Charles Sturt University
(Re)discovering Sense of Self Through the Theatre
Records of dramatic conception and theatrical performance have co-existed since the time of ancient Greeks and continued during medieval Europe, Tudor England and the France of Louis XIV. And yet, whilst no one knows for certainty the “true” origins of theatre, we can assume that, like most of civilisation, it arose from Africa via rituals and storytelling traditions. But what was its purpose?
In the distant past, theatre was used more as a way to help express the ritualistic ways of daily life by creating stories and myths that people could reflect upon and live by. As theatre made its way through history, we saw its purpose change. French theatre director and playwright Antonin Artaud (1958) for instance, held the belief that theatre should represent reality and affect the audience as much as possible by representing daily ritualistic life. In this way, Artaud believed that audiences would become involved with the action of the theatre and, as a result, would experience theatre (and in turn life) in all its pleasure and cruelty and transform its results back into their everyday lives. Similarly, American theatre director Anne Bogart (2001) echoed theatre’s transformative power and regarded it as a unique art form because of its potential to initiate great change.
Yet, according to some literary sources, the definition of theatre seems simpler than this. Theatre is merely “the activity or profession of acting in, producing, directing, or writing plays, in a building or outdoor area in which plays, and other dramatic performances are given” (Pearsall & Hanks, 2010). Whilst, I do not disagree with this definition, this paper will discuss why theatre is much more than simply an activity one partakes in to (re)present or (re)enact a performance. By probing into my own struggles with cultural displacement and loss of identity and then, (re)discovering my sense of Self through the theatre, I will highlight its uniquely transformative power whose intimate and synergetic processes enable its personnel to come together, to celebrate differences, allow for individual expression but the most importantly, allow for the opportunity to examine these complex matters in a nonjudgmental space.
Dr Soseh Yekanians is a graduate from the Australian Academy of Dramatic Art in Sydney and the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School in New York. In 2012, she was awarded an Australian Postgraduate Award Scholarship to embark on a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in Perth. Her research investigated how theatre directing and the performing arts could provide a culturally displaced individual with a sense of identity and belonging. Dr Yekanians’ practice-led study, specifically provided new insights into how theatre directing allows an individual to (re)discover their identity through leadership in a non-judgmental forum and how the theatre as a space for communal exchanges and conversations can initiate dialogue about cultural differences. Following her doctorate, two major career highlights have been the publication of her children’s literature book, The Special Team Elite and her revised thesis titled, Finding Identity through Directing, which was recognised by world leading academic publisher Routledge.