Kirsty Sedgman, 15 January 2017

Called by: Kirsty Sedgman on behalf of The Society for Theatre Research.

Are we too in love with theatre to see it clearly?

This was the key provocation we reached during our session, which explored the

relationship between research and making within the arts. What can research give to

practice? And what can practice offer research?

We discussed the importance of recognising that there are different ways of knowing.

We can study a subject or theme from varying angles and in different ways. Research

can be a cognitive process or an embodied experience. Research can take place both

inside and outside of academic spaces, and can be both part of and separate from

practice. Research can take place AS practice, too.

However, we also identified a fundamental difficulty when it comes to sustaining and

disseminating knowledge. What happens to the things we've learned once the project

itself has ended? The cultural industries need to pay closer attention to the critical

discourses already in circulation. Researchers find things out during the process of

studying; these findings have value; yet too often, research and practice do not speak

to each other as effectively as we might wish. We all need to find better ways of

sharing learned information between ourselves (that is to say, outside discussions with

friends, or our annual forays into D&D). Developing a shared set of critical

understandings is the only way we can avoid starting from scratch each time - having

the same earnestly circular conversations with people who think like us.

This is of urgent significance. We may believe that theatre has an innate ability to

intervene in systemic issues - to change the world through its sense of communitas, its

ethical didacticism, its invitations to engage in civic participation. But what if the only

people who believe in this are those who already share our values? Which returned us

to the provocation that opened this report. We also need to have people with the ability

to take a step back and study theatre from alternative subject positions. If we're to

prevent theatre from becoming politically neutered, we need to understand how

performance works from outside the creative framework AS WELL AS from inside.


impact, understanding, research, Value, expertise, academia, value, Research