Towards a Unified Future

By Imagining America | September 12, 2017

By Jashodhara Sen, a Ph.D. student in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and a 2017-2018 Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellow. This PAGE Blog Salon explores themes of intersectionality and public scholarship, important topics of the upcoming Imagining America national conference, Oct. 12-14, 2017, in Davis, California.

Theatre creates an ideal world in which even the antagonist gets applauded at the end of the performance. As an artist/scholar, I observe, that theatre cultivates a space for everyone that is inclusive and participatory in its true sense. The reality of theatre lies in the ideal democratic techniques— the active interaction between the performer and the spectator. Can we practice and perform democracy in its absolute form within the theatrical framework? In my experience, theatre also shows us the difference between the “ideal” and “real” democracy. When audience participates in a theatrical performance at will, intentionally or unintentionally they modify the outcome of the performance. That unpredictability is a long standing feature of democracy, which may not be “ideal” but it is “real.” Thus, theatre both demonstrates and distinguishes “real” from the “ideal” by creating a fully participatory environment for the spectators.

The possibilities of creating powerful, impartial and an engaging space for both the performers and spectators are vast. The medium of the performance space may vary; for example, from the auditorium to the open air, from the streets to the classroom. In every situation the audience participation is imperative. In order to recognize the ideals of democracy, social justice, and equity, I believe, we need to be encouraging the spectators to understand the social-political-cultural dimensions within a society and create “performances” collectively. The terms (democracy, social justice, and equity) will not be useful as active agents unless we have a critical and participatory synergy of voices and choices. Playfulness and failure as a performer/spectator are also necessary as it helps us to overcome the fear of taking risks in a “real” democratic situation. I would like to mention here as an educator my goal is to explore the importance of incorporating communicative and social teaching and learning strategies to provide an inclusive learning experience for the non-native speakers in the classroom while addressing the potential of this performance-oriented curriculum. The purpose of this teaching model is to explore and implement a strategic program of study combining communicative techniques to initiate a collaborative learning environment for diverse learners. This is how I perform the terms such as social justice and equity in my classroom space.
As a student of theatre and performance studies, I aspire to create more performances in public spaces. Performances in unconventional venues will encourage the spectators to participate and have agency over the theatrical actions. As theatre can’t be done in isolation, likewise, democracy, social justice, and equity can only be celebrated collectively through collaboration and communication.