Jim Walsh – Activist Theater Leaves the Classroom and Takes on a Life of its Own
In ways that most academics can't claim, Political Science Instructor Jim Walsh integrates his passionate beliefs about education's place in modern society, powerful convictions about social justice and strong abilities as an educator and organizer. The result is the Romero Theater Troupe–an on-going experiment in changing the lives of students and community members throughout Denver–for which Walsh recently won the CU Denver Rosa Parks Diversity Award.
The troupe is a living, breathing testament to the power of activism as theater. "No one leaves the Romero Troupe the same person they entered as," says Walsh, the group's founder and facilitator. "We are all changed by it, not just our audiences; all of us grow from the experience." It was from Walsh's non-traditional classroom that the Romero Theater Troupe was born in 2005. Replacing thick history textbooks with fiction, poetry, and primary sources and narratives; and rejecting standard exams and other trappings of traditional pedagogy, Walsh describes his classroom as a place where students own the room, in every dimension possible. This non-traditional approach opened up space for his students to study alternate histories and explore ideas about social justice issues. This eventually led to the organization of about 200 people, who come together and give performances around Denver, educating on matters of importance to local communities. Named for Oscar Romero, a Salvadorian political activist and priest, and dedicated to helping underserved populations find their voices, the Romero Troupe is gaining recognition throughout Denver and beyond. As filmmaker Michael Kilman says in his documentary film, Unbound: The Story of the Romero Theater Troupe, "Through solidarity, power and a space for self-representation, the Romero Theater Troupe is transforming the culture of Denver."