(Per)forming answers : using applied theatre techniques as a tool for qualitative research.
From the 1970s onwards Applied Theatre (AT) has become an ever more popular tool for communication in fields as varied as education, development, therapy, social action, business and others (see for example Blatner (ed.), 2007; Prentki & Preston (eds.), 2009). Over the same time period there has been a continuous questioning amongst academics not only of the most effective research methods but increasingly also of the philosophy underlying research efforts (Narayan & Srinivasan, 1994; Parks et al, 2005; Wilkins, 2000). There are therefore more and more researchers who, in their attempts to 'democratise‘ the research process, are beginning to use arts-based inquiry methods (Sanders, 2006). These generally allow a more inclusive, creative and in-depth approach to research, allowing the participants (the researched‘) more control over the process and the issues discussed and often benefiting them by imparting skills through the process (Belliveau, 2006; Peseta, 2007). Applied Theatre based research is part of this relatively new development (Conrad, 2004; Nelson, 2009) and it is at this junction of academic inquiry and AT where this research is situated. The major objective of this dissertation is to investigate the possible usage and value of Applied Theatre techniques as a tool for qualitative research, specifically when working with participants not familiar with drama and theatre exercises over a short period of time (a few hours). In partnership with the student society Students Against Rape And Hate (S.A.R.A.H.), a once-off Applied Theatre workshop was conducted in a UKZN residence in September 2009. The aim of this workshop was to establish some answers to the questions provided by S.A.R.A.H. about students‘ views of relationships in general and in residences specifically and the society‘s possible work there. To be able to compare the outcome of the workshop with the outcome of a more common research tool, a questionnaire asking the same questions was given out among other students in the same residence. Research subjects from both groups as well as S.A.R.A.H. members were later interviewed about their experiences and impressions. Comparing the data obtained through the different research methods described above, this dissertation not only evaluates whether the data collected with AT was useful and whether the process was practical for the researchers, but it also looks at the benefits the process itself had for all stakeholders involved. Indeed, it is this comparison of the 'product outcomes‘ and the 'process outcomes‘ that forms the backbone of the conclusions drawn.
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