Paper Presentations # 4 – Session 4D

NZ – 1.30pm | VIC/NSW/TAS – 11.30am | SA – 11am | QLD – 10.30am | NT – 10am
WA – 8.30am

Chaired by Misha Myers

Links to join all conference sessions can be accessed via the program page of the ADSA conference website

Ebony Muller – CARE DANCE on Film: Converging the Live and the Screen

In this paper presentation, I will discuss my recent dance film, CARE DANCE (2021). CARE DANCE is a solo improvised dance screen work that considers an experimental relationship to care. In CARE DANCE, the self is the primary source of all activities, as I follow my present changing state(s) to initiate movement, sounding, touch, and my relationship to my surroundings; embodying caring ideas such as listening, attentiveness, responsiveness and reflexivity in the present moment of improvising. This film, which was the creative outcome for my doctoral research project, originated as a group improvisation practice and was intended for live performance. Although not a filmmaker by trade or previous artistic practice (and notoriously tech-avoidant), I stumbled upon film as a medium for my work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its necessary restrictions. The result: a 42-minute film captured in one single, unedited shot. CARE DANCE demonstrates a convergence between live performance and screen dance conventions, creating a liminal space where the conventions of both realms are interrupted. The camera delivered a further sense of intimacy to the work, capturing both the expansive, as well as the minute, delicate moments of my caring attention. Likewise, the one-shot afforded the work with a sense of real-time engagement (the possibility to both ‘succeed’ and ‘fail’ simultaneously) that is known to live, improvised performance. The convergence of these two affordances elevated the tensions and imperfections of a caring texture as performance aesthetic.

Ebony Muller is a Melbourne-based artist, doctoral candidate and casual academic at Deakin University. Ebony’s research centres on the field of feminist ethics, known as the ‘ethics of care’ and its application within artistic dance improvisation practice and performance. Ebony is passionate about inclusive and caring dance practice, performance and education, and incorporates these themes into their work in various modalities. Their interest in care is perpetuated by their embodied and lived experience as a queer, South Asian diasporic and mixed-race person living with chronic physical and mental illness, which enacts implicitly, but forcefully, and politically, in their work.

Sarah Peters – In relationship with people, time, and care: a community-engaged theatre practice case study

A feminist ethics of care is ‘a way of thinking about politics, social practices and the everyday-life considerations of people in diverse circumstances’ (Barnes et al, 2015: 233) which actively considers the relationship between values, actions and systems in order to critique and transform policy and practice. This relational emphasis is also central to Lillie et al’s intersectional theorisation of the relationship as the project when working collaboratively and creatively with communities (2020). These complementary frameworks focus on the liminal web of relational interaction, and provide a meaningful framework for interrogating, naming and sharing creative practice.

In this presentation I critically reflect on a case study project to illustrate how a feminist ethics of care and relationship-as-project framework can contribute to enriched understandings of community engaged theatre practice. Lockdown was an 18month world building and playwriting project with ExpressWay Arts (a joint initiative between Carclew and the City of Onkaparinga to nurture young artistic leaders in the southern suburbs of Adelaide) which resulted in a sold-out season of live performances for Adelaide Fringe Festival, and the release of a radio play for dreamBIG Children’s festival in 2021. Originally focused on the theme of violence in schools and communities, the ensemble adapted their creative process in response to Covid19, pivoting to the creation of a radio play and weaving references to the circumstances of living through a pandemic into the creative work. Interrogating this case study through a feminist ethics of care and relationship-as-project framework has proven instrumental to understanding the process, outcomes and impact of the Lockdown project.

Barnes, M., Brannelly, T., Ward, L. and Ward, N. (2015). ‘Conclusion: renewal and transformation – the importance of an ethics of care’ in Barnes et al (Ed.) Ethics of Care: Critical Advances in International Perspective. Policy Press, pp233-243 Lillie J., Larsen K., Kirkwood C. and Brown J. (2020) The Relationship is the Project: Working with Communities. Brow Books, Melbourne. ISBN: 9781925704198

Sarah Peters (she/her) is Senior Lecturer in Drama at Flinders University in South Australia and is currently serving as Equal Opportunity Officer for the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, and reviews editor for Australasian Drama Studies. Sarah is a playwright and theatre practitioner specialising in verbatim theatre and community-engaged theatre making, most recently with youth arts organisations in rural and regional South Australia. Her research investigates collaborative theatre making processes, dramaturgies of theatre based on lived experiences, and the socio-political and inter-personal outcomes of arts engagement for community participants.

Natalie Lazaroo & Sarah Woodland – Enacting Love and Friendship: Decolonial Approaches to Applied Theatre Praxis

This paper is a collaboration between the authors, who seek to conceptualise how adopting relational methodologies with communities can progress a decolonial or decentring applied theatre praxis. Applied theatre has consistently been concerned with questions around ethics and power, forced to interrogate potential power imbalances that can exist between facilitators/researchers and participants.

