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Rehearsing performative traditions: engaging with cultural practices in college devised theatre
Theatre, Dance and Performance Training  (IF),  Pub Date : 2022-01-05, DOI: 10.1080/19443927.2021.1972443
John Thiel

This essay examines the impact of U.S. college students’ engagement with performative traditions from their cultural upbringings in an ensemble-based devised theatre process that I directed at a Predominantly White Institution in the spring of 2020. Situating findings within discussions of culturally engaging pedagogies and the politics of race and cultural equity in U.S. theatre and higher education, this research considers the counter-hegemonic possibilities of culturally conscious devising. Relying on participant self-reporting from post- process interviews, I explore three aspects of ensemble members’ creative process: the impact of ‘mapping’ cultural assets within the collaborative process, experiences of vulnerability in times of cultural sharing, and participants’ understandings of and connections with their communities as a resource to their theatre-making. Additionally, I assess the effectiveness of this project’s approaches to devising that were designed to cultivate critical perspectives on cultural values and practices. I argue for increased pedagogical attention to students’ engagement with cultural traditions as a means of invigorating ensemble-based devising practice and responding to cultural inequities in the systems of higher education.