By Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor Published Mar 30, 2012 at 1:58 PM

Maybe the presidential candidates should commission musicals to be written about them. A new study reveals that attitudinal change about social and cultural issues can occur in audiences after they see a show.

The study centers on Door County's American Folklore Theatre and its production of "Guys and Does," an original spoofy comedy about Wisconsin deer hunting. The plot includes a character who follows hunting rules and another who flouts them.

While "Guys and Does" does not promote hunting, it contains positive arguments for it.

The show was co-written by American Folklore Theatre's Frederick Heide, who is a psychologist as well as an entertainer. He surveyed 171 persons who attended "Guys and Does" about their attitudes toward hunting.

An eight-item hunting attitude scale and an instrument assessing audience engagement were used. Natalie Porter and Paul Saito of Alliant International University in San Francisco assisted with the research.

The study revealed those surveyed viewed hunting in a more favorable light after seeing the musical. They were less likely to think of hunting as cruel and more likely to believe it had cultural values worth preserving.

"We often think of musicals as lightweight," Heide says. "But they may also be a promising method for attitude change."

Details of the study have been published in the American Psychological Association journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and Arts.

Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor

Damien has been around so long, he was at Summerfest the night George Carlin was arrested for speaking the seven dirty words you can't say on TV. He was also at the Uptown Theatre the night Bruce Springsteen's first Milwaukee concert was interrupted for three hours by a bomb scare. Damien was reviewing the concert for the Milwaukee Journal. He wrote for the Journal and Journal Sentinel for 37 years, the last 29 as theater critic.

During those years, Damien served two terms on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, a term on the board of the association's foundation, and he studied the Latinization of American culture in a University of Southern California fellowship program. Damien also hosted his own arts radio program, "Milwaukee Presents with Damien Jaques," on WHAD for eight years.

Travel, books and, not surprisingly, theater top the list of Damien's interests. A news junkie, he is particularly plugged into politics and international affairs, but he also closely follows the Brewers, Packers and Marquette baskeball. Damien lives downtown, within easy walking distance of most of the theaters he attends.