Underground Railway Theater, Engine of Delight & Social Change
on Sep. 03, 2017
As an aspiring theater professional, Underground Railway Theater, Engine of Delight & Social Change is an invaluable resource for learning about the challenges of starting a nonprofit theater company committed to its values. This text is accessible for theater artists and non-practitioners alike in its explanation of the various resources the author and his colleagues used as tools for success. Furthermore, the use of video excerpts enhances the textual description. In the Mothers & Whores video, I was blown away by the performer’s ability to take on multiple personas within the same song; it felt like a one-woman show. What impresses me the most is how the founders of the Underground Railway Theater consistently evaluated their work through a lens of self-improvement. These artists strove to identify areas where they lagged behind, artistically, socially, or politically, and targeted their work toward these places. Often, there are references to personal growth, such as not knowing one’s own potential at first, but upon reflection noting the progress achieved. As a young theater artist, this information is reassuring because forging into the unknown is scary. In addition, this book reveals the artists’ deep concern for addressing contemporary social inequalities; specifically their awareness of their white privilege in attempting to tell the stories of minority groups. These artists sought communication between different races to work through tensions, and produce authentic storytelling. I step away from this book equipped with a profound understanding of the work ethic required to have a career in new work development, and a respect for the moral commitment of the artists who created the Underground Railway Theater.