The Justice Theater Project: Developing a Company and a Conversation Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Royals, Deborah
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Communication
  • This dissertation is a critical ethnographic study of The Justice Theater Project (JTP), an “advocacy activist” theater company in central North Carolina in the Southern United States. It shares the story of how JTP began, identifying the steps the company took, the theoretical perspectives and models it was guided by, and circumstances that allowed the company to engage a community in important conversations concerning life, dignity, embodied participation, choice, solidarity, care and justice for all people. It is intended to serve as a resource for similar efforts. JTP’s mission is to use the performing arts to “call to the fore of public attention the needs of the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.” Each year, the company selects a pressing issue of social concern, identifies individuals and organizations engaged with that issue, and partners with them to create original performance projects and theater productions to spark and maintain a season-long discussion of the issue. The company emerged out of the faith, life, and education of its founding Artistic Director, her experiences in traditional theater, her education in performance studies, and what she made of the example of one of her teachers, Dwight Conquergood. JTP grew in the shelter and support of a Franciscan community inspired by liberation theology and Catholic Social Teaching. Kismet seems to have also played a part. The Introduction catalogs and discusses practices, ideas, and models that the company has integrated. Chapter Two traces how the threads came together in one person’s life and led to the company’s birth. Chapter Three explains how JTP organized itself despite setbacks. Chapter Four shows how the company developed practices it uses to this day. Chapters Three and Four also describe how the company creates original performance pieces. Its first, Still ... Life, was based on two years of field research with North Carolinians affected by the death penalty. The next two, !Exprésate! and ¡Exprésate!—The Price You Pay!, engaged Latina teenagers from urban Durham’s West End and from migrant farm working families throughout eastern North Carolina to develop and perform “Forum” theater using the methods of Augusto Boal.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Grossberg, Lawrence
  • Dempsey, Sarah
  • McConville, William
  • Alexander Craft, Renee
  • Pollock, Della
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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