What is Applied Theatre

The links between social change and applied theatre and relevant courses offered at the University of Auckland.

Applied theatre is generally accepted as an umbrella term, embracing a wide range of theatre practices that share an intentionality to provoke or shape social change, including: theatre in education, theatre for development, youth theatre, disability theatre, museum theatre, reminiscence theatre and prison theatre.

Applied theatre has developed alongside progressive radical people’s movements in various places around the world. In many cases, the left-leaning politics of these antecedent movements has shaped both the aesthetic and pedagogic intents of applied theatre practice.

Central to these theatrical movements has been the development of new sets of relationships between actors and the audience. The onus of a participatory theatre is on creating actors not for the stage but actors for, on and with the world.

Much applied theatre continues to derive its aesthetic from forms of theatre and performance that challenge or subvert political and social hegemonies. Applied theatre can be seen as part of a wider theatre movement that enables, as Gatti has argued, ‘the disinherited classes to create a theatre that reflected their concerns, not through performances for them but with them’ (cited in Prendergast & Saxton, 2009: 10).

Courses in Applied Theatre

EDUC 737: Special Topic: Arts in Communities: Politics of Participation

This course will enable you to develop your understanding and practice, as someone interested in the potential of the arts to achieve both artistic and social aims. Through reflective practice and critical analysis you will examine a range of creative processes, which may include projects within justice, development, health and youth settings, or in specific sites such as museums. These practices will be analysed in relation to key political and aesthetic debates, with a particular focusing on forms of participation.

EDUC 756 Special Topic: Applied Theatre: Performance of Hope

In this course you will experience and critically examine theatre practices that address significant social issues. This will involve engaging practically with approaches to applying theatre in a range of settings, such as prisons, trauma zones, and development contexts, and in response to particular environmental or social concerns. You will examine case studies of practice from Aotearoa and internationally, which illustrate some of the important ethical, political, educational and artistic possibilities and problems inherent in this field. This course is aimed at theatre makers, artists, educators, social workers, youth workers and other professionals who are interested in new ways to explore issues with groups and communities.

This course can be taken as part of a Postgraduate Certificate in the area of Education and Social Change.