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The 2017-2018 season delivered an increased number and variety of performances: 18 different sketches across a total of 67 sessions, a 20% increase in output over the prior season.
 
Introduced in 2016-2017, Cuts: Responding to Student Climate Concerns became the most frequently performed material of the 2017-2018 season, accounting for a full third of 67 performances by the CRLT Players both on campus and beyond. In support of their DEI strategic plans, 12 different U-M departments spanning four schools hosted Cuts sessions, allowing participants to explore students' experiences of marginalization and develop or refine their ability to respond productively and compassionately. 
 
The impact of this work stretched far beyond Ann Arbor. First, Cuts was included in the Academic Leadership Program (ALP) of the Big Ten Academic Alliance hosted at U-M this year. More than 70 ALP Fellows from 14 campuses attended the performance. Second, the primary professional organization for teaching center staff (POD) featured Cuts at a special session of the 2017 conference held in Montreal. The 600+ audience included center leaders and consultants from throughout North America and beyond. Finally, over 400 people attended performances of Cuts at Skidmore College and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) as a key contribution to programming on inclusive teaching on those campuses. 
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New collaborators in 2016-2017 included the schools of kinesiology, public health, and public policy. The Players also experimented successfully with new approaches for effectively handling an increased demand for performances. First, while finalizing the upcoming year's performances in May 2016, the theatre program dedicated January and February of 2017 to two newer sketches: Distress Signals on mental health and Cuts on microaggressions. Temporarily narrowing the repertoire enables a greater number of actual performances because fewer sketch casts can rehearse more efficiently. Although it is most helpful when schools and departments can extend their planning horizons and talk to us about their potential performance needs a year or two out, we were delighted to find that concentrated scheduling allowed us to accommodate a few last-minute requests for these pieces. Units can expect to see clustered scheduling of additional sketches in 2017-2018.
 
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The Players are viewed as an on-campus resource skilled in encouraging critical reflection and facilitating strategy-focused dialogues about a range of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) issues. Throughout 2015-2016 they assisted units across campus in starting or deepening such conversations among members of their communities. The scope of assistance encompasses not only performances of sketches and facilitation of audience discussions, but also pre-performance planning dialogues adn post-event debriefs. A notable collaboration with the College of Engineering entailed the creation of a 'special topics' dinner series, at which invited faculty came together to collectively consider their responsibility for creating inclusive climates in different domains of their professional lives. One area explored in this series was role-appropriate ways instructors could support students facing mental health challenges, and the Players revisited this topic throughout the year with groups of GSIs, faculty, and campus leaders. Retrospective pre- and post- self-assessments indicate that participants left these sessions with a greater understanding of resources available to them and their students and increased confidence in their ability to navigate interactions of this kind productively. 
 
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In Fall 2014, the CRLT Players Theatre Program received the U-M Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award for their serious and sustained efforts in improving campus climate and institutional equity over the past fifteen years. Throughout the 2014-2015 academic year, the Players continued their work in these arenas, supporting a range of college and departmental porgrams and customizing workshops to meet the particular needs of individual units. They also strategically expanded their repertoire to meet the identified needs of our campus population.
 
Answering faculty's call for skill-building around student mental health issues and building upon research conducted in 2013-2014, the Players developed a series of vignettes to seed conversation about instructors' responsibilities to students facing mental health challenges. This new material was presented in a series of previews in 2014-2015 to key university stakeholders, resulting in the creation of a session that aims to guide participants in proactively shaping their pedagogical practices with an awareness of student mental health concerns. Received positively in a spring pilot performance for GSI Coordinators, Distress Signals will be rolled out in CoE and LSA in 2015-2016.
 
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After a jam-packed 2017-18 season (67 performances reaching over 4,000 participants), the CRLT Players are excited to kick off the 2018-19 year at U-M with three orientation performances of 7 into 15 for faculty, graduate student instructors, and academic leaders.

This season, the Players expand their repertoire with the addition of Moving the Needle: a performance focused on sexual harassment in the academy. Together, audiences discuss strategies to anticipate and respond to occurrences of sexual harassment, and to make cultures that resist harassment in the first place. In addition to a full schedule of classic sketches (such as 7 into 15, Cuts, and Tenure Decisions), the Players are researching and developing a new performance concerning the experiences of first generation college students in higher education.

In every session, the CRLT Players continue to prompt reflection on topics like social identity, campus climate, and belonging, and to prepare audiences to create more inclusive spaces at the University of Michigan and beyond.

 

 

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