Theatre and Democracy: Building Democracy in Post-war and Post-democratic Contexts

Volume editors:
Petro Janse van Vuuren, Bjørn Rasmussen, Ayanda Khala
Chapter authors:
Petro Janse van Vuuren, Bjørn Rasmussen, Ayanda Khala, Heli Aaltonen, Vigdis Aune, Kathy Barolsky, Ellen Foyn Bruun, Nanna Edvardsen, Rikke Gürgens Gjærum, Courtney Helen Grile, Cheraé Halley, Leila Henriques, Namatshego Khutsoane, Kristian Nødtvedt Knudsen, Kamogelo Molobye, Cletus Moyo, Lesley Nkosi, Muneeb Ur Rehman


Theatre and Democracy: Building Democracy in Post-war and Post-democratic Contexts is the outcome of a longstanding collaboration between two centers of applied theatre education and research in South-Africa and Norway, respectively (2017–2022). It presents knowledge, critical conversations and artistic work related to issues of democracy, both historical and contemporary. Within the global framework of our current (post)democracies, thirteen chapters contain stories and analyses from artists and researchers who all study, understand and facilitate theatre as a political-performative medium in dealing with community-specific democratic issues. The reader encounters studies and reports from specific cases of applied theatre, community culture development and performance activism in countries such as South-Africa, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Norway. There is a common interest in theatre as a platform for active citizenry, as well as several attempts to explore theatre as a platform for “political subjectivation” (Rancière).


Author Biographies

Petro Janse van Vuuren

Petro Janse van Vuuren is the Head of Department of Drama for Life at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Arts, Johannesburg, where she lectures, researches, supervises and practises in the field of Applied Drama and Theatre. She is co-leader of the teaching and research exchange project “Building democracy through theatre” and the winner of the 2019 Wits university Faculty of Humanities and Vice Chancellor’s awards for teaching and learning. Recent international publications: How to catch a flying pig: Facilitating embodiment work in online rooms. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 2020, Vol 25 (2), 268–285, DOI: 10.1080/13569783.2020.1730169. Applied arts in business contexts: Selling out to the oppressor or doing transformational work? The Routledge Companion to Applied Performance: Volume One – Mainland Europe, North and Latin America, Southern Africa, and Australia and New Zealand (2021). Taylor and Francis.

Bjørn Rasmussen

Bjørn Rasmussen is professor in Drama/theatre at Norwegian University of Science and Technology and is an instigator and co-leader of the project “Building democracy through theatre”. Through his teaching, supervision and research within applied theatre and drama education, he has contributed internationally for nearly 30 years. Recent international publications: Applied theatre in times of terror: Accepting aesthetic diversity and going beyond dilemma. Applied Theatre Research (2017), Vol. 5(3), 169–183. Arts Education and Cultural Democracy: The Competing Discourses. International Journal of Education and the Arts (2017), Vol. 18(8), 1–17.

Ayanda Khala

Mandela-Rhodes Scholar Ayanda Khala is a Performance Studies lecturer and doctoral researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) where she also serves as Golden Key International Honours Society chapter co-Advisor and executive member of the university staff union. Historically, Khala’s experience in theatre education includes teaching at Wits University, the University of Pretoria, Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa and Maru-a-Pula School in Gaborone, Botswana. She has also served as Programme Director at theatre-based NPO, Themba Interactive. Her contribution includes festival curation and participation in programmes focused on performance studies, human rights and social justice advocacy. Recent international publications: Shakespeare in Southern Africa, SPECIAL ISSUE: “Decolonising Shakespeare?” Contestations and Re-imaginings for a Post-liberation South Africa. Grahamstown, (2017), Vol. 30, 86–94.

Heli Aaltonen

Heli Aaltonen, PhD, is associate professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. She is a youth theatre researcher, performing storyteller and theatre/drama educator with a specialization in applied theatre practices, practice as research method, and encounters between ecology and performative art forms. She leads a research project – Performing Arts and Sustainability – in her department. She was a co-editor and writer in the last Nordic Drama magazine (2/2020), which had a focus on sustainability. Her Manifest can be found on at: Advancing freedom to be alive-in-connectedness – Nr 02 – 2020 – DRAMA – Nordisk dramapedagogisk tidsskrift – Idunn.

