Vaclav Havel once said that "[t]heatre is always a sensitive seismograph of an era, perhaps the most sensitive one there is; it's a sponge that quickly soaks up important ingredients in the atmosphere around it." One of the more important "ingredients" in our cultural atmosphere in modern America is the issue of identity. In his book on metatheatre, Richard Hornby posits that theatre is "a kind of identity laboratory, in which social roles can be examined vicariously." In this thesis, I examine Hornby's theory of the five different modes of metatheatre, critique each, and argue for the addition of a sixth mode. I then explain the basics of critical race theory, and argue for the use of it as a theoretical lens in the theatre and for the creation of a body of "critical race theatre." Using the framework of metatheatre and the theoretical lens of critical race theory, I analyze both Branden Jacob's Jenkins' An Octoroon and Young Jean Lee's The Shipment as seminal works of critical race theatre. I argue the necessity of applying critical race theory to the theatre and creating such a body of work if the theatre is to play a part in striving for racial justice. By analyzing the use of metatheatrical devices to confront race in both of these plays, I additionally make the case that metatheatre is the best frame within which to craft a body of critical race theatre.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Coleburn, Andrew, "Metatheatre and Critical Race Theory: A Combination for Compelling Storytelling and Effective Changemaking" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 30.