Theatre, Therapy and Personal Narrative
Baim, Clark Michael
Date: 8 March 2018
University of Exeter
PhD in Drama
Contemporary theatre has crossed boldly into therapeutic terrain and is now the site of radical self-exposure. The recent and expanding use of people’s personal stories in the theatre has prompted the need for a robust framework for safe, ethical, flexible and intentional practice by theatre makers. Such a framework is needed due to ...
Contemporary theatre has crossed boldly into therapeutic terrain and is now the site of radical self-exposure. The recent and expanding use of people’s personal stories in the theatre has prompted the need for a robust framework for safe, ethical, flexible and intentional practice by theatre makers. Such a framework is needed due to the risks inherent in putting people’s private lives on the stage, particularly when their stories focus on unresolved difficulties and cross into therapeutic terrain. With this ethical and practical imperative in mind, and in order to create a broader spectrum of ethical risk-taking where practitioners can negotiate blurred boundaries in safe and creative ways, this study draws on relevant therapeutic theory and practice to re-connect therapy and theatre and promote best practice in the theatre of personal stories. In order to promote best practice in the theatre of personal stories (a term I will use to cover the myriad forms of theatre that make use of people’s personal stories), I describe a new framework that synthesises theory and practice from the fields of psychodrama, attachment narrative therapy, and theatre and performance studies. The benefits of this integrative framework for the theatre practitioner are that it promotes safer, more ethical and purposeful practice with personal stories, and encourages more confident and creative artistic expression. The framework provides these benefits because it offers a structured model for decision-making by theatre practitioners who work with personal stories, and suggests ways that the practitioner can explore fresh artistic possibilities with clear intentions and confidence about the boundaries and ethics of the work. The integrated framework has been developed through the grounded theory process of reflective inquiry, using in particular the models of action research, the Kolb experiential learning cycle and applied phronesis. The framework has four elements, which are explored respectively in chapters one to four: 1) History: understanding the roots of the theatre of personal stories in traditions of art, oral history, social activism, theatre and therapy; 2) Ethics: incorporating wide-ranging ethical issues inherent in staging personal stories; 3) Praxis: structuring participatory theatre processes to regulate the level of personal disclosure among participants (a model for structuring practice and regulating personal disclosure is offered — called the Drama Spiral); and 4) Intentions: working with a clear focus on specific intentions — especially bio-psycho-social integration — when working with personal stories. The study concludes, in chapter five, with a critical analysis of two exemplars of practice, examined through the lens of the Drama Spiral.
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