ArtsPraxis Volume 6 Issue 1 has been published.

ArtsPraxis Volume 6, Issue 1 cover

Our contributions in this issue come from artists, educators, and activists—all working towards bringing light to dark places. We begin with two theoretical frameworks from different parts of the world; one at the start of her scholarly work and the other following a solid career of contributions to the field. Xiaojin Niu explores the interaction between theatre and modern power with an examination of sexuality study. Roger Wooster revisits an old question at a new time: whether we should draw a distinction between theatre-making and drama as a learning medium.

As applied theatre practitioners continue to engage in theatre practices with diverse populations, we have three contributions interrogating powerful topics. Jennifer Wong looks at the importance of being an outsider, pondering the strengths that come from this positionality; Sarah Woodland looks to aesthetics, navigating an approach to support incarcerated participants in truth-telling; and Julie Rada gains a deeper understanding of a familiar drama strategy, asking participants to witness each other while in prison.

The final sequence of articles takes a close look at how theatre educates. Rivka Rocchio recounts her time using drama to teach English in Samoa, revealing ways in which drama can level the playing field between insider and outsider. Mark Branner and Mike Poblete document successful iterations of theatre for babies and outline a list of characteristics for this emerging field. Manjima Chatterjee defines material theatre as an aesthetic experience that promotes democracy in the performance space. Finally, Jennifer Essex wrestles with two categories of audience participation in children’s interactive dance theatre: ‘interactors’ and ‘non-interactors,’ defining and problematizing each.

This issue of ArtsPraxis is available for download.

Editorial: A New Colossus by Jonathan Jones

The Interaction between Theatre and Modern Power with an Examination of Sexuality Study in Schooling by Xiaojin Niu

Exercising the Mind by Roger Wooster

Importance of the Outsider: Reflections from the Facilitator of a Community-Based Playbuilding Project by Jennifer Wong

Aesthetics of Truth-Telling: Intercultural Applied Theatre Praxis in an Australian Women’s Prison by Sarah Woodland

Being There…in Prison by Julie A. Rada

Breaking the Cultural Hierarchy: Using Drama to Teach English in Samoa by Rivka Rocchio

Getting Serious about Playful Play: Identifying Characteristics of Successful Theatre for Very Young Audiences by Mark Branner and Mike Poblete

Drama for Democracy: Material Theatre by Manjima Chatterjee

Co-operative Make-Believe as Practice in Children’s Interactive Dance Theatre by Jennifer Essex

ArtsPraxis, Volume 5 Issue 2

The cover image for Arts Praxis Volume 5 Issue 2, 2019, is from a keynote presentation in which the words "all theatre is political" were crossed out - in an attempt to provoke conversation, which is the shared aim of this issue.

ArtsPraxis Volume 5 Issue 2 has been published.

Last April, at the 15th annual Forum: Performance as Activism, I was heartened to meet practitioners, artists, educators and scholars from around the globe who were enthusiastically engaged in using the art form of theatre to address pressing social and cultural issues. This edition of ArtsPraxis includes fourteen inspiring and pertinent articles that report on activist theories and practices that have been initiated, explored and successfully implemented in communities and classrooms.

At the Forum, we asked, “How is activism defined or redefined in 2018?” Through panel discussions, workshops, performances and paper presentations we explored how activism can disrupt, subvert and transform dominant social and political narratives. More than sixty presenters from twelve different countries relayed inspirational and revelatory methods towards the goal of promoting enduring social change through aesthetic expression. In this global space of open dialogue and exchange, we, as activists learned about organizational methods, pedagogical tools, aesthetic devices that, in responding to the complexities of our time, push past boundaries and binaries to redefine cultural innovation.

I hope that you will be inspired by the following theories and practices offered in this volume, ranging from the metamodern to dialogical activism to personal resilience, and surrounded by artistic innovation.

This issue of ArtsPraxis is available for download.



Nancy Smithner


NYU Keynote



Deaf Talent: Richness within Our Stories by James W. Guido


Art, in all its many forms, has always given people the opportunity to express their inner thoughts and feelings. Art adapts to the person, and different people exploring the same material will lead to different artistic expressions of that material. As a person changes over time, art can change with them, allowing them to discover new ideas by letting their imagination run free. Theatre arts have always been a breeding ground for presenting new perspectives, since there are no set rules and anyone can present a story onstage. New ideas for presenting information are being discovered all the time, leading to a never-ending wellspring of ways to pass along knowledge. This paper advocates for providing artistic theatre opportunities for Deaf students and emerging theatre artists in order to increase access and representation, as well as promote mutual communication.


