ROiL is a performance art troupe started in Portland, Maine now also based in Ithaca, New York and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. "ROiL" is not an acronym; it is a verb meaning "to render (water, wine, etc.) turbid by stirring up sediment"

Youth workshops

One aspect of ROiL's work is in youth workshops, often held in after-school sessions for two or more weeks. ROiL aims to give young people the opportunity to participate in an empower, group-building workshop with their peers, write a performance piece about important issues, and ultimately perform for and educate their community.

After performing, the young people answer questions from the audience and listen as audience members share their reactions and thoughts.

Portland, Maine

In a recent workshop, ROiL artists worked with young men and women from immigrant families living in a public housing development to create an original play based on their interactions with adults. The play was performed for an audience of adults who hold positions of authority in the kids’ lives, including the public housing management, the Portland City police department and Portland’s mayor. The dialogue that followed was intense, and both the kids and the adults came away with valuable information about each others’ perspectives. During this past winter of 2005, another group of youth wrote and performed an original play about the dynamics of appearances and assumptions in their schools. The principal of one of Portland’s two largest high schools saw the play when it was performed at the housing project. He invited the students to perform for a school-wide assembly, and shared his reaction to the performance with the principal of Portland’s other large high school. As a result, the students will be performing and leading a school-wide discussion at both schools in early February 2006.

Baton Rouge

Other workshops include work in Baton Rouge where the population has almost doubled as a result of people evacuated from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina have resettled. ROiL is partnering with area artists, actors, youth workers and educators to facilitate a performance workshops that will be performed in the area.


ROiL performance development workshops delve into the layers below social issues through expression, communication, and healing. Through brainstorms about issues, improvisational story-telling, and group-building activities, students design and build a performance that addresses the issues they face and educates their audiences as a way of making change within their community.

The process used in workshops has roots in the Theater of the Oppressed techniques developed by Brazilian artist and activist Augusto Boal. Through movement, games and structured interactions, workshop participants learn to translate their experiences into the physical language of the body. They might explore themes like conflict, power, rejection, and exclusion, as well related themes such as support, alliance, recovery, and relief. The content of eventual performance pieces develops organically as group members bring their own stories to life.

Creating a performance piece together is an alchemical process that transforms the group participants. Collaborative work challenges each member of the group to take personal risks, to share openly of themselves, and to actively support others. Individual experiences are honored and synthesized to translate into a common group experience and thus a performance topic. With a performance, the group invites an audience to respond to the issues raised in talk-back sessions after the performance, creating a dialogue that may continue long after the performance has come to an end.

Veterans' truth project

Veterans' truth project ("VTP") is a project of ROiL, whose aim of the project is "Telling the realities of the military in wartime in order to raise awareness, educate, and promote peace with recent veterans and their communities." The Veterans’ Truth Project is a collection of members of the Ithaca, NY anti-war community, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Veterans for Peace (VFP),, and the activist theater group, ROiL.

ROiL believes that most Americans do not understand war or military service. The problems, as perceived by ROil are that:

  • Kids keep signing up without knowing what it's really like.
  • Veterans keep coming home to communities that don’t understand what they have been through.
  • Americans go about their daily lives, oblivious to the fact that a war is being fought on the other side of the world.

Veterans’ Truth Project is a collaboration of veterans, writers and performers for social change and creating a performance piece based on the stories of recent veterans that attempts to:

  • raise public awareness about the realities of the military service and current wars;
  • help young people make informed decisions about whether or not to serve;
  • demystify the military experience, and;
  • connect veterans and their communities.

VTP will draft creative adaptations of interviews and testimonies on such subjects as service in a time of war, hazing, military social life, returning from war, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Stories and experiences will become vignettes and/or a full-length play. Under ROiL’s artistic direction, a cast of actors will tour with the show to communities in the eastern U.S., including high school students. Audiences will engage in a talk-back session with the community’s veterans, who can answer questions, discuss the reality of the stories and engage in dialogue.

Structure of the performance

The performance brings the audience members through some of the challenges veterans are faced with in the military as well as at home. The post-performance talk-back session allows veterans to give a face to the play of someone in the community, to answer questions and to share their own experiences. Veterans are personally heard and validated by their own communities, and the audience then has an opportunity to try to relate to what they’ve gone through. These conditions of mutual willingness and understanding can revolutionize our returning soldiers’ experiences back home.

External links

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