Praxis and Principles:

Phillip Taylor (Taylor, 2003) writes that Applied Theatre achieves a praxis of practice and theory set in connection to the people, passion and platform involved in the drama making. Praxis is a word develeoped by Brazilian educator Paulo Friere (Freire and Freire, 1973) “an ability to help one another reflect and act on their world is at the heart of sound education, and through that process transforms it into something worthwhile” (Taylor). Taylor states that put simply, “Praxis is the action, reflection and transformation of people as they engage with one another”.

Inherent in Applied Theatre drama making is the desire for an audience to generate meaning via aesthetic understanding or aesthetic learning (Abbs, 1989). The image of reality and the reality of the image (metaxis) (Boal, 1995) may be manipulated by and with the audience, the underlying contract with the audience is that this is done with the aim of achieving authenticity and recognition. Transformation, insight and deepening understanding of social and political situations, relationships and contexts occurs when the audience is engaged emotionally, psychologically and intellectually. This level of engagment engages the limbic brain (Lewis et al.) where deep learning is experienced and assimilated.

Using Taylor’s eight principles of Applied Theatre as a checklist for Three Chairs we see that:
1. Applied Theatre is thoroughly researched: we have ensured our understanding of the intended market in the planning and testing phases and have enlisted the advice of mentors with direct experience in corporate training. We are also taking steps to adjust the product through focus group feedback and reporting. We understand that as Three Chairs Develops we will see the process aligning with current trends of corporate training: for example, leadership, networking, conflict management to name a few.

2. Applied Theatre seeks incompleteness: we understand that for transformation and deep learning to occur there must be room for exploration and discovery. If we lead a session with didactic intent heading to a know destination and outcome we have introduced a short circuit into the possibility of creating new knowledge both for ourselves and for the audience. In other words we agree on the game we’re playing without having to know what the score will be at full time.

3. Applied Theatre demonstrates possible narratives: Options for which direction the story takes must exist in such a way that participants have influence on the events and possible outcomes

4. Applied Theatre is task-oriented: our audience are able to participate and intervene at various times and at varying levels – we understand that learning is doing.

5. Applied Theatre poseses dilemas: our narratives need to provoke debate and dialogue where the audience may use its collective wisdom to observe and comment on choices that are made within the context of the narrative. Influencing and witnessing various outcomes in the character’s enactment of different choices facilitates an open dialogic space. For each person this dialogue exists internally as much as it exists with others.

6. Applied Theatre interrogates futures: in Three Chairs we are seeking to ask good questions and trust that the collective wisdom of the audience will provide itself with deeper answers. More than that: we understand that by delivering the praxis of the underpinning theory’s (dramatic, learning and psychological: see notes) and the practice of Applied Theatre we act as guides. That is; we work to lead the audience to the water that might quench the desire for deeper understanding.

7. Applied Theatre is an aesthetic medium: it is important to recognise and remember that our process affords each collective a means of communication that does not exist in other mediums. Our theatre focuses a torchlight on possible problems and invites the audience to embark on a collective journey to seek answers and possible solutions.

8. Applied Theatre gives voice to communities: our intention is to create dialogue not monologue: to provide a forum for the voice of each individual and each collective that it might share its knowledge and inherent wisdoms, that it might explore and discover alternatives and possibilities through an experiential and fictional medium, and that it might turn to the forming of its own solutions and resolutions.

ABBS, P. (1989) A is for aesthetic : essays on creative and aesthetic education, New York, Falmer Press.
BOAL, A. (1995) The rainbow of desire : the Boal method of theatre and therapy, London New York, Routledge.
FREIRE, P. & FREIRE, P. (1973) Education for critical consciousness, New York,, Seabury Press.
LEWIS, T., AMINI, F. & LANNON, R. (2000) A general theory of love, New York, Vintage Books A Division of Random House.
TAYLOR, P. (2003) Applied theatre : creating transformative encounters in the community, Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann.