Mind the gap: Facilitating transformative witnessing amongst audiences

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


For many of us engaged in theatre for social change, storytelling has been at the heart of our pedagogy. This chapter explores the opportunities for dialogue, coalition building and solidarity amongst witnesses to difficult stories; stories which emerge from dystopic, unsettled, disrupted and often violent realities in the context of public performance. I propose that when already marginalised experiences are staged for the general public’s consumption, there is a risk of entrenching the margins and the centres of society especially when the gaze of the diverse individuals which comprise the audience is not noticed or engaged. This chapter presents the story of an interdisciplinary and community-based performance project developed in Montreal, Canada and its articulation of the core processes of witnessing and interactive audience in drama therapy (Jones 1996, 2007). The project, entitled Creating Safer Spaces invited newly arrived South Asian immigrants and refugee women to use various techniques within the Theatre of the Oppressed (Boal 1979) to collectively examine their experiences of dis/integration, and assimilation within Quebec, Canada. The purpose of presenting this project is to examine how performance oriented dramatherapy, situated as an interdisciplinary practice and a form of community organising, can create the conditions for meaningful dialogue amongst diverse audiences and lay the groundwork for social change. Women who participated in the project created an interactive performance that depicted several scenes involving women’s encounters with structural violence (racism, classism, sexism) and intimate partner violence (emotional, economic and physical abuse). This performance was brought to various South Asian communities and then into the wider community, to women’s centres, and neighbourhood health centres that had an immigrant population base as a part of a longer workshop promoting collective accountability for ‘creating equal and healthy relationships’ and galvanising a zero-tolerance response within communities to violence against women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDrama as Therapy
Subtitle of host publicationClinical Work and Research into Practice: Volume 2
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781135164522
ISBN (Print)9780415476089
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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