The How of Performance Activism
A Weekend Practicum 

Social therapeutics is the methodology that gave birth to Performing the World and is a major force within the emerging performance activism movement. Over the past four decades we at the East Side Institute have led a practice in which play, performance and philosophizing are uniquely combined to support people to grow themselves and their communities, to humanize the mental health field and the social sciences, and to effect social change and global cultural transformation. As it turns out, we were built for this historical moment of social upheaval and pandemic. We and our colleagues around the world are putting our tools to work for collective development in ways we never imagined and are making new discoveries along the way. Spend a weekend with Institute director and PTW founder Lois Holzman and Institute faculty. Learn the conceptions and develop the practical tools of social therapeutics. See how these discoveries can work for you, your teams, communities and projects. Perfect for experienced organizers and newly becoming activists. 
Date & Time:
Saturday, September 19 & Sunday, September 20
Starts each day at 10:00 am NY Time (UTC-4)
For more information:
$75 A limited number of scholarships available.
Contact Melissa at

We will explore:

  • How play and performance can break through social barriers, unleash imaginations, and open doors to new possibilities.
  • How to approach your activism as a performance and your play and performances as activism.
  • How to create supportive ensembles in all sorts of social, political, artistic and educational environments that generate individual and collective development. 
  • How to get past arguing, agitating and aggravation and create conversations that build bridges.
  • How to create a community of volunteers by organizing people to build what they want and need.
  • How to learn from your project’s successes and failures, and avoid becoming satisfied and stagnating.
  • How to generate happiness and use it as a force for social change.
  • How to navigate and engage your country’s established institutions while maintaining your independence.
Lois Holzman is founder (with Fred Newman) and director of the East Side Institute, a center for social therapeutics and other humanizing approaches to the learning and development of people and communities. As an activist-scholar, her work is political-philosophical, community-located and international. She is a founder and the chair of the Performing the World conferences and a leader in the social change movement known as performance activism. Lois introduces performatory approaches to human development and social change to hundreds of grassroots practitioners and supports their home-grown initiatives to develop people and their communities in order to engage poverty, violence, conflict, underdevelopment and environmental destruction. Lois is the author of 10 books – including her latest The Overweight Brain – and dozens of chapters, articles and essays, some featured Big Ideas and Revolutionary Activity

Barbara Silverman, L.C.S.W., is a master designer and organizer of location-specific social therapeutic group environments—having brought an explicitly developmental approach into public schools, mental health centers and other community-based agencies. A talented social therapist and educator, she helps groups self-organize themselves to create spaces where all can grow. In 2010, Barbara founded the East Side Institute’s Developing Across Borders, a global, cross-cultural development zone now with dozens of participants from every part of the world. More locally, she leads a social therapy practice in New York City. Barbara received her M.S.W. from the Adelphi School of Social Work. 

Carrie Lobman is a sociocultural scholar and play movement leader. She is the Leader of Education and Research at the East Side Institute and associate professor and chair of the department of Learning and Teaching at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. She facilitates the Institute’s “Play, Development and Social Justice” webinar series and co-leads the International Class, its flagship program. She serves as a mentor to emerging performance activists around the world and is on the national board of directors of the All Stars Project. Carrie is the author or editor of three books: Unscripted Learning: Using Improvisation across the K-8 Curriculum, Big Ideas and Revolutionary Activity: Selected Essays, Talks and Articles by Lois Holzman and Performance and Play: Play and Culture Series, Volume 11. 

Cathy Salit is a social entrepreneur, speaker, coach, improviser, and performance activist. She is the founder and lead organizer of the Global Play Brigade, a newly formed coalition of performance activists that is offering free play sessions around the world during the pandemic. As a founder and now CEO Emerita of the award winning leadership consultancy Performance of a Lifetime, she led the growth of the company for over 23 years, working with thousands of leaders and teams in top brand companies across the globe. She has been active as a community organizer since she was a teenager; working on many grassroots projects including alternative schools, teen pregnancy prevention programs, independent political campaigns, the All Stars Project and the Performing the World and Applied Improv Network global conferences. Cathy is the author of Performance Breakthrough: A Radical Approach to Success at Work (Hachette 2016). She’s an artistic associate at the Castillo Theatre in NYC, on the advisory board of the Freestyle Love Supreme Academy and an occasional jazz singer; recent performances include The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook, LI and the San Sebastian Jazz Festival in Spain.

Dan Friedman is the artistic director of the Castillo Theatre in New York City and the associate dean of UX, the All Stars Project’s free university-like school of continuing development for people of all ages. He is the author or co-author of 17 plays. Dan is also the editor of a number of books, including Theatre for Working Class Audiences in the United States, 1830-1980 (Greenwood Press, 1983) and The Cultural Politics of Heiner Müller (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007). He is currently working on a book for Palgrave on the emerging performance activist movement around the world. In addition to his work at Castillo, Dan has directed at La Mama E.T.C., the Nuyorican Poets Café and various New York City colleges.

Marian Rich is an actress, comedic improviser and theatrical director who has spent over 30 years leading playful workshops and programs in which people come together to grow and develop. Her playful and philosophical sessions during the Institute’s International Class residencies have impacted activists, educators and scholars from around the world who are looking for ways to infuse their work with the power of performance. She is a co-founder of the Global Play Brigade and the co-author of “Playing Around with Changing the World,” a chapter about this work in The Applied Improvisation Mindset, to be published by Bloomsbury Press early 2021

For more information: Melissa Meyer, Associate Director