The paper addresses the complexity of social issues in contemporary American society through the prism of its reflection in theatre and literature. The characteristic features of American narratives and performatives are freedom and an almost utopian belief in diversity and social understanding. At the same time, the discussed works present a comprehensive look at social issues using a great variety of forms and genres, and appealing to the aesthetic sensitivity of different groups of recipients. In the face of future problems in the political arena, American art offers an interesting transatlantic perspective on the complexity of 21st-century issues which are relevant all over the world.
Tectonic Theater Project’s documentary/verbatim theatre work entitled The Laramie Project charts the intricacies of the process of a hate crime victim’s search for and acquisition of identity (becoming) and the concurrent success and failure of the community to engage in this process (affiliation). The productions, as well as the film version, of The Laramie Project tackle the crucial importance of understanding the grey area between the state of becoming (part of) something and being excluded from it (in-betweenness). This liminality, reflecting Victor Turner’s illustrious ideas of “betwixt and between”, shall serve to explore The Laramie Project as an attempt to show the facets of social and cultural affiliation and becoming, as well as an instrument to put them to use in socially and politically relevant theatre. The paper will seek to show how Tectonic Theater Project’s work scrutinizes the significance of “in-betweenness” and employs it to communicate a message that is both humanistic and aesthetic.
In recent years, the artistic representation of communities (e.g. in community-based theatres) has found its source in the realm of the imagination (documentary drama, verbatim theatre, post-dramatic performance, etc.), addressing issues that are important and relevant not only for the communities themselves but also for the wider society. In this presentation I will use Zygmunt Bauman’s notion of the “seductive lightness of being” - or the transitory nature of our virtual experience - to talk about the role of selected community-based theatres in the United States and about their imaginative depiction and discussion of issues which are of vital importance for any community: identity, the personal vs. the political, a sense of belonging, progressiveness, social awareness and the capability of coexistence.