Webpage Supplement to

Chapter 33: Related Fields

Compiled by Adam Blatner

October 7, 2006

A number of fields are closely related to interactive and improvisational drama, including:
Performance Theory

  • Creativity
  • Flow and Spontaneity
  • Improv Theatre
  • Play Live Action
  • Role Play
  • Play Therapy
  • Action Therapies
  • Creative Arts Therapies
  • Simulations in Learning
  • Humor
  • Movement and Dance
  • Drama on the Internet (see Paper elsewhere on this website!)

...and these and related approaches are discussed in Chapter 33.

Applied theatre is itself an integration of a number of sub-fields (i.e., applications of drama in education, therapy, business, social action, etc.), and it may expand with time as people find more ways of using this powerful complex of techniques for exploring phenomena in the realms of psychology, relationships, groups, and the wider culture. Theory, aesthetic values in production, historical and cultural trends, and pure experimentation and play operate in these efforts, along with forays into (or opening to influences from) spirituality, politics, economics, and other social institutions.

We hope you will communicate with us, write further suggestions as to what should be noted: I hope this webpage and perhaps others to be posted can serve as a complement to Toni Sant’s Applied and Interactive Theatre Guide–which is discussed in the chapter.

Below are some other notes:

1. Event Coordination
 As an extension of skills in doing rituals, in the chapter on that subject, there is also now a recognition of a dramaturgical element in large event management: Parades, city celebrations, school graduations, and other complex systems involve not only logistical and management skills, but often a sensitivity to questions of psychology, what will be most inclusive, how to address the needs and sensitivities and tastes of the anticipated audience. How loud should the music be, and what kind? Can some of the key facilitators be in a kind of role, and if so, what would they wear, how shall they be trained?

2. Experimental Theatre. A number of authors and theatre artists in the book have been influenced by pioneers in the fields of modern drama, and these, such as Antonin Artaud and Jerzy Grotowsky, deserve to be acknowledged.
Grotowsky, Jerzy. (1968). Towards a poor theatre. New York: Simon and Schuster.

3. More about Performance Studies:
  (From a biographical summary on the internet):
Schechner, RichardThe founder of the academic field known as performance studies. This is an interdisciplinary approach to social performances including anthropological rituals, political demonstrations, theatrical productions, and performing arts events such as dance and music. He has been a leading ground-breaker in developing a new and interdisciplinary way of viewing theatre that has evolved as the leading trend both inside and outside the academy. His books include Environmental Theatre, The Future of Rituals, Performance Theory, and Between Theatre and Anthropology.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, about Performance Studies:

Performance studies is a growing field of academic study focusing on the critical analysis of performance and performativity. The field or post-discipline engages performance as both an object of study and as a method of analysis. Examining events as performance provides insight into how we perform ourselves and our lives. And understanding the performative nature of speech-acts introduces an element of reflexivity and critique to otherwise descriptive accounts of social phenomena.
Performance Studies as an academic field has multiple origin narratives. One account stresses the research collaborations of director Richard Schechner and anthropologist Victor Turner. This origin narrative emphasizes a definition of performance as being "between theatre and anthropology" and often stresses the importance of intercultural performances as an alternative to either traditional proscenium theatre or traditional anthropological fieldwork. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett has contributed an interest in tourist productions and ethnographic showmanship to the field, and Diana Taylor has brought a hemispheric perspective on Latin American performance, and has also theorized the relationship between the archive and the performance repertoire.
An alternative origin narrative stresses the development of speech-act theory by philosophers J.L. Austin and Judith Butler and literary critic Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Performance studies has also had a strong relationship to the fields of feminism, psychoanalysis, and queer theory. Theorists like Peggy Phelan, Butler, Sedgwick, José Esteban Muñoz, and Rebecca Schneider have been equally influential in both performance studies and these related fields.
Performance studies incorporates theories of drama, dance, art, anthropology, philosophy, cultural studies and sociology. More can be found out by reading Schechner's book: Performance Studies: An Introduction. The first performance studies department was created at NYU. But, there is some debate that the joint-cradles of Performance Studies are Northwestern University and NYU. In the United States, the field has spread to Brown, UC Berkeley, and elsewhere.
In Australia, the Queensland University of Technology offers a degree majoring in performance studies, and also a masters and Phd in performance innovation.
Performance studies has a long-standing and complex relationship to the practice of performance art, also known as live art, also known as visual art performance.
Some key companies and practitioners who are widely considered to be working within this field include: Robert Lepage Ariane Mnouchkine and the Theatre du Soleil Robert Wilson Forced Entertainment (UK) Pina Bauch The Wooster Group (New York) Anne Bogart and The Siti Company (New York)
Performance Studies in some countries is also an A-level (AS and A2) course consisting of the integration of the discrete art forms of Dance, Music and Drama in performing arts.
 Its main academic journal is: TDR: The Drama Review  
(E-ISSN: 1531-4715 Print ISSN: 1054-2043Publisher: The MIT Press)
TDR provides scholarship on performances and their social, economic and political contexts. With an emphasis on the experimental, avant-garde, intercultural and interdisciplinary, it covers dance theatre, performance art, popular entertainment, media, sports, rituals and performance in politics and everyday life.

