The Applied Theatre Center is a bridge between organizations offering programs which meet the needs of individuals and communities and theatre artists trained in a variety of applied theatre techniques. We are based in Greenville, SC, but connected to applied theatre artists and groups around the world. We collaborate with these organizations to:
- Learn their goals for the people they serve
- Learn the characteristics of the people they serve
- Create a program of applied theatre (short or long term) for the people they serve
- Implement that program by training and assigning theatre artists to work with the people they serve
Addressing human needs
Applied theatre uses theatrical methodology and employs it to help people understand and rehearse solutions to their problems. The ATC investigates these methods, trains people in these methods, and then creates unique programs for organizations to employ our artists in utilizing these methods. Generally speaking, applied theatre techniques address human needs in two ways:
- By addressing personal, psychological or spiritual needs. In these methods we invite people to learn more about themselves, their history, and to try out new ways of living in the world as healthy human beings. Drama therapy is one broad category of methods often used in dealing with these kinds of needs. Drama therapists are highly trained, and certified, individuals; the ATC does not employ theatre as therapy without using artists who are trained in the techniques of drama therapy. Other methods include role playing, sociodrama and a variety of games developed by Augusto Boal, primarily Image Theatre.
- By addressing social or political concerns shared by a group of people. Sometimes the challenges an individual is facing come from outside themselves, from their peers or society. Applied theatre allows a group of people to “rehearse for reality” (to borrow a term from Boal) together. Forum theatre (also by Boal) is a highly effective interactive theatre method for expressing and then solving a social problem.
The ATC stays current on a wide variety of applied theatre forms and offers training to upstate SC theatre artists (and many from other areas) through an annual training conference and through periodic workshops by leaders in applied theatre fields throughout the year. The ATC is in constant communication with social services organizations in the upstate area of SC to creatively collaborate on programs which support the mission of these groups and the people they serve.
The answer to a question
ATC began with a question, offered to Executive Director Dr. Dale Savidge by a family in Texas. They wondered if theatre could be of any help to their middle-aged son who was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome (a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum). Dr Savidge, a theatre educator and director, instinctively answered ‘yes!’ – and then was challenged to discover how theatre could help people with autism.
That initial question, and resulting quest, led to the founding of ATC with a conference in March 2011. Since that time Dr Savidge has intiated ongoing theatre activities for the CRD young adult autism group and for the homeless community at Triune Mercy Center. He has offered workshops in applied theatre (including to theatre artists in San Juan, PR), and has organized a second ATC conference for June 2012. In the spring of 2012 he is teaching a course on applied theatre at North Greenville University, and his seven students are creating new AT programs for elementary aged children with autism, a second community of homeless people, at risk kids in a foster group home, women and children in a domestic abuse shelter, adolescent girls in a social skills group, and a middle/high school for children with autism. Together with Ferncreek Creative, a development company founded by theatre artists, the ATC has reached out to scores of organizations in the upstate of SC. Over the next year our plans are to expand the depth and breadth of applied theatre work by formalizing the process for creating these unique programs, training artists, seeking funding to support the artists, implementing the programs and assessing the success of the programs.