The issue of assessment come us again and again (follows words like rigor and citizenship). Formerly business language was applied – sustainability was a matter of fiscal responsibility, driving not-for-profits to shape themselves like for-profit organizations but – without missions dedicated to profit (kept from profit legally and by esthetic design – the aerodynamics of our organizations required an elegance that slipped through the wind rather than fortifying against it). The business model yielded to social utility (yielded to whom? To what? On the one hand – a business model by another name. On the other – an earnest effort to enter into conversation with a re-forming sense of the polis). If art is for “social change” (as weak a term as “interdisciplinary”? As unavoidable?) then, what’s changes, exactly? If the changes are wholly unmeasurable – even longitudinally, even narratively – then can we say that they really happen in the world? If the changes are all internal or transcendent, how do we know the changes have happened? Is there a profession of faith? An established rite? An initiation threshold? Where and how does our work happen in the world in the terms of collectively constructed meaning? If we’re not collective, if we don’t make meaning, if we aren’t in action, then I don’t know what we are. Meditation, for example, manifests in meditation practice. It can be assessed through health, peace of mind, etc – but these are remote from the primary notice – which is meditation yielding questions about meditation. To what extent is theater leading to questions? Who’s asking?
Some theater is intended primarily to wake up/destabilize perception – to open and sometimes direct seven senses. This can be measured. Where were senses directed prior to the art event, and where after? Art’s impact may be collective; to what collective impact does a particular work contribute? Where is your home? (This is a way of asking “what is your impact?”)
But some theater is meant to be explicitly about bodies – in address to material needs.
A rubric for assessing theater for social change can include the works of corporal mercy, understood literally and figuratively –
How are we addressing
Visiting the imprisoned
Visiting the sick
Clothing the naked
Burial of the dead
Or, more liberally understood –
How are we directing our work to a redistribution of resources to the material benefit of our community? How are we defining our community to include rather than exclude those in need? Citizenship means the distribution of private resources to the public? A move from the personal to the civic?
What are we giving away? To whom? For what cause? What personal rights are we ceding to the group, and what group rites are we drawing down?