Crafting socially engaged theater

Snyder, Benjamin E.
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In this thesis I examine the craft goals and strategies I have employed in developing three socially engaged plays during my studies in the MFA Playwriting Program at The University of Texas at Austin. I am defining “socially engaged theater” as that which is written for the stage and explores a major social issue. Each play included examines a different issue. The play, You Ain’t Cuz You Not, explores the issue of gentrification, privilege, and poverty. The script is written in a non-linear, non-naturalistic style to meet both the craft needs and resonate most effectively with the issues. The play, Rivers of January, looks at racial construction and class divisions in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The play is structured in a conventional and linear format and is stylistically entirely a naturalistic drama to create the tone most effective for exploring the themes. The play, You Can’t Win, is a musical biography of the career criminal Jack Black and study of the prison industrial complex. Each script presented a unique set of craft challenges in the development process. The tone, genre, and structure of each piece were determined by both the needs of the particular story and the desired outcome of examining a particular topic of social relevance.