Asking not telling

by Marjorie Duffield | 1 September 2017

…human nature remains the same.

I don’t know the answer to what makes an effecting piece of social change theatre. I believe theatre is always changing the world (though the themes, intentions and content of some pieces might change the world a bit more than others). The theatre-making process changes the world too. That is one of the elements I have always loved most about the ensemble/ISTA philosophy: the how of theatre-making. Compassionately with an ensemble emphasis – that too can change the world by changing the lives of the people involved.

But what makes social change theatre and how do we make social change theatre? It is very interesting to be an American in America at the moment. The challenges to freedom of speech, truth and reason have been and continue to be quite great. As a theatre-maker, it has been an exasperating time. I have no answers, only questions. And the only way I know how to address those questions is by making theatre that poses those questions.

Last spring (April 2017) I produced two pieces that explored digital citizenship. One was an original musical that I also wrote the book and lyrics to (Viral). The second was a new play (The Incident) devised by Tectonic Theatre Company member Barbara Pitts McAdams, initially with the Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire (devised through the Moment Work process, revisions were created by and with my students at The Calhoun School in Manhattan). I had the idea for this sort of festival last fall. The country was immersed in a post-truth bullying-is-acceptable societal crisis. I was in deep distress about these issues and how it was affecting our culture and my students.

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