Objects with Objectives: a puppetry in applied drama research network

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Creative Arts

Abstract

'Objects with Objectives' seeks to bring together academics and practitioners in a shared international exploration of the potential interplay between Applied Drama and Applied Puppetry. 'Puppetry' is used here to denote a range of performance techniques in which objects are manipulated directly or indirectly by human operators, and the project has been inspired by approaches where there is a close interaction between operator and puppet as in the puppets devised for the RNT production of 'Warhorse' by the Cape Town-based Handspring Puppet Company. Applied Drama is used here to denote a range of participatory drama techniques such as Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, Playback Theatre and Theatre of Witness.

The network includes academics and practitioners from the UK and Ireland, South Africa, the United States and Australia.

Some members of the network have already experimented with combining these techniques. Others have an established expertise in one or the other. Members of the network, who have expertise in either or both applied drama and puppetry, will meet together in Cape Town, South Africa, in May 2017 as part of the 19th ASSITEJ World Congress to exchange skills and ideas and develop models for small-scale experimental projects that will combine puppetry and applied drama which they will deliver at their home base either singly or in interdisciplinary teams in the second half of 2017. Local projects may be based on workshops or small-scale performances and may be specifically designed for this programme or integrated with existing teaching or research.

Periodic video conferencing, involving some or all of the network will allow for the sharing of reports on work-in-progress and the continuous sharing of ideas, with the UK members reconvening as part of the TaPRA conference (Theatre and Performance Research Association) in September 2017 to share interim findings with the TaPRA Applied and Social Theatre Worming Group.

A smaller steering group made of network members will then reassemble at Queen's University, Belfast in January 2018, to review the findings of locally-based activities, agree a list of written outputs and prepare online resources for publication on the project Vlog as a training and teaching resource.

Planned Impact

Impact is intrinsic to the work of this network, given its focus on applied drama and puppetry used in social contexts. From the outset the network's programme will directly contribute to the ASSITEJ World Congress and International Festival for Children and Young People in Cape Town in May 2017 by providing two days of events which up to 20 local and visiting artists and representatives of specific communities will attend. Some these places will also be available to the general public, subject to demand. Participants will gain a direct insight into the potential for using puppets and applied drama in their own communities with the groups with which they work. Contact details will be taken so that they can be sent links to online teaching and support materials when these become available.

ONLINE RESOURCES
Working examples of techniques combining Applied Drama and Applied Puppetry will be filmed during the Cape Town Symposium and included in a Vlog which will be updated at monthly intervals to share the work of the network with a list of drama facilitators and community leaders compiled by the network members from their own contacts.
Six five-minute "How To" guides will be filmed, edited and uploaded to Youtube following the final network meeting in January 2018, for teaching and training purposes. Links to these short films will be circulated to the list of relevant drama facilitators and community leaders by network members accompanied by brief written explanations.

DISSEMINATION THROUGH EMBODIED PRACTICE
All members of the network, either through public-facing arts programmes, or practice-based research that engages with specific non-academic groups, are fully engaged with specific communities and it is expected that the work of the network will enhance the impact of this work to the benefit of those members of the wider public with which they work. These will include training workshops for applied drama facilitators and community leaders in the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and the United States.

Publications

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Title The Kingdom of the Blind 
Description A devised performance using puppets by Level 2 Drama students at Queen's University Belfast 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Engagement with puppetry has enhanced drama students capacity for complicity and close teamworking, as well as extending their creative range. 
 
