Updated November 3, 2005

   these are NOT official Open University Web pages   


One student's personal experience as a part of:

      Development Studies:
Human, Community,
Institutional, Environmental

TU874: Theater as a Tool for Development/
Theatre as a Tool for Development

For my Master's Degree in Development Management at Open University, my last course was TU874 The Development Management Project. This course involved my researching a development-related topic of my choice, and producing a 10,000 word paper as a result of this research. TU874 represents just one-sixth of OU's MSc Development Management program; as the final project involves only around 240 hours of study, it cannot be equated with an MA by thesis. Hence why my final project is not as long, nor does it read, as a traditional thesis.

My research project was an investigation of what elements need to be in place before an organization produces a live, in-person performance, or series of performances, as a development tool, excluding performer training and theater techniques. Research focused on the experiences of people and organizations who have used live, in-person performance as a development tool (theater for development, or TfD). The goal was to identify the systems and atmosphere that need to be cultivated in order to ensure the success of a TfD initiative and to tie these to the concepts taught in OU Development Management courses.

There are numerous organizations using theater techniques as part of their development activities, and there are also numerous initiatives, publications, web sites and individuals that promote and chronicle successes regarding live, in-person performance as an effective tool for development. Even in our current age saturated with multi-media, live, in-person performance/TfD is a popular and effective tool for education, outreach and capacity-building regarding a variety of development issues, such as HIV/AIDS prevention, domestic violence, evolving gender roles, or good sanitation practices.

However, there is little information on what has to be in place before these techniques are used, excluding performer training, to better ensure that these techniques will be well-received by an audience/participants, and to better ensure that the desired outcomes will be generated. There is a need for more information on how to cultivate support for and trust in such an initiative among staff at the lead agency, among partner organizations, and among those for whom the theater-for-development techniques will be used.

This project included a review of key literature on TfD, and semi-structured interviews with 12 TfD practitioners.

You can read online:

Questionnaires and further information are NO LONGER BEING ACCEPTED. Thank you to everyone who helped.

This investigation portion of this process is now over. The paper has been submitted to Open University. A version of the paper will be created for submission to a development-related journal. If the paper is published, I will post information about what journal it will appear in here.


Those of you who know me were all expecting me to do something regarding either volunteerism, specifically online volunteering or the vital role volunteers play in community technology initiatives, or mission-based organizations and technology, as that's been the focus of my professional work for most of the last 15 years. Well... surprise!

Live, in-person theater has always been a love of mine: I was always involved in theater in some way during junior high, high school and then my undergrad at university, and for five years, I worked in public relations and marketing at various professional theaters, including the Tony-Award winning Hartford Stage and the internationally-acclaimed Williamstown Theater Festival. The power of theater to reach people, particularly in this era of high-technology saturation, fascinates me. There is nothing like it, no experience that matches it. Writing my Master's Degree final project on a theater-related topic was my opportunity to get back in touch with something that started me off professionally, and something I believe in personally.


Ofcourse I'm biased. Every researcher is. There is no such thing as a completely neutral research survey, nor completely neutral researcher. One of the reasons I have posted so much information on this web site is to be up front about my agenda in this project, as well as transparent on what my methodology is. I have appreciated very much the helpful critiques and suggestions I have received from TfD practitioners, which I think will help to create a project they can actually use in their own work, as opposed to doing something that merely gets me what I need to attain a Master's Degree.


Possibility #1: I considered focusing on theater being used as a tool for development in just one geographic area that is dominated by developing countries: Africa, Central and South America, countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, or developing nations in Asia. But it has proven too difficult to identify enough initiatives in one geographic area, other than in North America, to undertake the necessary research in such a short time frame, and too difficult to get enough people in one geographic area to respond to my emails.

Possibility #2: I considered focusing on theater being used in just one of the following development activities in any country (and probably several different countries):

But, again, it has proven too difficult to identify enough initiatives in just one area of development to undertake the necessary research in such a short time frame, and to find enough people in this limited area willing to share information.


You can view a list of topics I was considering for my research project outside of theater, and I'm happy to share the resources I had found on these topics with others.

Also see:

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