We Might Be Right

A Libertarian Voice in the Theatre

Back in November, Daniel Jones wrote a piece in HowlRound titled “How ‘Right’ is Right? Conservative Voices in the Theater.” He argued that he couldn’t think of a conservative playwright, and wonders, “Why has the political tone of the theatre become seemingly unilateral?” Frankly, I have the same question, but for arguably different reasons. Of course to say that politics are incredibly complex would be the understatement of the century. But, as someone who identifies as a libertarian, political complexities are a part of my reality. I’m here to say that there are indeed conservative voices in the theatre—or at least one conservative voice—but not in the kind of conservatism that one might expect.

Libertarianism as a movement has a number of different facets, and I’d like to begin by saying that there are plenty of libertarians who may not agree with my views, just like with any other political group. The generally agreed principle of libertarianism is a focus on individual rights, liberties, and responsibilities. However, this idea has been paired with everything from anarchy (Murray Rothbard, Robert LeFevre) to hardcore capitalism (Ayn Rand) to forms of socialism (Murray Bookchin). In my case, the simplest explanation I can give for my views, for which “libertarianism” as a word seems to be the best fit, is fiscal conservatism coupled with working for social good (hence why I am a big fan of the blog Bleeding Heart Libertarians).

So what does this have to do with theatre? Augusto Boal says in The Rainbow of Desire that theatre is an inherently human vocation. It’s something we all are, but something “some of us also do.” What I find so compelling about this distinction is Boal’s emphasis on what theatre can make possible for an individual person. Theatre is like a mirror, it’s dichotomizing. We can act as ourself, and we can see ourselves acting. We can have past, present, and even future versions of ourselves on stage—and reflect on what this means. As someone who also does theatre, this also means that I’m not just focused on what theatre can be for me—asserting my own individual rights, exercising my freedoms of speech and assembly—but what it can be for other people. Ideally at least, it means that my work can empower others, providing a space for each person to ask, “What if I acted as the author of my own life? What if my rights and freedoms meant something to me? What if I accepted the primary responsibility for my life? What if the power of choice became a priority of citizens?”

I’m not just focused on what theatre can be for me—asserting my own individual rights, exercising my freedoms of speech and assembly—but what it can be for other people.

Given that on some issues I toe a conservative line, I’ve encountered some people who are surprised at my use of “progressive” pedagogies like Augusto Boal and Paulo Freire. So before I go any further, let me say again that a conservative voice in the theatre is not necessarily the one that people expect to hear. But more important, there really isn’t a conflict of ideology. I’m all for theatre that scrutinizes social issues and generates what Freire called “concientização” or “raising of a critical consciousness.” To a libertarian mind, that kind of consciousness is absolutely necessary if we are going to be vigilant about protecting the rights and liberties of every person. At the same time, protecting and advocating for individual rights also means being wary of government interventions, including government subsidies. As the title of an article by Lauren Galik aptly put it, “If Government Subsidizes Art, It Will Always Be Censored.”

Hence, why I agree with Daniel Jones’s comment on theatre seeming politically unilateral. For example, why don’t we see theatre about skyrocketing government debt, or the challenges with programs like Social Security or Medicare? Perhaps because that’s considered “biting the hand that feeds you.” As artists, we are supposed to draw attention to issues that affect our society, to engage our audiences with the goings-on of their lives. Yet, artists face a choice: either go for the grants, or struggle to make ends meet. Galik goes on to say, “Individuals have many contextual reasons for valuing a work or style of art that extends beyond the government’s limited vision of what art is and what it should do. … As long as the government subsidizes certain artists’ works, there is always a case to be made for censorship by those taxpayers and/or government officials who disagree with the art’s content.” It’s my hope that a libertarian approach can offer something different.

That’s why I’m thrilled by movements like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and DonorsChoose. What some people see as “crowdsourcing,” I see as an opportunity to assert individual, grassroots choice. Rather than funding the arts (or arts education, with DonorsChoose) through taxpayer money and endowments, why not selectively choose, each person, where we put our money? Galik says, “No individual should be forced to fund the arts—in whatever trivial amounts or indirect ways—that they may openly despise. Forced funding of the arts forces artists and institutions lucky enough to win momentary favor from bureaucrats to become submissive and uncreative to meet government standards, or become instruments of the powerful and well-connected. Either way, everyone loses.” What would our theatre work look like if it weren’t influenced by where the grants come from? Returning to my earlier question, what if our work could instead focus on individual liberty and responsibility—essentially, focus on the meaning and repercussions of our personal and political choices?

Talking Points Media published an article, “Kickstarter Expected to Provide More Funding to the Arts than the NEA.” “Successfully funded projects are the independent creations of these people,” Kickstarter cofounder Yancy Strickler said in the article. Because Kickstarter focuses on artistic projects, and because people use their networks of friends and colleagues to make a project come to fruition, Kickstarter is changing the way the arts get funded—especially film. In 2012, thirty-one films at Austin’s South by Southwest Festival and seventeen films at the Sundance Festival were funded by Kickstarter. This means that while the NEA likely won’t be going away anytime soon, artists now have viable alternatives to making their work happen, without having to meet imposed standards.

Like films, the kinds of theatre projects funded by these kinds of campaigns are arguably not the mainstream. Not yet, anyway. Still, Jones’s article focused on wanting to see other political ideologies in mainstream theatre, like Broadway. While I share his sentiment in wanting to see more diverse opinions on the grand American stages (and I do enjoy a good Broadway show when I have the opportunity), I also don’t think it’s as likely that we’ll see conservative or libertarian voices there—and it seems that sites like Kickstarter demonstrate that.

Personally, I made a very deliberate choice to not to work in popular theatre, because I’d much rather be out in a community, in the streets, making theatre with ordinary people. I’m more concerned with people discussing issues than in discussing politics in general terms. I’m not trying to say that my liberal colleagues aren’t in the communities; they are. But I do believe that the grand stages leave audiences as passive observers, and this isn’t what a libertarian approach to theatre entails. A libertarian sees every person as the author of his or her own life, and worthy of active involvement in their communities and engaging with the issues that most concern them. To that end, Boal’s spect-actor is a crucial part of how I do my work as a teaching artist.

I want my students to tap into their own creativity, and for us to create together works of theatre that explore the issues relevant to them. In my work with immigrant youth at a shelter in Phoenix, our work often centers around home, culture, and family. I sincerely want for them to be successful and contributing members of their communities, and I am humbled by how hard my boys (all under eighteen, by the way) have worked just to make it to America. If anyone still has a view of the classic American dream, it just might be the immigrant population.

