Thumbnail Image


Thomas_umd_0117E_23001.pdf (14.44 MB)
No. of downloads:

Publication or External Link





This dissertation develops a theory of “civic dramaturgy.” Civic dramaturgy is a process of performing identity through changes to and impacts on the built environment, as well as a method of analyzing and contextualizing those performances to better understand the multiple modes of identity expression that make up a specific place, in the case of this dissertation, that place is the city of Chicago. Civic dramaturgy joins theories of “performance and the city” together with theatre history and urban studies to examine cultural space, cultural policy, performances of urban planning, and the ways in which artistic labor is used by individuals, corporations, and governments in non-representational performances of civic and urban identity in the United States. This study first establishes a working definition of civic dramaturgy, tracing the development of the ideas of the “civic” and “dramaturgy” through western theatre history, as well as examining other theories significant to urban planning, critical space theory, spatial representations of gender and race, and performance of cities. Dramaturgy involved four main areas of practice: analysis of plot structure, relationship between artist and audience, locality and spatial awareness, and contextualization. Each of chapters one through four examine an aspect of Chicago through one of these practices to build toward this definition of civic dramaturgy. I identified the city of Chicago as the site of study for this work because of its history of planning the built environment and its robust theatre history, including the way in which its theatre has been intertwined with social and spatial movements through the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. In addition to an examination of the development of the city and its theatre, civic dramaturgy requires an analysis of the ways in which artistic labor co-creates civic identity, the social space of the city, and the built environment. In particular, the work of Theaster Gates, an artist and planner working on the south side of Chicago, provides a poignant example of the ways cultural planning, performance, and labor work to craft a civic identity; and the structure of these interwoven performances are examples of civic dramaturgy. Finally, the performance of the digital space of the city is also an important component of civic dramaturgy and the fourth chapter breaks down the ways in which actor and audience relationships manifest through sensory-inscribed bodies in performance and planning of the built environment. This study builds upon existing scholarship that posits dramaturgy as a way to understand performance, architecture, policy-making, and politics, extending the use of the structural and spatial concepts of dramaturgy beyond the rehearsal room, the stage, and the site-specific performance, in order to craft a more comprehensive means by which to understand performance and the city, and providing an example of a kind of dramaturgically-based analysis that may also be used when looking at all kinds of urban spaces and phenomena, and which may be theorized as “civic dramaturgy.”