The theatre of possibilities: mapping drama in community and healthcare contexts in the Northwest of Ireland
There has been considerable interest in recent years in the potential of participatory or engaged arts to stimulate impacts beyond intrinsic value, emanating from such diverse sources as artists, activists and statutory bodies. Is there a case for a revised definition of the role of the arts? Can creative engagement influence personal development or contribute to social change? Could some of these outcomes be allied with strategic social policy objectives? This study uses quantitative and qualitative methodologies to explore the praxis of drama as applied to community and healthcare contexts in three counties in the Northwest of Ireland; and the outcomes of participation in such projects as experienced by participants and practitioners. The research is informed by a cross-disciplinary review of theoretical currents which have contributed to contemporary practice in this field, illustrations of applied drama forms, as well as a critical overview of recent Irish and international research into personal and social outcomes of participation in arts (particularly drama) projects in community and healthcare settings. The rich accounts arising from applied drama praxis in this region concur with comparable studies elsewhere. As such, they provide a cogent argument for the value of this work and indicate a need for enhanced supports and further research, while cautioning against the subsuming of drama’s unique qualities by social policy objectives.
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