Schechner, Richard. (1977). Essays on Performance Theory:  1970-1976. New York: Drama Book Specialists.

4. Contact Improvisation: Books about this improvisational dance modality have been
compiled by © Mark Zemelman about this approach and related subjects.  

Sharing the Dance - Contact Improvisation and American CultureCynthia Novak

Taken by Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader Ann Cooper Albright - Editor

Contact Improvisation: Moving, Dancing, Interaction Thomas Kaltenbrunner

Contact Improvisation & Body-Mind Centering; A Manual for Teaching & Learning Movement Author: Annie Brook   In this manual for both teaching and learning contact movement skills, readers learn to find creative approaches to awakening the body. Playful exercises for solos, pairs, and groups of dancers offer the physical support that allows emotional distress to sequence out of the body.  Dancers learn to enhance their own sense of flow through the movement of an improvisational mind.

Action Theater: The Improvisation of Presence  Author - Ruth Zaporah

Dance Improvisations Joyce Morganroth

BodystoriesAndrea Olsen An innovative guide to anatomy that uses techniques from yoga and dance to increase awareness of the body. BodyStories presents a much needed approach to human anatomy, one that is enlightening to beginning and graduate students alike. This is a book to be done, not merely read; as you engage in Olsen's programmed sequence of lessons, you become the text and the illustrations. This is experiential anatomy at its best./ -review by Dean Juhan

Sensing, Feeling, and Action: The Experiential Anatomy of  Body-Mind Centering
Author: Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen 

The Wisdom of the Body Moving: An Introduction to Body-Mind Centering Author: Linda Hartley

Body-Mind Centering, developed by physical therapist and dancer Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, systematically explores the complex relationships between bodily experience and science. Hartley puts forth BMC's philosophy and its key components of investigating the "minds" of our
skeletal systems, digestive organs, etc., through breath and imagery. "A specific `mind,'" she says, "can be experienced and witnessed when we direct our attention to a particular body system or part of the body, or when we move with a certain focus and identifiable quality." Starting
with basic cellular structure, she takes readers through in utero development, birth, patterns of growth, and the body's many systems. The book's many photographs illustrating various exercises combine with anatomical drawings and generous endnotes and bibliography to make it a
thorough grounding for further study. /Whitney Scott/

Job's Body: A Handbook for Bodywork Author: Deane Juhan
This fascinating text offers everything a health practitioner, massage therapist, exercise instructor, or student of human potential could hope for: an information-packed reference on the workings of the body and mind; a broad assortment of strategies for releasing tension, freeing
energy, and enhancing health through "hands-on" bodywork; an eloquent exploration of the most mysterious and powerful of all human interactions--touch. - Dr. Ken Dychtwald

