(BEING CONTINUED FROM 29/03/2016)
3. AN ETHICAL FRAMEWORK FOR PARTICIPATORY THEATRE
This section sets out the results of the research process embodied in the workshops and interviews carried out with HE academic practitioners and students.
It offers a provisional framework for ethical practice in Participatory Theatre.
The span of this proposed framework covers a range of questions for Ethical practice from the fundamental questions about what kind of values are in operation to how relations with recipients and commissioners of the work can be contracted.
The structure contains the following elements which will be dealt with as a consecutive process or succession of stages in practice:
1. Radical Ethical Frame (REF) founded in the theory and practice of originating practitioners
2. Values: a set of cultural ‘lenses’ proposed by the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA)
3. Core Principles (CP): the ethical base of practitioners at Oval House, London
4. Stanislavski’s questions ‘Who? What? Why? Where? When?’
5. The question ‘How?’
6. Evaluation and Reporting
The aim is to demonstrate how overarching concepts may be broken down into a basis for an ethical practice capable of practical application. Questioning within the parameters of the REF will produce useful answers to be tried out in practice, reflected on, evaluated, learnt from and developed further.
Intertwined with this is the practitioner’s reflexive process in which perceptions, values, knowledges and skills are developed through critical thinking and practice into a developing praxis.
To clarify: this process is offered as an approach to enhancing ethical practice. Reference to teaching and developing practice structures and skills is not directly made here, though cross referencing is inevitable.
For the purposes of this research project, these have been identified through the Literature Review and in the interview process as:
• Augusto Boal
• Dorothy Heathcote
• The TIE practitioners of 1970s, 80s and 90s
Politics and Ethics interrelate in different way in their work, and are embedded in their practices, but are not necessarily identified as such. It is in the values and principles explicit and implicit in their praxes that this structure finds the ethical basis of Participatory Theatre or PT.
Strong influences on all of them are Brecht and Stanislavski: Brecht for his commitment to ‘making strange’, questioning and reflecting on what appears normal in the dominant culture; Stanislavski for his understanding of the internal life of characters in the theatre space.
FROM IMPLICIT(ISH) TO EXPLICIT(ISH).
NOTE: The use of (ish) indicates recognition that in creative work not everything can be spoken or explained, that there is always something elusive.
This structure looks at the boundary between what is implicit and what can be made more or less explicit in a developing praxis.
The ideas informing the body of work of the originating practitioners are coherent in that they make intellectual, cognitive and intuitive sense. However, the ethics of their work are frequently implicit.
This may be because they initially relied on personal transmission of their work and its politics/ethics.
Additionally, they were often working in a context where there was a high degree of political consensus amongst committed and would‐be practitioners.
Accordingly, this Ethics Framework approaches such questions as:
• What do we do about ethics before and as we enter the workspace?
• What informs our practice in the space and how much of this can be made explicit without
reducing the power of what Boal calls ‘the aesthetic space’?
• What kind of ethically informed procedure might enhance and creatively develop practice?
• How do we discover whether a practice is ethical and in relation to what set of ideas is it ethical?
• If ethics are implicit in PT, what do they derive from, and how can a judgment be made about their effectiveness?
• What is the relationship between Politics and Ethics? How do issues of class, gender, race, justice,equality and power intersect in an ethical practice?
STAGE 1: THE RADICAL ETHICAL FRAME (REF)
1.1 Introduction to Radical Ethical Framework – some propositions
• The ideas that inform PT as developed by Boal, Heathcote et al. form a Radical Ethical Frame (REF).
• For Dorothy Heathcote, pedagogy involved the setting of boundaries, empowerment,
questioning and reflection.
• Augusto Boal, creator of Theatre of the Oppressed (TO), which includes Forum Theatre, refutes the notion of an absolute set of moral values, espouses radical dissent, and believes that ‘only out of constant practice will the new theory arise’. He identifies the purpose of his theatre,which is to empower the powerless and vulnerable and to effect change in their real lives through engagement with the fiction of the drama.4 He stresses the aesthetic of ‘the oppressed as artist’ and the nature of theatre as creatively and socially transformative. ‘The practice of these theatrical forms creates a sort of uneasy sense of incompleteness that seeks fulfilment through real action’. 5
• Boal’s ethics and politics are deeply embedded in his theory, and in the structures of his Games,Exercises and theatre forms. The practice has become diffused, however, and what may have appeared clear as a politics and ethics to those working with him in the late 1980s now requires some unpacking.
• The role of Boal’s Joker/facilitator embodies the questions of how the balance between
individual and group might work, both for the Joker and in the relations between participants: it raises important considerations about how power is exercised, shared, and/or handed over in TO and other practices.
