Change and Continuity in Applied Theatre: Lessons Learnt from ‘the Longest Night’

  • Celina McEwen
Part of the Landscapes: the Arts, Aesthetics, and Education book series (LAAE, volume 22)


This chapter presents an examination of how participation in applied theatre projects can engender change and continuity. Using Bourdieu’s field theory, I discuss the tensions that exist between the rhetoric of social change and outcomes for participants in applied theatre projects. In particular, I draw on findings from a longitudinal study of an exemplary Australian applied theatre project, The Longest Night. This study revealed that, though participants experienced some immediate change, the longer-term outcomes resembled permanence and gave an overwhelming sense of continuity. I argue that this is because this set of practices indirectly limits change as practitioners operate within a system that tends to contain their practice, product and impact, as well as reproduce legitimised social and cultural values and norms.


  1. Accardo, A. (2002). De Notre Servitude Involontaire: Lettre À Mes Camarades De Gauche. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from Scholar
  2. Australia Council. (2016). Community arts and cultural development.. Retrieved June 30, 2017, from
  3. Bauman, Z. (2012). Liquid modernity. Cambridge: Polity Books.Google Scholar
  4. Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bourdieu, P. (2000). Esquisse D’une Théorie De La Pratique. Paris: Editions du Seuil.Google Scholar
  6. Bourdieu, P. (1993). The field of cultural production, or: The economic world reversed. In P. Bourdieu & R. Johnson (Eds.), The field of cultural production: Essays on art and literature (pp. 29–73). Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital (R. Nice, trans.). In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook for theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, P. (1984). Questions De Sociologie. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.Google Scholar
  9. Bourdieu, P. (1979). La Distinction: Critique Sociale Du Jugement. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.Google Scholar
  10. Clark, M. M. (2002). Oral history: Art and praxis. In D. Adams & A. Goldbard (Eds.), Community, culture and globalization (pp. 88–195). New York: Rockefeller Foundation.Google Scholar
  11. Cohen-Cruz, J. (2002). An introduction to community art and activism. Retrieved May 2, 2005, from
  12. Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the oppressed. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  13. Grenfell, M. (2004). Pierre Bourdieu: Agent provocateur. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.Google Scholar
  14. Hage, G. (2002). ‘On the side of life’ – Joy and the capacity of being: A conversation with Ghassan Hage. In M. Zournazi (Ed.), Hope: New philosophies for change (pp. 150–171). Sydney: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  15. Handelman, D. (1990). Models and mirrors: Towards an anthropology of public events. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Kelin, D. A. I. (2001). Jodrikdrik nan Jodrikdrik Ilo Ejmour: A performing arts tradition is born. In S. C. Haedicke & T. Nelhaus (Eds.), Performing democracy: International perspectives on urban community-based performance (pp. 150–158). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  17. McAuley, G. (1998). Performance analysis: Theory and practice. About Performance, 4(1998), 1–12.Google Scholar
  18. McEwen, C. (2002). Protocols of engagement: Planning, evaluation and negotiating the fault lines in CCD practice. Paper presented at the Dance in the Landscape Forum, Brisbane, Australia.Google Scholar
  19. McEwen, C. (2008). Investing in play: Expectations, dependencies and power in Australian practices of community cultural development (unpublished doctoral thesis). Retrieved from Sydney eScholarship Repository,
  20. Piketty, T. (2014). Capital in the 21st century. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Shepherd, S., & Wallis, M. (2004). Drama/theatre/performance. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Stanley, T. (2002). Let’s get digital: Using multimedia and the internet in community cultural development. In D. Adams & A. Goldbard (Eds.), Community, culture and globalization (pp. 140–155). New York: Rockefeller Foundation.Google Scholar
  23. Swartz, D. (1997). Culture and power: The sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  24. Wacquant, L. (1989). Towards a reflexive sociology: A workshop with Pierre Bourdieu. Sociological Theory, 7(1), 26–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Watt, D., & Pitts, G. (1991). Community theatre as political activism: Some thoughts on practice in the Australian context. In V. Binns (Ed.), Community and the arts: Australian perspectives (pp. 119–133). Sydney: Pluto Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Celina McEwen
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Education and Social WorkThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations