Aesthetics and Efficacy in Applied and Community Theater

Mac Cathmhaoill, Dónall (2024). Aesthetics and Efficacy in Applied and Community Theater. In: Bradford, Richard; Gonzalez, Madelena and De Ornellas, Kevin eds. A Companion to Literary Evaluation. Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, pp. 226–242.



Community theater and applied theater (AT) are apt to trouble dominant ideas of quality in the evaluation of theatrical production. They demand to be judged by different metrics, and even then are likely to confound attempts to arrive at definitive criteria. This chapter examines how the consideration of quality in community and applied theater might be usefully applied to broader questions of literary evaluation. Theater makers work with migrants to explore issues of human rights, with survivors of conflict to promote reconciliation, and with minority communities to combat discrimination. Applied and community theater can produce works of superlative excellence, as gauged by the aesthetic standards of the work, the efficacy of the work in engaging communities on important issues, and the critical responses. AT occupies a space between high art and plain functionality, and likewise aspires to the aesthetic status of the former while having the practical value of the latter.

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