 The field of applied theatre and interactive and improvisational drama should be recognized as being embedded within a number of greater trends and fields of endeavor. It represents the integration of the arts, psychology, and the various areas of application–especially education, community and organizational development, and personal empowerment both for those in therapy and for those who are healthy and seeking to become even healthier. These trends express humanity’s emergence into a new, more flexible and complex mode of consciousness. As such, applied theatre, in the expanded sense that is presented in this book, relates to other kinds of efforts to build dynamic and inclusive communities; educate people so they can adapt to our postmodern era; and lubricate all these goals with the intrinsic motivations that come from weaving recreation into life.
 There are many who have been writing about creativity, and worthy of note is the pioneering observations of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2003) about the phenomenon of what he termed “flow” in human activities–a form of spontaneity–, as well as related themes. This dynamic is very much connected with Moreno’s thoughts about spontaneity, warming-up, and the integration of the intuitive, the power of body-knowing, the adaptive unconscious, and the more ordinary states of awareness. Research into spontaneity is thus a relevant field.
 In the preparation of this book, certain approaches and methods were clearly related to the general field of applied theatre, yet judged to be just beyond the boundaries of this category. Admittedly, in the future, these boundaries may expand or become re-defined, but some limit was needed on the scope and size of this work. Nevertheless, these related approaches deserve to be mentioned, along with references so that if you’re interested, you can follow up and learn more.
Job Training and Simulations
 Role playing as a form of interactive drama should be recognized as also functioning as a type of simulation (Kipper, 1986, pp. 25-31). Many tasks are complex enough so that they cannot be completely thought out ahead of time. Computer programs are often subject to “beta-testing,” which means that samples are shipped to a target audience who mess with the program and give feedback. Toys are tried on kids, because they can find ways of mis-applying and breaking them in ways that the grown-ups who designed the toys haven’t anticipated. The point of a scientific laboratory is to actually try out an idea, because what actually happens may not be what is figured out on paper–there are so often elements that hadn’t been included in the planning. Situations that involve human relations are like this. We are appreciating that there are more complexities and variables, differences in temperament and styles of learning and communicating, so that simple logic doesn’t rule what actually goes on. Drama, role playing, and simulations are ways of exploring situations so that “glitches” can be discovered, skills refined and practiced, and learning can be more authentic and experiential–i.e., learning-by-doing.
 For example, medical students and physicians in practice are being trained using a variety of role-playing equivalents. To learn how to interview patients, medical students may be given opportunities to interact with patients who are actually actors. Some “patients” are teenagers (though the actors are actually older), who may be sexually active, but would be unlikely to admit it unless the doctor is skilled at building rapport. Another problem involves the challenge of overcoming a “patient’s” denial of the seriousness of, say, his high blood pressure, and to at least begin to work towards gaining his cooperation in starting to reliably take medicines and do other things to control that disease. Because of the medical students own differences in temperament and skill, the development of a good “bedside manner” must be individualized.
 “People skills” can be learned for other purposes. A hotel recently hired actors to play the roles of difficult customers in order to sharpen the interpersonal skills of the staff. They also hired dancers and theatre artists to help train the staff to move with grace and style through a variety of their activities.
 The idea of “military exercises” is well known: Generals coordinating many divisions or squadrons, integrating different services, such simulations are designed to avoid actual injury, but like exercises of emergency services, they test out complex systems at every level in order to clarify the gaps in technology, communications, planning, and so forth. This may also be applied at the more personal level of the soldiers’ “people skills” as they are being asked to deal with actors playing the people in a country where there are also supposed terrorists. How else to learn that mixture of tact and toughness that may be necessary in order to get cooperation?
 Role playing can be mixed with varying degrees of technical aids, from simple costumes to the most elaborate and expensive machines. Consider that what goes on in the training of pilots and astronauts, in flight simulators. More recently, new highly sophisticated machinery have been embedded in the mannequins being used for the learning of medical procedures. Teamwork also must be practiced, and role playing allows these skills to be developed while minimizing the impact of minor and not-so-minor mistakes on living patients.

Websites: & References

The general field of improv in all kinds of situations is close:alan rostain, www.appliedimprov.netApplied Improvisation Network

Porter, Phil. What the body wants...
 Interplay:   www.interplay.org/essays.aspAnd other items on this rich website.

Boyd, Neva L. (1947?–reprinted 1971?). The theory of play.
  Neva Boyd was Viola Spolin's teacher and mentor and she had a huge impact on Spolin's thinking. Boyd developed her theory of play in group and social work in Chicago at Hull House and wrote a very important article on her theory. Viola said of Boyd, "her influence has never left me for a single day." I have annotated the article to show what I think are some of the sources of Spolin's theories.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. (2003). Good business: leadership, flow, and the making of meaning. New York: Viking.

The Power of Play and the Need for Playing: by Gary Schwartz: This is an article I wrote for Paradigm Magazine of addiction and recovery, relating stories of my work with kids and women playing theater games in therapeutic settings.

Schechner, Richard.Essays on Performance Theory:  1970-1976. New York: Drama Book Specialists, 1977.

Stephanie Stolinsky wrote a book that notes how acting exercises can be used to heal from abuse. See:  http://www.act-it-out.com/toc.asp  

We are at a time in history when Improvisational drama promotes the capacity to improvise in other ways, and the idea of improvisation. Much of our culture is still mired in obsolete ideas that ground knowledge in the mere acquisition of information, an attitude that overly valorizes obedience and conscious or unconscious submission to mere authority. To counter the rigidity of patterns of thought as well as social norms, a valuing of creativity has emerged in the last century and more recently is being recognized as a vital component of what might be able to help us to be economically competitive. Research on the nature of creativity and what can promote its flowering has expanded significantly in the last few decades. Moreno (the inventor of psychodrama) was one of the first to note that a major component in creative thinking is the loosening of certain mental habits that accompanies spontaneity, and the way improvisation in turn offers the chief way that creativity can be developed.

Taylor, Philip. (2003). Applied Theatre: Creating Transformative Encounters in the Community' Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.  www.heinemanndrama.com