By framing our work within Indigenous and decolonising methodologies, relational ethics and pedagogies of friendship and love, we hope to understand how our research and practice can occur ‘with an ethic of friendship, a stance of hope, caring, justice, even love’ (Tillman-Healy, 735). We will situate this discussion within our respective partnerships with marginalised young people in Singapore, and a First Nations theatre company in Melbourne. Through these projects, we explore some of the key opportunities and tensions of how we might enact an ethic of love and friendship: how to maintain the sometimes-necessary ‘distance’ required in the research process; how to navigate between this process-based approach and the pressures and demands of output-driven neoliberal institutions; and how such approaches might ultimately result in more meaningful, accountable research partnerships that generate more grassroots knowledges.

In doing so, we hope to contribute to discussions around how applied theatre research can engage participants as ‘authors of their own stories, as co-researchers, and [as] equal collaborators’ (O’Connor & Anderson, 6).

O’Connor, Peter and Michael Anderson. “Research in a Post-normal World”. Applied Theatre Research: Radical Departures, edited by Peter O’Connor and Michael Anderson. Bloomsbury, 2015, pp. 3-94.
Tillman-Healy, Lisa. “Friendship as Method.” Qualitative Inquiry, vol. 9, no. 5, 2003, pp. 729-49.

Natalie Lazaroo is a Lecturer in Drama at the University of Queensland. Her research interests include cultural citizenship, theatre and young people, and qualitative methodologies. She currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies (ADSA). Natalie is also on the editorial board of the journal, Applied Theatre Research.

Sarah Woodland is a researcher, practitioner and educator in applied theatre, participatory arts and socially engaged performance. She is currently Dean’s Research Fellow in the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne, investigating how the performing arts can promote social justice and wellbeing in institutions and communities.

Ciara Condren – ‘Building the plane as we’re flying it’: Allyship alongside Autistic adults in Applied theatre practice.

Creating the conditions for a decentred facilitation practice which is inclusive has required research across disciplines of Applied Theatre, Disability Theatre, and Autism Studies. In this paper, I will propose that Ally skills in Applied Theatre facilitation practice for the autistic community needs to be examined by theatre practitioners. Following this I will discuss the process of creating pilot workshops for this research.
The autistic community is characterised by differences in communication and social interaction. Autism focused theatre programs focus on addressing these differences from a psychological and therapeutic standpoint. However, the role of the theatre facilitator in these programs is unclear.

Projects such as SENSE theatre and Imagining Autism have found that dramatic role play can address the differences in communication and social interaction and support enhanced social skills acquisition (Corbett et al., 2014) (Beadle-Brown et al., 2018). However, autistic adults are rarely mentioned in this research (O’Sullivan, 2015) despite interest in the autistic community for these programs (Müller, Schuler, & Yates, 2008). However, therapeutic approaches have been noted as not generally aligned with the disability theatre agenda (Hadley, 2017). I propose that the Applied Theatre as Research model is better aligned with this agenda (O’Connor & Anderson, 2015).

The workshops presented will be crafted in reference to Applied Theatre as Research model, in relation to the autistic community. I will engage with the scholarship of Bree Hadley, Morgan Batch and Michael Whelan in relation to Allyship (Hadley, Batch, & Whelan, 2020). Through this discussion, I propose that inclusive research practices are essential for theatre facilitators when working alongside the autistic community or other disability communities with neurodivergence. This discussion will encompass the significance of this decentring practice for the Applied Theatre field generally.

Beadle-Brown, J., Wilkinson, D., Richardson, L., Shaughnessy, N., Trimingham, M., Leigh, J., . . . Himmerich, J. (2018). Imagining Autism: Feasibility of a drama-based intervention on the social, communicative and imaginative behaviour of children with autism. Autism, 22(8), 915-927. doi:10.1177/1362361317710797
Corbett, B. A., Swain, D. M., Coke, C., Simon, D., Newsom, C., Houchins‐Juarez, N., . . . Song, Y. (2014). Improvement in Social Deficits in Autism Spectrum Disorders Using a Theatre‐Based, Peer‐Mediated Intervention. Autism research, 7(1), 4-16. doi:10.1002/aur.1341
Hadley, B. (2017). Disability theatre in Australia: a survey and a sector ecology. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 22(3), 305-324. doi:10.1080/13569783.2017.1324775
Hadley, B., Batch, M., & Whelan, M. (2020). The entitled ally: authorship, consultation, and the ‘right’ to stage autistic people’s stories. Disability & Society, 1-21. doi:10.1080/09687599.2020.1794796
Müller, E., Schuler, A., & Yates, G. B. (2008). Social challenges and supports from the perspective of individuals with Asperger syndrome and other autism spectrum disabilities. Autism, 12(2), 173-190. doi:10.1177/1362361307086664
O’Connor, P., & Anderson, M. (2015). Research in a Post-Normal World. In P. O’Connor & M. Anderson (Eds.), Applied Theatre: Research : Radical Departures (1 ed., pp. 3-94). New York: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama.
O’Sullivan, C. (2015). Drama and Autism. In F. R. Volkmar (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders (pp. 1-13). New York, NY: Springer New York.

Ciara Condren is a theatre facilitator and a current Master of Philosophy Student at Queensland University of Technology. In 2017, she graduated from the University of Southern Queensland with a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Theatre Studies). From there, her main body of practice has been spent working alongside young autistic adults engaging in social skill coaching programs. She is motivated by multiple viewpoints as a sibling, ally and theatre practitioner alongside the autistic community and seeks to continually improve her own performance of these roles.