A state of health? Constructive dialogue and the rhythms of international youth theatre

Simon Parry

This article examines youth theatre as a mode of promoting public dialogue within situations of political tension or conflict. It reflects on the author’s own experience of trying unsuccessfully to find a framework to evaluate an European Union supported theatre project, youth/art/peace/network, which took place in Austria, Israel and Palestine in the late 1990s. In the context of this reflection and the author’s attempts to address the challenge of finding an evaluative framework and mode of analysis, the article combines a critical account of Habermas’ notion of communicative reason inspired by Iris Marion Young with Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis. It argues that understanding drama practices in rhythmic terms provides potential for evaluating the complex spatio-temporal relationships the practices might have with everyday life. Through focusing on the presences and absences of particular people and things, such evaluation shows up the risks of performing a misleading or coerced state of health. The article suggests that the problem in this case was underpinned by a restrictive or exclusionary understanding of constructive dialogue at odds with participants’ daily experience. However, the analysis also points more optimistically towards the potential of monologue and particular proxemics of co-presence in finding modes of performance to represent such experience.

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