Theatre; Justice, Law, and Society


Walshe, Rachel

Advisor Department





theater; social change; applied ethics; political art; activism; creative


Contemporary artists are working within a cultural moment saturated with political fervor. The ideologies of social and political movements such as Black Lives Matter, Queer Rights, and Gun Control weigh heavily on the minds of young artists. More and more, I see actors, writers, and creators struggling to reconcile their identities as artists and identities as political beings. How do artists resolve the internal dissonance between their artistic and political spheres? Is activist art an opportunity to synthesize these two spheres? Or might creating art for political ends pose ethical and/or aesthetic hazards? On the one hand, creating political art risks entrapping the maker into the pitfalls of a ‘well-intentioned’ activist who appropriates a political moment for personal artistic recognition. On the other hand, there looms solipsistic artistry, wherein the artist confines himself to an echo chamber of his own culture and milieu. Somewhere between these two, debates rumble concerning the autonomy of craft, where the artist must reconcile the political implications of his art with His art form’s imperative to transcend reductive political frameworks. This is the ideological landscape I have found myself, often haphazardly, navigating within my own intellectual and creative practices. This project sets forward a methodical exploration of this landscape. It explores approaches to synthesizing these political and artistic spheres, and questions how our activism and art can coexist, while preserving the integrity of each respective practice. What follows is a chronicle of my efforts, over the past eighteen months, to methodically expose myself to the theory, artwork, and practice of like-minded artists, devoted to exploring the synthesis of political and artistic spheres. It has taken form in an academic study, engaging in texts of theory and their representations in the art form. It has involved experiential practice, engaging in theater programs and projects dedicated toward innovating and revitalizing theater’s ability to transcend its conventional milieu. Finally, it has demanded of me creation, and with it infusion of theory and experiences into my own original work and projects. Boiled down, this project is my attempt to explore how theater—and more specifically, my own artistry-- can genuinely engage with a cultural and political moment, and to explore the potential and limits of theater as a civic practice.

Charlie Santos.pdf (37674 kB)