Stories from the field in rural Washington, US

by Stella T. Ireland | 1 January 2016

The most powerful part was the collaborative process of creating the play.

My first significant experience with provocative theatre was many years ago during my time as founder and director of a youth theatre company on the West coast of the United States. I was deliberately seeking out experiences of using theatre for social change as I was also conducting research for my PhD. The headlines at that time were full of horrendous stories of immigration issues and refugees attempting to get into the United States, sadly not too different from today’s headlines. I decided to collect the stories of migrant farm workers and create a performance with the hope of bringing awareness to their plight and educating people in my community about this invisible part of the population. I did not know at the time how provocative this piece of theatre would be and that it would involve me being under attack by local farmers, business people, the orgainsation that funded the project, the police as well as a radical Latino college group. Neither did I know the positive and empowering effect the performance would have on all who were involved and that the solidarity that emerged would be a pivotal experience in my theatre career.

The process of creating the play was in some ways much greater than the outcome of the performance. In hindsight, this might be one of the rules of “provacative theatre”. It is not just about the final performance for the audience, it also needs to be a process that stirs you to the bottom of your soul. You need to be willing to go into the danger zone for yourself.

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