TCSA – Theatre for Cultural and Social Awareness

Founded in 2004 by Professor Patrick J. Sims, Theatre for Cultural and Social Awareness (TCSA) is an interdisciplinary service-learning and outreach effort of the Department of Theatre & Drama and the Assistant Vice Provost’s Office for Equity and Diversity. By applying the principles of creativity, collaboration, and community, TCSA explores the systemic and institutional barriers to social justice in a variety of contexts and sensitive subject matters. For programmatic purposes, sensitive subject matters are broadly defined as topics or ideas that demand a greater awareness, (i.e. race relations, gender dynamics, sexual orientation and privilege) but lack meaningful societal discourse due to their polarizing nature and/or historical legacies.

TCSA provides students a safe environment to engage these important social issues while cultivating analytical and facilitative skills necessary for healthier and more nuanced conversations. As a result, students are better equipped to fully participate in critical analyses of plays, films, current events and performance techniques that encourage self-reflection and assessment of personal biases. The TCSA theatre experience is one of the most effective ways to promote the values of inclusive excellence and experiential learning in community-centered, educational or workplace setting.

Core Elements

At the foundation of this experiential learning process are three key components that are rooted in valuing the lived experiences of others.

  • Creativity and Characterization – The process of creating a character requires actors to suspend their personal opinions, values and judgments about the composition of a character’s background and motivations. The same can be said for individuals who actively practice the actor’s craft as a process for self-reflection leading to a more empathetic understanding of other individual’s life journeys.
  • Collaboration and Research – Using their life experiences as inspiration, students learn the art of collaboration and research in order to perform original dramas that further illuminate the complexities of human interaction as they relate to cultural competency and social awareness.
  • Community and Facilitation – Only in community can students feel confident enough to engage in conversation about sensitive subject matters. Skilled facilitators are essential to fostering a safe learning environment; they learn to do so by practicing facilitation techniques and pedagogical frameworks that seek to understand by questioning assumptions and commonly held beliefs about others.

Capstone Experience

Graduate students who teach in the program are exposed to a three-year arc of coursework and training in which they explore 1) acting and directing techniques, 2) applied theatre methodologies, and 3) facilitation frameworks as a means of affecting organizational development and social change.

A major part of the TCSA curricular thru-line is the capstone outreach experience. Graduate assistants in the MFA program who choose TCSA as their emphasis are required to develop a collaborative theatre/service-learning project from concept through fruition as part of their second and third year curriculum.

Each year, a lead teaching assistant is selected to supervise and conduct the TCSA portion of the Graduate Assistant Equity Workshops (GAEW). The workshops are required of all teaching and project assistants who are newly employed at the university. Lead teaching assistants receive an increased appointment during the assignment, and the position is offered to students who have prior experience with GAEW or have taught with the program for at least two years.

TCSA Inclusivity Trainings

2012 Nehemiah Community Development Corporation
2011 Voices Beyond Bars
2009 UW Madison Family Business Planning Center
2008 WI Department of Health & Family Services, Central Wisconsin Center
2006– UW Madison Office for Equity & Diversity Campus wide Graduate Assistant Trainings
2011 UW Madison School of Business Faculty and Staff Training
2005–2010 UW Madison Office for Equity & Diversity Leadership Institute
2009 University of Wisconsin Platteville
2009 UW Madison Center for Women’s Health Research
2007–2009 UW Madison School of Business Fall Orientation
2007 UW-Hospital & Clinics
2006 UW Madison Student Services
2006 UW Madison School of Pharmacy
2006 UW Madison Biotechnology Center
2006 UW Madison School of Engineering
2006 Yale University School of Nursing – New Haven, CT
2006 Morraine Valley Community College – Palos Hills, IL
2005 University of Wisconsin Alumni Association
2005 UW Madison EPICS (E-Projects in Community Service) Program

Ongoing Collaborations

The TCSA program is a campus-wide resource where units that desire an interactive methodology to discuss sensitive subject matters can request trainings that are specifically designed for their targeted constituency. Current campus partners include: