Many professional theater artists attempt to use live performances in formal theater spaces to disrupt racism and create a more equitable society. Privileged Spectatorship: Theatrical Interventions in White Supremacy examines the impact of such projects, looking at how and why they do and do not intervene in white supremacy. In this incisive study, Dani Snyder-Young examines audience responses to a range of theatrical events that focus on race‑related conflict or racial identity in the contemporary United States. The audiences for these performances, produced at mainstream not‑for‑profit professional theaters in major American cities in 2013–18, reflect dominant patterns of theater attendance: the majority of spectators are older, affluent, white, and describe themselves as politically progressive. Snyder-Young studies the ways these audience members consume the stories of racialized others and analyzes how different artistic, organizational, and programmatic strategies can (or cannot) mitigate white privilege.
This book is essential reading for scholars and students of theater, performance studies, and critical ethnic studies and for theater practitioners interested in equity and inclusion.
List of Figures Acknowledgments Introduction: Mainstream Theater and Privileged Spectatorship Part I. Come Closer 1. Making Whiteness Visible 2. Critical Catharsis Part II. Rage Against the Machine 3. Peeling Back the Veneer of Decorum 4. Outrage and the Boundaries of Community Part III. Decolonizing Gazes and Spaces 5. Maintaining White Racial Comfort 6. Building Diverse Community Conclusion Notes Bibliography Index
DANI SNYDER-YOUNG is an assistant professor of theater at Northeastern University. She is the author of Theatre of Good Intentions: Challenges and Hopes for Theatre and Social Change.
“Through a rich set of case studies, Privileged Spectatorship explores the power of American theatrical performance to interrupt the enduring strength of white supremacy. Dani Snyder-Young insightfully examines how such productions about race actively engage white spectators in ways that are at times transformative. Seeking to decolonize the white gaze, this book foregrounds the existence of white privilege and racism as it considers theatrical practices that might disrupt them. Accordingly, this is a work not only of theater criticism but also of theater activism that should appeal to theater scholars, practitioners, and spectators across the color lines.” —Harry J. Elam Jr., author of The Past as Present in the Drama of August Wilson
“ . . . timely and necessary . . . The useful conclusion offers reflections for practical intervention.” —R. Remshardt, University of Florida, CHOICE
“Although the violence of white supremacy is a cautionary theme woven throughout the United States’ theatrical canon, the Black Lives Matter movement has helped to propel a new wave of antiracist dramatic literature. Many mainstream white theatres in the United States have been, of late, steadily producing pedagogically oriented antiracist plays to call attention to systemic racism, communicate antiracist discourses to spectators, and make good on institutional commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dani Snyder-Young’s newest book, Privileged Spectatorship: Theatrical Interventions in White Supremacy, puts this contemporary theatrical phenomenon, and its requisite companion, the talkback, under scrutiny. Because the book convincingly argues that antiracist theatrical events can both propel and undermine spectators’ critical thought and potential action, this book is essential reading.” —Claire Syler, Theatre Topics
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