Home » International student » Essay on Change In Theatre

Essay on Change In Theatre

Theatre can be a powerful tool to create social change. To the audience witnessing theatre, it is a piece of art that can evoke a feeling or provide a message that can cause action. For the actors, the effect can be even more profound as they are forced to empathize with their characters in order to portray them accurately. In the case of improv, perhaps the most central focus of this course, theatre becomes a way to merge the audience with the actors: it forces both into a position of introspection that yields an outward action.

The ability of improv to create this interaction is why it can be used so effectively to initiate social change-people are forced to examine themselves. One of the most subtle and actionable problems that strikes me in our community is the general attitude toward foreigners. Permeated throughout our community is a sense of American superiority, and an attitude that foreigners are a nescience.

People will often be short with foreigners, separate themselves from them as much as possible, and in some cases, actively talk town to these people who have traveled far from their home for whatever reason. When I traveled to China, I realized what it was like to be a foreigner in a country. It can be daunting, scary, and often lonely. When you do not speak the language, or speak it well, there can be a sense of helplessness in doing everyday tasks like ordering food, or trying to get around.

Because of this, it was a great blessing to find that many Chinese people were so friendly, and soon I found myself surrounded by many Chinese friends who would help me. When I got back to America, I had a new perspective of foreigners, and began to befriend some of the workers at my local Chinese restaurant—it’s amazing how a bond can be created by showing some form of respect for someone’s culture and treating them like a human being. Eventually, I began asking them about their experience of oving to America and I found that they faced many of the struggles that I did, except in their cases, no American befriended them; no American helped them.

3They often found themselves lost and confused, and if they did ask for help, they were ignored or insulted. For me, it was a change of perspective that allowed me to recognize this issue. The problem lies in people’s lack of understanding and unawareness of the struggle that foreigners face in this country. This is why improv, especially the kind exemplified in “Theatre of the Oppressed” would help engage the issue.

The first step in engaging this issue through theatre would be to gather a group of students, some foreign exchange, some American, and discuss the issue; perhaps hear some applicable experiences from the foreign exchange students, and have the American students discuss the issues: “it will be the local people themselves who will be expressing themselves through this Forum Theatre” (Boal 22). Next, we could practice some role-swapping: create a scenario where the Americans are the foreigners, and have the foreign exchange students treat the Americans in the way that they feel they are often treated.

After having the actors fully engage the issue, we could come up with some sort of scene to be played out in public. While the scene would ideally be created by the group, it would need to involve something that drew attention and would cause reactions from spectators. One example of this would be to have someone publicly ridicule one of the foreign students. The American might tell them to get out of their country, tell them to learn English, or whatever they might think of. In response, the foreign student might act embarrassed or ashamed.

After the first few actions, the rest of the play would be in the audience’s hands: how will the spectators react? If someone begins to stand up for the exchange student, the scene will play out until we explain that the situation was staged; if no one stands up for the exchange student, we might explain that the situation is staged, then ask people why they didn’t step in. This sort of theatre would raise awareness of this issue, and force people to handle the issue when it is in front of them.

Through this public display of abuse, perhaps people would have a change in how they view and treat foreigners in this community. This might allow “the oppressed… to confront [the] oppressor and to get on with the ironic task of reestablishing dialogue with the oppressive force” (Rohd xii). 2. Through the arts-based juvenile justice program that we have piloted this semester, I have learned many things and changed in many ways. The first significant thing that I learned was that the Conway Juvenile Court system is fully devoted to rehabilitating the kids who find themselves in the system.

Before working on this project, I assumed that the juvenile court was geared to scare the kids and provide a final system of punishment. I was very pleased to find out that the Conway’s juvenile system is something that I can whole-heartedly support. Moreover, I learned that the kids who found themselves in the system-or at least the ones that we worked with—are very normal kids who have a lot of potential in the future. Instead of being a band of unruly misfits, the kids turned out to be wellbehaved, normal high school kids. This gave me an even greater passion to see them rehabilitated and able to fulfill their aspirations.

The thing that was most transformative, personally, was understanding how theatre can be used to gain a perspective on something, and drive people toward social change. First, I was transformed by finding something new that I enjoy. I had never done any improv, and had never really watched any improv, so this was an entirely transformative experience insofar as developing a new skill, and having fun while doing it. It was exciting to develop the skill of “living in a pretend world, in a given circumstance, from a character’s point of view, and playing every moment truthfully and imaginatively” (Rohd 74).

The part of this experience that helped me understand the way that improv can be useful for social change was the part that forced us into dealing with difficult issues. For example, when I was put into the role of someone considering suicide, I was forced to take on this perspective. As someone who is blessed enough to say that I have never seriously considered suicide or struggled with depression, playing this role was an experience that helped me empathize with those who struggle with these things. The first time we ran through the scene, I genuinely had tears in my eyes when I began to talk about the hopelessness.

I have a close friend who is struggling with depression right now, so this was especially valuable for me because it gave me a glimpse into what she is dealing with. I think it is through the kind of experience that I had that Ozark Living Newspaper is able to contribute to positive social change in Central Arkansas. Improv used in this was has the power, not only to express emotions in an introspective way—as we saw through the character “Ace”—but also to allow people to take on a different perspective in a unique way.

Evaluating one’s self, and gaining the perspective of others naturally lead to action, and action naturally leads to change. Through educating myself on this perspective I understood how theatre could be used to “raise awareness, instill activism, and problem solve around community issues” (Rohd 128) 3. The Black Arts Movement was an example of how the arts and theatre can be used to create social change. It focused on “creating new dynamic art forms that positively reflect black life,” for the purpose of creating a “political and artistic influence” (Austin 263).

The movement created an outlet for the oppressed to express their opinions; it gave a voice to those who had none, and allowed for a way to portray black life in a better way than it had been. The Black Arts movement attempted to combat the “antiblack racism in the 1960s and ’70s [that] continued to reference… antique visual, aural, and affective stereotypes” (Sell 144-45). One unique quality of the BAM is that it was able to combat the subtle forms of racism that spread throughout the culture as explicit forms of racism became “less acceptable in the mainstream” (145).

One example of this is the BAM’s combating of blackface and other forms of racism that were “inaccessible to legal reform, peer pressure, or cultural activism” (145). The use of art in combating the subtleties of racism was especially appropriate due to arts ability to evoke emotion and portray a perspective. One downfall in the Black Arts Movement, however, was the patriarchal nature of the movement. Because the movement was mostly composed of men, “the BAM has often been charged with sexism” (James 350).

In the 1970s and 1980s, Women writers and scholars begain to push for change in the agenda of the BAM, but they were “frequently met with male opposition” (350). Even some of the women who are today classified under the Black Arts Movement did not at the time associate themselves with the movement. Virginia Hamilton is one e kample of a prominent figure of the time who would not consider herself as part of the Black Arts Movement, even though her works can be placed under this umbrella.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.