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My Heart is in the East: Exploring Theater as a Vehicle for Change, Inspired by the Poetic Performances of Ancient Andalucía

Jessica Litwak

Abstract

This study addresses the research question “How Do I Inspire Personal and Social Change Through My Theater Practice?” I implement the theory and practice of H.E.A.T., a fusion theater system, combining use of theater arts as healing practice, educational asset, activist tool, and an art form. I research different ways that theater can affect change, focusing specifically on the use of history in performance. I dramatically interpret a period of history where performance and poetry contributed to change. I utilize qualitative methods including performance ethnography, auto ethnography, arts-based research, and historical research. I describe the fieldwork in conflict zones in the Middle East, which led to the scripting of a full-length play, and the presentation of the play, which included discussion groups and audience participation through post-show events. The dissertation is a bricolage, combining scholarly chapters, performative writing, and scripted theater. The work explores ways of employing theater as a change agent by using history as an inspiration. In the city of Cordoba, Spain, in the 10th and 11th century Muslims and Jews lived in a state of relative peace. Looking at medieval Cordoba I explore the Judeo-Arabic poetry of the time, asking: Can what happened in Cordoba be a model for performance and peacebuilding? Based on historical research, the Judeo-Arabic poetry of ancient Al-Andalusia, and the theory of performative peacebuilding, the dramatically scripted section of the dissertation will take place in two realms: Present-day conflict zones in the Middle East; and medieval Cordoba where two ancient characters convey a story of coexistence through poetic expression. In three decades of working as a theater artist, I have come to believe that my work must be dedicated to facilitating change. The sacred and ancient art of theater needs to be meaningful to 21st-century life so that we can use it to awaken, heal, educate and repair the world. T

This dissertation is accompanied by five supplemental MP4 video files. This Dissertation is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive http://aura.antioch.edu/ and Ohiolink ETD Center

Archive of the dissertation live stream at Howl Round: http://howlround.com/livestreaming-dissertation-defense-jessica-litwak-s-my-heart-is-in-the-east-exploring-theater-as-a#disqus_thread