Education and theatres: innovation, outreach and success

This expert panel looks at the intersection between theatre companies and their work in various communities around the world

The panel will critically consider the intersection between theatre companies and their work in various communities. While many theatre companies have a long and proud tradition of outreach in the community, there has been little critical and academic attention directed to the examination of these programs. The panel will critically examine how theses notions  are often constructed geographically, culturally and through differing communities of practice. The panel will consider innovative practice, the ways in which success is understood, and the manner in which success is conceptualised and measured in theatre partnership contexts. The panel will also consider the theoretical and methodological features of this facet of theatrical practice. This panel emerges from research in the forthcoming book: ‘Education and Theatres: Beyond the four Walls’


What follows is a selection of the panel’s inspiring words from the session…

“…the curse of the pilot project […] whereby we gather a little pocket of money in our universities or in our theatres or in our companies, we set up something innovative but of course, it never becomes embedded. It never becomes systemic. It never becomes part and parcel of the nature of the organisation.” – Michael Finneran on the inspiration behind the book Applied Theatre: Understanding Change

“we have a broad, wide, open field to investigate here. We have wheels that we can stop reinventing. We have opportunities that we can take – if we can find the will to unify rather than to fragment.” – Michael Anderson on his own motivations behind the book Applied Theatre: Understanding Change

“[We were] very interested in finding a way to forge relationships among the elderly and engage them in life.” – Prue Wales on the Theatre for Seniors project in Singapore

“In 2015, a total of 255 youth theatres took part in the scheme involving 5,000 young people in 684 performances in 27 theatres in front of audiences of 25,000 people.” – Selina Busby on the impact of the National Youth Connection Scheme run by the National Theatre in London, UK

“Our mission celebrates the power of theatre by spotlighting classics from the past, cultivating new works of the present, and educating minds for the future.” – Jennifer DiBella on Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City, US

“Every great lesson has the elements of a great play.” – Mitch Mattson on Roundabout’s work in local New York public schools

“And we would work at how we make the opera house a creative resource for the city, for the schools in the city. How could we actually […] unlock the creativity that was there?” – Michael Anderson on his project conducted in partnership with the University of Sydney, the Sydney Opera House, and local public schools


Michael Finneran is Senior Lecturer and Head of Drama at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Ireland where he leads the BA in Contemporary & Applied Theatre Studies. His research is in applied drama, drama education & creativity.

Michael Anderson is Professor in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at The University of Sydney. His research and teaching concentrates the role of creativity, critical reflection, communication and collaboration in learning and school transformation. This work has evolved into a program of research and publication that engages with arts classrooms directly. His recent publications explore how aesthetic education and research is changing learning in the 21st Century.

Selina Busby is an academic and theatre practitioner who makes performances with community groups. At Central, I am a principal lecturer in Applied Theatre, teaching on both the BA Drama, Applied Theatre and Education and the MA Applied Theatre courses. After studying at Middlesex University, I worked as a drama teacher in a further education college as well as in schools and prisons. I have also taught at both Buckingham Chiltern
University College and Royal Holloway University of London as well as at Central on the PGCE.

Prue Wales is Assistant Deputy Director (Research and Interdisciplinary Studies) at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. In this session she discusses her research on theatre for seniors.

Jennifer M. DiBella currently serves as Director of Education for Roundabout Theatre Company, where she has worked since 2005. Roundabout’s education department partners with over 30,000 people each year through in-school partnerships, career and workforce
development, and community engagement programming.

Mitch Mattson, Associate Director of Education, oversees the operations and programming of Education at Roundabout, the inschool, after-school, and workforce development department of Roundabout Theatre Company. America’s largest not-for-profit theatre company is committed to serving NYC public school students and teachers with access to arts integrated programming and the professional theatre process.

Laura Dean (Associate Director)
Laura is a keen advocate for the Arts in Education. A graduate of the Comparative and International Education MA program at Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA, USA), Laura’s research interests revolve around how Arts subjects, and Theatre in particular, can play a crucial role to the development of a student’s social and emotional well-being, whilst bolstering their academic attainment. Having lived in numerous places around the world, and worked to support international students in a university setting, Laura is interested in supporting global Education policy. With an avid interest in Theatre & Performance, she is delighted to be bringing her two passions together to lead on Dialogue’s Community Performance for Education work.