Theatre for Social Justice
There is a world of possibilities open to students with a Theatre for Social Justice degree, both in arts and non-arts related fields. What all graduates share is a passion for the arts and a desire to make an impact for good in society.
The Theatre for Social Justice major trains students to take theatre and the fine arts beyond the stage and into the local community to address issues of injustice. Students work on three productions a year, both onstage as performers and backstage as crew members, in Cove Auditorium. They also create original theatre works, combining creative writing, music, dance, and storytelling, and activate their art and faith through social justice theatre techniques based in Augusto Boal, playback theatre, and story circle. Students with a Theatre for Social Justice degree are prepared to go into any field and offer their unique skills as an arts advocate or pursue a career in the professional theatre, both on and off stage.
Eastern Nazarene College is the only Christian college to offer a major that teaches students to activate their faith by going into communities, hearing their stories, and helping them communicate through the arts -truly engaging with those who need a voice in society. This major also teaches acting, directing, and technical theatre skills, providing students with many opportunities to put their training into practice in live productions over the course of their four years. The Theater for Social Justice major is perfect for students who are passionate about the arts and interested in a career in either an arts or non-arts field. Theatre for Social Justice majors are required to choose a second major so they will be prepared to take either path upon graduation from the program.
Resources of Boston and Beyond
Boston has many theatre companies that are looking for young talent to work onstage, backstage, and in audience outreach. Students have ample opportunities to build connections and intern with local arts organizations and theatre companies while they are studying at Eastern Nazarene College, helping them gain experience and develop their resumes before they graduate. The college is especially proud of its partnership with South Shore School of Theatre (SSST), a Quincy-based children’s theater school that offers classes year-round for students ages 7-19. Many students are offered internships or summer employment with SSST, working as stage managers, administrators, costume designers, technical crew members and more. The college recently developed a special partnership with True Story Theatre, a playback theatre company that performs true community stories and holds auditions for paid performers. These are just two of the many relationships the Theatre for Social Justice Program has with local organizations to provide students with professional experience in the arts.
Recognized for Excellence
The Theatre for Social Justice Program is the creator of The Bible Women’s Project, an original play about women in the Bible and true stories of contemporary Christian women. The play was an official selection of the New York International Fringe Festival in 2016 and now tours churches around the U.S. and Canada. The Theatre for Social Justice Program was a recipient of the Moss Hart Award for Best College Production and has been recognized by local theatre companies like True Story Theatre, Sleeping Weazel, and the Huntington Theatre Company. Creator and Program Director Tara Brooke Watkins has won Boston’s Elliot Norton Award for Best Production (Small/Fringe Theatre) and has written and created the play Tulsa ’21: Black Wall Street which tours in Oklahoma and is being considered for an off-Broadway run. Watkins also runs the Shatter the Silence ministry at Bethel AME Church that addresses sexual victimization through theatre and story circle techniques.
Rooted in Faith
The Theatre for Social Justice is rooted in the belief that by following Christ’s example of sitting with and getting to know those outside of our comfort zone, we bring the love of Christ to them. Like Christ, we use our gifts to go into communities that feel invisible, listen to them, and bring their message back to others so that they may know how to benefit those who are suffering. We do this through the all of the art forms.
Many students choose to go on to graduate programs to study theatre education (Emerson College), Arts Therapy (Lesley University, Antioch University), Directing (New York University), Costume Design (University of Kansas City), Acting (University of San Diego), Literature (Southern New Hampshire University), or Theatre History and Performance (Tufts University). Also, 100% of the graduates who applied for Emerson College’s Master’s in Theatre Education program since 2010 received a 75% tuition coverage scholarship, the highest amount a student may receive at that institution. Those students have all gone on to pursue doctorate degrees or are currently employed in their chosen fields.
Graduates who have chosen to go directly into the workforce in the Boston area have been hired by Riverside Theatre Works (Artistic Director, Instructor); Huntington Theatre Company (Box Office Manager); Wheelock Family Theatre, Speakeasy Stage Company, Company One Theatre, Sleeping Weazel Theatre (Actor); Mel O’Drama (Stage Manager, Lighting Designer, Set Designer); Notre Dame Academy, Woodward School for Girls, Nazarene Christian Academy, South Shore Christian Academy (Drama Teacher). Others who have branched out beyond Boston have worked or are working in companies like American Academy of Dramatic Arts, New York Film Academy, LaMaMa New York Playhouse, Blue Man Group, Nashville Shakespeare Festival, War Horse (Broadway), Seattle Theatre Group, Atlanta Murder Mystery Theatre, and various international touring companies.
Finally, other graduates follow their entrepreneurial spirit and open their own arts companies or non-profit organizations. These include South Shore School of Theatre (Massachusetts), Pariah Theatre Company (Massachusetts), Bodhi Theatre Company (Missouri), No Edge Christian Artist Co-Op (New Hampshire), Marvy Entertainment (Florida), Ragnarok Productions (Massachusetts), and Kate Drew This Art Company (New Hampshire).
Graduates also work in non-theatrical fields, including graphic design, education, law, youth ministry, social work, event planning, and library science.
For course descriptions, requirements, focus areas, options, and other program details see the full current undergraduate catalog.
Upon completion of the BA in Theatre for Social Justice degree, graduates will be able to:
- Identify and apply foundational theatre practices developed to address community needs and engage with community members.
- Actively implement numerous theatrical techniques and exercises in various community settings.
- Read a variety of dramas whose subject matters challenge a traditional perspective of theatre, culture and the human condition.
- Implement knowledge gained from dramatic texts and ethnographic research to create their own dramatic texts and theatre practices that both offer a new outlook on human experiences to audiences and help participants see those around them more empathetically.
- Approach an understanding and crititque of art, dance, creative writing, acting, directing, and production exercises with the understanding that empathy is at the heart of art.
- Choose dramatic excerpts for directing and acting classes that reflect a desire for empathy or joy for audience members.
- Articulate their critiques of one another’s aesthetic work with awareness of the effort and vulnerability put into the work.
- Create aesthetic projects with the intention to honor the subject matter with empathy.
- Learn interviewing and ethnographic skills that focus on being moved by the interviewer to ask certain questions rather than journalistically with a set of pre-determined questions about an event.
- Discover how others in their chosen field operate their professional lives.
- Learn how to speak into production meetings.
- Articulate their perspectives and beliefs in an effective manner.
- Transcribe interviews of individuals on and off campus.
- Run story circles in various communities.
- Conduct a semester-long ethnography project.
- Make connections with local arts business owners or non-profit managers.
- Work on a technical theatre project as a class.
- Take leadership of a technical role in a show each academic year.
- Make connections between lifestyle choices and the Christian expectations.
- Distinguish the Christian religion from other religions and the cultural performances of those religions.
- Analyze their surrounding Christian context with a critical eye of performance practice rather than merely beliefs.
- Apply their knowledge of Christian performance to their own lives by implementing practices that line up with their own beliefs.
- Create dramatic texts and theatrical productions that reflect their own religious journey and ask others to reflect on theirs.
- Engage in conversation with people from a culture with which they do not identify with respect, curiosity, and empathy.
- Find a drive to serve those currently less privileged situations with empathic listening and a desire for activism when needed
- Work together in group projects made of individuals of varying cultural backgrounds.
- Create artistic work showing their own needs for cultural understanding as well as their humility in approaching others’ cultures.
- Attend multicultural performance and artistic events.