"More like a poem than a play" : towards a dramaturgy of performing arts for Early Years
Economic and Social Research Council, Capacity Building Cluster, "Capitalising on Creativity", grant #RES 187-24-0014
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This thesis aims to further our understanding of the emergent phenomenon of Theatre for Early Years (TEY) in Scotland. It interrogates a series of artistic practices – traditional, postdramatic, participatory – with the aim of proposing a possible dramaturgy of arts for the very young. Practice typically precedes theory in new fields of performance. TEY currently lacks a coherent theoretical framework or dramaturgy, instead drawing on interdisciplinary strands of psychology, pedagogy and existing dramaturgical practices from older forms of theatre for children. This study explores artists’ embodied knowledge as a repository of skill, while also recognising external factors that impact on creative production, from belief systems to training, the search for funding and the struggle for recognition. Using Grounded Theory as a method to analyse interviews with 26 leading Scottish practitioners, this project undertakes a qualitative investigation of current practice in the devising and production of performing arts for very young audiences. The thesis also considers debates around legitimation and human rights for the very young, as well as cognitive models of infant development from psychology. The process points towards a Grounded Theory which proposes that Scottish Early Years artists undergo an attitudinal shift towards a belief that children should access high-quality cultural experiences on the same basis as adults. Secondly, it suggests that these artists believe they possess a unique skill-set worthy of recognition. The theory points towards an associated dramaturgy centring on equality, and the generalisability of both is then assessed via an innovatory Practice-as-Research case study converting a TEY production into a digital app. While the project is geographically limited to Scotland, its findings may have international applicability. This study could contribute to a wider praxis of arts for the very young beyond theatre, giving practitioners across the cultural sphere the opportunity to engage with the proposed dramaturgy.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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