Hooked: a truelife production about teen drug and alcohol abuse: engaging action research and postmodern theatre practices in devising a theatre in education project.
Strauss, Nancy Leigh.
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Theatre in Education (TIE) has a long history of impact and development, and in South Africa, has been particularly instrumental in bringing about social change, challenging young people to reflect on their lives and their role in society. In this dissertation, I explore the usefulness of Action Research (AR) for the process of devising a TIE production using a case study of Trulife, a non-profit organisation working in schools across KwaZulu-Natal. Action Research has been shown to be useful in education but has not been properly explored in the context of the devising process for TIE programmes. This dissertation is structured into three parts – the initial establishment of the literature and a theoretical framework; followed by a description of the practical creative project and script; and concluding with a description of the methods used to reflect on the work as well as key observations and reflections. Central to this dissertation is the script of Hooked, a TIE programme which focuses on the impact of young people’s decisions relating to drug and alcohol use. The script, which is included in Chapter Four, was created using collaborative devising – with a focus on brainstorming, improvisation, and borrowing the storyboarding technique from the world of film. The study explores how the process of devising for TIE programmes relates to the intersecting ideas and frameworks of practice as research, self-reflection and the AR method, using postmodernism conceptually to examine how subjective truth is communicated and also practically as a stylistic approach to best engage high school learners using theatre. The data was drawn from both the script itself, group interviews with the participant actors, and my own observations captured in private journaling. The most important finding of this work is that AR was not only useful for helping to streamline the devising process but was already deeply ingrained in the way the team of creators and performers approached the task of creating a new TIE production. The benefits of using AR in guiding devising are explored, while parallels to other cyclical processes found in self-reflection and theatre are acknowledged. This study contributes both to the field of TIE – suggesting that AR can be a useful tool fordevising, and calling for future studies aimed at further developing and refining AR for TIE – and to my own personal development as a creative practitioner involved in producing TIE productions.