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Dismantling the effects of colonialism in theatre

Public seminars at Northwestern to explore minimizing racism, imperialism and more in historical performances for a new generation of audiences
ghost light with theater seats
The Sawyer Seminar series, “On Decolonizing Theatre,” brings together leading theatre professionals and scholars to explore issues of colonialism, racism and decolonization of well-known plays, operas and ballets.

Is it possible to decolonize works by Mozart, Shakespeare and other renowned artists?

Leading theatre professionals and scholars gather at Northwestern University to tackle that question and investigate how theatre can become more inclusive, equitable and culturally sensitive. Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, “On Decolonizing Theatre” is a multi-disciplinary series of public panel discussions that explore the theory and practice of decolonization through cultural production.

Throughout the academic year, the Sawyer Seminar will feature public performances and conversations on how today’s artists have been grappling with issues relating to colonialism, imperialism, racism, patriarchy and misogyny in theatrical works from the late 17th through the early 19th century, including plays, operas and ballets.

“We could ignore 18th century repertoires because they come from the people who laid the groundwork for a globalized masculinist, racist and heterosexual power base,” said Tracy Davis, Ethel M. Barber Professor of Performing Arts. “But as artists across this continent are showing, it is powerful to rethink these works, to retell them, and to bring Indigenous, Black, Latine and non-majoritarian perspectives to bear on sometimes beloved, sometimes rediscovered repertoires.”

The public is invited to join conversations between cutting-edge artists and internationally renowned scholars from the humanities and social sciences as they question the ongoing legacies of colonialism and how to counter them through cultural production and criticism.

The Sawyer Seminar is a joint effort by the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Bienen School of Music, and the School of Communication.

For Journalists: view the news release for media contacts