Applied Drama

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Applied Drama is an umbrella term for the use of drama practice in a specific social context.[1] The terms "Applied or Interactive Theatre" are also sometimes used.[2]

It is most often undertaken in spaces "not usually defined as theatre buildings, with participants who may or may not be skilled in theatre arts and to audiences who have a vested interest in the issue taken up by the performance or are members of the community addressed by the performance."[3]

Topics considered to be under the umbrella of Applied Drama include Drama Therapy, theatre for development, teacher in role, Drama in Education, Community Drama, and Drama in Healthcare (such as Clown Care).

History of the term[edit]

Fields associated with Applied Drama[edit]

Drama therapy[edit]

Main article: Drama therapy

Drama therapy is the use of Applied Drama techniques to facilitate personal growth and promote mental health.[4]

Often Applied Drama and Drama therapy looks similar; for instance, some practitioners in both use theatrical techniques influenced by Augusto Boal and playback theatre in their work.[citation needed] Drama therapists, however, are trained in psychology and specific therapeutic interventions involving theatre processes and products, while in the field of Applied Drama, practitioners are usually trained as artists and theatre-makers who also learn to apply their knowledge of theatre and performance to different community and participatory settings.[citation needed] Therefore whilst applied theater may become therapeutic to the person involved, it is not intentional and not the goal, just a benefit that may occur.[citation needed]

Theatre for Development[edit]

Theatre for Development uses Applied Drama techniques to facilitate development in less developed countries.[5] and in particular the work of applied theatre practitioners in disadvataged communities in the global south. [6]

Teacher in role[edit]

Main article: Teacher in role

Teacher in role is when a teacher adopts a character related to the subject they wish to teach. A teacher might for example take the role of Thomas Jefferson in an American History class.[citation needed]

Playback Theatre[edit]

Main article: Playback Theatre

Playback Theatre is an original form of improvisational theatre in which audience or group members tell stories from their lives and watch them enacted on the spot. Playback Theatre is used in a broad range of settings, in addition to theatres and community centres where performances take place for the general public.

Playback theatre is used in schools, private sector organizations, nonprofit organizations, prisons, hospice centres, day treatment centres, at conferences of all kinds, and colleges and universities. Playback theatre has also been used in transitional justice, human rights, refugees and immigrants, disaster recovery, climate change, birthdays and weddings, and conferences. Playback theatre is also used in conjunction with Narrative Therapy[7]

Drama in Education[edit]

Drama in Education can allow students to develop an understanding of themselves and others.[8] Kathleen Galllagher has argued that 'What is clear is that there is no correct pedagogical model on offer for drama education. [...] In theatre pedagogy, we not only endow experience with meaning, but we are - as players - invited to make manifest our own subjectivities in the world evoked through character and play, a world laden with metaphor and nuance, a world where relationship to other and self-spectatorship are in dynamic and unrelenting interaction.'[9]

Theatre in Education[edit]

Theatre in Education is a method that aims to encourage participation in projects that act as a medium of learning or as a vehicle of social change. It started in the Belgrade Theatre in 1965.[10][11] The method resulted from practitioners rejecting the values of both commercial theatre and traditional education. The initial focus was to gain the engagement of young people in such projects. There was also a clear motive to move away from mainstream theatre practices and employ radical, new devising techniques.[12]

Applied Film[edit]

Applied Film combines the techniques associated with Applied Drama with video technology.[13] See also Participatory Video and Community film.

Drama in Healthcare[edit]

Drama in healthcare is drama created in medical contexts, often with the intention of rehabilitation.[14]

Prison Theatre[edit]

Prison theatre is drama involving the participation of prisoners often with the objective of education or rehabilitation. This can either take the form of traditional theatre by creating a play or with a more modern technique of interactive workshops.[15]

Applied Puppetry[edit]

Applied Puppetry uses the techniques of applied drama and combines them with puppetry.[16]


Sociodrama is J.L. Moreno's term for the application of psychodrama techniques to group, community, or organizational situations.


Psychodrama methods are in use throughout the world and with a variety of personal, interpersonal and social problems.

Boal Techniques[edit]

The writings and workshops of Augusto Boal have influenced many theatre makers and social change organizations around the world.

Radical Theatre[edit]

Radical theatre aims to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions. Throughout the 20th-Century, avant-garde theatre has been concerned with politics or activism in one way or another.


Most mainstream theatre is focused on the interpretation of a pre-written script, whereas applied drama is often more focused on the creation and interpretation of a theatre piece which may or may not be formally scripted.[17]

There is a debate, therefore about the relationship between instrumentalism and artistry across the field of applied drama.[18][19] Some practitioners choose to focus primarily on improvisation, whereas others might introduce a range of artistic practices, such as developing scripted plays with prisoners[20] and devised performance with children with disabilities,[21] or apply indigenous forms of cultural performance to address issues of local concern or create social cohesion, sometimes combined with new forms of digital communication.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Taylor, Phillip (February 2006). "Applied Theatre/Drama: an e-debate in 2004". Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance j 11 (1): 90–95. doi:10.1080/13569780500437960. 
  2. ^ Sant, Toni (22 Sep 2006). "The Applied and Interactive Theatre Guide". 
  3. ^ Applied Theatre, International Case Studies and Challenges for Practice", Edited by Monica Prendergast and Juliana Saxton, Intellect Publishers, Briston, UK, 2009, pg 6
  4. ^ Loretta Gallo-Lopez, Lawrence C. C. Rubin -Play-Based Interventions for Children and Adolescents on the ... 2012- Page 100 "An overview of drama therapy is provided next, along with support for the use of drama therapy with children with ASd."
  5. ^ Kabaso, Sydney (2013). Theater for Development in Zambia. Zambia: Kabsy Digital Media. p. 20. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Playback theatre and narrative therapy: introducing a new model". Taylor & Francis Group. Retrieved 7 Oct 2014. Article elaborates how such integration (Playback theatre with Narrative Therapy) can be achieved and how it can contribute to the process of narrative re-authoring. 
  8. ^ "The Arts, The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8" (PDF). Ontario Ministry of Education and Training. p. 5. Retrieved 20 May 2013. Education in the arts is essential to students’ intellectual, social, physical, and emotional growth. 
  9. ^ See 'Emergent Conceptions in Theatre Pedagogy and Production' in How Theatre Education: Convergences and Counterpoints 3-13, pp. 12-13.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Nicholson, Helen (2009). Theatre & Education. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-230-21857-4. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Warren, Bernie. Using the Creative Arts in Therapy and Healthcare: A Practical Introduction. Routledge. p. 115. 
  15. ^ Weaver, Lois (2009). "Chapter 8: Doing Time". In Prentki, T and Preston, S. The Applied Theatre Reader. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 55–61. ISBN 978-0-415-42887-3. 
  16. ^ Marshall, Karrie. "Puppetry in Dementia Care". Jessica Kingsley Publishers. p. 30. 
  17. ^ Monica Prendergast & Juliana Saxton, ed. (2009). Applied Theatre, International Case Studies and Challenges for Practice. Briston, UK: Intellect Publishers. p. 7. Traditional mainstream theatre is most often centered in the interpretation of a pre-written script, applied theatre, in contrast, involves both the generation and the interpretation of a theatre piece that in performance may or may not be scripted in the traditional manner 
  18. ^ Nicholson, Helen, Applied Drama: The Gift of Theatre, Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke, UK, 2005
  19. ^ Thompson, James. Performance affects: applied theatre and the end of effect Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010
  20. ^ retrieved 30 November 2011
  21. ^ 30 November 2011
  22. ^ See, for example,, retrieved 30 November 2011

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]