George Belliveau

Professor

Research Interests

Theatre
Arts-based research

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Research Methodology

research-based theatre
A/r/tography

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Doctoral students
2019

research-based theatre, applied theatre

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Empire of the Son : using research-based theatre to explore family relationships (2018)

My father died on September 18, 2015. Less than three weeks later, I stood onstage at The Cultch’s Culture Lab in East Vancouver and shared with an audience of theatregoers the story of his death and his life. At the centre of this dissertation is Empire of the Son, a theatrical script that explores my contentious relationship with my Japanese father. This exploration is based on memories, interviews, and artifacts such as photographs, documents, and letters. Within the spectrum of research-based theatre, on one end there is a body of plays created by researchers for specialized audiences within such academic disciplines as healthcare or education resulting in most often “closed/conference performance based on systematic research” (Lea, Belliveau, Wager, & Beck, 2011, p. 695). On the other end of the spectrum, well known plays such as The Laramie Project (Kaufman, 2010), or the work of playwright Anna Deveare Smith have been annexed by research-based theatre scholars in response to those who continue to question its legitimacy “as a credible genre of research reportage” (Saldaña, 2008a, p. 203). In other words, research-based theatre tends either to be created by academic researchers for conference/stakeholder audiences (Lea et al., 2011), or created for mainstream audiences by theatre artists who do not self-identify as researchers. Empire of the Son is uniquely positioned as a play created by a self-identified arts-based researcher yet has managed to reach mainstream audiences. At the time of this writing, it will have played in 17 cities, and across four countries. Rarely has a dissertation play been so widely seen. Developing, performing and touring Empire of the Son has allowed me as an artist/scholar to navigate the territory of mainstream theatre through a bewildering variety of circumstances and terrain that remains largely untrammeled by arts-based researchers. These developmental and experiential contributions are theoretically and methodologically informed by research-based theatre (Ackroyd & O'Toole, 2010; Belliveau & Lea, 2016). This exploration forms the spine of this research as I examine key moments, tensions, and epiphanies I encountered while conceptualizing, performing and touring this research.

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Visiting Griffin at the confluence of playwriting, ethics, and spirit : towards poet(h)ic inquiry in research-based theatre (2016)

Poet(h)ic inquiry is a pedagogical space of inquiry at the confluence of playwriting, ethics and spirit, in the context of research-based theatre. It is an inquiry about presences and absences: the yu-mu (Aoki, 2000) within ethico-spiritual dilemmas, with respect to (1) an ethic of meaning, (2) individual and social justice, (3) aesthetic values, (4) an ethic of respect (Tuhiwai Smith, 2005) regarding authorship, and (5) integrated ethical relationality in contexts of teaching-learning-creativity-playwriting-knowing. Within arts-based research, there are notable ethical gaps (Boydell et al., 2012; Gallagher, 2007b; White & Belliveau, 2010) related to a quest for ethicality (Denzin, 2006; Norris, 2009), meaning (Frankl, 1946/2004), and hope-based, emancipatory pedagogy (Freire, 2006) within located social justice. Research-based theatre (Belliveau, 2015; Goldstein, 2012; Lea & Belliveau, 2015; Lea at al., 2011; Norris 2009; Prendergast & Belliveau, 2013; Saldaña, 2005, 2011), which aims to balance aesthetics with instrumental purposes (Jackson, 2005), is well positioned for ethics-situated inquiry, within a plethora of psycho-spiritual, socio-political, and geo-historical contexts.My dissertation play, Visiting Griffin, expresses the interplay between memory and present time. While visiting an absent student actor in a hospital wing, Blythe, a director/drama teacher, inquires poet(h)ically on a thread of memories through the lens of playwriting –incorporating various art forms, genres, literacies and modalities (Siegel, 2006). Scenes depict a paradox of presence-absences: yu-mu (Aoki & Jacknicke, 2000, p. 3), within particular ethical dilemmas across time and place, towards a (possibly redemptive) visit to Griffin, who is both character and metaphor in connection with the notion of self-other: hito (Aoki, 1995, p. 6). Chorus-like, supporting characters, Henriette and Mabel, offer a bilingual presence-absence in counterpoint to Dancer, who embodies a literacy of silence. Themes emerge from Visiting Griffin such as exile and return, expatriation and repatriation, and the cost of social justice. I explore my ethics criteria in dynamic poet(h)ic relationality from various perspectives. Aesthetics in poet(h)ic inquiry is linked to sub-textuality, how theme and meaning are reflected within multi-modalities, and what constitutes aesthetic knowing. Beyond Visiting Griffin, ‘redemptivity’ may be realized as a point of departure, through integrated poet(h)ical relationality on the stage of life.

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Applied drama as engaging pedagogy : critical multimodal literacies with street youth (2015)

This critical ethnography investigates the pedagogical spaces constituted within a youth-led, participatory theatre production, Surviving in the Cracks (Wager et al., 2009). The popular theatre production documented the lived experiences of eight street-youth, including their struggles to survive in the face of cuts to public health resources in Vancouver. As an applied theatre study, this theatre project is defined as a messy and rich site of pedagogical inquiry that is examined through multiple theoretical and methodological frameworks. It draws on critical feminist pedagogy, critical youth studies and theatre and literacy research with the purpose of revealing how drama and theatre spaces provide “anomalous” (Ellsworth, 2005) learning places, or out-of-the-ordinary learning spaces, that youth and researchers collectively embodied during the applied drama and theatre process and production. Analysis of ethnographic data generated before, during, and after the theatrical production of Surviving in the Cracks suggests how drama and theatre with street youth opens up embodied pedagogical spaces. Two different methods of analysis bring multiple perspectives to this work through exploring how meaning was collectively constructed, how multimodal literacy practices were used in critical ways, how power was negotiated, how desire was manifested through imaginaries, and how safe spaces were generated by this community of youth within selected pedagogical moments of resistance during the theatre process. Specifically, the script is analyzed with a youth participant, followed by the analysis of particular moments of resistance during performance creation and production. This research advances knowledge of how informal learning spaces and youth resistances within education become crucial parts of pedagogy and should be considered as future foundations and expansions of education. Implications include using multiple methodological lenses in order to work alongside, for and with youth, as well as being able to reach larger audiences of youth, communities, educators, and scholars through different analytical perspectives. By examining how theatre provides a space for marginalized youth to engage in dialogues about complex social issues, this research contributes to the fields of critical and feminist pedagogy, language and literacy education, drama in education, critical youth studies, and collaborative methodological studies in qualitative research.

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Homa Bay Memories : using research-based theatre to explore a narrative inheritance (2014)

In her article When Missions Became Development: Ironies of ‘NGOization’ in Mainstream Canadian Churches in the 1960s (2010), Ruth Compton Brouwer discusses the move from a missionary to a secular focus in international development. To personalize this transition she tells the story of a high-school friend who, instead of following her uncle into missionary work, joined a secular Non-Governmental Organization to teach in Kenya. Compton Brouwer’s unnamed friend was my mother and the stories of her Kenyan experiences became a significant part of my narrative inheritance (Goodall, 2005). Inspired by these stories I engaged with my narrative inheritance, travelling to, and teaching in Kenya as a part of my teacher training.At the heart of this dissertation is Homa Bay Memories, a theatrical script developed using research-based theatre and narrative inquiry to explore my and my mother’s Kenyan experiences almost forty years apart. This exploration is based on letters, photos, and audio recordings left behind by my mother after her death as well as artifacts and memories of my Kenyan experiences. Through this scripted research I seek a deeper understanding of a little known but influential part of my mother’s life and how her experience has, and continues to, shape my life. Developing the script Homa Bay Memories also provided an opportunity to critically engage with research-based theatre as a methodology. Saldaña (2010) notes a lack of accounts detailing the development and “critical decision-making processes” (p. 4) encountered in research-based theatre projects. I address this gap through a careful examination of the development of Homa Bay Memories. The methodological exploration becomes the spine of this dissertation as I closely examine key moments, tensions, and decisions I faced while crafting and conceptualizing this research for the stage.These experiential and methodological contributions are theoretically informed by Bakhtin’s notion of chains of utterances (1986). This theoretical lens suggests a relentless rationality and “unfinalizability” (Holquist, 2002, p. 195) that characterizes both the understandings and presentation of the research. The dissertation concludes by suggesting possible evaluative entry points into the work.

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Social art effect : the a/r/tography and complexity of theatre education learning systems, developmental stages, and change mechanisms (2012)

This study examined how the Compassion Project, a collective theatre and social learning program, fostered positive youth and group development. The Compassion Project involved over 200 secondary students who participated in four theatre-making and social learning phases, where they inquired upon the topic of safe and caring schools. Through the process of collective theatre-making, students co-created two original plays (The Flip Side and Focus) about their social and emotional experiences in school. A/r/tography, the arts education research methodology for this study, emphasizes living inquiry and reflective practice through the examination of the in-between spaces of art-making/researching/teaching (a/r/t). Expanding upon the field of a/r/tography, this study introduces the rendering of the fourth wall as a theatre education research lens. By conceptualizing the theatre classroom as a stage, the rendering of the fourth wall directs attention to several perspectives: to the students, teacher-directors, players, and audience on both the classroom and stage sides; to the spaces in between the imaginary world of the play and the real life experiences of the inquirers; and, to the theatre-making and reflective practices. Based on observations, interviews, circle talks, and students’ written reflections, stories, and scripts, the data are analyzed and presented throughout the dissertation. The findings are conceptualized as the social art effects, which are the benefits that result from students’ social and theatre-making actions and interactions. The conceptualization also combines psychological, pedagogical, and theatre-based theories, such as positive psychology, complexity in education, and collective theatre. As a way to organize the data, the findings on the social art effect are categorized into three components: learning systems, developmental stages, and change mechanisms. This study illustrates how students’ social conditions are critical, and precede learning conditions. Furthermore, this study emphasizes the importance of integrating social learning and complex systems theories into the curriculum as a way to optimize learning spaces and to foster positive youth and group development.

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Emancipation, Empowerment & Embodiment: Exploring the Influence of Organizational Dynamics on One School's Journey to Promote Positive Behaviour and Social Responsibility (2010)

No abstract available.

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Studying the effects of a veterans transition program style retreat (company of men) on participants’ perception and experience of masculinity (2014)

The Company of Men (CoM) retreat was created based on the findings from the Veterans Transition Program (VTP), a 10-day retreat style program that assist Veterans in their transition to civilian life. The CoM is for general population male gendered people facing some sort of life transition, stress or challenge. Research evaluating the VTP found that a key issue for Veterans were the masculine gendered traits that are reinforced in the military. The traits are proven to be unhelpful in many civilian careers and family lives once people leave the military. Since the VTP was seen to help Veterans in the domain of their masculine identities it was theorized that a similar program may be helpful for non-military masculine gendered populations. The CoM was the first attempt to translate the VTP Knowledge with a civilian population. CoM was studied through a post-retreat focus group comprised of 6 participants from CoM program. This study found a shift in participant’s experience and perception of masculinity occurred, primarily around emotional expression and help seeking. Moreover, participants elucidated on the factors of change, enactments, facilitator’s presence and working in a group.

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Making short films in French class : the role of collaborative short films projects in social cohesion and student engagement in the Core French classroom (2012)

Based on the principles of social constructivism, multiliteracies and Freire’s (1970) critical pedagogy concept of dialogue, I observed and reflected upon my current practices as a teacher of additional languages. The main purpose for this study was to examine the role of creating collaborative short films in social cohesion and student engagement in the Core French classroom. The study included one grade 10 Core French class who explored course content (television and film genres) by creating their own collaborative short films. The short film unit, including an optional show casing in the school theatre, took place over a span of 5 weeks. I collected data through a variety of forms: field notes, journal reflections, questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews. Once data were collected, I used an arts-based approach (screenplay writing) to both analyze and disseminate my findings. The research-based screenplay that I wrote is based on the data and I share this writing in the thesis along with an analysis of this artistic process which deconstructs the screenplay for the reader. I shared the screenplay with participants to seek further insights and feedback. My findings and discussions are largely based on understandings gleaned from the process of writing the screenplay.

