Acting Out! But in a Good Way

Acting Out! But in a Good Way, is an arts-based health research (ABHR) project taking place in First Nations communities in Saskatchewan. This research is examining the use of improvised arts projects in communities to prevent suicides by helping youth to examine the decisions they make that affect their health, build a strong sense of identity, and find their voices leading to improved health and wellbeing. The youth engage with a number of improvised art practices including Forum Theatre, improvised theatre games, and art, filmmaking, and storytelling. Our research has shown that participation in the arts function as health interventions, increasing wellbeing and leading to improved health. These art projects are designed collaboratively following Indigenous research and art methodologies and protocols, many of which seem to engage with qualities of improvisational collaboration, including active listening, dialogical and collaborative decision making and information sharing, real-time decision making, risk, and the constant adaptation and response to failure and mistake. The researchers hypothesize that improvisation is, thus, taking place in both the design of projects and in the artistic practice itself in important and unique ways. They also seek knowledge of how different traditional First Nations’ understandings of the improvisatory qualities of adaptation for survival and resistance might play out in the contemporary cultures of the communities being studied and look for evidence of these cultural tropes in the art projects that take place there. This interactive project is asking the following questions. Is Indigenous youths’ health and wellbeing in these communities positively impacted through the improvisatory? How might the support for, and expansion of, improvisatory practices benefit the communities? Most significantly, what contribution could the lived knowledges and experiences of these Saskatchewan artists and communities offer back to the wider field of Critical Studies in Improvisation?

Site: University of Regina

Researchers: Rebecca Caines

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