ANGELA DRIVERThe Peter Mitchell Churchill Fellowship to examine how performance events can create a shift in ideas and perceptions within a community with emphasis on social and political empowerment - USA, Canada, U.K., South Africa
Angela graduated from the University of Tasmania with a bachelor of Performing Arts in 1999. Since then she has continually worked in the arts as an arts administrator, event manager, theatre director and community cultural developer.
She worked for six years with Tasdance as the Administration Manager. She was the artistic coordinator for Streets Alive Youth Arts Festival in 2003 and returned in 2006 as the co-executive director with Kim Schneiders.
Most recently she was General Manager for the inaugural Junction Arts festival and the 2011 Regional Arts Australia National Conference. Prior to that she was the Regional Arts Development Officer for Tasmanian Regional Arts. Currently she is the General Manager with Tasmanian Leaders Inc. She is a graduate of the 2009 Tasmanian Leaders’ Program.
My fellowship set out to examine how performance events can create a shift in ideas and perceptions within a community with emphasis on social and political empowerment. I did this by investigating performance styles ranging from developmental theatre in South Africa, to cutting edge political theatre in North America and large scale events in the United Kingdom.
The fellowship was undertaken between October 1, 2007 and January 26, 2008 in the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom and South Africa.
In undertaking my research over a four month period I attended:
- • 20 workshops
- • 37 performances
- • 31 interviews
- • 2 festivals, and
- • 1 conference.
FELLOWSHIP CONCLUSIONS & OUTCOMES
My fellowship broadened and challenged my own definitions and ideas about performance. I was continually inspired and intrigued by the work of artists, activists and social workers who are defining new theatrical genres in response to the growing complexities of modern society. Indeed, it seems that social and political theatre is among the quickest forms of theatre to respond to changing social landscapes. It seems there is a global trend of experimenting with ways of creating discourse as the performance, as opposed to creating a performance to stimulate discourse.
There is also a resolve across the globe for political and social theatre to reach audiences beyond the patronage base of traditional theatre. There is a persistence of practitioners who seek new venues in response to the privatisation and corporatisation of public spaces. Examples range from the Reverend Billy accosting shoppers in local shopping malls, to Billionaires for Bush hijacking media opportunities, and then Darren O’Donnel taking over hair salons with eight year olds.
These forms of theatre excite me as does the power of festivals to build ‘community’, despite the definition contentions.
All these types of theatre are appropriate for the Australian populace. In particular, new forms of theatre that access new technology and e-communications are empowering in a Tasmanian, or any regional, context as the possibilities for audience size and influence are immeasurable.
I am also excited by performative psychology as a tool for empowerment and a science that has documented the process and benefits of playing theatre games, improvising and performing. All of these tools allow people to learn new ways of being themselves, to try on new possibilities, to retrain patterns of behaviour, to increase confidence and ultimately, gain self-efficacy. These benefits are possibly increased through the use of these skills for people to tell their own story. This type of theatre is active and collaborative and because it commands participation, it creates a sense of community and community empowerment.
I believe there needs to be more research and communication between theatre practitioners, academics and social scientists in terms of both performative psychology and the transformative value of the performing arts. Until this research is undertaken, there must be greater faith from funding bodies to believe in the transformative nature of the arts, for currently there is unhealthy and impractical pressure on artists to create the art and articulate the benefits.