This is a space where everyone interested in theatre for the young (including organisations, practitioners, academics, BA, MA and PhD students, working in the UK as well as internationally) to write about their area of interest, background, past, current and future research as well as request or advertise collaborations and other research opportunities. Contributions can be a few paragraphs or simply a name and a link to further information. Please note that content will be added without any further editing besides formatting, and it would be greatly appreciated that any updates or information that is no longer relevant to be brought to the attention of Karian Schuitema at:
This is also the address to submit contributions or, alternatively, simply use the comment section below.
“More like a poem than a play”: towards a Grounded Dramaturgy of Theatre for Early Years
Ben Fletcher-Watson’s research project at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the University of St Andrews undertakes a qualitative survey of current practice in the devising and production of performing arts for very young audiences (birth to age 3) in Scotland, including theatre, dance, opera, music, and multi-disciplinary work. The main aim of the project is to ascertain how examples of promising practice have emerged organically from artists’ own creativity, exploration and research. Using Grounded Theory as a method to analyse expert interviews with leading practitioners, it interrogates both traditional and participatory practices, with the aim of collating a robust dramaturgy of arts for the very young, rooted in data. The thesis also considers human rights debates and cognitive models of infant development from psychology to contribute towards this dramaturgy, encompassing text / music / movement, lighting & sound, staging and design. Ben’s research is supported by the ESRC Capacity Building Cluster, “Capitalising on Creativity”, grant #RES 187-24-0014, and generous support from the Leverhulme Trust.
For more information, please visit http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/icc/research/grantprojects/esrccapitalisingoncreativity/casestudentships/imaginatestarcatchers/ or see Ben’s blog at theatreforbabies.tumblr.com or on Twitter @bfletcherwatson.
I am interested in the paradoxical and contested space that Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) occupies, particularly in Asia. My research investigates how the field in Singapore sits at the intersection of educational/social values, policy-making strategies, and visions of nation building. Being influenced by cultural materialism and performance studies, my research evaluates how material conditions (funding, labour, social networks, cultural policy and urban development) and textual references (script, mise-en scene, design, bodies on stage) of TYA reflect and refract the immediate cultural and creative ecologies as a wider assemblage of the city’s landscape.
In addition, I am also interested in how TYA festivals and collaborations function as creative ecosystems, and how they fit within the comunitas and geography of the city. Over the past decade, there have been clear signs that the burgeoning TYA festival industry has becoming firmly embedded in urban spaces and have contributed to defining city life. TYA festivals and collaborations are not just spaces for creativity but are creative practices in themselves. I am concerned with notions of spectacle, cultural representations and transactions in the realm of socio-political dynamics in this context.
Caleb holds a BA (Hons) and MA from the National University of Singapore and is pursuing his PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London. He currently lectures at LASALLE College of the Arts. Caleb is also the Festival/International Relations Manager for I Theatre Ltd (Singapore) and organizes the annual ACE! Festival- a theatre festival for young audiences and their families. (www.itheatre.org)
My research is predominantly concerned with performances created for children and the representation of cultural diversity as well as the inclusion of audiences and topics that may otherwise be marginalised or excluded. The practical experience of working with children and young people, with different abilities and backgrounds, forms a central pillar of my research. I strongly believe that theatre should be fully accessible to any child and it is important that funding should be available to sustain this artistic and cultural engagement. Quality children’s theatre always places the child, their environment, as well as their all-important experience and frame of reference, central to any production and recognises the need for children to be and to feel included and respected.
I successfully completed my PhD at the University of Westminster in 2012 titled: Children’s Theatre in the UK: Representing Cultural Diversity on Stage Through the Practices of Interculturalism, Multiculturalism and Internationalism. In addition to looking at the history and development of children’s theatre in the UK, a substantial part of my thesis concerned writers, professionals and theatre companies currently creating work for a younger audience. Ultimately the main thrust of my research focused on the theatrical representation of different cultures within performances for the child. This specific area was grounded in contemporary observations of children’s theatre in the UK, where cultural and ethnical diversity are represented in various ways. In this regard my research highlighted the difficulties of depicting cultural representation both on the stage and in general, but also focused on the reasons and benefits for creating theatrical productions that more accurately represent our ‘globalised’ and ‘multi-cultural’ society.
After completing my PhD I have continued to develop my PhD research in various conference papers and publications (please see academia.edu for a full list). In addition I am conducting research in the area of humour and children with learning disabilities and have been working with John Vorhaus and Gill Brigg on research that focuses on the importance of humour in the lives of children with profound and multiple disabilities. I am also interested in the development of educational material, especially sensory stories, for children that have additional or individual needs in terms of access and participation. I have created a personal blog called Skipping Shark Stories that aims to share some of my stories with parents, teachers and others that might be interested. I am currently in the process of developing a sensory book for children with learning disabilities that enables the inclusion of their individual (cultural) backgrounds. I am very interested in schools that are keen to participate and would like to read the story in class as well as academic collaboration to research some of the background themes and outcomes of the project.
I am currently teaching a module on methodology, history and theory that forms part of the new MA Theatre and Young Audiences at Bath Spa University. I have also founded and currently run the Children’s Theatre Research Network, and I would love to hear from fellow researchers or others interested in theatre for young audiences.