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A Reflection On Theater As An Ideally Itransitive Space For Communication And Stimulation

Executive summary

This study observes rich potentials of theatre as an ideally intransitive space for communication and stimulation. It focuses on the general role of theater as a communication tool in the western world. Theatre is a tool for development in the Western world if effectively used. The paper explores three theater methods and communication types that are independently used as tools of communication in Western society. These three methods include Agitprop method, Forum method and participatory theatre. The paper explores a few cases in the Western world and concludes that theatre has great influence as a communication tool in Western society. The study is exploratory and introductory in nature. Therefore, it comments on present media reality in the Western world. It explores the rationale for the utilization of theatre as a communication medium and generates discussion on specific areas where theatre is used for development.

Table of Contents

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Executive summary. 2

Introduction. 2

Missionary role in Japan in the 16th century. 3

Role of theater as a communication tool in the Western world. 4

Agitprop Method. 11

Participatory Theatre. 12

Forum Method. 13

The imperative. 14

Missionary Role in Japan in the 16th Century. 16

Using Theatre in Japan Mission in the 16th Century. 17

Conclusion. 19

Bibliography. 21


Theatre plays a great role in the Western world society. [1] There are several theorists who have written many treatises trying to show how theatres influence Western society. Many people wonder whether theatre is a social organization, a place of releasing energy, or a source of entertainment. Theatre plays various roles in each of these descriptions. It has been used effectively in teaching, though the roles are controversial. Theatre has proved to be informative in many functions. However, it depends on whether gained information is important or useless to the society concerned. [2] There is evidence that theatre has an influence on politics. Theorists raise different merits and demerits of theatre in various fields. However, they agree that theatre plays a great role in the Western world as a medium of communication.

Missionary role in Japan in the 16th century

Western Japan welcomed the first European missionaries from Portugal in 1542. This was the mid-sixteenth century when the missionaries came to Kyusu with the aim of spreading Christianity and gunpowder. [3]The Japanese tycoons who lived in Kyusu welcomed the visitors as they were interested in the new weapons. Therefore, they accepted the Jesuit missionaries who introduced Christianity in Western Japan. The Jesuit missionaries managed to convert a large number of Japanese including the loyal class. Francis Xavier went to Kyoto in 1550 to introduce Christianity in the capital.

The Jesuits dominated Japan and spread Christianity until the end of the sixteenth century when Franciscan missionaries came to Kyoto. [4]Toyotomi Hideyoshi had banned the Franciscan missionaries but they still arrived. This is when the Jesuits missionaries lost monopoly in Japan. The missionaries faced hostility in 1597 when Hideyoshi pronounced a fight against the missionaries and executed twenty-six Christians as a warning to the missionaries and other converts.

Japanese gained freedom of worship and religion in 1873 after Meij restoration. The number of Christians in Japan has been increasing slowly especially after world war II. Currently, between one and two million of the Japan population are Christians. [5]This is about one percent of the total population. Most of the Christians live in the Western parts where Jesuits and other missionaries lived during the sixteenth century. Some Christian customs such as white dresses during a wedding ceremony, Christmas and Valentine day are becoming popular in Japan.

Role of theater as a communication tool in the Western world

Over the past centuries, the Western world has been taking actions to decree the growing industrialization that has set the pace for communication needs, media emphasis, content and orientation. [6] The Western society has developed the idea of mass media mostly referring it to the use of electronic communication channels that reach the audience effectively. Televisions and radios have been the most used channels. [7] However, the Internet is becoming one of the most famous and effective channels, especially with the growth and advancement of technology on the continent.

[8]In the beginning, radios were the common and most effective channels as they reached the greatest population in the Western world as compared to television. It happened due to its low cost and use of batteries that enabled the population in areas with no electricity to access it. Currently, most people are not certain of the statement of fact[9]  because the breakdown of important infrastructure in the Western nations has created wide gaps between the leaders and the led. In fact, the capital of one Western nation had the national radio station being audible in the outskirts of the town with no less than one million people. Production techniques and styles for assessing brilliance have been transferred or imported.

The media appears to exist for strengthening the image of administrators and to the disadvantage of their subjects. Often, the result of this is the overkill that provokes certain levels of audience-cynicism. Whenever stocks of the television impacts are taken, the consequences are more alarming.[10]

There are several factors that negatively affect theatre in Western nations and reduce their effectiveness. These include cultural assimilation, unqualified personnel in theatre, inadequate funds for quality production and displaced snobbism. It causes the situation when some more developed than other nations use theatre as a perpetual dumping site for misplaced cultural programs, Box Office Soap Operas, third charge spaghetti westerns and thrillers of alienating sports.