Ximonïk: The Unbound Performances of Maya Women’s Group Ajchowen



This article describes Ximonïk, an original play by the all-female Maya troupe Ajchowen which premiered in the U.S. at the 2018 NYU Educational Theatre Forum: Performance as Activism. This editorial traces the author’s relationship to Ajchowen, which led to their involvement in the Forum. Further, it contextualizes Ajchowen’s unique approach to performance as activism in Guatemala, examining the history of their company and their experiences as Maya actresses.


Hope with Dirty Hands: Community Theatre Participation as Activism in Everything is Possible



How might the forces at work upon artistic production, its contexts, and the circumstances of its making, exert dynamic influences on artistic processes and on participants engaged in them? Might they inspire participants to view themselves as activists? 

Everything is Possible, performed by 200 community actors, told the story of the suffragettes of York (UK). Created in 2017 in the aftermath of US and UK elections, it addressed issues of female enfranchisement, democratic engagement and violent protest, the concerns of 1913 resonating with and framed by the contemporary landscape. This paper considers the extent to which the making of theatre can foster a debate that is both internal as well as external; where the intended effect on an anticipated audience results also in unintended consequences in terms of participants, artists, makers and institutions. 

This paper considers the relationship between individual, community and institutional approaches to activism in pursuit of social change, examining the processes of practice by discussing the commissioning, development and writing of the play from the perspective of the playwright. Finally, it considers whether participation may became a form of activism in itself.


Energize, Resist, Re-Purpose: An American Theatre Responds



Curious Theatre Company, based in Denver, Colorado, is currently celebrating their 20th anniversary. As stated on their website “The mission of Curious Theatre Company is to engage the community in important contemporary issues through provocative modern theatre.” Chip Walton, founder and artistic director, stated in a recent interview that their mission, in light of the current political situation in the U.S., remains unchanged but has been turned on its head; instead of aspiring to be a professional theatre company that produces socially aware plays, they now identify as a social justice organization that uses theatre as a platform.

Several organizational changes have occurred as a result of this spin on their mission including a restructuring of talk backs after performances, a re-evaluation of the process of both season selection and the commissioning of plays, to seeking ways to be flexible producers able to respond quickly to the rapidly changing political landscape.

In this article I will unpack the impact of the election of 2016 and the politics of the current administration on the ways in which Curious Theatre Company is defining itself, engaging audiences, choosing programming, and changing production practices.


From the School to the Educating Community: Practices of Social Theatre in Italy as a New Form of Activism



Interactions between political activism and performative practices are historically numerous in Italy but, recently, they appear somehow institutionalised. In this scenario, some social theatre initiatives, combining arts with care, education and social development, might constitute a new outlet for activism. After a brief introduction on social theatre, this paper seeks to establish the quality of its civic and political meaning through the analysis of two recent cases: the Franco Agostino Teatro Festival in Crema (Milan) and the Montevelino “school without boundaries” in Milan, different instances of performative practices promoting forms of active involvement of the local community in changes of curriculum, education system and community identity.

Children, parents, teachers, staff, common citizens, social workers and local cultural activists participate as actors, authors and audience to theatrical and performative events and workshops, producing new socio-cultural resources to be employed in local issues.

A new “educating community” might be emerging, able to reflect upon itself, devise new scenarios, build new relationships and transform people’s behaviours, starting within the school walls but spilling out into the community.

Even if this might not yet be indubitably identified as activism, here theatrical and performative experiences are becoming direct social action and a spur for local educational policies.


Leaping into the Disassociated Space: Unknowing Activism, Agency and Youth Identity in “Notes From Nowhere”




As young people’s identities continue to be formed by social media, popular culture, and peer approval, mirrored representations of unquestioned ideals have taken center stage. Through an investigative inquiry into this practice, Weltsek and Hammoor emerge with a new possibility for understanding activism and self-formation in the drama classroom—dissociation. Using academic scaffolding and a playful graphic novel, the authors invite teachers, researchers, practitioners and learners to think into a theoretical moment of disconnect. It’s the moment young people talk about when they “let go” and are “consumed” by dramatic activities. The authors argue that moments of disconnect hold hope for the development of individual agency, social justice and equity both for individuals on paths of self-discovery/creation, collective actions for communities that arise within the drama classroom, and for how we think about and share our scholarship. The graphic novel central to Weltsek and Hammoor’s discussion offers a way of thinking into multimodality in scholarship and pedagogy.


Students as Arts Activists: Insights and Analysis from a Politically Engaged Assessment



Throughout the second year of their BA programme at York St John University (UK), drama and dance students engage with a compulsory module titled “politically engaged practice.” As part of this they are given a deliberately provocative assessment brief that requires them to “plan, design and implement a small-scale politically engaged piece of acts activism.”

