Amy Willshire – “Theatre to Heal”

The origins of theatre are in morality, healing and community. It was linked to the religious; the worship of Dionysus for the Greeks or the shamanic encounter with the spirit world in parallel traditions practiced in Africa, South America, Asia and Europe. Dramatherapy continues this shamanic heritage to use drama and theatre with a healing intent.

Just as there are many types of theatre, there are many applications of theatre within dramatherapy. The audience may be a community or a single therapist. Some forms use a pre-existing text, some are original writing. Some are rehearsed and some are improvised. Some are to be viewed but most are participatory.

Covid changed the way dramatherapy was delivered. There were restrictions on group sizes, touch was discouraged, props became a contagion hazard. In many cases the therapy had to move to online.

The use of film and virtual reality as part of therapy were being explored before Covid but have had a renewed focus this year with technology allowing us to explore new possibilities such as the use of virtual backgrounds and filters on video calls, a novel take on set and costume.

Yet the sensory does not translate to the screen and the therapeutic impact of touch and eye contact are removed.

This talk will consider what we gained, what we lost, and what are the core truths which will guide the next stage of development for theatre as therapy.

Amy Willshire

Amy is a dramatherapist practicing in the UK. She works for the NHS with adolescents with mental ill health as well as in private practice called Play It Through. Amy is on the Executive Committee for the British Association of Dramatherapists where she helped write guidance on how to move dramathrapy to the online world. Amy is also part of the theatre collective The UnDisposables where she has written and directed pieces exploring mental health.

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