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Applied Theatre: Transforming Society Through Art

Applied theatre is an innovative approach to using the performing arts to promote personal and social change. The term applied theatre refers to a wide range of practices and performances that use theatre as a tool for empowering individuals and communities, fostering critical thinking and promoting social justice.

A Brief History of Applied Theatre

The roots of applied theatre can be traced back to ancient Greece where theatre was used as a tool for education and moral instruction. The modern concept of applied theatre, however, emerged in the mid-20th century as a response to the growing need for creative and effective ways to address social issues, when artists and activists began to use performance as a tool for social activism. The 1960s and 1970s saw a surge in the use of theatre for social causes, with artists using their platforms to protest against issues such as the Vietnam War and apartheid. Today, applied theatre continues to evolve and grow, with many organizations and initiatives using it to create positive change in their communities.

Since then, applied theatre has continued to evolve and has been used in a variety of settings including schools, prisons, hospitals, community centers, and more. It has been used to address issues such as homelessness, mental health, substance abuse, and conflict resolution.

Forms of Applied Theatre

Applied theatre encompasses a wide range of forms and practices, each with its own unique approach and techniques. Some of the most well-known forms of applied theatre include:

  1. Drama Therapy: Drama therapy uses the creative process of drama and theatre to help individuals overcome personal challenges and improve their mental health and wellbeing. This form of therapy allows individuals to explore their emotions and experiences through acting, role-play, and other theatrical techniques.

  2. Community-based Theatre: Community-based theatre focuses on creating theatre with and for the community, often with the goal of addressing social issues or promoting community development. This form of theatre empowers community members to become active participants in the creative process, fostering a sense of ownership and investment in the final product.

  3. Theatre for Development: Theatre for Development uses theatre as a tool for promoting awareness, education, and social change in communities. This form of applied theatre often addresses specific social issues, such as poverty, health, and human rights, and uses interactive techniques to engage audiences and spark discussion.

  4. Theatre of the Oppressed: A form of applied theatre that was developed by Augusto Boal, this approach uses theatre as a tool for promoting social change and empowering marginalized communities.

  5. Theatre in Education: Theatre in Education uses theatre as a tool for education and learning. This form of applied theatre can be used in a variety of educational settings, from schools to universities, to teach subjects such as history, literature, and science in an engaging and interactive way.

  6. Conflict Resolution: Conflict resolution uses theatre as a tool for resolving conflicts and promoting peace. This form of applied theatre often involves interactive techniques, such as role-play and improvisation, to help individuals and communities understand and resolve conflicts in a peaceful and constructive manner.

  7. Site-Specific Theatre: A form of applied theatre that takes place in specific locations, often in non-traditional theatrical spaces such as parks, public squares, and abandoned buildings.

Important Components of an Applied Theatre Project with Communities

When working with communities, it is important to have a clear understanding of the purpose and goals of the project. Some of the key components of a successful applied theatre project include:

  • Building Relationships: Establishing strong relationships with community members is crucial for building trust and ensuring the success of the project.

  • Empowerment: Empowering individuals and communities to take ownership of their own growth and development is an important aspect of applied theatre.

  • Creativity: Encouraging creativity and imaginative thinking is a key component of applied theatre and helps to create an environment that is supportive and non-judgmental.

  • Active Listening: Active listening and empathy are crucial for building trust and understanding between participants.

  • Collaboration: Collaboration and teamwork are essential for creating an environment in which everyone can contribute and have a voice.

Starting as a Beginner

If you are interested in exploring the world of applied theatre, there are a number of steps you can take to get started:

  • Read and research: Start by reading books, articles, and online resources about applied theatre and its various forms and techniques.

  • Attend workshops and training: Attending workshops and training programs is a great way to gain hands-on experience and to learn from experienced practitioners.

  • Get involved in local projects: Look for opportunities to get involved in local applied theatre projects and to network with other practitioners.

  • Volunteer: Volunteering with organizations that use applied theatre is a great way to gain experience and to make a difference in your community.

Conclusion Applied theatre is a powerful tool for promoting personal and social change. Whether you are an experienced practitioner or just starting out, there are many ways to get involved.

The Baltic Applied Theatre School (BATS) offers workshops for beginners and advanced artists in the field of Applied Theatre. BATS is dedicated to investing in networking and training for socially engaged artists in the three Baltic states.

Let's dive into the world of applied theatre!

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