This paper explores the experience of asking students to become, if only temporary, political activists. It does so by first setting out how arts activism is framed and defined for the module as an intersection between effect and affect. Under the headings “dialogical activism,” “culture jamming” and “quiet activism,” it then provides a typology of the kinds of arts activist projects undertaken by students. Suggesting that the assessment offers an opportunity for “authentic learning” the paper describes how students articulate the impact of the module on their sense of social consciousness and relationship to political issues.

Finally, the paper reflects on the role of activism within the academy, particularly in a context where universities are frequently accused of operating under a liberal bias that imposes particular political perspectives on students.


Inciting Solidarity through Plural Performativity and Pedagogical Aesthetics in Ethnodrama with Marginalized Youth in Toronto



In the Youth Artists for Justice program, 12 socio-economically under-resourced, racialized youth conducted research and created an original play that invited others in the community and within the field of education into the imaginative sphere of critical and dialogic re-envisioning of the world. The study indicates youth ethnodrama performance as a potential site for a public relational pedagogy of resistance. This collaborative action research project aims to identify how this group of youth conceptualize their current and future roles within contemporary social movements and strives to garner within them a sense of hope and capacity to conceptualize and enact their political agency. Collectively, the youth cultivated a sense of solidarity, social responsibility, and political agency as they came to identify as an artistic ensemble analyzing critical issues and using theatre to depict forms of resistance. Following Judith Butler’s (2013) definition of plural performativity, the youth could use the theatrical space to perform and engender political participation. The pedagogical aesthetic of their original performance, Reflections of Tomorrow, illustrated realistic depictions of their own experiences and revealed the power and the passion with which they strive to make progress, inviting others to respect and enact their courageous resistance.


Beyond the Wall: Borderland Identity through Puppets



On November 2017, in the city of Nogales, Arizona/Sonora, binational festival Beyond the Wall / Más Allá del Muro took place, bringing 15-foot tall puppets to the US/Mexico border. This essay is a first attempt to bring an academic gaze to Jess Kaufman’s and my activist pursuit, reflecting on how puppetry allowed us to deepen our conversation with community members and discover the true purpose of our artistic action. This paper will trace our journey from the conception of the performance as an attempt to reframe the politically-charged border wall, through the expansion of the festival via the inclusion of community leaders, to the actual event and performance with puppets built and operated by volunteers from various segments of the community. Exploring community-based theatre where puppets function as amplifiers of the stories and identities of community members, and suggesting the opalescent identity of the puppet as parallel to the identity of the borderlands, this essay uncovers and establishes new research questions, to be explored through praxis as they shape the future of the project with the aim of investigating how to create activism with a lasting impact focused on our common ground by rooting it on voices from the community.


The Aesthetics of Activism in Korea: The Utopian Performative and Communitas



This article explores how the aesthetics of activism can function as a driving force of a social movement by empowering the individuals and creating a “utopian vision” among them. Two recent major movements in Korea are introduced as examples; the Ewha Womans University protest and the Candlelight Protest, both of which indicate new possibilities of aesthetic activism. There was a big protest occurred at Ewha Womans University in 2016 summer, which was one of the crucial events that elicited the nation-wide Candlelight Protest. It was a site-specific theatre located at the main building of the school, which students occupied for 86 days until their demands were met. The students enacted a range of theatrical performances, such as holding public meetings with their masquerade-like masks on, making music videos, publishing comics on SNS, writing parodic novels, and parading with flashlights at night. Then in the winter of 2016, Korea witnessed a great wave of candlelight in the central square of Seoul, leading to the impeachment of the incumbent president. During months of Candlelight Protest, diverse groups of society—including families, teenagers, disabled people, queers, and various non-political clubs—gathered together with candles on the street every weekend.

In both Ewha Protest and Candlelight Protest, the performative and aesthetic power of the protest naturally altered the modalities of the community, transpiring a sense of communitas that emerged from the “feelings and sensibilities of utopia” which J. Dolan referred to as the “utopian performative.” Individuals were not amalgamated into a distinct community, but rather rediscovered themselves as individual beings, transformed through their solidarity, empowering themselves to transform reality. These protests show new possibilities of aesthetic activism.


A Silent Shout: Metamodern Forms of Activism in Contemporary Performance by Tom Drayton



There has been a recent and notable trend within contemporary performance spheres for artists to respond to various sociological, economic and political crises by creating participatory, community engaged performances. This article addresses how specific contemporary performance as activism projects have now evolved to respond to, and have been affected by, the emerging concept of the metamodern. By focusing on two 2017 productions, Mem Morrison’s Silencer and LaBeouf, Rönnkö & Turner’s #HEWILLNOTDIVIDEUS, this article argues that the metamodern oscillation between sincerity and irony, as laid down by Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker, has become an integral component in these artists’ performance-based activism. This article examines these performances in context with other politically engaged, participatory performance trends as well as the emerging concept of the metamodern in political and cultural spheres. The study offers a new insight into current practice formed upon the interstice of the metamodern and youth politics, and how performance as activism can be (re)defined within the current political landscape.


