Engaging Student Audiences with Playbills

Understanding the social contract, no matter the language.

Theatre EspressoThe historical dramas of Theatre Espresso expose students to a reality that is not their own, and yet bring up timely and important questions: What is the effect of racial segregation on society? What responsibility does the government have to citizens and non-citizens during times of crisis? Through its Road to Tolerance program, the troupe makes it possible for Boston Public School students to attend performances of any one of five dramas at the John Adams Courthouse: American Tapestry, The Nine Who Dared, The Trial of Anthony Burns, Justice at War, and Secret Soldiers. These performances are grant-funded, in part by Mass Humanities. To maximize students’ understanding of the content of the plays, Mass Humanities also funded a project to translate the playbills for each of these performances into several languages.

The Boston Public School system translates many of its publications into the seven major languages spoken in their schools. These include Cape Verdean Creole, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Theatre Espresso has designed their pre-performance materials to match Boston’s curriculum specifications, and students can now read in each of these languages about the characters, historical events, central questions of the dramas, and key arguments on either side of the debates.

Not only do the translated materials aid a deeper connection to the theater experience, they facilitate the practice of history and the performing arts to reach underserved audiences. The students’ connection to the humanities is more intimate when the content is understood in their first language, and it encourages budding jurists, performers, and historians to further their pursuits.

Theatre Espresso was awarded a $10,000 Project Grant responding to the theme Engaging New Audiences for the creation of multi-lingual playbills for the company’s Road to Tolerance cycle of five plays, to be presented to Boston Public School students. [Project Director: Wendy Lement; Date Awarded: 12/13/2013]

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