Our Speaker: Benjamin McDonald
Ethnotheatre: Staging Anthropology
I am currently a PhD student at The University of York with a background in making theatre and teaching in the post-compulsory sector. I am interested in developing a career which combines teaching and research whilst continuing with public engagement by writing and directing innovative theatre performances. My current research explores the relationship between historical and cultural understanding of mental illness and how characters suffering with ill mental health have been exhibited on the stage. This also includes an investigation of the presentation of characters who feign mental illness for personal gain.
This formal presentation explores the relationship between the role of the ethnodramatist and their duty to storytelling through scriptwriting. I will briefly outline the various components of ethnodrama and analyse the effectiveness of this approach as a means of storytelling and will identify how this might be exhibited to an audience, noting the potential impact. I will investigate the primary objectives of an ethnodramatist and acknowledge how research-informed creative practice can contribute to positive change and act as a forum for challenging societal ills. This ties it into the other theme of the symposium, current affairs. Events of political or social importance are precisely the dramatically charged stimuli that the ethnodramatist would draw from. This genre is particularly adaptable in both form and process and therefore lends itself to interdisciplinary practice, encouraging a range of artists to work alongside psychologists, doctors, politicians, therapists etc. depending on the theme of study. This is an exciting off-branch of anthropology which pulls together ethnographic fieldwork documentation, workshops the findings and transforms the data into a work of art, immersing the audience within this form of authentic storytelling.