“It Did Get Rid of the ‘These People Are Old People’ Thing in My Brain”: Challenging the Otherness of Old Age through One-to-One Performance



This paper concerns the one-to-one performance work of Passages—a group of performers aged between 60 and 90—founded to support Bridie Moore’s PhD research into the performance of age and ageing. It analyzes how these performances challenge perceptions of the old person as “other,” and uses audience feedback, together with performance and social theory to explore how the work achieves this. The group uses mask work, proximity and intimate performance as a form of quiet activism, to challenge structures of thinking in subtle and penetrating ways. The analysis refers to the performance The Mirror Stage, given at the University of Sheffield (UK) in September 2015, and the paper discusses the one-to-one performance form and the eight one-to-one performances that were presented in the show. It engages with de Beauvoir’s (1953/1972) and Phelan’s (1993) notions of the “other” in order to explore the way the perception of otherness plays out and is disrupted by the presence of the old person in one-to-one performance. The paper introduces the possibility that the contact facilitated by one-to-one could, as Allport (1954) argued, reduce prejudice concerning individuals who are members of outgroups such as the “old” and, by extension, to other marginalized individuals and groups.


Inday Dolls: Body Monologues and Lullabies for Freedom in Prison; Scripting Possible Futures in Justice Art in Iloilo’s Correctional System



The prison is not a dead end. Freedom is born in prison. Women in prison bounce back, resurrecting through their stories, reclaiming their bodies. This research investigates the politics of freedom, space, and body in prison. Women exercise their own sense of freedom navigating in a tight small crowded place through stories of objects, body lullabies, and archetypal ethnodrama. Women recreated new selves with new colors to light up their life in the darkest times.

Storytelling as a powerful tool for political and cultural assertion is essential in this research as a healing art process. The creative personal geography work makes women tell stories as a means of gathering parts of themselves back to one piece. Our work in freedom art we resonate to the words of Estés, “Stories are medicine… They have such power…we need only to listen… Stories are embedded with instructions which guide us about the complexities of life” (Estés p 15-16). This performance research presents the body monologues of women in a space (read: prison) where time restricts liberty and memories of freedom collapse with dreams of emancipation. Through a series of creative and performative exercises this prison became a performance space animated with the living narratives of human stories of objects and as a site of compassion where an overflowing bodies intersected and shared the politics of tolerance, compassion and love.


Media Practice and Theatre in Conversation: Co-Creating Narratives for Positive Social Change



In Papua New Guinea, a country in the South Pacific, performance and ritual are part of day-to-day life through which social and cultural relationships are mediated. Understanding the way in which performances are woven into day-to-day experiences and political spaces lets us explore communal and indigenous processes around social change. Yet to date, there has been a very limited understanding of the value of performance for social change among development practitioners and those seeking to work with communities to impact on positive social change around certain issues.

Based on over a decade of engagement in arts-based research and development practice in the Pacific, we explore the way in which indigenous knowledge systems and performances can be harnessed to co-create narratives and performances for community audiences. Among others, we explore the model of Theatre in Conversation (TiC) (Kauli 2015), an arts-based approach developed as research and a theatre for development model, to overcome some of the complexities linked to achieving social change. TiC is used in Papua New Guinea to assist community organisations and individual facilitators develop narratives of strength and resilience that highlight the challenges, create the conversations, and deepen understanding around sensitive issues. These narratives are further captured through other media such as photography or film. Workshops are designed to improve artist-facilitators’ community engagement skills and artistry harnessing indigenous ways of learning and engagement in social change. In this paper, we highlight projects on gender-based violence and sorcery accusation related violence, as examples to explore the key aspects of this approach.


Announcing ArtsPraxis Volume 4 Issue 1

Logo for Arts Praxis, Volume 4, Issue 1, 2017

ArtsPraxis Volume 4 Issue  1 has been published.

I am proud to present this new issue of ArtsPraxis, featuring articles in response to the guiding questions and themes established for the NYU Forum on Educational Theatre in April 2016, which included applied theatre, drama in education, and theatre for young audiences. As a number of authors submitted articles under the heading of youth theatre, I curated a stand-alone section for this topic as well as I felt it wise to highlight the breadth of research in this area at this time.

A great asset of the 2016 Forum on Educational Theatre was the degree to which the NYU Program in Educational Theatre was able to reconnect with our global community. In large part, this was due to the efforts of Philip Taylor following his experience at the International Drama in Education Research Institute in Singapore in 2015. Under the direction of Prue Wales, it became evident at that event that even in this time of inescapable electronic connections, there is nothing that can take the place of face-to-face fellowship. Just this week, we are coming off of our latest international conference, the NYU Forum on Ethnodrama, looking at the intersection between theatre art and arts-based research paradigms. After many months of political duress, we communed. We shared art, research, and activism.

