Drama claims a unique relationship with democracy, politics and citizenship. We assert it as our birthright: borne from the ancient Greeks to Brecht; from Boal to Dario Fo. How sustainable is the claim? How we conceptualise the use of drama to engage with the tyranny of the decline of democracy; or do we instead unwittingly use drama to distance ourselves from tyranny? The relationship between drama and democracy is undeniable, but also complex and disputed. This paper will revisit the social and educative potential of drama. It will look to both the historical claims drama education and applied theatre hold in educating for civic values, but also the pressing current context for such an education, given the visible decline of electoral democracy and the increasingly dramatic nature of global politics. It will conclude with a problematisation of limited understandings of drama and democracy and extol the virtues of complexity.
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. Michael has published and spoken internationally on drama education, social/applied theatre and creativity. Recent and forthcoming books include Drama and Social Justice: Theory, research and practice in international contexts (Routledge, 2016), Education and Theatres: Beyond the four walls, (Springer, 2018) and Applied theatre: Understanding change, (Springer, 2018). He is the Joint Editor of RiDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre & Performance. He is an active theatre practitioner, working frequently as director and lighting designer. Michael led the team that established the Lime Tree Theatre in Limerick, and serves as a board member there as well as with Belltable and Dance Limerick. He currently chairs the Arts Council group overseeing the development of the Creative Schools project as part of the Creative Ireland initiative.