Who we are: a little history
The Marti Stevens Interactive Improvisational Theater is a statewide, non-profit organization whose roots lie in literacy awareness. Founded by Somerset County Basic Skills Program Director, Marti Stevens, in 1985, the original Literacy Awareness Theater worked closely with Adult Education programs across the state to make teachers, tutors and community members aware of the subtle and not-so-subtle struggles that non-readers may face.
Interactive Improvisational Theater (a.k.a. Exploratory, Experiential, Social Action Theater) has been used for decades as a tool for consciousness raising, problem solving and social change.
One of the first groups to develop and use the full Literacy Theater Process was the Family Life Division of New York Medical College in 1973, where teenagers from local high schools presented scenes from their real world. The teens explored issues presented by the audience—including drugs, alcohol, health and developmental issues—then stayed in character to dialogue with the audience. Their success led to similar peer education projects around the country, giving teenagers a forum to discuss and problem-solve issues affecting their lives.
Marti Stevens first used Improvisational Interactive Theater with teens in Skowhegan, Maine addressing issues such as date rape, substance abuse and teen pregnancy. In 1984 Stevens brought her theater to adult educators at the Northern New England Conference. From there, the newly formed Northern New England Social Action (NNESA) group began a collaboration that addressed a variety of concerns in adult education and local communities. At the 1985 Commission on Adult Basic Education Conference in Montreal, these seasoned adult educators from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont illustrated that Literacy Theater was a dynamic and effective staff-training model. LSCA Library Literacy and National Literacy Institute grants enabled the Social Action Theater to perform and train in forty-six states. Eighteen theater groups formed around the country to perform and interact with audiences in their own communities.
In Maine, the Maine Literacy Theater was performing and providing training to adult educators and community groups under the direction of Marti Stevens. Following Marti Stevens’ passing in 1993, the decision was made to continue her great work, and the Maine Literacy Theater was renamed the Marti Stevens Interactive Improvisational Theater. A group of dedicated actors from many walks of life provide training opportunities all over Maine, for educators, government, non-profits and business.