On a Saturday night at the Source Theater in Washington, D.C., Elena Velasco, B.A. 1998, M.F.A. 2015, asks a small group of audience members to pull their chairs into a circle. She and her artistic collaborators want feedback on their workshop performance of Guerilla Theatre Project: At What Cost?

Velasco is the founder and artistic director of Convergence Theatre, a new collective of artists, many of whom are  Catholic University alumni and students, dedicated to theatre for social justice. At What Cost? explores the experience of  refugees. What happens when home is no longer a safe place? Scenes depicting the fear and desperation felt by refugees have audience members talking. And that’s exactly what Velasco wants.

“Theatre cultivates understanding and compassion,” says Velasco. “And it can create advocacy for communities that don’t have a voice.”

At a young age, Velasco fell in love with performing arts, which eventually drew her to  the University’s nationally recognized drama  department. “When I came to Catholic as an undergrad, my world opened up. The curriculum took us from the Greeks through contemporary theatre. I felt nurtured by the drama faculty.” She says she and her classmates were “united by the notion that theatre was more than mere entertainment, it was enlightenment and action.”

After graduating, Velasco found success in the Washington, D.C., theatre community as an actor, director, choreographer, playwright, and activist, all while raising seven children. Some 20 years later she came back to  Catholic University to pursue her dream of a graduate degree when she was accepted to the drama department’s highly selective M.F.A. in directing program. 

Velasco was thrilled to find the department had the same nurturing environment. “It still felt like family.” In her graduate studies in directing, she emphasized her interest in social justice theater and she says her advisor and program director Eleanor Holdridge “supported me wholeheartedly in pursuing that track.”

“I can’t point to one element of the CUA environment that supports social justice; it is simply embedded into who we are and why we are here on earth. The Gospel teaches us we are here to serve one another. And that belief runs through all disciplines at Catholic University.”

Photos and Video taken at a rehearsal for Guerilla Theatre Works: At What Cost?