This unit will present a brief overview of the history of community-based theatre, and several methodological examples of how community-based theatre can be practised.
Community-based theatre (CBT) implies an interactive and collaborative theatre trajectory through which professional theatre-makers engage a specific community in the exploration of issues which are directly relevant to them. CBT results in a devised performance informed by the lived experiences and stories which the community members share through the theatre-making process. The CBT piece, which usually has community participants as actors alongside artists, ultimately expresses a collective meaning which gives voice and a sense of ownership to the participants. The video presents the CBT process of a project which formed part of Amass.
2.1 What is community-based theatre
2.2 A brief history of community-based theatre
2.3 Case Study: Planning a community-based theatre project
2.4 Case Study: The benefits of community-based theatre
Case Study: F’Ħakka t’Għajn (In the Blink of an Eye)
F’Ħakka t’Għajn (All of a sudden) was a community theatre project by older adults and theatre practitioners. Through recreational dramatic activities, workshops and discussions, the group collaborated to produce a devised community theatre piece. The group developed themes and ideas that emerged during workshops, and which the participants performed together with professional actors, under the guidance of an artistic team consisting of a theatre director, a producer, a musician and a writer.
More reading: https://amassproject.weebly.com/hakka_tghajn.html
Image: Participants of F’Ħakka t’Għajn
Photo: Bjorn Bonello
If you were to work with a specific community using CBT, who would you choose to work with and why; how do you envisage the CBT process would benefit this particular community? Spend some time thinking about this, and take notes on your thoughts.
What do you think would be the main challenges for the participants to take part in this? What ways can you think of to overcome these?
Imagine and plan two to three theatre warm-ups or icebreakers that could serve as trust-building exercises during a first meeting with a group, and would help set participants moving on to an interactive and collaborative theatre process. These activities should help you engage this specific community in getting to know each other and discovering and exploring issues which are directly relevant to them.
Community-based theatre implies a community of practice, one that has the potential to create profound relationships among a group of people. It is a collaborative type of devised theatre that depends on the participation of a particular community, where the professional artist’s role is to facilitate collaborative creative processes derived from theatre practices.
It has the potential to facilitate the forming of strong bonds within a community, and to create a supportive structure where ‘no-one gets left behind.’
•Dunford CM, Yoshizaki-Gibbons HM, Morhardt D. (2017) The Memory Ensemble: Improvising connections among performance, disability, and ageing. Research in Drama Education 22(3):420-426.
Gatt, I. (2023). Combatting ageism through participation in a theatre-making process and performance. In A. Kárpáti (Ed.), Arts-Based Interventions and Social Change in Europe. Routledge Advances in Art and Visual Studies. New York: Routledge.
•Keisari S, Gesser-Edelsburg A, Yaniv D, Palgi Y (2020) Playback theatre in adult day centers: A creative group intervention for community-dwelling older adults. PLoS ONE 15(10): e0239812. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239812
•Johnson JK, Stewart AL, Acree M, et al. (2018) A community choir intervention to promote well-being among diverse older adults: Results from the Community of Voices trial. Journals of Gerontology: Series B.
•Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
•McLean, J., Woodhouse, A., Goldie, I., Chylarova, E., & Williamson, T. (2011). An Evidence Review of the Impact of Participatory Arts on Older People. Mental Edinburgh: Health Foundation.
Figure 1: Odin Teatret https://vendsyssel-teater.dk
Figure 2: Photos: Arquives Instituto Augusto Boal and Centre of Theatre of the Oppressed https://kuringa.de/en/method-en/
Figure 3: Theatre for Development in Malawi https://howlround.com/theatre-development-malawi
Figure 4: Liz Lerman with The Dance Exchange and Dancers of the Third Age https://womenandtheirwork.org/archive/liz-lerman-dancers-of-the-third-age/
EVALUATION | Multiple choice
Now that you have watched the MOOC and reflected on its content, try to answer the multiple choice questions based on Community-based theatre.