Utopia in Performance
"In my classes, I encourage them to imagine themselves as citizen-scholar-artists, as people who think about their art practices and their relationship to democracy, not just to their fantasies of popularity. I try to encourage in them an attachment to theater’s possibilities as a place of inspiration and vision, as well as a vehicle for leisure and entertainment. I want them to see a connection between their work as actors, designers, or critics and the state of our world, so that they’ll feel they have something ethical and social as well as aesthetic to contribute. I want them to be moved by what they do, and in that emotion, to feel the potential of their art to reach people deeply. I want to train my students to use performance as a tool for making better futures, to use performance to incite people to profound responses that shake their consciousness of themselves in the world.
Perhaps that, already, is utopian, the idea that theater can do any of those things. Yet that’s the depth of reaction for which I long when I go to the theater - I don’t think we should expect anything less. Theater remains, for me, a space of desire, of longing, of loss, in which I’m moved by a gesture, a word, a glance, in which I’m startled by a confrontation with mortality (my own and others’). I go to theater and performance to hear stories that order, for a moment, incoherent longings, that engage the complexity of personal and cultural relationships, and that critique the assumptions of a social system I find sorely lacking. I want a lot from theater and performance.” ~ Jill Dolan, Utopia in Performance