Theatre as a Powerful Medium in Sexuality Education

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Theatre is understood to be a powerful medium for education, health promotion and community development (Kidd, 1989; Bappa & Etherton, 1983; Brecht, 1974, Boal, 1979). Key factors which are thought to play roles in its effectiveness include: the pleasure and enjoyment theatre audiences experience; theatre’s capacity to open up difficult or sensitive subjects; identification and emotional engagement that relevant theatre can provide audiences; and the concomitant opportunity to assess and evaluate situations that are portrayed. "For it is what happens between people that provides them with all the material that they can discuss, criticize, alter" (Brecht, 1974). “Audience members recognize the character(s) and their dilemmas and identify with the people portrayed. And because they can watch rather than live the experience, they also objectify the problems, and in so doing begin to be able to think critically about possible solutions or alternate actions” (Prentki & Selman, 2000). An alliance of theatre artists, health educators and social scientists are investigating these theories in depth; the Are We There Yet? research team assessed the impact of a participatory play which is aimed at developing teens’ capacity to name and communicate sexual boundaries. In addition to researching degrees of change regarding the educational goals of the program, researchers investigated how teen audiences experienced these components of theatre (enjoyment, involvement, participation), in order to consider the strength of the play and production. These guiding principles for theatre provide useful frameworks through which to analyze and respond to the implications of the assessment findings.


Keywords: Sexuality Education, Participatory Theatre, Grade 9 Students
Stream: Creative Arts and Learning
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Jan Selman

Professor and Chair, Department of Drama, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


Dr. Brenda Elizabeth Munro

Professor, Department of Human Ecology, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Dr. Brenda Munro is a professor in the Department of Human Ecology. She teaches and conducts research in the areas of intimate relationships and youth at risk. Her current research projects include work with homeless youth and theatre the use of interactive theatre in working with youth who are thirteen to fourteen years old. Theoretical perspectives that have been applied in this research are identity development and attachment theory.

Dr. Shaniff Esmail

Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


Dr. James Ponzetti, Jr.

Associate Professor, School of Social Work and Family Studies, University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

James J. Ponzetti, Jr., Ph.D., D.Min., C.F.L.E., C.C.F.E. is an Associate Professor of Family Studies in the School of Social Work and Family Studies at the University of British Columbia. In 2002, he became a Faculty Fellow of Green College, a center for advanced interdisciplinary scholarship at the University of British Columbia. He has previously served on the faculty at the University of New Mexico, Central Washington University and Western Illinois University. He founded and directed the Oregon Family Nurturing Center, Inc. before moving to UBC. As a Certified Family Life Educator in both Canada and the United States (C.C.F.E., Family Services Canada, and C.F.L.E., National Council on Family Relations), he is committed to the enhancement and promotion of family life education in Canada. He is currently involved in numerous research projects, such as premarital rituals, computers and family functioning, the use of theater in sexuality education, and marital preparation programs. He is on the editorial board for the Journal of Teaching in Marriage and Family and the Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, and regularly serves as a reviewer for several professional journals including Personal Relationships, and Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Ref: L08P0146