Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 April 2016
Direct and bloody violence has a long history on stage. In recent years, a different mode of violence can be distinguished in the work of prominent American playwrights – less direct than indirect, more covert than overt, and likely to affect a group rather than individuals. In this article Russell Vandenbroucke applies concepts from Norwegian sociologist and Peace Studies scholar Johan Galtung to examine structural and cultural violence in Suzan-Lori Parks's Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2, & 3) and traces similar representations of violence in Anna Deavere Smith's Fires in the Mirror, Tony Kushner's Angels in America, Lynn Nottage's Ruined, Ayad Aktar's Disgraced, The Laramie Project by Moisés Kauffman and the Tectonic Theater Project, and Tim Robbins's adaptation of Dead Man Walking by Sr Helen Prejean. These writers have in common the status of traditional outsiders – black, female, gay, Muslim – and this informs their engagement in the social and political vitality of the stage. The shift in focus of these plays from direct violence echoes observations in Steven Pinker's recent The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Russell Vandenbroucke is Professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Louisville and Director of its Peace, Justice, and Conflict Transformation programme. He previously served as Artistic Director of Chicago's Northlight Theatre. His publications include Truths the Hand Can Touch: the Theatre of Athol Fugard and numerous articles on South African theatre.