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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Issue based theatre - an example of looking at literature for Module 2 & Module 3

I am not a theatre professional - so address the questions of issue based theatre as an arts researcher and an audience.

I have booked some theatre tickets to see 'One Hour Eighteen Minutes' at the New Diorama Theatre.

The play is based on a true story about corruption and the death of the lawyer who became the  'whistleblower' and tried to testify to the crimes. The play is said to chronicle the last hour of the man's life - so looks like it could be pretty grim in terms of viewing - and acting. It is related to the theatre company called Sputnik Theatre and is directed by Noah Birksted-Breen.

As some of the groups/sigs have been discussing issues based theatre... Here is an example showing in London - I am set to see later this month- it has a short run. I don't know what role Wendy Nottingham plays...

Okay - so I am going to see this play and wanted to think about issue-based theatre - so I used the Summon facility of the Library to search the key words 'issue based theatre' after signing in on the MyUniHub. I also ticked the boxes to the left to say I want journal articles with full-text - no newspapers- and in theater.

Using the Harvard style - one of the articles I came up with was:

Prendergast, Monica (2011) 'Applied Theatre and/as Activism', Canadian Theatre Review, 147: 18-23, Toronto: University of Toronto Press

What is it about?  - it says this in the Introduction - so setting out the context.

"Applied theatre is becoming recognized worldwide as a field of theatre that encompasses a range of practices, all of which are carried out in non-theatrical or extra-theatrical settings. While Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed may seem quite dissimilar to Pam Schweitzer’s Reminiscence Theatre, or to Museum Theatre, Popular Theatre, or Theatre in Education, all of these applied theatre forms require trained facilitators with a broad set of skills in theatre performance, direction, and design as well as in facilitation, collective creation, and pedagogy" (p. 18).

So what would the overall inquiry question be?

Pendergt tells us - the University of Victoria is (UVic)

"So, if UVic’s pro- gram is most interested in educational applications of applied theatre, it becomes a ques- tion whether or not its teaching philosophy carries any overt or subtle activist agendas. It is this topic—the relationship, the tension between applied theatre practice and social activism" (p. 18).

The article then describes interviews undertaken with eight present and former faculty members and graduate students. 

1. What is social activism in your view?
2. How do you see the relationship between your training 
and practice in applied theatre and social activism?
3. What are the responsibilities and ethics of taking a group of participants in a more activist-oriented direction?
4. Why is it important/not important for us to consider 
our work in applied theatre as a form of activism?

Then Pendergast tells us about his process of using practitioner research and how he will discuss the data.

"I have chosen to render these interview transcripts in monologue form, as I believe it is useful to see each speaker as an individual. In addition, this process closely mirrors Applied Theatre practice, which involves the translation of interviews into dramatic texts of various kinds (including scenes and monologues). My own work in arts-based and practice-based research presses me to consider not only the what, but also the how of representation" (p. 19).

Then Pendergast tells us the data.

Then she concludes with a conclusion (quite brief ) summarising the findings.

"As an Applied Theatre practitioner myself, what strikes me most after transcribing and rereading these interview monologues is the sense of a lack of separation between classroom and community as experienced and expressed by interviewees. All subjects spoke about the topic of activism (however de- fined) as completely interwoven with their community-based practice, and inseparable from the processes and pedagogies involved in training. In UVic’s Applied Theatre program, students take their work out into the community in every course from second through fourth year. Much of the focus in the classroom/studio is on preparing for the task of working with community members and/or groups. In these ways, activism becomes an integral part of the teaching of Applied Theatre as an interventionist theatre practice, albeit ever-mindful of the ethical and social responsibilities necessary to work in wholly reciprocal, non-didactic, and non-propagandistic ways with community collaborators. Whether the focus is educational, interventionist, or revolutionary, in Applied Theatre as practiced at UVic, theatre is an efficacious means for many kinds of participant-initiated activism, both in the classroom and beyond" (p. 23).

So in terms of literature - this article discusses how applied theatre practice is viewed in this theatre programme. while the terms used are 'applied theatre' there is a link with the 'issue-based' theatre practice in the UK. there is a social agenda within the community begin developed within the practice that the practitioners in the study discussed (ex. ex. ex) and an application of the craft of theatre (ex. ex. ex.)  Focusing on one of the participants - Lauren Jerke used ideas from the Boal Image Theatre to develop work with psychiatric patients. I would have liked a bit more data on this project - although she described a 'rocky start' that led to a focused and successful performance that I take it included the patients. While using theatre in heath education has been growing in recent years - I would want to find other sources to compare this to in England.

I thought this might help people think about their planning and their Module 3 Critical Review and artefact...


  1. Great post Paula,

    I'm going to flag this to Jojo as it's just the thing she is looking for.


  2. Thanks Ahmet - yes did this on the go will add a bit to blog.

  3. Hi Ahmet & Paula

    This article is so precious and give me an insight that i have been looking for but havent been able to find.

    So will follow the steps to get this.

    For my own personal reflection this quote stood out

    "translation of interviews into dramatic texts of various kinds "

    How far will a director go to to change real interviews and testermonies into dramatic texts?