Date of Award

5-1-2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Speech Communication

First Advisor

Pelias, Ronald

Abstract

In this dissertation I explore a group of interventionist performances to identify and examine the politics of addressing issues of gender, sexuality, and trauma in performance contexts. Using performance as a mode of inquiry, I analyze my experiences as a performer, director, and audience member of performances that attempt to intervene in oppressive power structures related to sexism, heterosexism, and a culture of gender violence. I reflect on performer's choices in specific moments in an effort to theorize their potential effects on audience meaning-making and performance efficacy; comparing these choices among a group of performances, I posit applications for interventionist performers moving through similar decision-making processes. I engage three areas of complexity in interventionist performances addressing issues of gender, sexuality, and trauma. First, I explore how performers may encounter creative double binds as they attempt to deconstruct binaries, offer alternatives to master narratives, and initiate paradigm shifts regarding gender and sexual identity, sexual behavior, and victimization. I posit that the choices performers make may influence the immediate effects produced for audience members, creating a risk that performer's intentions may not always be met with a desired audience response. Second, I propose interventionist performance as a potential site for therapeutic affect that may be experienced by performers and/or audience members. By applying the therapist-patient relationship model in psychological mental health settings to audience-performer relationships on stage, I theorize how performers and audience members can approach performances that include disclosures about trauma with an understanding of the risks involved and the care for self and other such disclosures invite. Third, I analyze the potential power dynamics that may be produced through interactive performance strategies that centralize dialogue in sexual violence education programs. Drawing upon critical pedagogy praxis, I explore performers' negotiations of spectatorship, authority, and audience agency to identify several risks involved in this particular area of interventionist performance. I draw this dissertation to a close by suggesting several applications for performer-scholars interested in interventionist performance. I consider efficacy in the midst of negotiating its politics, power dynamics in audience-performer relationships, and interventionist performance as a response to trauma. I suggest that performers might consider a balance of openness and responsibility as they attempt to make efficacious choices in the midst of these complexities. Performers may benefit from acknowledging the needs of both self (the performer) and other (the audience) through self-reflexive praxis that boldly embraces the opportunities available through various interventionist strategies while taking care to acknowledge the potential impact of these choices. Finally, I provide personal reflection on the self-transformation I have experienced from engaging performance as a mode of inquiry in this dissertation project.

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