Communicating Sensitive or Often Misunderstood Research

Theatre-based research is significantly misunderstood by the broader academic community; I, myself, had no idea there was even research to be done in this field before I met students in the department and discussed their projects. Because of this, I think it is important to begin with explaining what theatrical research achieves on the whole. I point to writers who work closely with Shakespearean texts to uncover historical information on life and philosophies of the times. I point to queer theorists who work with epics like Angels in America (pictured) and The Normal Heart to inspire tangible policy changes and broaden audiences’ perceptions of those suffering from AIDS in the late 20th century. This base understanding helps contextualize my research — which aims to investigate the ways queer theatre has been co-opted to manipulate audiences into supporting unprogressive causes under the guise of LGBTQ+ progress — as a part of a larger effort to protect the sanctity and significance of queer affirming theatre and artistic expression.  

Additionally, on the political science front, breaking down terms like homonationalism and pink washing — which describe the ways Western countries use their status as “gay friendly” to justify imperialist practices against countries with poor report cards in their treatment of queer citizens — helps link this work to incredibly significant issues like the American invasion of Iraq or the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

Working closely with queer theory and issues like pervasive, institutionalized homophobia makes this project more sensitive than others I have worked on. Because of this, when discussing the importance of this research, it is essential I be mindful of the often triggering nature of projects like this.

My research is inherently designed to connect with artists and academics outside of my field due to its interdisciplinary nature. No matter what group of peers to which I present my research, I will need to elaborate upon one aspect of this project in order to explain facets outside of others’ areas of expertise. Working closely with both political scientists and theatre artists, it is important to be able to break down both elements of the project to those who have little to no understanding of some components. Because of this, I have already had to learn how to communicate more complex components of this research and their importance in lay terms. 

After graduation, I hope to pursue a doctorate degree in theatre and performance studies and become a theatre history professor. Academics often interact with students from all backgrounds and experience levels. From introductory courses to senior seminars, it is important that instructors learn to break down information according to the previous knowledge students enter the classroom with. 

Revival of Angels in America

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