That desire for a better life is where I begin when my students and I devise theatre. As Freire asks in Pedagogy of Freedom, “Why not establish an ‘intimate’ connection between knowledge considered to be basic to a school curriculum and knowledge that is the fruit of the lived experience of these students as individuals?” Many of my students don’t have a lot of schooling, and their English is limited. But they do know that there is honor in hard work, and America to them means opportunities. Every day we again face the fundamental questions—what are my responsibilities? What are my liberties? What are my choices? To a certain extent, my students have begun to answer that question by coming to America. As their teacher, it is my responsibility to carry those questions further, using theatre. Through theatre, my students can both understand the freedom found in possibility, and the responsibility found in autonomy.

Theatre gives a safe space for all of this—exploring what’s possible, and discovering how to be responsible.

Chart of Libertarianism
Chart of the intersection of the intersections. Photo by difference between. 

My students are curious about the possibilities of life in America, and they also feel a responsibility to help their families back home. So we act out their families, we act out their future jobs, and we act out what it is like to be an immigrant. There’s a quote from Boal I often use with them, “Have the courage to be happy.” For my students, that has meant looking into what it takes to go to culinary school, veterinary school, and trade schools. It has meant owning up to having come here illegally, and working to learn more and more English. Theatre gives a safe space for all of this—exploring what’s possible, and discovering how to be responsible.

There’s another quote from Freire I’d like to use in closing. He said, “There could be no creativity without the curiosity that moves us and sets us patiently impatient before a world we did not make, to add to it something of our own making.” What the libertarian voice adds to the theatre is an emphasis that engaging with social issues is a matter of individual choice and responsibility, but also that theatrical expression is a part of our vital personal liberties. In that sense, hopefully a conservative voice in the theatre doesn’t seem so different after all. In Soul of A Citizen, Paul Loeb urges people who want to engage with social issues to “seek unlikely allies.” Libertarians, and yes, perhaps even more hard-line conservatives, can be those “unlikely allies” in creating theatre that stirs citizens to action.

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M. Clinton §ekellick asks in his comments to this article how one can be a libertarian individualist and do theatre (an activity that he regards as collectivist.) Obviously, something of the sort could be done with contracts between all individuals.

More fundamentally, I would ask, how does libertarianism-- which, at least in the American strain, is wrapped up in individualism and individual property-- jibe with the concept of "the commons" upon which the Center for the Theater Commons (publisher of HowlRound) is based? The whole notion of a shared knowledge base for theater practitioners to freely access, like a public library, a public park, public education, clean air, and clean water, and the active care required to maintain them is certainly incompatible with the laissez faire economic activity and privatization of public goods espoused by the "fiscal conservative" brand of libertarianism with which Winebrenner seems to identify.

Unless there is a redistributive cost associated with the Commons, I don't see any inconsistency. And even if there was some cost, presumably no one would be forcing me to join; it would be a voluntary user-fee - unlike involuntary taxation. Autonomous collectives are perfectly compatible to libertarians because no one forces me to join, pay dues, fund protectors who kill outsiders in my name, etc.

Voluntaryism, NOT Objectivism, is the real soul of libertarian interaction. Once again, not all libertarians fall into the "rugged Individualist" stereotype; we can be members of collectives while maintaining resistance to authoritarian status quo, mistrust of central power, and moral attachment (not tantamount survivalist paranoia) to property rights.

I find it kind of humorous (and also kind of alarming) to read the myriad ways many think libertarians necessarily shut themselves out of social praxis. To say "You can't engage in communitarian practice because of what I think your philosophy means" is only a step or two away from locking up the clubhouse and stashing the membership forms.

Sure, individual libertarians may volunteer to maintain the Commons, just as libertarians may volunteer to engage in all sorts of altruistic, and philanthropic, understood to help the "common good." However, a society ruled by libertarian principles-- one of private ownership of civil society and social infrastructure, and the deregulation of the uses of private property in the manner it which it affects interested parties, is not-condusive to protecting the Commons.

And, of course, one challenge facing philanthropists when I do speak to them is, "How can I ensure that my acts of philanthropy live on after after I am gone?" Privately held foundations are no guarantee.

In fact, it's the very observation that so much of the infrastructure for creating, developing, and presenting theatre is privately held (generally by well-intended groups individuals) actually amounts to a hoarding of resources that prevents a lot of worthy work from being seen is precisely what sparked the interest in the "Theater Commons" in the first place.

So because certain pseudo-libertarians impact the current environment, other self-described libertarians can't play a part in its transformation? I'm trying to understand the implications you're drawing. Also a quick note, the notion that there could be "a society ruled by libertarian principles" is a contradiction: libertarianism is the minimization (if not absence) of Rule. Its principles relate almost entirely to the State - NOT voluntary social association, into which Theatre obviously falls.

The Commons is self-protected; it's not like any major corporate funders, arts orgs or the NEA are actively trying to literally dismantle the framework of HowlRound et al. It's a perfect example of the impact of an organization in a free market of ideas.

Culture Coin (http://artsfwd.org/howlr-ch... is a fantastic response to the Arts funding gap; it even appeals to the anarcho-capitalist in me as a sort of alternative currency. You won't stop certain people from hoarding resources (Greed didn't just pop up in the 1920's and it won't end with progressive legislation). YOU can choose to share your own unused resources/talents/skills in a revolutionary industry-specific marketplace with others - including me, a libertarian.

"Also a quick note, the notion that there could be "a society ruled by libertarian principles" is a contradiction: libertarianism is the minimization (if not absence) of Rule. Its principles relate almost entirely to the State."

Except by minimizing, or eliminating the state, as libertarians state they wish to do, you end up with the unregulated private rule of those who can amass the most power or resources-- and they might not be as philanthropic or philanthropic in a similar way as you. Maybe that fulfills the goal of individual liberty on an abstract level, but on the real level, it can reclassify many exploitative relationships as voluntary.

It's the same problem faced by many anarcho-socialist groups-- things can run along smoothly for a while, but because there are few if any structures, it only takes the introduction of a couple exploitative, or authoritarian minded individuals, to make the arrangement dysfunctional.

I appreciate your good intentions, but you have to be prepared for the foreseeable consequences of enacting your philosophy beyond your own individual ethical choices.

