed in rehearsal by director and company members and address diverse cultures, contemporary subjects and a wide range of literary genres and theatrical styles. Recent productions include Hare and Tortoise, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Snowy Day and Other Stories, Sideway Stories From Wayside School, "Mountains, Monsters, Sea: Legends of Taiwan", Antigone and The Bully Show. For more, visit our Tour page

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