In the spirit of maintaining our international dialogue in these troubled times, this issue of ArtsPraxis continues the conversation. Our contributors present scholarship from Africa, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I hope that you find this work as inspirational as I have and that you consider joining us next spring at the 2018 NYU Forum on Performance as Activism.

Volume 3, Issue 1 of ArtsPraxis is available for download here.

ArtsPraxis Volume 4, Issue 1

ISSN: 1552-5236




Responsivity in Applied Theatre Practitioner Expertise: Introducing Identifying Patterns and Names



This article outlines a research project investigating the expertise of applied theatre practitioners. Summarising some of the research approaches and findings, a conceptualization of ‘responsivity’ is proposed to encapsulate the blended expertise of those artists that work in community, participatory and applied settings. The ‘practice responsive’ research methodology utilizing ‘reflective dialogues’ with practitioners is explained and the resulting artists’ commentaries are embedded throughout. I outline how reflection and response thread through a conceptualization of applied theatre in literatures, and discuss how these themes informed both the method and the findings of my research. Whilst offering namings for patterns found common to practitioners operating across diverse contexts, the article also acknowledges how naming can close down understanding of the complex operations and qualities of the practitioner. I suggest a theoretical proposition of ‘__’ (underscore) to open up understanding of the workers and the work of applied theatre, in order to allow further insight to their expertise. The proposal concludes by arguing how the practitioners’ developmental response to the work enhances applied theatre’s beneficial objectives for participants.


Making Theatre in Communities: A Search for Identify, Coherence, and Cohesion



Traditionally, theatre was created and performed in communities to celebrate religious and other significant aspects of shared community life. Many such customs possessed a quasi-religious identity in which theatre depictions were thought to appease those spiritual forces which controlled the lives and fortunes of mere humans. In the UK and the Western world more generally, the cohesiveness of community life has lessened as families become more self-sufficient. Until relatively recently, rural communities in South West England were dominated by the farming industry. The land of many farms has been merged and the farmhouses sold to relatively well-off incomers. They often operate a self-sufficient life, sending their children to private schools outside the community and engaging in leisure pursuits which take them out of the community in which they live. Thus, community cohesion is weakened and the opportunities for cooperative and communal action lessened. Theatre has the potential to bring disparate members of a community together in common purpose, providing a forum in which new and lasting relationships can be formed. If the dramatised stories have their roots in the identity and history of the community in which they are made, long-term residents have ways of sharing their knowledge with the ‘newcomers’.


The Long Game: Progressing the Work from Thesis to Practice



This paper discusses the evolution of significant findings made within the context of a doctoral research project and the structures that developed to share these findings through workshops for students and teachers. As the research concerned an 1838 Australian Aboriginal massacre and the construction of a memorial to commemorate this event one hundred and sixty-two years later, the aim of the project was to locate a reconciliation narrative. The project failed to do so, because ultimately in the words of the participants the memorial was seen as a beginning and not an ending.

Nevertheless this understanding did deliver powerful insights into the complex nature of reconciliation within a dominant settler culture. And it was felt that sharing these insights was worth pursuing. 

Central to the doctoral research was the creation of a verbatim theatre play, therefore the workshops relied on drama techniques to establish through affect new ways of knowing shared history. However the execution of the content proved challenging. Because of the way settler history continues to be understood, engagement with the intellect via political correctness as opposed to the imagination was problematic. The necessity of prioritizing the imagination became as much of a learning curve for workshop facilitators as workshop participants.


Discovering a Planet of Inclusion: Drama for Life-Skills in Nigeria



This paper explores the on-going development of a Drama for Life-Skills project in Lagos, Nigeria, which embraces aspects of applied & educational theatre practices. Using neurodevelopmental disability assessments and standards, the project creates a simultaneous balance of teaching and learning life skills in the disability community. It focuses on work currently being done with students of the Children’s Development Centre Lagos, incorporating theatre practices into the daily living activities of adolescents with disabilities with the goal of gaining increased life skills. In developing their most recent production, Discovering a Planet of Inclusion, members of the Centre team up with teaching artists, therapists and community members to teach, learn, practice and incorporate life skills with theatrical performances designed for schools and community centers throughout Nigeria.  Company members with disabilities (including autism, cerebral palsy, and various genetic disorders) perform with the hope of showcasing their abilities, ending stigma, and inspiring opportunities for the disability community throughout the nation. The paper will include anecdotes and analyzation from the performance praxis, development of advocacy and vocationally-based theatre performances, and ways to incorporate disability therapies (occupational, physical, multisensory, communication) into theatrical performances. The paper also discusses the importance of inclusion in destigmatizing disability and the cognitive benefits of applied theatre within communities.