McMellan (1986) pointed out that Western televisions do not show what they should be showing to Western society considering the level of industrialization on the continent. Mostly, modern televisions have shows with political speeches, foreign dignitaries visit reports or development experts showing what previous governments should have done to improve the continent.  Some television programs in European languages explain to the society what it should do for its development, and dramas featuring high call characters dealing with typically Western problems.

Generally, either as a result of fear or mediocrity, most media producers have been dolefully unimaginative. [11] Therefore, they prefer a simpler option of buying safe ideas from abroad. This imbalance in the information flow between the South and North ultimately permits the society to assess themselves more from the outside view than to come to a decisive perception of themselves from within.[12]

Nearly in all countries, theatre and communication are poorly administered or unplanned. It is ad hoc and ephemeral. Therefore, it leaves out the participation of well-chosen communication strategists, competent theorists, and absolutely does not support the participation of the population. The past several decades have witnessed Western countries debating about the importance of comprehensive communication strategies aimed at improving development on the continent and in the world in general. [13] Leaders have realized how lack of such policies has led to ad hoc approaches in the communication field. The interconnection between effective communication and economic measures has been coming as an after-thought and not as a thought-out approach in Western nations. This is why some theorists campaign against this scenery and call people to participate in development programs for an informed society.[14] It will lead to the cultural awareness form and will be a solution for cultural harmonization in the global village.

There has not arisen an attempt to reject this overview as everyone sees the importance of modern communication in all nations in the Western world. However, it is important for the media to understand the purpose of theatre and targeted population. It includes the reason why media has to concentrate on informing, educating and entertaining the society. [15] There are several factors that must be considered in the theatre industry in order to come up with effective communication that will lead to development. These are:

  1. The industry has to accept that the Western world uses media in an ad hoc method that is mainly geared towards serving a lesser extent of the population at the expense of the entire population.
  2. Media has become an instrument of the owners instead of a tool of communication aimed at benefitting the entire Western society.
  3. There is an uncritical utilization of media channels that has entrusted them with the role of suppliers of caricature and mediocrity, limited to alienating foreign cultures in entertainment, religion, culture, science and other fields.

These reasons call for a serious reassessment of individual attitudes in the use of media channels. This study does not concentrate on the failure of modern media and their owners, but rather on the role media can play in Western countries and on the acceptance of some certifying media that has been downplayed because of its potential.

Folk media or theatre drama is one of these media. In Western countries, theatre is categorized as folk or oral culture. [16] Moreover, the theatre has been classified as informal or non-formal education in Western countries for a long period of time. Some decades ago, any attempt made by a theorist trying to encourage formal training in the theatre was called a deviation. [17] However, some Western nations have realized the importance of theatre as an effective communication medium. [18]  As a result, many nations have introduced several institutions in training, elaborating and exploring the strengths and role of theatre as a communication tool.

In the Western world, art performs a social function. Art and literature are the mirrors of the society, and every life event is recorded there.[19] Theatre has various manifestations that encompass everyday life. Theatrical occurrences provide an occasion for the rationale off all political, social and religious phenomena within the society. The event of conflict and conflict resolution methods permit the community to define and look for appropriate solutions of their disagreements. It prevents violence that should have occurred in the case of the real-life event.

Theatre is used for providing collective therapy. It occurs when people who observe the reflection of their actions in the theatre may understand themselves better and obtain a different perspective in life. This way, theatre creates self-consciousness in people who see their actions in the art form, thus developing collective feeling in the Western world.

Every theatre has its own history of development. Therefore, it would be unfair to try and trace the origin of theatre in the Western world since every nation started developing this art sphere at different levels. However, theatre in Western countries has some common elements. People dance, sing, tell stories and recite poems. These activities have been essential for the creation of the theatre and dramatic activities in the socio-cultural domain of these Western nations.

Theatre participation helps society to improve its social interaction and to become well-rounded personalities. In fact, students and young people who participate in theatre have higher levels of concentration than those who do not join theatre. It helps the society to learn the importance of storytelling, to demonstrate innovative ideas and to express creativity. [20] Theatre makes imagined and written art come true. It helps the society to use imagination in its daily life and to implement its dreams in future.

