Dramatizing Learning, Performing Ourselves: Stories of Theatre-Based Evaluation in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

  • Christopher Cook UBC Learning Exchange, University of British Columbia
  • Carolyn Camman UBC Learning Exchange, University of British Columbia
  • Andrew Leyland UBC Learning Exchange, University of British Columbia
  • Suzie O’Shea UBC Learning Exchange, University of British Columbia
  • Angela Towle UBC Learning Exchange, University of British Columbia
Keywords: arts-based evaluation, research-based theatre, knowledge translation, participatory evaluation

Abstract

Voices UP!, a play developed and performed collectively with participants from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, illustrates the use of theatre as an innovative evaluation method for data collection, analysis, and knowledge translation. Th is art­ful process can convey complex, experiential evaluation findings and create engaging opportunities for learning, while building relationships and skills among partici­pants. In this article we describe the creation process utilized for this theatre-based evaluation project, as well as guiding principles and lessons learned for evaluators who may want to engage in similar theatre-based participatory work. 

Author Biographies

Christopher Cook, UBC Learning Exchange, University of British Columbia

Christopher Cook worked at the UBC Learning Exchange as the Learning Lab Assistant from 2015-2017. Chris recently completed his MA in counselling psychology at UBC, and has worked as a theatre artist for the last ten years. He is passionate about exploring theatre as both a therapeutic, learning, and research tool. His previous playwriting credits include The Better Parts of Mourning (the frank theatre company), Strip (Staircase Theatre), Gerty: Live! In Concert! (BC Buds Festival), and Quick Bright Things (Persephone Theatre). Voices UP! offered Chris his first experience of collective creation.

Carolyn Camman, UBC Learning Exchange, University of British Columbia

Carolyn Camman is an evaluation specialist at the UBC Learning Exchange as well as an evaluation consultant working out of Vancouver, BC. Carolyn's involvement in Voices UP! came later in its process, first as an audience member who suggested turning the play into a comic book and later as an evaluator providing consultation support to that process, including conducting a literature review and helping prepare this article for publication.

Andrew Leyland, UBC Learning Exchange, University of British Columbia

Andrew Leyland is a graduate student in the School of Population and Public Health at UBC. His research involves intergenerational inequality and the policies that shape population health. He performed a program evaluation of the Learning Lab between 2015 and 2016. He is deeply grateful for the opportunity to undertake a community-based program evaluation at the UBC Learning Exchange, and to learn about theatre-based evaluation in the process. In his spare time, Andrew enjoys rock climbing and brewing beer.

Suzie O’Shea, UBC Learning Exchange, University of British Columbia

Suzie O’Shea was the Community Animator at the UBC Learning Exchange from 2013-2018. Suzie has a BA in Social Studies in Social Care, an MA in Youth and Community Studies, and was proud to be part of Voices UP! in her role as the Coordinator of the Learning Lab program, exploring how arts-based approaches can build leadership and connections in an accessible way and significantly influence social change. Voices UP! was her acting debut, but Suzie has been found performing in contemporary line dancing, learning the ukulele, and trying her hand at sewing.

Angela Towle, UBC Learning Exchange, University of British Columbia

Angela Towle is the academic director of the UBC Learning Exchange. In this role she serves as the academic champion for the Learning Exchange, ensuring that it is linked effectively with UBC's academic mission. Angela is an associate professor in the Department of Medicine and senior scholar in the Centre for Health Education Scholarship in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. She is also Co-Director of Patient & Community Partnership for Education in the Office of UBC Health. Angela joined the Voices Up! team to facilitate the talk-back session after each performance.

Published
2019-12-09
Section
Practice Note- English