Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Lanesskog, Deirdre


Theatre as an agent for social change has significantly impacted communities and entire countries. Examining how subversive theatre impacts those who engage with it to affect positive social change is a worthwhile endeavor. Theatre possesses the power to inspire empathy in people, which leads to progressive political action. This study explores the impact of participating in social justice theatre has on the artists who engage in it.

The literature reviewed in this study examines the impact attending subversive theatre has on audience members, its aim is to inspire empathy as a tool to create progressive social change. This study expands upon those findings, but differs by taking a closer look at the ways in which participating in social justice theatre has an impact on those who engage in it.

This study sought theatre artists currently active in social justice theatre to participate in a qualitative research project. Eight participants were selected and interviewed individually over zoom. All zoom interviews were transcribed. The researcher took handwritten notes, with no identifying details. Thematic analysis was used to process data gathered during the study.

The researcher identified six major themes: White Comfort vs. Brown and Black Discomfort, The Culture of White Supremacy, Empathy, The Relationship Between the Performance and Audience, Politics, and Risks. Key findings include the participants’ embodiment of empathy and love for people who exist within oppressive systems, and their resilience to adversity.

Future research might study the effectiveness of social justice theatre as a social work tool for intervention within oppressed populations.