3, 2, 1 Action: Legislative Theatre

Participatory democracy on stage

I’m working with community and government leaders to introduce and amplify Legislative Theatre, promoting equity, creativity, and accessibility in local and regional political spheres. Legislative Theatre brings constituents, policymakers, and advocates together to impact policies, practices and place-making, for unique and effective solutions to complex challenges.

How does it work? #WatchActVote

WATCH: In collaboration with local partners, community members create and present original plays based on lived experiences. These plays, which can be created over several days or weeks, address timely, local issues.

ACT: In public performance forums, audiences are invited to improvise alternative responses to systemic problems onstage. Together with advocates and stakeholders, these ideas are then developed into specific and feasible policy proposals.

VOTE: Public events lead to debate and amendments, until the proposals are ready for a community vote. Finally, policymakers (e.g. city council, the mayor’s office, institutional leadership) carry these proposals forward to their respective chambers–using theatre to spark concrete change.

“Legislative Theatre reinforces my belief that constituents should have a direct impact on forming policies, setting budget priorities and determining legislative actions. It also offers a practical experience for both the constituent participants and the elected or administrative officials present. We need to continue to increase the number of opportunities for elected officials, agency personnel, and City staff members to participate directly in Legislative Theatre.”

— Carlos Menchaca, NYC Council Member

Where's the evidence?

  • A collaboration between the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and people with experience of homelessness (2020-2021) resulted in the co-creation of the Greater Manchester Homelessness Prevention Strategy. This evaluation report highlights the value of Legislative Theatre in breaking down barriers for participation and presenting a different way of understanding the impact of policy on people’s lives.

  • In the lead up to the COP26 Conference in Glasgow in November 2021, Glasgow City Council commissioned a youth-led climate Legislative Theatre. The Gulbenkian Foundation conducted an independent evaluation on public engagement with climate issues, which found that this initiative led directly to young people's participation in COP26, and increased their confidence and motivation to engage with policymakers.

  • A collaboration between Arts Homelessness International, Coventry City Council and Coventry City of Culture led to a Legislative Theatre process to co-create the city's Rough Sleeping Strategy in 2022; the University of Warwick published this report, highlighting outcomes such as non-hierarchical citizen democracy and "inclusive, dialogic and open decision-making."

  • Since 2013, Theatre of the Oppressed NYC has worked alongside city and federal government representatives and advocacy coalitions on housing, the justice system, LTGBQ rights and more, in one of the first Legislative Theatre initiatives in the United States. Read this report for case studies, policy impacts, and testimonials from elected officials.

"Yesterday’s Legislative Theatre was amazing. It’s such a brilliant format for community outreach, engagement and education. This process is an innovative and effective model for community-based policy-making that should be replicated.”

— Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan Associate Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF & President, National Lawyers Guild