Varieties of Applied Theatre & Performance
Adam Blatner, M. D., Editor
(with Daniel J. Wiener, Ph.D.)

Table of Contents

Foreword by David Shepherd, one of the pioneers of improvisation in the theatre, offers his perspectives on the history of the movement towards promoting spontaneity.

Introduction: Adam Blatner describes the purposes of this anthology and some of the background perspectives that inform all these approaches. [This website has supplementary articles about the values of role expansion ("The More We Can Be"), the rationale for more drama in life and the world ("Why Drama?"), the historical background, focusing especially on the work of J. L. Moreno, M.D., the inventor of psychodrama and, before that, one of the first (if not the first) improvisational theatre troupes!]

Section I: Applied Theatre for Community Building

Chapter 1. Playback Theatre: Hannah Fox describes one of the fastest-growing and most exciting new forms of drama, an improvisational and interactive method aimed at community building and involvement.

Chapter 2. Bibliodrama: Linda Condon shows how this variation of sociodrama can promote a more participatory approach to thinking about a sacred or well-known secular text. Various techniques help group participants find more insight and relevance in the stories.

Chapter 3. LifeDrama with Elders: The late Rosilyn Wilder wrote about ways elders can be involved in improvisational and interactive approaches to drama, including reminiscence and intergenerational enactments.

Chapter 4. Healing the Wounds of History: Ron Miller and Armand Volkas describe Volkas' workshops exploring deep intercultural and historical divisions, working with community groups who are seeking understanding. This extends community building to the wider challenge of promoting peacemaking among former enemies—or their children and grandchildren.

Chapter 5. Creating Rituals and Celebrations: Adam Blatner writes about how the design and implementation of a wide range of celebrations and rituals integrates drama, psychology, and group dynamics, making them more meaningful for all concerned.

Chapter 6. Reflections: A Teen Issues Improv Troupe: Staci Block tells how this drama group for adolescents uses improvisational methods for interactive performances about issues relevant to their lives. There is educational and therapeutic value for both cast and audience members when the troupe presents its work to schools, clients and other community groups.

Chapter 7. Cultivating a Presence in a Community Through Applied Theatre: Mecca Burns describes the ways one theatre organization can create a diversified range of projects, such as weekly labs, performances, workshops, and street theatre, all unified by a common ground of theory and practice.

Section II: Applications in Education

Chapter 8. Creative Drama and Role Playing: Adam Blatner presents an overview of two significant traditions in education. Creative drama has been (in the USA) the main approach to introducing the basic elements of imagination and spontaneity training in schools. Role playing is often used to promote social and emotional learning in both elementary and secondary education.

Chapter 9. Process Drama in Education: Gustave J. Weltsek-Medina notes the potential of teachers to educate students through designing and facilitating improvised classroom enactments of relevant situations.

Chapter 10. Theatre in Education: Allison Downey describes a form of theatre that combines theatrical elements, including scenes performed by actors about socially relevant issues, with interactive moments to emotionally engage the audience in addressing a particular social or curricular issue.

Chapter 11. Playbuilding with Pacific Island Students: Daniel Kelin II shares his process for students learning English as a Second Language. Students tell their own culture's stories and develop performances from them, thereby strengthening their cultural identity while also exercising language skills.

Chapter 12. The Fictional Family: Muriel Gold reports on her improvised dramatic format for helping drama students, educators, and professionals learn to deepen their understanding of various social roles by experiencing in family settings interactions that reveal unspoken depths of relationships.

Chapter 13. Applications in Business: Joel Gluck and Ted Rubenstein describe the way consultants use action methods in organizations to train leaders, strengthen communication skills, explore ethical issues, enhance creativity, build teams, and other purposes.

Chapter 14. Museum Theatre: Catherine Hughes writes about uses of interactive theatre to make experiences in museums, zoos, aquaria, and historic sites more lively and relevant.

Section III: Applications in Psychotherapy

Chapter 15. Psychodrama, Sociodrama, and Role Playing: Adam Blatner describes these foundational methods and notes that, in addition to their use in psychotherapy, they also are adapted for contexts such as education, business, and community building.

