Courtney Surmanek

              

Photo Credits: Lee Wexler, January 2019

Photo Credits: Lee Wexler, January 2019

Theater of Change + Broadway Advocacy Coalition


Member, Co-Organizer, Facilitator

In January 2019 I was invited by the Broadway Advocacy Coalition to participate as a compensated member artist to a winter semester course at Columbia Law School. The course, called “Theater of Change: Building the Capacity for Impact through Artistry, Law, and Artivism", was a collaboration with the Center for Justice and the Bronx Defenders. While in the course, I worked with a cross-disciplinary group of law students, artists and community advocates directly impacted by education and criminal justice disparities to build socially engaged theater with clear policy goals.

After that, as a Member of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition, from October 18-20, 2019, I co-led the "Theater of Change Forum" at Columbia Law School. The policy areas of focus at the Forum included education equity, parole and re-entry, community economic development, and political participation of formerly incarcerated people. I supported the structure of the Forum at large, developed curriculum and co-led a group of 30 people through an intimate “collab” focused on community economic development.

The Forum brought people with experience on all sides of this and other social issues to the table. This included community advocates with frontline experience in the criminal-legal system, law and policy students and experts, and theatre artists. Participants collaborated as equal partners to create performance pieces that have an engagement strategy to target specific areas and policies. The Broadway Advocacy Coalition’s vision hinges on centering directly impacted individuals, their communities and their lived experiences in policy discourse and decision-making, leading to empathy-driven policies. The community economic development collab’s community partner was STRIVE New York. We focused on policies in workforce development, creating four performances and arts-engagement strategies to support STRIVE’s efforts.