As the mirror of the society, theatre creates social awareness in the society concerning events that happened in the past, that are happening now and that deal with predicting the future. It teaches the society about different cultures and eras. [21] For instance, the Shakespearean theatre makes society reflect on the Renaissance period. August Wilson’s work reminds them of the African American interactions in the 1900s, and Arthur Miller’s works reveal the dream that America had in 1950.[22]

Staged theatre in the Western world was born under distinct historical conditions, just like theatre on other continents. Generally, staged theatre in the West developed in different centuries depending on the nation and colonization processes. In some countries, staged theatre developed as sort of entertainment for chiefs, kings, queens and royal families. There was common of all theatres that they originated in village compounds or squares where ceremonies were conducted. It developed and widened as people intermingled in the 17th and 18th centuries. Concert parties and peasant afternoon gatherings developed in most countries and the role of the staged theatre increased. [23] At that time, staged theatre reflected the colonial masters. However, theatre developed its nuance [24] that was used in articulating the urge for independence and disadvantages of colonialism.

Theatre has fictionalized communality situations as well, which allows it to provide a forum where communication process can take place with the absence of antagonisms unlike in realistic situations. It is the nature of the theatre. [25] As a part of organizational and educational processes, theatre plays various roles that include bringing the society together and forming a framework for collective action and reflection. Moreover, theatre draws out expression and participation of popular analysis and concerns. It overcomes societal rationalizations and fears, thereby building identity and confidence. It also stimulates discussions, contradictions, critical comprehension of societal problems and structures behind daily situations. Theatre clarifies strategies and possibilities for action mobilizing people and stirring their emotions for action.

The greatest role of theatre as a communication tool is its potential to be a participatory tool and stimulation for peoples’ development. Theatre for development that is also known as popular theatre uses idioms and local language.[26] It enables to transmit development messages, themes and ideas to the society and to get immediate response for action. [27] Therefore, popular theatre stands for development ideas and themes passed to popular masses through drama. The 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed performances and development on stage, television and radio. However, modern world is a witness of a different approach. Nowadays, social environments and political issues are used in theatre. The Western world uses various strategies in theatre for effective communication and stimulation.

Agitprop Method

Agitprop method has been used in the Western world theatre from times immemorial. [28] Theatre with development projects has also applied this traditional method that is mostly used in the didactic theatre. The agitprop method has been proved to have great rallying power for people to arrange themselves into various action groups. However, the creators of the groups can be outsiders according to this method. It happens when actors from a certain society move to another society and show them their previous experience of using groups. In return, another society emulates action groups as a result of the theatre orientation. Actors usually get experienced after going through a five-step course of information gathering in the target societies. These steps include gathering society, story improvisation, information analysis, rehearsal, and community performance.

Research shows that the use of the Agitprop method in theatre communication has influenced the level of critical thinking and awareness of various themes such as sanitation, human rights, nutrition, and family planning. However, the results of this method are not very high compared to other methods since it originates from outsiders. Moreover, this method lacks community participation since the initiators are outsiders. Ultimately, spectators of the process consume the finished product that they have not worked for because outsiders have been struggling to make them emulate action groups. The method is a short-term one that is a result of post-performance dialogues.

Participatory Theatre

Participatory theatre is a more fulfilling method in comparison with the Agitprop method. The western world has used this method for theatre conscientiousness. In this method, participation in theatre is both a methodology and a goal-oriented process. Theatre is produced within the society concerned by means of a catalyst. Therefore, it is a theatre for the people and by the people that is created with the help of a catalyst. The catalyst in this method refers to outsiders who have theatre skills as well as community development knowledge. Like the Agitprop method, this method has particular parameters of messages and themes. [29]However, community members perform the action and implement themes as planned unlike in the Agitprop method where outsiders are the performers. The outsiders in the participatory theatre are only catalysts and do not act in the experiment. Therefore, this method is able to involve the entire community fully into the discussion issues, to allow the community to raise their issues, and to mobilize the society to act appropriately. [30] Catalyst or outsiders have to get the society members involved directly into the action. Therefore, these outsiders must come and stay with the target community for several days in order to learn the cultures and first-hand problems facing that society. It enables them to invent, rehearse and provoke the action of some community members in the role of spectators and of actors.[31]

In some cases, members of the society start as spectators and later join the acting group. They improvise the events happening in the production life and take actions that they have not been planned at the beginning of the project. However, catalysts must act in a perfect way for the spectators to become actors. The former spectators have to be trained to work in order not to pull the actors behind. Moreover, catalysts must make actors accept their fellow community members who have failed to join them in the beginning. One Latin American, Augosto Baol, who is a theatre practitioner, has come up with a methodology of transforming spectators into actors. [32]These stages are referred to as Forum Theatre and Simultaneous Dramaturgy.

