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Department of

Theatre Arts and Performance Studies

Theatre Majors Awarded a SURE grant

Two Theatre Arts and Performance Studies majors were awarded SURE grants for summer 2012.

The USD SURE program is designed to support student-based research projects while supported by a faculty mentor. These students will be supervised by Theatre Arts and Performance Studies faculty member, Dr. Monica Stufft.

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Jackson Smith
The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Carnivalesque

Jackson's project will explore the connection between Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the carnivalesque and the midnight society surrounding Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The carnivalesque, as described by Bakhtin, is the use of humor, absurdity, and chaos to subvert dominant styles and ideals held by a hegemonic society. Bakhtin traces the roots of the carnivalesque to popular regional performances of the Middle Ages, where local carnivals overturned the social hierarchies by involving comic representations of popular religious and political figures, such as by presenting the king as a beggar. As a result, Bakhtin argues that the carnivalesque elements found in works of literature allows for the destabilization of commonly held truths. Bakhtin’s theory has been applied to numerous plays, playwrights, and performances but not to The Rocky Horror Picture Show or to the midnight society surrounding and following this cult movie. One notable exception has been Vera Dika’s Culture in Contemporary Art and Film: The Uses of Nostalgia, in which she identifies a cursory connection between Rocky Horror and Bakhtin’s carnivalesque. With the notes Jackson will gather through fieldwork as well as the preliminary research he completed during Fall 2011 as part of the Theatre History course, he will write an in-depth paper on how the carnivalesque manifests itself in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Danielle Sather
The X Project

Dani began research on this topic as part of a Theatre History research paper on the Medea Project in Fall 2011. The program, created by Rhodessa Jones, introduced her to the world of prison theatre and the possibilities of rehabilitation through the arts. One scholar, Nina Billone, worked in collaboration with Jones on the Medea Project and wrote an article that brought to her awareness some of the issues around the prison system. One of the biggest issues Billone addresses is the civil cancellation of incarcerated people who are deemed criminals. During Spring 2012, Dani has been continuing her work as part of an independent study during which she has expanded her research to explore existing theatre based outreach programs such as Girl Time (playwriting program for detained and previously detained teenage girls) and Act V (a production of Hamlet’s Act V staged in a high security prison). Through this research, she will study the effectiveness of the programs, challenges that have arisen due to working with prison populations, as well as gain an understanding of best practices for prison theatre. The information she has learned thus far has shown disturbing patterns of recidivism from teens into adulthood. Incarcerated youth are at a particularly impressionable age where positive role modeling is necessary and many current practitioners are coming up with innovative ways in offering tools to help break the school-to-prison pipeline, yet there is still a lack of arts programming currently being implemented. As part of the SURE program, she will be using her research to create an effective performance based program that can be implemented locally as well as across the US.