Then we're not really talking about the role of liberty in Theatre anymore, but preference for model of government. I think Force of Compliance is my bone of contention, but we're digressing.

If one uses Boal's as the model for socially engaged Theatre, government would be crowd-sourced through drama. This would seem to work most efficiently on a localized, voluntary scale (he was City Councillor of Rio) - all of which is theoretically "acceptable" to most libertarians - and makes democracy itself a more direct, immediate and participatory act. It could even prove to be resoundingly superior to our current system, which with numerous convoluted structures (government and private) is already its own dysfunctional arrangement, without your hypothetical Stateless society with rich greedy people who hold all the resources - kind of like the one we live in now, where they can influence activist government on top of that.

Boal thought only the oppressed can free the oppressed; I experience very little oppression as a white heterosexual male, and I might claim many American Theatre artists are in a similar position. Sure, we're economically disadvantaged, but we're free to be part of the most exhilarating and collaborative Art form (James Earl Jones' observation that we choose this lifestyle bears reference). Maybe we should really be asking if Boal's model applies for most of the U.S.

This argument is lost on me (or perhaps vice versa). As individuals libertarians are okay with a Commons; but if there's a whole bunch of them, suddenly they necessarily reject it? So long as it is not a State entity, there is no reason why it couldn't flourish. For I hope the last time, Not all libertarians are Ethical Egoists.

A critical mass of libertarians are ethical egoists, and the same elimination of rules that would free community-minded libertarians to follow their every whim would also free the ethical egoist libertarian to do the same. Not leaving some institutional checks and balances on the ethical egoists (which is what even well-intended libertarians oppose) is essentially turning the society (and culture) over to them-- and this is precisely for this reason, I don't believe a libertarian society would be beneficial for the commons, even if individual libertarians may choose to have a nurturing relationship towards the commons.

I don't think I'm making a strange argument here. Individual communists might also be wonderful to have working in the theater-- but likewise, I would prefer not to be making theatre under a communist regime.

Re: your communist analogy, the difference is libertarians wouldn't force you into a regime - wouldn't force you to do anything, really, because there wouldn't be a regime or use of force. That's its elemental peaceful quality. And I don't personally see a horde of rabid Ethical Egoists in my libertarian circles.

So I'm understanding it's a matter of your preference then, correct? you prefer that society not lean toward "The Libertarian" "Ideal"? You would be nervous about the healthful longevity of our Art in less structured social organization. (Let me know if I'm falsely attributing these to your perspective.) That speaks volumes - is its health that stellar right now? Moreover, isn't performance art an integral feature in less "developed" [read: intricately organized] cultures?

How would diminishing the scope and purview of the State, necessarily closing the convenient corporate loopholes that typify the revolving doors of political-economic power and keeping more earned income in more pockets, prevent people from choosing to spectate your programming? It wouldn't. If you're worried that a libertarian streak in government would boost the coffers of the already rich and lead to increased commercialism in major institutions (greater pageantry, grander spectacle, less relevant messaging), that ALREADY happens at an insanely growing level.

I think we're dancing around issues of class and wealth referencing ethical egoist owners of culture. That Egoists "would be" arbiters of culture is a little naive: don't wealthy donors and regular patrons already steer the quality of art in major institutions? Mike Daisey called my audience out on this point during "Fucking Fucking Fucking Ayn Rand." People tittered when he described us as cultural arbiters; he made sure we knew he wasn't kidding.

Make art that matters to the audience you're attempting to draw. If I could pitch a civic practice exercise on the inherent racism of the War on Drugs, done in a state penitentiary with small-time non-violent offenders of color, and my pitch was to the Shubert Foundation, more power to me - but why on Earth would I seek that funding for that project? I doubt everyone who sees the regional musical house's "The Sound of Music" is interested in going to prison to help solve life problems of the incarcerated - would I want to pander to said passive "it's like an expensive movie ticket!" subscribers anyway?

It seems antithetical to want (or demand) one type of theatre's capital for another type's process; Mission is an important element missing from this conversation. What you do defines the dollars you seek (if any); if I'm doing a non-commercial community-centered project, it's a wee hypocritical to simultaneously expect a professional budget and complain about the lack of major funders. But being libertarian doesn't mean I won't do Theatre "on the arm." I have and will continue to do so. To make a broad brush stroke categorizing all libertarians as perpetually profit-motivated and philosophically sanitized from anything remotely related to "community" is inaccurate and offensive. And seems like a veiled attempt to tell us to Take our gloves and go home.

On an optimistic note, that orgs like Cal Shakes are shifting toward innovative programming proves institutions with larger budgets CAN take risks to push what patrons [read: the audience] want to see/do. We should be celebrating their ability to do so, made possible by their capital and status. Using money to introduce less traditional experiences for a traditional audience is fresh and daring and exciting; it's a model hailing the need for bold arts administrators willing to make strong choices in their roles that guide how money is spent. That the public votes with dollars should be sobering and humbling, not sob-worthy.

You're not really answering the question: how does a society free of laws and regulation, but with a market economy, preserve the commons from the ethical egoist whom you claim not to represent the the entire libertarian movement? The point is that it doesn't.

I have no problem grasping that there are community-minded libertarians just as there are ethical egoist libertarians-- the problem is that the former have no suggestion about how to protect a libertarian society from the latter beyond expecting everyone to ideologically conform to the former.

The Commons exists in the market. A free market doesn't in any material way prohibit the existence of any peaceful group, product, service, or organization. The Commons exists now. The only thing that can eliminate The Commons is an entity with the threat of force and violence, or The Commons' own voluntary dissolution. There's no institution aside from The Commons to preserve The Commons; isn't that the duty of The Commons? What "threat" do Egoists pose aside from believing that The Commons shouldn't exist? Without the force of law to dissolve it, The Commons has nothing to fear - can even flourish.

You speak a lot about protection. What is there to protect from? What do you fear? If the ubiquitous Egoists have no permissible use of force beyond their pocketbooks, what's the issue? That they have money that you could use to do your art? Are you anxious that a libertarian society would produce more musicals?

Ideological conformity is not an issue because no one is required to conform in a free society. You can't be fully free in a socialist State (your property is redistributed involuntarily), but you CAN be fully socialist in a free State (choosing to redistribute with associated parties).

To (hopefully) directly answer your question: The Commons preserves itself. Its relevance, income, and relative influence are its own crosses to bear.

