Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Theatre and Performance


Peter Eckersall

Committee Members

David Savran

Frank Hentschker

Subject Categories

Performance Studies | Social Justice | Theatre History


Devised theatre, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Ensemble theatre


This dissertation examines the vitality and importance of ensemble-generated experimental theatre in the United States beyond traditional creative capitals. I investigate the transformations that are taking place in US independent contemporary theatre and show that these changes are connected to issues of place and the local. I frame this inquiry by detailing five community-based, experimental ensembles working in five deindustrializing cities: Team Sunshine Performance Corporation in Philadelphia, Goat in the Road Productions in New Orleans, Maelstrom Collaborative Arts in Cleveland, Hatch Arts Collective in Pittsburgh, and A Host of People in Detroit. Through these case studies I show how local issues—political, economic, and cultural – influence the work of contemporary theatremakers. I contend that these artists, and others like them, use theatre’s locatedness to position themselves in the world. In addition, I apply the newly articulated structure of feeling metamodernism to this cohort of artists, as reflective of this contemporary moment. The dissertation culminates in an analysis of A Host of People of which I am a co-founder and co-director. Drawing from the field of autoethnography, I present a thick description of A Host of People’s engagement with Detroit, the US city that is most associated with the negative implications of deindustrialization. In the end, I argue for the need for increased infrastructural support in order for this crucial sector to sustain itself, grow, and continue to engage the public.

This work is embargoed and will be available for download on Saturday, September 30, 2023

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