At the beginning of June, the entire team of the ERC project Developing Theatre went on a retreat in Kochel am See (Bavaria) to concentrate for two days on discussing specific topics relevant to the group’s research agenda. The place of retreat was the Georg von Vollmar Academy, situated on a green hill above the beautiful lake „Kochelsee“. Retreats as a working format have two positive sides: they allow a dense time to work together and to learn from each other; and they strengthen the team spirit. Both facets are essential for collaborative research.
In a real ‚think tank‘, the PhD students, PostDocs, Senior Researchers as well as current visiting researcher Patrick Ebewo (Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria) discussed the topic of „workshop as a format„: In the course of the 20th century, but especially since the middle of the century, this working format gained increasing importance in the context of theatre education and practice. Based on their respective research projects and source material, historical approaches to ‚workshop‘ as a concept, and theories, the researchers elaborated on this theme. A joint working paper on the topic is in the making and will be published on the project’s website in the coming weeks.
A second focus during the retreat was on the concept and discourse of ’soft power‘, a term coined by Joseph S. Nye; according to Nye, ’soft power‘ is „the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than coercion and payment. A country’s soft power rests on its resources of culture, values, and policies.“ (Nye, Public Diplomacy and Soft Power, 2008). The reading of Nye’s and other selected texts on the topic and their critical reflection against the background of cultural diplomacy, philanthropy, the arts and media, formed the content of the second day.
The Developing Theatre team is very international, its members come originally from Germany, Ghana, India, Iran, New Zealand, Nigeria and Syria – a true intercultural benefit for each single of the researchers (and for multifaceted research in general). The themes of the retreat were deepened during expanded walks and hikes through the beautiful landscape of the so-called ‚Blue Land‚.
On Wednesday, 19 June, 12-2pm, our guest Prof Patrick J. Ebewo will give a talk on Theatre for Development (TfD) Communication: Polarities and Conflicts.
With Theatre for Development (TfD) interventions in some rural communities in Africa, the theatre landscape has undergone a major transformation following a paradigm shift from the elitist (conventional) mode of operation where performances are regarded as mere entertainment and vehicles of escape from mundane preoccupations of daily life to that which fulfils a major function in society. In response to a number of contemporary social challenges, TfD, one of the trends in applied theatre practice has emerged as a pragmatic post-modernist experiment that explores the relationship between theatre practice, social efficacy and community building. Theatre for Development advocates and encourages participatory, inclusive and community-oriented discourse. This is a socially engaged theatre that relies on the principle of dialogue for change, and functions effectively as an agent of empowerment in polarised, excluded and impoverished communities. In its various contexts and manifestations, TfD deals with the awakening of people’s critical consciousness; its goal ensures desirable adaptability and changes in human behaviour for the betterment and prosperity of humankind, and it acts as a vital force in the transformation of society. Though TfD has been regarded as a “model of good practice”, some of its intentions have fallen short of expectation. Some of the outlined principles in its blueprint seem not to conform with the goal and vision of the practice and practitioners. The aim of the presentation therefore, is to examine some of the challenges that Theatre for Development faces as an agency for rural education and conscientisation of people in some local communities in Africa.
His research focuses on African theatre, the theatre of industrial society, theatre in developmental contexts and popular theatre.
The University of Ibadan in Nigeria conferred a PhD on him in 1988, after completing a master’s degree at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA. He has been attending and presenting papers at international conferences, seminars and workshops since 1984. He has been a supervisor and examiner of master’s and doctoral students and has served as external examiner for the University of Pretoria, the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, the University of Ghana, Legon, University of Swaziland and the National University of Lesotho. He was the convener of the first international conference hosted by the Faculty of the Arts in 2011, which culminated in the publication of a book entitled, Africa and Beyond: Arts and Sustainable Development, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing (2013).
His first research interests were in the areas of history, theory and criticism but he has gradually moved to a more utilitarian aspect of applied theatre for community empowerment and economic development in the creative arts industry. He has received grants from local and international organisations as well as government departments that assisted him to attend national and international theatre projects and conferences. He has been privileged to attend two staff development fellowships at the Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University in Sokoto, Nigeria.