In Your Shoes
A project on American democracy

In Spring 2020, the Government Department and the Theater and Performance Studies program co-sponsored GOVX424/TPST415: Dialogue, Difference & Performance: Performing One Another (Mondays 2:00pm – 4:45pm plus Lab).

This course brings together six students each from Georgetown and Patrick Henry College, a conservative Christian college in Virginia, to use performative techniques of deep listening, interpersonal dialogue, devised performance, and call-and-response to engage the perspectives of individuals across real and perceived ideological divides. This five-credit course offers students a space in which to develop a deeper understanding of their own beliefs and how these beliefs have been cultivated, as well as to explore the shared hopes, dreams and fears that cut across America’s increasingly polarized society. It builds off of a successful pilot project in 2018-2019 and will again culminate in public presentations on both campuses. Please note the course is open by application and interview only.

Information about Spring 2021 will be available in Fall 2020.

Program Background: “In Your Shoes”

Beginning in the Fall of 2018 and running through the 2018-2019 school year, Georgetown University’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, Democracy and Governance Program, and Baker Center for Leadership & Governance partnered with Patrick Henry College Professors Cory Grewell and Mark Mitchell on a process that brought 5 students each from Georgetown and Patrick Henry together in a creative process of mutual dialogue, interview-based script-writing and theatrical performance to explore commonalities and differences of perspective within and among the 2 communities.

Georgetown Professor and co-director of the Laboratory of Global Performance and Politics Derek Goldman brought many years of experience in facilitating processes of developing original performance work through techniques of devised theater, improvisation, interview-based documentary theater,  and original writing/ scripting. He worked collaboratively with Professor Grewell, PHC Professor of Literature and advisor to the College’s Eden Troupe drama program, and an ensemble of 5 students from each campus over the course of the 2018-2019 school year.

Students engaged openly and respectfully in a process that asked them to articulate courageously and imaginatively their own perspectives, viewpoints and stories, and to listen respectfully and do the hard work of imagining themselves “in the shoes” of peers with perspectives that are quite different from their own.  At a time where so many are so polarized and struggling to find forums that accommodate divergent perspectives, we found that the theatrical performance process can be transformative in its ability to engender empathy and  constructive, genuine dialogue in a way that respects and accommodates critical differences.

Animating questions that informed our work included reflections on where we each come from, both in a more literal, biographical sense (geography, culture, relationship to home, family etc.) but also in terms of the primary influences that are shaping our values, viewpoints and identities. . How do we define ‘home’? What are our aspirations and hopes for the future? What are our fears? What makes us laugh? How do the answers to these questions help us determine what ‘home’ should look like?

More information on the project is available at