Participants in Irondale’s ‘To Protect, Serve, and Understand.’ (Photo provided by Irondale.)
Brooklyn theatrical think tank ensemble Irondale, with participation from the New York Police Department, will host a two-part zoomcast discussion with past To Protect, Serve and Understand participants, September 24 and October 1, to continue their mission of social change, activism and humanity.
A one-of-a-kind workshop that employs actor-training techniques and explores unique problem solving and real-life communication skills, the series will be livestreamed on the company’s YouTube page and will be moderated by members of the Irondale ensemble.
While the ninth cycle of the ten-week, 40-hour workshop of To Protect, Serve, and Understand (TPSU) was sidelined last spring due to extensive theater closures in New York City, current and tragic events have placed even greater scrutiny of modern policing and the loud cries of activist groups calling for racial equality makes programs like these more necessary than ever. While the full breadth of the workshop can only happen when people can gather in one room, this zoomcast welcomes back both police officers and civilian program alumni willing to continue the tough conversations about real-time current events in the community and on a national scale.
Evening participants will perform short monologues developed from guided interviews conducted before the zoomcast between police officers and civilians, diving into each other’s experience and perspectives. Representing the stories of the other, this exercise encourages compassion, empathy and experience—a nod to one of the exercises used in the main-stage full workshop. A discussion to follow will cover topics that include the recent police reform and defunding, the repercussions of political action and protest, the shift in community dynamics, and accountability for both the actions of the NYPD and the communities they serve.
“We are facing an unmistakable crisis that has both police and civilian lives at stake,” explains Irondale Executive Director and TPSU founder Terry Greiss. “Change can only happen when we can truly hear each other and understand each other. That takes work and guts.,” he continues, “And while programs like TPSU feel urgent right now, we will gather virtually to begin the work to lead to change in our community until we can safely gather in-person in our space once again.”
To date, more than 100 police officers and civilians have participated in To Protect, Serve, and Understand in eight series of workshops. Each ten-week session culminates in a public performance, often with audiences at capacity and seen by more than 2,500 community members. These critical conversations continue with an official To Protect, Serve, and Understand podcast, featuring alumni from various workshop groups. The podcast is available on iTunes.
The events are free to the public.