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But now you can see me: devising theatre with youth artist-researchers in search of revelations and docutheatricality

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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

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.

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  • 2014

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The encyclopedia show: community-based performance in pursuit of classroom interdisciplinarity

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In May 2014, The Encyclopedia Show: Chicago performed its last volume. Like all others before, the Show was a collection of performances devised by artists, musicians, poets and

In May 2014, The Encyclopedia Show: Chicago performed its last volume. Like all others before, the Show was a collection of performances devised by artists, musicians, poets and playwrights all performing various subtopics surrounding a central theme, taken from “an actual Encyclopedia.” The final show was Volume 56 for Chicago; the founding city ended their six year run with an amassed body of work exploring topics ranging from Wyoming to Alan Turing, Serial Killers to Vice Presidents.

Perhaps more impressive than the monthly performance event in Chicago is the fact that the show has been “franchised” to organizers and performers in at least seventeen cities. Franchise agreements mandated that for at least the first year of performance, topics were to follow Chicago’s schedule, thus creating an archive of Shows around the world, each that started with Bears, moved to The Moon, onto Visible Spectrum of Color, and so on.

Now that the Chicago show has ended, I wonder what will happen to the innovative format for community performance that has reached thousands of audience members and inspired hundreds of individual performances across the globe in a six-year period.

This project, like much of my own work, has two aims: first, to provide the first substantive history of The Encyclopedia Show for archival purposes; and second, to explore whether this format can be used to achieve the goals of “interdisciplinarity” in the classroom. In an effort to honor my own interests in multiple academic disciplines and in an attempt to capture the structural and performative “feel” of an Encyclopedia Show, this dissertation takes the shape of an actual Encyclopedia Show. The overarching topic of this “show” is: Michelle Hill: The Doctoral Process. In an actual Encyclopedia Show, subtopics would work to explore multiple perspectives and narratives encompassed by the central topic. As such, my “subtopics” are devoted to the roles I have played throughout my doctoral process: historian, academic, teacher. A fourth role, performer, works to transition between the sections and further create the feel of a “breakage” from a more traditional dissertation.

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  • 2017