Photo by: Carona Davis-Diop
The Meta Theatre Company was co-founded by Caroline Hann and Barbara Cannell in August 2012, who first met during a production of The Vagina Monologues in Hunterdon County, NJ. They developed the MTC theatre program while volunteering at The Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, NJ. This transformative justice theatre program ran for 8 years with rehearsals taking place inside and outside the prison walls. When volunteer services were stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic, MTC decided to transition the transformative justice theatre program to include re-entry.
Since the first MTC performance in January 2013, MTC has written and produced original work inside and outside the prison walls, including more than 30 performances with audiences all over the country, as far as Los Angeles, CA. After each performance, MTC stays connected to community through action plans developed by audience members, supportive facilitation guides, and mutual aid. MTC works alongside community leaders such as All of Us or None – Northern New Jersey, The Institute for Family Services, MOSAIC at CSUN Northridge, and more to create a reimagined future.
One of the guiding principles of MTC is to decolonize theater. This means we move away from traditional, proscenium style stages; we design shows to be performed in prisons, church basements, conference rooms, libraries, and college and high school campuses. Our shows fit into any space or venue where people are in community together; this makes theatre more accessible for people who have not historically had access to this medium. Our process disrupts white, Eurocentric forms of theatre where actors are kept separate from the audience; we strive to be in community with the audience throughout our shows. We strategically design our performances to be interactive with the audience; the dialogue with the audience is the show. Every audience dialogue then informs future productions.
MTC’s process is informed by Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Augustus Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, and the liberatory healing practices of Dr. Rhea Almeida at The Institute for Family Services in Somerset, NJ. We also utilize the transformative justice model (a theory and approach to help all individuals affected by an injustice or power imbalance to assess the systemic and personal harm to a community, and then determine how to repair that harm) and an understanding of intersectionality (a concept defined and developed by legal scholar and Black Feminist, Kimberlé Crenshaw as a lens through which you can see where systemic power and personal power intersects).
The Meta Theatre Company -- theatre is a pathway to justice.