Applied Drama

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Applied Drama, also known as Applied Theatre, Interactive Theatre[1] or Applied Drama and Theatre (ADT) is an umbrella term for the use of drama practice in an educational, community or therapeutic context.[2] It is often done in non-theatrical spaces, with participants who do consider themselves to be artists.

There are several forms and practices considered to be under the umbrella of Applied Drama.

History and definition[edit]

Applied Drama is a term that has been contested[by whom?], gaining popularity in towards the end of the 20th century to describe drama practice in an educational, community or therapeutic context.

James Thompson states that "Applied theatre is a participatory theatre created by people who would not usually make theatre. It is, I would hope, a practice by, with and for the excluded and marginalised." [3]

Judith Ackyroyd confirms the inclusion of both of these elements in ADT: "I have identified two features which I believe to be central to our understanding of applied theatre; an intention to generate change (of awareness, attitude, behaviour, etc), and the participation of the audience."[4]

Applied drama can be either scripted or unscripted.[5] Some practitioners focus primarily on improvisation, whereas others introduce a range of artistic practices, such as developing scripted plays,[6] devised performances,[7] or indigenous forms of cultural performance, sometimes combined with new forms of digital communication.[8]

Fields associated with applied drama[edit]

Playback Theatre[edit]

Main article: Playback Theatre

Playback Theatre involves audience or group members telling stories from their lives and viewing them as enacted by actors improvising. It can also be used in conjunction with Narrative Therapy.[9]

Drama in Health Education[edit]

Drama in healthcare is drama created in medical contexts, often with the intention of rehabilitation.[10]

This form of Applied Drama focuses on using theatre to educate, engage, and stimulate healing in medical professionals, patients, and the general public. Often theatre is used to educate people on important health issues such as healthy eating, grief and loss, exercise, and sexual assault prevention. Examples include using actors to role-play health ailments in order to train healthcare professionals, performing plays focused on primary prevention, and facilitating drama workshops for patients.[5]

Drama Therapy[edit]

Main article: Drama therapy

Drama therapy is the use of Applied Drama techniques to facilitate personal growth and promote mental health.[11]

Drama therapy is rooted in a clinical practice, facilitated by licensed clinicians, that stimulates language, cognitive development and builds resilience.[12]

Theatre for Development[edit]

Theatre for Development uses Applied Drama techniques to facilitate development in less developed countries.[13]

Drama in Education[edit]

Drama in Education can allow students to develop an understanding of themselves and others.[14] 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.'[15]

Theatre in Education[edit]

Main article: Theatre in education

Theatre in education (TIE) originated in Britain in the mid-1960s. Monica Prendergast and Juliana Saxton cite TIE as "one of the two historic roots of applied theatre practice."[5] TIE typically includes a theatre company performing in an educational setting (i.e. a school) for youth, including interactive and performative moments.

Practitioner Lynn Hoare defines TIE as a combination of "theatrical elements with interactive moments in which audience participants (in or out of role) work with actor-teachers towards an educational or social goal, using the tools of theatre in service of this goal."[16]

Scholar Helen Nicholson notes that this work "involves professional theatre-makers working with young people in all kinds of educational settings and learning environments, including schools, hospitals, theaters, museums and heritage sites."[17]

TIE seeks to educate young people in issues that are relevant to both them and their communities, for example: bullying, dating violence, environmental preservation, and peer conflict resolution. "TIE companies have always been among the most socially conscious of theatre groups, consistently choosing to examine issues they believe to be of direct relevance to the lives of the children with whom they work."[18]

"Theatre for Dialogue" (TFD) is a more recent term describing a model that was created specifically for the University of Texas at Austin campus community which pulls methods and theory from a variety of applied theatre practices such as TO and TIE. In her thesis, Spring Snyder explains that "Theatre For Dialogue performances explore the intersection between theatre and education as a way to investigate, reflect, provoke dialogue and serve as a rehearsal for reality without asking participants to share their own personal experiences. Although some of the Theatre For Dialogue’s roots originate from an adapted form of Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed’s forum structure, it is Theatre in Education (TIE) that more closely aligns with TFD."[19]