Chapter 16. Drama Therapy: Sally Bailey surveys the field and its wide variety of approaches. Practitioners vary their emphasis on whether the enactment is more fictional or true-to-life. Drama activities may similarly range from working on a performance for an audience to those that emphasize the benefits of the process itself.

Chapter 17. Rehearsals for Growth: Daniel Wiener has developed an application of improvisational drama to psychotherapy, especially with couples and families, that helps clients explore unfamiliar alternatives to their habitual experiences of self and relationship.

Chapter 18. Insight Improvisation: Joel Gluck brings together elements of drama and mindfulness meditation to promote personal exploration and interpersonal connection.

Chapter 19. Learning to Parent Apart: Deborah J. Zuver and Mary K. Grigsby show how enactment can be used in a court-ordered program to help separating parents address the impact of separation and divorce on their children.

Chapter 20. Drama in Prisons: Clark Baim provides an overview of the methods used by Geese Theatre UK, a company in England devoted to the use of drama to help rehabilitate offenders.

Section IV: Applications for Empowerment

Chapter 21. Theatre of the Oppressed: John Sullivan, Mecca Burns and Doug Paterson present an overview of Augusto Boal's widely used method, noting many of its subsidiary forms. Originally a form of interactive political theatre, it has also been applied in the service of helping people free themselves from more personal and subtle forms of oppression.

Chapter 22. Acting for Advocacy: Deborah J. Zuver describes the use of drama as a training tool to empower people with developmental disabilities to assume leadership roles and become active members of their community.

Chapter 23. Womens’ Empowerment: Abigail Leeder and Jade Raybin describe a class and a workshop format for helping groups of women, focusing on their own issues, to develop greater self-confidence and mutual support.

Chapter 24. Self-Revelatory Performance: Sheila Rubin provides examples of workshops and classes in which participants prepare and dramatically portray episodes or situations in their own lives.

Chapter 25. ActingOut: Kim Burden and Mario Cossa write about the programs with youth groups they directed in New England. Goals included social skills-learning and performance as well as bringing socially relevant issues to the community.

Section V: Applications for Life Expansion and Entertainment

Chapter 26. The Art of Play: Adam Blatner and Allee Blatner present their method of applying sociodramatic and creative drama methods in the service of helping adult (or older teen) group members improvise enactments based on imagined characters.

Chapter 27. TheatreSports: David Young describes how improvisation has become an intra-scholastic competitive activity with variants also used in other community settings.

Chapter 28. Mystery Theatre: Anne Curtis and Gordon Hensley share another outlet for dramatic expression: the ever-varying event of staging a mystery at a restaurant, a resort, or some other setting. Actors improvise within a predetermined plot, mingling and involving guests in the action.

Chapter 29. Medieval Re-enactments: Tom Stallone discusses the development of medieval re-creation and re-enactment groups over the last few decades and the opportunities they create to take live-action role playing into new areas. Focus is on the Society for Creative Anachronism as a leading example of this genre.

Chapter 30. Clowning: Doyle Ott shows that there are many clowns whose approach is far more than performance. They are interactive, evoking improvisational responses from the people, and even teach those gathered around how to enjoy their own spontaneity using clowning.

Chapter 31. MoviExperience: Dan Wiener reviews David Shepherd's approach to using interactive drama with video or cinema technology. Improvisation is less prominent but the value lies in the experience of participants engaging in the creation of dramas produced for the benefit of the experience, rather than for an outside audience or for financial profit.

Chapter 32. The Theatre of Games: Bernie DeKoven describes the elements of drama that occur throughout traditional types of children’s games based on the ways they generate a wide range of role-taking activities.

Chapter 33. Related Fields: Adam Blatner notes some of the approaches that, though beyond the scope of this book, are important to know about, such as performance theory, live action role playing, improvisational dance, and so forth.

Appendix A: General Bibliography: Compiled by Adam Blatner, here are books and other resources that are mentioned by many of the authors or otherwise relevant to the overall themes covered in this book.

Appendix B: Warm-ups, Theatre Games, Experiential Exercises, Improvisation Methods and Action Techniques: Books, articles, chapters, websites.

Appendix C: Glossary: Common terms used by authors in this book.