PhD defended at:
Tertiary-level drama is often condescendingly perceived in Hong Kong as either vocational or leisure-related, and tends to be marginalized in many – though not all – curricula as an activity for extra-curricular inter-university competition. This research aims at re-imagining Drama and Community Theatre as a critical pedagogy in promoting community culture. The aim of the research project is to strengthen the social functions of drama as community experience and as a tool for empowerment in the ‘glocal’ sociopolitical context of today. The study examines the methodology of a semi-scripted, community-engaged, theatre workshopping initiative with scenes adapted from Caryl Churchill’s plays, offering a powerful pedagogic praxis with the goal of raising social and cultural consciousness in the post-Umbrella Movement era of Hong Kong.
The first part of the study focuses on the experimental forms of community-oriented plays and theatre workshopping practices in historical contexts, investigating how Churchill’s plays respond to theatre as social criticism in contemporary society. It proposes four community-engaged theatre workshopping models with scene extracts adopted and adapted from Top Girls, Cloud Nine, Serious Money and A Number by Caryl Churchill. These models are designed to engage with the learning needs and interests of tertiary students particularly in the current global sociopolitical context.
The initiative is supported by an empirical action research element, which envisages one of the models as a form of critical pedagogy, connecting the typical tertiary Drama Studies curriculum with outreach community experience. The second part of the research project presents a local case study in which scene extracts from Top Girls were adapted and introduced to Hong Kong secondary students as a methodological tool for community-engaged theatre workshopping. This small-scale experimental model of a community drama outreach programme was facilitated by a focus group of students from an undergraduate Drama course.
The research results reflect on how students’ existing social awareness of community cultural development and identity can be linked to the glocal construct in the way they perceive and interact with the contemporary community-oriented plays that Churchill has produced. Based on the narratives from the focus group and my participant-observation of the response from the participating community, my qualitative study makes a number of conclusions about the effect of such pedagogic methodology on students’ empowerment in learning autonomy. The model is intended to encourage tertiary students to create their own forms of theatre workshopping to share their internalized subject knowledge and personal insights with other communities outside the institutional setting. And the research expresses the significance of theatre for community as rehearsals of the anticipated tensions between citizens and institutions in the global sociopolitical context.