Dialectical collaborative theatre

Joanna Ronan

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

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Dialectical Collaborative Theatre (DCT)
In order to challenge assumptions of cultural ownership, I founded BloodWater Theatre (BTW) to examine the local/international dimension of theatre and the individual/collective leadership of artistic processes. Collaboration is the buzz word used in promoting interdisciplinary arts projects, international partnerships and ways of working to develop artistic practice. Yet the word itself suggests anything from collaborating with the enemy to collaborations promoting egalitarian work practices demonstrating the indivisibility of politics and collaboration. BTW discovers dialectical collaborative theatre (DCT) as a means to politicise processes of collaboration. This account is intended to provoke discussion on the ethics of representation; the value of the labour of the artist in the rehearsal room and whether there is a need to find prefixes to qualify the nature of collaboration.
BWT productions to date experiment with multiple identities of self, and staged self via character, with the audience experiencing both, in the course of the performance. We bring in characters from different parts of the world into the rehearsal room although our residential identities are localised to the UK. The motivation for this is to share multiple stories born out of different cultural and ethnic origins in one setting so that stories that are not often heard in this setting can be heard. The different ethnic identities are staged with an acknowledgement to the audience that the identities are staged but with a commitment to stage these identities with empathy and respect for the other. Like Latrell (2008) who reviews the artistic practices of the Sarawak Cultural Village, BWT sees cultural ownership as “contextual and multiple”.
BWT comprises of two women - five men - two East Indians (British and Singaporean) – four White Scottish – one White Polish. In developing the work, we develop Bial’s theory of double coding where “what works for one audience on a universal level works for another audience specifically”. The characters BTW develop originate from Belfast, Sydney, Cairo, Torun and Singapore and not their own place of birth but a connection to the chosen place, prompts an investment in them. In doing so, BWT creates a forum for multiple ethnicities and cultural identities to be performed on one stage at one time allowing for varied experiences of the audience in the context of the specific, the other and the universal.
BWT members have to date created this work in their own time whilst earning a living out with. It operates without a designated director or writer.

Key words or phrases:
Dialectical collaborative theatre
Multiple identities
Cultural ownership
3 Questions:
What are the ethical considerations when choosing to perform fictionalised autobiographies on stage?
Is it possible to collaborate without hierarchy?
Does the economy determine the value of the artist in the rehearsal room?
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Event13th ELIA Biennial Conference - Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Nov 201415 Nov 2014


Conference13th ELIA Biennial Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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