About My Research

From September 2010 to June 2011 I lived in Shanghai, China conducting a project on participatory theater and theater education.  My research was supported by a Fulbright grant from the U.S. Department of State.  The core of my project was centered on instructing a workshop on applied theatre for the Shanghai Theatre Academy (STA)’s new arts education major (for more info about this endeavor see the “Class Action” section of this site).  In addition to teaching at STA, I organized theater-related projects in partnership with schools, NGOs, and various communities in Shanghai and elsewhere in China.

From September 2011 through June 2012, I will be continuing my teaching and research in China as a Master’s student at the Shanghai Theatre Academy.  This blog catalogues my research and experiences over the course of both my Fulbright research and my graduate work at STA.

To make this site more accessible to those of you who may not be too familiar with so-called “applied theater,” I’m including a simple summary of terms and principles of this type of theater work below.  As with many artistic and academic subjects, many of these terms have no fixed definition, so everything should be taken with a grain of salt.

Applied Theater Key Terms

drama in education (D.I.E.) – the overall concept of using theater methods in educational settings to instruct students about theater as an art form and engage students in a broad range of curricula

applied theater – a general term used to describe theater-related activities that are non-commercial and non-professional in nature and generally emphasize the value of theater as a process rather than product.  Also see below.

participatory theater – any theater-related activity oriented towards encouraging the participation of a given group (usually in opposition to the perception that only professional actors should act).  Essentially the same as “applied theater.”

Theater of the Oppressed – series of theater methods designed by Brazilian theater director, activist, and politician Augusto Boal.  Used to address political and social issues by engaging communities in dialogue and problem-solving through theater activities.  Methods include Forum Theatre, Invisible Theatre, Image Theatre, Rainbow of Desire and others.  Many of these techniques form the basis for my current workshop at the Theater Academy

The Basic Principles of Applied Theater (according to me)

1. Everyone is an artist and has the ability to create and think imaginatively

2. Everyone should have the right to express him or herself freely and participate in artistic creation

3. Theater is valuable both as a process and as an artistic product

4. The content of all theatrical creation is in someway connected to our everyday lives, so we can use theater as a means for dialogue and examination to better understand our daily realities.

5. The ensemble is a microcosm of our society.  We can use the collaborative process of creating theater to model problem-solving and teamwork on a societal level.

4 Responses to “About My Research”
  1. Bob Leibenluft says:

    Terrific site — great to see it up and running!

  2. Sophia says:

    I’m excited about this site!

  3. Molly Rubenstein says:

    Thanks for the head’s up, Mike! I’m really looking forward to reading about the project as it develops. Good luck!

  4. Ellen Leibenluft says:

    Love from Mom! XXXOOO

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