011: Artistic Director Amy Sawyers-Williams applies theatre for social justice, education, and healing

“There’s amazing art going on in the Triangle. And there’s no doubt about that. But I felt like there’s a need for more political, interactive, community based stuff. I thought, “I can do this. See Saw needs to be born.”” Amy Sawyers-Williams beautifully articulates the value and defining features of Applied Theatre, the power of witnessing everyone’s story, and the founding of her company See Saw Projects: A new applied theatre company in the Triangle. 

Amy Sawyers-Williams  is an interactive theatre artist and arts educator who has been working professionally in the arts field for over a decade. Originally from Chicago, Amy has lived and worked in Madison, Wisconsin, Raleigh and New York City where she earned her Master’s in Applied Theatre. While in New York, she worked as a teaching artist in the NYC school system and also in the prestigious New Victory Theatre education office. Amy has devised and directed original theatre with diverse communities locally and nationally. She currently oversees Arts Outreach & Engagement at Arts NC State, is a teaching artist for Raleigh Little Theatre, and runs See Saw Projects: A new applied theatre company in the Triangle.

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Time break-down (scroll down for links):

[0:00] Intro, Amy’s bio and episode summary

[1:14] How Amy came to the work of applied theatre — from her childhood in community theatre to grad school to Raleigh again to starting See Saw Projects. “Have you heard of applied theatre? Well, it’s like theatre and social justice, and they don’t care how you look. And you can make theatre and be in it.”

[11:12] See Saw Projects is an applied theatre company. What is applied theatre? “Umbrella term for theatre practices that use theatre as a tool for social justice, education, healing. You find it in unusual places outside of the traditional theatre space.”

[13:37] How does Amy balance the artistic merit of the piece (product) and the use of it as a tool (process)? “Sometimes the process is the aesthetic. That being said, my personal philosophy is don’t put anything up there that people don’t feel good about.”

[19:30] Who might hire See Saw Projects? Schools, companies, senior centers

[23:35] How does Amy train her teaching artists to facilitate and be available to this work? Amy would like to offer a series of workshops for teaching artists and educators interested in applied theatre. “We’re always creating art around injustices and imbalances and having really frank conversations about what that means.”

[28:10] What is “creative place-making”? What does that mean? “The intersection of art making and community development.” Amy and Tamara laugh about parklets.

[32:25] A discussion of virtual place-making (online) and the strong urge to claim our real, physical places and spaces. Why are people embracing site-specific work? [Amy says, “F*ck the establishment.”]

[35:46] Examples of meaningful experiences that Amy had working in applied theatre within the schools

[38:17] Amy and Tamara talk about the power of hearing, seeing, and telling one’s story….and having that story embraced.

[41:10] What challenges does See Saw face as a new company? What are the advantages of being new on the scene?

[44:52] Where did the name See Saw come from?

[45:56] Thank yous and sign-off


Twitter: @seesawprojects1

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We lead writers groups, accountability support, workshops, and events. We produce and create audio dramas too! Listen to the Master BuilderThe New Colossus Audio Drama, Jesus Pancake, Declaration of Love, Food for Thought, and ASBX Shorts. Stay tuned to hear about more projects written by the Soapbox Audio Collective Writers’ Group.

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ASBX Shorts

ASBX Shorts are six short audio fiction pieces created and produced by North Carolina artists. Artist Soapbox Shorts were specifically contributed by the artists to aid in fundraising and to get everyone excited about Jesus Pancake, our new audio fiction series in development.

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