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Playing with Possibilities: Drama in the Core French Classroom (2011)

No abstract available.

Breaking the silence : beginning teachers share pathways out of the profession (2010)

This thesis explores the story of teacher attrition, the story behind the statistic that tells us that as many as 50% of teachers leave the profession within their first five years (Clandinin, Downey, & Huber, 2009, p. 145; Glassford & Salinitri, 2007, p. 5; Ingersoll and Kralik, 2004, p. 2). Research also tells us that this is not all ‘healthy’ attrition (Borman, & Dowling, 2008), and that unhealthy teacher attrition places many burdens on the education system. Using narrative inquiry, this thesis creates a space for the stories of beginning teachers. The reader is invited into a dialogue where these teachers share their experiences of induction, mentorship, bureaucracy, accountability, and their many experiences in the classroom in order to explore the complexities behind their decision to leave the classroom early. As the practices of teacher mentorship and teacher induction grow, it is essential that beginning teachers be allowed to meaningfully contribute to the dialogue in a candid way. Narrative inquiry allows the complexity of teacher induction to remain complex. This inquiry leaves space for the reader to engage in the dialogue, to bring the inquiry into his or her own context. “It is a living composting” (Leggo, 2002, p. 2); fertile ground for future inquiry and critical discussion.

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Improvising spaces : places, spaces, and do-it-yourself performance in Vancouver, BC (2010)

This thesis examines and documents the performance and arts culture emerging from underground and off-the-grid arts spaces in Vancouver, BC. This study examines a small cross-section of the city’s underground performance culture, and places it in the context of its time and place to inquire into why and how it is developing, and the impact that it is having on the individuals and communities who shape it. This study makes use of both arts-based and qualitative research methods to collect and analyze information about the practical, social and political influences that are contributing to the emergence of this section of underground culture. This study has roots in my own work as an artist and participant in underground cultural activities, and has required that I consider my role as both an insider (artist) and outsider (researcher). The written portion of this thesis examines three interconnected aspects: what kind of art is being developed in these spaces? How might it be understood as a product of its ‘environment’? And what sort of impact is this form of art-making having on the individuals who take part and on the wider community? The analysis suggests that artists’, organizers’ and participants’ experiences with and perceptions of regulations and enforcement agencies, their material limitations, and social/political values and intentions play significant roles in defining the character of underground spaces, what kinds of artistic activity takes place and how it is organized. The artist book that accompanies this thesis aims to document the creative practices that are taking place, and to reflect them back to the people who are contributing to creating this cultural landscape. With this study and artist book I hope to both capture a snapshot of what is currently taking place in a section of the underground art scene, as well as produce a work that serves as an example of research-as-art.

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Research in three acts : approaches to developing reserarch-based theatre (2010)

This thesis explores the artistic development of three research-based theatre productions at The University of British Columbia faculty in 2009. Each was developed using one of the three approaches to research-based theatre identified in the literature: collective, combined:collective/playwright, and playwright-centered. The experience of working in each of the three approaches is closely examined in this descriptive / exploratory case study (Winston, 2006, p. 49) based primarily on my critical reflections. The discussions of the projects are stylistically independent; however, each is guided by two central questions (1) how meanings are constructed in each approach and (2) how each approach may create and inhibit meaning-making. In the first chapter, I propose research-based theatre as an umbrella term for the use of theatre in research. I also identify three approaches to developing research-based theatre and situate them in using examples from both scholars and theatre artists. The discussion of Drama as an Additional Language in chapter two attempts to weave research-based theatre with a/r/tography. Chapter three focuses on Naming the Shadows, exploring the complexities of adding additional artists in the playwright-centered approach. The development of Centering the Human Subject is used in chapter four to develop a scribe–artist continuum upon which the development of productions using the combined:collective/playwright may be better understood. The final chapter weaves script and prose to theatrically explore issues which cut across the three discussions and offer suggestions for further research and inquiry. 

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