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1 Project Summary for The People Speak: Voices of the Occupy Wall Street Movement I.

Background The Occupy Wall Street movement that nominally began on September 17th of this year is a grassroots effort initiated by citizens in the United States and the world as a whole who have grown concerned in regard to their potential disenfranchisement in the face of ever-increasing economic disparity.1 United by a desire to assert greater control over their own lives by engaging with the public sphere on a more equitable basis, participants in this movement have striven to maintain a seemingly non-hierarchical organizational structure, and have placed a strong emphasis on consensus as a governing principle. In attempt to foster a more egalitarian decision-making process, movement organizers have begun employing a directly-democratic facilitation technique known as the General Assembly. In brief, the General Assembly is a type of governance in which all are invited to participate, and in which all participants have an equal voice. General Assembly gatherings do not rely upon a traditional hierarchical power structure to drive points forward; rather, order is maintained by the use of a rigorously-codified system of non-vocal hand gestures designed to minimize verbal confrontation that might otherwise derail the proceedings.2 This process is in a continual state of refinement, and as it is perpetuated by individual chapters of the Occupy Wall Street movement worldwide, it is hoped that previously-disempowered individuals will use it as an effective, non-violent means of advocating for social change. II. Project Description This project aims to emphasize the democratic principles set forth in the General Assembly concept by creating theatre that is interactive and investigative in nature. Investigative theatre, a genre largely elaborated by groundbreaking companies such as Tectonic Theatre
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. G. William Domhoff, Wealth, Income, and Power, . General Assembly Guide,

2 (creator of The Laramie Project) and The Civilians, begins with the exploration of often underdiscussed or ignored subjects through the use of face-to-face interviews, extensive historical research, and other forms of inquiry. This research is then shaped into a cohesive, narrative dramatic work. For the purpose of this project, an interdisciplinary team (or potentially multiple teams) of anthropologist playwrights will set forth and begin interviewing participants involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, primarily in (though not necessarily limited to) Kansas City and St. Louis, the two closest major metropolitan areas with heavily-active chapters. Personal narratives will be gleaned from a wide array of individuals across the entirety of the societal spectrum. The playwrights will then endeavor to use this firsthand research in the collaborative creation of a new play, which will be presented at the BlackBox Theatre in Nickerson Hall. III. Objectives This project is being funded by a generous grant from the American Democracy Project, and is entirely in compliance with the mandate of that initiative in that it will allow students the opportunity to broaden their understanding of the types of meaningful civic engagement that are possible. All students across all departments will be invited to take part in the data-collection, playwriting, and production of the final work. These students will learn to collaborate in a nonhierarchical and directly-democratic fashion, governed by the principles of the General Assembly process. They will then be able to apply this encouraging, inclusive mode of interaction toward future team-based endeavors. Students not directly involved in the fostering of this new work will be able to benefit from it by witnessing the end result as the play comes to production. Audience members will advance intellectually by obtaining knowledge of a nascent political and social movement. In addition, the production itself will be presented in accordance with the principles of the General

3 Assembly, which will afford a structured opportunity for audience members to interact with and shape the proceedings by freely sharing stories, desires, and questions of their own, effectively ending their role as mere spectators. This will serve as a catalyst for breaking free of the current paradigm of civic engagement (or lack thereof). The production of the play will be free and open to the general public, thus allowing students a chance to expand their civic-mindedness beyond the university level and into a more holistic, community-based realm. Qualitative exit surveys may be administered to project participants in an effort to gauge the level of success in engendering a greater sense of community involvement.