After today’s lesson the first thing that struck me was that Applied Theatre engages us to share stories. Its transformational element stuck me as something of a bigger purpose that just entertaining the public. Undoubtedly when one hear about the word “Theatre”, one would immediately think about the stage, actors, lights and the audience. However, applied theatre is more than that. More than once, we are faced by this question “So is this theatre?”. Needless to say applied theatre challenges what is conventional theatre, it includes a wide spectrum of different disciplines like philosophy, the social sciences, cultural studies, education, psychology etc.
Since its intention is to benefit individuals, communities and societies, the communicative nature of Applied Theatre is important. It is not passive and there is a huge element of action in Applied Theatre. For me, in the course of my art making as a visual artist I often wonder about the interactive element of art between the beholder and the artwork. With the introduction of applied theatre it is as though that a challenge in my heart got unlocked and I am heartened by it.
One thing that emerged from today’s lesson is how personal stories are important and worth to be shared. And if one thinks that their personal stories are not important, then they cannot make changes to their life. Conversations, possibly the most important element in today’s hectic society, seems to be lacking in our everyday life. Applied theatre, as a socially engaged art, seeks to fill this gap. When stories are exchanged, relationships are formed, these relational stories invites the community to connect with it, thus requiring us to exercise our imagination.
After the discourse about different case studies and projects, what triggered me to reflect on what makes us human is the relationship between our ability to imagine as opposed to our fear for the future. With no imagination, there is no activation to change the future. I never saw this correlation as a perennial problem in modern society until now. More worrying is that the attitude of Singaporeans has been one that believes in the status quo and are passive in bringing about change through their actions . For the bulk of the Singaporeans I met, it seems that they do not think that they can make a social change. Often I hear about my peers lamenting that they cannot change the policies, or the way the society works in Singapore. So instead of bringing about small changes in their lives, they remain pessimistic and continue to complain. In fact, after every coffee shop talks with my friends I get concerned about their negativity, I often wonder why Singaporeans are such a pessimistic bunch.
Interestingly, this Singaporean mind-set of “complaining without actual action” correlates with what applied theatre can do to bring about change in our nation. I realised that contrastingly when I chat with my friends in the arts arena, we talk passionately about changing the social climate of Singapore. Perhaps our vivid imagination of the future gives us a hope to fight and it gives us a reason to continue believing in a better future.
I have been contemplating about how my role as an educator can bring about changes in our society. As an educator of the arts, I understand now that Applied Theatre is crucial in the development of the young minds of our students. I could engage them actively in forming new mind-sets and develop their imagination to change the future. I could heighten their awareness in social issues and promote intercultural dialogues. I could provide a platform for them to heal and to repair. Most important of all, I could challenge them in the discussion of contemporary issues so that they can feel free to generate alternatives in a safe environment. That is a truly exciting line of work and I am glad to be part of it.
The above is an example of a piece of Applied Theatre Artwork which inspired me a great deal.