Applied Theatre At Lee University

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - by Madeline Watson, Lee University
Lee students, from left, Velocity Moore, LaDarrion Williams, Meredith Kim, Kate Bosch, Victoria Icenogle, Evalyn Baron participate in "Columbian Hypnosis," a Theatre of the Oppressed exercise from Agusto Boal.
Lee students, from left, Velocity Moore, LaDarrion Williams, Meredith Kim, Kate Bosch, Victoria Icenogle, Evalyn Baron participate in "Columbian Hypnosis," a Theatre of the Oppressed exercise from Agusto Boal.

Along with the ongoing construction of the new communications building at Lee University, exciting developments are taking place within the department. The theatre program, in particular, has begun to expand to include a new form of theatre, known as “applied theatre,” giving students the opportunity to use the art of theatre offstage and outside of the classroom.  

"Lee Theatre has seen increasing demand for the use of our students' talents in fields other than theatre,” said Assistant Professor of Theatre Dan Buck.

This fall, Lee offered a new special topics course in applied theatre, giving students a chance to explore ways in which they can apply theatre to other areas of life. 

The course description defines applied theatre as “theatrical practices that are based in traditional theatrical pedagogy but are used in non-traditional settings and modes in order to serve communities and individuals.”

Tenika Dye, adjunct professor at Lee, is teaching the course. Ms. Dye also works at the Salvation Army in Chattanooga in the Recreate Café Arts Program, where she ministers to the community through theatre workshops and productions.

“We are excited for students to see that a theatre degree is very valuable, and that there are other ways they can use their theatre training that they’ve maybe never thought of before,” said Ms. Dye.

Within the Lee community, students have been involved in applied theatre with the counseling program where they attend weekly counseling sessions to portray the kinds of people and situations that may be encountered in therapy. 

“The theatre students are our pretend clients, and they are given scenarios to act out for us,” said Kirstee Williams, assistant professor of psychology at Lee. “This allows our graduate students in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program who are doing therapy for the first time to practice before they see actual cases.” 

Allison Wilson, a senior accounting and theatre double major at Lee, has worked with Lee’s counseling program as an actor since her sophomore year. She first became interested in applied theatre when she visited the Recreate Café at the Salvation Army and participated in one of Ms. Dye’s theatre workshops.

“What was so beautiful about the experience was that it completely blurred social lines and we were able to explore issues that we all shared,” said Ms. Wilson.

Through her experience acting for Lee’s MFTP, Ms. Wilson said that she has come to a greater appreciation of theatre, as well as a deeper belief in counseling and an understanding of herself. 

“There is so much you can do with art and theatre in the world, and it’s not just on Broadway – it’s everywhere,” said Ms. Wilson. “Theatre can directly touch lives in ways you don’t expect. It’s used in special education, prisons, homeless shelters, and so many different places. I’m just happy that I have discovered this.”

Other programs at Lee that have expressed interest in using theatre students include the athletic training program and the new nursing program. 

Outside of the university, Lee theatre students have been involved in the Cleveland community through various events, including “Pages of War,” a play commissioned by the 5ive Points Museum about a Cleveland girl who kept a diary through the Civil War, and a dramatic presentation for the autism symposium last summer.

"This is the answer for students who want to use their talents as a ministry but who aren't interested in church drama," said Mr. Buck. “It’s the way we do what Christ did, by using our gifts to help other people.”

For more information, please contact Dan Buck at or 614-8226.

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