The Evolution of Monologue as an Education



Performance is social theory, or it can become so, when we use it as a means to understand social phenomena rather than merely viewing it as a spectacle or for entertainment (Brook, 1972). Theatre that explores domestic violence (Welsh, 2014), homelessness (Welsh, 2014) or the plight of refugees (Robinson, 2015) are all examples of dramatic processes  becoming social theory. There are many more examples such as the work of Lloyd Jones or Pina Bausch, both of whom use experimental theatre as a means of educating, understanding and criticising society (Marshall, 2002; Pendergast, 2001). This article explores the relationship between theatre and education in three somewhat diverse contexts. Firstly, the autobiographical monologue, The Outcaste Weakly Poet Stage Show, describes experience in a conversational style. Experience and conversation are inevitably educational, that is, being is learning and listening is learning. Secondly, I explore the practice of monologue writing with a sample group of Australian school students on the subject of social labelling, reinforcing the idea that theatre practice is education by applying it to a classroom setting. Finally, I examine a monologue writing workshop conducted with a group of teachers-in-training, revealing the potential of monologues to foster empathy among teachers and their most difficult students. Theatre then becomes a source of learning and philosophical reflection for audiences, a way of practising social learning in a school setting and increasing emotional intelligence, empathy and communication between teachers in training and their students.


Noise as Queer Dramaturgy: Towards a Reflexive Dramaturgy-as-Research Praxis in Devised Theatre for Young Audiences



Dramaturgy is often considered the work of the ‘neutral outside eye’, but in devised theatre, the dramaturg is embedded within. This requires creative solutions for how a devising dramaturg might navigate engagement with the totality of their work—the piece, the devising process, and the context—from their own position within all three. In this article, I will recount and re-examine my work as dramaturg-researcher devising Martha and the Event Horizon. The research inquiry suggests a praxis of dramaturgy-as-research inspired by Home-Cook’s model of noise as a function of attention and Sullivan’s (2003) poststructuralist analysis of queerness as both being and doing, wherein the devising dramaturg embodies the queer doing to take an external perspective on their work via the critical context. Examinations of the devisor’s relationship to spectators by practitioner-researchers Goode (2011) and Reason (2010) respond to the research question and suggest a non-linear model within which the audience experiences meaning through Boenisch’s (2010) reflexive parallax. Placing these research outcomes within Bryon’s (2014) ‘active aesthetic’ and Nelson’s (2013) practice as research model, I propose the dramaturgy-as-research praxis as the key to a rigorous, flexible framework for constructing diverse avenues for meaning-making in devised theatre, particularly applicable to audience-driven work.


Children’s Theatre: A Brief Pedagogical Approach



There are several theories as to what constitutes children’s theatre. This diversity exists because the term is used as a literal description of theatre that involves children in one way or the other – theatre for children, theatre with children, and theatre by children. This complexity means there is a need to specify the sense in which the term is being used. There is no universal agreement within academic discourse on the parameters in which the term should be defined. While some scholars suggest age as a defining factor, others think it should be decided by the performers who design a piece of theatre based on their knowledge of the children audience. What is children’s theatre? What should be the level of involvement for children? This paper is not a systematic review of the discipline and it is not an attempt to re/define children’s theatre. Rather, it is about a pedagogical approach to creating a piece of theatre for children between the age of 4 and 10 that can enable them to learn and be morally developed while being entertained at the same time. In this paper children’s theatre is the term that will be used throughout.


Feeling Blue: An Investigative Apparatus



This auto-ethnographic inquiry explores found and constructed apparatuses in the production of a devised clown show with 3rd-6th grade children at Blue School in New York City. Through a playful negotiation between artifacts, theory, and memory, this essay works to untangle the production of meaning and the possibilities of children’s theatre. Drawing from Agamben’s theorizations of apparatus, Hammoor writes into knowing and understanding the frameworks he built and discovered in directing a sad clown show with children.


Participatory Aesthetics: Youth Performance as Encounter



In this paper the notion of a participatory aesthetic is developed by exploring how a collaborative and creative process provides opportunities for young people to engage in an act of becoming in relation to one another, building powerful and affective art work that is not bound by the conventions of traditional forms of theatre and art making. The paper begins with a discussion on the role of affect and participation in applied theatre, offering a theoretical framework that is used to analyze two case studies. The first is a project in Accra, Ghana that resulted in a youth-led documentary film about HIV/AIDS and gender relationships. The second is a YouTube based applied theatre project with LGBTQ youth in Toronto, Canada. In both case studies the paper demonstrates the power of dialogue in building a participant driven aesthetic rendering of theatre for social change. The paper concludes stating that a participatory aesthetic is a deeply visceral and vulnerable encounter that builds important pedagogy through affective artistic engagement.