Description OBJECTS WITH OBJECTIVES - Preliminary Findings
The Research Questions posed in the original Case for Support focused mainly on the inter-relationship between puppetry and applied drama practice. The work of the network has allowed much relevant practice to be shared, and new theoretical ways of discussing these phenomena to be developed. In particular, a connect with Arts and Health has emerged as an important theme, through a growth in understanding about how puppets are being used in a variety of health setting from hospitals (Sextou), to nursing training (UU) and autism (Dead Puppet Society). Experiments conducted in Cape Town into the use of large-scale puppets to represent the antagonist in Forum Theatre have been developed further by colleagues in Portland, Oregon (Lynn and Leffler).
Boal's idea of metaxis has proved to be helpful in understanding the capacity of the puppet to provide a powerful channel for emotion in applied drama work, while at the same time representing an apparent distancing mechanism. New research questions have emerged in relation to the role of puppets in actor training through Sara Matchett's work with Aja Marneweck applying the Indian Rasa to puppetry which promises to a rich theme for further research. The importance of the materiality of the puppet has also come to the fore, providing theme for a follow-up Symposium, and the possibility of extending the work into a broader understanding of object oriented ontology.
Exploitation Route The Research Network demonstrated the accessibility of some applied puppetry techniques to individuals, education and training programmes and community groups with no experience of puppetry. The training films we have produced will prove valuable in allowing applied puppetry to be engaged with in all these arenas and we will seek feedback on this experience to further inform the research of network members.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description The principal impact of this award has been felt by network members with limited pre-existing experience of puppetry who have discovered the huge potential of the techniques explored to enhance their existing applied drama practice. David Grant (Queen's University, Belfast) has begun to use puppetry in the context of actor training, and Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey (QMUL) is introducing a new module in applied puppetry. Dr Elliot Leffler has begun to use object theatre in his applied drama programme at Reed College, Portland, Or. The most developed application educationally to date has been in the use of puppetry in Nursing Training programmes at Ulster University by network members Karen Torley and Dr Matthew Jennings. Discussion are already taking place between Nursing Lecturer Dr Pat Deeny and some manufacturers of the medical manikins than are widely used in medical training to explore ways these can be made easier to manipulate through better jointing. The involvement of community artists from Western Cape in the Cape Town Symposium has opened up exciting opportunitites for the sharing of skills acquired in working with the Mexican Puppet Company, La Liga within and between the communities of Barrydale and McGregor. Dr Cariad Astles and Dr Laura Purcell Gates have found strong crossovers between the research network and Broken Puppet Conferences, which are now planned to expand internationally. David Grant is also researching the use of applied puppetry by the Dead Puppet Society from Brisbane, Australia, in relation to the work of autistic artist Tim Sharp. It is anticipated that many of these iniatatives will continue to develop and expand in scope in the coming months and years, We have produced a series of training videos in Applied Puppetry which will be disseminated through the project website once all the necessary permissions have been obtained: 'Essential 'Direct Manipulation' Puppetry Techniques: Focus, Breath and Gravity' Dr David Morton, Artistic Director, Dead Puppet Society, Brisbane, Australia 'Making Puppets from Found Materials' Karen Torley, Banyan Theatre Company, Northern Ireland 'Making a Life-Size Paper Puppets and using these to explore the use of the Rasa with Puppets' Dr Aja Marneweck, University of Western Cape and Dr Sara Matchett, University of Cape Town 'Applied Puppetry and Sympathetic Presence in medical simulation and Nursing pedagogy' Dr Matt Jennings and Karl Tizzard-Kleister, Ulster University and Karen Torley, Banyan T.C. 'Brown Paper Puppetry and the Celebration of Imperfection' Dr Laura Purcell-Gates, Bath Spa University 'Embodying the Puppet Experience as a Training Strategy' Dr Matt Smith, University of Portsmouth
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Healthcare
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Nursing Training at Ulster University
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Barrydale and McGregor 
Organisation Net Vir Pret
PI Contribution Three members of two community drama groups, The Mother Tongue Projectfrom McGregor and Net Vir Pret from Barrydale (both in Western Cape) participated in our Cape Town Workshops. The members of Net Vir Pret were experienced puppeteers having worked on a succession of large-scale community theatre events supported by the Handspring Trust. The Mother Tongue participants had no prior experience of puppetry. Members of both groups worked with the La Liga company from Mexico on a large-scale street puppetry performance as part of ASSITEJ (the international festival of young people's theatre) while also contributing to the "Objects with Objectives" Symposium. A collaboration has subsquently developed between Mother Tongue and Net Vir Pret with puppeteers from Barrydale working in McGregror to share their puppetry skills.
Collaborator Contribution The involvement of community participants in the Cape Town Symposium helped us to anchor our work together firmly to its applied principles.
Impact Still pending
Start Year 2017
 
Description Being Human Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Two workshops on puppetry, one for 10 older people, one for 4 younger people, held as part of the Being Human Festival, November 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://beinghumanfestival.org/
 
Description Objects with Objectives - TaPRA AST Group Interim Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This Symposium provided a platform for disseminating the findings of the Research Network to professional artists and medical trainers. It enhanced the connection with the the Broken Puppet Conference series, and allowed us to preview a series of training videos created by network members.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://tapra.org/tapra-events/objects-with-objectives-applied-social-theatre-interim-event/
 
Description Panel at the Applied and Social Theatre Working Group, TaPRA Conference, University of Salford, August 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This panel, consisting of network members Dr Laura Purcell-Gates, Dr Matt Smith and David Grant allowed us to feed back on the work of the network to academic colleagues and postgraduate students. It led directly to an invitation to host the Working Group's Interim meeting at Queen's University, Belfast in February 2018 on the theme of 'Vibrant Materialism'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://tapra.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/conference_programme_10_08_17_smaller.pdf
 
Description Paper at the Broken Puppet Conference, Cork, July 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A paper by Dr Matthew Jennings about his work using puppetry for training nurses. Links were also established with the Broken Puppet conference which led to Dr Persephone Sextou participating in the TaPRA Interim event on 'Vibrant Materialism' which also arose from the work of the research network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.ucc.ie/en/music-theatre/drama/news/the-broken-puppet-symposium-on-puppetry-disability--h...
 
Description Public Workshops as part of ASSITEJ 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In addition to the programme of closed presentations that formed the core activity of the 'Objects with Objectives' Research Network, we also held three public events to which participants in the Cape Town ASSITEJ Festival for Young People's Theatre were able to attend.

Thursday 18 May: 14h30 - 18h00. Session in Applied Puppetry with specialists from the USA, UK and SA

Friday 19 May: 14h00 - 18h00. Images and Objects, working with the techniques of Augusto Boal with specialists from Northern Ireland and Colombia.

Saturday 20 May: 14h00-17h00. The Handspring Puppet Company talk about their work creating elephants in the Karoo, and an exploration about puppetry, autism and creative communication.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.assitej2017.org.za/speakers/2017/3/29/18-20-may-focus-puppetry-workshops
 
Description Puppets on a Mission 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A blog for Dialogue - The Community Performance Network, a non-profit social enterprise which aims to support and build the capacity of organisations and individuals worldwide who currently use, or who are interested in using, Community Performance in their work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.dialogueforcommunity.com/2017/06/applied-puppetry/