The Applied and Interactive Theatre Guide

Toni Sant

Posted, September 22, 2006

The Applied and Interactive Theatre Guide (AITG) (available at is an online resource for those who use theatre techniques for other or more than arts or entertainment purposes, and for those whose theatre styles incorporate other than traditional presentation styles. It serves mainly as a directory of websites related to alternative and applied theatre. Through a small number of general categories, the AITG groups online resources into manageable clusters of otherwise eclectic listings.

The AITG is primarily designed to help those who are exploring some of the niches being filled by theatre practitioners who seek to use their skills in ways not represented on a traditional stage. The website is not only a directory but also a networking resource for anyone who felt, as Bertolt Brecht did, that theatre is a tool to make a better life by helping people explore their communities.

Theatre professionals throughout the world are working to bring their skills as change agents, as awareness builders, and as empathy masters to the personal and social needs of a world hungry for connection. Still, the differing forms of applied theatre and interactive drama are varied enough that even terminology remains a difficulty.

Theatre-in-Education, Drama-in-Education, Non-Scripted Theatre, Sociodrama, Forum Theatre, Community Theatre are all descriptors that can be found in the various scholarly indices. The Applied and Interactive Theatre Guide was created on a web server at the State University of New York’s Institute of Technology in Utica by Joel Plotkin in 1995 to provide an online forum for exploring the means to arrive at more widely accepted terminology for the various branches of this growing field.

In September 1998 Joel Plotkin asked me to move the website to a web server at New York University, and in the process I redesigned the guide to incorporate a modest message board, search facilities, and other enhancements. A further upgrade has taken place since then, thanks to the technical support of the MaltaMedia Online Network, automating the database on the web server.

The current version of the AITG covers eleven major areas of interest. They are (in alphabetical order): Boal Techniques, Drama Therapy, Hacktivism, History of Theatre, Playback Theatre, Psychodrama, Radical Theatre, Sociodrama, Theatre in Education, Training and Development, and WWW Resources and Links.

What follows is an overview of each of these sections. I have chosen a thematic route through the guide, moving from category to category in relation to the various sections of this book.

Section I: Applied Theatre for Community Building

Playback Theatre

Playback Theatre is an original form of improvisational theatre in which audience or group members tell stories from their lives, and watch them enacted on the spot. Whether in public theatres, workshops, educational or clinical settings, Playback Theatre affirms the importance and dignity of personal experience, enables people to view their lives in new ways, and draws people closer as they see their common humanity. First created in 1975, the form was developed by Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas and the original Playback Theatre company in the Hudson Valley of New York. All the websites of major Playback Theatre practitioners around the world are listed here.

Top Pick: International Playback Theatre Network
An association of Playback supporters, practitioners and groups.
  Related chapter/s in this book include: Chapter 1: Playback Theatre by Hannah Fox


Sociodrama is J.L. Moreno's term for the application of psychodrama techniques to group, community, or organizational situations. It is a broad term that can probably be used to subsume all the other categories. Sociodrama is used with groups wishing to explore common issues in training, organizations, community, educational and political contexts. It uses many of the same techniques as psychodrama to enable individual and group learning and change. Whereas psychodrama focuses on an individual’s personal concerns, sociodrama addresses the group’s issue.

Top Pick: People’s Palace Projects   Based in the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary, University of London, People's Palace Projects develops and manages a wide range of projects that find practical application for academic scholarship. With offices in London and Rio de Janeiro, PPP puts theatre research into action in Britain, Burkina Faso and Brazil - in prisons, in schools and even in theatres.

Related chapters in this book include:
 Chapter 15: Psychodrama, Sociodrama, and Role Playing, by Adam Blatner
 Chapter 2: Bibliodrama by Linda Condon
 Chapter 4: Healing the Wounds of History, by Ronald Miller and Armand Volkas
 Chapter 26: The Art of Play by Adam Blatner

Section II: Applications in Education

Drama and Theatre in Education

Drama and Theater-in-Education has a constantly evolving definition, as new strategies and objectives for using theatre as an educational tool emerge. Most define TIE as a general term that includes all the interactive theatre practices that help aid the educational process. Some of these processes include developing original scripts, using the performance of a play as a springboard for interacting with an audience and discussing important topics or themes, or theatre activities used to support classroom curriculum. In this spirit, this section of the AITG also lists practitioners of theatre for children and youth theatre groups from different parts of the world.

Top Pick: International Drama/Theatre Educators With member associations representing more than 50 countries around the globe, the International Drama/Theatre and Education Association aims to promote and advocate drama/theatre as part of a full human education and to provide an international forum for those working as drama/theatre educators throughout the world. Members of each member association are automatically accepted as members of I.D.E.A. by virtue of their organization's status as a member association.