From Les Mis to Annie, Jr.: A Discussion of Dramaturgical Adaptation for Musical Theatre in Education and Accessibility of Musical Theatre to Youth



As an arts educator, it is inspiring to have access to the spoils of the art of musical theatre to engage and captivate young minds and artistic hearts. In providing an artistic output, one affords both the satisfaction of involvement in a collaborative art coupled with the lasting gift of community and artistic inspiration. Regrettably, the endeavour towards providing an accessible dramatic medium can prove challenging for the best of theatre & music pedagogues and artists alike. Musical theatre becomes increasingly more difficult as both musical and dramatic requirements needed for its execution modify.

With these constraints, youth face obstacles in exploring many works of the genre they love faithfully. As educators, the responsibility in maintaining accessibility is tremendous. Improper attention to the usage of the vocal instrument without regard of these developments can cause irreparable damage. Limited access to works for youth and negligible adaptation risk staleness and disinterest.

How might the educating artist continually provide an accessible medium of musical theatre to the young performer? From a dramatic & musical lens, this paper discusses the responsibility of the educator in identifying and addressing the unique challenges confronting young performers via the art of musical theatre.


ArtsPraxis Volume 4, Issue 1 looks to engage members of the global Educational Theatre community in the ongoing dialogue about where we have been and where we are going. This call for papers was released concurrently with ArtsPraxis Volume 3 and the submission deadline for Volume 4, Issue 1 was February 1, 2017.

Dr. Jonathan Jones, New York University

Editorial Board:

Amy Cordileone, New York University, USA
Norifumi Hida, Toho Gakuen College of Drama and Music, Japan
Byoung-joo Kim, Seoul National University of Education, South Korea
Ross Prior, University of Wolverhampton, UK
Nisha Sajnani, New York University, USA
Daphnie Sicre, Borough of Manhattan Community College, USA
Prudence Wales, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Hong Kong
James Webb, Bronx Community College, USA

ArtsPraxis, Volume 3

ArtsPraxis Banner Image

ArtsPraxis Volume 3 has been published.

It is with great enthusiasm that I present this third volume of ArtsPraxis. In 2003, I worked as a research assistant for Philip Taylor cataloging the extant journals in the arts, arts education, and arts therapies disciplines in order to demonstrate the need for the first volume of this publication. To find myself now as Editor is both humbling and gratifying, given the time and attention that I have contributed to this journal over the years.

This volume features a number of articles that were presented in some form at the Forum on Educational Theatre in April 2016, for which I served as manager. The Forum celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Program in Educational Theatre at New York University: building on the past and looking towards the future. The event was a fine testament to the legacy of the Program’s founders, Lowell and Nancy Swortzell who began the Program in 1966. All told, with presenters, performers, staff, volunteers, and delegates, the participant pool exceeded 400 individuals, demonstrating the strength of the field and a commitment from colleagues the world over to come to New York, share their work, and celebrate this milestone.

The 3rd issue of ArtsPraxis is available for download.




“A kick in the pants” or Mentoring as “a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction” (John C. Crosby 1859 – 1943)




The elegant phrases of John Crosby to describe mentoring have been amended and added to over the years to include, “a shoulder to cry on and a kick in the pants” (Josefowitz, 1980). This paper is a follow-up to the podcast the authors engaged in with Edie Demas as their moderator at the NYU Forum on Educational Theatre, April 2016. Here on the editor’s invitation, we expand on our conversation, moving from our personal experiences of mentoring/being mentored to examining the confusions that arise over the application of the term itself, what is effective mentoring and how it may be derailed. We begin with what we said (slightly modified) about our own experiences of mentorship to set the context.


Theatre in Education: It’s a critical time for critical thinking



Theatre in Education emerged in the 1960s from roots in progressive education and new wave theatre and developed a pedagogy heavily influenced by drama and education philosophy. At the heart of this theatre/education hybrid was a belief in the necessity for children to become critically engaged with the world. The best TIE offered children the tools to understand and to shape their world. This progressive approach to education has been marginalised during the last forty years. This article charts this descent into utilitarianism and asserts the need for Applied Theatre and TIE to enhance students’ critical thinking skills rather than offering didactic messages and exercises in socialisation. The obstacles to working authentically with TIE are multifarious. Alongside issues of funding, timetabling, access to students and appropriate working space, there are problems associated with appropriate training in TIE praxis. Professionals no longer have the access to the necessary research and rehearsal time where facilitation skills can develop. The ‘authentic teaching’ lauded by Heathcote is out of favour at the time when critical thinking skills are of paramount importance. This article asks if there is a way for TIE to adapt to the new realities of how children learn and play so that again it can offer a theatrical safe haven where critical thinking skills can be honed in order to equip young people with the critical skills to shape their own futures.


