Theatre as a Transformative Practice: A heuristic exploration of the psychosomatic dynamics of self-expressive theatre practices


An exploration into the psychosomatic dynamics of theatre-based practices was undertaken
using heuristic methodology (Moustakas, 1990). Twenty-two practitioners, some working
independently, others working collaboratively, were interviewed about their approaches,
focusing on their experiences of self-expressive performance as a way to work on the self and
to induce healing and/or transformative growth. The heuristic approach also allowed for the
researcher’s direct involvement and participation in the practices under investigation,
enabling her to explore firsthand the potential of theatre-based practice as a means to work
on the self.

Following heuristic methodology, the researcher created a Composite Depiction and a
Creative Synthesis, juxtaposing the individual approaches of the research participants and
highlighting the core elements of Theatre as a Transformative Practice. In doing so, she
proposed that the practices explored facilitate an attunement of ego, some leading to deep,
body-based introspection which in turn enables the practitioner to gain greater self-insight
and internal balance through expressive engagement with felt senses and corresponding
imagery. The researcher further suggested that Theatre as a Transformative Practice requires
specific conditions under which the creative journey can lead to healing and personal growth.
The chief condition identified was that the work be approached with mindful awareness of
others and self in the performative relationship.