• Theatre in Education’s interest in moral values and politics was never explicit in its public agenda,although they formed the heart of its subject matter and dictated its ethics. Its explicit agenda was for good theatre and its value in children’s lives. For many practitioners, the politics was deliberately implicit and subversive.
• Hare states that: ‘The reflective and reflexive nature of the process of TIE, (is) a characteristic that has had a profound influence on the conduct of participatory theatre in the UK ever since. It also forms the core of the current concern to identify and formulate the ethics of current practice.
The accounts of TIE programmes are always accompanied by accounts of evaluations’.6
RADICAL ETHICAL FRAME
The following core Ethical/Political objectives for PT have been derived from the practitioner interviews, student workshops and the literature review.
• To empower
• To question, to reflect, to be reflexive, to learn from experience, to create ‘change in
understanding, to reflect on the practice for its enhancement’7
• To challenge accepted ideas, to question and challenge power relations, to transform, to
transgress, to subvert
• To become equal, to be democratic, to work with consent, to dialogue.
• To take power, to effect change
• To explore metaphor through theatre, to make theatre, to be creative, to be artists, to transform through beauty, to have fun
• To enrich teaching and learning
• To create vital communication between people, of thoughts, feelings and ideas8, to create group working while supporting individual autonomy
• To find effective actions in the world
It is useful to see the REF as a set of working ideas or contexts for the application of the Values or ‘ethical lenses’ which are set out below. Taken together they can assist in clarifying the ethical purpose and intentions of a project or work process.
STAGE 2: VALUES
INTRODUCTION TO VALUES
At this stage in the reflexive process it is useful to ask questions about a work’s or project’s role or function. There is a useful tool in the 2008 International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies’ document ‘Ethics in Cultural Policy’. The section is entitled ‘Fair Culture?’. 9 It proposes the use of ‘ethical lenses’ through which to determine the way funders might understand and refine their policies. In funding practice, particularly in arts funding, the idea of a hierarchy of aesthetic worth generally relegates PT or socially‐based work to the lowest level as ‘utilitarian’. ‘Fair Culture’ can be usefully adapted to helping define the purpose of the work, helping to avoid value judgments which discriminate against either the notion of art for art’s sake, or socially targeted work: it suggests a
spectrum rather than a hierarchy of practice.
The document goes on to offer a definition of Human Cultural Rights:
In order to illustrate the ethical aspect in cultural policy, we created a new concept ‘fair
culture’, which we defined as follows:
Fair culture means the realization of people’s cultural rights and inclusion in cultural
signification, irrespective of age, gender, language, state of health, ethnic, religious or
The dimensions of fair culture we divided into the following categories
1. Access to humankind’s and one’s own cultural tradition
2. Physical, regional and cultural accessibility and availability
3. Diversity of cultural supply and its matching with demand
4. Participation in cultural supply, and
5. Opportunities for, inclusion in and capability for cultural self expression and signification
This formulation is derived by IFACCA from Aristotle’s Ethics, though it moves quite a long way from its original. I have adapted it and suggest it as one means to differentiate between related practices.
VIRTUE, RESPONSIBILITY, BENEFIT: THE ETHICAL VALUES OR LENSES PROPOSED BY IFACCA .
• A virtue – or ‘freedom’ – ethic focuses on issues of freedom in art and culture; on freedom of self‐expression and the autonomy of art. It views creativity and art as intrinsically valuable and therefore legitimate goals in themselves.
• A responsibility – or ‘rights’ – ethic relates to the cultural interests and identities of
communities and groups, working in the context of cultural traditions, and the realization of cultural rights. This involves accessibility, availability and provision, participation and
• A corollary – or ‘benefit’ – ethic can see creativity as a tool, focusing attention on the
application of arts practice in complex social and economic contexts. It’s also applicable to
industrial spheres for e.g. the protection of intellectual property, contractual relations with
employers and funders.
o How might practice use these ethical lenses?
o The positions indicated under each category are not mutually exclusive and a piece
of work might combine more than one. The corollary lens, for example, could
combine with both the other two to look at the relationship between creative arts
work and social or political intervention.
o The lenses, with their underpinning in human rights, point up those issues of
‘inclusion’ and ‘marginalization’ which PT continually addresses and critiques. What
is the work aiming at in any particular context, what drives it?
The value of these lenses is derived from their relationship to the REF set out above, and
to the Core Principles elaborated below.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
FRANCES RIFKIN / 2010
4 Hare, Literature Review, 2010 (Appendix 1)
5 Boal 1979, p142
6 Hare, Literature Review, 2010 (Appendix 1)
7 Bolton in Jackson, 1980, p, 73.
8 Vallins in Jackson, 1980 p. 4
9 Ethics in cultural policy http://www.ifacca.org/topic/ethics‐in‐cultural‐policy/