Social Justice Improv

  Social Justice refers to concepts of affirmation, equality, and equity within society that extends to all its constituents regardless of class, creed, gender, race, age or ability. Social Justice Improv refers to performances that center a social justice topic, attack systems of power, and uplift the oppressed.  


In this advanced workshop, participants will tickle the underbelly of social structures, braving thematic territory that improvisers often avoid. This class will explore improv narratives through the lens anti-oppression and include discussions of privilege, class, race, gender, age, religion, ability, sex, vulgarity, violence and mental health. Special emphasis will be placed on "punching up," speaking truth to power, playing with empathy, and using a values-based approach to explore oppression and liberation. Participants should have several years of improv or acting experience, a working knowledge of social justice, and an openness to share in discussions about difficult subject matter. 

This workshop will address material that may be triggering. As such, we begin with mindfulness exercises, harm prevention practices, and compassionate dialogue. Please know that all student boundaries will be honored and participants are welcome to simply observe if they ever feel uncomfortable. Additionally, students never need to justify their boundaries. When performances address social justice themes, we take care to prioritize curiosity, knowledge and compassion, while investigating bias, trauma, and ignorance. We want social justice improv performances to center the issue, deconstruct power, and imagine just resolutions to problematic narratives. To that end, we strive to teach students the difference between theatre that "punches up" (attacks systems of oppression) vs. theatre that "punches down" (exploits historical trauma). We discuss narratives and styles of humor that reinforce oppression through microaggressions, stereotyping, and gaslighting. Then we teach students how to create conscientious narratives through a values-based process. 

This workshop will explore the following tactics for creating Social Justice Improv: 

  • Compassionate Dialogue

  • Story Sharing

  • Research

  • Boundary Setting

  • Prioritizing Honesty

  • Non-Defensiveness

  • Calling Out Oppression

  • Satirizing Power and Privilege

  • Creating Caricatures Conscientiously

  • Identifying Unjust Absurdity to Create a Premise

  • Mapping Analogous Scenarios

  • Reversing Power Structures

  • Breaking the Fourth Wall with Meta Theatricality

Participants will walk away with new vocabulary and tools for approaching work that centers social justice themes. Students will leave with empowered performance skills for inclusive and socially just collaboration. 

Learn more about Bird City's anti-oppressive practices by clicking here. If you have any questions feel free to reach out at