Trevecca Nazarene University

By the community, for the community

(This article was published in the Spring 2014 issue of Micah Mandate - written by Autumn Woodard.)

Tavik isn’t like a lot of 12-year- old boys. He lives at an orphanage and his head is covered in scars because of surgeries to remove brain tumors. When Allison Marcrom, a junior at Trevecca, asked how he deals with it all, he said, with the faith of a child, “It’s okay, because God is gonna heal me.”

The orphanage workers couldn’t remember a time they had seen him smile. Then, after a long day of singing silly songs and dancing, the workers were left inspired and in awe.

Tavik smiled.

“I about lost it,” said Marcrom. “I just felt extremely blessed to be a part of that.”

In May, Marcrom, a social justice and theatre major, spent three weeks living in Cape Town, South Africa. During that time she taught theatre to Tavik and about 30 other children like him at an orphanage.

It was that trip that began her journey of transferring to Trevecca where Applied Theatre, a new minor in the Department of Communication, focuses on using theatre to serve marginalized communities and individuals, such as prisoners, the homeless and children on the autism spectrum.

While some people think of the theatre as just Broadway and theatre seasons, Jeff Frame, professor of Dramatic Arts and Communications, believes theatre can be used for social justice.

He recounts a time when the Salvation Army’s ReCreate CafeĢ put on a production called “Walk in my Shoes.” People who were homeless and those who weren’t told their stories.

But there was a small twist in the performance. Each performer presented a story that wasn’t their own. The homeless told stories of those who had not experienced homelessness and vice versa.

“That’s just one example of applied theatre in the community. Not just for the community, but with the community,” Frame said. “It gives us perspective on problems that we might not be aware of any other way.”

In the spring of 2012, Trevecca made its first venture into applied theatre with the production of “The Jungalbook,” a play geared toward all audiences, including people on the autism spectrum.

“The Jungalbook” was supported by the Autism Society of Middle Tennessee and the Brown Center for Autism.

During the performances, actors used minimal costumes, special lighting and included audience involvement to appeal to people with autism.

Additionally, the fall musical “Honk!” was one of the first of many productions to have a sign interpreter during one of the performances.

Frame tells his majors who sense a calling to take their act- ing or production talents to the field of social justice to find a community in need and ask if they’re interested in participating.

“If they say yes, help them find their voices. Fight oppression and express yourself in ways you haven’t discovered yet,” he said.

This was Marcrom’s favorite experience in South Africa. Children were able to tell their stories through theatre, storytelling and singing, she said.

Children in grades three through 11 also acted out fairytales. Despite the obvious cultural barrier, most of them were familiar with the stories. Props and costumes were all made by the children which added to their excitement, she said.

“I want to get my hands dirty and invest more to the children,” she said. “I want to be a mission.”

The theatre program is one example of how other majors can incorporate the ideas and values of Biblically-based social justice, said Jamie Casler, director of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice.

“Few are called to be pastoral ministers, but we’re all minsters of God,” Casler said. “We’re all connected to social justice, it flows through every major. My goal for the center is for a student to leave Trevecca and ask, ‘How can I connect my major to social justice?’”