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Images of the Future in Drama Therapy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2009


For various reasons, there is a tension between drama therapy and the concept of performance. Whereas many notions of performance are deeply rooted in the here-and-now, theatrical types of therapy often include practices concerning the future and constructing future images of self, subjectivity and conflict. This paper argues that therapeutic theatre's high affinity with iconic structures and with the creation of ‘images’ can be explained by its specific problems with the contingency and risk inherent in performance.

Copyright © International Federation for Theatre Research 2009

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1 The riskiness and contingency of performance are highlighted by performance theories as different as those of Jon McKenzie (based on the notion of performance as challenge) and Erika Fischer-Lichte (based on the notion of performance as emergent). Cf. McKenzie, Jon, Perform or Else: From Discipline to Performance (London and New York: Routledge, 2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Fischer-Lichte, Erika, The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics (London and New York: Routledge, 2008)Google Scholar.

2 Terms are here understood to be heuristic instruments that can illuminate individual aspects of a single phenomenon while obfuscating others.

3 For more on Boal's projects in political theatre see, in particular, Augusto Boal, Theater der Unterdrückten. Übungen und Spiele für Schauspieler und Nicht-Schauspieler (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1989). For his publications in drama therapy see Boal, Der Regenbogen der Wünsche. Methoden aus Theater und Therapie (Uckerland: Schibri, 2006). In the following footnotes I refer to the German translation of the volume published in 1995: The Rainbow of Desire: The Boal Method of Theatre and Therapy (London and New York: Routledge).

4 Boal, Der Regenbogen der Wünsche, pp. 93–101.

5 Ibid., pp. 94 ff.

6 Ibid., p. 95.

7 Ibid., pp. 95 ff.

8 Ibid., pp. 96 ff.

9 Ibid., pp. 97–100.

10 This is reflected in the analogue language employed by art and design therapy; cf., for example, Udo Baer, Gefühlssterne, Angstfresser, Verwandlungsbilder . . . Kunst- und gestaltungstherapeutische Methoden und Modelle (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Affenkönig, 2007), pp. 346–56.

11 Cf. Nic Leonhardt, Piktoral-Dramaturgie. Visuelle Kultur und Theater im 19. Jahrhundert (1869–1899) (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2007). Leonhardt demonstrates via the concept of the tableau vivant that the discursive relationship between the theatrical and the pictorial goes back to the early modern era.