Applied Theatre - How do we justify it?

Chris BB, 11 July 2012

Report written by: Christopher

Also attended by: Phelim

What are we talking about? Applied Theatre?

-Theatre of the Oppressed, Forum Theatre, Worldwork et al.

-Theatre in Education (TIE)

-Theatre for Development (TfD)


-Playback Theatre


Who are we justifying it to?




Justifying applied theatre is, in some ways, very similar to justifying the value of the arts in general. As Applied Theatre relates to the challenging of personal attitudes (much like theatre production is intended to do) - it is particularly hard to measure.

Where it differs is that Applied Theatre is a modern innovation which very few people know about.

But why do we necessarily need to justify it? For one thing, funders often need hard evidence of the projects' intended and actual successes. And participants sometimes question the value of the work they are doing. With participants we are able to develop a degree of trust - asking them to trust the process. With funders, this is clearly more difficult.

Some suggestions:

-General observations: it is a constructive use of time keeping (potentially vulnerable) participants engaged, it keeps a space open for debate in an environment in which the consequences of any action do not hold any consequences (it is suspended, much like a theatre production, in time and space), it allows participants an opportunity to explore a multitude of feelings and emotions in snapshot (it is like exploring human emotions in a laboratory setting)

-Qualitative (though admittedly subjective accounts): examples include personal conversations with participants afterwards

-Looking at the methodology employed by the EU DICE report (Drama Improves Key Competencies in Education): they developed a methodology to examine the benefits of drama to school students largely based on questionnaire data (baseline: before the programme, and afterwards)

-Taking an opposite approach: “If we didn't do this project then this would / wouldn't happen”

-Or we DON'T JUSTIFY IT AT ALL, just let it be. Persevere at the start and let the value of it become apparent as time goes on.

Interesting point about the importance of theatre as a whole.

In a dictatorship, why is making theatre such a big deal? One of the first things that gets closed down? Clearly it's recognised that theatre accesses something that other media cannot.

-Links somewhat to the work of Belarus Free Theatre.


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