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What in the World: A Study of Questions of Representation and Permission


In our ever-changing, turbulent social and political climate, issues of race, racism, and representation continue to be a high-profile aspect of society. When scrutinizing US history, taking into consideration the mistreatment communities of color, we must take into account the error of our past and consider how these communities left with indelible ideas of misrepresentation have been affected. When examining our own societal and cultural viewpoints, we must consider the sensibilities experienced by people of color. Though society has made significant strides in the areas of equal rights and equality over the past 50 years with the success of the 1960s civil rights movement, the question of misrepresentation communities of color remains a significant area of concern for the community, even in today's progressive environment. On the evening of November 8, 2019, the opening night of UC Santa Cruz's production of the Dharma-Grace Award-winning script, What in the World?, a play addressing issues of homelessness, poverty, and racism, a protest by students of color took place in which they stormed the theatre and took over the stage. This extreme action led to the cancellation of the remainder of the evening's performance and the subsequent six performances.

In light of this event, it is clear that POC concerns of misrepresentation remain prevalent in our student body here at UCSC. To best understand the protest, it is essential to examine the event and to assess the present. In doing so, it is necessary to take a current cultural snapshot of the sensibilities of both the community of students of color, as well as their "white" counterparts, which comprise a significant portion of the student body here at UCSC. The use of critical race theory to examine the motives behind this event will inform and possibly justify such an act of extremism, however, may uncover a reality in which our younger generations have succumbed or surrendered to the ideologies of the past rather than create new doctrines of a developing and progressive cultural movement. To test my hypothesis, I will conduct an ethnographic study of members of the UCSC student body, including both students of color and Caucasian participants. By sampling opinions, viewpoints, and value systems of members of our student body, I will provide a current assessment and cultural snapshot, which will aid in understanding the current state of racial concerns in the Theatre Arts Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and provide insight into questions of representation, embodiment, and permission.

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