Vigdis Aune

Vigdis Aune is professor emerita at the Department of Arts and Media Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim. Her teaching areas are applied theatre, project-theatre and arts-based research methodology. Research fields are theatre with, by and for young people, applied theatre, documentary theatre. In the project Theater and democracy. Building democracy in post-war and post-democratic contexts, she has run a project in partnership with ISAK, a Youth culture center in Trondheim. An interactive performance Happyland (Lykkeland) 2048 was performed at ISAK in September 2021. Recent publications: Drama, teater og demokrati. Fagbokforlaget 2017 (a documentary theatre, a research documentary (film) and articles). Teaterproduksjon – Ti produksjonsestetiske innganger. Cappelen Damm Akademisk (2018) 267 p., co-author Cecilie Haagensen.

Kathy Barolsky

Kathy Barolsky is a drama and movement therapist, applied theatre practitioner and accredited Playback Theatre trainer. She founded Drama for Life Playback Theatre in 2008. Kathy is currently a PhD candidate as part of the Building Democracy through Theatre project at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in Trondheim, Norway. Kathy has recently published an article titled “Doing white differently? Playback Theatre and whiteness in post-apartheid South Africa” in Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance (RiDE).

Ellen Foyn Bruun

Ellen Foyn Bruun is associate professor of Drama and Theatre at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Dramatherapist and Associate Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework. She has a professional background as stage director, playwright/dramaturge and drama educator from professional, community and educational contexts. Her research and teaching centre on relational and participatory aspects of theatre arts practices. Ellen is an active participant in Nordic and international networks with a focus on drama/theatre, voice and health. She has written several articles and book chapters on topics such as dramatherapy, voicework, applied theatre and theatre production. 


Nanna Edvardsen

Nanna K. Edvardsen is a PhD-student art the Arctic Centre for Welfare and Disability Research, Faculty of Health Sciences, at the Arctic University of Norway. Her research areas are: applied theatre, disability theatre, inclusive art and educational drama.


Rikke Gürgens Gjærum

Rikke Gürgens Gjærum is professor of Applied Theatre at the Arctic University of Norway; leader of Arctic Centre for Welfare and Disability research, Faculty of Health Sciences, Arctic University of Norway; and professor of Drama and Theatre studies, Faculty of Technology, Art & Design, Oslo Metropolitan University. Research areas: applied theatre, disability theatre, inclusive art, educational drama, marginalization and arts & health. Recent publications: Gjærum, R.G., Cziboly, A., & Eriksson, S. A. (2021). The case of drama: ILSA exemplified in arts education. What learning competences can be developed through drama education? Springer International Handbooks of Education. Gjærum, R. G. (2020). Core of Nordic applied theatre: Challenges in a subarctic area. T. Prentki & A. Breed (Eds.), The Routledge companion to applied performance, Volume One – Mainland Europe, North and Latin America, Southern Africa, and Australia and New Zealand. (Chapter 36, pp. 383–392). Routledge.


Courtney Helen Grile

Courtney Helen Grile is a theatre artist and scholar who has worked in the United States and Ireland as a facilitator, teaching artist, administrator, adjunct instructor, performer, and director. She is currently a  PhD Candidate at Trinity College Dublin and Early Career Researcher in the Trinity Long Room Hub. Her research looks at the intersection of applied drama and democracy, with a focus on deliberative democratic practices. She has presented her research at the International Federation for Theatre Research conference (2020), the Association for Theatre in Higher Education conference (2019), and the Political Science Association conference (2020). Courtney holds a BFA in Media & Performing Arts from the Savannah College of Art & Design and an MFA in Theatre (emphasis in Theatre for Young Audiences) from the University of Central Florida. Her passion is for using applied theatre and drama techniques to work in community settings. To date, she has taken her work inside juvenile detention centres, primary and secondary schools, orphanages, facilities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, city/town community centres, and after-school centres for young people in underserved communities. 

Cheraé Halley

Cheraé Halley is an actress, theatre-maker, lecturer and applied theatre facilitator. She is an accredited trainer for the Playback Theatre short courses accredited by University of the Witwatersrand. Cheraé coordinates and lectures the Master of Arts in Applied Drama courses under the Department of Drama for Life, University of the Witwatersrand. Cheraé has recently co-authored a chapter entitled “Dear Mr Government” in the Routledge Companion to Applied Performance: Volume One  (2020).


