CFP: Special issue of Research in Drama Education: Performance and Policy

Type of post: Association news item
Sub-type: No sub-type
Posted By: Glen McGillivray
Status: Current
Date Posted: Wed, 14 Oct 2020
Proposal deadline 13th November 2020 (for publication in August 2022, 27.3)

Co-editors: Molly Mullen (University of Auckland) and Kelly Freebody (University of Sydney)

This themed issue brings a focus to the relationship between applied theatre, applied performance, drama education and policy, seeking new perspectives on this topic. In these fields there has been a longstanding concern with understanding the relationships between policy, funding and practice within institutions and communities, and with the implications of these relationships (Kershaw 1999, Jackson 1993, Neelands 2007 Hughes and Ruding 2009; Mullen 2019). It is evident that this relationship has implications for political, pedagogic, aesthetic and ethical values, approaches and outcomes. This themed issue is interested in profiling diverse and emerging approaches to conceptualising and researching policy and its relationship with practice.

In the broadest sense, policy establishes ‘goals, values and practices’ as the basis for a particular process or programme of action (Laswell and Kaplan 1950, cited in Rosenstein 2018, 13).  Policy is typically ‘orientated toward a problem or set of problems’ (Rosenstein 2018, 13). There is debate, however, about whether policy is a pragmatic response to the need to solve objectively identifiable problems or whether problems are produced or ‘constituted’ via policy (Bacchi 2014). From the latter perspective, policy is treated as a form of governmentality. Understandings of society as governed in ways that go beyond the government open up the scope of what might count as policy. Performance studies scholar Paul Bonin Rodriguez (2014), for example, defines cultural policy as ‘[a]s a set of ‘decisions (by both private and public entities) that either directly or indirectly shape the environment in which the arts are created, disseminated, and consumed, … an admixture of ongoing political, social, and economic projects’ (p. 2). Policies try to ‘get something done’ (Rosenstein 2018, 14). But, their capacity to do so depends, in part, on their legitimisation by a recognised authority. Education scholar, Stephen Ball (1993), makes the important argument that policies are still always open to being de-legitimised or undermined. 

Considering the various perspectives on policy outlined above, one can make clear connections to work in applied theatre, drama education and community theatre. These fields are often oriented to a series of social or policy ‘problems’, whether it be a problematisation of the participants themselves (as marginalised, as silenced, as in need of education) or with less tangible social problems (such as violence, drug addiction, unsafe partying practices and so on). There are examples or traditions of applied theatre and performance with explicit intentions to develop and inform policy, including Boal’s Legislative Theatre. Other practices are directly engaged with challenging or resisting particular policies and their effects. Further, as transdisciplinary practices, drama education and applied theatre often happen in places governed by policy (public and institutional) and operate to bring policy-infused messages to participants, communities, and audiences. Recent scholarship has sought to understand these connections, both implicitly through an exploration of how applied theatre works in societies and institutions (Balfour 2009), and explicitly, through critical analyses of the intersection between theatre, policy, and funding (Mullen 2019). There is a growing recognition that the context work takes place in can have effects on intentions, approach and outcomes. Tensions arise when policy-infused agendas conflict with the needs or desires of participants or key partners. Complicated negotiations are required between competing notions of what is valuable, ‘effective’ or ‘successful’. Policy and funding relationships affect participants, their experience of the work and the terms of their engagement with it. Policy can also impact the nature of facilitators’ labour and positionality. In practice, therefore, policy has profound effects on applied theatre, applied performance, and drama education practitioners. This volume seeks to expand our current thinking about these effects and how they might be negotiated.

We invite papers that consider:
  • Historical and/or critical perspectives on the ways applied theatre is situated in relation to particular policy projects.
  • New theoretical perspectives on the relationships between policy and practice and the impacts or implications of that relationship for participants, partners and practitioners.
  • Scholarship in applied theatre, performance or drama education that is working with new, emerging conceptions of policy or methods for researching policy.
  • Examples of the different ways in which applied theatre, performance and drama education practice is involved in making, enacting, sustaining, subverting, resisting, remaking, re-reading or challenging policy initiatives.
  • Participatory theatre or performance-based policy-making processes, particularly those that serve as an alternative to dominant paradigms of consultation and communication.

We are seeking contributions that consider these topics from a range of levels: micro through to macro, local through to global. We are looking for diverse theoretical and geographical perspectives. We are seeking research-based articles (6-8,000 words), including: case studies, historical studies, theoretical or philosophical approaches, practice-based/led methodologies. We will also consider shorter submissions in the form of interviews or accounts of relevant practice examples (approximately 1,500 words).  

Please send initial proposals of approximately 300 words for articles, interviews and accounts of practice by 13thNovember to the issue guest editors: Molly Mullen ( and Kelly Freebody ( for consideration and feedback. Full articles will be due mid-2021 (please note, full articles will undergo anonymous peer review prior to final acceptance). Final publication for volume 27, issue 3 is expected to be August 2022.