Conceptual clarification in a Nordic context

In the Nordic languages, the term drama applies in relation to fiction, role and fable, and is used both about drama-pedagogical procedural work and about the manuscript itself for a theatrical performance.14 The term theatre, on the other hand, can mean two things in the Nordic languages. Either the institution itself that presents performances/events or:

a live performance or event that takes place in real time and in the same room as living people involved both on the side of actor and the spectator.The audience plays a more or less interactive role in the performance and in the stage energy, something which implies a response loop from the audience to the stage and back.

(Gran & Gjrerum, 2019: 12)

The art of making things possible is called facilitation. The term comes from the Latin “facilis” that means “to ease”. A facilitator thus makes it possible for team members to exchange ideas and find solutions, thus achieving something they would not have accomplished equally well on their own (Solem & Hermundsgârd,2015). According to John Heron, facilitation can be divided into six dimensions: Planning, meaning, confronting, feeling, structuring and valuing (Heron, 1999). The facilitation of applied theatre is about creating and maintaining a safe space for equal dialogue between the actors, promoting creativity and ownership towards common goals, and also to facilitate productive and impartial meetings (Ellinggard, 2015).

The term “applied theatre” in the Nordic countries is used for projects in which one plays for, about and/or with actors who reside outside the mainstream art institutions, such as nursing homes, schools, disability care, psychiatric care, prisons, kindergartens, refugee centres, libraries, local cultural centres or in inclusive art practices. Here, the importance of facilitator competence, target group analysis and ethical considerations is strongly emphasized (Enoksen,2017). Applied theatre as a concept did not gain a foothold in the Nordic countries until Helen Nicholsons (2005), Phillip Taylors (2003) and James Thomson s (2003) textbooks appeared on the curriculum in drama/theatre studies.

In 2019, we saw a theatre landscape in great change in the Nordic region, a process which will have consequences for applied theatre practices in the future. We are in the midst of a technological revolution, and cultural area by cultural area is subject to the conditions of digitalization (Gran & Gjærum, 2019). The Nordic theatre field has consisted of three rather different sub-fields: institutional theatres, private theatres and free groups. Today, however, we see ever closer interaction, exchange and overlapping networks between the fields, although they are financed differently and are based on different historical traditions, organisational structure and organisational culture. Among other things, we see a tendency for well-functioning close teams of artists to enter the institutions with new methodology during project periods. The fields no longer have waterproof bulkheads. In our time, cross-aesthetic forms, alternative playing styles and a greater degree of audience involvement are developed (Berg, 2018). We also see how documentary theatre (Aurne, 2017), reminiscence theatre and citizen theatre are becoming more common. The working methodology' we recognize from traditional applied theatre practice is further institutionalized and aestheticized (Gran & Gjærum 2019). An increasing number of productions at both the major institutional theatres and in the free groups stage performances with “ordinary people” on stage. A good example is the Danish theatre company Fix&Foxy’s productions such as Pretty Woman and A Doll’s House in Ordinary Homes.'" We also increasingly see representatives from so-called “marginalized groups” performing together with professional actors in productions, such as those by Martens & Goksoyr, Kjersti Horn or at Reykjavik l’jôâleikhûsià. The audience is facilitated in our time to a greater degree of participation. Children and young people are invited into productions, and “backstage-stage” discussions, reflection groups or café dialogues are organized to bring fiction and reality together.16

In light of art didactics

Applied theatre as an art of didactic practice deals with, or involves, marginality in various forms. Nordic applied theatre may be viewed in light of the concept of relational and “performative art didactics”: “The contemporary ambiguous, multi-faceted, relational, performative and context-oriented art didacticism that paves the way to a dynamic and situated topos for dissemination” (Aurne et al., 2013: 14). This didactic approach is characteristic of applied theatre projects and is used in facilitating a mediation situation understood as a didactic meeting between three instances: performance/ presentation/event; the observer as co-creative actor; and facilitator/ educator/artist (Aurne, 2013).

In the communication situation, the applied theatre facilitator enters what one may choose to call the activity room (Pahuus, 2015). This space underlines the fact that everyone involved in the art didactic context is always an actor; active co-creators of the events that occur in the meeting between them — events that may be experienced as aesthetic experiences (Dewey, 1934). In this sense, we understand the art didactics of applied theatre as a form of relational aesthetics (Bourriaud, 2007).The activity space is closely linked to life itself: “The most basic form of the activity room is the room of the living — a space that can assume the different forms ... determined by the human body and by human needs” (Pahuus, 2015: 123).

As an applied theatre facilitator, one exercises professional judgement in art didactic assessments in the face of people with different life experiences. Discretion is contextually contingent and linked to human intuitive sensation, cultural norms, values and silent knowledge. Art didactic processes in applied theatre may be perceived in light of Aristotle s (2013) concept of phronesis.1 Then the processes can be understood as sensory, relational and intuitive. They are thus culturally and contextually conditioned. In a Nordic theatre context, we can see that the Nordic welfare model plays a role, though in different ways. We find dividing lines between the Nordic countries. Therefore, let us dive into a comparative study of Norwegian and Swedish Disability Theatre to illustrate the contextual differences.

 
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