The Simultaneous Dramaturgy method requires the actors to play a short game suggested by a local spectator. However, actors do not finish the play, but instead, halt it at the conflict point. Actors then request the spectators to offer a solution to the crisis. Like puppets, actors only perform actions that the spectators request. Actors use trial and error options offered by spectators, and a solution is reached at one point. [33]At the end, spectators join actors as every solution offered becomes a victim of rectification and criticism. Final results leave the spectators with a desire to become actors.

 Forum Method

In the Forum Theatre method, both spectators and actors converge. This methodology allows all the participants to narrate a story with social problems, to improvise action, to rehearse and then to present it as a play or a skit. [34]During the play, the audience is requested to analyze whether the group has come up with the best solution in a particular situation. Every spectator who feels the solution is not the best is invited on stage to come and lead the group towards the best solution. The actor is supposed to act in a way that other actors will understand and follow his or her ideas without arguments. [35]This method goes a step further in comparison with the Simultaneous Dramaturgy since spectators and actors are allowed to intermingle and act together.

Forum theatre methods offer all possible solutions of a problem. Through the forum method, theatre is both a tool of developing communication and a tool of societal analysis. It makes theatre self-educative. Population raises its consciousness from inside as a result of power relations and analysis of the social reality. When the catalysts finish their work, the spectators are immediately transformed into actors. This stage has maximum productive force since control and participation increase as a result of transformation from spectators into dramatic and then social actors.[36]

The imperative

Social nature of theatre requires the Western world to accept it as a tool of communication for broadcasting ideas, messages and themes as well as for bridging the gap between various media systems. [37]Modernizing campaigns, aimed at achieving dynamic change in a short period of time,                                                                                                                                                                                              depend greatly on the communication system because communication channels and theatre combine diffusion of data with reinforcement or opportunities and feedback. Therefore, the use of drama in the already existing media systems should be further facilitated, promoted and encouraged in order to enhance development goals in the Western world.

Using theatre as a medium of communication in the nation is important as it allows the democratization of media systems. It was important for people in Western nations to participate in media systems, which will change the beneficiaries of these systems. This way, there will be equality between the system owners and common citizens. Those countries that have applied theatre and drama programs as a medium of communication have experienced the greatest debate and humor in the long run.

Perhaps, the Western world has been going through continuous development in all sectors, which has caused the destruction of theater as a tool of communication and stimulation. [38] Governments on the continent do not have time to concentrate on this sector while there are many other more profitable sectors than theatre. However, it is important to facilitate change for society participation in communication development. It calls for a clear definition of communication and campaign in order to use theatre as a communication tool, especially in rural areas. [39]It means that media institutions have to change the curriculum and include the role of theatre in roadways. This was, they will not dominate the media stations they will work for after school. Those, who already work, have to be instructed about the importance of theatre and community participation in communication and development.[40]

It is important to create theatres in rural and urban communities with live characters who dramatize their lives to the audience. [41]It facilitates the discussion of some essential for the society issues such as cultural shows, crafts, women’s problems, population concerns, nutrition, community health and agriculture among others.

Missionary Role in Japan in the 16th Century

The role of missionaries in Japan in the 16th century was to spread the good news outside the church to those who were not Christians. It was important for missionaries to have effective communication so that their message can be understood as intended. A missionary was an administrator. They distributed food, clothes and literature materials from the donor churches to the community where he/she serves. Moreover, a missionary could oversee a clinic or a school that needed to be constructed for the community concerned. [42]The missionary helped society to collect materials and organize the building work. The administrative role of a missionary depended on the local area and the already existing development.  A missionary is a reporter. It was the role of the missionary to give feedback to the donor church, family and friends about the progress of his/her work. Therefore, it was essential for him/her to have effective communication tools, in order to be able to communicate with people and donors effectively. As the missionary communicated with donor churches, he/she was able to satisfy new needs that arise in the mission area.