This is ALL a theoretical digression. The article is not about Theatre in a possible libertarian culture, but a possible libertarian Theatre in our actual culture. The question I have is whether or not I'm allowed to engage in theatre praxis with liberty in mind. My vote (as, you know, a libertarian) is I would love to see it attempted - and I seem to be getting a resounding "Stay home" from everyone else.

I'm going to try not to digress into political theory, but I am legitimately interested to see what such a praxis might look like (I'm torn between whether or not it already exists or if it's impossible). I am only asserting that the adoption of someone else's praxis - someone else with a very different politics - such as Augusto Boal's, is not a libertarian praxis. There are theories and politics built into it: that's why it's a praxis and not just practice.

So, private property.

There is an argument that the politics of the rehearsal room, the way the acting and production company is organized, is a political arrangement that is built into the work, and that the audience gets that information. The traditional ways of making theatre are more conservative, more about private property - especially in commercial theatre (if they weren't, we would never had a reason for AEA to form), the producer owns this, the director owns that, the playwright owns this, and so on (the unions being interventions within this system to protect those who own less). These "new" ways of making theatre, of the non-hierarchical ensemble and devised theatre, there is a politics to that, and it has to do with collective ownership. Boal asserts, very boldly, that Artistotle's system and basically the whole of western theatre is coercive: creating a distinction between those who present and own the play and the spectator. Theatre of the Oppressed blows this separation up, passing ownership of the 'play' to both audience and actor. It is an act in bold defiance of private property.

I would argue that the work being done on Broadway today, and more-so 100 years ago before the unions formed, is praxis that most resembles what a libertarian theatre would look like -- Disney World might be another place to look. The politics of the play being presented is potentially unrelated to the praxis of how it is being made (you could use a communist praxis to create right-wing agitprop, just as you can use a traditional, conservative praxis to create a liberal spectacle), but that information is still there within the play.

Belief in private property is an incredibly dominant ideology in the United States, and therefore it appears in a great many works, a great many institutions, and a great many practices. But as a dominant ideology it does not have to assert nor defend itself. It is just there, quietly built into things.

Regarding the commons, it may be helpful to use an analogy. A public park is a commons. Which is collectively owned by the people, that is, the State. In a world where the state has virtually no role, the park cannot continue as a public property. As private property, it may be owned by a "voluntary association" of individuals who allow the public free access, or it may be a private estate, or anything between those two extremes. The peacekeeping order of libertarianism protects property, not public goods, and we see this play out all the time in the US: the environment is a common resource, and yet it is exploited because we treat as property under law.

Everyone involved with The Group Theater was blacklisted, changed their tune, or named names: perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the interests of the Oogey-Boogey Egoist when it comes to the arts.

Re: the incompatibility of praxes: your argument is akin to saying you can't use the theatre (a medium of performance traditionally separated by audience and players in a climactic narrative) as an immersive tool for social action. Why is its evolution to Theatre of the Oppressed permissible, but shift to incorporate alternate ideals is verboten? "It doesn't fit the way we currently define that type of art." Not a perspective I'd expect on HowlRound.

Our Art has taken on new forms in different times for myriad aims. And I'm exceedingly peeved and worried to get the impression that a single particular new POTENTIAL variation is somehow less viable/acceptable than standing forms. What is Theatre history but a theory of its gradual evolution? This is just an idea, not a programme. The fact that so many are resistant to its possibility shows a shameful lack of imagination and a dangerous lack of breadth of our ideological diversity.

The main difference between Boal and "Theatre of Liberty" (what the hell?) is intent. Are you nervous that a competing set of ideals might "hijack" theatrical practice to engage in social change deviant from status quo? How very much like what Theatre of the Oppressed did at its outset. If it's as definitively DOA as the crowd here seems to believe, then what's the big deal with, say, me trying and perhaps failing? It's not a contradiction in philosophy for a libertarian to utilize the framework of Boal if an actual libertarian actually finds it compatible and actually does it. Any ensuing pissing match is a matter of labels - and if that's been the basis of this whole debate (I can't call it Boal-esque) then I'm very close to RageQuit.

Libertarians reject hierarchy and status quo perhaps MORE than collectivists. Again, it's similarly a matter of which institutions we target and our aims.

I don't know if I'd characterize any extant theatre practice as libertarian. Is something libertarian if people buy it? What about the local, organic garlic I bought at the Tacoma Farmer's Market? Do you label something libertarian if it's excessively profitable, or if any income is derived? Both are mischaracterizations, but if the latter, the 50 bucks I got in a fringe sci-fi showcase is morally equivalent monstrous to Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark.

Re: public/private goods: You can be jealous of others' property, or use what's available. That's the state of things now, and anything more will require larger change than we can possible hope to achieve. More to the point, aren't we inspired by artists who take to parking lots and warehouses for their ingenuity and innovation? "Necessity is the mother of invention." Not a pool of public money, but the NEED to create.

That's not to say that a mid-sized theatre can't choose to open its space for arts instigators on dark days in a voluntary collective pool - which could be facilitated by an industry currency such as Culture Coin. Have I mentioned how much I love Culture Coin?

Wiki: "Despite its success and sweeping impact on the American theater landscape for many years to come, by 1940, impending war, the lure of fame and fortune in Hollywood, the lack of institutional funding and the friction of interpersonal relationships within the Group eventually led to its demise." Funding explains a fraction of their dissolution, so the egoist is a pretty flimsy Straw-Man here. I'm personally more afraid of those who can arbitrarily enforce paramilitary martial law then owners of Mercedez; I'd rather be blacklisted by an industry (hell, I'd be proud of it) than by a government.

That's not the argument I'm making. What I'm saying is is that there are unspoken political philosophies built into various arrangements of how we make theatre - that in fact, ideological diversity is widespread, because so many different kinds of theatre get made.

There is often a disconnect between the politics of a play and the politics of how the play is made, likewise the politics of the people making a play, and the politics they use to make plays. I believe that the politics of how - that is, the praxis - are \often more important, and are the practitioner's real politics, because those are the ones being lived rather than the ones being espoused.

To put what I'm saying another way: You can use whatever form to do whatever you want, but the form itself has it's own ideas that you can't escape. Example (perhaps a bad example): I can devise a play about the virtues of private property w/ an ensemble - but by using that form it means something else, and actually subverts the politics I've tried to put into the piece, because they're contradictory.