Drama Education - A Global Perspective: Learning in, with and through Drama This Australia-based website maintained by Kim Flintoff is designed to assist teachers, pre-service teachers and students in Drama and Theatre Arts. It will also assist anyone who wants to use Drama as a teaching strategy.

Related chapter/s in this book include:
Chapter 9: Process Drama in Education by Gustave J. Weltsek-Medina
Chapter 10: Theatre-in-Education by Allison Downey
Chapter 8: Creative Drama and Role Playing (in Education), by Adam Blatner
Chapter 11: Playbuilding with Pacific Island Students by Daniel Kelin II

Training and Development

There are many training and development opportunities for people who want to work in the various applied and interactive theatre formats described throughout this book and the AITG website. Training organizations range from short workshops organized by specialized theatre companies to full-featured university degrees.

On a different level of training and development, some professional theatre groups use Forum Theater techniques, Sociometry, improvisation, role-playing, or other techniques covered by the Applied and Interactive Theatre Guide, to specialize in human dynamics and/or human resource training for corporate or organizational development. Some groups listed in this section have been especially active in international settings.

Top Picks: International University Theatre Association Established at Université de Liège (Belgium) in 1994 to develop and promote recognized post-secondary activity in theatre training, creation, research and theoretical and practical research, throughout the world, at the level of university or higher studies. The IUTA is present in every continent and has members in over fifty countries.

Performance of a Lifetime Created by Fred Newman, every Performance of a Lifetime program focuses on learning and practicing the skills of improvisational performance, and applying them to the many challenges of the business world and workplace.

Pact  Evolved from a group purely focused on criminal justice matters to addresses many human dynamics issues, including diversity, harassment, leadership styles, and team-building. They have not lost touch with their roots, and are still one of the principal trainers for the NYPD's Emergency Services.

Related chapter/s in this book include:
Chapter 13: Applications in Business by Joel Gluck and Ted Rubenstein
Chapter 24: Self-Revelatory Performance by Sheila Rubin
Chapter 7: Community Development through Applied Theatre by Mecca Burns

Section III: Applications in Psychotherapy


Psychodrama methods are in use throughout the world and with a variety of personal, interpersonal and social problems. This is one of three closely connected categories concerned with the therapeutic qualities of theatre. The others are Sociodrama and Drama Therapy. This section lists some of the worlds foremost psychodrama practitioners and institutes.

Top Pick: American Society of Group Psychotherapy and This is the pioneer membership organization in group psychotherapy founded in 1942 by Dr. J. L. Moreno. It continues to be a source and inspiration for ongoing developments in group psychotherapy, psychodrama, and sociometry.

Related chapter in this book include: Chapter 15: Psychodrama, Sociodrama, and Role Playing: Adam Blatner

Drama Therapy

Drama Therapy uses a drama/theatre process to achieve the therapeutic goals of symptom relief, emotional and physical integration, and personal growth. Using role-play, theatre games, mime, puppetry, and other improvisational techniques, drama therapists work in a wide variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, mental centers, prisons, and businesses. Major online resources for drama therapists are listed in this section, as are links to several individual therapists.

Top Picks: Dramatherapy Network A UK-based resource for drama therapists all over the world, founded by the eminent British therapist Dr Sue Jennings and Andy Hickson. In this site you will find details of courses, links to other related organizations, and training groups.

National Association for Drama Therapy  A membership organization based in the United States for drama therapists, students, and supporters of the field.

Related chapter in this book includes: Chapter 16: Drama Therapy by Sally Bailey

Section IV: Applications for Empowerment

Boal Techniques

The writings and workshops of Augusto Boal have influenced many theatre makers and social change organizations around the world. Combining many of the aspects of theatre improvisation with some of the techniques associated with J.L. Moreno’s concept of Sociodrama, Boal's unique synthesis extends Brecht's Epic Theater concepts into a new realm of practicality. Boal techniques for the Theatre for the Oppressed include: Forum Theatre, Invisible Theatre, Cop in the Head, Rainbow of Desire, and Legislative Theatre. This section of the AITG features links to several Theatre of the Oppressed centers around the world, as well as companies and individuals who use Boal Techniques on a regular basis.

Top Pick: International Theatre of the Oppressed Organisation Designed by Augusto Boal as an organization dedicated to help all Theatre of the Oppressed Centers around the world to develop themselves, so that they can help other TO groups to grow and develop.

