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Theatre of Witness

Finding the Medicine in Stories of Suffering, Transformation, and Peace
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Theatre of Witness is a model of performance that gives voice to those who have been marginalized, forgotten or unheard in society, creating a safe forum for audiences to bear witness to real-life accounts of suffering and transformation. This book chronicles the author's 26 years of creating and producing theatre with people whose stories have previously gone untold, including: prisoners and their families, refugees, immigrants, survivors and perpetrators of domestic abuse, ex-combatants, teenage runaways, people living in poverty or without homes, families of murder victims, women in transition, people in recovery and survivors of war. With an engaging and heartfelt narrative, it beautifully conveys the key principles of Theatre of Witness and explores the author's own journey that led to the conception and growth of this unique model of performance.

Exploring diverse human experiences in the United States, Poland and Northern Ireland, this book will be of interest to practitioners and students of applied theatre, peace and conflict studies, professionals working in conflict resolution, counselors, psychotherapists, professionals in the field of criminal and restorative justice, dramatherapists, psychodramatists and spiritual seekers.
  • Published: Jan 15 2013
  • Pages: 240
  • 228 x 150mm
  • ISBN: 9781849053822
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Press Reviews

  • Howard Zehr, professor of Restorative Justice, Center for Justice & Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University

    “If you have any doubts about the power of socially-engaged theatre to challenge and heal, the stories and reflections in Theatre of Witness should put them to rest.”
  • Eamonn Deane, founder Holywell Trust, Derry/Londonderry Northern Ireland

    “Theatre of Witness is a modern phenomenon based on the oldest of needs – the need to tell our story, to be listened to, to find healing for ourselves and for everyone in our ability to empathise, to be generous and find light in the darkest pit. The work of Theatre of Witness in Northern Ireland has been transformative of the lives of its participants, facilitators, the musicians, filmmakers, producers and its audiences. It needs to be shared throughout the globe. The publication of Teya's writings will be a substantial contribution to the process of enlightenment in this mid-winter of Bible black long nights of recession.”
  • Maureen Hetherington, founder and director; The Junction, Towards Understanding and Healing, Northern Ireland

    “Teya Sepinuck's approach and methodology in Theatre of Witness is nothing short of brilliant… This book is an invaluable resource to those working with vulnerable and damaged people, it demands that we rethink and reassess how we sit in judgment of others… Be prepared to both weep and jump for joy at the remarkable personal and spiritual journey of those who have participated in Theatre of Witness – testimonials at their best!”
  • The Reverend Patricia Pearce, Philadelphia PA

    “Teya Sepinuck is an alchemist of stories, daring to accompany others into the darkest places of trauma and find at its heart the gold of healing, reconciliation, empowerment and hope. In this book she takes us on an extraordinary journey, introducing us to those who have come through the dark night of conflict, violence and displacement and in whose stories we come face to face with our own humanity.”
  • Rabbi David A Cooper, author of God is a Verb

    “Teya Sepinuck is a skilful and gifted artist who knows how to guide untrained participants to reveal incredible, but true, stories in a dramatic performance called: Theatre of Witness…This unique approach will bring readers to tears in some stories and joy in others in an amazing and beautiful book that opens the reader's heart and soul to experience stories that are willingly shared and artfully presented in a deeply spiritual context. What a great offering!”
  • Sharon Friedler, professor and director of Dance, faculty adviser for Off Campus Study, Swarthmore College

    “Teya's writing brings to light the delicacy and daring involved in the process of creating Theatre of Witness performances. Equally important, it conveys the stories and wisdom of all of those participants who have, over the course of more than twenty years, contributed to the development of this restorative practice. This book will be a beacon and a guide for activists, students, teachers, directors, and performers. It offers an important template for those of us committed to arts for social change and peace and conflict studies work in academic institutions and community groups across the world.”
  • M. Kay Harris, Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Criminal Justice, Temple University, Philadelphia

    “Teya Sepinuck's 'Theatre of Witness – Finding the Medicine in Stories of Suffering, Transformation and Peace' is a thought-provoking, touching and humanizing book that can play a valuable role in framing questions about the role of remorse, forgiveness, rehabilitation and incarceration. In these uplifting stories of performers who have experienced the ripple effect of crime and imprisonment, the reader can find hope that change is possible.”
  • Dr. James Skelly, director of the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, Juniata College, Pennsylvania

    The categories used by political actors and academics often subtly and unwittingly reinforce the sectarianism upon which deeply divided societies feed. The Theatre of Witness that Teya Sepinuck created and realized through performances in Northern Ireland, helps both those who 'perform' their own stories, and the audiences who witness them, to transcend those categories and the concrete divisions they help to engender. In the process our common humanity is affirmed.
  • Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichorn, theatre practitioner

    “Theatre of Witness is a wonderful journey into the hearts and souls of people living in grief and hardship but blessed with incredible dignity and strength in their quest for personal and collective transformation and community healing. The book is also a wonderful testimony to the tremendous power of performance in creating physical and emotional safe spaces for people to come together, share their stories and emerge from the process as more alive and accomplished human beings. A courageous book by a caring and compassionate artist.”
  • Hakim 'Ali, the voice of the voiceless and performer in Beyond the Walls and Holding Up

    “I am Hakim 'Ali, that big black Muslim man, that Teya referred to in this great work, sharing with you what the 'Theatre of Witness' is all about. I am a man who is still in the midst of transforming himself, still attempting to be the best he can be, still embracing LOVE and recognizing COURAGE when it comes to the surface. I owe more than you can imagine to Teya and this troupe of performers that she makes reference to, this group of courageous women, mothers, sisters all victims of violence that ravished our city. I owe them my life, there is no doubt about this. No, not my existence, but my 'life', and the ability and opportunity to 'live the life of a normal man'. This was given to me by all who participated in 'Beyond the Walls' and the other projects that Teya produced and directed. So, read and invest yourself, do not just read for amusement, this work is far too important for that. And, thank you Teya for being who you are and what you have done for so many… we will forever be grateful.”
  • David Grant, lecturer in Drama and Director of Education (School of Creative Arts), Queens University, Belfast Northern Ireland

    “At last Teya Sepinuck has found time between projects to document and share what she has learnt from decades of inspirational work with marginalised groups. General readers will be fascinated and uplifted by her vivid accounts of innovative performance projects in Europe and America within the prison system and in the wider world. Practitioners will find special value in the way she has distilled her life's work into a number of profound principles which will immeasurably enrich their own practice.”
  • Lee A. Smithey, associate professor of Sociology and Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College, and author of Unionists, Loyalists, and Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland

    “Teya Sepinuck and her casts show us that peace building is an artful process that requires courage, patience, intuition, and trust. Sepinuck, in her profound way, treats every Theatre of Witness performance as a unique moment of grace, but the productions lovingly shared in this book demonstrate over and over that people have the will and capacity to heal one another. May we all be encouraged to kick at the darkness by speaking truth to our fears and injustices.”