Missionaries are fundraisers. They raised money for their personal use and supported the community where they spread Christianity. They looked for donors and well-wishers as well as giving their assets for the purpose of the ministry. Whenever the society faced a new need, the missionary took time off and started raising money from his/her donor church and other supporters.  The missionary’s objective was to help the church and the entire society being a servant rather than dominating the church leaders as a senior leader. It was achieved through humility, perseverance, giving and offering guidance, and having strategic plans of the projects in the area.

Using Theatre in Japan Mission in the 16th Century

Theatre was an effective tool of communication of the missionary in Japan as it broke through cultural and language barriers between the missionaries and the Western communities. It is possible due to the fact that theatre is natural and does not require clever speaking and literacy skills to be effective. Moreover, theatre appealed to the prejudices, passions, and emotions of the audience. It communicated with a person, but not just with his/her reason and thinking. Therefore, it challenged people to accept Christianity, even if they tried to ignore it.  [43]Theatre is entertaining and interesting to follow. Therefore, it was easy for the missionaries to communicate with both adults and children using theatre. The fact that theatre combines the use of words, images, mime, and dancing made it easy for everyone to understand.

The missionaries could effectively use theatre to change the mind of the Western communities that had not accepted Christianity. It was the best method of communication that could plant new ideas in the minds of the community. Theatre encouraged participation. It is possible that the missionaries in Japan first faced rejection from some members of the society. However, those who will joined the missionaries were be involved in drama. The missionaries then acted as catalysts and encouraged spectators to get involved. Using three methods of theatre that are used in Western countries, the spectators ultimately joined the actors, and the goals were achieved.

Fortunately, missionary work can use several stories from the holy book. These stories decorate the theatre and make it real. [44]They help society to understand what happens in daily life. The stories encouraged the audience to participate in the drama, which made them the members of the flock. Advocacy theatre helped the audience to participate in the raised issues. This way, it had a greater effect on the audience in comparison with other communication modes. It challenged the audience and makes them believe in what the missionaries are telling them. Therapy theatre played an important role as it helps those with emotional problems and trauma. Missionaries had special understanding and training to apply theatre to all these purposes.

Missionary work consists of many narrations and parables as well as real-life experiences. It was the role of the missionaries to offer guidance to the community using theatre, which includes endless storytelling. These stories helped the community and individuals to make sense of the real world. Real-life experiences and witnesses build confidence and trust among people. It showed interest and humility towards the local issues of the society. The missionaries encouraged the community to participate in storytelling and to narrate their life experiences to other people in the team. However, it was important for the missionaries to be cautious as they narrated their past experiences to the community since this task required openness and trust. The community would only share their experiences after they had confidence in the missionaries. Therefore, the missionaries had to press on and continue even if the theatre did not bear fruits in the first few months. Moreover, they had to avoid stories that were too personal. It is through sharing stories that the community revealed its hidden needs and aspects.

[45]The missionaries had to turn stories into play. The catholic missionaries encouraged participants from the community to take roles in skits. It included the stories from the Holy book as well as stories they had gathered from different individuals. Some issues that were sensitive and dangerous to discuss in the society openly were acted out, and the theme was comprehended easily. Participants playing as different characters had a chance to tell the society those things that could be hard to express in reality.


Theatre has abilities that have not been utilized. There are various theories in the media education that need to be checked again. Once, entering a field without proper training was considered to be impious. However, the situation is not the same in the modern world. Jesuits missionaries were rejected accepted at the beginning and then accepted. Using theatre as a medium of communication was effective as it encouraged many spectators to be Christians. People from rural areas are allowed to use media as an expression of their agenda without being affected by media officials. Interactive communication, especially theatre and drama could benefit to more development in the Western world. It was important for the media groups to lay their availabilities to the minority groups as tools of promoting the exchange of ideas and articulation for members and outsiders. [46] The role of theater as a communication tool in the Western world was to influence development and change that has not been implemented. It was the role of the communicator to find appropriate communication methods used in the social mode for most nations in the Western world. [47] This task required refurbishing of the stereotypical strategies of communication and using media systems. It was significant to advocate for wider participation in using theater for development. This way, the Western world would have acquired greater control of direction concerning the choice of the medium of communication. Utilizing theatre interactively or non-interactively did constitute a serious challenge.


Alexander, Bobby. “Victor Turner Revisited.” American Academy of Religion Academy Series, no. 74. Edited by Susan Thistlethwaite. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990.

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