But now you can see me: devising theatre with youth artist-researchers in search of revelations and docutheatricality
Guided by Clifford Geertz's notion of culture as symbolic stories people tell themselves about themselves, the purpose of this study is to examine how youth in an urban area of Phoenix, AZ experience collectively creating and performing original documentary theatre. I pay attention to the ways youth participants--also known as artist-researchers--construct, perform, and/or perceive their identities as they practice drama techniques including improvisation, physical theatre, and Theatre of the Oppressed for the purposes of making docutheatre for social justice. First the artist-researchers chose the topics for their play. Next, they learned and applied drama and research skills to gather and examine data sources used to construct a script that explores hiding and exposure. In the process of sharing and gathering true stories our unique docutheatre-making culture was created. This multimodal qualitative research case study draws upon the genres of arts-based research and visual ethnography as primary modes of data collection and interpretation. Narrative description and the ethnodramatic mode of representation are used in conjunction with still images and this study's companion website (www.meant2see.com) to report research findings. Primary data sources include participant observation fieldnotes, over twenty hours of recorded video footage, photographs, and the project's original script and performance of To Be What's Not Meant to See . Further data include journal entries, drawings, and social media. All data were coded using In Vivo and Process Coding methods and analyzed through a cultural studies lens. Codes were sorted into phenomenological categories representative of recurring ideas and themes. Assertions were then solidified once specific key linkages were constructed. This study's key assertions are: Key Assertion 1: Participation in devising documentary social justice theatre influences and affects the construction, perception, and/or performance of urban youth identities through profound connections made with interviewees during the interview process and through the collection of true stories that provide new information and rare opportunities for self-reflection and self-realization; Key Assertion 2: Portions of the roles urban youth play in their identity narratives are disguised or hidden--purposefully, reluctantly, and/or subconsciously--in order to appeal to friends, families, or the codes of dominant culture.