Introducing the 2018 Keynote Speaker and the Invited Performance

Keynote Speaker: Anna Seymour, PhD, PFHEA, HCPC, registered Dramatherapist

Why Do We Bother with Theatre? Looking Beyond the Fourth Wall

Why do we bother with theatre? Eminent Dramatherapist Roger Grainger offered us many reasons, which could be summarised as: ‘because ultimately it rewards us in spite of ourselves’.  Its challenges provoke resistance, its conception frustration and its execution fear and anxiety. Yet we believe that to be a part of theatre-making is therapeutic, although we may sometimes rely on tired conventions, believing that there is a ‘theatre’ for communities which is not allowed to engage with the sophistication of the ‘mainstream’ theatre.

The concept of the fourth wall is usually associated with the 19C proscenium arch theatre and the ‘picture frame’ it creates which borders the mis-en-scene. However it is both a literal and metaphorical concept, which is not actually to do with the physical arrangement of the theatre or particular staging but an attitude which sets the relational conventions between performer and audience. In this conception of theatre the performance exists ‘as if’ the audience is not there, but this is not always the case, as historical precedent demonstrates. From Dicaeopolis ‘the man of the people’ in Aristophanes (425 BCE) The Archarnians  to the 1970s drag queens of Noel Greig’s Stonewall drama As Time Goes By there is an imperative at work which Brecht describes as ‘showing has to be shown’ a demonstrative drawing attention to the constructed nature of theatre. The ‘wall’, which both divides and contains the action between audience and performer is of itself pressed into action whereby the audience is metaphorically repositioned as aesthetics shift to respond to the times.

It is a striking phenomenon that classic texts are continually re-envisioned, not just by putting modern clothes on the actors or setting plays in awkward, seemingly incongruous places, but by experiencing the content in new ways because they are speaking to different times. How could Peter Sellars have known when he set The Marriage of Figaro in Trump Tower what was to come? Allowing aesthetic elements in the drama to ‘speak’ is precisely the way that Dramatherapists work. Tony Kushner’s singing washing machine in Caroline or Change is but one inventive example in the last decade.

This presentation will consider how the theatre, in continually re-envisioning itself, remakes old stories in new ways. Ways of thinking about, fashioning and creating theatre, which, precisely because it is borne out of lived experience and crafted for our times, can be an abundant resource for us as we reach beyond established conventions and reach towards the future.

Invited Performance: Dancing with Crow’s Feet
with Deb Campbell

Dancing with Crows Feet is an original, eye-opening play inspired by narratives of older women.  It was written, directed and produced by Arts & AGEing KC to directly address ageism.  The play premiered at the 2016 Kansas City Fringe Festival and went on to represent the Midwest on the first ever ‘Age Stage’ at the prestigious 2017 International Congress on Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine in San Francisco.  In 2018, Dancing with Crows Feet evolved to include older women living in nursing homes in Singapore and was performed at the 2018 Global Conference on Integrated Care in Southeast Asia.


Anna Seymour Bio

Anna Seymour, PhD PFHEA, is Professor of Dramatherapy at the University of Roehampton, London and Visiting professor at the University of Osijek, Croatia. She is an HCPC registered Dramatherapist, clinical supervisor, theatre scholar, and Dramatherapy trainer. She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. As a Dramatherapist and Clinical Supervisor she has worked in the NHS, Voluntary and private sectors with a range of clients and issues. She has a particular interest and personal experience in working with adoption and attachment issues.

Anna is an international trainer and a consultant to several Dramatherapy programmes across the world. She has a background in professional theatre for communities, where she was involved in more than thirty shows as an actor or director. Her work has encompassed projects with people of all ages and abilities. She has worked in a wide range of settings with musicians and documentary theatre makers and has facilitated workshops and training for fellow professionals on working in community settings. She trained in Commedia Dell'Arte in the UK (with Michael Chase), France (with John Rudlin) and Italy (with Antonio Fava, 2011), which she has taught internationally, and in Meyerhold’s Biomechanics with Gennadi Bogdanov, Moscow Theatre of Satire.

As a theatre scholar she has worked in the Drama departments of the Universities of Manchester, (including five practical research projects working with classical dramatic texts), Birmingham (Teaching fellow in Drama 2009-10), Hull, Huddersfield and Sheffield.In the UK and internationally she has contributed to conferences and training programmes, and delivered lectures, papers, workshops and masterclasses in many countries including the US, Russia, Italy, Greece, France, Poland, and Croatia. She is an Honorary member of Societa Professionale di Drammaterapia (Italian Association of Dramatherapy).

Anna was Editor of  Dramatherapy  (2011-17) peer reviewed Journal of the British Association of Dramatherapists  (Routledge/Taylor and Francis) and is a founding member of the Editorial advisory board Drama Therapy Review (Intellect).

She researches the relationship between politics, theatrical aesthetics and the therapeutic process through praxis and is series editor of Dramatherapy: relationships, approaches, critical ideas (Routledge, Taylor and Francis).

Her forthcoming book (co-authored with Madeline Andersen-Warren) Dramatherapy and Theatre (Routledge, Taylor and Francis) is due for publication in 2019.

Deb Campbell Bio

Debra Campbell is an entrepreneur with more than thirty- five years combined experience in the fields of social gerontology and theatre education that led her to start Arts & AGEing KC, a nonprofit organization that serves as catalyst, convener and connector for enriching lives through creative aging.  She is a visionary that has taken a rich work history that includes social services and community outreach for retirement and assisted living communities, ownership of a drama studio and direction of a high school theatre department, melding them together into unique intergenerational community arts and creative aging experiences.

Debra’s passion for theatre arts runs deep—an accomplished playwright, herself, Deb has been writing, directing and producing original plays for intergenerational casts since 1996, specializing in original self‐revelatory theatre that gives voice to lived experiences of older adults and focuses on issues relevant to aging. Two plays—Seven Stages, Seven Stories, and Dancing With Crow’s Feet—received ‘Best of Show’ recognition in Kansas City Fringe Festivals.  One was presented at a global conference on creative aging in Washington DC and the other at a prestigious international congress on gerontology and geriatric medicine in San Francisco.  Flights to Remember, another original piece inspired by life stories, performed in Singapore as the Opening Ceremony for the Global Conference on Integrated Care in Southeast Asia.

Debra has a Masters of Science in Social Gerontology; she studied Drama Therapy as an Alternative Track student at Kansas State University; she is a trained facilitator of Aging Mastery through the National Council on Aging, and is a graduate of the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac Entrepreneurial program. Debra is a sought-after presenter on the topics of creative aging, culture change for aging, ageism, intergenerational arts programming and health and wellness through arts across the lifespan. She is also an adjunct instructor in the Sociology Department at Benedictine College in Atchison, KS.

Debra lives in Kansas City with her husband Mike. They have four daughters and 3 grandsons.