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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Burning Man Theatre

For Heather Ramey, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of theatre and dance, Burning Man is a case study for new American theatre.

“Burning Man is about creating a community through art,” says Ramey. “Thousands of people come together and essentially perform a city that they envision.” The narrative of Burning Man begins with groups of people camping in the desert to get away from commercialism and just play. They form a community, participate in various rituals and performances, and have a transformative experience that stays with them even after they leave.

“It’s a new kind of community theatre where people are both spectators, watching the events in the desert unfold, and performers creating art,” she explains.

Ramey’s research also examines the cultural and economic impacts of the project. Dozens of businesses and organizations have been created out of Burning Man, including Black Rock Solar, Black Rock Arts Foundation and Burners Without Borders.

“Performance shapes culture,” says Ramey. “Burning Man is a performance of an idealistic community. To study the event as a new kind of American theatre is to think critically about our culture and how we envision the future of our society.”

—Kristin Luciani, ’09