Group: A.C.T. Out Theatre Ensemble

Claude McNeal Productions (CMP), the home of the ACT OUT Theatre Ensemble, uses theatre to communicate issues and ideas that are difficult to address in any other way. The unique organization specializes in alternative theatre-related educational programming for the greater Indianapolis area. It has focused primarily on schools so far and serves more than 15,000 students annually; however, it has a growing community presence as well. ACT OUT is a vehicle to open discussion about social, health, and educational issues at elementary, middle and high schools across the state and colleges throughout the Midwest. Topics range from bullying and teasing to AIDS and eating disorders, but ACT OUT focuses on issues related to conflict resolution when working with PLC programs. Shows are all original; they are researched in meetings with respected local health professionals and educators and then scripted through the use of improvisation by four to six actors. ACT OUT works because it’s live, improvisational theatre in which students become active participants. In the 30- to 45-minute show, the action often freezes in the midst of an issue, and students are asked to provide suggestions on how to resolve the current conflict before the play resumes. Students also become involved in a question-and-answer session at the end of each performance. Even students who are too shy to speak can think and respond individually.

ACT OUT has generated favorable evaluations from students, teachers, school administrators and the press, including The Washington Post, CNN and Teen People. Said the Post: “The ACT OUT Ensemble offers powerful and compelling messages packed into dynamic performances. The audience blossomed with interaction.” After the tragic violence at Columbine High School in 1999, the other high school in Littleton, Colorado, invited ACT OUT to present a program for students and staff there. Associate Principal Mary Ellen Hanson said: “You can lecture kids, you can show them textbooks, even model things, but they won’t listen until they can feel it themselves. ACT OUT does this better than anyone.”