The cursory observation of a seeming "contradiction" for individual(ist)s engaging in group praxis is a dead duck. What you seem to be dancing around actually saying is "I think your beliefs imply you can't do this type of Theatre" - when I, the holder of said beliefs and student of its logical and hypothetical underpinnings, confirm I can without being victim of hypocrisy, contradiction, paradox, or any logical conundrum. A Christian could likewise argue that Christians can't be existentialists, but Paul Tillich (who would actually know what it means to be both) proves them all wrong.

Anyone can do any kind of practice they like.

But a Christian playing a game of baseball doesn't make it a game of Christian baseball no more than does a pacifist isolationist drafted into the army to fight make it a pacifist war that isn't imperial or expansionist or interventionist.

This isn't a cursory observation, and it's of a lot more than 'group.' It is not a dead duck. This is actually a huge deal but it's something we don't talk about a lot and often ignore. We are not allowed in this country to talk openly about the politics of how we work - we don't even have the vocabulary for it because it was taken from us during the Cold war.

I do believe that someone who is really true to libertarian ideology is not going to do that kind of theatre. I am not dancing around this and have not been since my first comment, where I explicitly stated such. I think that there are two ways (working in combination) people do make work in such a way that contradicts their political values: the politics in question are unexamined or not thought through fully, and secondly, as Winebrenner has done, emphasized the parts of the practice that appeal to him or his ideology and framed it as such, while not paying attention to what doesn't. Maybe even because it's such a small scale practice that someone might not think it's politics are that important, especially given the national political climate.

I would love to hear your philosophical and theoretical explanation, musings, and refutation of my argument. "It doesn't put me into a state of cognitive dissonance and make me uncomfortable" doesn't really answer the challenge I've put to you and to the author here. I'm not saying don't do this kind of theatre because I say it isn't your politics: do the work you want to do, do the work you find meaning and fulfillment in!

But I challenge everyone to take the time to question their work and think through the various implications that it has on both you and your work - it will keep you and your work fresher and more alive.

*How* does this kind of work actually take on a libertarian shape? Simply labeling it doesn't do that. How does the destruction of individual ownership with the Spect-Actor relationship jive with libertarian values? *Why* doesn't it put you in logical conundrum land?

"Are you nervous that a competing set of ideals might "hijack" theatrical practice to engage in social change deviant from status quo? How very much like what Theatre of the Oppressed did at its outset." Well, yes, I am nervous that the right-wing might gain even more power in this country, but they're already in power - free market capitalism is the name of the game in the US - and I am nervous that there are artistic institutions that reinforce these things. It's not hijacking. By your own statements, market capitalism is the lay of the land. We cannot ignore this context when we ask about right-wing or left-wing work in theatre, at least if we want to have a really honest discussion. Let's not pretend that just because theatre makers lean liberal (and some even left) that somehow the status quo is liberal or left and being reinforced by Theatre of the Oppressed that is somehow removed from it's original intent to prepare people to create social change. We reproduce things that go against our ideals frequently, and we do so unintentionally because of how systems and institutions work. If we want to change things, we have to examine those things, including our own beliefs and practices. But the good thing is, as theatre artists, we're often trained to do that very thing. Do the work you want to do, but really follow the logic of that work and ask what it is.

What you don't seem to grasp is actually how societies works. Declaring a society "free" without creating institutions that protect the particular types of freedom to society views as valuable, is a meaningless and short-lived declaration. Simply affixing some adjectives to society doesn't prevent individual participants, or groups, from attempting to affect change to serve their interests, be it monetary, or ideological. How does a society without governance or laws, protect the Commons as Commons? Even if violence is abolished (as you seem to believe would happen) it only takes the power of money to privatize of the Commons.

Furthermore, the Commons can't "abolish itself"-- Commons are resources, not institutions. The Center for the Theater Commons is a steward and study group.

I certainly don't object to libertarians working in theatre-- I am just pointing out that the political aims of libertarianism to create a society without regulation in which resources and infrastructure are privatized-- would create an environment inhospitable to the concept of a Commons.

I thought I helped shift the conversation back on track...

You're sailing uncharted theoretical waters that will likely never be occupied. Your idea of a generic Commons is practically dissociated from The Theatre Commons. The Theatre Commons is not the sum total of American culture, land, and resources, so I wonder who here is really failing to grasp the implications of "how society works" - which is obviously far simpler, definable and ominous than I and most others have heretofore contemplated [end snark].

The Theatre Commons can only claim what resides within the Theatrical context. It already exists within the sphere of commercially- and publicly-funded goods in our industry. The Theatre Commons already operates in a wider market. We have a lot of leeway as to what we do with it, and innovations re: Culture Coin are imperative to the survival of our craft (or Commons or industry, however you choose to perceive it). To pretend that Theatre is going to collectivize itself as a pseudo-governmental entity is an insurmountably tall order.

And I'm actually now tired of hearing how a "libertarian environment" (where and when is that a truly politically viable concretization?) is inhospitable to a Commons. I have used metaphor, analogy, explanation, background reference, nuance, direct rebuttal in the far too many comments above directly demonstrating how a Commons can exist in a libertarian society. Libertarians believe in rule of law as applied to property rights and (as with the majority of civilized and uncivilized cultures) the big 3: murder, rape, and theft. No one could pilfer your Commons because It's Your Commons! Believe or not,nNot everyone in American want access to pieces of the Theatrical pie; in a hypothetical free society, it would be shared by those who choose to share it. As there is little profit outside of Broadway, I doubt many of your oogey-boogey Egoist fiends would even bother with our industry in their plot to seize domination in a society without the apparatus to dominate.

Assuming your doomsday scenario with NO peacekeeping order (which is anarchy, NOT libertarianism), how far would you go to defend your Theatre Commons?

You don't think the market forces affecting realestate, endowments for the non-profit theatre, tuition in training programs for theatre artists, ticket prices, print space, or salaries of professional critics and reviewers, have some impact on whether the theater commons is privatized or kept in common?

Property owners have a rational interest in having their property to increase in value. Corporate owners have a rational interest in extending copyrights as long as the intellectual property has value and protecting that that property in all its derivative forms. Schools have an interest in remaining open, even if that means raising tuitions, or not giving instructors a raise. Newspapers, magazines, and websites, have an interest in not offending their advertisers, as well as shifting more of its staff from salaried positions to freelance. Everyone, quite rationally, wants return on investment, maximize profits and minimize losses.

