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Applied Drama (AD)

“The theatre is applied, because it becomes a medium for action, for reflection, for transformation – a theatre in which new modes of being can be encountered and new possibilities for humankind can be imagined.” (Taylor, 2003).

Applied Drama encompasses any type of drama that has a social, transformative context.While unconventional, it is a type of theatre that is closer to communities. It uses empow- erment tools that allow participants to feel safe around one another, and assist a group to explore a problem or situation through the medium of unscripted drama. These tools include improvisation, process drama/role-playing, puppetry, mime, movement techniques, and storytelling. All of the tools can be employed to create an imaginative, interactive environmental education, in an unscripted, open-ended manner. Yet another form of Applied Drama is called Drama in

Community.Whether in neighbourhoods, farmer’s markets, community centres, schools or cooperatives, Drama in Community involves educational campaigns or a collective process involving social dialogue on issues such as food and water security.While the former requires a concerted effort on behalf of community members, the latter is a much more informal workshop gathering on a one-time basis or as part of a series. Either way, Drama in Community involves amateur participants, locations, and types of performances that are much more diverse than other theatrical forms. (See Cohen- Cruz’s Local Acts in the Resources for more information.)

Applied Drama in Action

The Young Eco-Thespians is a spring/summer community initiative engaged in Drama in Community. As its facilitator,

puppeteer and playwright, I am often amazed by the power of community that is created from this simple type of theatre. An age old mode of creative expression, puppetry excites and entices everyone. Touring farmer’s markets, arts centres, day camps, and ecology festivals, our radical veggie puppets perform a comedic awareness-raising play about genetically- modified organisms (GMO). Behind a puppet stage made of retrofitted bed frames and discarded linens, a group of community members, all 30 years of age or younger, have been transformed into puppeteers. The goal of our play is to educate, make people laugh and to develop a sense of com- munity. Kids aged 2-13 are our main audiences. Upon the show’s completion, people mingle and children ask questions. It’s as though something’s shifted. Among spectators and performers, a sense of community establishes itself as we engage in discussion about the puppets and the threat posed by GMO’s. But how do we invoke the power of community and such

transformation? In the case of the Young Eco-Thespians, I applied for community grants and sought volunteer partici- pants through call-outs to community centres, youth centres, non-profit websites and community newspapers. Weekend visioning sessions were held that involved improvisation exercises and discussions of focus issues. Brainstorming sessions allowed young community members to decide on the outcomes and the venues. Theatre in Education helped us understand that educa-

tional eco-drama could consist of one act plays on a variety of environmental issues. Drawing on the participating prac- tices of Drama in Community, we created talk-back sessions after each show. Despite its onerous connotations, we found community collaboration to be quite fun and easy, once we took the initiative to create it.


Young Eco-Thespians, Vancouver, British Columbia

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