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All the campus a stage?
Theater workshops later this month will help to advance the ongoing conversation about diversity and inclusion at work

| 11 October 2006

To stimulate dialogue on the dynamics of a diverse workplace in an engaging and thought-provoking format, the Berkeley campus will host a series of interactive theater workshops the week of Oct. 23.

A follow-up to last spring's campus forum on workplace diversity and inclusion, the workshops will feature the Cornell Interactive Theater Ensemble (CITE), a celebrated program that uses theatrical techniques to help stimulate frank and fruitful dialogue in campus, community, and corporate settings.

Cornell Interactive Theater workshops

Monday, Oct. 23, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
"The Joke" and "One Too Many Questions" (ethnic relations and sexual orientation)

Tuesday, Oct. 24, 10 a.m.-noon
"No Time for Explanations" (status and privilege)

Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2-4 p.m.
"The Joke" (ethnic relations)

Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2-4 p.m.
"No Time for Explanations" (status and privilege)

Friday, Oct. 27, 9-11 a.m.
"No Time for Explanations" (status and privilege)

To enroll, go to the Interactive Course Enrollment System (ICE) at hrweb.berkeley.edu/ice/home; click on "Enroll Now," and scroll down to "Diversity Workshops." For information or for special accommodations, contact Jarralynne Agee in the Center for Workforce Development, calsproj@berkeley.edu or 643-5280.

"Using a theater methodology, these workshops will really get us to reflect about our work environments, the impact of our behavior, and how to foster inclusion on the campus," says Edith Ng, director of Staff Equity & Diversity Services, which is cosponsoring the series with the Center for Workforce Development (a new unit that oversees training and career development). "This is a great opportunity to experience something together and to engage proactively in how we can be more inclusive as a campus."

At their workshops, members of the theater troupe, which is based at Cornell University, enact common workplace situations in which unfold hard-to-dissect and hard-to-discuss dynamics involving diverse people and points of view. Members of the audience then can interview the protagonists to more deeply explore what they were thinking and feeling in the scene.

The actors respond in character. "They have bios; they're not just making it up out of thin air," says Graduate Diversity Program Director Carla Trujillo, who helped put on a series of CITE-inspired workshops at the College of Engineering in 2000. In the third part of the workshop the actors leave and audience members, in a facilitated conversation, work through their own perspectives, emotions, and assumptions to gain a greater appreciation of underlying issues that can escalate into conflict when people of different backgrounds and with differing degrees of status and privilege interact at work. "It's interesting what comes out of the audience," says Trujillo.

CITE workshops are challenging, entertaining, and thought-provoking all at once, she notes. "What's key about this work is that they're not just putting on a show, but acting in conjunction with creating change and having people look deeper within themselves. I can't think of anybody who would not benefit from going to these workshops."

Faculty members, staff, managers, and student employees are invited to sign up online, and are especially encouraged to attend in small teams and work groups, Ng says. "This is an opportunity to open up dialogue, and it's most effective when people have a shared experience that they can talk about together afterwards." Follow-up sessions, designed to further the campus dialogue on issues of diversity and inclusion, are being planned, she says.

The interactive-theater workshops will be held Oct. 23 through 27 in the Berkeley Art Museum, with room for about 100 people at each session. "We expect it's going to be sold out," says Ng.