Acting Out! But in a Good Way

Acting Out! But in a Good Way was an arts-based health research (ABHR) project that took place in First Nations communities in Saskatchewan from 2014-2018. The Indigenous People’s Health Research Centre (IPHRC), based at the University of Regina, in partnership with the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, embarked on a series of interviews with artists, elders, and youth participants. This research examined the use of improvised arts projects in communities with the aim of preventing 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. Participants engaged with a number of improvised art practices including Forum Theatre, improvised theatre games, art, filmmaking, and storytelling.

Research Findings

Our research has shown that participation in the arts function as health interventions, increasing wellbeing and leading to improved health. These art projects were 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, information sharing, real-time decision-making, risk, and the constant adaptation and response to failure and mistake.

The purpose of this research was to prove that improvisation was taking place in both the design of projects and in the artistic practice itself in important and unique ways. This research also sought 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 looked for evidence of these cultural tropes in the art projects that take place there.

Research Questions

  • Are 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 knowledge and experiences of these Saskatchewan artists and communities offer back to the wider field of Critical Studies in Improvisation?

Research Outcomes

  • Jo-Ann Episkenew, Rebecca Caines and Erin Goodpipe. “Acting Out! But in a Good Way.” Presented at the 2015 Guelph Jazz Festival & Colloquium
  • Jo-Ann Episkenew and Erin Goodpipe, “At the Edges of Water and Land: Improvisation and Indigeneity Roundtable.” Presented at Performing Turtle Island, University of Regina, Regina, SK, September 2015.
  • Michelle Stewart, “Playing to Our Strengths: Forum Theatre and Indigenous Games.” Workshop, St. Mary’s School, Chief Harold Sappier Memorial Elementary School, Fredericton, New Brunswick.
  • Dustin Brass and Erin Goodpipe, Forum Theatre and Indigenous Games, Workshop presented at Improvisation and Mobility Conference and Festival, University of Regina, Regina, SK, May 10-14, 2018.





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