Michael Finneran: Distance and tyranny: Understanding drama, democracy & politics

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 i

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.

Tegan Arazny (Facilitator & Documenter)
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.