Related chapter/s in this book include:
 Chapter 21: Theatre of the Oppressed by John Sullivan & Adam Blatner

Radical Theatre

Radical theatre aims to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions. Throughout the 20th-Century, avant-garde theatre has been concerned with politics or activism in one way or another. From the actions of the Futurist Movement through to the groundswell in political theatre after the 1960s, radical thought has always been applied to theatrical forms.
 Over the past four decades, activist groups have used ritual concepts, often including participation of the spectator, taken to the streets, and organized festivals and spectacles presenting ideas marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional. Both historical and current trends in radical theatre are listed under this category, putting the other aspects of applied and interactive drama presented on the guide in a specific historical context.

Top Pick: International Brecht Society ?  The IBS was founded in 1970 on the model of Bertolt Brecht's own unrealized plans for a “Diderot Society.” A non-profit, educational organization with a world-wide membership, the Society promotes the performance and understanding of Brecht’s texts and addresses issues of politics and culture in contemporary life. The website is maintained as a service to scholars, critics, students, and theatre people around the world who are interested in the works and ideas of Brecht.

THAW - Theatres Against War An international network of theatre artists responding to the United States’ ongoing “War on Terror,” aggressive and unilateral foreign policies, and escalating attacks on civil liberties in the US and throughout the world.

Related chapter/s in this book include:
 Chapter 23: Womens' Empowerment by Abigail Leeder and Jade Raybin
 Chapter 25: ACTINGOUT by Kim Burden and Mario Cossa


Hackers and activists belong to two separate social movements that are closely associated with each other in the online world. Hackers are often misrepresented by the popular press as petty-criminals with a tendency for cyber-terrorism, however most of them are simply playing with and learning from technology. Hacking is not just concerned with security breaches, as is most often the case when the term is used in news stories. Within the hacker movement, such people are known as “crackers” and are often shunned upon for giving other hackers a bad name.

When computer enthusiasts are also politically active and tend to use their knowledge of computers and the Internet to further their activism, they are known as Hacktivists. (More about this on related webpage about using dramatic methods online, by Toni Sant & Kim Flintoff.) A substantial number of hacktivists are listed in this section of the AITG. Their activities often borrow trends from radical theatre or other applied and interactive drama formats.

Top Pick: The Dedicated to examining the theory and practice of hacktivism and electronic civil disobedience while contributing to the evolution of hacktivism by promoting constructive debate, effective direct action, and creative solutions to complex problems in order to facilitate positive change.

Section V: Applications for Life Expansion and Entertainment

History of Theatre

The origins of theatre are embedded in ritual, dancing, storytelling, and play-acting. The world’s earliest recorded dramatic activity took place on the banks of the River Nile in Egypt. Ancient Chinese, Indian and Greek drama also indicate a long tradition of theatrical activity. This section of the Applied and Interactive Theatre Guide is designed to offer links to historical resources relating to the history of theatre in the world, available through the Internet. The various theatre histories undoubtedly help the student or practitioner of applied theatre and interactive drama styles to better understand the wealth of knowledge and experience that has been handed down to us over the ages.
(It would be nice if books on the history of theatre would begin to note the variety of approaches in our book, Interactive and Improvisational Drama: Varieties of Applied Theatre and Performance! -- Adam Blatner, Editor. )

 Online database covering a wide range of theatre history topics. A very fascinating aspect of this site is a “Today in Theatre History” update, which appears on the website’s main page.

Other World-wide Web Resources and Links

There is a section on the AITG with links to related resources on the web and a full list of books related to applied and interactive theatre practice, history, and theory. Links to the books appear throughout the website, in each of the respective categories, suggesting the best publications related to each section. Visitors to the website are invited to submit suggestions for additions to the website via online forms.

There are new sections and subsections planned for development over the coming months, and some of them may have already appeared on the website by the time you’re reading this book. This is proof that the AITG is a dynamic resource, which is updated on a regular basis. Among the categories that the guide needs to accommodate are improvisation and clowning. Judging from the numerous requests that have been emailed to the AITG over the past few years, both these aspects deserve their own section.

As this book clearly indicates, the AITG also needs to provide more resources related to Mystery Theatre, Historical Re-enactments, and Museum Theatre. There are already some random links to people working within each of these genres, and in time they may each develop into full-blown categories on the AITG website.

Joel Plotkin’s interest in alternative drama came from a personal need for spiritual, moral, and ethical purpose in focusing his vision and energy. I share this vision wholeheartedly. This idea continues to drive the Applied and Interactive Theatre Guide ten years after it first appeared on the Internet.

The Applied and Interactive Theate Guide is available at on the Internet.