Politics, Performing Arts Take on HB 2

Gray outline of the state of North Carolina with white text overlayed with the text "House Bill 2"

Dr. Elizabeth Kusko, professor of political science, is partnering with Amy White, professor of the musical theater department, to conduct research on the state’s well known, yet controversial, House Bill 2 (HB2).
This research highlights how politics and the performing arts can fuse together to bring awareness to this compelling topic.
Kusko’s primary focus is American politics and policy and how it reflects on the American people. She has had many articles published over the years that have ranged in topics from foreign policy to American obesity. Now she and White are trying to find ways to bring awareness to HB2 in a way that people will find interesting.
“I like this because it’s interdisciplinary to nature,”  said Kusko. “We get to explore the relationship between the performing arts and government.”
Kusko also mentioned that she has always been interested in the arts and she thinks that combining the arts with political science is relevant to today’s society.

Photo by Malik Smith
Photo by Malik Smith

In contrast, White has spent most of her life as a professional actor, producer, choreographer, and director in New York City and has presented her research all over the East Coast.
She is now an Assistant Professor of Musical Theater here at WPU and decided to join Kusko in this research because of her interest in the topic.
She has been working on a theater production called the Laramie Project, in an effort to “open the eyes” of people of importance here in the Raleigh area. In addition, she believes that theater can be another form of peaceful protest.
“Dr. Kusko and I see issues here on campus amongst the student body,” White said. “People are nervous to speak out about issues such as HB2 or Black Lives Matter and it’s just sad.”
Their research is still at the beginning stages but they both feel very hopeful and are expecting great things from it.
Kusko also pointed out that during the 1990’s, the performing arts had an impact on the AIDS Crisis. During this time period, AIDS was seen as the “gay man’s disease” and was looked at negatively; moreover, politicians did nothing to help the matter.
A Broadway play called the Normal Heart transformed the minds of many people and changed the outlook of the disease and measures were then taken within politics to help it.
“The performing arts has the capability to pursue the public, and that’s what Amy and I are looking at with HB2,” Kusko mentioned.
They are both excited and honored to be presenting their findings at a conference in Paris, France in June of 2017.

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