A project I’m working on, “Performing Impact”, has just launched its blog: http://performingimpactproject.wordpress.com/. Led by Professor Julie Sanders and Professor Pat Thomson, the project is looking to come up with new ways of thinking about the benefits which occur during community theatre projects. We’ll be working with theatre companies like Geese Theatre, who work in prisons, and Hanby and Barrett, who specialise in outdoor community arts.
At the moment too much of the discussion of community theatre is focused on the “end-product”, the performance itself, and we’re keen to throw attention back onto the process of getting there. We’re interested in what goes on during the rehearsals and the gathering of material: this seems more likely to be where the real impacts are taking place. There’s also too much concern with numbers when talking about the effect these projects have – “evaluation” too often means “measurement”, whether by social statistics or counting audience numbers. We want to investigate better ways of talking and thinking about what happens when people engage with the arts, when they take part in community theatre, and how that might change them. We’ve been drawing on a lot of influences from philosophy, performance studies, memory writing and history, to come up with better and fuller ways of describing the experiences which people go through as they take part in community theatre.
The first posts are up on the blog, and include a description of the project itself, one asking “what is community theatre?”, an account of past research on the impact of community arts, and concerns about problems with the ways art is evaluated. We’d be very interested to hear from people in community theatre. Or in theatre. Or in a community.
“Performing Impact” is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, as part of the Connected Communities programme.