Making the Shift: From performance to process

Chris Holland


What happens when a theatre in education trust, with years of commissioned work in schools, makes a shift from a performance-based approach to an applied theatre approach in the delivery of its sexuality education programmes to secondary students? This project describes and discusses changes that were made to features of the programme such as structure, story, humour, information, learning goals, and teaching/drama skill requirements as well as the actor, teacher, parent and student responses to these changes and to the challenges they bring.

The programme was developed by a trust that had built a strong reputation in the delivery of health programmes to schools through performance drama. The shift in approach was made in its sexuality education programme for secondary school students. Prior to the shift, schools and funders already believed that the programme offered a valuable contribution to sexuality education. Therefore, there was no need any change from the perspective of several members of the trust—in fact a change might risk the good reputation of the company and the programme. In 2010, a new artistic director with years of practical experience as a teacher-actor in a high quality applied theatre programme in schools, envisioned what deeper learning might be achieved for participants in this sexuality education programme, through an applied theatre approach.

This presentation tracks the experiences of a range of stakeholders as the programme transitioned from a simple entertainment and information project, to a highly engaging and interactive process drama involving a performance and workshop. Important differences and considerations for those developing an applied theatre approach, particularly in relation to programme design and factor PD, are illuminated. 


Health education; sexuality education; applied theatre; info-tainment; applied theatre conventions; facilitators and actors

Full Text: Video

DOI: 10.15663/wje.v20i1.183


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© Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education, 2015