The Applied Theatre course at St. Mary’s University College is a new programme set up to explore ways in which theatre based research and practice might actively contribute to social & political change. Currently, we work in partnership with Theatre for a Change (TfaC) in Malawi. TfaC uses innovative strategies to stimulate dialogue, interaction and behaviour change. TfaC aims to change attitudes towards gender equality and HIV/Aids in the teaching communities of these countries. TfaC’s long-term goal is to reduce the risk of HIV infection amongst vulnerable groups. This is done through the short term goals of behavioural change & advocacy. St Mary's staff has played an active part in developing and delivering this curriculum. Students from St. Mary's will visit Lilongwe and work alongside TfaC facilitators employing this curriculum from May 2011.
We are currently looking for new partners to expand our work throughout southern Africa to offer a variety of experiences to the St. Mary's students as well as to provide a sustainable basis for knowledge transfer amongst the various participants.
The trip to Africa is the culmination of the students' training in the Applied Theatre course at St. Mary’s University College. The trip will introduce the students to the key challenges in using drama to support national and international development programmes:
As part of their course, students will travel to Africa and work in local communities to understand ways in which Drama techniques can be used for social & political change through working with other in schools and other communities. As well as exposing them to a specific cultural context in their course, they will have the chance to reflect on how their learning within a British University can be further influenced and, if necessary, challenged, by the active practice of teachers working in Africa.
By the end of this exchange, the students will be able to:
- Understand the potential use of interactive drama skills as a tool for social & political change,
- Participate in health education and advocacy,
- Be able to workshop openly issues about gender equality, relationships, behaviour change and sexuality,
- Have the confidence to practice these skills in the context of an African placement,
- Discuss the effectiveness of specific development programmes,
- Discuss the important political and sociological issues arising from working in this manner,
- Without prejudice, listen to and learn from drama teachers working in a significantly different context from your own.
Within their exchange, the following topics will be discussed:
- Effective interactive teaching,
- Working in Africa,
- Using drama in health education,
- Creating a safe space in a workshop,
- Developing forum / interactive theatre techniques,
- Challenging behaviour patterns,
- Human rights, particularly gender & children’s rights
- Bottom-up policy making
Students will also have the opportunity to bring performance work from the UK to their placement as part of the exchange. The shared performance would provide a stimulus for further explorations and workshops shared by St Mary’s students and others in the community. Currently, we are creating a verbatim piece of theatre entitled 'Gender Balance & Safer Sex' to be researched in London and performed in Malawi. As component parts of The Theatre for Development module students would also research the socio-political situation in the particular country, research and pursue funding opportunities, administrate fundraising events, galvanise support and create a range of performance pieces.