Revolutionary Theatricality: Dramatized American Protest, 1967-1968
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Protests against established power in the United States grew between the years 1967 and 1968 because dramatic aspects of political and cultural rebellion manifested in theatrical methods. Prominent examples include the early radicalism of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the production of Paradise Now by the Living Theatre, the Broadway cast production of the musical Hair, and the Festival of Life by the Yippie movement outside the Chicago Democratic National Convention. During this intense period of domestic conflict, these activists embraced radical theater as a visible form of protest. This visibility was necessary to engage a complex and erratic American public who, inundated by conflicts of the era, could better understand the movements’ beliefs and intentions through the groups’ theatrical methods. I use the scripts of plays, the writings of the movement’s leaders, and secondary analysis of the conflicts in which these groups participated to argue that each borrowed tactics from one another to bolster the effectiveness of “revolutionary theatricality.” Because of such reactionary tactics, the United States in the late 1960s was a domestic theater of war: the home front of the Vietnam War was almost as turbulent a society in its own way as was the conflict in Vietnam itself. Theater in the late 1960s used group participation as a dramatic and popular form of socio-political collective action.