Essay (3000 words)
The essay must demonstrate an understanding of the projects, participating communities, ethical and aesthetic criteria and relevant socio-political issues explored in the projects within the context in which they were created through an in-depth critical analysis of the performance events. You will use primarily projects that we discussed in class, but you may supplement that analysis with projects mentioned in the books, particularly those starred, on the Supplementary Reading List. Be sure to have enough information on the project, so do not rely on just one source.
Your essay will be assessed according to the effectiveness of the argument: the clarity and quality of the thesis, the appropriateness of the comparison/contrast of the projects, the specificity and suitability of the examples, and the strength of the analysis that must relate those examples to the essay’s thesis. In addition, your prose needs to be clear, your essay’s structure logical, and your ideas original. You should use parenthetical documentation and works cited (MLA format—on the departmental website) to cite your sources. Be sure to check that you have documented correctly because accurate citation will have an impact on the assessment. Please include word count.
The essay will be submitted both in electronic form and hard copy to Kate on the due date listed on the website.
1) Participation is a contested aspect of socially-engaged practice with some theorists arguing for its efficacy and others challenging that claim. Using the arguments of two theorists, discuss the role of participation and its potential for efficacy (or not) in one of the socially-engaged performances we discussed this term. You may supplement your argument with reference to a socially-engaged project not discussed in class, but this is not required.
2) Claire Bishop argues that artists must not lose sight of ‘aesthetics’ in art projects that rely on community participants. Using the ideas in her argument, write a critique of the aesthetic aspects (i.e. written play text or story, visual imagery, music, puppetry, dance, installation, etc.) of one of the socially-engaged performances we discussed this term. You may supplement your argument with reference to a socially-engaged project not discussed in class, but this is not required.
3) One of the key controversial issues in socially-engaged performance is ethics—whether that focuses on the balance of power between artist and participating community, on issues of trust and agency, on respect for local traditions and beliefs, on understanding trauma and loss, or a range of other difficult areas to negotiate. Analyse the ethics of one of socially-engaged projects that we discussed this term. You may draw on the ideas of any of the theorists we read this term to support your claims. You may supplement your argument with reference to a socially-engaged project not discussed in class, but this is not required.
The goal of the portfolio is to encourage you to think about socially-engaged performance from the perspective of practice. The portfolio consists of three entries that research, develop and explain different aspects of a socially-engaged project that you would like to create. It represents the ‘proposal’ for this socially-engaged project, so it is a paper-project not the actual work itself. The entire portfolio should be 3000 words, plus images (photographs, sketches, maps, charts, etc.). The possible proposed project can take one of many varied forms. For example, it could be a devised play created with your peers on an issue important to a particular community. It could be a series of workshops with a particular community or a community performance devised with/by the members of the community. It could be an intervention that happens in a type of physical space or an installation at a particular festival. As you can see, the form of the project is not restricted. You must research and describe the who, what, when, where and how of this proposed event in detail.
The portfolio will be assessed according to the quality, clarity and originality of the material presented in each entry. You could include much more information than the space limitations will allow, so what you choose to include and how you summarize, describe, explain and/or depict it will affect the assessment. Be sure to cite your sources correctly (MLA format).
The three entries are:
1) The proposal for a socially-engaged performance. Describe the aims, objectives and form of this event (its key ideas, dramaturgical structure, participants and/or spectators, location, etc.). So questions to ask: What will the event look like? What does it explore? How is it structured? For whom? Where will it take place? What does it hope to accomplish? Why?
2) A detailed analysis of the community/communities who will experience the socially-engaged project you are proposing. So, for example, if you were working with teen-agers living in a specific city to devise a piece for senior citizens also living in that city, you would have two communities to research. Research the populations in terms of backgrounds, socio-economic level, education, ages, language, issues important to them, etc. You can present the information in a form that you feel describes it the most clearly: a ‘report’, chart(s), decription, interviews, etc.
3) A description of the physical place that you imagine for your socially-engaged project. For some projects, the site is key, but for others, its importance is less significant. If you were working in New Orleans after Katrina (or any other location after a major disaster), the physical site would be key. If, on the other hand, you devised a play to take to primary schools, you could research the primary schools that you would like to visit—that could include the curriculum as well as the physical location, administrative structure, etc. And you would also need to research the ‘location’ of the devised play. You can include photographs, sketches, maps, etc. that give a sense of the place, if appropriate. See Katie Beswick, ‘The Council Estate: Representation, Space and the Potential for Performance,’ Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance 16.3 (2010): 421-35 (available through Library databases) for an example of how to think and write about site (although her essay is much more detailed than what you are expected to do).