by: Kate Hogan, KT Lead, NL SUPPORT
If you’ve ever been a member of a research team, you’ve thought about how to share your findings: research that nobody hears about can’t help anybody. The usual routes are via journal articles or at conferences, but have you ever thought about communicating your key messages a little more…dramatically?
At NL SUPPORT, we’re collaborating on an exciting project to develop new ways to deliver research findings through the medium of theatre.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Theatre? To share research results? Hear me out.
According to Fraser and al Sayah (2011), theatre has the potential to reach target audiences who may be missed when research is shared in more traditional ways. Findings that are aimed at groups who don’t generally attend conferences or skim the latest academic journals can be conveyed by more accessible means. It’s particularly useful for qualitative research, because theatre is a format that can let a team stay true to and convey the emotions and sensory experiences of human subjects (Gray et al., 2000).
Dr. Todd Hennessey (Dean) of the School of Fine Arts at Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook pitched the idea to us in early 2017, and we were sold. Everyone was very excited to explore the potential of theatre as a knowledge translation strategy.
Our first big question quickly emerged: How do you choose a project to adapt for the stage?
Throughout the summer, we carefully considered a number of projects, and were surprised and thrilled when almost all of the researchers that we approached were incredibly enthusiastic about this initiative! We completed an extensive screening process, weighing factors such as dramatic potential, data maturation, and public appeal.
Ultimately, the planning committee chose “Making Decisions about Surgical Treatment: Using Digital Stories to Explore the Experiences of Breast Cancer Patients,” led by Dr. Kathleen Sitter, Adjunct professor with Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, and Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary. For those who may be unfamiliar, digital stories are short videos that use photos, music, and voice to capture an experience.
From December 11–14, we met in person for the first time in Corner Brook to determine how the performance will take shape over the next four months. We discussed the digital stories at length, posing questions to Dr. Sitter about the content and the themes that emerged as the stories were analyzed by the research team. With a deep appreciation of the women’s journeys, our team developed a course outline for the third year theatre students: they’ll learn a variety of techniques that will ultimately allow them to convey the emotions, experiences, and messages shared by the women in their stories. We are extremely fortunate that the students will be guided through this journey by accomplished local actresses Ruth Lawrence and Allison Kelly.
The performance will debut in Corner Brook in April 2018. We are also very excited to share that we are planning a tour of the final performance to stages in both Gander and St. John’s. The general public is the target audience; we hope that the performance will enhance their awareness and appreciation of the journey of breast cancer patients as they make decisions about their surgical treatment options.
If this research-based theatre performance has inspired you to think creatively about knowledge translation strategies and you’d like to discuss your ideas further, please get in touch with Kate, NL SUPPORT’s Knowledge Translation Lead, at email@example.com.
If you’d like to know more about Dr. Sitter’s project, feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.