As Artistic Director of Smashing Times, I was delighted to be invited to speak and present on the work of Smashing Times and the Drama for Change project at the recent Austrian EPALE and Erasmus+ symposium that took place at the Magdas hotel, Laufbergergasse 12, in Vienna on 21 June 2018. The symposium was organised by the Austrian e-Platform for Adult Education (EPALE) and Erasmus + Adult Education.
Adult education is crucial for competitiveness and employability, social inclusion and active participation of citizens in Austria and Europe. The 80 or so experts from the adult education sector discussed, within the framework of the conference in Vienna, how people of all population groups can be reached with learning opportunities, and how adult education can promote social inclusion.
The conference was titled Upskilling Pathways, Equal Opportunities and Participation Through Adult Education. In addition to my own presentation on the Drama for Change project, the day featured a range of guest speakers and presenters, including Anthony Mann, OECD, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development; Doris Wyskitensky, Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research; and Ute Schulz, BFI Oberosterreich who presented on the project VASIE – Active Aging and Intergenerational Solidarity in Europe. The conference provided opportunities for networking and for getting to know a range of projects in relation to adult education and to experience different methods from across Europe. Over eighty experts from the adult education sector came together to explore how people of all population groups can be reached with learning opportunities and how adult education can promote social inclusion. The symposium was a wonderful opportunity to showcase all the brilliant work taking place across Europe, and was an inspiring day for all those in attendance.
Photo: Speakers and organisers at the EPALE Erasmus+ Symposium, Vienna
In relation to Drama for Change, I spoke about how I have seen theatre change people’s lives. Theatre and the arts can empower people individually and enable people collectively to envision or imagine a new future based on equality and human rights for all. It is important to promote the role and power of the arts, including theatre and film, as key tools for adult education, the promotion of equality, and personal and social development.
Drama for Change was a three-year European partnership project funded by Erasmus+ with five European partners from Ireland, Germany, Bulgaria, Spain and the Netherlands. The five European partner organisations were Smashing Times Theatre and Film Company, Ireland; IFES, Valencia, Spain; Pressure Line Visual and Creative Communications, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; The dialogue, Lindau, Germany; and KU TU Ltd, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Drama for Change resulted in the creation of a five-day ‘train-the-trainer’s’ Training Curriculum and Toolbox of Resources that provides adult educators, including teachers and artists, with the skills necessary to work with adults through the creative medium of theatre in order to promote anti-racism, gender equality and diversity. The training curriculum is contained in an interactive PDF available on each partner website and on EPALE – Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe. View here.
The Drama for Change curriculum draws on the work of inspirational theatre practitioners such as Viola Spolin (1906-1994) and Augusto Boal (1931-2009). Boal, a Brazilian theatre practitioner and founder of Theatre of the Oppressed, wrote that the first language of theatre is ‘the human body’. His range of techniques include image theatre: making statues with your bodies to create a visual image which shows a perspective on a given theme. This exercise is featured in Drama for Change as a non-verbal inclusive methodology by-passing for example the barrier of language. According to Boal ‘theatre is a weapon and it is the people who should use it’.
American theatre practitioner Viola Spolin writes about the ‘experience of going beyond what we already know’ and states that ‘the physical is the known and through it we may find our way to the unknown, the intuitive and perhaps beyond to the human spirit itself’. Viola Spolin was an extraordinary theatre practitioner and her inspirational book Improvisation for the Theatre was a key source of inspiration for Drama for Change.
On behalf of Smashing Times, I extend a very special thanks to all the wonderful staff at EPALE and Erasmus+ in Austria for this wonderful event. For further information please click here.
Smashing Times Theatre and Film Company,
Smashing Times International Centre for the Arts and Human Rights,
 Improvisation for the Theatre, A Handbook of Teaching and Directing Techniques by Viola Spolin. North Western University Press. Page 16