Performing Arts for Effective Civic Education (PAECE)

Performing Arts for Effective Civic Education (PAECE)
Dr. Miriam Chitiga, Project Director
Claflin University, Orangeburg, SC 29115
What is PAECE?
The Performing Arts for Effective Civic Education (PAECE) Program endeavors
ultimately to help community members more effectively enact their roles as civically
active citizens who thrive toward the achievement of social justice. PAECE seeks to
enhance the civic awareness, responsibility and engagement of K-16 communities and of
other community members in the nation. Toward this end, the project uses innovatively
entertaining theatrical, poetic, musical and other performances that are themed on
pertinent and contemporary civic and political issues to educate via entertainment
(edutain) its various audiences. PAECE civic topics are guided by national civic
education standards and driven by significant civic events.
Since its inception in 2004, PAECE has edutained over 4000 different audience
members ranging in age from 4- 90 years and has performed at a wide variety of venues.
PAECE is made possible by a highly competitive grant awarded to Claflin University
from The United States Department of Education’s Comprehensive Program: Fund for
the Improvement of PostSecondary Education (FIPSE).
PAECE is a unique entertaining educational experience. In addition to providing
audiences with educational entertainment – edutainment- PAECE offers many golden
opportunities to institutions to adopt, replicate and adapt PAECE to their unique
situations. Civil society and other groups are encouraged to partner with PAECE for civic
Contact Dr. Miriam Chitiga, PAECE Project Director:
(803) 535 5220 or email [email protected]
What are some PAECE Civic Education Topics
PAECE Traveling Performers utilize the performing arts to provide innovatively
educating and entertaining experiences for the audience about vital civic and political
issues. The plays /poems/music cover such topics as political elections, voting rights and
processes, US Constitution, Bill of Rights, structure, duties and power sharing dynamics
among the three branches of government as well as the roles of each in such pivotal
processes as nomination and confirmation for key positions. PAECE also explicates
how and what lessons current civic and political practices can draw from history. Several
performances portray issues of civil rights and civic responsibilities, governance,
engagement and democratic processes. Additionally, pertinent topics such as healthcare,
insurance, lobbying, environmental justice, war, peace, security, poverty and the
economy, and critical analyses of government agencies such as FEMA are a great source
of performance topics. Controversial political issues such as racism, sexism, abuse, stem
cell research and HIV/AIDS - and their implications for active citizenry, are often
requested by audience groups. PAECE is continually creating a compilation of civicallythemed performances for the public’s enjoyment and unique participatory educational
experience – edutainment.
How is the civics information for the PAECE performances gathered?
K-16 PAECE students are trained to observe, identify, research, deliberate,
critically analyze, write creative pieces and creatively present civically-themed
performances for peer and community educational purposes. In order for students to stay
current on significant civic and political matters, they are required to research the most
accurate information via mass media outlets, including, but not limited to, television,
radio, news papers, news magazines, journalistic blogs, legitimate civic and political
information outlets - including websites and press releases, academic and refereed articles
and books, landmark legal cases, founding documents, significant civic and political
speeches by social justice advocates – including, but not limited to civil rights leaders,
presidents, political figures, activists and philosophers, and other legitimate sources.
PAECE aims to present the public / its audiences with the latest, most accurate and
triangulated research information on the civic / political topics at the center of the
performances. Typical PAECE research requires the consultation of at least five sources
(pentagonated) of good information on the civic issue.
How are PAECE performances created and presented?
After conducting adequate research, PAECE performers are trained to create
monologues, skits, short plays, poetry, music, dance and artwork themed on the civic
issue. The drafts are continually revised and informed by more research and via honest
dialogue and constructive yet critical feedback provided by other participants and the
PAECE faculty leaders. The evaluators analyze content accuracy, educational worth,
community relevance, creativity, audience appropriateness, and entertainment value of
the civic edutainment piece. When the written scripts are sufficiently revised and edited,
the performers rehearse the performances in front of an “unrelenting” core group of
fellow performers, researchers and equally critical faculty facilitators. Jointly, the
PAECE participants devise pertinent questions and target information to be adaptively
addressed during the post-performance discussion with the audience. Well-revised and
critiqued pieces are interactively performed for selected audiences who then engage in
deliberative dialogue at the end of the actual performance. These performances, in turn,
are evaluated by PAECE performers and leaders and by the entire audience.
