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Ying Wei Zhang (UROC-H)

Shakespeare and Ecodramaturgy: Utilizing Theatre for Social Change

Ying Wei Zhang and Katherine Steele Brokaw, PhD

In the 21st century, ecological and political crises plague human society. During these troubled times, can we turn towards the arts, specifically theatre and Shakespeare, as a longstanding yet overlooked method of communication? How can we implement the performative arts to better our world, starting with our local communities—and possibly to save us from disaster? I argue that theatre and Shakespeare may inspire collaboration and be used as a force for addressing the ecological and political problems we face today. I provide a look at theatre and the Bard’s place in today’s world, its ability to create change, and its limitations. What can theatre do and not do for ourselves, our community, and the world? What might the future bring and demand of theatre? Methods I use include examination of literature on theatre’s usage in today’s world and Shakespeare’s place within this century; observation of my own participation in the building of the #EarthShakes Alliance; and analysis of interviews with theatre creatives from the United States and the United Kingdom. By providing an examination of potential possibilities and limitations of theatre, I demonstrate theatre and Shakespeare as vehicles of progress, especially in the pursuit of community-oriented action.


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The UROC-H Program, and this research project, was supported with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation