Theatre, Democracy and the End of Distraction: Working in the margins to make a difference

Associate Professor Peter O'Connor, Faculty of Education, University of Auckland

Co-presented with the Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney

Associate Professor Peter O

Theatre has always served as a forum for communities to talk about the things that matter. It serves a vital role in creating and fostering a climate for democratic action. In communities where people's voices have either been ignored or systemically suppressed theatre provides an opportunity for not merely disrupting existing narratives but gives glimpses of imagined, alternative and more human futures. How theatre can be more than a distraction from the world and be part of attempts to fundamentally reshape it, is examined through Associate Professor O'Connor's recent research into the use of theatre to address issues of family violence and abuse and cross arts residencies in Youth Justice facilities.

Peter O'Connor is an Associate Professor in the School of Critical Studies at the University of Auckland. His research centres on the application of drama pedagogy within wider social justice or public education actions. His most recent work includes developing a national theatre in education program on family violence and child abuse and a positive parenting program in Youth Justice secure settings using Romeo and Juliet as the basis for an intensive 6 week arts residency. His PhD which won the AATE Distinguished Dissertation award in Washington DC in 2006 examined the use of drama to counter stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.

Peter is a Co Director of Applied Theatre Consultants Ltd. The company has held national education and research contracts with New Zealand Ministries of Education, Health, Police, Social Development, Justice, Corrections, the Department of Internal Affairs and Biosecurity New Zealand. International consultancy contracts have been conducted in Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.