PAECE performers are trained to provide constructive and objective critiques as
well as to be open to being thoroughly critiqued themselves. In fact, the PAECE team
assesses creative pieces rigorously in an attempt to develop the pieces to reflect
accurately the talents and potentials of the creative agent. In other words, because of the
high regard PAECE members have for each other, they perform very tough but fair
evaluations of each of the pieces and performances. They also assess the faculty leaders
as toughly as they do their peers because of the openness and good rapport that exists
among all PAECE team members. This democratic process enhances the quality of the
product as well as the effect on the participants. One of the unanimously agreed upon
PAECE mottos is that all members work for the good of the program as a whole;
therefore, no individual ego is more important that the success of the program
Audience Appropriateness for Effective Civic Education
PAECE is suitable for all groups since the civic creative performances are
deliberately geared toward the particular audience. The civic issues, content, emphases,
and types of performances and level of complexity are adjusted to suit the specific
audience and community, albeit challenging them to stretch their critical thinking and
creative abilities. PAECE works within K-12 school district restrictions and stipulations
in deciding the civic themes to perform as well as the examples and language to use.
Additionally, PAECE often takes requests from and is sensitive to its audiences – the
partners - in order to address some of the unique needs of the group being edutained.
PAECE performers engage different relationships with their largely participant audience
members. The relationships determine the tone and nature of the messages and of the
deliberative dialogue session at that concludes PAECE performances.
Civic Engagement via Critical Involvement of Discussion with Audience
PAECE considers its audiences active and participant partners, who are
collaboratively engaged in creating meaning and enhancing the success of the
edutainment experience. This is in sharp contrast to the traditional view of treating
audience members as passive customers who are merely recipients of whatever the actors
have to offer. Accordingly, to facilitate the transference of civic information from the
creative performance by PAECE performers to the audience, an interactive session
concludes the presentation. The unique post-performance discussion creatively involves
the audience in an appropriate, respectful and interesting manner, which leaves the
audience highly enthused about civic participation and engagement.
How does PAECE engage the audience?
The performers lead the post-performance deliberative dialogue that takes several
formats, which are dependent on the estimated civic awareness levels of the audiences
and performing team, age and education levels of the audiences and performers, the
nature of the performance, as well as the complexity, controversy, and the community
relevance of the civic / political issue at the core of the performance. In these authentic
post performance dialogues the participants may discuss, comment on, question, respond
to, or interrogate the various civic issues of / and the performance. The deliberative
dialogues are conducted in a civilized non-partisan manner, albeit one that respects
factual information and insists on exposing the dialogists to ways, means, actions,
attitudes, channels, etc that strive toward the major PAECE goal of civic engagement for
social justice. This helps enrich the participants’ appreciation and understanding of the
major civic themes portrayed in the preceding performance pieces. This mutually
beneficial civic conversation helps participants gain deeper insights of the civic and
political implications critically examined. Pertinent sources of information and ways of
increasing their civic and PAECE involvement are shared.
Another way PAECE engages the audience in the edutainment experience is via
actual participation during the stage phase of the skit / play / poetry / dance / song / rap,
or other performance format. Specific and sometimes unsuspecting or voluntary
audience members may be asked to respond to a question or statement posed by a
performer; sometimes audience members may be asked to join the performers on stage to
co-perform in some part of the plot. Some of the participation can result in an actual
change of plot outcome, in open ended skits that can take a variety of possible endings.
Therefore, the extent and type of audience involvement in PAECE plays is wide ranging
in format and meaningful at the very minimum. Because of time, personality and other
constraints, not all participants manage to verbally express their views; therefore, the
participant audiences also get the opportunity to air their views and comments as well as
evaluations, in written form. PAECE leaders utilize these comments and reviews to
improve the training sessions. PAECE leaves no participant (audience, performer or
facilitator) behind.
Financial support for this three year project (2004-2007) is provided under a ($439,766)
grant from the Fund for Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE), U.S.
Department of Education. However, the content and methods do not necessarily represent
the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the
Federal Government.
Copyrights: Miriam Chitiga, 2005. Claflin University, Orangeburg, SC. [email protected]
[email protected]