Main Activity: Your Social Justice Opera 

GOAL: Participants will pick a social justice issue that is important to them and consider how they could invoke social action through creating an opera or other style of performance. Participants will be encouraged to explore the idea that the performing arts can be used to inspire real change when reflecting on current social climates. 

PROMPT: Opera has been used in the past, and is still used now to address social justice issues and inspire revolutions or social action. How can we ensure that performing arts continue to serve the purpose of invoking positive change and uplifting communities? 

What is a social justice issue that is important to you? You can think on a community level, what are issues that affect your specific neighbourhood, or on a global level. 

Examples of social justice issues can include: 

  • Prejudice based on: race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, education, class/wealth, or ability
  • Voting laws 
  • Policing laws 
  • Environment (climate change, deforestation, animal rights, fossil fuels…) 
  • Health care 
  • Education laws 
  • Labour laws 

Select one social justice issue that resonates with you. 

After you’ve selected a social justice issue that resonates with you, consider how you might create a performance piece (a play, opera, musical, or dance) based on that issue. Start by picking a story that later could be set to music. The purpose of this story should be to inspire an audience to commit to social action or want to learn more about the injustice. 

Would you create your own story based on current events in the news or in your own life? Is there an existing story that links thematically with your issue? Could you draw on an example from the past that still resonates with your issue today? 

Ex. Creating an opera about the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s as an allegory for the current Black Lives Matter movement. Using past events as metaphors for current issues is a way that opera composers got past  the censors while still inspiring audiences to relate to their present. Or would you prefer to speak more directly and create an opera about the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests? 

Or would you choose a fictional story that is a metaphor for real life events? 

Have you already seen a movie, tv show, play, or musical that deals either directly or allegorically with a social justice issue? (Instructor can provide examples) Would this story work well as an opera?