Dr. John O’Toole
Honorary Professorial Fellow
University of Melbourne

Catalyst for Change - Combining the Elements: Dramatic substances, dramatic possibilities

Drama is the art that explores the significance of possibility – by creating fully embodied three-dimensional models of imagined worlds that can be explored, analysed and reimagined. A group art that works in time, body and movement, language and gesture, participants in drama and theatre experience together and shape possible changes for themselves and for society. The first part of the presentation will analyse how the study of drama can provide both content and pedagogy for students to engage in creative dialogue, gain a better understanding of their world, human behaviour and attitudes, and thus learn how they might themselves act on their environments and communities to become creative change agents. This will highlight the particular characteristics of drama itself that offer a radical but also challenging pedagogy. The second part will show how students as active art-makers can use drama as participants, actors and audiences to make dramatic meaning. This will address the continuum between improvisational and scripted forms of drama, and the nexus between experiencing and depicting. The third part of the address will offer an up-to-date model of the basic elements of drama and theatre, and how they work together to create dramatic experience and meaning in a range of improvisational and scripted forms, in both traditional forms of drama and theatre, and in contemporary genres.


About the Speaker

Dr. John O’Toole is the Foundation Chair of Arts Education at the University of Melbourne and Professor of Drama and Applied Theatre at Griffith University. He was the Lead Writer and Writer for Drama in the Australian National Curriculum (Arts). He has been teaching, researching and writing about drama and arts education for over forty years, world-wide and to all age groups. He has written and co-written many books in the field, including the first on Theatre-in-Education, text-books like Dramawise with Brad Haseman (rewritten last year as Dramawise Reimagined), Pretending to Learn with Julie Dunn, and scholarly books like Drama and Curriculum, Educational Research: Creative Thinking and Doing, and Doing Drama Research. He was a founding member of the Queensland, Australian and International Drama/Theatre and Education Associations (QADIE, NADIE and IDEA), IDEA’s first Director of Publications and Co-convenor of the second IDEA World Congress in 1995. In 2001, he was awarded the American Theatre and Education Alliance Award for Lifetime Research, and in 2014 was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to drama education.

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