Inver Hills and On Stage Collaborate on Theater Outreach Program

Sociology and GWS class discussions focus on upcoming play, Twelve Angry Men: A New Musical

In June 2022, faculty and students in the Gender & Women’s Studies (GWS) and Sociology programs at Inver Hills Community College will be participating in online class discussions as part of a theater outreach/audience development program facilitated by a Twin Cities organization called On Stage: Creating a Community Dialogue Around Live Theater.

On Stage gives local actors and teaching artists opportunities to lead discussions in college classrooms, both in person and online, about relevant social, political, and cultural topics that come up in metro-area plays.

Lucas Erickson, On Stage founder and project manager, reported that previous outreach discussion topics have included gender and racial violence and inequity, LGBTQ+ discrimination, cultural diaspora and alienation, and aging. The class discussions at Inver Hills will be centered on the Theater Latté Da presentation of Twelve Angry Men: A New Musicalwhich opens at The Ritz Theater in Minneapolis Wednesday, June 8, and runs through Sunday, July 17, 2022.

More about the On Stage theater outreach college classroom discussions…

“The purpose of the On Stage outreach program is to enhance in-class learning by bringing art and theater into a nontraditional educational setting,” Lucas said, “and to get more young and diverse people to see live theater and live cultural events.”

Lucas explained that outreach discussions come together as an organic collaboration between teaching artists and college instructors in participating classes.

“Some faculty give use their course syllabus as well as readings from previous classes so we know exactly where students are in their learning process,” Lucas said. “We then shape the conversation around themes and topics in the play so that the experience directly relates to the students’ specific coursework. We work hard to make our discussions fun and relevant to students, many of whom have most likely not heard or seen the play being discussed and possibly have never been to live theater.”

On Stage will be providing discounted tickets to Twelve Angry Men: A New Musical. Use the promo code ONSTAGE15 for $15 tickets to see any performance. On Stage will be facilitating 10 discussions based around the play with about 200 students taking part, including students in two Inver Hills classes:

GWS 1100: Gender, Race and American Culture
Instructor: Rhonda Italiano
Online class via Zoom
Wednesday, June 15, 2022 • 4 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Rhonda Italiano, Gender & Women’s Studies faculty, teaches GWS 1100. Rhonda is looking forward to seeing how her students are able to incorporate the themes in the play to the content they are learning in class.

“They gain so much in a short period of time from watching live theater,” she said. “I am also excited to see the production myself!”

SOC 1100: Intro to Sociology and SOC 1127: Social Inequalities: Race, Class, & Gender [combined class]
Instructor: Wayne Whitmore
Online class via Zoom
Tuesday, June 21, 2022 • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Wayne Whitmore, EdD, Inver Hills sociology faculty, teaches SOC 1100 and SOC1127. When he was approached about having summer classroom discussions based on Twelve Angry Men: A New Musical, Wayne went out and read the book.

“I’d seen the movies over the years and after reading the book, I thought it would be a good use to utilize Twelve Angry Men as something like a case study,” he said. “This topic is still highly relevant in our society, given the inequities that appear in our legal and criminal justice systems. For me, it comes down to the simplest point: can a person of color get a fair trial in the U.S. free from preconceived notions and biases? This play really resonates with our class content regarding inequities in society as a whole, and in legal and criminal justice specifically.”

Twelve Angry Men: A New Musical discussion topics

Ideas for discussion questions

  • Have you ever served on a jury?
  • How does the jury system work?
  • How do you assemble a jury of your peers?
  • How do you arrive at a consensus—especially when the stakes are high?
  • Are you easy to sway?
  • Groupthink vs individual think—which is more powerful?
  • When are you 100 percent sure?
  • Do you have the courage to vote against the group?
  • How do you separate politics from moral values in the jury room?
  • What if you were the only woman in the group and you disagreed with the men? Could you speak your truth?
  • What is the best way for everyone to speak honestly? Is it possible?

Questions about casting the play, which has an all-male, mixed-race cast:

  • Would it work if a woman was in the cast?
  • Is a mixed-race cast more effective than an all-white cast in telling this story ?
  • Gender bias vs race bias—which is more powerful?
  • Why this play now?
  • Is the play effective today?
  • If the defendant were white instead of Puerto Rican, would this be a different play?
— Courtesy of Lucas Erickson

“Everybody is seemingly starving for the arts and for community connections,” Lucas said. “The simple act of bringing meaningful conversations about relevant social issues to Twin Cities college students by using theater as a vehicle to highlight these issues is incredibly impactful when there are such limited live cultural events right now.”

Lucas pointed out that access to theater arts can be problematic. One issue is ticket price.

“Each theater we partner with has different financial pressures leading to different approaches to student pricing,” he said. “Some offer free tickets and others only slight discounting. We advocate for the lowest price tickets, feeling the important goal is to build future theater audiences through attendance at younger ages. We have a tracking system that allows us to inform the theaters how many of ‘our’ students attended the plays in production.”

Lucas added that another key issue in access is simply relevance.

“We work to get students to talk to us and each other about a variety of difficult social, cultural, and political topics in an effort to reveal contemporary relevance,” he related. “Much of the feedback we receive from students expresses surprise these plays offer such resonating themes in their own lives. It is this connection between theater and students’ intellectual and emotional evolution that On Stage strives to maintain during the challenges of the pandemic and beyond.”

Learn more about the On Stage theater outreach college classroom discussions by contacting:

Lucas Erickson
Project Manager
On Stage: Creating a Community Dialogue Around Live Theater

Learn more about Sociology at Inver Hills by contacting:

Admissions Team
College Center

Learn more about Gender & Women’s Studies at Inver Hills by contacting:

Admissions Team
College Center

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