Theatre: Socially Engaged Practice MA
MA Theatre: Socially Engaged Practice
Theatre and performance can be powerful tools for social change, whether it's bringing historic events to life in museums or working with local councils or the NHS to highlight new health initiatives.
If you're looking to build on your undergraduate degree, and want to use the tools of drama to make a positive difference to the world, then this Master's degree in Theatre, which focuses on Socially Engaged Practice, is the ideal choice for you.
You'll explore methods and techniques for using drama in the community, such as in youth groups, mental health support settings, schools, museums, and centres for older people and those with illnesses.
You'll get practical experience in the community, building a portfolio of work you can showcase to employers when you graduate.
By focussing on using drama as a community-building tool, you'll learn how to use your dramatic skillset in a new context, opening doors in your career, and helping you to make positive changes in society.
Qualifications or experience
- A minimum of a second-class honours degree in a related subject, or equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications.
English language requirements
- English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.
- An interview may be required as part of the selection process.
What you'll experience
On this Master's degree, you'll:
- Learn to implement techniques from applied theatre, forum theatre, theatre for social change, and theatre for development within your own community
- Learn the ethics of applied theatre and work with different populations
- Be taught by staff that have established connections to local community and heritage sites – you'll have a wide range of performance venues and audiences to choose from
- Gain practical experience developing, leading and facilitating drama activities across different communities and groups
- Use the professional-grade equipment and facilities at White Swan Studios, including lighting equipment, costume and prop facilities, music practice rooms and musical instruments
- Get experience with digital storytelling equipment such as GoPro Cameras and iPads
- Gain transferable skills and experience that will be invaluable in careers beyond theatre practice and teaching, such as science communication and cultural diplomacy
Careers and opportunities
You'll graduate with the skills and understanding to take up roles in many fields, including:
- youth work
- project management
- science communication
- museums and the cultural sector
- civic engagement
- applied theatre artist
- teaching artist
- creative aging
- event planning
- community organising
You could also continue your studies to PhD level, or go into teaching (with further qualifications).
After you leave the University, you can get help, advice and support for up to 5 years from our Careers and Employability service as you advance in your career.
Work experience and career planning
We'll help you to identify internships, voluntary roles and opportunities that will complement your studies.
Potential destinations for work experience include local venues and events, such as:
- history museums
- preservation sites
- local civic government
- youth groups and centres
- science museums
Roles you can work in include:
- applied theatre facilitator
- education officer
- arts practitioner
Throughout your work experience you'll have tutoring and mentorship from academic staff in collaboration with partner destinations, as well as support from the Creative and Cultural Industries Careers Office.
What you'll study
In this module, you'll get a solid foundation for advanced training in theatre as a socially engaged practice, and be introduced to many aspects of community based arts engagement and theatre facilitation.
You'll design and develop materials, techniques and theories for facilitating applied theatre forms, including digital storytelling, media based remote facilitation, improvisational drama, critical response process, story drama and forum theatre.
You'll learn practical skills, gain experience in facilitating community based and collaborative theatre making, and hone skills around the facilitation of theatre workshops in a range of settings.
In this module, you'll get an introduction to the debates and research methods used by creative practitioners, and learn how to apply them to research questions.
You'll develop your ability to study independently, critically reflect on the research process, and be supported in developing a critical and reflective understanding of a specific aspect of theatre practice.
In this theory-based module, you'll get an in-depth study of the ethical considerations at play when co-creating socially engaged theatre and arts work with community partners, in a range of community settings.
You'll examine the history of ethically engaged arts practices, and explore theories of ethics from an arts-based perspective.
You'll get a strong understanding of what it means to practice ethical social just theatre, through deep engagement with theoretical models, frameworks and case studies.
In this practical module you'll collaborate with community partners in order to co-create and facilitate socially engaged works of theatre and performance.
You'll spend considerable time conducting fieldwork with relevant partners, embedding yourself into community partner organisations. You'll work with these partners, using a range of methods including digital storytelling, improvisational drama, story drama, intergenerational drama, ethnotheatre, museum theatre, and drama-in-education, to create a programme of socially engaged theatre practice that you'll facilitate in communities.
In this module you'll draw together the research and practical study you've completed during this course. You'll develop your creative and professional skills, focussing on an area of study that interests you most. At the end of the module, you'll have produced a significant and distinctive body of work that advances the subject of your specific area of interest.
Changes to course content
We use the best and most current research and professional practice alongside feedback from our students to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.
Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional modules may not run every year. If a module doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative module.
Teaching methods on this course include:
- performance planning and development – with support from your supervisor
- performance – this can be applied theatre, an investigation into musical forms for performance, excerpts from a play script, or something similar, performed to an audience at community sites
- reflection on performance and feedback – both verbally, and as written work
If take an optional interdisciplinary module shared with other academic areas, you'll also encounter other teaching methods than those above.
How you're assessed
You'll be assessed through:
- continuous assessment
You’ll be able to test your skills and knowledge informally before you do assessments that count towards your final mark.
You can get feedback on all practice and formal assessments so you can improve in the future.
Teaching staff profiles
Dr Erika Hughes, Course Leader; Academic Lead in Performance
Also serving as Course Leader on our BA (Hons) Drama and Performance course, Erika has extensive worldwide experience as a director, on stages in Israel, the United Kingdom, the United States and Pakistan.
The focus of Erika's research is on theatre as historiography and theatre as cultural diplomacy, and leads The Veterans Project, an international performance-oral history research initiative. Erika is an experienced peer reviewer, regularly refereeing for academic publishers and journals, and was a research awards juror for the American Alliance for Theatre and Education from 2012-2016.
