Using applied theatre to address social challenges

by Elizabeth Copeland,

We have used the model of applied theatre with great success with a variety of demographics including:
  • Immigrant women
  • Psychiatric survivors
  • People marginalized by poverty
  • Survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence
  • Children with learning challenges
  • Youth who are dealing with bullying
  • Communities in crisis
As an example: Working with a group of women who had recently immigrated to Canada (mostly from Africa), we used the tools of the performing arts (song, dance, drama, storytelling) to build confidence, resilience and strengthen interpersonal connections. The program ran for 12 weeks. The first four weeks were dedicated to discussion and creative play (theatre games, singing, storytelling) from which we mined the raw material for our performance piece. During this time all important community connections were made which broke the sense of isolation that many of the women felt. Working collaboratively, we created our 'show', which we toured to local women's shelters. The participants' feedback was that they:

  •  felt increased levels of self-confidence that allowed them to face the challenges of living in a new country where.
  • had improved communication skills
  • had created important social connections
  • Using this experiential collaborative model, we have witnessed profound and lasting transformations.
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