Spontaneity and power : theatre improvisation as processes of change in organizations [article]

Henry Larsen, UH Research Archive, UH Research Archive
Theatre has gained wider use in organizational change processes, either as Forum Theatre inspired by Boal (1998, [1979] 2000) or as improvisation inspired by Johnstone (1981,1999); and in recent years, a number of authors have reflected upon this when seeking to understand its impact. Some suggest that theatre is a kind of laboratory where change takes place beside and after the work with theatre. Others, such as postmodernists, see theatre as a forum for revealing the oppression that can exist
more » ... sion that can exist within organizations. This thesis takes another direction. Forum Theatre has been an inspiration; but, based on my experience of working with theatre improvisation as processes for organizational change, I have come to negate Boal's understanding of Forum Theatre as Theatre of the Oppressed. Instead I see conflicts between people in the organization as key. I argue for a link between theatre improvisation and understanding human interaction as complex responsive processes, and I come to see organizations and organizational change as temporal and constantly recreated through local interactions among people, where power relations, seen as dependency, are essential. The processes of relating involve responding to each other in recognisable and yet surprising ways, that is, with spontaneity. Spontaneity can be recognized as liveliness: one finds oneself in spontaneous activity when one becomes unsure of the response the other will take to one's gesture. Daring to be spontaneous is essentially risky because it challenges power relations, which themselves are maintained only by continuously responding to each other in ways that are mutually expected. Working with theatre improvisation is seen as paradoxically fictitious and real at the same time, because the actor's supposedly fictitious work is constantly met by a real response from the audience - real in the sense that people react from their own experience. By experiencing this together, power relations are immediately changing - not as a result of the work, but as a part of [...]
doi:10.18745/th.14236 fatcat:t2t7a7bzyzesrco2jhazew5pzq