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Introduction Outside Theater So I’m teaching them acting through improv. Well, in the middle of rehearsal, I think our second rehearsal, comes the two leaders of the Latino gang.They were doing life.These guys had killed a couple of guys since they were in prison, really tough guys. And they sit down and we’re thinking OK, who are they here to kill? And I’m watching out the corner of my eye and Raphael, the leader, he’s getting upset. After about 10 minutes, he jumps up and he says: Ese, could I speak to you a minute? And I said, sure. He says, that guy you’re working with, that guy that F-ing guy, yo ese, he’s not feeling his character. —Jamal Joseph, NPR interview A rogue priest, a veritable jester from colonial times, is brought to life on a Mexico City stage to interrogate the use of religious imagery in present-day political campaigns. In 1905, an ally of the perennially elected dictator Porfirio Díaz writes and subsequently stages a surprisingly revolutionary drama. The Chicano play Zoot Suit is finally produced in Mexico City after decades of resistance—and decades after it was a smash hit in Los Angeles. A Mexican writer/performer/scholar stages the difficult dialogue of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Students in U.S. universities use classroom time to act out plays written for the Latin American/Latina/o stage or to participate in empowering performances in the state of Chiapas, home to the Zapatista movement and to organizations like the indigenous-led Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya. A group of students at the elite Universidad Iberoamericana start a political movement (#yosoy132) that is a productive combination of old school protest movements and virtual activism. Some of the above take place in designated theater spaces and some do not, but in all cases these scenes, and many more to be presented in this introduction and the chapters that follow, border 4 introduction formal theater in explicit ways.This concept, which I call “outside theater,”can be understood, preliminarily, through definitions of the Spanish word lindar: “to adjoin, to be contiguous, to be bounded by, to be on the border of, to be on the verge of.” In order to exemplify the nuances of this concept, each scene I analyze evidences productive social connections that—always with the help of crucial artistic alliances—belie the perception that art is somehow secondary to, or disconnected from,the public sphere of influence and the struggles of everyday life. Taken together, multiple examples show that outside theater, through its allies, can and does bolster civil society and, in this way, a country’s fragile democracy. The idea of the public sphere where people effect change is a moving target, as questions of transnationality and diaspora influence its theorization. Still, it continues to function nationally as a space where to varying degrees one can observe “the validity of public opinion and citizen empowerment vis-à-vis the state” (Fraser 1). In theater, the idea of a “dramatic sphere of influence,” conceptualized as concentric circles that emanate from the stage, helps to make visible the power of art in general, and theater in particular, to promote civic engagement.As Jamal Joseph reminds us in the epigraph above,the most secure facility,metaphorical or otherwise,cannot keep art and its accompanying transformative potential from permeating its walls (in Joseph’s case the facility is Leavenworth,the Kansas prison that was also home to the Mexican playwright Ricardo Flores Magón). Art has a crucial grounding in illusion and the ability to embody the imaginary and imagined future.For this very reason it has influenced many a revolution and revolutionized many a seemingly small act. When considering the power of theater, and, yes, at times lamenting its astounding potential for impotence, we often ignore or fail to uncover the collaborators or conspirators, the allies—both fictional characters and real-life players—who facilitate along with spectators and readers a unique understanding of the world, questioning our ways of being and showing our actions to be eminently historical and often alterable, as well as in many cases signaling emerging societal trends.In his groundbreaking work on spectatorship,Jacques Rancière preempts and even welcomes criticism that his work is “words, yet more words, and nothing but words”(22). He asserts that “[t]o dismiss the fantasies of the word made flesh and the spectator rendered active, to know that...


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