Call for Contributions: Performer Training in Community and Applied Theatre Contexts

The Theatre Dance and Performance Training Blog is creating a new section to investigate the role of training in applied and community theatre. We are looking for contributions from practitioners, scholars, teachers and others interested in exploring the intersection between training and community for instance, how training might be used in relation to theatre for social change, the relationship between training and some of the prominent themes of applied practice, or how we train for working in the community.

Augusto Boal discusses training bodies in the practices of Theatre of the Oppressed as a form of consciousness raising. He describes using theatre to train the body of the participant:

That is, to take them apart, to study and analyse them. Not to weaken or destroy them, but to raise them to the level of consciousness. So that each worker, each peasant understands, sees, and feels to what point his body is governed by his work (Boal 104).

Training allows the participant to become aware of how alienation has impacted upon her body: how economic, cultural and social structures mark the body. Training is a training in noticing how the world marks the body and accordingly changes the subject’s relationship to the world.

Through the blog we want to explore the complicated relationship that training has to practice in non-professional settings, considering the broader questions that this practice raises in terms of representation, cultural recognition, power and domination and social change. On the one hand, following Boal, training can be an act of consciousness raising, re-distributing skills and resources and accordingly giving participants the means of the production (bodily and vocal production). On the other, training can be a homogenising practice, eliminating cultural difference and perpetuating certain dominant ideas of ‘correctness’. The blog will explore the complexity of training, neither dismissing it as culturally domineering, nor fetishizing its value or social good.

We are interested in investigating where practices of performer training are still used in community and applied contexts. Is performer training used as a practice of social change? Can we understand training as a tool of transformation, resistance or political intervention? Furthermore, we are interested in how community and applied practitioners are trained. With a growth in undergraduate and postgraduate courses in applied theatre it seems especially important now to explore what constitutes “training” in this regard. Are applied programmes training theatre craft that is then “applied” to community contexts? Or are they training practices of how to work in the community, how to be a “facilitator”? Finally, we are interested in the politics of training itself, and how training practices relate to broader questions of community identity and representation, particularly with relation to social class, gender, race and sexuality.

Some questions for consideration:

i) Are traditional practices of performer training avoided in applied and community theatre practice?
ii) How are performance training practises utilised in applied and community contexts and are they reimagined and adapted for these contexts?
iii) What is the political efficacy of performer training in applied and community contexts?
iv) Is there a danger of performance training being culturally homogenising or socially repressive, restricting a community’s own voice or practices?
v) Is performance training useful outside of professional contexts?
vi) Is there a fear of performance training being “de-professionalised” through the teaching of it in more informal spaces?
vii) Do applied and community theatre practitioners need to have undertaken performance training before working with communities?
viii) How do we train practitioners to work in communities? Does applied work involve a passing-down of practice?
ix) What is the balance between learning theatre craft or performance training and learning facilitation in the training of the applied theatre practitioner?
x) What might issues of “training” facilitation entail? Is it even trainable?

If you are interested in contributing to discussing further, please email Sarah Weston on S.E.Weston@leeds.ac.uk.

Boal, Augusto. Theatre of the Oppressed. Trans. Charles A. McBride, Maria-Odilia Lead McBride and Emily Fryer. London: Pluto Press, 2008.

One thought on “Call for Contributions: Performer Training in Community and Applied Theatre Contexts

  1. I am interested in all things “community theatre’ as a Practitioner for more than 35 years – -would be interested in contributing to Blog – – but first question is “who is it for” – – already the language and the questions are seemingly orientated towards Academic contributors – – I have worked in “community theatre” here on merseyside. throughout the UK and Europe for more than 35 years and still find the question of “community arts” provoking – – also as much as I admire, use and read Boal’s informative and innovative books and theories I wonder if his process’s have been removed form the community and become academic.

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