When I taught a theatre for young audiences class for David Montgomery’s Introduction to Educational Theatre course in New York University (NYU), I had them reflect on quotes that were relevant to the field. One of them was:
“There should be no dividing line between artistic excellence and social consciousness […] the traditional “self-absorbed artist” is the wrong model for the arts in America in the 21st century.” (Joseph W. Polisi)
A student frowned and pondered aloud if it isn’t just common sense that artistry and social consciousness go inextricably hand in hand. After all, if an artist is a product of their environment, wouldn’t it be natural that their art reflects and is in reaction to that environment? I nodded and agreed that we’re living in a time when people are more aware of this; not to mention, we’re in NYU, so we’re even more invested in this kind of mindset. I wish I didn’t stop there though and was brave enough to offer questions they could further think about: what are the kinds of art we’re encountering nowadays? What is social consciousness and from whose perspective is this defined?
In this age of social media and instant outrage, it’s too easy to get swept up in the hipness of social justice talk and the bandwagon of “righteous anger.” I consider myself fortunate to be able to do projects that make me critically grapple with what’s going on around me and make me reflect on my own personal values. I include in this section three of those projects: The Bunny Rocket, The NYU Educational Theatre Student Lab, and Interning in Sengawa Theatre.