Leila Henriques

Leila Henriques is a theatre practitioner. She has worked as an actor and director in different theatres across South Africa. Her main interest is in collaborative forms of theatre-making. She has written The World in an Orange, a book that explores the directing methods of Barney Simon. Leila has taught at many different institutions, including the Market Theatre Laboratory, AFDA and the University of the Witwatersrand, both in the Drama School and at Drama for Life.

Namatshego Khutsoane

Namatshego (Tshego) Khutsoane is a creative consultant, actor, theatre-maker, applied drama and theatre practitioner. She is development manager with the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative in South Africa. Tshego Khutsoane is drawn to work of ARTivist/ARTivism orientation and sensibility – exploring complex human and social issues. Tshego enjoys involvement in site-responsive performance community narratives and collaborative theatre making, and interdisciplinary performance and gender studies with a particular focus on role, expectation and behaviour. Contributing author to Between The Pillar and The Post: A multi-lingual anthology of Contemporary South African monologues and scenes. diartskonageng, 2019. 


Kristian Nødtvedt Knudsen

Kristian Nødtvedt Knudsen (PhD) is associate professor in Theatre at the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts, University of Agder. He is chief editor of JASEd (Journal for Research in Arts and Sports Education) and his main teaching, research and developmental areas are: arts education, dramaturgy, performativity and artistic research. Recent international publications: Knudsen, K. N. & Schofield, D. (2019). Performing literacy and social media. Drama in education. Exploring key research concepts and effective strategies. (pp. 22–35). Routledge. (Other Publications/photage, see

Kamogelo Molobye

Kamogelo Molobye is a lecturer and PhD candidate with the University of the Witwatersrand Theatre and Performance Department, specializing in Movement Studies, Physical Theatre and Choreographic Practices. He was a recipient of the Institute for Creative Arts (ICA) Live Art Fellowship 2017, a resident choreographer for the Staatstheatre Brunswick Festival 2018, and a resident choreographer for the Goethe-Institut of Namibia’s “Museum Conversations” 2019.


Cletus Moyo

Cletus Moyo is a Drama Lecturer at Lupane State University in Zimbabwe and at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He is a Canon Collins PhD scholar in Drama and Performance Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Moyo is a holder of a Master of Arts in Dramatic Art from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, which he did under the Drama for Life Scholarship. His research interests are: applied drama, theatre and trauma, social drama and art as alternative media. Moyo is a recipient of the Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa Dissertation Completion Fellowship for 2020–2021, administered by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC).  


Lesley Nkosi

Lesley Nkosi is founder and Managing Director of Les Nkosi Holdings Rehumanising (PTY) Ltd, in Johannesburg. He is a Community Capacity Enhancement (CCE) & Applied Drama and Theatre Practitioner and Social Change Agent in community dialogue.  He is alumnus of Drama For Life, University of Witwatersrand School of Arts, in Johannesburg where he acquired his Masters of Arts degree in Applied Drama and Theatre. His dissertation titled “An exploration of the use of drama as a tool for dialogue to elicit discussion in order to understand barriers and facilitators to a patient-centred care approach- The case study of Ndlovu Care Group Elandshoorn Clinic” was awarded the Marshal Kander Award for most outstanding research in HIV/Aids for two years running. 


Muneeb Ur Rehman

Muneeb Ur Rehman is an applied theatre practitioner, educator, actor, voice over artist, improvisation coach and occasional stand-up comedian from Pakistan, practising with hybrid performance methods in education, community development and organizational growth. He set up Pakistan's first-ever theatre department in a secondary school in Lyari, Karachi, in 2016-17, authoring a Training Manual for drama teaching. Using theatre as a development tool, he has conducted workshops at various international forums including SDEA, Singapore, "Performing the World", New York and PPLG, Thessaloniki. In 2019, he conducted teacher training at Katmandu University and improvisation workshops for theatre artists in Nepal. As of 2021, he oversees school-wide performance pedagogy interventions for students, teachers and management at Veritas Learning Circle, trains social entrepreneurs in theatre for social change at the youth program Azme Naujawan and teaches budding actors at Actors Studio, Karachi. 


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August 16, 2021


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