The point is that all these market forces are at work whether we are talking about a highly regulated market, or complete laissez-faire capitalism. It doesn't take an act of violence for the resources to be amassed into the hands of but a few. Privatizing public resources and infrastructure is certainly not going to protect the theater commons. This isn't a hypothetical-- this is naturalistic observation backed up by decades of social science data.

Market forces have always (and will continue to) affect Theatre. The question is whether we introduce our Commons into current social imperfection, or try to change the world before making theatre. Your ideal for a Theatre Commons is about as far removed from present reality as my ideal of libertarian governance. We can work in, and shape, the larger market system in a largely fruitless effort, or strive to recreate the premise of our industry from within (again, a la Culture Coin) on Commons ground. This is not the Historically Inevitable collectivist revolution you were looking for.

Neither privatizing nor "publicizing" (?) others' resources will solve theatre's problems. You keep speaking of protecting the Theatre Commons as if it is presently a relevant institution/organ that simply needs resources to protect - even as it's apparent we're laying the groundwork for context, relationships, and interaction of that Commons. If all you really want is a larger pool of resources to soak up, lobby your Congressmen and go through all the other bullshit dog-and-pony mise-en-scene in the theatre of Democracy. I've got shows to make and an Art form to shape.

Your astute explication on capitalist fundamentals, while appreciated, is neither novel nor tragic nor a sudden harbinger of dramatic doom: it's an American reality. We can make the most of what is presently permissible within a semi-public semi-market paradigm, or spend the rest of our lives offstage advocating for negligible change in the social tapestry. I'm inclined to have the Commons serve whatever world exists at any given moment. The drive of an Artist is to create Art. Revolution is down the hall.

I think the Commons can exist as a more abstract entity than you seem to advocate: a collection of associated artists and organizations united for a common cause WITHIN the real (and relatively static) social circumstance around us. Libertarianism provides a social construct that allows for such peer-moderated rules and communities (so long as we don't force others to pay for our work). THAT's why I see a philosophy of liberty as compatible with a Theatre Commons: I'm conceiving a Commons that aligns to reality. This same Commons can (at least) start to assert itself in the present world; your vision cannot.

They're not synonymous, but they're related. Revolution is a type of change (at what point does incremental change become a revolution?). You suggested that art is down the hall: If our work is in an "art" silo, we're not trying to change anything (what is art?). (Is applied theatre not art?)

Boal's practices have been referred to as "rehearsal for the revolution," but he admits they aren't the revolution. In Theatre of the Oppressed, he talks about how Artistotle's system of drama can't function serves a standing order, and how he's attempting to find a new poetics to aid in revolutionary transformation of society. So, although applied theatre functions on a small scale, I'm not sure your claim is entirely accurate.

The reason my focus as a theatre practitioner isn't on applied theatre is specifically because that work doesn't satisfy me as an artist, but I am still interested in creating change (and my personal quest is to find or develop a praxis that satisfies both these things).

DITTO DITTO DITTO your last paragraph. So why is it so reprehensible to suggest the development of a libertarian praxis emanating from Applied Theatre?

I'd like to fondly point out that at NO time has there been any investigation as to what a libertarian Applied Theatre would look like. Though there is plenty of extensive maneuvering to argue it simply can't [read: shouldn't] be tried.

I would also like to suggest that the "semi-public semi-market [and semi-private foundation] paradigm" is actively doing damage to the theatre. We're stuck between multiple forces and beholden to all of them, and in that we risk losing our own work. Purely market driven art fights for it's survival and finds it's audience, whereas currently many theatres can survive on a combination of grants, corporate funding and playing to whatever audience it knows it has... In doing so, creating very conservative (not in the political sense) artworks. This is less true in the big cities than it is in regional theatre, but how many cities have aging arts institutions that don't get enough public funding to take any risks with that are doing the same old things, and often not particularly well, but somehow they survive?

I'm not advocating for a market based approach and less public funds, but at least market based art knows what it is and has to be good at it.

Totally agreed. The conservative nature of the art being presented lies almost exclusively in the hands of those orgs. leaders. Cal Shakes is the perfect example of one that's starting to push the envelope. That many institutions play it safe is more nuances than merely "They need money." Clay Shirky is my favorite of many community theorists who notes that institutions, from founding, quickly change from being mission-based to being survival-based - expanding the lobby takes precedence over the avant-garde. Is that money, or is that decision-makers? Both obviously, but dollars don't select seasons of plays.

A libertarian social order does not allow for "a Commons that aligns to reality" since a libertarian social order is a utopian vision, whose advocates concede that all members of society have to accept a particular formulation of the libertarian creed for it to work-- which is why, rather than proposing new institutions, or new laws for currently existing institutions to pass, and enforce, you keep talking about what libertarians believe as if all members of the society are going to share those beliefs.

What libertarians "believe" is irrelevant (and as pointed out by both you and Winebrenner, "libertarianism" comes in many varieties) what is relevant is foreseeable consequences of reorganizing society upon libertarian principles.

My point is that society contains people with all sorts of differing ways of evaluating ethical situations, and with all sorts of interests, both pragmatic and ideological-- so my scenario, which is hardly a doomsday scenario, is the more realistic one since it is based on the observation of forces already at work that would be exacerbated in a libertarian "utopia."

Simply put, a political ideology that enshrines privatization of the public good is not going to be hospitable the Commons, theatrical or otherwise.

I am reminded of what I heard Picasso (Tim Hopper) say to Einstein (Jeff Perry) twenty years ago at the Lapin Agile: "Brother!"

Although I do seem to differ in at least two major ways from the author of this essay. First, I have always loved traditional theater (even [I might even say especially] -- musicals).

Second, I no longer identify myself as a "libertarian" since the official party (and so many others) are (in my opinion) completely wrong on some extremely critical issues (such as their oft-repeated mantra that "there's so such thing as a trade deficit").

Granted, though, libertarians are still closer to my views than modern-day democrats (who, amongst other things, seem more interested in hero-worship than standing up for the anti-war principles and civil liberties they once so proudly defended), or modern-day republicans (who, amongst many other things, would literally tax someone to death to pay for a military that can protect him or her from any possible overseas threat, no matter how unlikely).

thought provoking?.. the funding of the ARTS by the government: BAD - funding of other collectively embraced services: GOOD , Oh my but not to libertarians... It is great to have the space in this site to share thoroughly planned out responses - especially when you are doing such good work through Boal ( always problematic with White people "helping" the oppressed masses recognize AND free themselves) - keep working with the youths and perhaps they may recognize how "liberal" you are being without being liberal.

