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Applied Theatre

Bewilderment and Beyond


James Thompson

Applied Theatre: Bewilderment and Beyond explores the practice of theatre in communities and social institutions with marginalised groups. It shifts between contexts and countries to examine different ways that theatre has been applied to a wide range of social issues. Theatre projects in Brazil, Burkina Faso, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom are analysed to argue for a complex and questioning view of the practice. Initiatives in prisons, developing countries, war situations and participatory research projects become the sites to interrogate the claims that applied theatre can be a theatre for social change.
Many practitioners and researchers have witnessed powerful applied theatre projects but nonetheless struggled to articulate the reasons for the projects’ success. This book uses the questions inspired by that perplexity to create a case for applied theatre as a major area of contemporary theatre practice.


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Chapter 1 - On the Matter of Action 27


Chapter One On the Matter of Action A mind or consciousness could be seen not as an atomistic singularity but as interwoven within a broader social or cultural or contextual field that includes others. In such a case, an ‘I’ would be more fuzzy and dif fused, less coterminous with the body, more intermeshed within its context, more interdependent. We would talk about selves, actions, and, even, thoughts as less exclusively individual and more inclusively relational, webbed, arrayed, archaeological. — Scheurich, 1997, p. 165 The [Kathakali] training involves learning new ways of speaking, gestur- ing, moving. Maybe even new ways of thinking and feeling. New for the trainee, but well known in the tradition of kathakali, ballet, and noh. As in initiation rites the mind and body of each performer are returned toward a state of tabula rasa […] ready to be written on in the language of the form being learned. When finished with training, the performer can ‘speak’ noh, kathakali, or ballet: s/he is ‘incorporated’ into the tradition, initiated and made one with the body of the tradition. The violence of scarring or circumcision is absent – but deep, permanent psychological changes are wrought. A kathakali performer, a ballet dancer, a noh shite each have their genre-specific ways of moving, sounding, and, I would say, being: they are marked people. — Schechner, 1993, p. 257 Cognition […] allows us to re-enact, in symbolic form, the little dramatic performances we have selected from the behaviour of others. — Sheldon, 1995, p. 86 A pattern of...

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