Date of Degree
Suzanne C. Ouellette
Deborah L. Tolman
This study investigated the role of community theatre participation on adolescent and young adult identity development. The theatre program, known as The SOURCE, focuses on sex-education through a peer-education model. The experiences of young adults, who are now aged 18-34, were examined through interviews (N=20), identity maps (N=9), and a survey (N=64) in order to understand how participation in this group influenced their development. While much of the literature documents the successes of such programs while youth participate, few document the longer-term impacts of such participation (Saldaña, McCammon, Omasta, & Hines, 2011). Data reveal how such involvement informed the youths' developing social and interpersonal lives, and their broader understanding of self.
The findings show four broad effects that span micro- to macro-level contexts. First, The SOURCE is a unique "safe space" for youth, co-constructed by KT (the director) and the engaged youth, that privileges youth voices and experiences. Second, participation in the theatre program provides an opportunity for developing counternarratives of what it means to be an adolescent, how adolescents and young adults can act as social agents in their communities, and how sex education through peer-education methods can present such opportunities. Third, the findings show that theatre is a particularly valuable medium for engaging in developmental processes because it affords the participants opportunities to "play" with identity while simultaneously expressing emotions and experiences, in addition to learning empathically about the diversity and multiplicity of others. Finally, The SOURCE experience becomes embodied in ways that inform future decisions, identity development, and personal relationships. Narrative analysis of these findings and the mechanisms of such persistence, or "traveling power of self," are discussed.
While these findings are encouraging for The SOURCE and from a positive youth development standpoint, they raise important questions about limiting such spaces through broader policies and budget reductions. It is suggested, in the conclusion of this dissertation, that removing the opportunities for participation in such spaces for youth amounts to a "relational injustice," which may have long-term developmental implications.
Futch, Valerie A., "Getting into Character: Cultivating Identities in a Teen-theatre Peer-education Program" (2011). CUNY Academic Works.