Amanda Rose
Engaged Arts and Humanities Scholar 2019–20
Theatre and Dance

Amanda Rose Villarreal is a third-year Devaney Fellow pursuing her PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies. She studies the intersection of immersive theatre and applied theatre, with a focus on consent and agency. Villarreal has spent 12 years creating immersive performances that hinge upon crafting interactive experiences that invite audience participants to engage with the performance in various ways, impacting the storyline along with the performers. She has used immersive theatre to teach police officers, formerly incarcerated individuals, educational administrators and others to use empathy, communication, and de-escalation techniques. She is currently interested in using the consent and intimacy practices from immersive theatre to create safer spaces for young and early career performers; she co-founded the Rocky Mountain Artists’ Safety Alliance for this purpose. She hopes to saturate Colorado’s performance community with best practices regarding consent and intimacy choreography, and to continue using performance to facilitate dialogue within communities.

Students in the Engaged Arts and Humanities Graduate Student Scholars program participate in the development of a community-engaged scholarship "partner" project. Below, please read about Villareal's project and her approach to this work. 

Amanda Rose Villarreal is partnering with Denver Public Schools in guiding teachers through a series of workshops developing pedagogical practices for teaching consent in middle and high school. This includes working with curriculum specialists to design lesson plans, teaching theatre educators the basics of intimacy choreography and boundary establishment to reinforce consent in the arts, and mentoring students who wish to take on leadership roles in pursuing more consent-based education.

Villareal works as an intimacy choreographer for staged productions and as an intimacy educator with Theatrical Intimacy Education (TIE). She is directly bringing lessons learned as an intimacy educator and choreographer to public school educators, so that students can benefit from these practices as early in life as possible. By sharing the tools TIE has developed—as well as practices shel has developed as an intimacy educator—with educators working at middle and high schools, Villareal is supporting educators in teaching consent.

Villareal’s artistry centers around immersive performance and consent. Immersive performance is theatre in which the audience has agency to interact with and impact the narrative of the performance; it is a play with which the audience can play. Because her theatrical work includes unscripted interactions with audience members, Villareal’s artistry is fueled by partnerships. Her creative work feeds her research into the mechanisms through which immersive creators effectively establish consent within these performer-audience interactions. Consent is personal and changes based on given circumstances. For this reason, Villareal partners with many individuals and organizations to determine the best practices for ensuring consent in a variety of settings. 

As an actress, educator, and director, Villareal is keenly aware of power imbalances that permeate the realms of education and theatre. In her own experience, well-meaning individuals in positions of power have, due to their own discomfort, avoided discussions of consent, which has led to harmful misunderstandings and miscommunications. She hopes to help educators feel comfortable teaching the topic of consent to their students, and to support this learning in multiple disciplines in order to reinforce this messaging for students. By preparing theatre teachers to use best practices of intimacy choreography in all onstage contact, students are exposed to the concept of consent in a nonsexual use, which Villareal hopes will help today’s youth become more familiar with and comfortable with this concept in all contexts.