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Theatre for Development is Theatre for Everyone!

Now that I am taking a dramaturgy class, I see it everywhere. Kind of like when I learned about Viewpoints, and now I can’t stop seeing people walking in patterns with kinesthetic relationship or architecture on Comm Ave. Surrounded as I am with theatre and theatre people, I just keep running into the expansive support network that is the dramaturgical field. Today, I was in the library looking for books on gender relations in Nigeria for my political science class called Gender and War. Next to one of the books I needed was the title, Women in Theatre for Development in Cameroon: Participation, Contributions, and Limitations by Emelda Ngufor Samba.

I knew that Theatre for Development was a thing, and I had seen or studied instances of it before. Once, when part of my high school’s junior class took a service trip to New Delhi, India, and once when I worked with a Filipina pastor at my Presbyterian Church, who started her career doing TFD in the Philippines. Learning about these experiences was visceral and sparked me to strive for some kind of action in the art I create, but without knowing how that happened, I felt like I had the energy with no place to spend it. These women were fighting for women’s rights and representation, trying to change the minds of the populace on issues like female infanticide and acid throwing. Women in Theatre for Development not only put language to that theatrical experience but also demonstrated the technicality around creating a piece of theatre in this vein.

The goals for the initial workshop were as follows:

“To initiate theatre people, development agents, and village communities in the practice of theatre for conscientization and mobilization;

To demonstrate the process with the view of enabling the Cameroonian authorities to evaluate its potential as a means of development;

To contribute to the search for new methodologies in the practice of theatre for integrated rural development; to hold a practical experience in village based theatre involving villagers and analyzing data in the drama making process;

To assess the effectiveness of the methodology, both in its immediate feasibility and long-term impact (Eyoh 1986:17)” (Samba, 28).

This is dramaturgy! Dramaturgs have all these skills! Especially in conjunction with university and political leaders of the country at hand. Cameroon in particular focused on Theatre for Development and Gender and Development, working with female ensembles to promote gender equality through cultural values and practices. Being the leader in this creation process is just helping to support and sculpt a performance from one community to another. It is structuring events like pre-production conversations and talkbacks. Basically all of Theatre for Development relies on dramaturgical work in the creative and community fields.

I would be very interested in pursuing this work in the future, either as a member of the ensemble, as a dramaturg, or director. I thought that my summer internship with Circo Fantazztico in Costa Rica would be more like this experience, but it continues to excite me that this work is obviously being done all over the world. My next goal is to find more opportunities like this for me as an American from the United States either at home or abroad.


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