Activist Theater in the Mainstream
October 2, 2007 9:17 PM   Subscribe

Have there been any other plays/performances that became the center of an activist movement, similar to The Vagina Monologues and V-Day? Was TVM the first performance to bring activist theater to the mainstream?
posted by divabat to Media & Arts (16 answers total)
posted by tellurian at 10:37 PM on October 2, 2007

posted by twistofrhyme at 10:57 PM on October 2, 2007

crap, sorry. i meant to link lysistrata.
posted by twistofrhyme at 10:59 PM on October 2, 2007

Response by poster: twistofrhyme: that's interesting! So Lysistrata was a play about a social movement that in itself became a social movement?
posted by divabat at 11:03 PM on October 2, 2007

Are you kidding? How about The Crucible?

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "activist theater".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:58 PM on October 2, 2007

The Rite of Spring's first performance included sets by Picasso
and a riot in the aisles. Absolute mayhem, and the Twentieth century followed suite.
posted by hortense at 12:00 AM on October 3, 2007

Response by poster: SCDB: I figured that was a clumsy choice of words. What I was trying to say is, TVM evolved from being just a play to a whole organization (V-Day) and event - petitions, anti-violence campaigns, etc. The monologues became greater than just the stage performance, you also had all this other stuff going on alongside it.

I was wondering if any other performances have had this effect - some sort of activist work outside the structure of the play. The Crucible sounds like a good starting point, but there hasn't exactly been Crucible Day or events about the Salem shootings or whatever that happened as a result of the play. So I was wondering if there have been any other plays that has done the same thing as TVM, or if TVM is unique in that regard.
posted by divabat at 2:04 AM on October 3, 2007

Waiting for Lefty by Clifford Odets is pretty much pure labor propaganda, but I'm not sure what effect it can actually be said to have had.
posted by HeroZero at 4:14 AM on October 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Not a play, but Uncle Tom's Cabin?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:44 AM on October 3, 2007

Also not a play, but the question reminded me of Chautauquas.
posted by katemonster at 5:52 AM on October 3, 2007

The Exonerated is very similar to the Vagina Monologues but tells the true stories of exonerated criminals who were unfairly imprisoned. It's told in a similar manner at TVM - several actors on stools tell true stories of individual convicts. Like TVM, many famous actors have participated in performances. The play has been incorporated into the activist work of the organization The Innocence Project.
posted by jrichards at 7:03 AM on October 3, 2007

Someone mentioned Brecht, but I'll echo it, particularly The Threepenny Opera.
posted by YoungAmerican at 8:37 AM on October 3, 2007

Here's an unusual answer to your question: There was a TV show once called "Emergency!" which was based on true stories taken from the files of the County of Los Angeles Fire Department, which was the first in the nation to implement a Paramedic program.

The show was good entertainment, but it also served a greater purpose of publicizing the concept of having paramedics associated with fire departments and/or ambulances as a way of saving lives. And it worked, too.

Thousands of people owe their lives to that TV program.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:19 AM on October 3, 2007

Larry Kramer's play The Normal Heart probably fits this description. The original New York Times review is worth a read.
posted by sueinnyc at 11:06 AM on October 3, 2007

Uncle Tom's Cabin certainly was adapted, many times, for the stage. The multiple versions were known as "Tom Shows" and had little to do with actual anti-slavery activism, AFAIK. The most popular version was probably Aiken's.
posted by Mngo at 11:57 AM on October 5, 2007

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