This collection documents and examines political and protest theatre produced between the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and Obama’s election in 2008 by British and American artists responding to their own governments’ actions and policies during this time. The plays take up topics such as the ongoing wars on terror, Blair’s support of U.S. policies, the flawed intelligence that led to the Iraq war, and illegal detentions and torture at Abu Ghraib. The authors argue that engaged artists faced a radically different sociopolitical context for their work after 9/11 compared to earlier social protest movements and new forms of theatre, and different emotional strategies were necessary to meet the challenges. The subtitle Patriotic Dissent suggests the double stance of many artists-- influenced by patriotic expressions of national solidarity, yet critical of the ways that patriotic language was put to use against others. The articles represent a broad range of theatre: Broadway musicals, documentary theatre, adaptations of classical theatre, new plays by British playwrights, street performances and installations, and musical concerts. The contributors’ case studies evaluate the effectiveness of important instances of political theatre and protest from this decade, arguing for the significance, relevance, and continuing necessity for evolving forms of political theatre today.
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Jenny Spencer is Associate Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of Dramatic Strategies in the Plays of Edward Bond (Cambridge UP, 1992), co-author with Jeanne Colleran of Staging Resistance: Essays on Political Theatre (U Michigan P, 1998), and former editor of Theatre Topics.
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