Exploring Techniques and Practices from the IDIERI 9 Workshops (Part 5)

Workshop activities from Australia and New Zealand - and delivered at IDIERI 9

Delegates at the 9th International Drama in Education Research Institute were treated to an abundance of exciting and engaging practical workshops during the 7-day event. To give you a flavour of what was on offer, the Dialogue team have put together a series of toolkits that include the workshop abstracts, biographies of the workshop leaders, and featured activities. It’s important to note that these activities are by no means comprehensive of the overall workshops but merely represent a small portion of the activities being introduced to participants.

Thinking through theory: bridging divides between theory and practice
Facilitated by Helen Cahill (Australia), Christine Hatton (Australia) and Viv Aitken (New Zealand)

“Participants will be invited to ‘think with theory’ as they respond to a dramatized stimulus. A series of thought experiments will be used to explore relationships between theory and the construction of knowledge. Participants will play variously with positioning theory (thinking with Harré), the concepts of panopticism and governmentality (thinking with Foucault), and the concept of the assemblage (thinking with Deleuze). Positioning theory offers a frame through which to analyse how characters cocreate identities via use of language, discourse and storylines. The constructs of panopticism and governmentality offer a way to examine the internalized nature of discipline and the ways in which docile bodies play themselves into dominant discourses. The metaphor of assemblage provides a means to analyze the interconnected fluidity of the material and human in the ongoing process of becoming. Prior knowledge of the theories is not required to participate in this ‘entry-point’ via a playful thought experiment.”

Professor Helen Cahill is Director of the Youth Research Centre, University of Melbourne, Australia. She uses poststructural theory to inform the use of drama as a method in participatory research and as a pedagogy for change within wellbeing education.

Dr Christine Hatton, University of Newcastle, Australia researches and teaches in drama and arts education, creative pedagogies, teacher artistry and artists in residence. Recent projects have explored the use of technologies in drama education and the workings of gender, story and identity in drama teaching and learning processes.

Dr Viv Aitken, is a research associate at Waikato University, visiting lecturer at Massey, and facilitator and consultant. She works with schools across Aotearoa – and loves it! Her research has explored power and positioning in theatre and classroom drama including in inclusive settings. Her current focus is developing and theorising Mantle-of-the-Expert within the New Zealand context.

*This work that informed this workshop is written about in Chapter 11 of a forthcoming book: Duffy, P., Hatton, C. & Sallis, R. (Eds). (2018, in press) Drama Research Methods: Provocations of Practice. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.*

Featured Activities:

Aitken, Hatton, and Cahill began the workshop by introducing themselves and giving a snapshot of a specific theory each that they would be their focus throughout the session.

Aitken focused on Positioning Theory (thinking with Harré), Hatton on panopticism and governmentality (thinking with Foucault), and Cahill on the concept of assemblage (thinking with Deleuze).

The three facilitators then performed a micro 1-minute script that had previously been devised with a Yr. 11 drama class. This script was also transcribed and given to participants at the workshop.

The three facilitators then broke the large group up into three – each of these smaller groups focused on the particular theoretical lens of each of the workshop leaders. Each group spent time brainstorming and considering the data (the script) through the lens of each particular theory.

Aitken (using Positioning Theory) questioned, “How do the parties in this interaction position themselves and each other? How do they create identities via use of language and storylines? What is the power dynamic? What part do gender norms play in this whole process?”

Hatton (using theories of panopticism and governmentality) asked participants to examine “the internalised nature of discipline and the ways in which docile bodies play themselves into dominant discourses. How are the parties internalizing standards, norms, and categories?”

Cahill (using theories of assemblage) questioned, “What is assemblage? We analyse the interconnected fluidity of the material and human in the ongoing process of becoming. How is the material world, and the discourses intersecting with and producing the effects, and flows of energy within the relational experiences? We ask what is creating a territory of stuckness? What territory of relation intersections is being produced through interplay between micro and macro?”

This process allowed the workshop leaders to challenge their groups into thinking about how positioning, governmentality and assemblage work – conducting this through dramatisation, they argue, “helps us recognise these dynamic, relational and productive operations”.

After the three groups brainstormed their ideas, they were subdivided into smaller groups of 4/5 to devise a 1 to 2-minute piece of theatre that spoke directly to their theory of focus.

The facilitators gave each subdivided group 15 minutes to create their piece, after which Aitken led all of the rehearsals collectively by asking participants to lower their volume to a 2 out of 10. When Aitken said “go”, every group around the room rehearsed their piece simultaneously and silently.

After this collective rehearsal, each group performed their piece to the whole group and were able to explain the thinking behind their piece and how their specific theory impacted their ideas and creative processes.

The following photos show the participants’ devised pieces. They are subdivided into the different theoretical lenses and are accompanied by some of the observations and explanations offered by the participants.

1) Positioning Theory

“We showed the competing multiple narratives that are within a single position”

“We talked about the distance between relationship and status”

“I think what we were trying to do was say that if you change the hierarchy of the positions (so change the role but keep the script) it changes all of the triangle”

“Body language and positioning changes the conversation”

2) Thinking with Foucault






“We wanted to explore the panopticon and dichotomies of power through technology”

3) Assemblage






“We wanted to represent the push and pull of invisible labour and the heterosexual male gaze”

“We wanted to amplify the non-human and, in this case, it was space and the technological object”

“We wanted to show the work done by the shoe but we also wanted to show how it’s different because everybody always brings their own assemblages to how they might see that work.”

“We wanted to show the invisible wheel and cycle of consumerism that determined what everybody did”

Reflections on the Whole Workshop from the Participants…

“I was struck by the way each theory does bring a different illumination – but also by the commonality between them. They’re all trying to illuminate humanity and power. I was really interested in how a non-human object became really important over here as a way of talking about positionality.”

“It [the workshop] really reinforces the power of drama because I will remember the theories having seen them [in an] embodied [way, much more] than I would have if you had all stood and delivered papers”.

“Learning about and learning within [theory] has to happen simultaneously so we have a deep understanding.”

“perhaps speed dating [with theory] is a way for us to see things that we didn’t perhaps see before about the kind of things we take for granted about our practice. So, for me, that’s been a big take away from this process.”

Tegan is a strong advocate for the development of Theatre and the Arts in community settings and has been involved with numerous Applied Theatre programmes throughout her professional training and experience. Tegan graduated with a Master of Arts with Distinction in Applied Theatre from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She has professional experience in Community Performance that promotes Young People’s expression and engagement through Puppetry and Theatre practices. As well as collaborating and performing with ERTH Visual & Physical Inc and Welsh theatre company PuppetSoup, she has co-directed and worked alongside Shop Front Arts Co-Op Junior Ensemble of 8-14-year old’s to create the original devised production, The Unknown. Tegan is currently working as Teaching Artist for Sydney Theatre Company’s ‘School Drama’. This is a Teachers Professional Development Program designed to improve teaching and learning by modelling the use of drama-based strategies with quality children's literature.