Who Cares? Foreword

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Wednesday, September 23 at 7:00 Denton theatre, Acadia University, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Cheryl McLean

I am currently writing and directing the ethnodrama, “Who Cares” about caregiving, feeding family, love and survival….a preview will be held Sept. 23 at Denton theatre, Acadia University.

Ethnodrama is an art form, a type of qualitative playwriting based on true stories. Johnny Saldana, Professor of Theatre at Arizona State University’s School of Theatre and Film and a leader in North America in this emerging genre, has described ethnotheatre as a form which employs the traditional craft and artistic techniques of theatre to mount for an audience a live or mediated performance event of research participants’ experiences.  The ethnodrama itself is the written play script consisting of dramatized significant selections of narrative which may be derived from research data, interview transcripts, participant observation, field notes, newspaper articles, journal articles, oral history, etc.

In the case of the ethnodrama (preview) Who Cares? to be premiered  September 23 at Acadia University, a good portion of the research data was based on interviews conducted with caregivers by Dr. Catherine Morley, Assistant Professor in The School of Nutrition and Dietetics at Acadia and the Lead Researcher on this project who has extensively interviewed caregivers and family members exploring meanings of eating and changes with illness. I analyzed the interviews and reconstructed stories based on the data with a particular focus on reoccurring themes of importance, moments of crisis or discovery (epiphany), story elements within the lived experiences that would advance the action and theatrically illuminate meanings in a way that would be entertaining and aesthetically sound while being both evocative and memorable for an audience.

It is important to stress that although the ethnodrama is by its nature an adaptation of events, in my particular approach the dialogue/monologue content etc. is very close to verbatim preserving the meanings of what was conveyed, whether selected from interview transcripts or from newspaper articles, journals or other sources. Poetry and personal stories in this script have also been based on actual lived experience.

In keeping with the way performance ethnography has been described by Dr. Norman K. Denzin in the text, Performance Ethnography Critical Pedagogy and the Politics of Culture, cultural performances of this type are most often created to raise awareness about marginalized persons or issues that have largely been ignored within society. Ethnodramas become public pedagogy using the aesthetic, the performative to foreground the intersections of politics, institutional sites and embodied experience. Such performances are unique in that they are an embodied way of presenting research while artistically provoking change, presenting issues and questioning the status quo through story.  Read about the team and cast members

The title Who Cares? in this ethnodrama (preview)  refers to those who do care, the caregivers themselves and their stories, and yet the question challenges the prevailing cultural attitudes and policies regarding the aged and those (often family) feeding and supporting older persons in need. It is through these stories, these true accounts of caregiving experience, that those who are unrecognized , frequently “invisible” and marginalized in their unpaid work become visible. The title also raises the questions, Who should care? How can we democratically come together in the hopes of bringing about change which could affect quality of life for those in our care today and others who will surely need care in the future? It is not our purpose to provide a recipe for change nor to dictate the precise procedures for transformation, but rather to point the way toward hope, to illuminate the stories and create new spaces for possibility, discourse and innovation and critical thinking that may lead to change and solutions around caregiving and feeding family. To expand upon our research we will be collecting additional feedback from a panel discussion which will follow our preview ethnodrama.   This data will inform our work as we continue our plan to  develop  “Who Cares”  into a full length ethnodrama and proposed film.

Cheryl L. McLean, editor of the book Creative Arts in Humane Medicine (Brush Education)  and publisher of The International Journal of the Creative Arts in Interdisciplinary Practice IJCAIP is a recipient of a Harrison McCain Visiting Professorship award,  and  writer/director, “Who Cares” an ethnodrama about aging, feeding family members, love and survival…..She is currently a Visiting Scholar at Acadia University, Nova Scotia.  Recently published, Cheryl L.  McLean, “Advancing Creative Arts in Interdisciplinary Practice”, Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Taylor and Francis  http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/PWmWUIqhQgMZtyGemehj/full

The full article can be found here:  https://agingandfood.wordpress.com/articles/


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