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Bringing it (and us) all together

As I write this, I’m psyching myself up. After writing this post, I’ll be heading over to ‘symposium’ where I’ll be presenting my research. Well, standing next to a poster anyway. This summer, I was lucky enough to receive funding to conduct independent research on the sociology of the theatre.

BU’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

Its going to be a strange experience, I suspect, for several reasons. For one thing, my project is far from complete; while I got a good start there is a significant amount of work left to do, leading this project to morph into my probable senior thesis for both my sociology and theatre degrees. For another, almost all of the other student researchers work in the “hard sciences” or in the laboratory. Meanwhile I’ve been doing literature reviews and conducting extensive interviews. Sociology tends to be a viewed as a strange middle ground by other disciplines , and since my research is qualitative rather than quantitative, it separates me even further from the mathematical and statistical mode used by most researchers. The data I’ve been collecting are words and attitudes, rather than measurements or numerically quantifiable results.

But I don’t mind. Working on this project has taught me a lot, and (I imagine) will continue to do so. It lets me bring my sociological and theatrical interests together in a new way, and to share a new part of what I love about theatre with a new community. It lets me be a dramturg to scientists, a dual dramaturg, as I alluded to in my first post.

But I realized I’ve been neglecting another ‘bringing together’ for a few weeks. A while ago, I talked about how one of Durkhiem’s social theories could be understood to apply to theatre. I think it is time to pick that thread up again, and try to explore  more tools for understanding American theatre and its current social, political and economic situation. In my sociology course-work at the moment, we are exploring the importance of major theories and their implications for the work of today’s social scientists. I’m learning that understanding why we do what we do, and how we got there, are of great importance; this understanding seems to be as important as attaining the skill set to do what we do. I’d say the same is true for theatre.

I’d also like to introduce more ‘theatre people’ to sociological ways of thinking. To be a dramaturg of sociology, if you will. We need more tools to understand our work and situation; I want to help find them, and I think sociology, as a fellow ‘person-based’ discipline is as good a place to start as any. I’ve several times heard theatre described as “the most liberal science” and sociology as a natural neighbor; remember that of Naturalism and Realism were closely tied to social theories of their time. But right now, I’m just taking my first steps.

So, as a step: if you’re a BU student and have some spare time today, consider dropping by the UROP symposium, today at the GSU.

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