Prison Theatre[edit]

In prison theatre, practitioners engage offenders in correctional facilities, jails, prisons, and detention centers in exploring drama work often with the objective of education or rehabilitation.[20]

Examples include Wabash Valley Correctional Facility’s Shakespeare in Shackles where maximum security prisoners learn about and perform Shakespeare. The University of Texas’ Center for Women and Gender Studies’ Performing Justice Project works with incarcerated female youth to learn about gender and racial justice while devising a play based on the youth’s unique experiences.[21]

Theatre of the Oppressed[edit]

The Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) describes theatrical forms that the Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal first developed in the 1960s, initially in Brazil and later in Europe. Boal's techniques aim to use theatre as means of promoting social and political change through allowing the audience to take an active role in the creation of the show. Theatre of the Oppressed can include aspects of Forum Theatre, Invisible Theatre, Legislative Theatre and Image Theatre.

Museum Theatre[edit]

Main article: Museum theatre

Museum theatre aims to use theatrical techniques to add emotion and value to the museum experience.[22] It is typically more common in cultural institutions like heritage sites, history museums, and science and industry museums.[23][24] As with the other forms of applied drama, it can involve a variety of theatrical techniques.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sant, Toni (22 Sep 2006). "The Applied and Interactive Theatre Guide". 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Thompson, James (2008). Applied Theatre: Bewilderment and Beyond. Oxford: Peter Lang. p. 15. 
  4. ^ Ackroyd, Judith (2000). "Applied Theatre: Problems and Possibilities". Applied Theatre Researcher. 
  5. ^ a b c Monica Prendergast & Juliana Saxton, ed. (2009). Applied Theatre, International Case Studies and Challenges for Practice. Briston, UK: Intellect Publishers. p. 7. 
  6. ^ retrieved 30 November 2011
  7. ^ 30 November 2011
  8. ^ See, for example,, retrieved 30 November 2011
  9. ^ "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. 
  10. ^ Warren, Bernie. Using the Creative Arts in Therapy and Healthcare: A Practical Introduction. Routledge. p. 115. 
  11. ^ 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."
  12. ^ Weber, Anna Marie; Haen, Craig (2005). Clinical Applications of Drama Therapy in Child and Adolescent Treatment. New York: Brunner-Routledge. 
  13. ^ Kabaso, Sydney (2013). Theater for Development in Zambia. Zambia: Kabsy Digital Media. p. 20. 
  14. ^ "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. 
  15. ^ See 'Emergent Conceptions in Theatre Pedagogy and Production' in How Theatre Education: Convergences and Counterpoints 3-13, pp. 12-13.
  16. ^ Hoare, Lynn. Considering the Form: Fundamental Factors in Devising for Theatre-In-Education. Thesis. University of Texas at Austin. n.p. Print.
  17. ^ Nicholson, Helen, Applied Drama: The Gift of Theatre, Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke, UK, 2005
  18. ^ Jackson, Anthony, and Chris Vine. Learning through Theatre: The Changing Face of Theatre in Education. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.
  19. ^ Snyder, Spring. A Transformative Classroom Experience: Exploring Campus Mental Health through Theatre For Dialogue. Thesis. University of Texas at Austin. 2015. Print.
  20. ^ Shailor, Jonathan (2010). Performing New Lives: Prison Theatre. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. In the prison setting, as elsewhere, the needs that theatre addresses are those of self-expression and identity, freedom (of the imagination), creativity, and community. 
  21. ^ Thompson, James (1999). Drama Workshops for Anger Management and Offending Behaviour. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 
  22. ^ a b "IMTAL | IMTAL". Retrieved 2015-06-14. 
  23. ^ Catherine Hughes. Museum theatre: Communicating with visitors through drama. Heinemann Drama, 1998.
  24. ^ Genshaft, Lindsay Michelle. "Bridging theatre and visual art: the role of an applied theatre practitioner in a fine art museum." (2011).

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]