Challenging Compliance: Activating Citizens for Change

Author, Researcher, or Creator

Bethany Nelson, Emerson CollegeFollow

Affiliation of Author, Researcher, or Creator

School of the Arts

Other Affiliation Information



Performing Arts


Bethany Nelson

Resource Type

Book Chapter

Publication, Publisher or Distributor

Taylor and Francis, New York

Publication Date


Related Information


Brief Description

This chapter discusses the role of Applied Theatre as a tool for facilitating the development of active citizens within the troubled and tumultuous reality of the United States in 2020. The U.S. is locked in a cycle of increasing socio-economic and racial inequity that disadvantages a substantial number of its citizens (Chomsky in Polychroniou 2017). Rather than challenging these inequities and building an aware and engaged citizenry, schools reflect and perpetuate them, particularly in under-resourced urban areas (Giroux 2018). Applied Theatre approaches are tools for helping students in the U.S. engage with and challenge existing definitions of citizenship in the public sphere. True citizenship involves agency, students’ understanding of societal dynamics that suppress action, and a drive to work for change. The varied expectations regarding what it means to be a citizen coincide, collude and, sometimes, collide with Applied Theatre approaches utilised in schools and communities. This chapter asks: In this time of upheaval and change, what role(s) should we, as Applied Theatre practitioners, play? Who are we here for, and to what end(s)? Are we a reflection of the dynamics that shape our inequitable society, a mirror of ‘what is?’ Or are we change agents, working with students and communities to re-imagine a more just alternative through the creation of an active citizenry?


playmaking/devising, Applied Theatre, citizenship, urban education, theatre for social justice

Preferred Citation Style

Chicago Manual

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