Drama for Life engages future cultural leaders in the complex interdisciplinary field of theatre for change – a theatre that intersects with anthropology, sociology, communication health, psychology, performance studies, social work, development and education – a field that has come to be known as Applied Drama. The Drama for Life Applied Drama and Theatre Programme develops future cultural leaders to become artists who understand the theoretical and practical ethical and contextual issues related to social transformation on the African continent. It teaches a future generation of reflective educators and facilitators about drama that can be transformed into a learning method; drama that can be used as a research method; drama that can shape research; and drama that can not only be used to bring about social behaviour change, but also drama that can embody social change, symbolic communication and healing.
Drama for Life rejects functional interpretations of Applied Drama that reduce the field to a limited technical approach. Applied Drama is about the creation of critical reflective pedagogies, spaces and aesthetic forms that give rise to alternative ways of being in the world. Our interest is in how drama can become an effective process that moves beyond a dialogue of binaries; how drama can engage the whole person as an agent of his or her own destiny within a social context driven by cultural, national and global forces; how drama can enhance intrapersonal and interpersonal awareness about critical health, human rights, social justice and environmental issues; how drama can develop a reflective practitioner who isn’t afraid to "look from the outside" and to simultaneously "look from the inside"; and how drama can foster a humanity that is founded in principles of service to community, empathic leadership and creative and compassionate engagement in learning. Our commitment is to create new knowledge through the active, embodied exploration of "subjugated knowledge" across the continent, and the critical investigation of "revered knowledge" found in the academy.
The recent emergence of Applied Drama as a complex set of processes of interdisciplinary performance has seen departments and centres of study established at several leading universities across the globe. Wits is the first university to shape an undergraduate and postgraduate programme of Applied Drama of this magnitude on this continent. The Programme is comparable to those found at the University of London, New York University and University of Warwick.
Drama for Life is the first of its kind in the international arena in its scope and practice, providing students with in-depth knowledge of research methods, theories and practices that interrogate pedagogical, community-based and social behaviour change interventions. It is also regarded as the leader of its field in Africa.
The Africa Research Conference Ethics Working Group 2008 considered that the following issues should be given serious attention by all practitioners of applied drama at all stages of the process of intervention:
Applied Drama and Theatre Charter for Ethical Practice
1. It is accepted that ethical principles as expressed through Human Rights declarations are fundamental to all research and intervention, but that their expression and lived experience is contingent and context bound.
2. There should be acknowledgement of the ideological basis of applied drama and theatre as embedded in Freirean principles of dialogue and empowerment, with the concomitant ethical principles.
3. It is recognised that applied drama interventions may have unequal power implications; practitioners should establish a spirit of mutual respect among all parties involved and all participants in the intervention should follow the principle of doing no harm.
4. There should be transparency about the purposes, intentions and methodology of the research/intervention wherever possible.
5. At all stages the participants’ informed consent must be negotiated and a spirit of reciprocity and respect amongst all parties should be established.
6. There should be respect for intellectual property of and by all parties.
7. Practitioners should ensure that the research and intervention are culturally sensitive.
8. The results of the research should be returned to the community.
9. The benefits of the research should be shared with the community.