Amy Burtaine knows that talking about racism or sexism or any social justice issue may be difficult, but as coordinator of Interactive Theatre Carolina she aims to make the discussion a little bit easier and a lot more accessible.
“People like Interactive Theatre Carolina because it is engaging,” Burtaine says. “The subject matter may be hard, but the means of exploration is fun.”
Interactive Theatre Carolina uses scripted and improvisational performances to promote discussions about health, wellness and social justice issues. A typical show starts with cast members performing a scripted scene in which the characters experience conflict.
The scene ends in crisis for all the characters. From this point, the show takes one of several turns. Often, audience members will be invited on stage to try to change the behavior of the characters. Other times, audience members may ask characters questions about what they did in the scene and why they did it.
At the end of the performance, Burtaine and other facilitators lead the audience in a discussion about the issues presented. An expert on the topic often participates.
Knowing that these tough issues can’t be solved in an hour, Burtaine says the goal is to get audience members to reflect on hard topics and then connect audience members to helpful resources on and off campus.
As coordinator for nearly two years, Burtaine says she has always had a passion for social justice issues and was turned onto theater in high school. She has more than 20 years of experience in theater and has worked nationally and internationally in theater and education projects, including training with Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed in Brazil, where the techniques of theater practiced by ITC originated.
Burtaine says UNC is a perfect place for Interactive Theatre Carolina to exist because the discussions it generates strengthens the community.
“Here, as everywhere, we need to talk about these hard issues even though we don’t want to,” Burtaine says. “In ITC, we always say that one of the first steps in creating change is to recognize what’s going on, name it and talk about it.”