Why do people like to have things both ways - especially when it is intentionally to provoke our ranty colleagues. Let all make art - and it works in so many venues for different purposes. Comparison shopping does exactly what the naysayers bring up =-- we are a competitive sport. And were wear the badges pretty proudly .

I'm wondering if there are no plays, or dramas in general, about Medicare and Social Security partially because they're difficult to tell on a human scale. Ayn Rand's novels are big, giant tomes that attempt to wrap her political theories onto real people... And it's debatable about whether nor not she succeeds in doing so.

I would be very interested in seeing such a play and whether or not it could succeed dramatically, what that might look like.

Thank you for this great analysis of Libertarian beliefs as they relate to social action, individual engagement, etc--that is something I never really considered when thinking about Libertarianism.

However, when you venture into funding territory, there a few points that I have different opinions on:

You seem to (and I may be reading wrong) equate liberalism with the government funding the arts and conservatism with the government not funding the arts. However, public funding of the arts, to me, is not a politically liberal or conservative idea. In much of Europe, most of the theaters are subsidized by the government and have been for a long time. This is by no means a perfect system. In several European countries, the state repertory system has becoming bloated and outdated. But in other countries, it is going strong and is well-run.

From the artists I spoken with in several eastern European countries, the impetus for the government to fund the arts is not a "left" or a "right" idea, but is part of an understanding that culture is as important an aspect of a country as infrastructure. And what's really interesting is that in many of those countries, there ARE liberal and conservative leaders in theater--many, many of all across the political spectrum. Again, is it not a perfect system, but I would encourage you to become familiar with the complexities of government subsidies for theater in other parts of the world before dismissing as something we should start moving away from here.

Part of those complexities is censorship, you are right. Many of the artists in subsidized environments in Europe are now finding themselves under the pressure cooker of very right-leaning governments that are giving "content recommendations." However, we here in America should not just point our fingers and shake our heads. We practice self-censorship all the time, usually according to who is funding us. Broadway is a great example of this, because Broadway, unlike most of the other theaters in the US, is a for-profit business. You talk about Broadway as though it is some radical left world of ideas, but most of the ideas you'll find on Broadway adhere to a fairly safe, moderate, and ultimately profitable political ideology. Most of the shows that go to Broadway that have politically radical ideas, either on the left or the right, have only a short run because they appeal to a much smaller audience and are financially unprofitable.

And while I completely agree with your encouragement of crowd-source funding (I think it's a god-send to independent artists), there is another point to remember with those as well: one of the aspects of crowd-source funding is that if an idea is "good enough" (yes, that term is very loaded), it will eventually get enough support, and if it's not, it won't. Again, while I love the rise of crowd-source funding, there is a certain feeling of social Darwinism that raises flags for me. Not all great theater comes from ideas that people think are good before the work has been made. Metaphor-shifting, game-changing theater often is not popular, but that doesn't mean it's not worthy of funding.

Obviously, this is a conversation that need to continue. I hope you continue to bring your voice to the table, because I agree that many voices are needed to make our theater culture continue to evolve in the best way. I just wanted to give a different perspective on the complexities of public and private funding.

How about this? You get to skip out on public funding of the arts the same day I get to skip out on public funding of the fossil fuel industry and the military/industrial complex. Deal?

Oh, wait: you're already impossibly ahead of me. Never mind.

David Mamet is conservative/libertarianish, no? He writes plays that blame female victims, glorify the free market and punish male "weakness".

I think your comment is a diversion from Winebrenner's article, and offers no direct substance to the conversation. Being a libertarian theatre artist myself, guilt-by-association or -by-sharing-some-views-as-a-person-I-don't-wholly-agree-with is a pretty old ad hominem ploy that accomplishes nothing. Not that I'm surprised, just a little disappointed.

Winebrenner's point is that libertarians tend toward an engaged mode social activism - action typically associated with the Left. The question this article begs is What would Applied Theatre/Civic Practice look like with a libertarian voice? It's an intriguing proposition that I imagine many will find uncomfortable to answer, which is PRECISELY why the button had been pushed.

Okay, I'll bite!

I challenge the entire premise of this article: if you're doing applied theatre work that resembles Boal, you're not a libertarian. And vica versa.

There's a fundamental assumption of contemporary American libertarianism: that people are individuals (a word used ten times in this article, note) who are all have equal opportunity and equal standing in society, and will act to organize society as they all see fit, in absence of government intervention.

Which is a fine assumption, but it's only that: because we do not actually have a level playing field in a number of ways (none of which is relevant to this discussion, because...). And the work of applied theatre is, fundamentally, the work of recognizing those injustices: so if you're really doing it, you're not really a libertarian.

I could go more deeply into the politics of all but the most commercial and hierarchical theatre being inherently collectivist and therefore anti-libertarian - or any number of factors that account for a left lean in the theatre - but that might be neither here nor there for this discussion.

There's this question: where are the voices of the right in theatre? And there is a look to Broadway, but are you really looking? What are the politics of Mamma Mia? Phantom? Spiderman? Wicked? I don't have these answers, but look through those lenses: every show has politics, not just the agitprop. You may be surprised by what you find.

And for all this talk of government grants, what about private funding and how the market influences what gets produced? One of the theatres at Lincoln Center is the David H. Koch Theatre -- what impact does a $100 million gift from a major conservative figure have on the politics of what happens at Lincoln center (who are we actually worried about offending)?

What if, instead of wishing government out of arts, we imagine community controlled grants, letting a community democratically fund what they want - and not only the people who can afford to give to Kickstarter?

Or what if, instead of the government deciding which arts projects to fund, every citizen of the United States got an equal share of the NEA budget and could put it toward any project he or she liked?

You can be darn sure, if we did that, we'd have a LOT more "conservative art" (and I'm not sure, really what that means) than we have now.

But I don't believe that ought to be the ONLY solution. Because people are only half-aware (at best) of the art they'd like to sponsor. People need experts, I fear, to steer that conversation a bit.

In other words... I'm of two minds.

Thanks for the nibble! I'll challenge the assumption that libertarians magically see individuals as equal in our complicated society. For starters, the author works with culturally marginalized people (illegal immigrants) to assimilate them into American life while retaining a sense of their identity. That hardly sounds like the act of someone who sees everyone starting out on the same egalitarian footing who just need to pull up the proverbial bootstraps. Libertarians (by-and-large) see equality as an individual ideal that is fully realized through free choice and absence of coercive force. It's trying to reach the same end as the Left, through quite divergent means.

