This dissertation examines the ways in which artists and administrators from mainstream and culturally specific theater companies in the United States negotiate vexed racial histories, complex racial representations, and material inequalities in contemporary partnerships. Though these collaborations mark a progressive step towards increasing racial inclusion on prominent American stages and subsequently within the national imaginary, they simultaneously constrain the transformative, social justice oriented goals that culturally specific theaters aim to achieve. Thus, I contend that these partnerships do not herald the definitive achievement of racial equality in the field of theater. Instead, they involve constant negotiation between companies' competing aesthetic, philosophical, and political missions, and their differing economic realities. In these sites, companies enter into delicate and contested territory, navigating between inclusion and imperialism, neighborliness and benevolent patriarchy: race is both celebrated and ignored, hyper-visible and repressed, the underpinning motivator for the collaboration and the not-to-be-discussed specter haunting every decision. Throughout this dissertation, I argue that these sites of cross-cultural engagement are not simply victories in the long march of civil rights progress, as they are often framed for the public, but rather are dynamic and contentious "contact zones" - sites of conflict, tension, collision, and compromise - that reveal the persistence of racism in limiting equality in the field. When the celebratory multicultural and post-racial rhetorics of "good stories" and "visibility" frame these partnerships, the consequence is that culturally specific artists must conform to liberal humanist standards (as commonly human or distinctly other) and aesthetic norms (through Western, Aristotelian dramatic structures) in order to be recognized. As such, culturally specific theater companies are looking to other venues, relationships, and interracial coalitions to ensure their long-term sustainability.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2014. Major: Theatre Arts. Advisors: Dr. Margaret Werry, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts and Dance. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 251 pages.
Lein Walseth, Stephanie.
Staging Race in a "Post-Racial" age: contemporary collaborations between mainstream and culturally specific theatres in the United States.
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