Theater as a Catalyst for Social Change

Date of Award


Document Type


First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


Participating in theater is looked at as a white middle and upper class activity. According to the Broadway League’s 2014-2015 Broadway Demographics, 79.8% of broadway theatergoers were white, and 78% had completed college (Vigas, 2016). Theater tells a story, and has the potential to be a voice for communities who don’t have a voice. The more socially conscious our theatrical productions are, the more socially conscious audiences will be. If we make theater an accessible experience to everyone, then we create a socially conscious society. Current research ignores an analysis of how theatrical forms affect audiences and encourage a willingness to engage in social change. My research will fill this gap and look at how theater can be more accessible to anyone as well as look at which specific elements of theatrical forms affect audiences the most and engage them to participate in social change in their own communities?

For my research I collected 30 audience surveys from six shows; four shows in NYC, two shows in Los Angeles. I used the survey to measure how the show affected the audience’s willingness to engage in social activism in their own community. I determined the success of the show, by looking at the surveys and seeing if the audience member said they felt encouraged to do activism in their own community. Each show I saw dealt with societal issues including the war in Syria, BREXIT; The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union, Women's rights, Police Brutality and Anti-Blackness etc.

My findings show that the way to make theater accessible is by having community partnerships. diversity within the creating team, and discounted theater tickets. The theatrical elements that specifically engage audiences to participate in social change are Documentary Genre, Breaking the 4th wall and Theater as a social situation.


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