Antigone in Ferguson : the experience of seven members of the democratic chorus in a social justice musical production
The purpose of this phenomenological study was to investigate the experiences of seven of the auditioned chorus members in the five-week run of Antigone in Ferguson at the Off-Broadway theater, Harlem Stage in Harlem, New York in the Fall of 2018, through the lens of the theory of transformation (Cohen, 2007a). Antigone in Ferguson, an original musical production based on the ancient Greek drama Antigone (Sophocles, ca. 441 B.C.E./2016), was created in response to the young Black man in Ferguson, Missouri, who was killed by a police officer and whose body was left on the street for over four hours. The performance includes four actors, a democratic choir comprising singers representing various professions including police officers, and choirs from the community. After each performance, facilitators mediate a discussion with the audience members to address the social justice issues raised during the performance. Seven chorus members served as participants in this study, completing all requirements including a focus group session, pre-interview questionnaire, semi structured individual interview, blog about their experience throughout the production, and final reflection. Cohen's (2007a) theory of transformation, based on research about prison choirs, served as a framework for this research and the data analysis. The theory states that the complex relationships through the sung texts, the choir's social and cultural contexts, interactions with audience members, and enhanced self-perception of the performers afford the potential for positive transformational change in the performer (Cohen, 2007a, 2008). Findings suggest that the transformative power of music was displayed in the seven participants' responses to their experiences as chorus members in this production. Based on their spoken and written statements, all seven participants indicated that positive change occurred related to the music and the processes involved with putting on this show, including awareness and attitudes toward social justice issues and enhanced self-perceptions.
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