What is Applied Theatre?

Applied Theatre

Applied theatre refers to the use of theatrical forms in non-traditional theatre spaces to explore issues of interest and concern to communities. It is used extensively in countering racism, AIDS awareness campaigns, gender equity issues, anti-homophobia campaigns[1] and in many health promotion arenas. In New Zealand it has been used specifically within the Like Minds Like Mine campaign[2], the Office of the Race Relations Conciliator[3], the Department of Child Youth and Family[4] and the Ministry of Social Development. International research has validated the effectiveness of applied theatre techniques in shifting attitudes and behaviours.[5] [6]

Applied theatre uses the elements of theatre performance to structure participatory theatre experiences for people. It eschews both functional role plays and simulations and also drama therapy to use theatre as a democratic process for the sharing of stories in safe and structured processes.

Applied theatre processes work to:

  • Engage students and teachers in meaningful dialogue about the issues under discussion;
  • Facilitate a safe environment whereby students can engage both cognitively and affectively with the material;
  • Provide a stimulus for an ongoing exploration of the issue rather than a one-off hit (and miss);
  • Provide fully interactive theatre processes that engage students in theatre making themselves.

[1] O’Toole, J & Lepp, M. (Eds). (2000). Drama For Life: Stories of Adult Learning and Empowerment. Brisbane: Playlab Press.

[2] O’Connor, P (2003) ibid

[3] O’Connor, P. (2000). Rethinking Race Relations. In O’Toole, J. & Lepp, M. (Eds). Drama for Life: Stories of Adult Learning and Empowerment: Brisbane: Playlab Press.

[4] O’Connor, P, B O’Connor and M Welsh-Morris (2006). “Making the everyday extraordinary: a theatre in education project to prevent child abuse, neglect and family violence” In Research in Drama Education, Vol 11, No 2, June 2006, pp235-245.

[5] Ackroyd, J (2000) Literacy Alive! Drama projects for literacy learning. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

[6] Heikkinen, Hannu (ed) (2003) Special Interest Fields of Drama, Theatre and Education: The IDEA Dialogues. Sweden: University of Jyvaskyla.