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The tyranny of emotional distance?: Emotion/al work and emotional labour in applied theatre projects

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Taking as its theoretical starting point Sheila Preston’s (2013) discussion of emotional labour and the applied theatre facilitator, we examine how emotional labour in the applied theatre space might manifest through the experiences of not only the facilitator, but the participants as well. Our investigation is based on the work of The Community Theatre (TCT) project, a drama-based group in Singapore that enlists youth volunteers from low- and middle-income backgrounds to co-create shows that reflect on the social challenges faced by children and families from low socio-economic backgrounds. Drawing on interviews, reflective journals and workshop notes, we identify two significant moments that emerged out of TCT’s work, where the practice of emotional labour by the facilitator and participants became evident. We suggest that the implications of participants managing their emotions during the applied theatre process can offer some insight into the need for facilitators to create opportunities for suppressed feelings experienced by both facilitators and participants to be critically engaged with. We begin to articulate the importance of a critical emotional praxis (Chubbuck and Zembylas 2006) to navigate what we have termed the ‘tyranny of emotional distance’ in applied theatre work – the perceived negative effects caused by constant emotional management.
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Keywords: Singapore; applied theatre; community theatre; emotional labour; social housing; young people

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Griffith University, Australia 2: The Community Theatre, Beyond Social Services, Singapore

Publication date: August 1, 2019

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