Equality obviously doesn't exist in America; that doesn't mean libertarians don't want it, though it is also counter-intuitive to measure social progress by the one-at-a-time State sanctioning of rights to particular groups. Note that while a growing number of U.S. states thankfully allow gay marriage, transgender individuals (despite their LGBT inclusion) are still sensationally disenfranchised; how long will it be until that labelled collective is deemed worthy of similar sanctioned equality provided to (some) lesbians and homosexuals? Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Same Love" states "No freedom til we're equal;" Libertarians would reverse that - how can you possibly be equal if you're not free to choose your own lifestyle, business, etc.? What does it mean (spiritually, ethically, morally) when a State actor is the Arbiter of who is equal and what is permissible?

I also challenge that libertarians are fundamentally unable to address injustices. It's not the Left (and certainly not the Right) that as a matter of principle (not politics) defends Edward Snowden, opposes all wars/imperialism, decries every form of corporate-government collusion, and respects the individual choices of all people so long as no harm is done in the process. It's libertarians. And to say that those principles cannot produce an attractive message or make a effective stand against injustice is tragically wrong.

As for community-centered arts funding, The Awesome Foundation (http://www.awesomefoundatio... serves as a great model. It would be rad if we could have something like it specifically for arts: The Awesome Arts Foundation?

And as for your other post on Medicare plays etc., interestingly Rand also wrote plays - though I haven't read them, doubt they're good, and (most importantly) she's not explicitly a libertarian and is certainly not universally lauded. Murray Rothbard's only dramatic work is a one-act play caricaturing her extremism: http://www.lewrockwell.com/...

Thanks for the Rothbard link (and all your other comments), Mark. As one who has always thought that libertarians (in general) think way too highly off Ayn Rand I really enjoyed it. ("The Brow of Zeus"! LOL!) And speaking of (intro writer) Justin Raimondo (someone I greatly admire), if we could just get all democrats to read his tri-weekly antiwar.com columns how much better things would likely soon be.

Complicated political discussions not withstanding, I could have been simpler and clearer (my bad):

Libertarianism is an individualist philosophy and applied theatre is a community based practice. Those don't jive together, so I assert if you're doing a community based practice you're not really a libertarian.

So libertarians can't be members of communities? While the economic arm of libertarianism could be typified by transactions for mutual benefit, I think it's a tad ridiculous to then assume that individuals (not Randian Individualists, mind you, but individuals) are somehow philosophically immune from group interaction because of a loosely associated set of political leanings. It's not like there's some set of rules for how libertarians operate in the social sphere. Sometimes libertarians even muster the will (exaggeration) to act outside of their own self-interest - we're not all Objectivists. Following your thinking to an extreme, libertarians wouldn't be members of church congregations, attend protests, or even shop at a local farmer's market; all are community-centric practices.

This is unrelated to membership in communities or group interaction - we're all parts of communities - that's not the argument I'm making. it has to do with active cultivation of community, of the collective.

Applied theatre is a collectivist praxis. American libertarianism is an individualist philosophy (and if we're not talking about that kind of libertarianism, then we're obfuscating and in need of more syntax). There's a huge conflict between those two things. I'm confronting the assumptions of this article and question you stated head on: what is a libertarian or right-wing civic theatre practice? It is not applied theatre as we know it, because applied theatre's philosophy is not right wing.

Winebrenner is correct that in that Boal's spect-actor is empowered as an individual, but that is happening within the context of community.

Gotchya; now we're on the exact same page. It took me a few days, but I finally found how to say what I mean in response:

The philosophical foundations of contemporary American Libertarianism are myriad: Classical Liberalism, anarchism, minarchism, Objectivisim, Voluntaryism, anarcho-capitalism, etc. You'll find self-named libertarians in any number of these schools, and as many dabbling multiple or making their own.

Those schools are also labels that are mostly irrelevant to the individual ends each one seeks (ironic how libertarians are subject to the same false group-attribution syndrome they condemn). Some libertarians are more Randian, and would be outraged at collectivist aims re: Boal. But others of us (as I mention below) are more Voluntaryist and focus on the un-coerced free action of individuals - which includes group associations of any kind and venture so long as there is no force on others. And the variations proceed...

All of that to say a libertarian Applied Theatre COULD exist. I'm personally fascinated by the prospect of working with incarcerated populations - and I see no reason why I could not infuse that work with concepts of self-sufficiency, valuing the rights of others, and respect for the most basic human rights under rule of law (against rape, murder, theft). These principal social tenets are ones that nearly all libertarians can even agree upon; would it be so radical for that kind of "right-wing" messaging to affect civic practice?

I think that anarchist libertarians and socialist libertarians would be excited by Boal's practices, but I also think they would be disgusted by what is labeled as "libertarian" in the US and wouldn't bother with the libertarian label except in academic and in depth discussions of their political philosophy: that is to say, we can talk about all kinds of libertarian, but most of them aren't the ones we mean.

Isn't much of applied theatre practice about giving space to people to articulate their own thoughts? How they can problem solve and articulate positions that they don't have the words for?

If applied theatre work is giving people space to infuse theatre with their own values - to use theatre to imagine what their values look like embodied in the world - then perhaps that gets at a deeper understanding at what you mentioned about Boal, "[he] thought only the oppressed can free the oppressed" and why it might be difficult to infuse your own values on top of the work.

Maybe that's just Boal, my understanding of applied theatre doesn't go far beyond him and theatre ed practices. If you decide to pursue this further, I am very interested to see what you make and how you make it.

How can you deny champions of free speech and expression the right to articulate their own thoughts in our widespread medium? I thought the goal of Civic Practice was FINDING the words to articulate positions and solve problems. It's problematic to assume libertarians can't solve problems because they're not politically progressive - which your questions infer.

I'm not considering just throwing Tea Party politics on top of Augusto Boal and then scream the lie "It fits!" I'm considering infusing ideas of free association, peace, and mutual interest INTO the dialogic work. Don't participants of Theatre of the Oppressed make up their own minds about the content? Doesn't that apply regardless of "branding"?

Okay, I'm not inferring that, I think you may have misread my rhetorical questions.

I'm trying to call attention to the difference between the practitioner or facilitator in applied theatre and the participants. That because of the space participants have to shape things, it's their philosophy which is going to appear more so than the facilitators. What you're suggesting may be possible and I encourage you to try it.