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ERIC Number: EJ979836
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 7
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 6
ISSN: ISSN-1356-9783
Replacing the Sofa with the Spotlight: Interrogating the Therapeutic Value of Personal Testimony within Community-Based Theatre
Leffler, Elliot
Research in Drama Education, v17 n3 p347-353 2012
Julie Salverson, a Canadian scholar-practitioner, has long challenged the assumption that personal storytelling within Community-Based Theatre is necessarily therapeutic. Salverson critiques an "aesthetic of injury," arguing that theatre practitioners have foregrounded personal narratives in a way that reinscribes a "victim discourse" and a sense of powerlessness. In his 2009 book "Performance Affects," James Thompson extends Salverson's scholarship by advocating that Applied Theatre practitioners focus their ensembles' attention more on the beauty they seek than on the pain in which they live. Moreover, Thompson suggests that the therapeutic value of painful personal storytelling is culturally situated within post-Vietnam War USA, and that "Western" theatre practitioners export this therapeutic notion across the globe in a well-intentioned but misguided act of neocolonialism. In Thompson's view, as "Western" practitioners promote this dramaturgy of personal testimony, they undermine indigenous aesthetics, supplant local therapeutic practices, and potentially exacerbate the psychological harm of the original incidents. In this article the author re-examines and complicates, in light of his experiences with a project, Thompson's and Salverson's assertions. He considers two stories from the devising process that lead him to concur with Salverson's concerns about the "aesthetic of injury" and Thompson's embrace of a "theatre of beauty." But the author then returns to his interactions with Denise, one of his South African colleagues, to question Thompson's assertions about the historical trajectory privileging personal storytelling. The emphasis on testimony may indeed have Western origins, but if it migrated to South Africa several centuries ago, it may be unhelpful to regard it as a foreign influence. Thus, privileging local knowledge in South Africa potentially legitimises the testimonials under question. The author proposes that in challenging local assumptions about the value of testimony it is necessary to simultaneously allow those assumptions to challenge scholarly convictions. (Contains 2 notes.)
Routledge. Available from: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 325 Chestnut Street Suite 800, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 800-354-1420; Fax: 215-625-2940; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: South Africa; United States