Performing Communities: Grassroots Ensemble Theaters Deeply Rooted in Eight U.S. Communities

Author: Robert H. Leonard, Ann Kilkelly
Date Published:  2006
Published In:  New Village Press
Resource Types: Resource Books

Ensemble theater is one of the hottest, most engaging American performance forms today. It's more than art — it's a movement.

Performing Communities is an inquiry into a genre of theater that arises from and empowers the grassroots. The book profiles established ensemble groups from inner-city Los Angeles, small-town northern California, African-American South, multicultural southern Texas, low-income central Appalachia, economically struggling South Bronx New York, and cross-continental Native America.

This compendium of critical writing about the role these theaters play in building community shows how these artist groups are forged by working in and with their communities over time. Ensemble theater is discovered to be neither alternative nor marginalized, but vanguard, a natural evolution of the movement that propelled regional theater "away from the commercial restraints of New York and toward a theater expressive of the rich diversity of American culture." It is theater that is politically and emotionally charged. It can be cathartic, healing, and has a proven ability to effect social change.

The book Performing Communities is a project of the Community Arts Network. It has been created from interviews, analytical essays, and play excerpts from the "Grassroots Theater Ensemble Research Project," an inquiry into American ensemble theaters that have been working in communities for 10 to 35 years. Although originating from a scholarly report, the language has been edited for a popular audience and offers an intimate glimpse into each local ensemble community. The book will appeal to followers of contemporary and popular theater, social change activists, community building specialists, and a public curious about cultural development in the United States.


Performing Communities from New Village Press

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