Kiss me Khatema: Kate’s “capitulation” in The Taming of the Shrew as seen by female Muslim university students



Shakespeare’s plays, especially those that have a modern day resonance to the issues of the modern world, are indeed elastic in their ability to speak across generations and cultures. This paper provides a number of sample responses by young Emirati female students at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) from courses taught by the author, who was in residence there as the Drama and Theatre specialist from 2005-2014. Over the course of several semesters, these female Muslim university students’ verbatim comments reveal how Kate’s final words moved them to respond in the varied ways they did. These responses demonstrate the emotional tightrope that the students seem to be navigating; one that originates in tradition while also clashing with modernity. The Taming of the Shrew, and the journey of Kate as she is confronted by the challenges of an arranged marriage within a patriarchal society, is one that speaks to these students. As a non-Muslim practitioner of theatre and drama, the challenge was to see which of these two personas would win out – a Kate or a Khatema – which turns out to be the subject matter for a larger societal investigation of the roles of men and women in the United Arab Emirates.


From ‘discovered’ to ‘constructivist’ in applied theatre programmes: Preparing postgraduate students as future artist-educators



Applied theatre as a named field is still relatively new yet ‘the range of applied theatre practice is vast; it happens all over the world as part of a grassroots movement involved in social change and community reflection’ (Prendergast & Saxton, vi: 2009). This article explores the underlying teaching philosophies inherent in the published course descriptors of a sample range of eight graduate/postgraduate programmes in applied theatre across three countries. The selection of these programmes, although somewhat random, has been based upon their prominence within academic parlances and those that provide programme documents in English. Consequently the representative sample survey is across one cross-section of postgraduate provision and is analysed in order to extract a range of philosophical themes underpinning learning and teaching. In distilling these philosophies the article presents a discussion of how the subject knowledge of applied theatre work ranges from ‘discovered’ to ‘constructivist’ in nature. In turn these themes are interrogated against published research in the field and postulate on how applied theatre programmes might further consider the ways in which they adequately prepare their students as future artist-educators to work in this diverse and challenging field. An outcome of the survey revealed grand claims made in the published programme descriptors.


Facilitating social justice dialogues after interactive theatre performances: An introduction to our methodology



Applied theatre performances that address social issues can inspire feelings and reactions. In this article, we draw from our experience working together as facilitators since 1999 as examination of the challenges we have encountered and the importance in holding space for difficult – yet productive – conversations. Working from a framework of inclusive justice, we merge social justice practices in applied theatre and inclusive education. We share with the readers our experiences with the role of self as facilitator and the concept of holding space; we challenge the idea of neutrality in facilitation, and advocate for the facilitator as instrument to change. We are not offering a manual of instructions – we offer, instead, a few ingredients that other facilitators may also find helpful in their practice.


“They have become my family”: Reciprocity and responsiveness in a volunteer-led program for refugees and migrants



Creative English is an applied theatre program that supports English language learning for adult refugees and migrants in the UK. The program is shaped by an ethic of care, focused on responsiveness, reciprocal relationships and empowering individuals to take action. This article identifies challenges and opportunities highlighted by the rapid expansion of a project governed by these values and delivered by volunteers.


Secondary students confront issues of identity through devising and performing a new play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe



In 2014, secondary students at the Poly Prep Country Day School began an eleven-month project with their acting teacher and a professional playwright that culminated in performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August of 2015. The goal was to premiere a new play created out of the concerns and challenges facing these young Americans as they wrestled with their national identity in an increasingly interconnected world. The students also dealt with issues of race, class, and sexual identity as they refined dialogue and characters in daily rehearsal sessions. The director’s process of building Americans in Breshkistan was modeled on that used by professional companies when they workshop a new piece with a playwright. The students created choreography and stage combat, as well as nonverbal movement sequences in which they worked together as an acrobatic team. The project united and engaged thirteen students of various races, classes, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and personality types. Students were responsible for creating and realizing the lighting and sound designs and for running the show. This project could serve as a model for schools to adopt into their regular curriculum, connecting high-level, student-created productions with performance possibilities at local professional theater venues.


Mapping the field of young playwrights programs in the United States



The production of plays written by young people has been in practice at theatre companies and arts organizations in the United States for nearly forty years. However, while young playwrights programs have emerged across much of the country in the past decade, the field has not been adequately addressed in the literature. This paper addresses the scope and variety of young playwrights programming and compares the praxis of organizations engaged in the work.


ArtsPraxis Volume 4, Issue 1

ArtsPraxis Volume 4, Issue 1 looks to engage members of the global Educational Theatre community in the ongoing dialogue about where we have been and where we are going. This call for papers is released concurrently with ArtsPraxis Volume 3 and the submission deadline for Volume 4, Issue 1 is February 1, 2017.