Erika welcomes supervision queries from postgraduate students who are interested in applied theatre, cultural diplomacy, historiography in/as performance, ethnography, and the relationship between performance and military conflict.
Dr Matt Smith, Senior Lecturer
Prior to joining the University in 2009, Matt gained 20 years professional experience as a community artist.
Matt's research interests include applied theatre, puppetry, extended reality, role playing simulations, visual theatre, mask theatre, devised performance, collaborative art making practice and junk music making.
Matt is co-convener of the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) Applied and Social Theatre working group, and a member of the CCI faculty ethics committee.
Dr Catherine McNamara, Head of School
Catherine has a professional background in Applied Theatre and Drama Education, and oversees the strategic and operational work that staff and students undertake, both inside and outside of the University.
Catherine's research interests include the ways in which the arts can facilitate community, focusing particularly on trans, non-binary and LGBTQ arts projects. She writes about methods and approaches for working with trans, non-binary and gender diverse young people.
Co-founder and member of the Board of Trustees for Gendered Intelligence, and leader of the TransActing project, inclusivity is at the core of Catherine's work.
How you'll spend your time
We recommend spending at least 35 hours a week (full time) or 17.5 hours a week (part time) studying on this course.
You'll be in teaching activities such as lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical classes and workshops for about 8–10 hours a week (full time) or 4–5 hours a week (part time). The rest of the time will be devoted to independent study such as research, reading, coursework and project work, alone or in a group with others from your course, and toward the second half of your degree, in collaboration with community partners. There are also monthly postgraduate seminars in theatre and performance, with invited guests from around the world.
Most timetabled teaching takes place during the day, Monday to Friday. You may occasionally need to go to University and course events in the evenings. There is usually no teaching on Wednesday afternoons.
Each academic year is divided into 3 teaching blocks with assessment periods in between:
- Autumn teaching block – September to December
- Assessment and Activity period – January
- Spring teaching block – January to May
- Assessment and Activity period – May to June
- Summer Teaching Block – June to September
Supporting your learning
You'll get face-to-face support from teaching and support staff when you need it. These include the following people and services:
Your personal tutor helps you make the transition to postgraduate study and gives you academic and personal support throughout your time at university.
You’ll have regular contact with your personal tutor in learning activities or scheduled meetings. You can also make an appointment with them if you need extra support.
Student support advisor
In addition to the support you get from your personal tutor, you’ll also have access to a Faculty student support advisor. They can give you confidential, impartial advice on anything to do with your studies and personal wellbeing and refer you to specialist support services.
Academic skills tutors
You'll have help from a team of faculty academic skills tutors. They can help you improve and develop your academic skills and support you in any area of your study.
They can help with:
- improving your academic writing (for example, essays, reports, dissertations)
- delivering presentations (including observing and filming presentations)
- understanding and using assignment feedback
- managing your time and workload
- revision and exam techniques
Creative skills tutors
If you need support with software and equipment or you want to learn additional skills (including skills not covered on your course), our creative skills tutors provide free workshops, activities and one-on-one tutorials.
Skills you can learn include life drawing, film camera operation and video production.
IT and computing support
Computing support staff are always available to give technical support in the Faculty's computer suites during normal working hours. There's also some support available from 5pm to midnight at busy times of the year.
Academic skills support
As well as support from faculty staff and your personal tutor, you can use the University’s Academic Skills Unit (ASK).
ASK provides one-to-one support in areas such as:
- academic writing
- note taking
- time management
- critical thinking
- presentation skills
- working in groups
- revision, memory and exam techniques
If you have a disability or need extra support, the Additional Support and Disability Centre (ASDAC) will give you help, support and advice.
Library staff are available in person or by email, phone or online chat to help you make the most of the University’s library resources. You can also request one-to-one appointments and get support from a librarian who specialises in your subject area.
The library is open 24 hours a day, every day, in term time.
Support with English
If English isn't your first language, you can do one of our English language courses to improve your written and spoken English language skills before starting your degree. Once you're here, you can take part in our free In-Sessional English (ISE) programme to improve your English further.
Course costs and funding
Tuition fees (2022 start)
UK/Channel Islands and Isle of Man students
- Full-time: £8,100
- Part-time: £4,050 a year
(including Transition Scholarship)
- Full-time: £8,100
- Part-time: £4,050 a year
- Full-time: £16,200
- Part-time: £8,100 a year
Fees subject to annual increase.
Funding your studies
Applying from outside the UK? Find out about funding options for international students.
Additional course costs
These course-related costs aren’t included in the tuition fees. So you’ll need to budget for them when you plan your spending.
Our accommodation section shows your accommodation options and highlights how much it costs to live in Portsmouth.
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.
You’ll study up to 6 modules a year. You may have to read several recommended books or textbooks for each module.
You can borrow most of these from the Library. If you buy these, they may cost up to £200.
If your final year includes a major project, there could be cost for transport or accommodation related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose.
You’ll need to pay additional costs of £200 plus travel for theatre visits.
Start your application by following the link below:
If you're from outside of the UK, you can apply directly to us (above) or you can get an agent to help with your application. Check your country page for details of agents in your region. To find out what to include in your application, head to the how to apply page of our international students section.
If you don’t meet the English language requirements for this course yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.
Admissions terms and conditions
When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to abide by our Student Contract (which includes the University's relevant policies, rules and regulations). You should read and consider these before you apply.